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Angle tower-house from the NNW
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Angle tower-house from the ENE

Angle, Pembrokeshire sports a unique medieval monument for Wales: a 14th-century tower-house of a kind more common in Ireland or northern Britain as well as parts of the Mediterranean. There seems to be no defined historical context for its construction.

While unique, without precise historical details and also without detailed modern archaeological research, it is still possible for a broad interpretation of this monument to be proposed.

First up, it was evidently a symbol of status given its three-storey height and striking form, perhaps one built by an aspiring local gent to be a prominent landmark in the vicinity. The tower-house was also a viable elite residence, comfortable and with fireplaces in every room. It was also clearly a valuable watch-tower and secure refuge capable of being defended against surprise attacks and short sieges. It possessed machicolations and originally a moat and a drawbridge. The ground-floor entrance is a 19th-century addition.

We can also say something of this monument from its location. It may have been the focus of a larger moated site to its north and beneath Castle Farm fed by the tidal inlet and a stream. In this sense, the rather small-scale of the building may conceal the fact that it was once simply a striking component of a large manorial complex.

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Heritage board showing a reconstruction of the tower-house but also hinting that it might have been part of a larger walled manorial complex
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The eastern side of the tower-house, with the spiral staircase on the right and the original first-floor entrance

The tower-house’s wider environs also reveal that it was the focal point of a now partly concealed elite landscape. The key feature of this surviving is a fabulous dovecote. In addition to its relationship with the dovecote and moated site, the tower-house sat in a maritime context on the tidal inlet of Angle Bay, part of the Milford Haven waterway. Across the inlet and in striking visual interplay with it is Angle church and adjacent chapel there by at least the 15th or 16th-century date. The west-east road and strip-fields on either side across the inlet indisputable fossilise the arrangement of a carefully planned medieval village.

So while a maritime context might explain this unique monument in a Welsh context, it might also help us to understand how this distinctive tower operated in this landscape setting; as a look-out, a refuge and as a symbol of status, and one distinctive for the region, juxtaposed with other components of a ‘designed’ medieval landscape incorporating other resources and a planned settlement.

I’d like any recommendations on further reading about this fascinating site. On the surface, it appears to be a landscape with considerable potential for further research revealing the evolving relationship between a medieval fortified residence and its environs.

I found it a fascinating site to explore. While unique, Angle’s tower-house is part of the wide spectrum of medieval elite residences of different forms, functions and scales to be found surviving in the countryside and towns of Pembrokeshire.

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View across the tidal inlet to the adjacent Angle church and chapel
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Angle tower-house from the WSW
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View from the tower-house of the dovecote
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Inside the tower-house
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The top floor of the tower-house
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Angle dovecote
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Angle dovecote with tower-house and church in the background on the right; is it coincidence that they form a near perfect alignment?

 

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