Monday, 21 September 2009

Carew Castle again

A view of beautiful Carew Castle across the historic meadows where the Great Tournament of 1507 was held.

We have had a busy weekend, doing car boot sales back-to-back to try and get rid of excess "stuff" we no longer need and to swell the coffers a wee bit too. The electricity meter was read last week and you know what THAT means . . .

Anyway, as we were right by Carew Castle, we had a stroll around once we'd packed up. An unexpected . . . bonus . . . meant we actually had almost exactly the amount to pay to go round the castle, so we threw caution to the winds as with moving next year, it may be our last chance and K had never seen Carew on the inside. It always reminds me of Raglan - I suppose it is the Elizabethan extension carried out by Sir John Perrot which does the memory jogging, because those tall Elizabethan windows are so similar, and the water partly surrounding them - and indeed, both castles have quite a family air about them. You can easily imagine people living there. For a different angle - and a superb photograph from across the river - go HERE.

Carew is on a very historical site. The Norman, Gerald of Windsor, who laid the foundations and built the first wooden castle here in the early 12th century was only following on from Iron Age people who had made their own settlement there. It is usually found that what was considered a good site in prehistory, was often settled throughout the ages right up to the present period. Indeed, utilized by the Normans is a massive rock-cut ditch which formed part of the defensive system of a pre-historic promontary fort which had the river forming two more defensive arms.

My cheerful husband (who LOVES castles, as I do) in the other hall. Behind him is a tapestry showing the great Tournament here in 1507.

The beautiful window above shows Princess Nest, who had quite an . . . eventful and fruitful life. Follow the link to read about her story.

One of the ruinous fireplaces with its typical circular Pembrokeshire chimney jutting skywards.

The ramp up to the Great Hall was once a flight of steps. The Great Hall was built in the early 14th century, I believe by Sir Nicholas de Carew. The coats of arms above the entrance are those of Henry VII; his son Arthur (sickly brother of THE Henry who was to become Henry VIII) and of Catherine of Aragon, his wife, who his brother also subsequently married. This three-storied porch was a later addition by Sir Rhys ap Thomas. The hall had a minstrel's gallery, and two fine fireplaces and a projecting tower which housed the Chapel.

From the upper reaches of the Castle, there was a wonderful vista of the Tidal Mill and river beyond.

The warm walls provided footing for brambles which offered a lovely crop of blackberries, but sadly, way out of reach above our heads!

Sir John Perrot's extension seen from inside the small inner ward. Strange to tell, but one of our not-too-far-off neighbours here (in a nearby valley) is a Perrot . . . One of the displays inside the hall to the right of this picture mentioned that Sir John Perrot could well have been one of Henry VIII's bastard sons and indeed bore a strong resemblance to him . . . He was born in 1528, to Mary Berkeley and her husband Sir Thomas Perrot of Haroldstown. He was a staunch Protestant during Queen Mary's reign of terror, much of which he spent abroad in France, for the good of his health shall we say! Queen Elizabeth made him first lord of Munster, a post which left him exhausted after just two years in office and he was glad to return to his lands in Pembrokeshire. Eventually his talent for making enemies and his indiscreet remarks about the Queen led to his arrest and imprisonment in the Tower of London. If Elizabeth was aware that she had condemned her half-brother to death, she was spared the mental anguish of actually signing a death warrent as he died of natural causes in 1592.

A view through an arrow slit in the back curtain wall, looking towards the river beyond the tidal mill.

Double click on this photo to read about the Great Tournament held here in 1507, one of - if not THE - last Tournament held in Britain. Below are details of what took place during the five days of the Tournament. It must have been an amazing site, especially to our present-day eyes.

I love the tile on the left, which was unearthed during excavations here in the past. I think that the stripes down his neck and the large set of teeth must mean he was a lion - eating a rose?

The photo above shows the original tower with the north wall of Perrot's Elizabethan extension abutting it.

Windows in the north wall of what was known as the Long Gallery. To the left of the picture was a massive bowed window, which can be seen in the link in the 2nd paragraph (towards the bottom of the link page).

Now there are owls here instead. At the bottom of the picture, if you enlarge it, you will be able to see the remains of an owl pellet with vole skull and bones and fur.

Looking down the Long Gallery.

View of the castle from the Tidal Mill.


  1. I love Carew Castle. We often take picnics down there and walk around the block. I have happy childhood memories of it too - and photographs of myself and my sister hanging out of the windows. I seem to remember it as less of a tourist attraction and more of a 'help yourself' castle. I'm sure you used to be able to just wander in and clamber all over it... but that was nearly 40 years ago! My children now love it just as much.

  2. Amazing shots ...especially the 'slit' one.

    OMG the 'birds in the pie' bit ... very interesting but yukky.

  3. Oh dear--I had written a comment and stopped to read about the blackbird pie and contemplate the meaning of "cockatrice"--and of course lost the comment.
    I was thinking how any historic "antiquities" in the US pale beside those in England and Wales. I can only be an armchair explorer, so glad that you present these interesting things.
    While riding across the country recently I read "Sunne in Splendour" and thought, not for the first time, how DNA testing would have sorted the begotten of those dynastic lechers! In reading of legendary beauties such as Princess Nest and Cecily Neville, I wonder how they managed to keep their looks--endless childbearing, no dentistry, etc. I would have supposed they would be hags at 30 if they lived so long.
    What is it with blackberries? The biggest and juiciest are always out of human reach. We can hope the birds enjoyed them.

  4. Me again. About those pictorial tiles: could the beast devouring the rose be symbolic of the "devices" of the various royals? A lion or boar or such making lunch of the yorkist rose?
    Probably far-fetched and the fanciful product of too many sleepless nights! And I've had to look up "cockatrice" which was'nt what I had thought.
    You do inspire me!

  5. Glad you all enjoyed it. Mags - it is a very "approachable" sort of castle in its homeliness. Gone are the days where you just walked in and explored, sadly, but there were people walking round on Sunday and only went in the main halls - never ventured beyond, or climbed the stairs - or (I suspect) felt any sense of history. they didn't even go in the Long Gallery!

    Angie - I love taking photos through arrow slits and windows and doorways, using them to frame the picture. As for the blackbirds in a pie - well, I guess they thought differently then. Think of Lark Spits, and dishes of Lark's Tongues for heaven's sake . . . How prolific the wildlife must have been then.

    MM - Glad I inspire you. Britain's history is so amazingly dense and varied. I really must find some spares of the H V Morton books, as they are just "up your street" as mum would have said. He sought out the story, the people, behind the mundane or the everyday.

    I, too, thought of the Lion devouring the Rose of Lancaster or York . . . great minds think alike! I've just found this link
    and bookmarked it to return to . . .

    I have the Sunne in Splendour here, borrowed from my brother-in-law dunnamany years back and for years raising my bedside lamp to the requisite level. I must get around to reading it!

  6. appreciate the work you put into your castle/historical blogs
    ---I learn a lot from them---so much to see in your countryside