You Are Here: Home / Archives / Category / Journals




By Mary John


In October 1846, during the last session of Parliament, attention was called to the state of education in Wales by a motion in the House of Commons for an Address to the Queen, praying Her Majesty…

‘…to direct an inquiry to be made into the state of education in the Principality of Wales especially into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring a knowledge of the English language.’

  Thus, in July 1847, Sir James P. Kay Shuttleworth, Secretary to the Committee of Council on Education, introduced the Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales.

The first Report, Part I, covering the counties of Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire, was produced by the English civil servant, Ralph Robert Wheeler Lingen, a man later to be described as having a ‘xenophobic disdain of the  Welsh’.

Shuttleworth informed Lingen that:-

‘The object of your Commission is to ascertain, as accurately as circumstances will permit, the existing number of schools of all description, for the education of children of the labouring classes, or of adults – the amount of attendance – the ages of the scholars – and the character of the instruction given in the schools…in order that Her Majesty’s Government and Parliament may be enabled…to consider what measures ought to be taken for the improvement of the existing means of education in Wales.’

Much has been debated and written about both the content of these Reports and the attitudes of their authors which to a large extent caused dismay and outrage and resulted in their publication becoming known as the TREASON OF THE BLUE BOOKS. (Government reports were bound in blue covers. )

The Reports, published just a few years after the Rebecca Riots, often contained derisory comments on the social and moral life of some of the communities visited. Their tone was considered hectoring, often based on ill-informed evidence and mostly lacking in empathy for struggling people.

Lingen was to provide a lengthy introduction to his Report, having spent little time himself in the areas concerned, relying on assistants who spoke only English to make visits and interviews and dependent on the views and opinions of local gentry and Anglican clerics rather than the local population which was then largely non-conformist. He was undoubtedly taken up with the impact language had on the three counties under review.

‘My district exhibits the phenomenon of a peculiar language isolating the mass from the upper portion of society; and, as a further phenomenon it exhibits this mass engaged upon the most opposite of occupations at points not very distant from each other: being on the one side rude and primitive agriculturalists, living poorly and thinly scattered: on the other smelters and miners, wantoning in plenty and congregated in the densest of accumulations.’

Of an individual in a Welsh speaking community Lingen later comments that:-

‘…his language keeps him under the hatches…It is a language of old fashioned agriculture, of  theology, and of simple rustic life while all around him is English.’

It is worth remembering that the 1871 Census shows 71% of the Pembrokeshire population speaking Welsh.

The Report was divided into the hundreds of the county and for the survey bases were established at Narberth, Pembroke, Tenby, Haverfordwest, St Davids and Fishguard. At that time in total there were 206 day schools, 72 Dame schools and 223 Sunday schools. All types of schools were reported on – national, British, endowed, charity, dame, private, workhouse and Sunday schools.

One can only assume that the timing of the visits to the schools was driven by the urgency of the Report. Lingen’s assistants were out and about on horses in Pembrokeshire in the winter of 1846-1847. Turning up in parishes in December they found schools closed for the Christmas holiday. St Florence was visited on Christmas Eve and Angle on Boxing Day. The weather was very cold and in some places like Stackpole, Warren and Castlemartin deep snow covered the ground. An assistant visiting the Union Workhouse School at Pembroke reported thus…

‘As soon as the schoolmaster had been apprized of our object he tolled a great bell, and, when the summons had been answered by the appearance of a boy or two in the yard, called out lustily, “Come, turn out there – fall in.” This was very readily done. “To the right –face – march.” Each boy in passing gave a military salute. One of the file had neither shoe nor stocking; scarcely any of them had stockings. There was deep snow on the ground, thawing at the time.’

Lingen and his Assistants found it necessary to dwell on the impoverishment of the communities, detailing the wages of labourers and mine workers. Although there was considerable variation between the parishes, generally agricultural workers could expect between 6 pence and 8 pence per day when the farmer provided food or between 1shilling and 4 pence without food. Masons employed in Yerbeston might expect 1/8 with food or 2/6 without. Female workers got notably less. Live-in male farm servants in Reynoldston might receive between £3 and £6 a year while female servants could expect between 30/- and £3.  Colliers, such as those at Amroth might expect 9 shillings per week.

Traditionally children attending school were expected to pay ‘school pence’. This meant parents finding 1d per week per child to pay the school master. Very often it was not simply a question of cash. There would be very practical reasons why a child could not go to school. Sometimes, as in Yerbeston, many people were too poor to provide clothing for their children to go to school. More importantly for the community, children were needed either to mind younger siblings at home while their parents were at work or to work themselves as they did in the coal mines around Begelly or on the farms, especially at harvest times.

The inspector visiting Clarbeston on 8th of December claimed that the parish was…

‘…entirely destitute of any means of education…A poor widow-woman, into whose house I went, told me that she had a family of eight children, and her only support was her son, a lad about 17 years of age, and a blacksmith by trade. She said she could not possibly give her children education and victuals …The cottage was a wretchedly dirty place. The pig was walking about the house as one of the inmates…’

Unsurprisingly, many of the smaller communities were recorded as having no school, although walking a number of miles to the nearest village school appears to have been acceptable. At least 26 pupils of Rudbaxton school lived more than a mile and a half away.

Certainly the local clergy played a big part in encouraging education for their parishioners, some providing funding or accommodation in church buildings and glebe land. Chapels were noted for Sunday schools, educating children particularly in reading, presumably to allow children access to the scriptures.

Notable was the support of a number of local gentry and landowners. The Earl of Cawdor maintained schools for his tenants and provided for an agricultural school at Warren. Among other benefactors were J. Stokes Esq. (St Issells school), Miss Akland,( Cleddau School at Camrose), Miss Stoke, (Cuffern Day School) and Dale school, (Lloyd Philipps of Picton Castle).

Mrs Mirehouse provided annually £5 for the education of 10 scholars in Angle and towards prints and cards at Castlemartin. Letterston was supported by Charles Mathias Esq. of Lamphey Court. A blacksmith’s shop was converted for Rose Hill School, Slebech by the Baron de Rutzen who also provided £6 for teaching his labourer’s children and a house next door with culm provided for the schoolmaster. Visiting on New Year’s Day the Assistant found the school empty of children as all 22 of them had been invited by the Baroness to Slebech Hall for dinner and tea. There was also evidence of practical help. The girls of Jameston were taught sewing by Mrs Bough Allen.

