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Carew Castle ruins are extensive, and may be regarded as among the most interesting and beautiful in the principality . . .
From the towers, to the summits of which an ascent is afforded by staircases in a dilapidated condition, an extensive and pleasing prospect is obtained of the haven, on one side, and of the surrounding country on the other, which abounds with interesting scenery, enlivened by numerous seats in the vicinity. The parish contains a vast quantity of excellent limestone, which is conveyed in small craft of twelve or fifteen tons' burden to the upper parts of this county and of Cardiganshire.
Coal of inferior quality is procured on the north side of the parish, but only for the supply of the immediate neighbourhood. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is a spacious and venerable structure, in the early style of English architecture. In the churchyard is an ancient building, apparently coeval with the church, which is occasionally used as a parochial school, the master being appointed by the vicar.
Carew Cross, which stands before the castle, is one of the several imposing Celtic monuments in Wales. It was erected in the 11th century in honor of Maredydd ap Edwyn, a Welsh leader.
Cilgerran Castle stands on a precipitous, craggy promontory overlooking the river Teifi where it merges with the Plysgog stream. The Teifi here is just at its tidal limit, so the castle was able to control both a natural crossing point and the passage of seagoing ships. We cannot be sure when this strong site was first fortified.
Cilgerran is first mentioned by name in 1164, when the Lord Rhys captured the castle here. It was retaken by William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, in 1204, only to be taken again by the Welsh during Llywelyn the Great's campaigns in 1215. However, eight years later, William's son, another William, regained control, and it was probably he who built the imposing masonry castle we see today.
Kidwelly is an imposing monument of Norman power. It is also a beautiful example of castle development, as the castle was altered on a number of occasions to conform to the latest ideas in military science. Roger, bishop of Salisbury, the justiciar of England, established Norman power in the area and the ringwork castle ( below) that he built here was one of a series of strongholds designed by the Normans to secure the new conquests of south Wales by commanding the river passes here and at Laugharne, Llansteffan and Loughor..
The ringwork at Kidwelly was constructed on a steep ridge overlooking the River Gwendraeth at its upper tidal limit. No further strengthening was needed on the riverside, and the present semicircular bank and ditch formed the 12th-century defences which would have been supplemented by a timber palisade on the bank, probably further strengthened by towers and certainly by a gate.
In the interior would have been the timber domestic buildings of the lord. This castle fell to the Welsh on a number of occasions in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, including once in 1159 when the Lord Rhys took it and burnt it. He is later credited with rebuilding the castle in 1190. By 1201, however, it was back in Norman hands and remained English from then on, despite periodic attacks.
Llawhaden Castle is located about 8 miles east of Haverfordwest, just off the A40. The narrow approach road into Llawhaden gives no hint that the great bishops once took refuge here. Even the village itself, quiet and rather secluded, hides the splendor of its medieval past.
The Bishop's Castle takes a little effort to locate, but the short stroll from the car park is a nice surprise, lined with pretty flowers and charming homes. The name of the village and its castle, Llawhaden, apparently derives from Llanhuadain or Llanaedan, "the Church of St. Aidan" ( still standing to the east of the castle).
Most likely, Llawhaden began as an earth and timber castle in the 12th century, the prize of the Norman Bishop Bernard. Over time, Llawhaden underwent several alterations as different bishops left their mark. Like many castles, this one sat high atop a hill. Like many castles, a deep ditch and earthen embankment formed the earliest outer defenses. They still give the castle a sense of power. And, like many earth and timber castles, the defenses were refortified with stone, in this case, in response to a siege led by the Welshman, the Lord Rhys, in the late 12th century.
Manorbier Castle is a little off the beaten track. Located in Pembrokeshire a few miles off the A4139 on the narrow B4585, The drive to the village of Manorbier takes you through some of the most scenic parts of Pembrokeshire, and winds dramatically along leafy hedged lanes towards the coast. In fact, the castle and its surrounding lands are nestled in a narrow valley carved from two streams which flow past sandy beaches to Manorbier Bay.
Accros the valley on the opposit hill top is the Church of St. James, active during the Norman times when the castle was established. And down in the valley below, tangible vestiges of castle life complete the picture of feudalism at Manorbier. The castle at Manorbier is an unusual vision, a startling combination of beauty and function, residence and fortification, comfort and utility, which entices, enchants and educates the curious mind. Superficially, the castle may be seen simply as a lavish residence for wealthy Norman landowners but it is so much more than that. While the place certainly exudes warmth and luxury, the castle also represents the harsher realities of life with the Normans and the subjugation of the local Welsh populace.
Manorbier Castle sits majestically above the adjacent roadway which leads to the main entrance. Sheltered by trees and shrubbery, the castle suddenly pops out before you when you set foot on the grounds. Ahead is the outer bailey, with its fascinating relics from the English Civil War: the redan, a series of earthen embankments and ditches which were reinforced with stone, and would have impeded the advance of the enemy.
The rectangular great gatehouse projects over the surrounding ditch and Like many gatehouses, this contains several defensive features: strong battlements, a portcullis, arrow-slits and machicolations (openings over the passageway through which liquids or solid missiles were thrown down upon attackers). The fine gatehouse leads directly to the inner ward.
The hall-keep at Manorbier was more an area of routine living than a place of retreat. Located along the southwestern wall, across the inner ward from the great gatehouse, the hub of this complex of buildings was the impressive great hall. The buttery and pantry were strategically constructed adjacent to the hall, along with the kitchens and ovens, Above the buttery are the remains of the old solar, the original withdrawing room of William de Barri's fortified home, and the most likely place for Gerald's birth.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the Philippses of Picton Castle were the most powerful family in Pembrokeshire, exercising tremendous political, social and economic influence over all aspects of local life. They had vast estates, were prominent philanthropists (being particularly notable supporters of the Charity School movement), and for generations supplied Pembrokeshire with sheriffs, justices of the peace, deputy lieutenants, lords lieutenants and members of Parliament.
Picton Castle was once the home to Philipps family and a substantial number of friends and servants, a centre of squirearchal government, and a focus of local social and cultural life, functions which it has retained in some measure to the present day. The castle is now owned by the Picton Castle Trust.
The Castle was probably built by Sir John Wogan, who was Justiciar of Ireland between 1295 and 1308. The plan is unusual. The castle has no internal courtyard, and originally the main block was protected by seven projecting circular towers: the two at the east end were linked to form a gatehouse, and the entrance led straight through a portcullis into the undercroft of the hall, a very unusual feature. There was a walled courtyard around the castle but probably no moat.
Picton's closest architectural affinities are with a group of Irish castles built in the 13th century - Carlow, Lea and Ferns - but these had four circular towers at the corners of rectangular main blocks instead of seven as at Picton. A 1740 print by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck (shown at right) shows slit windows with trefoil heads on the north-east tower which were characteristic of the period about 1300.
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