Carew Castle changed from a fortress to a grand Elizabethan mansion on a flat site by the Carew River. The castle was begun after 1100 by Gerald of Windsor with a stone tower, unusual in these first castles. This remains amid later additions made for the de Carew family in the 1280s on the east side of the courtyard. The dramatic west side was built in the early fourteenth century, with a great hall between two drum towers. The transformation into a Tudor house began around 1507 with Sir Rhys ap Thomas, one of the Welsh knights who had risen to prominence with the new Welsh dynasty, the Tudors. The entrance to the great hall has the arms of Henry VII, his eldest son Prince Arthur and Arthur’s bride Catherine of Aragon. But Arthur died, and the family fell foul of the second son, Henry VIII. Sir Rhys’ grandson, Sir Rhys ap Gruffudd, was executed in 1531. So it was Sir John Perrot, a favourite of Elizabeth I, who completed the work or nearly did before his disgrace in 1591. On the northern front is a display of Elizabethan mullioned windows with two semi-circular bow windows to break the length. The castle was damaged in the civil war and gradually ruined.
Across the spectacular tidal mill-pond is a large nineteenth-century Tidal Mill, and by the car park, the Carew Cross, the best Celtic Cross in Britain, erected in about 1035, covered in Celtic patterning.
Carew Castle is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and is run as a visitor attraction and educational site.
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