From castle to manor house: The history of Picton Castle

·4-min read
Majestic Picton Castle, by Yvette Evans
Majestic Picton Castle, by Yvette Evans

RECENTLY in our historical features, we have looked at a number of castles around the Pembrokeshire area, highlighting some of the interesting and often disturbing stories and events that have taken place.

This week, we look at Picton Castle and its history right through to the present ownership by Picton Castle Trust.

Picton Castle was built in 1280 for Sir John de Wogan. It was built before he became Justiciary of Ireland, a role he held from 1295 until 1313.

The castle was built to be the centre of his estates. On building, the castle did not have an internal courtyard and the main block was protected by seven projecting circular towers, with the two on the east being linked to form a gatehouse, with the entrance leading straight through a portcullis in the entrance of the hall. There was also a walled courtyard, but it is believed there was no moat.

Western Telegraph: Picton Castle.
Western Telegraph: Picton Castle.

Around 1400, the smaller windows in the hall were replaced with big traceried windows and a grand recessed arch with a large window was built in the gatehouse.

The castle was in the hands of the Wogan family for a number of years and fell into the hands of the Dwnn family when one of the Wogan heiresses married Owain Dwnn.

It remained in the Dwnn family until the late 15th century when heiress Jane married Sir Thomas Philipps of Clisant. The Clisant family was a prominent family who owned an extensive amount of land in west Carmarthenshire. They descended from Cadifor Fawr, a late 11th century magnate.

Aaron ap Rhys, great grandson of Cadifor, is said to have taken part in the Third Crusade and became a knight of the Holy Sepulchre. He is also said to have added the golden collar and chain to the back of the lion rampart on the Philipps family insignia.

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Sir Thomas Philipps was an esquire to the body of Henry VII and his family held the castle throughout the years since.

In 1611, the family were given hereditary knighthoods when Sir John Philipps spent £1,095 on the baronetcies to help King James I raise money to keep his army in Ireland. It is believed that the sum was supposed to cover the cost of keeping 30 soldiers in Ireland for three years.

Western Telegraph: FROM INDIA TO PEMBROKESHIRE: Dame Mary was born in Surate and married in to the Philipps family of Picton Castle. PICTURE: Contributed.
Western Telegraph: FROM INDIA TO PEMBROKESHIRE: Dame Mary was born in Surate and married in to the Philipps family of Picton Castle. PICTURE: Contributed.

In 1697, Sir John Philipps (4th bart.,) pulled down part of the curtain wall and built the terrace. He also created the main entrance at first-floor level, built an extra storey above the great hall and altered some windows.

In the 18th century, the castle underwent major alterations as it was transformed into a manor house. During this period, the traceried windows and the grand recessed arch were removed.

Between 1749 and 1752, Sir John Philipps (6th bart.,) made extensive changes to the interior, with redecoration for all rooms above basement level, new plasterwork, panelling and joinery floors and four marble fireplaces.

The family then inherited the Lord Milford title in 1776, with Sir Richard Philipps, the 7th bart., becoming the first Baron Milford. The title became extinct on his 1823 death before being recreated when Sir Richard Philipps was given the title of Baron Milford in 1847. A decade later, he died childless and so the title became extinct again, but his estates, including Picton Castle, passed to his half-brother Reverend James Henry Alexander Gwyther, who later assumed the surname Philipps.

He had a daughter Mary Philippa who married Charles Edward Gregg Fisher and in 1887, he – having previously assumed the surname Philipps – was created a baronet of Picton.

Western Telegraph: Picture: Yvette Evans
Western Telegraph: Picture: Yvette Evans

Picture: Yvette Evans

In 1939, the Baron Milford title was resurrected again, with Sir Laurence Philipps was given the title in 1939. The title is currently still live, with Sir Laurence Phillips passing it to Wogan Philipps. Following his death, it was given to Hugo John Laurence Philipps and is currently the title of Guy Wogan Philipps, who is the 4th Baron Milford.

The Honourable Hanning Philipps (brother of Wogan Philipps, second Lord Milford) and his wife Lady Marion Philipps were the last members of the family to live in the castle-come-manor-house and gifted the castle to The Picton Castle Trust in 1987, who remain in charge of the estate to this day.