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Carew Castle
Part of Pembrokeshire
Carew, Wales
Carew Castle.jpg
A SW view of the Castle beside an inlet of the River Carew
Type Norman Rectangular castle with Elizabethan Ranges
Built c. 1270
Built by Nicholas de Carew
Carboniferous Limestone
Height Up to 15 metres (49 ft)
Partially restored
Carew Family
Open to
the public
Controlled by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Battles/wars English Civil War
A NW view of the domestic Tudor-period ranges at Carew Castle.

Carew Castle is a castle in the civil parish of Carew in the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire. The famous Carew family take their name from the place, and still own the castle, although it is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which administers the site.



The present castle, which replaced an earlier stone keep, is constructed almost entirely from the local Carboniferous limestone, except for some of the Tudor architectural features such as window frames, which are made from imported Cotswold stone. Although originally a Norman stronghold the castle has maintains a mixture of architectural styles as modifications were made to the structure over successive centuries.

Entry to the inner ward is across a dry moat that had a barbican and gatehouse. The front of the castle had three D-shaped towers and crenelated walls. The rear of the castle has two large round towers. In the 16th century the northern defensive wall was converted into a Tudor range with ornate windows and long room.

The outer ward has earthworks that were built by Royalist defenders during the English Civil War in the 1640s.


The use of the site for military purposes extends back at least 2000 years.


Early history

The castle stands on a limestone bluff overlooking the Carew inlet — a part of the tidal estuary that makes up Milford Haven. The site must have been recognised as strategically useful from the earliest times, and recent excavations in the outer ward have discovered multiple defensive walls of an Iron Age fort.

The Norman castle has its origins in a stone keep built by Gerald de Windsor around the year 1100. Gerald was made castellan of Pembroke Castle by Arnulf of Montgomery in the first Norman invasion of Pembrokeshire. He married Nest, princess of Deheubarth around 1095. Nest brought the manor of Carew as part of her dowry, and Gerald cleared the existing fort to build his own castle on Norman lines. The original outer walls were timber, and only the keep was of stone. This still exists in the later structure as the "Old Tower".

Medieval development

Gerald's son William took the name "de Carew", and in the middle of the 12th century created an enclosure with stone walls incorporating the original keep, and a "Great Hall" inside it. The current high-walled structure with a complex of rooms and halls around the circumference was created by Nicholas de Carew around 1270, concurrent with (and influenced by) the construction of the Edwardian castles in North Wales. At this time, the outer ward was also walled in.

Tudor development

The de Carews fell on hard times in the post-Black Death period and mortgaged the castle. It fell into the hands of Rhys ap Thomas, who made his fortune by strategically changing sides and backing Henry Tudor just before the battle of Bosworth.

Rewarded with lands and a knighthood, he extended the castle with luxurious apartments with many Tudor features in the late 15th century. An inner doorway is decorated with three coats of arms: those of Henry VII, his son Arthur and Arthur's wife Catherine of Aragon. This allegiance turned sour. Rhys's grandson Rhys ap Gruffudd fell out of favour and was executed by Henry VIII for treason in 1531. The castle thus reverted to the crown and was leased to various tenants. In 1558 it was acquired by Pembrokeshire plutocrat John Perrott, who made the final substantial extension, building the long range of rooms in domestic architecture attached to the outside of the north walls which give the castle its present peculiarly hybrid character.

Subsequent decay

Perrot subsequently fell out of favour and died imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1592. The castle reverted to the crown and was finally re-purchased by the de Carew family in 1607. In the Civil War, the castle was lucklessly fortified by Royalists although south Pembrokeshire was strongly Parliamentarian. It changed hands three times, and with the Royalists defeated, the south wall was pulled down to render the castle indefensible. At the Restoration the castle was returned to the de Carews, who continued to occupy the east part until 1686, after which it was left to decay. Much of the structure was looted for building stone and for lime burning. Since 1984 Cadw has funded a substantial amount of restoration performed by the Park Authority.

Roland Rees, the ape and the fire

Roland Rees held court in the north-west tower with a Barbary Ape. A wretched creature captured half-crazed from a shipwreck and now enchained for entertainment.

On the night in question, there was a powerful storm with howling winds and rain lashing the windows. The ape grew restless and Rees grew morbid in the dull stupor of drink, when there was a knock at the door. A Flemish tradesman had made his way to the castle, distressed and emotional to tell how Rees’ son had forced his way into his home and raped his daughter. In drunken temper, Rees loosened the ape’s chains and goaded it maul the tradesman close to death. The tradesman dragged himself free and slammed the door shut between himself and the maddened ape. Weak through loss of blood, he struggled to make his way to the Castle gates and collapsed in semi-consciousness.

Thick smoke then engulfed the Castle as the Northwest tower caught fire. The tradesman recovered and made his way back to the castle where he saw Rees and the Ape locked in mortal combat. A lighted taper in Rees’ hand had torched all it touched. The tradesman summoned all his strength and fled, never return to the castle again.

The ghost of the tormented ape is said to haunt the castle to this day.

Tidal Mill

Carew Mill is the only intact tidal mill in Wales and one of only four in Britain. While its precise date of origin is uncertain, documentary evidence indicates a mill of some kind was here in 1542. The first reference to a causeway comes in a commission of 1630, indicating that Sir John Carew had restored the floodgates and causeway walls some 15 years earlier.

The tidal mill at Carew, with the castle in the background

The present building dates from the early 19th century and indeed one of the two mill wheels carries the date 1801. The mill has also often been referred to as the "French Mill", which may be a reference to the use of French burr grinding stones or to its French inspired design.

Although no longer working, all the mill machinery is still intact. The tidal pond has an area of 9 hectares (23 acres) and even this far inland the tide could provide significantly more power than the regular flow of a river.

External links

Coordinates: 51°41′54″N 4°49′50″W / 51.69833°N 4.83056°W / 51.69833; -4.83056


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