Generally the Report concluded that at least one third of the school buildings were in a bad state. Many were in the homes of the teachers, in kitchens of farm houses, in outbuildings, above stables, in chapels and churches. Wiston schoolroom was … ‘little better than a hovel, dark and meanly furnishes with tattered leaves of books lying about.’ The iron stove in Walton East gave off insufferable steam. Pupils in Maeclochog had to kneel on benches to write. In Martletwy the space was taken up by a bed and a large coffer. The path along the cliff edge to Tenby school, housed in part of the old castle, ‘…would be considered highly dangerous for English children.’

Very few schools were purpose built, and these were usually the National or British schools which had official funding, one of these being Wolf’s Castle British School where the school house was built in 1834 by William Edwards Esq. of Sealyham, with a parliamentary grant of £170.

The National Schools of which there were very few in the County, benefitted from funding provided by the Committee of Council on Education.  Rudbaxton was amongst those receiving money as was Burton given great praise in the Report and described as ‘the best in the country’.

Most of the teachers had received no training many of them were soundly  criticized. The master at Wiston was a… ‘thoroughly stupid and ignorant man. At St Issells, ‘…age alone was enough to render him incompetent.’

The teacher at Lawrenny Ferry was not considered to be of sound mind… ‘I teaches Latin, plane and spherical trigonometry and the Lunars.’ His employment was discontinued.

Mr. Joseph Lewis’s Day School, Sheep Street, Narberth –

‘The master is one of the most helpless creatures I have ever seen: a cold had fixed in his back when a child, and, having been neglected, had rendered him completely unable to walk. He crawled about the school like a toad, and when he goes to church or chapel, or anywhere out of doors, he is obliged to be carried on somebody’d back. Notwithstanding his helpless state, he managed to keep his scholars in very good order with a rod 6 feet long in his hand, which, as he sat in the middle of a room only 10 feet by 12, reached to every part of it, and maintained discipline without locomotion.’

Teachers were also criticized for their poor command of English as was the master of Llandewi Velfrey.

Inspectors were keen to investigate teaching standards and spent time questioning the pupils. Many questions were related to the bible.  At Jameston, ‘…the children were excessively ignorant, rude and ill behaved…’ We are told they did not know who Jesus Christ was and had never heard of the Virgin Mary.

Some questions were, however, remarkable. For example, pupils in Llanfyrnach did not know …‘,,,the circumference of the globe in miles’ and those at the Newport British School failed to give the inspector… ‘… an explanation of the physical causes of the rainbow.’

While all too often the inspectors’ attention was taken up by smells, dirt and ignorance and they appeared to relish contempt for substandard teachers and ill-kept school rooms it would be their comments on the behaviour of local people that caused outrage. Much of this was based on the opinions of local Anglican clergy.

Parish of Begelly – ‘The Rev R. Buckby, the Rector, gave a deplorable account of this parish…which contains a mining population. Out of 70 marriages, in six only had the brides not been visibly enceintes…Weddings are times of great rioting and debauchery. The intended bride and bridegroom live together for a considerable time previous to the marriage. They brew as much ale as they can, and then sell it, without a licence, to their friends who are expected to give more than the market-price. This is the way in which they raise money to begin the world with.’

Wiston… ‘The inhabitants are generally hard working and sober but there is much cunning, lying and (above all) unchastity among them…public opinion hardly condemns unchastity at all.’

St Florence… ‘the state of farm servants is generally bad…no moral care or controls exercised over them.’

Angle… ‘Wrecking is not confined to the laboring classes but extended also to farmers who would not scruple to take possession of any articles which might be thrown ashore.’

Haverfordwest Workhouse…paupers were ‘excessively filthy in their habits.’

Dewisland… ‘I heard on all hands but one account of the gross immorality prevailing among the unmarried population of both sexes. Little care is taken to separate the resident male and female servants in the farmhouses at night…system of bundling…nightly visits of men to women, prevails extensively…’

Bastardy was prevalent in Llanwnda and St Nicholas.

A number of Pembrokeshire schools, particularly those like Jeffreytson, Cresselly and Newport, receiving funding from local benefactors and outside bodies, would be judged most satisfactory. However, considering that Education and the English language were the inspectors’ priorities, there would appear to have been no excuse for such outrageous comments.

The Life and Reminiscences of Warren Carter of Haverfordwest (1826-1919)


The Life and Reminiscences of Warren Carter of Haverfordwest (1826-1919)

By Simon Hancock

One of the utilities of history is how it provides communities with a sense of identity and, as Black and Macraild put it, provides societies and individuals with a dimension of longitudinal meaning over time which far outlives the human life span. This helps to explain why memory has become such an important feature of historical study and a distinct form at that, despite the limitations of objectivity and factual certainty.[1] Some studies have suggested how reminiscing, most notably the concept of life reviewing, appear adapted features of the ageing process.[2]

The Haverfordwest of the nineteenth century witnessed some dramatic changes, although by comparison with those of the past 50 years they were in retrospect fairly modest. Nevertheless, after the bloodletting and uncertainty of the First World War there was a yearning for security and the fond remembrance of more peaceful times. There were a handful of individuals living then whose minds could stretch back to halcyon and more innocent days when life seemed simpler and the county town of Pembrokeshire was synonymous with prosperity and stability.  Such memories can be highly selective and conveniently ignore the more unsavory aspects of life in former times; nevertheless such memories are still precious. One such person who could regale contemporaries with stories of early nineteenth century Haverfordwest was 93-year old Warren Carter of Hill Street. This was a ripe old age for a time when average life expectancy was considerably shorter than it is today. In his lifetime Haverfordwest changed from a town with medieval shambles and sedan chairs to a town whose core was more or less as it appears today. For Warren Carter the changes were not dry facts in history books, rather they were his lived experiences.

