In 1927 when businessman Stanley Neale bought Upton Castle, what are now the gardens consisted mainly of woodlands and grassy meadows.
A keen plantsman, he was determined to make a special garden. The unique situation of Upton Castle with its acid soil and hidden valley providing shelter for plants, together with its proximity to the Gulf Stream made it the ideal environment in which to create his garden.
The Chapel has been a site of Christian worship since the mid 12th century, which predates the 13th century Castle itself. It contains a number of interesting stone effigies including the ornate 14th-century tomb of Sir Walter Maliphant and his wife Lady Margaret.
The Chapel was the focus of a Time Team episode which excavated the site finding origins of Norman ridge tiles and stained glass as well as a 12th-century burial.
Experience the captivating history of the Chapel, a place of Christian worship since the mid 12th century. This ancient site predates the Castle itself and features intriguing stone effigies, including the ornate 14th-century tomb of Sir Walter Maliphant and Lady Margaret. It gained recognition when it was showcased on the Time Team TV series, revealing Norman ridge tiles, stained glass, and a 12th-century burial. Today, the Chapel continues its tradition of weekly Sunday services in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, with safety measures in place. Surrounding the Chapel are enchanting woodland walks, leading you through ancient trees, medieval fish ponds, and eventually to the serene tidal estuary of the River Cleddau. Discover the rich heritage and tranquil beauty of the Chapel as you immerse yourself in its centuries-old stories and profound spiritual ambiance. All are welcome to explore this extraordinary place where faith and history intertwine.
There are scarce details of the early history of Upton Castle or (Ockendon or Openton) as it was sometimes referred but it is probable that there was an earlier place of Christian worship on the site of the existing chapel.
Upton Castle was built by one of the barons dependant on the Earldom of Pembroke, possibly by a member of the Malefant family who held Upton (also known as Occten or Ockten) during the 13th century. Some of the original building including three turrets still stands today although the inhabited part dates from the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. Between two of the turrets is the Great Hall which contains the original 13th century fireplace and window openings as well as the stone spiral staircases giving access to the battlements. Sadly, for safety reasons the castle is not open to the public.
The castle passed from the Malefants to Owen ape Gryffindor a descendant of whom took the name of Bowen in 1564. It remained in the Bowen family until the latter half of the 18th century when it was purchased by John Taker passing eventually to the Reverend William Evans. In 1927 an Admiral Evans sold Upton to Mr Stanley Neal who undertook the main landscaping and planting of the gardens. The work included clearing scrub and undergrowth, planting with a large variety of exotic trees and shrubs and building stone terraces. In 2006 Upton was sold (for only the third time in 750 years) by Mr Neale’s daughter and her husband, The Reverend Canon Skelton, to Stephen and Prue Barlow who are undertaking the present restoration work.
In the years following his purchase of Upton, Stanley Neale carried out a great deal of landscaping work, creating the terraces which now form the formal part of the gardens and the paths through the woodland area which is the core of the gardens.
Many unusual and rare shrubs and trees were purchased and planted and still form the basis of the magnificent display of mature plants we see today.
We are fortunate to still have the original invoices for the plants and though some inevitably have been lost over the years, many still remain.
Stanley Neale’s daughter, Joyce Skelton, inherited the property during the 1970s and continued the good work of renewing and replanting. It was at this time that the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park became involved with the maintenance of the gardens which were then opened to the public for the first time.
By the time Steve and Prue Barlow bought Upton Castle in 2007, The National Park had withdrawn their assistance and the gardens had become very neglected and in need of a major overhaul.
NB: Upton Castle does not claim copyright over the historical images above. Credit to Parks and Gardens for their excellent archives.