Carew Castle, Wales

   Posted by: Isolde Martyn   in Ricardian Places

This ruined castle in Pembrokeshire was the home of Rhys ap Thomas, the Welsh lord whose support for Henry Tudor was a crucial factor in the overthrow of King Richard III. After Bosworth, Rhys became the highest officer of the crown in southern Wales.

Carew Castle, built on the upper reaches of the Carew River, which flows into Milford Haven was Rhys’s favourite residence and although it is now a ruin, it has a cosier family atmosphere than the huge, intact royal castle at Pembroke.

The original motte and bailey were built in the Norman era to guard the river head and the building is not far from an 11th century Celtic Cross commemorating a king who died in 1035. In the time of Edward I when fortress building reached its zenith, the castle was rebuilt.  After his rise to great eminence, Rhys ap Thomas made more changes by putting in oriel windows, a guest bedroom for when King Henry visited, as well as a new great hall and gatehouse. In April 1507 he hosted a five-day great tournament to celebrate being made a knight of the garter. (In April 2010, when we visited, a modest archery contest was being held and the bright coloured tents, pennons and historical costumes gave a feel to how splendid the castle must have looked during the jousting.)

Rhys’s grandson was executed by King Henry VIII and the castle was given to Sir John Perrot, reputedly one of the king’s bastards. Perrot built a three storey north range with a long gallery and mullioned windows, but he was convicted of high treason and much of the glazing was never finished. The castle was fought over during the English Civil War and the south range was deliberately destroyed by the Roundheads. From then on the building fell into decay. Today the castle is managed by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and with its river setting, tidal mill, and C11th Celtic Cross, it is certainly worth a visit.

Carew Castle: a souvenir guide, Pembrokeshire  Coast National Park Authority
Evans, H.T, Wales and the Wars of the Roses, Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1988

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