Warren Carter was born in High Street in 1826 in the building later occupied by Messrs. S and F Green, ironmongers. The family moved across to Short Row, a collection of buildings which ran from the entrance to Quay Street right up the middle of the present-day High Street past the entrance to Hill Lane. It contained seven separate properties one of which was the furniture workshop of William Owen, the great town improver, who started out in life as a cabinet and furniture maker. Short Row was demolished in 1836 after the town improvements committee allocated the sum of £1,000 to take it down. Warren Carter was baptized at St. Mary’s Church on 16 March 1826.[3]

Plan of Haverfordwest showing Short Row at the bottom of High Street (Pembrokeshire Archives DX/289)

He was the son of John Carter, a millwright, and Jennett (or Jane) his wife. John Carter was also the town crier and he died in April 1834 at the early age of 40. The family removed to Dew Street where Warren’s mother became a baker. In 1841 the family consisted of 40-year old Jane and her children John, aged 17, Warren, aged 14, and 8-year old Nathaniel. In later life Warren would recall the good supply of spring water available in Dew Street, or Chute-Street as he recalled it, on account of the chute of water which was located near the infants’ school in the street. There was another water supply by the Fish Market and he recalled how local women earned a living carrying water to the houses of local residents, the most memorable of whom was intriguingly known as ‘Queen Anne’, obviously someone with pretentions of grandeur.[4]

Warren was an eyewitness to historic times, remembering how the old Guildhall appeared near St. Mary’s Church, later occupied by the memorial to the fallen of the Boer War. Warren knew the site of the Shire Hall before that imposing structure was built and eighty years after the event could describe the rough blocks of stone being cut and smoothed in the building’s construction. Before the advent of gas lighting the dark streets of the county town afforded almost endless opportunities for boyish pranks and japes. These ‘full blooded youths’ would stand at the top of Market Street and would seize strangers from behind and push them down the street with all the rapidity of which they were capable.[5] Guy Fawkes with the fireworks and tar barrels was eagerly anticipated as was Pancake Day which saw scores of footballs kicked up and down the streets by numerous male inhabitants. Shopkeepers wisely barricaded their windows and after the exertions were concluded there were plentiful supplies of pancakes dispensed to all and sundry by ladies from their doorsteps.

Warren Carter served his apprenticeship to Mr. Palmer, draper of High Street, and then took the decision to seek his fortune in the great metropolis of London. It must have been with considerable trepidation that the young Warren mounted the mail coach at Castle Square which then proceeded through Bridge Street, the Old Bridge, Cartlett, Narberth, Carmarthen, Swansea and thence to Bristol where he took the train to Paddington. Pembrokeshire people have an uncanny knack of gravitating to those who also hail from Wales’s premier county no matter where they happen to find themselves. During his years in London Warren met a young man from Fishguard who befriended him and who took him to a meeting at Sergeant’s Inn.[6] He met one George Williams who duly became Sir George Williams (1821-1905), an English philanthropist and founder of the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1844. Interestingly, like Warren Carter he too had arrived in London to work in a draper’s shop. Whilst living in the capital in the early 1850s Warren was a witness to national events. He visited the Great Exhibition of the Work of Industry of all Nations, the world’s first trade fair, which was held at Hyde Park from 1 May to 15 October 1851. He also witnessed the funeral procession for the great Duke of Wellington who had died on 14 September 1852 aged 83.[7] Warren was one of over one million people who lined the route through which passed Wellington’s cortege, including the extraordinary 12-ton, six-wheeled funeral car, on 18 November 1852 on the way to St. Paul’s.

Perhaps city life was not truly conducive to the young Warren Carter and within a few years he was back in his native Pembrokeshire. He returned to Haverfordwest and entered into a business partnership with Stephen Davies to establish the drapery concern of Carter and Davies. On 3 October 1854 Warren married Sarah Davies, third daughter of the late Mr. Stephen Davies, farmer, at Lawrenny Church.[8] Whether there was a family relationship between his late father-in-law and business partner has not been established. The business, which was located in Market Street, seems to have been reasonably prosperous despite occasional difficulties. In August 1859 Thomas Williams, a cutter in their employment was charged with stealing half-a-crown, for which he received an exemplary sentence of three calendar months imprisonment with hard labour.[9] In 1862 two tramps named William Taylor and John Brown received sentences of two calendar months in custody with hard labour for stealing a coat from Warren Carter valued at £2.[10] On at least one occasion Warren himself was on the wrong side of the law.  In January 1855 he and his business partner were summoned for having placed and exposed for sale on the common footway in Market Street five rolls of cloth, contrary to statute. They were fined 6d. plus 8s. 6d. costs.[11]

The partnership of Carter and Davies came to an end on 19 April 1861 when Warren Carter and Stephen Davies, ‘drapers and mercers’, formally dissolved their partnership.[12] In addition to their premises in Market Street, Haverfordwest they also had Argyle House in Tenby.  Warren acquired the ‘moiety or share in a certain freehold dwelling house and premises situate in Market Street’. Thus Warren had bought out his partner. It was a substantial business. In 1861 the 33-year old Sarah Carter was also employed in the drapery business and in addition to the three children at home there were a number of dressmakers, milliners, assistants and apprentices in the shop. Given the sheer scale of competition locally, (Commerce House was just down the street,) business must have been tough. Once there was very nearly neither business nor indeed any shop at all. In November 1862 a workman took a lighted candle while looking for a gas leak in Warren’s shop. Copious amounts of water were thrown upon the extended flames but the crisis was resolved with the timely arrival of Mr. Gibbon the local gas superintendent.[13]

As a local tradesman and a man of some standing, Warren was induced to stand for election to the Haverfordwest Borough Council  in October 1860 and in his election address he promised to discharge the duties ‘with zeal and fidelity’ if elected.[14] He seems to have served only one term, deciding not to stand for re-election in October 1863. The perilous state of his drapery business might have been a factor in the decision since his own enterprise required every moment of his attention. In fact the mid-1860s seem to have been a low point in his long life. In March 1864 the London Gazette announced how Warren Carter of Pope Hill had become bankrupt, although curiously he was described as a grocer in the announcement. Warren appeared before the Bristol Bankruptcy Court a few weeks later where it was stated he was only offering creditors 5s. in the pound and had no more to offer than £150.[15] Rumours reached the court that Warren had not disclosed the true extent of his assets. Upon which the learned judge warned Warren that the law was strong enough to reach him in the event of dishonesty. It appears Warren entered into an agreement with two of his former business assistants, Isaac Lewis and Neville Harries, in September 1863. They would purchase the stock, fixtures, furniture and goodwill of the business. Warren’s debts stood at £3,400 although this was reduced to the still substantial sum of £2,500.[16]

