The Earwear Mansion was built in 1455 by John Elliott near Amroth’s Norman castle. A tunnel led towards the shore, its original purpose unknown. The Catholic Elliotts may have used it for used for Mass after the Reformation. Smuggling was another possible use made of it. A descendant built a school in the grounds, behind the gateway arch facing the coast road.
Retired Naval officer Captain James Ackland bought the estate in 1790 and castellated the mansion, giving rise to the Amroth Castle name. He sealed off the tunnel. In 1802 Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton stayed here while visiting Pembrokeshire dockyards.
In 1851 owner Dr John Howard Norton opened an institute for psychiatric patients here, licensed for 28 male and 28 female patients. Inspectors soon found pauper patients living in stables. One patient was “fastened to a fixed chair by a strap around her waist almost continuously for long periods”. The licence was revoked after five years but at least 16 patients had died (average age 46). Even so, Chantry Lane was renamed The Norton in the doctor’s honour!
Shipping tycoon and Liberal MP Owen Cosby Philipps bought the estate in 1898. He was created Baron Kylsant in 1923. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail in 1931 for his involvement in a misleading prospectus in his capacity as chairman of the Royal Mail Steam Packet. He created a turning area for his motor vehicle by demolishing a pub on the ground opposite the gateway. A replacement Amroth Arms was established further west.
His daughter, Nesta Donne, lived at Amroth Castle when she married George Coventry. George took part in local country pursuits and in the 1920s donated part of the castle meadow as a football pitch for the newly formed Amroth Seagulls. He was a skilled boxer, and sometimes called local lads to the old laundry to settle their differences with boxing gloves! George became the 10th Earl of Coventry in 1930 and the couple left Amroth. He was an army Lieutenant when killed in France in 1940, aged 39.
The army requisitioned Amroth Castle in the Second World War, using the old tunnel as toilet drainage and laying 53 anti-personnel mines in the field before the castle. A wire connected the mines so that all could be made safe by finding the first, but when the time for removal came, the wire from the first mine had rusted. The rest had to be located individually. Only 51 were ever found!
The castle was listed Grade 1 in 1951. Eight years later, it was bought for conversion into a holiday park. In 2013, it was one of eight places worldwide where a cloned Champion Ancient Redwood was planted for the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.
With thanks to Mark Harvey
Postcode: SA67 8NN View Location Map