A CASTLE, which is hidden away in Lower Machen, has for centuries been surrounded with an air of mystery.
Ruperra Castle has played various and significant roles throughout history, yet despite this, its mystery continues to baffle many people.
The once grand castle - which had previously hosted royalty - is hidden away in a picturesque setting, with spectacular views of both Newport and Caerphilly. Tragically it is now a derelict ruin.
But what is it about this fantasy castle which seems to be an enigma and captures imaginations?
Margaret Harris, who lives in the vicinity, believes the castle to be “enchanting”.
“It seems to have a spell of magic over it,” said Mrs Harris, “You can’t really explain the castle unless you’ve visited it.
“If only this castle had a voice of its own because it would tell us amazing things.
“I’ve lived here for more than 40 years and even as a little girl people would always be talking about it.
“I have memories of my parents and neighbours saying ‘I wonder what it’s for?’ and ‘who lives there?’”
She added: “I think the best way to think of it is as a hidden gem.”
The secretary of Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust - a group set up in 2008 which aims to preserve the castle - Pat Jones-Jenkins said: “The castle is well-documented through the years - probably because of its various roles.
“But I think to fully understand the castle you need to look at its impressive history.
“It really is unique but I can understand why there’s many people who don’t know a lot about it.”
Ruperra Castle was built in 1626 by Sir Thomas Morgan, who was a member of the famous Morgan family and whose descendants became better known as the Lords of Tredegar.
The Jacobean castle’s architectural design has been described as both “unique” and “awe-inspiring”.
Indeed, its grandness even attracted royalty in 1645, when King Charles I stayed at the castle, who was followed by the Duke of Beauford some years later.
As years went by the Morgan family’s wealth and influence throughout South Wales grew considerably, which is evident in many Newport place names such as The Godfrey Morgan pub.
When Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan - now lord of Tredegar - died in 1875 his children Godfrey Morgan - now the new lord of Tredegar - took up residency at Tredegar House, while the other son, Colonel Freddie, lived at Ruperra Castle.
However, when the two men died in 1909 and 1913, Courtney Morgan, who succeeded to the peerage, decided to use the castle to pursue his interests in hunting and shooting.
Before Courtney Morgan’s death in 1934, he did spend a great deal of money on it. The extravagance provided the site with a new stable block, an east porch and a glasshouse. In a dramatic move in 1939, the Ministry of Defence requisitioned Ruperra Castle for the duration of the Second World War. The open space was ideal for the training of different units of soldiers and Ruperra’s location proved ideal for keeping watch over the Bristol Channel. The long history of occupancy of the castle came to an abrupt end during the war, when the castle was gutted in a fire.
And with money from the Morgan estate dwindling, an elderly Frederick George Morgan - the new lord of Tredegar - immediately passed on the entire estate to his son, John Morgan, in a bid to avoid further death duties.
Following Fredrick Morgan’s death in 1956, his son decided the financial burden of the estate could not be rectified, and sold Ruperra Castle that same year to Eagle Star Insurance Company.
Mrs Jones-Jenkins said that since the initial selling, by John Morgan, attempts to save the castle have proven unsuccessful.
She said: “It really is sad because the castle has played such an important role in the past.
“So many attempts have been made to rescue it but none have succeeded.”
She added: “Its opulence and beauty had been replaced with worry and anxiety.”
In 1998, businessman Ashraf Barakat bought the castle and originally expressed an interest in developing a polo ground on the site.
A couple of years later Mr Barakat submitted a planning application to convert the castle into flats, but he was refused planning permission by Caerphilly County Borough Council.
Mr Barakat appealed against the authority’s decision, but the appeal was also thrown out following a four-day planning inquiry which concluded that the plans would significantly harm the historic character of the 1626 castle.
The castle was subsequently put up for sale in 2010 and bought in 2014.
Mrs Harris said that, following the castle’s sale, what is “most important” for her is that the castle and its surroundings “are protected”.
She said: “I really want to see it all protected.
“The green house is basically destroyed which makes me sad.
“But just look at the enormous estate - it boasts an ancient castle and acre upon acre of land.
“It has amazing panoramic views of the whole area and has so much wildlife there.
“This is the envy of Wales and we are protective of this heritage.”
She added: “We are a close-knit community and I think we can thank the castle for that.
“When I walk my dog and see neighbours we always talk about it and that has brought us together.”
Roger Barnes, 78, who is Mrs Harris’ neighbours, said that the castle “is a part of the local people”.
Mr Barnes said: “My family have lived here for hundreds of years so we’ve grown up with the castle.
“I suppose it’s a part of who we are because it has always been there.
“When I was growing up I heard so many fairytales of the castle and part of me believes in what I was told.”
He added: “The castle should, really, be restored - that would be my dream.”
Mrs Jones-Jenkins agreed that she and Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust hope to see the castle restored. “The castle has sadly deteriorated over the years,” said Mrs Jones-Jenkins.
“It is very sad to look and think about it.
“Developing housing on the site wasn’t our idea of saving it because we don’t think it would have solved the problem.”
She added: “If it is possible we would like to see it restored - its place in history is very important.
“Doing this would ensure it isn’t forgotten.”
Ms Janet Wilding, chairman of Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust, echoed Mrs Jones-Jenkins’ remarks.
She said: “I cannot say enough how important the castle is.
“But we have a lot of hope that the new owner will find a solution.”