Bankruptcy was followed by even more distressing events when Warren’s wife Sarah died in January 1865 at Pope Hill in the parish of Johnston at the age of 36 after a long and painful illness.[17] Those years must have been very difficult to cope with as he returned to his former occupation as a draper and had a family to bring up. In 1871 Warren was living at Venn in the parish of Steynton along with his children, Catherine Jane, aged 14, Martha Ann, aged 11 and 10-year old Lyrus Maryan Carter. He had enough funds to employ a domestic servant, Sarah James. Warren contracted a second marriage in 1877 when he wed Jesselina Trent at Hackney. The family had returned to Haverfordwest and they were living at Propert House, Goat Street. In 1881 53-year old Warren lived with his 35-year old wife Jesselina, described as a milliner, daughter Catherine and son Edwin E.M. Carter, aged two. There were also boarders and servants in residence. By this time Warren’s children from his first marriage started to marry. On 9 January 1890 Annie Carter, Warren’s second daughter married Richard Bennett of Helston, Cornwall at All Souls, Regent Street, London.[18] Warren’s son Edwin Ernest Warren Carter, who was admitted as a Freeman of Haverfordwest in 1899, (Warren was a Freeman) married Mary Hennessy at New Ross, Ireland in 1902.[19]

Warren Carter and his family had moved to Hill Street by 1890. Sixty years before Warren had remembered the area as ‘King Street Flags’, a favourite promenade route for the well-to-do who lived in this salubrious part of town. In 1901 the Carter family was living at Bryn Ivor House, Hill Street where 74-year old Warren was a temperance hotel keeper. The couple had one daughter Jeannette, aged 20 at home. Sadly Warren was widowed for a second time when his wife of nearly 25 years, Jesselina, died on 3 January 1902 aged 55.[20] He was still in employment which was by no means uncommon since there was no state aid in old age until the passing of the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908. Warren did receive some charitable help from the Vawer Trust of which he was an almsman. In 1897 he and a further eleven recipients benefitted to the tune of £150 10s. per annum, which was shared between them.[21]

In his twilight years Warren had the benefit of being looked after by two of his daughters. He had ten children in total, of whom four had died young. In 1911 he lived in Hill Street where Catherine Carter, aged 50 and single, was the housekeeper and Jeannette, aged 30, was an assistant, perhaps in a restaurant. The house also had two boarders, James Brown, aged 68, and   16-year old Marian Sime. By this time Warren, although deaf, was still in full possession of his faculties, and due to the span of his memory he became a sage-like figure and local treasure on account of his links with the Haverfordwest of nearly a century before. Who else could remember the wooden drawbridge across the river Cleddau and the county balls held at the Assembly Rooms? He remembered the use of sedan chairs and of how the young boys would try to steal a ride in one of the chairs.[22] His reminiscences of boyish pranks resembled those conjured up by W. D. Phillips who penned the highly popular book Old Haverfordwest (1925).

Warren remembered Portfield Fair when it was at its original location off the Broad Haven road and before it was removed to St. Thomas’ Green. Ninety-three year old Warren described the building of the Corn Market in 1848 which was full of corn. People always brought their bushel of wheat to the Cartlett or Priory Mills to be ground. A quart of wheat was taken from each bushel as a charge for grinding.[23] Warren Carter died at his home in Hill Street on 26 February 1919 and was buried in Machpelah burial ground after a short service at Bethesda Baptist Chapel. Later the pastor, the Rev. Owen D. Campbell, paid tribute to Warren at the close of a Sunday service, reflecting on the life of  his friend who had spent 77 years in the fellowship of the church and who was a constant attender of services.[24] As has often been said, ‘nothing is ever lost to us as long as we remember it.’ And how true that was for Warren Carter. We are indebted to the grand old man of Haverfordwest for handing down the rich detail of life in the town; real human experiences to bring the dry facts of history to life.




  1. Jeremy Black and Donald M. Macraild, Studying History (Basingstoke, 2007), 3.
  2. Peter George Coleman, ‘The role of the past in the adaptation to old age,’ PhD thesis, University of London (1972).
  3. St. Mary’s Parish Registers, Haverfordwest, Baptisms, Pembrokeshire Archives, (PA). HPR/2/6, Baptisms 1813-50.
  4. Pembroke County Guardian, 7 July 1916.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Haverfordwest& Milford Haven Telegraph, 5 March 1919.
  8. Lawrenny Parish Registers, Marriages, PA. HPR/42/6, Marriages 1837-1970.
  9. Pembrokeshire Herald, 19 August 1859.
  10. Potter’s Electric News, 6 August 1862.
  11. The Welshman, 26 January 1855.
  12. Pembrokeshire Herald, 26 April 1861. The Pembrokeshire Archives holds the abstract of a conveyance from Stephen Davies to Warren Carter regarding a moiety or share of a certain freehold dwelling house and premises in Market Street. This document (D/LJ/1023) clearly relates to the dissolution of the partnership.
  13. The Welshman, 21 November 1862.
  14. Pembrokeshire Herald, 26 October 1860.
  15. The Welshman, 6 May 1864.
  16. Ibid., 19 May 1865.
  17. Pembrokeshire Herald, 3 February 1865.
  18. Ibid., 17 January 1890.
  19. Ibid., 24 October 1902.
  20. Ibid., 17 January 1902.
  21. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph, 18 May 1898
  22. Pembroke County Guardian, 7 July 1916.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph, 5 March 1919.

The Story of Molleston Baptist Church


The Story of Molleston Baptist Church

By Yona Pusey

At the beginning of 2019 the Historical Society was treated to an informative and beautifully presented lecture on the story of Slebech.  It is a story which records in detail the lives of its upper class inhabitants and the connections they made to far-flung places and well-documented historical events over a period of nearly a thousand years.

About half way through this period events in Germany and Switzerland were to have a profound effect on the lives of most of the inhabitants of northern Europe, as Martin Luther and John Calvin began the process known to us as the Protestant Reformation.  Their reading of scripture had convinced them that the established church was laying too much stress on structures, institutions and traditions, and was overlooking the importance of individual men and women responding in faith to God’s offer of eternal life.

