Carew Castle

Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire

~ History ~

1095 - A Norman knight, Gerald de Windsor, who already held Pembroke Castle in the name of King Henry I, received the castle at Carew as part of his wife's dowry. Before the welsh princesses marriage, Nest had been hostage to Henry I, and legend has it she bore his illegitimate son.

Outstanding though he was as Castellan of Pembroke and Lord of Carew, Gerald de Windsor suffered the embarrassment of having his wife Nesta, and two sons kidnapped from the castle by Owain ap Cadwgan, son of the Prince of Powys. Gerald escaped ignominiously down the lavatory. He eventually got her back, with two additional sons, and later killed  Owain.

1116 - Gerald dies. Nesta later remarries, this time to Stephen, Constable of Cardigan. Nesta and her various husbands founded the main families to conquer Ireland: Fitzgerald, Fitzroy, Fitzhenry, Fitzowen and Fitzstephen.

1200's - Nesta's great grandson, Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) writes his famous books recording life and the  people of Wales in 1200's. Gerald was a vigorous opponent of Anglo-Norman authority over the Church in Wales.

1280-1310 - Sir Nicholas de Carew (Gerald's son had used the name de Carew) rebuilds the castle, replacing the simple motte-and-bailey castle with the existing structure of four stone towers and gatehouse surrounding the courtyard.

1311 - Sir Nicholas Carew dies.

1480's - After the Carews came Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the castle's most flamboyant owner and powerful Welsh ally to Henry VII. He builds the outer gatehouse. He inherits Dinefwr Castle but decides to buy Carew as well. Whilst his liege, the Lancastrian Henry VII was away in France, Sir Rhys swears loyalty to Henry's bitter rival the Yorkist Richard III, that anyone (ie the absent Henry VII) invading the kingdom, would have to ride over his body to do so.

1485 - Sir Rhys is reputed to have hidden under Mullock Bridge on his way to Dale, so the future King Henry VII could ride over him, presumably to clear his conscience! Sir Rhys now raises a Welsh contingent to help Henry and is said to have personally killed Richard III at Bosworth Field, and was rewarded with the Order of the Garter by Henry.

1507 - Sir Rhys's lavish new castle apartments and the great hall are completed in time for the great tournament, given by Rhys to celebrate the new dynasty of the Tudors - as well as his knighthood awarded by Henry Tudor.

1500's - Rhys's grandson, who succeeds him, is executed by Henry VIII and the castle reverts to the Crown.

A Pembrokeshire man, Sir John Perrot, reputedly the bastard son of Henry VIII, is granted Carew by his half-sister, Queen Elizabeth. Sir John makes ambitious and spectacular alterations to the castle, in the form of the Elizabethan wing situated at the rear of the castle overlooking the river. After an illustrious career, Sir John too is condemned to death for treason against Elizabeth. He is sentenced to the Tower where he later dies.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, the Carews get their castle and estates back.

1600's - During the reign of King James I, so legend has it, Sir Roland Rhys, whose son has eloped with the daughter of a Flemish merchant, attacks the merchant with his pet ape. Later, the ape attacks Rhys himself, and during the struggle which follows, the castle catches fire causing serious damage.

1644 - Despite the vulnerable 'comfort' building work carried out to the castle during the 16th century, the castle holds out surprisingly well against the roundheads, though the puritans win through in th end and take revenge on the fabric of the castle.


Carew, 5 miles East of Pembroke




SA70 8SL

Carew Castle stands above the tidal waters of the River Carew on a low limestone outcrop, just off the main Pembroke road.

When I first visited this castle many years ago it was used to graze sheep and keep old farm equipment. Today the tangled ivy and undergrowth that filled the courtyard, together with the old farm cart I recall being left there to rot, have all gone, as have the sheep. Manecured lawns and tourists exploring its rooms and magnificent tudor gallery have breathed new life into this once neglected ruin.

There are so many fabulous features in this medieval castle, come tudor mansion to see. Across the tidal waters you can see the tidal mill which is well worth a visit for lunch, and to get a terrific view of the castle.

Access to the castle is now very easy with its own car park, well sign-posted off the main road.

Look out for the fabulous Celtic Carew Cross, which is easily overlooked and is well worth taking a close look at, close to the car park and road.