Touring the Ruins of Castell Coch in 1861

|

The Book Of South Wales The Wye And The Coast is a collection of journal entries from Victorian writers, Mr and Mrs S C Hall, as they toured South Wales and the River Wye.

The book was published in 1861 and I’ve found one source that claims the tour took place in the same year.

Mr and Mrs Hall’s journey began in Gloucester, passing through Chepstow, Newport, Cardiff, Neath, Swansea and Carmarthen, before ending at Milford Haven. The route followed the railway line but the couple ventured further to explore the valleys and coast of South Wales.

Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881) was an Irish novelist, travel writer, editor, playwright and children’s author. Her work was published between1829 and 1875. She helped found several charitable institutions, campaigned for women’s rights and worked for the temperance cause.

Anna Maria Hall & Samuel Carter Hall
Anna Maria and Samuel Carter Hall, pictured in the late 1860s
Inside title page of the book, "The Book Of South Wales The Wye And The Coast"

Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889) was an Irish journalist, editor and author. He is famous for editing The Art Journal, a British art magazine that was read globally.

The couple departed from Llandaff, heading for Newbridge, and stopped at the ruins of Castell Coch.

“Leaving Cardiff, we are soon among the hills and woods, the rapid, and sometimes brawling, river, always at our side. The first object to arrest the eye is the ruin of a very ancient castle, perched on the summit of a steep cliff to the right: it is Castell Coch – Red Castle, so named from the colour of the stones of which it is built. We may look up to it from the valley: the crag on which it stands is covered with rich underwood.”

They refer to George Clark’s 1950 survey of the castle, in which he advised that it should be conserved.

“A pleasant walk among well-grown trees and shrubs, planted by the lavish hand of nature, leads to the ancient gate-tower, into the small court, and to the north tower (pictured by Mr. Wimperis), underneath which is the dungeon.”

These fantastic sketches show what the ruins looked like after George Clark’s survey of 1850 and before the site was cleared in 1871.

Illustrations of Castell Coch by EM Wimperis

“A Cymric camp adjoins the castle, and there are evidences that the first Norman ‘settlers’ knew the value of this natural check upon their fierce and ever watchful foes. No doubt when they made ‘the Red Castle’ here, it was a fortress of the Cymry.”

The book then goes on to recount several local stories and legends that I’ve written about.

Mr and Mrs Hall leave the ruins and embark on the next stage of their journey.

“Resuming the Taff Vale Railway, having journeyed eight miles from Cardiff, we alight at a singularly picturesque station, Taff’s Well, to visit one of the most remarkable of all the relics of old times to be found in the Principality.”

Illustration of Castell Coch by EM Wimperis

The illustrations of Castell Coch were created by Edmund Morison Wimperis. The book contains dozens of sketches from various artists.

Illustration of Castell Coch by EM Wimperis
Profile photo of Jack

About the author

Jack is the editor of CastellCoch.com and Tongwynlais.com.