From the centre of Europe, the threads of this reformed teaching spread north and west, eventually reaching Britain via Holland, and coming to Pembrokeshire in the second half of the seventeenth century.  In the story of Slebech we saw threads which family members carried to all parts of the world; in the story of Molleston we see the end of a thread which started in central Europe and was carried right into “our backyard”.

 Molleston Baptist Chapel, Pembrokeshire

So you may well ask, “Why Molleston? There are more than 50 other Baptist chapels in the county; why choose this one?”  The answer is simply that in August 2017 the present congregation at Molleston celebrated 350 years of history.  When the editor of the Journal asked for contributions from members for this edition it seemed to this listener that the story of Molleston deserved to be told.  The scholarship of this article may be less than readers are accustomed to; the hope is that this will not detract from the interest of the story.

The thread coming out of central Europe, referred to above, was highlighted in recent TV documentaries by both Huw Edwards (The Story of Wales) and Professor Diarmuid McCullough (The History of Christianity).  The post-reformation years were a turbulent period in the developing story of the modern western church.  Religious groups appeared and disappeared; martyrdom and persecution were common; people struggled to express and live out the importance of an individual’s relationship with God, in contrast to prevailing ecclesiastical practices.

The original expectation and hope was the reform of the existing church structures, but the resistance to that reform was such that “separation” became necessary.  The persecution which followed spread across Europe and led to the adventure of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620 and the exodus to the New World.  Those who chose, or were compelled, to stay endured years of suffering even in far-flung corners like Pembrokeshire.

The denominational grouping to which Molleston belongs, the Baptists, came from various continental sources.  In 1612 Thomas Helwys and others arrived back in London after a period of exile in Holland, where they had found refuge and inspiration among the Anabaptists (so called because their members were re-baptised into the new faith).  Helwys founded the first Baptist church in England, just outside the walls of London, according to the law which forbade the building of dissenting (separated) churches within populated areas.  Baptists themselves were divided into General and Particular of which the latter were the stricter, and from which most Welsh Baptists were derived.

In the mid seventeenth century Britain was plunged into the political crisis of Charles I and his opponent Oliver Cromwell.  The army of Cromwell – so-called Parliamentarians or Roundheads – comprised largely non-conformists and independents, including it seems one John Miles who came to Wales and founded the first Baptist church at Ilston on the Gower, just outside Swansea.  Other churches followed, and during the 1650s there seem to have been regular assemblies for mutual encouragement.  But following the restoration of the monarchy a further period of persecution led to the scattering of congregations.  A certain William Jones, priest at Cilmaenllwyd and dissenter, was ejected from his living in 1662 and made his way towards Abergavenny where it seems likely he was baptised by Pastor Thomas Watkins of the separatist group in Olchen. (Identified with Capel y Ffin.)

William Jones returned to an itinerant preaching ministry among small groups of dissenting believers in Pembrokeshire, including one meeting in the home of Griffith Howell at Rushacre, Narberth. ( the name appears today in a suburb on Redstone Road, north of the main part of Narberth town.) In 1667 and 1668 twenty one baptisms are recorded among this group (including an Alice Bishop of Slebech).  At the same time the group was recognised as a distinct church, although constitutional documents are virtually non-existent.  The turmoil continued, and throughout the county it seems that groups regularly met and were disbanded, and meeting places were changed.  The home in Rushacre remained among the most constant; but far from being a cowed and inward-looking group, its membership showed continuing growth.

William Jones continued his itinerant ministry among Welsh and English speakers in Pembrokeshire. At one time he was offered a very generous living in the established church (£140 p.a.), which says something about his preaching ability, but he instead chose several terms of imprisonment in both Carmarthen and Haverfordwest jails.  On one memorable occasion he was given reluctant permission to travel to the Rhydwilym district to keep a promise to celebrate communion with a group meeting in the home of Griffith Howell’s daughter.  The service was held on the mountainside, and snow (God’s tablecloth) covered the flat rock selected as a communion table.  Jones returned to Haverfordwest jail before anyone expected him – and was consequently allowed out on many similar occasions to minister to the scattered groups.

An interesting reference to a meeting place called Neare (probably Narberth) appears in the record of the London Association in 1689, with its ministers being named as William Jones and Griffith Howell.  The date of Jones’ death is not known, but strong and effective leadership continued to be given by Griffith Howell at Rushacre.  He also provided land for 3 nonconformist burial grounds, one at Trefangor, Llandewi Velfrey, where he himself was buried in 1705.

The old burial ground at Trefangor, Llanddewi Velfrey

The grave of Griffith Howell, Trefangor

The internal divisions of the Christian church in this tumultuous period led to many non-conformists being refused burial in the consecrated grounds of parish cemeteries.  Hence the compelling need for “other spaces”.  Griffith Howell’s generosity in this respect lifted a great anxiety from his fellow church members. The story of Trefangor has been documented by a Baptist historian, R.C. Roberts, at the turn of the twentieth century, but his book is currently unavailable.  One episode from the nineteenth century is often told. The squire of Henllan, the estate in which Trefangor was located, mistakenly claimed the burial ground for his own land, and refused to allow the body of a Baptist minister to be buried there. Years later the squire discovered the mistake and offered money for the refurbishment of the cemetery.

After the death of Griffith Howell the story of meetings in Rushacre is undocumented.  However, in 1729, 25 years later, a group of twenty four people began to hold services in a house, Rhos-side or Roadside, on land belonging to Thomas and John George at Molleston.  In 1731 the church was formally constituted and appointed its own minister, Griffith Williams, and his assistant, David James. Griffith Williams died in 1733, but the group kept together and in 1736 a remarkable man became their minister.  Evan Thomas, whose livelihood came through a shop in Narberth, served the church for 47 years and his gifts set the pattern for the development of the church during the eighteenth century. The official written record of the church goes back to this time.

Among his first acts was the writing of a letter to the group outlining his sense of calling, and the high expectations for those who followed the Baptist faith.  The conclusion of the letter contained thirty six Articles of Faith, which express his own convictions and the obligations of church members, both in practical and moral matters.   Among his priorities was meeting together with other Baptist groups from across Wales; one such gathering took place in (presumably) Rhos-side in 1750, and among the topics discussed was the proposal that ministers should receive payment for their services!

