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, although still wood and earth castle in these lands. In the following centuries, it was expanded by the descendants of Gerald: William in the second half of the 12th century, which founded a stone residential tower, and especially in the times of Sir Nicholas in the second half of the 13th century and his son of the same name at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, who began to call themselves 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 was situated on a small elevation on the southern bank of the Carew River. At the end of the 12th century, it had the form of a four-sided residential tower, incorporated into the extended castle complex. It is not known whether it had a stone form from the very beginning or it was preceded by a wooden structure. The fortifications around the tower were certainly wooden.
At the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a stone defensive wall was built on a square plan into which the old residential tower was incorporated from the eastern side. The defense was provided by two corner cylindrical towers on the west side, a south-east corner tower with a semicircular shape and a north-east polygonal tower with a castle chapel. The latter had a rib vault, a piscina in the wall and a room above the chapel. The western towers were equipped with characteristic prominent spurs that acted as buttresses and limited the blind spots of fire. The upper rooms in their interiors could also play a residential role, as they were equipped with fireplaces and latrines.
The building of the great hall occupied the entire length of the western curtain of the wall, between the two corner towers. At the level of the first floor, it housed a representative large hall, set above the vaulted storage rooms on the ground floor. In the great hall there was a gallery for the minstrels to the south, three larger windows facing west, and two fireplaces. At the beginning of the 16th century, the entrance to the hall was preceded by a small vestibule from the courtyard side. Another building called a lesser hall, was located in the north-east corner of the courtyard, between the corner tower and the former residential tower.
The entrance to the inner courtyard led through a gate located south of the original tower from the end of the 12th century. It was not a very sophisticated structure, equipped only with a gate, a portcullis and five murder holes. Also, the outer bailey on the eastern side of the castle was fortified with a stone wall with a gate tower.
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.
Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Carew Castle.