Travel – Carew, Pembrokshire – castle and tidal mill

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Next stop was Carew. Carew has been an important site for thousands of years. You can still see Iron age defensive ditches in the green of the Castle green

Carew Castle stands on a limestone bank overlooking the inlet to the tidal estuary of Milford Haven. The Normans came to Pembrokeshire in the 11th century and the king’s representative Gerald de Windsor, flattened the old defences and built a new castle on Norman lines with a timber motte and brick bailey. He had secured his power by marriage to local beauty, Princess Nest (sometimes nicknamed Helen of Wales), daughter of Rhys Ap Twedwr the last Celtic king of Dehaubarth.

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Princess Nest had already been a hostage in the court of William II, and when only 14 she had caught the eye of William’s brother Henry (later to become King Henry I). Henry was known for his womanising and Princess Nest gave birth to his son in 1103.

Constantly under threat of attack from the Welsh, Gerald built Carew Castle and another at Cilgerran where Nest and her children later lived. Princess Nest bore Gerald at least five children.

Alas as the story goes, when Welsh prince of Powys, Owain, heard of Princess Nest and her beauty, he invited himself to the castle to meet her (his second cousin). He then became infatuated with her, and returned with a group of men to attack the castle. In the confusion Gerald escaped down a privy hole, while the Princess and two of her children were captured and the castle sacked and plundered. It is not know if she was taken willingly, but she had two children with Owain before she was eventually returned to her husband. Nest’s ghost is said to haunt the atmospheric castle at night.

Gerald’s son William took the name “De Carew” and added an enclosure with stone walls incorporating the original keep. The Castle was improved in the 13th century by Sir Nicholas de Carew who added drum towers, guard walks, arrow slits , battlements and a portcullis. Around 1480 Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a supporter of Henry VII started to convert the castle into a home worthy of an influential Tudor  gentleman.

Further remodelling was carried out by Sir John Perrot, said to be the illegitimate son of Henry VIII who was granted Carew by Queen Mary. However he did not get to enjoy his improvements, being later arrested on a charge of treason to Queen Elizabeth and confined to the Tower of London where he died, apparently of natural causes, before his expected pardon. Poison was suspected! I don’t suppose he was popular in Carew either, John Perret’s improvements included re-routing roads, moving the village and evicting tenants whose farms spoiled his view!

From 1686 the Castle was abandoned and lay in ruins. Stone was taken and reused in local houses and farm buildings. The romantic ruin, was immortalised by painters such as JMW Turner

While we walked round the site, there were a load of school children being taught Tudor games! The South West Tower is closed to the public to protect the bats that live there. More than half of all the species of British bats have been recorded here including the rare greater horseshoe bat. Owls also nest in the ruin.

There was also an exhibition of sculptures on Healing stones, in a bluestone circle. These lovely Presili bluestones were the same as the ones used to build Stonehenge.

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Across the water you can see and visit Carew Tide Mill which stands at the south end of a causeway across the Carew River, a tidal inlet. The mill building dates from the early 19th century. However there is evidence of a mill of some kind existing as early as 1542. In 1558 John Barlett leased a mill for 10 sovereigns per year. The mill pond fills through the open flood gates as the tide comes in, driving two undershot water wheels.

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The mill is a three storey stone building with an attic and slate roof. On the ground floor is machinery from lifting the sluice gates and the running stones, the floor above houses six pairs of millstones, three driven by each water wheel. It also houses the machine for cleaning the grain, and flour dresser. The train hoppers are on the bin floor above. A sack hoist was used to lift grain to the attic

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There used to be a tide mill close to where I live, and the skeleton remains of the buildings of the Tidemills village can be seen among the wild flowers. When you look at the pictures of the mill it’s hard to imagine it all as a working mill. Here it Carew you can see a complete mill building, and from walking round it was easier to understand how it all worked. A really interesting place to visit.

One more thing of a  note, in the village is an important example of an 11th century memorial Celtic cross, commemorating King Maredudd ab Edwin of Deheubarth.

An ancient and interesting place that has seen its fair share of turmoil!

Do I belong to some ancient race
I like to walk in ancient places
These are things that I can understand
Well, I don’t believe in your modern way
Don’t care about the things you say
Your policies have failed the test of time
‘Cause you sold them down the river-o

 

Lyrics by the Levellers

 

 

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Travel – Carew, Pembrokshire – castle and tidal mill

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