Shortly after this meeting, the records show the generosity of the George brothers and their families towards the new church. Land was donated for the building of a new chapel at Molleston, followed by the erection of stable facilities for the horses – the “cars” of their generation!  The building was opened in 1763 and soon became a central point for Baptist groups all over Pembrokeshire who as yet had no buildings of their own.  Through the encouragement of the church in Molleston, churches were established, among other places, in Martletwy, Cresswell Quay, Haverfordwest and Llangloffan.  In this sense, Molleston can rightly claim to be the mother church of the Baptists in Pembrokeshire.

In 1788 Revd Benjamin Davies became minister of Molleston, which included members from all over south Pembrokeshire.  Among them was a Miss Owen, of Denant outside Haverfordwest, who soon became Mrs Benjamin Davies.  Benjamin gave particular oversight to a group of Baptists in Haverfordwest who met for a while in a room in Prendergast.  In 1798 he became their minister, and during the next eighteen years secured the present site of Bethesda and built the first chapel.

Meanwhile the church in Molleston went through a period of decline until in 1863 a new minister, Revd John Harries, urged the members to “deeper consecration and more faithful attendance”.  The success of his plea is seen in the enlarging and refurbishing of the building which re-opened in 1869, with special trains from Pembroke Dock and Tenby bringing many visitors. In 1873 the candles were replaced with oil lamps.

The early years of the twentieth century were difficult ones, with many of the younger members of the church giving their lives during the 1914-1918 war.  In 1923 Revd T. L. Parry became the minister and for seven years brought an immense compassion to his work, causing the fellowship to grow by 60 members.  In the 1930s the church joined with the church at Loveston to call a minister, an arrangement which still results in co-operation between the two.

During the dark days of the second world war an aerodrome was built on land close to Molleston.  Good relations were established between the church and the army personnel, with religious and social interaction. With the departure of the military the sense of loss deepened.  The pastorate of Revd Harold Jones was again memorable for its compassion and when he died suddenly in 1954 the shock was profound.

After a long gap the church was well served by Revd Charles Campbell, and later Revd Hywel Brown.  During this time a special relationship was forged with residents of a care home in St Davids, who are still brought to morning worship each Sunday, and speak movingly of their appreciation.

For the celebrations in August 2017 of the 350th anniversary the church is indebted to the work of Tim Longworth, Mission Enabler of the Pembrokeshire Baptist Association, who put together a video record of the history of the church, and personal recollections and reflections from two of its longstanding members.  The work of Mrs Haulwen Nicholas as a church officer since 1980 has been outstanding in its faithfulness and care and I am indebted to her for making available the previous printed histories of the church.

The future remains an unknown.  But it is a certainty that the lives of many generations of “ordinary” residents of Pembrokeshire, particularly in the area around Slebech Park, have been transformed through what has taken place in that corner of the county we know as Molleston Baptist Church.

Molleston Baptist Chapel with its adjacent cemetery



  1. H. Williams, A Memorial of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of Molleston, (printed and published by John Thomas, “Pembrokeshire Telegraph”, Bridge Street, Haverfordwest)
  2. Ivor Jones, Molleston Baptist Church, Pembrokeshire: Reflections on the Founders’ Tercentenary,  (printed by V.G. Lodwick & Sons Ltd, Carmarthen, 1968)
  3. R.C. Roberts, Baptist Historical Sketches in Pembrokeshire. (First published as a series in the Pembroke Dock Journal by M. Dobson, Meyrick Street around 1906)
  4. C. Underwood, A History of English Baptists.


Acknowledgements:  I am indebted to Mrs Haulwen Nicholas for practical help and encouragement, and to Mr William Henton Pusey for the original photographs.

Miss Elsie Jane Walker of Neyland (1851-1930): School Teacher, Socialist and Councillor


Miss Elsie Jane Walker of Neyland (1851-1930): School Teacher, Socialist and Councillor

By Simon Hancock

The centenary since the passing of the Representation of the People Act of 1918 whereby women over the age of 30 received the vote is a true democratic milestone in our history and the occasion to reflect on the political, social and economic progress made by women over the past 100 years. The focus of historical research is now firmly on the lives of women whereas before their lives and stories were infrequently and patchily told, especially if they were from the lower social classes. One of the local women who received the vote in 1918, one of over 17,000 so enfranchised, was a diminutive, assertive and kind-hearted Irishwoman, Miss Elsie Jane Walker, an infants’ school headmistress who went to live in Neyland in 1903. Miss Walker, whose name was often spelt as Eliza in school records and in censuses, was a socialist and one of the earliest women to be elected to public office in the county in the early 1920s. She was also a dedicated community worker and kind-hearted philanthropist.

Miss Elsie Jane Walker was born at Maryborough, Queen’s County, Ireland in 1851. Following the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921 the name was changed to County Laois, named from the medieval kingdom of Loigis. Maryborough is now known as Portlaoise and is the county town. Miss Walker became a school teacher and sometime during the 1870s she moved across the sea to England to pursue her career.[1] In 1881 she was living at 26, Mill Road, Blofield, Norfolk. The other resident at that address living with the 30-year old single certificated school mistress was Eliza M. Woolner from Loddon, Norfolk, herself an assistant mistress. Miss Walker seems to have had a very peripatetic career, moving around the country and we do at least have some idea of her movements thanks to the decennial census.  Ten years later, in 1891, Elsie, or Eliza as she is recorded, was a lodger at Rutland Terrace, Stockton-on-Tees where she was still described as a certificated teacher. Miss Walker did enjoy a degree of career progression, since, by 1901 she was described as the headmistress of a Board School while she was living at High Street, Odiham, Southampton.

Within two years Elsie was living in Pembrokeshire, arriving at Neyland in early 1903, possibly after a brief residence at Amroth although this is not certain.  On 27 December 1902 the members of the Neyland School Board (it was a Board School since it was run by a local school board elected by and paid for by local ratepayers) offered Miss. E.J.Walker the post of headmistress of the infants’ department at the school. Four days later Miss Walker wrote thanking the members for the appointment which carried with it a salary of £96 but she asked whether the board could improve the terms offered and put their staff in as a good a position as possible before the school boards disappeared to be replaced by the Pembrokeshire County Council Local Education Authority.[2] Also, by this stage the 51-year old teacher was vastly experienced, having held a number of countrywide appointments. The offer must have been increased since Miss Walker duly became the infants’ headmistress at Neyland.

