Friday, 15 January 2021

Week ending January 15th 2021. There was no TV in 1899.


William Beechey’s diary, written between 1899 and 1920, give us a wonderful insight into what it was like to work on the Ruperra Estate.

At first he lived with his family in a cottage called Llanfedw( see picture below) Is this the only medieval ‘hall house’ left standing in Caerphilly now, known as New Mansion? Then they moved to Ruperra Home Farm where, in charge of the crops and the animals, he provided the food for the Castle. He still found time to write in his diary every night. There was no TV in those days! 

On March 13th 1899 his diary entry read:

'Put 6 hens to sit in box. Rosa got shingles. Doctor been to see mother. Ivor bad in bed. Finished digging the garden. Mr. and Mrs. F Morgan came to the castle.' (Colonel Freddie's son Frederick and his wife Dorothy) 'They are not coming to Machen House. Jim Spring sowing oats the left side of New Georgy.' ( A field at Home Farm).

The names of the children were Rowland, at the back, Harry, on his mother’s lap, Gladys, on the right and Rosa in the front.



Friday, 8 January 2021

Week ending January 8th 2021 Are these memories gone for ever?

 Your Nan or Grandad might have worked here. 

In 1901 the Ruperra Estate was in its heyday and the census returns for that year for the areas around Ruperra show many agricultural occupations. People from all the villages around would have worked on the estate. Much of the day-to-day work would have been shared out amongst employees who could turn their hand to most things.

The grounds, gardens and woodland had to be kept in good condition, herds and flocks had to be tended and food had to be produced for the family at the castle, their visitors and those who looked after them.

Specially qualified staff in charge of the grounds, the gardens, the horses, the game rearing and domestic work would come from all other parts of the UK. They were both sought after and seekers themselves and the estate was a very good place to be employed. Only the best were employed at this stately home.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Day 6: Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust’s Sustainable Vision for Ruperra

The Trust wants Ruperra Castle, and what remains of its once vast estate, to benefit the local community, enabling people to enjoy its beauty and gain health benefits by working there again, and by walking and cycling around it in their leisure time.  We want to encourage people to access the area sustainably - to minimise human impact on nature and on Ruperra’s hidden archaeology. 

The Castle, built in 1626 - nearly 400 years ago - is in a very dangerous state.  There has been only one attempt at repairs in the 80 years since it was burned out in a fire caused by an electrical fault in December 1941.  Since then it has stood unprotected from the elements.  The south-east tower collapsed in the 1980s and there are ominous cracks in its walls.  The listed outbuildings, magnificent listed Edwardian greenhouse, and Registered parkland and garden, are also in need of careful repair and restoration. 

The Trust aims to buy Ruperra Castle and to access funding - from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and elsewhere - to undertake repairs, and to open the grounds to the public.  Our Business Plan envisages Ruperra becoming the core of a heritage-led country park, parts of which will be used to train local people in horticulture, traditional building skills and rural crafts.

All of this can be achieved while enhancing the environment and the wider landscape, encouraging a diverse range of plants, animals and insects to use the land undisturbed during the night for foraging, roosting and hibernating - this will protect us all from further climate change.    

We can achieve all of this with your help.  Write to Caerphilly County Borough Council to object to plans by the current owner to convert some of the outbuildings, leaving the Castle to rot!  Approving these plans - with the noise and light pollution they’d bring - would spoil the setting of the Castle, disrupt nature and the habitats of rare species, and accelerate climate change.  



Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Day 5: Condition of Ruperra Castle


Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust (RCPT) continues to be concerned about the condition of Ruperra Castle. It is almost 80 years since it was burned out - following a fire caused by an electrical fault - on 7 December 1941, while being used to train troops during World War 2. During all the time since then there has been only one attempt at conservation, when in 2018 SAVE Britain’s Heritage funded work on the South Porch. This could not start because a structurally unsound chimney block behind it had to be taken down. The demolition team had to prop up a window at the top of the Porch with steel beams. Before any conservation work could be done NRW revoked the licence they had issued to the owner to allow work to proceed within the SSSI when they discovered that the owner was clearing land beyond the area covered by the licence.

Contrary to what some have claimed, the Castle is in a dangerous condition and at risk of collapse, as confirmed by the following authoritative sources:

(i) The Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) and Grade 2* Listed Ruperra Castle is described in Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Buildings At Risk Register as being in “very bad condition”.

(ii) Section 14.0 of Holland Heritage’s Statement of Significance - dated July 2019 and submitted with the owner’s planning applications for change of use (COU) and listed building consent (LBC) for its Grade 2 listed Stables and Bothy, and the Greenhouse Store - states that “Ruperra Castle has been listed as a building at grave risk since the 1960s. The fire of 1941 caused severe damage which has never been repaired and the loss of the roof and floors has weakened the structure….. The south-east tower collapsed in 1982…..”

(iii) In an email to RCPT on 30 July 2020 a Cadw Senior Inspector confirmed that “…the Castle is highly dangerous…” and added: “We (in Cadw) recognise that the (scheduled ancient) monument continues to be at risk and we are very keen to see it stabilised.”

RCPT is keen for progress to be made as soon as possible on stabilising the Castle. We consider it a scandal that - despite its many layers of nationally important designations - decades have been wasted by successive owners on proposals for residential conversions and new build. All such proposals would result in harm to protected species in the SSSI, and would not generate the funding needed to stabilise the Castle - the most important building at Ruperra - which has been left to rot.

As an independent charity, RCPT could access the funds needed for essential repairs, and wants to revive Ruperra as the focal point of a heritage-led country park, offering training facilities and recreational opportunities to local people. We want to work with the County Borough Council and other organisations to ensure that Ruperra can - once again - make a contribution to the wellbeing of the people of Caerphilly.