Rose Castle Tower
The earliest photo we have -- Rose Castle Tower as it appeared in 1948.
On the roadside between Millin Chapel and Picton Ferry, at SN005127, there is a very mysterious castellated tower. It’s ruinous, and has been for a long time, and although it looks like a typical south Pembrokeshire church tower it’s minute -- less than 30 ft high and with a footprint only 9 ft x 9 ft. It stands in strange isolation in the garden of Church House, not far from Rose Castle Farm. I happened upon it as I was passing that way in the spring of 2017.
There is no building attached to the tower, but one can see on its north-west side evidence of a past structure with a steeply pitched roof. There are two doors into the tower, one of which has been converted into a window, and seven other small arched windows which have an ecclesiastical look about them.
Until recently the tower was hidden from view by a line of tall trees on a hedgebank -- and this might explain why hardly anybody has drawn attention to it. It’s not mentioned in any of the recent texts (such as the Pevsner Guide to Pembrokeshire or Smith’s book on Welsh buildings) dealing with our historic buildings. Neither is it mentioned by Francis Jones in 1996, by Thornhill Timmins in 1923, by Richard Fenton in his Historic Tour of Pembrokeshire (1811), or by George Owen in his Description of Penbrokshire (1603). So how was it missed by all these observant and well-informed people? It’s not listed for protection by Cadw, and the only official record of it is in the Archwilio database, where it is described as “probably a late medieval (?) tower-house”. The record also draws attention to the fact that on a 1932 map a church was recorded on this site. There is a brief discussion of its origins in a 1948 publication called The Slebech Story, edited by Rev B.Ll. Morris.
So is it a last relic of a ruined church? Or a medieval tower house? Or a quirky nineteenth century dwelling? Or (given its prominent position in the Daugleddau Estuary) a light tower or beacon? Or maybe even a Victorian folly?
There has been a vigorous and wide-ranging debate about the tower on the Heritage and History of Wales Facebook page, and in the PDF article (click on the link) I summarise the erudite points made by many historians, some of whom have visited the tower. I offer sincere thanks to all of them.
Rose Castle Farm is shown on this old OS map -- the tower is located at the roadside near Church House.
Annotated satellite image, showing the position of the tower and the lost annexe.
If you click on the PDF link below you should be able to open as a PDF a short article written a couple of years ago. There was also an article in Pembrokeshire Life magazine.
One of the bricked-in arched windows
The Malakov Tower folly at Monks Haven
Might there be a link between the Rose Castle Tower and the strangle little folly perched on the clifftop near Monks Haven, Sy Ishmaels? I'm beginning to think there might be, since the dimensions are quite similar -- and the rough stonework, brick arches and castellated tower top are very similar too. Inside both towers there are holes in the walls indicating that there were once beams supporting an upstairs floor. The Malakov Tower is so named because it appears to have been built shortly after 1855, named after a famous tower Sevastopol which featured in the Crimean War. Here is a part of the official record:
Just past the north end of the lower pond a path doubles back from it, climbing the east side of the valley and running eastwards along the cliff top to a small folly, known as the Malakov Tower, in the south-east corner of the pleasure grounds. The siting of this building is spectacular. It is perched on the very edge of the cliffs, with sheer drops on the south and on the east, where there is another small inlet, Loose Haven. The building is a rectangular, crenellated tower, about 5 m high. The south wall and south-east corner have gone but the other walls remain to their full height. The ground floor is entered through a pointed door, with an inserted yellow brick arch, on the north side. There are lancet windows in the east and west walls and a small fireplace at the north end of the east wall. These walls also have large beam holes at first floor level, above which are remnants of concrete flooring and rendering. The upper floor is reached via dog-leg steps outside the north wall. The steps are of single stones, with a low parapet on the east side. They lead to a doorway at the east end of the north wall, below which is a large crack in the wall.
The tower was built by the Warren Davies family as part of the Trewarren estate, as part of a grand design for garfdens amnd "pleasure grounds" involving substantial stone walls, ponds and assorted buildings, some of which have disappeared. Rumour has it that there was a second folly in the wooded valley, with a similar design to that on the clifftop. The architect may have been William Owen of Haverfordwest, who also designed Scolton Manor and other Pembrokeshire gentry houses.
Research in progress........
Three images courtesy Luke's video.