Neyland Council School in John Street, c1914. The school was built in 1874. Miss Walker taught here from her arrival in town in 1903 until her retirement in 1916.

Despite her long experience Miss Walker was always keen to expand her own knowledge and impart that to her pupils. In May 1904 she was awarded a horticultural scholarship at Aberystwyth University worth £5 and this was her second successful application since she had secured a scholarship the year before.[3] In the days of less prescriptive curricula, teachers could, with the permission of their Local Education Authority, substitute some subjects which their pupils studied. In 1906 Miss Walker was given permission to substitute Welsh for nature study.[4] Elsie was a member of the Pembrokeshire County Association of Teachers and attended meetings of that body, as for example in January 1907, when they met at St. Martin’s Girls School, Haverfordwest. [5]

The staff at Neyland Council School in 1906-7.

The Headmaster, William George Aswell, is seated in the centre of the front row while Miss E.J.Walker stands in the second row, fourth from the left.


Frustratingly we have no account of Miss Walker’s nature or personality and no photograph other than the staff photograph of the Neyland Council School in 1906-7. Miss Walker was short and very soberly dressed and probably did not tolerate fools, if the few snippets which have come down to us can be relied upon. We can imagine her to be a very matter-of-fact, straight talking Irishwomen who did not brook the pompous or self-important. Miss Walker reached the age limit for staff in 1916 and she retired from teaching. Around this time Miss Walker was living at 29, John Street, Neyland. Education was very far from being her only interest. In fact she really took her adopted community to heart and immersed herself in many aspects of the community. One was her membership of the local Wesleyan Methodist Church of which she was a loyal member. Appropriately enough, in the competitive meeting held by the Wesley Guild in January 1913 Miss Walker was the adjudicator in spelling.[6] Around this time there was a widespread debate in Neyland as to what would be the future of the community. The loss of the steam ferry service to Ireland in 1906 had been a body blow, only partly compensated for by the creation of a local fishing industry in 1908. In February 1912 a public meeting was held to take into consideration the practical steps to make Neyland a summer holiday resort. The advantages of the locality, fine walks, fresh air and Promenade or Esplanade which the local urban district council had built in 1909-10 were discussed and a committee of 24 ladies and gentlemen appointed to take the suggestions forward. One idea was to lease a field adjacent to the Promenade on which to erect a bandstand and amusements.[7]

Miss Walker was one of the members of the committee and it was mentioned at the meeting how she had long run a holiday bureau for teachers encouraging them to stay at Neyland. In the years leading up to the First World War the Neyland Town Improvements Association was very active, holding events like the Whit Monday fete and tea with sports to which 1,200 people paid for admission.[8] That year the association had the useful sum of £83 7s. in the bank. Their most ambitious project was to produce the very first town guide for Neyland in 1913 and printed by Messrs. Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Ltd. It was No. 620 in The Borough Guide series and the work of compiling articles about the history of the locality, walks and information for visitors fell to Miss Walker who did a first-rate job. The guide proved to be extremely popular and cost the Neyland Town Improvements Association, under whose auspices it was published, £18 18s. to print.[9]

The front cover of the first guide to the town of Neyland, printed by Messrs. Ed. J. Burrow in 1913 under the auspices of the Neyland Town Improvements Association.

Written by Miss E. J. Walker, the booklet is her enduring legacy to her adopted town

The coming of the First World War challenged British society in every conceivable way and it is not surprising that there were sweeping political changes, especially the eclipse of the old Liberal Party and rise of the Labour Party. There were short-lived local Labour branches in Pembrokeshire before the war, at Haverfordwest in 1907 for example, but they did not seem to last long.  In the summer of 1916 the Pembrokeshire Labour Party was established thanks to the efforts of key individuals like Mr. E. P. Harries of Pembroke Dock, dockyard workers and the local trades councils. Teachers were prominent amongst the early membership and included Miss E. J. Walker who was also a member of the Neyland branch of the movement which was also established in the same year.  At the party conference held at the Temperance Hall, Pembroke Dock in August 1917 Miss Walker was appointed joint auditor.[10] This was a role she continued to perform into the 1920s. She was again appointed at the party conference held at the Oddfellows Hall, Neyland on 9 June 1923 when she was one of the three Neyland representatives who attended.[11] Miss Walker was one of the most prominent local Labour women and such individuals were able to bring their own gendered class understanding into local politics as they pressed for an improvement in local services.[12]

With the growth of bureaucracy during the First World War, vastly new functions were often delegated to existing local district and county councils and it was in this context that women often obtained their very first opportunity to take part in public affairs. District councils, urban and rural, were required to establish Food Control Committees in 1917 to regulate food prices and implement national rationing schemes. Miss E. J. Walker was one of three women appointed on the Neyland committee and she also did secretarial work at the food control office. In fact these new committees had designated places both for women and organized Labour. The Neyland Food Control Committee had two Labour representatives, namely John Thomson and T. Phillips, who attended the inaugural meeting of the committee on 20 August 1917.[13] The success of Britain’s food control of staples like milk, bread, butter, sugar, grain and other commodities maintained the stability of the home front as a vital component of final victory.

