The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Carew Cross, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Carew Cross (After J. Romilly Allen)

(After J. Romilly Allen)

Os grid reference: SN0467 0370. At the east side of Carew’s ‘mighty’ medieval castle, close to Bird’s Lane, in the little village of Carew, near Sageston, stands the 4 metre-high Carew Cross, a truly magnificent Celtic ‘high’ cross that dates from the 11th century, which is carved with some quite stunning patterns and designs that are similar to those found on crosses in southern Ireland and the Isle of Man and, there is a memorial inscription in memory of a Welsh prince. The Carew cross is very similar in many respects to the churchyard cross at Nevern, also in Pembrokeshire. Carew is 6 miles west of Tenby on the A4075, not far from the Milford Haven estuary and Pembroke Dock. The nearest parish church to the cross is, St Mary’s, 1 mile south at Carew Cheriton.

The wheel-headed cross stands at about 4 metres (13 feet 2 inches) in height and is made, for the most part, out of local sandstone, and is in two sections, which is rather odd although this was presumably done due to the sheer height of the monument. It is probably the tallest cross in Wales. There are panels on it’s two sides with elaborate decoration and pattern-work. We also see a Latin inscription to the memory of an 11th century Welsh prince on the front face; in fact there could have been two inscriptions if the empty panel next to it had been used! And, it is thought the Carew Cross is ‘not’ in it’s original position because it has been moved around at least a couple of times, once in the Middle Ages, and again in more recent times; and today it is surrounded by iron railings. It dates from AD 1035 when the inscription was carved onto the cross, making it a memorial stone as well; so the actual stone-carved cross could be earlier in date, perhaps the 6th-9th centuries?

There is the usual Celtic-style decoration such as: plaitwork patterning, knot-work (varying in types) but, we also have intricate key-patterning, cord-plaiting (four and fourteen cord) to be precise; patterns with circular and oval rings – plain and looped, and also Greek-style key-patterning, fretwork, and square key-patterns that look similar to “swastikas; and diagonal key-patterning – again looking like the swastika symbol. The edges of the cross have the interlinking knotwork design. The Latin inscription reads: MARGIT EUT REX ETG FILIUS or King Mariteut, Margiteut (Maredudd) son of Etguin (Edwin) lies here. According to legend, Mariteut was king of Dheubarth (south-west Wales) but he was murdered in battle by Cynan ap Seisyllt in AD 1035 after only a two year reign. The Edwin mentioned in the inscription could be Edwyn ap Einion, father of Hywel? We know Hywel as Prince of Wales and the famous law-giver from Welsh history ‘who introduced and gave us’ the so-called codiefied ‘Laws of Dyfed’ after he held a famous parliament at Whitland (Hendy-gwyn-ar-Daf), in Carmarthenshire (AD 930). Prince Hywel Dda (Hywel ap Catell) died in AD 950. The cross-head is quite ordinary, and could be a bit more recent in date, but the cross-base is thick and stocky, being some 4 feet in width, though this part is undecorated.

Carew’s medieval, moated castle looks out from it’s rocky outcrop over an inlet of the river Carew, one of the tidal rivers flowing out from the Milford Haven estuary. Now ruined but still very attractive, it was built in c 1270 by Nicholas de Carew on the site of an earthen and timber fortification from the 1100s, and enlarged in the 15th century, but destroyed in the Civil War (1640s). There are two churches nearby, one St John the Baptist’s, is the local church, whereas the parish church of St Mary is 1 mile south of the castle, at Carew Cheriton. This cruciform-shaped building dates from the 14th century – being built for Bishop Gower of St David’s. The tower is 15th century Perpendicular. Inside there are some interesting tombs and effigies, while out in the churchyard there’s a 16th century charnel house/chantry chapel.


Allen, Romilly J., Early Christian Art In Wales, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 5th series, vol xvi, 1899.

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1987.

Barber, Chris., More Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1987.

Gregory, Donald., Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, 1991.

Bryce, Derek., Symbolism Of The Celtic Cross, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Wales, 1989.

Spencer, Ray., Historic Places In Wales – An Exploration of the Fascinating and Mysterious, (unpublished manuscript), Nelson, Lancashire, 1991.

Author: sunbright57

I am interested in holy wells, standing stones and ancient crosses; also anything old, prehistoric, or unusual.

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