The castle was erected in a place that has been considered strategically important since the Iron Age, because, as research has shown, the earliest traces of fortifications come from that period. The oldest medieval fortifications were built by Gerald de Windsor around 1100. He married about 1095 with Nest, princess of Deheubarth, who brought Carew as part of the dowry. Gerald decided to build a new Norman type castle on these lands. In subsequent centuries, it was expanded by the descendants of Gerald: William in the mid-12th century, and especially Nicholas in the second half of the thirteenth century, who began to be called de Carew.
In the fourteenth century, the castle was avoided by the turmoil of war, but the line gradually declined. Eventually, in 1480, Edmund Carew sold back the stronghold to Rhys ap Thomas, one of the leading followers of the Tudor dynasty and king Henry VII. The new owner undertook a rebuilding, transforming the medieval castle into a luxury residence. In 1531 Rhys grandson, Rhys ap Gruffudd, fell out of favor and was executed by king Henry VIII for treason. In this way, the castle returned to the Crown, and then in 1558 was taken over by Sir John Perrot, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, who carried out the last significant modification of the castle. To enlarge his seat, he erected the entire renaissance northern range of the castle. Perrot died in 1592 before the end of work, after he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of treason. Once again, the castle returned to the Crown, and then it was bought by the de Carew family in 1607.
During the civil war of the 17th century, the castle was fortified by royalists. After passing three times from hands to hands and partially destroying the southern wall, after the end of hostilities, it was returned to the owners. The Carew family lived in the east range until 1686. Later, the castle was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Repair work began to be carried out only from 1984.
The castle from the beginning of the twelfth century had the form of a tower – keep, later built into a large castle complex. It is not known whether from the beginning it had a stone form, or was preceded by a timber building. Certainly there were wooden fortifications around the tower. In the mid-twelfth century, a stone defensive wall was built on a square plan in which the tower was turned on from the east and a Great Hall building was erected inside the perimeter on the western side.
In the second half of the thirteenth century, Nicholas of Carew made a great expansion during which the eastern building of the so-called Lesser Hall, two corner towers on the west side, a south-east tower and a north-eastern polygonal tower with a castle’s chapel. The latter had a rib vault, a piscina in the wall and a room above the chapel. Western towers were equipped with characteristic prominent spurs. The Great Hall occupied the entire length of the western building at the level of the first floor, above the vaulted storage rooms on the ground floor. In the room there was a gallery for minstrels in the south, three larger windows facing the west side and two fireplaces. The entrance to the inner ward led through a gate located south of the original tower from the 12th century. It was not a very sophisticated construction, equipped only with a door, a portcullis and five murder holes. The outer bailey, located on the eastern side of the castle, has also been fortified with a stone wall with a gatehouse.
The castle has survived to modern times in the form of a well-preserved ruin with a readable full layout. Only a fragment of the southern wall has no original height today. Most of the buildings do not have roofs, currently only the Lesser Hall is roofed. The medieval appearance of the castle was partially blurred by the sixteenth-century rebuilding, especially the addition of the northern wing with large windows in the Elizabethan renaissance style. The castle is open to visitors. It is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which administers the site.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Carew Castle.