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Carew Castle

Coordinates: 51°41′54″N 4°49′50″W / 51.69833°N 4.83056°W / 51.69833; -4.83056
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Carew Castle
Part of Pembrokeshire
Carew, Wales
Castle's north face, beside an inlet of the Carew River
Coordinates51°41′54″N 4°49′50″W / 51.69833°N 4.83056°W / 51.69833; -4.83056
TypeNorman Rectangular castle with Elizabethan Ranges
HeightUp to 15 metres (49 ft)
Site information
OwnerCarew family
Controlled byPembrokeshire Coast National Park
Open to
the public
ConditionPartially restored
WebsiteCarew Castle & Tidal Mill
Site history
Built1270 (1270)
Built byNicholas de Carew
MaterialsCarboniferous Limestone
Battles/warsEnglish Civil War
Listed Building – Grade I
Designated14 May 1970[1]

Carew Castle (Welsh: Castell Caeriw) is a castle in the civil parish of Carew in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The Carew family take their name from this site and have owned the castle for more than 900 years. It is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for administration purposes.[2] .



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 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 gallery.

The outer ward has earthworks that were built by Royalist defenders during the English Civil War in the 1640s.[3]



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, part of the tidal estuary that makes up the Milford Haven Waterway. 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".


Carew Castle, overlooking the wall

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 in about 1270 by Nicholas de Carew (d.1297),[4] 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 period

Carew Castle from the river

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 VII just before the battle of Bosworth.[5]

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' 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 Sir John Perrot, a Lord Deputy of Ireland, who completed the final substantial modifications of the castle. The Elizabethan plutocrat reconstructed the north walls to build a long range of domestic rooms.


Viewed from the west

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 refortified by Royalists although south Pembrokeshire was strongly Parliamentarian. After changing hands three times, the south wall was pulled down to render the castle indefensible to Royalists. At the Restoration the castle was returned to the de Carews, who continued to occupy the eastern wing until 1686.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed 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 Pembrokeshire National Park Authority.

Tidal mill


Carew Tidal Mill is the only restored tidal mill in Wales.[6] The origins of the mill are undocumented but evidence suggests that a mill was in existence on the site by 1542. It is often called the "French Mill" and this may have arisen from its use of French burrstone millstones. Causeway walls and floodgates were restored by Sir John Carew in about 1615. One of the mill wheels is dated 1801. Use of the mill ended in 1937 and the building became derelict.[7]



  1. ^ Cadw. "Carew Castle (5937)". National Historic Assets of Wales. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  2. ^ "Carew — Experience Pembrokeshire". Experience Pembrokeshire. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010.
  3. ^ Hull, Lise (2016). Understanding the Castle Ruins of England and Wales: How to Interpret the History and Meaning of Masonry and Earthworks. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 83. ISBN 9781476665979.
  4. ^ Vivian, Lt. Col. J. L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.134, pedigree of Carew
  5. ^ "RHYS ap THOMAS, Sir (1449 - 1525), the chief Welsh supporter of Henry VII". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 31 October 2022.
  6. ^ "Welcome to Carew Tidal Mill" (PDF). Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Castle and Mill History". Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. 2023. Retrieved 7 September 2023.

Further reading