We’ve got another 2 in 1 special for you whilst here still in the south of wales. Our first stop is wandering the valleys in Carmarthenshire to a neo gothic folly perched on a hill above quiet villages known as Paxton’s tower.
Standing at 36 feet high, this crenelated tower was established around 1806 in honour of Lord Nelson, Sir William Paxton was a London merchant with family foots in Scotland, he made his fortunes with the east India company and on his return to Britain, he purchased Middleton Hall. It was around 1806 that Paxton called in friend and architect Samuel Cockerel who beautifully designed a neo classical folly that would commemorate the late of Admiral Nelson, who died at the battle of Trafalgar the previous year. There is the possibility that Paxton met Nelson whilst serving as mayor of Carmarthen, hence the monument to him. The folly was built as a decorative building for Paxton to entertain his number of guests and also its been said that the tower would have been used for a viewing platform for him to watch his horses racing between Middleton and Tenby.
The tower itself is a slightly unusual design with the base being triangular and a turret rising from each corner and over the central arch, a banqueting room on the first floor, whilst just above that was a prospect room which was a viewing area with access to the terraces along the roof – as you can see in the video you’re more than welcome to wander around and directly through the tower arch but only rarely do people get to climb the internal stair leading up but from the pictures and videos we’ve seen all that remains in those rooms are empty stories and boarded up windows. Originally the windows had stained glass, adding to the medieval aesthetic. The design of the tower itself is gothic in inspiration; it’s a great small walk up to the folly and it’s fantastic to be able to look out over the valleys to the great welsh landscapes. There’s no cost to enter, its open daily at all reasonable times and maintained by the national trust, free parking is just down by the roadside, we think it’s worth a wander to stretch the legs and enjoy the surroundings.
Further south of Paxton we headed towards Cowbridge where a small castle ruin lays. It stands on a rocky outcrop above the river and originally would have been a similar earthwork enclosure which was built by Herbert de St Quintin. then towards the end of the 12th century a strong stone keep was added inside the earthworks and in the 14th century the gatehouse was added to which is likened to the gatehouses built by Gilberts father at Caerphilly and by King Edward 1st at his castles in north wales for their iconic design. The castle was defended by a pair of strong towers with flanking guard chambers that each had four arrow loops so that enemies would be struck first, although some of them were altered in the 15th century as the gatehouse was turned into a prison, Two further towers were then built at the eastern side of the site, it’s said that these defences may have been the work of the de Clare family.
The final stage of the castles construction was built by English nobleman and military commander Gilbert de Clare in the early 14th century; the most notable remnants of this castle are its high stretch of curtain wall on the north of the site. In the centre of what was once a large fortress is an earthen mound with the remains of a thick-walled building on top of it, which may be all that’s left of an earlier keep. Inside the building were two upper floors and the topmost of which was residential with a staircase leading up. Again, our explore was cut off by it being closed off to the public, but we certainly did manage to get a great idea of how the castle would have looked and how important this ruin was, it’s a ruined shell, but actually a very impressive one and worth a visit.
Till next time!