A medieval secret, hidden away close to the Usk valley.
One day I shall compile a list of my favourite historic places to visit and when I do, Tretower Court will be there, in the Top Ten – very near the top of the list.
Why? Because Tretower is simply the most enchanting medieval house I’ve ever been to and even though it had been forty years since my previous visit, it had remained distinct in my mind, so much so, that when we went back there a couple of weeks ago, I felt as if I was going home.
The first wonderful thing about Tretower Court, is that it isn’t really a ruin (true a small part of it is ruined, but the majority of the house is complete).
Of course what we are able to see today owes much to the dedication of people who recognised the importance of this building before it was too late to be saved. So although it has been extensively renovated, it has all been done with extreme care and sensitivity. New has been slipped into old so gently that only the pedant would look for the seams.
So today, the visitor is treated to an experience which is difficult to find in many other places – a genuinely medieval house, presented as it would have been in its fifteenth century heyday.
To help steer you into the late medieval groove, the first rooms you wander into, have been dressed with authentically reproduced items – a kitchen where you can touch everything…
or sit at a chair by the window and imagine yourself reading or writing there.
But don’t worry, there’s nothing Hollywood about the reconstruction, it just lulls you away from the present and transports you back in time.
So that when you reach the other bare rooms, your imagination is firing on all cylinders and by then, you’ll be seeing your own visions of days gone by.
Bedrooms (once divided into three) – complete with latrines – very ‘medieval des res’…
And my favourite room – is this one below – where I imagine the White Lady ghost is sitting, exuding a peaceful atmosphere – I didn’t see her, even though the guide had warned us it wasn’t uncommon, but it’s one of the few houses I’ve been to where I would actually have been happy to see the ghost – it would have felt a bit like finding the sixpence in the Christmas pudding.
Tretower is a square court building, with rooms on two sides and the remains of a stone gatehouse at the front – wherever you walk, you see passageways, stairs and windows – they pull you along, entice you to follow and defy you not to look out across the timeless Welsh valley…
And when you finally have to tear yourself away, you still have the pleasure of the recreated medieval garden to look forward to (which I believe was the work of the multi-talented Francesca Kay). It was very autumnal on our visit, but you can sense that this is an intimate, welcoming garden, complete with authentic fountain. All the plants are varieties that may have been grown there back in 1450.
Now that would be enough for any history junkie to take in, but Tretower has one more secret – step outside and walk behind the house and you’ll see the substantial remains of Tretower Castle, the building that pre-dated the Court. But that’s another story. I’ll show you Tretower Castle in another post – promise.
For more information…
Tretower has a romantic history, closely linked with the Wars of the Roses – you can read about it here.
If you’re planning a visit, this is the official Cadw site – check opening times.
Tretower has quite a reputation for ghosts, although we didn’t see anything and felt only good vibrations, you might want to read other accounts.
If you’re really brave you’ll find some YouTube videos of the Court on Most Haunted – keep the lights on!