Great Castle House,  Monmouth


Great Castle House was built in 1673 by Henry Somerset, third Marquis of Worcester (later first Duke of Beaufort). He had just been made Lord President of the Council for Wales and the Marches - and wanted an impressive base.

The house has a dignified facade displaying perfect symmetry with simplicity of detail. But behind the frontage the house is quite small. Originally there were no side wings.

Great Castle House replaced the Round Tower of the old castle - which had been pulled down after the Civil War. Stones from the old Gatehouse were then re-used to build it.

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Eventually the Duke lost favour at court. The five rooms on the first floor were then merged into one large room to host the Assizes, which were brought across from the decaying Great Hall of the Castle. Criminal and civil cases were heard at either end - often with very different moods.


But before long the Assizes moved to the purpose-built Shire Hall and the house was underused. In turn it provided lodgings for the judges, storage space for merchants' goods, and later housed a school for young ladies. The Militia Regiment took over in 1852 - and the barrack wings were added soon after.

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Within the house the entrance hall suffers from the addition of supporting pillars and an internal porch, but the fireplace and overmantel are original. A very plain and solid dog-leg staircase leads upstairs, jutting back from the house to allow more space inside.

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The first floor is now one large room, but the ceiling hints at the original layout. The wood panelling, installed for the courtroom conversion, is crude and fits badly. The ceiling plasterwork in two of the rooms had been applied conventionally from moulds - and are recognised patterns.

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But the ceiling in the Duke’s room was uniquely fashioned by expert craftsmen who lavishly applied layer upon layer of plaster. The pendant floral festoons, laced with ribbons, thus created make a rare and ostentatious display.

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Great Castle House has never been a family residence. The Beauforts lived in their stately home at Badminton - and also owned Troy House just outside Monmouth.