Although by now in her seventies, Miss E. J. Walker continued her sterling services to the community.  In February 1925 she was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the County of Pembrokeshire, building on the remarkable success which she achieved at the ballot box the previous year. In April 1924 Elsie was elected to Neyland Urban District Council, polling 208 votes, alongside her male colleagues John Davies, James Griffiths, Nathaniel James and Albert John.[14]  She was one of the first women elected to district councils in Pembrokeshire and in this respect she was a true trail blazer. Apparently during meetings she did not hesitate to call upon the chairman to curtail the speeches of some of the more verbose members of the council although she does appear to have been regarded with affection and respect by the other members. When an attack of bronchitis prevented her attendance at a council meeting in January 1926 the chairman said they would miss her and a letter was sent from the council wishing her a speedy recovery.[15] Miss Walker became a member of the Pembroke Board of Guardians and she was elected chairman of the managers (or governors) of the Neyland Girls Council School. In July 1927 she presented the silver cup and prize for the children’s choir, won by the pupils of the school at the recent Neyland Eisteddfod.[16]

In the triennial elections held for Neyland Urban District Council in April 1927 Miss Walker sadly lost her seat by the agonizing margin of a single vote. She polled 250 votes, whilst the retired postmaster Frederick Lloyd Hall polled 251 to take the fourth available seat on the council.[17] By that time Miss Walker was 76 years of age and perhaps the reduction in her commitments proved to be a blessing in disguise. Elsie was still active. On 13 December 1928 she planted a tree at the Memorial Gardens in Neyland along with other members of the Town Improvements Association in an area of parkland intended for the town’s war memorial.[18] The memorial was duly unveiled on 17 December 1930 but sadly Miss E. J. Walker did not live long enough to see it since she died, aged 79, on Saturday, 1 November 1930 at her home, Penrice House, 3, Lawrenny Street.

Miss Walker was indeed a remarkable woman. For 27 years she had lived in Neyland, longer than any other home she had known and she had done a great deal for the community. Her teaching career was fondly recalled as hundreds of children passed through her care and they returned her instruction with affection and respect. When she was a Poor Law Guardian she would walk to Pembroke and back and she was assiduous when investigating claims for relief, sometimes providing immediate temporary relief out of her own pocket. Elsie did a great deal of private charitable giving and she was popular, except with the class who enjoy hearing no one’s voice but their own. It was said she was a great worker who gave her share ‘in helping to make the world better for those who follow.’[19] Elsie’s house and furniture were sold off in September 1931 and she left an estate valued at £1,976 6s. 6d. with probate granted to William George Dodd, a retired civil servant. Miss Walker was buried at Neyland cemetery, the chief mourners being Miss Cobb (niece), Colonel Colby (brother-in-law) and Miss Griffiths (a close friend).

For her role as a political activist and local originality in standing for elective office Miss Elsie Jane Walker richly deserves to be remembered. More parochially her pocket guide to Neyland was her chief local contribution and ‘an imperishable monument to her wonderful ability.’  The local sage and columnist, John Griffiths, writing in the 1930s thought that as long as a copy of that guide existed ‘Miss Walker’s name will not fade from the memories of the grateful inhabitants.’[20]


  1. Jane Rendall, The Origins of Modern Feminism: Women in Britain, France and the United States, 1780-1860 (Basingstoke, 1985), p.133. Women were well represented in elementary education where some 46%, or 15,224 of pupil-teachers were female by 1859; G.R. Searle A New England? Peace and War 1886-1918 (Oxford, 2003), p.56 discusses how teaching was one of those middle-class posts which saw considerable female advances before the First World War. By 1901 75% of the 230,000 teachers across the country were women.
  2. Pembrokeshire Herald, 9 January 1903.
  3. Pembroke County Guardian, 2 June 1904.
  4. Ibid., 3 August 1906.
  5. Ibid., 1 February 1907.
  6. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph, 5 February 1913.
  7. Ibid., 28 February 1912.
  8. Ibid., 3 June 1914.
  9. Ibid., 30 September 1914.
  10. Ibid., 29 August 1917.
  11. Pembrokeshire Telegraph, 20 June 1923
  12. Sheila Rowbotham, A Century of Women. The History of Women in Britain and the United States (London, 1997), p.127
  1. Pembroke County Guardian, 24 August 1917.
  2. Pembrokeshire Telegraph, 9 April 1924.
  3. Ibid., 7 January 1926.
  4. Ibid., 28 July 1927.
  5. Ibid., 7 April 1927.
  6. Ibid., 20 December 1928.
  7. Ibid., 6 November 1930.
  8. West Wales Guardian, 11 September 1931.

Occupational Patterns of Seaside Houses


Occupational Patterns of Seaside Houses

By Douglas Fraser           

There is much debate about the impact on a community of having a substantial part of its housing stock used for second homes and commercial holiday letting.  But this was the basis of the growth and prosperity of towns like Tenby in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  What can be found about the historical pattern of occupation and does this have any lessons for the future?  In this paper I look at the people who lived or stayed in Lexden Terrace in Tenby.  Described as “Tenby’s finest C19th work”, Lexden Terrace comprises six Regency style, Grade II* houses near the harbour and overlooking the sea – exactly the kind of properties that were built to attract the well-heeled from outside the area.

In the Beginning

 Front of Lexden Terrace showing the gated entrance to numbers 1 to 5.

 No.1 is on the right hand side.

 Numbers 1 to 5 Lexden Terrace were built between 1843 and 1846 by Captain John Rees, a local man who had made his fortune in China as Commodore of the Jardine Matheson Opium Fleet, and retired to Tenby in 1842.  Rees developed the terrace for his own occupation, lived in No.1 and looked for residential rather than short term tenants for the other properties.   Such was James Pickering Ord who signed a lease for No. 5 on 3rd April 1846 for a period of seven years at a rent of £45 a year.  Ord died in Lexden Terrace in 1863 at the age of 72.  The Tenby Observer and other sources show him as a resident.  He was a man of independent means living with his wife and daughter, and four resident servants; the family had lived in Bath before coming to Tenby.  Agnes Dynely who took the lease of No. 4 for 7 years at about the same time was a very similar tenant.  Born about 1775 in Devon, her name also appears as a permanent Tenby resident.  But Rees was less successful with the other properties. In March 1845  No.3 was let to Robert Harris, initially for a year at £52.10s  a year, but he said that he would extend to 7 years if the rent were dropped to £45.   Just a year later Rees encountered a stranger on the pleasure ground (the common garden) who on enquiry claimed to be Colonel Bagnold, the tenant of Harris. Rees was incensed and summoned John Gwynne, his solicitor, to examine the provisions of the lease with a view to expelling the subtenant, but all that he felt able to do was to serve a notice on Harris saying that “the lodger …… not to have the pleasure of walking on the pleasure ground and that should any damage be done to the water closets and pipes” Harris would be held responsible.  Gwynne was also sent to speak to Colonel Bagnold, reading out the paragraph in Harris’ lease which expressly forbade friends to walk in the garden.  The Colonel “seemed very much surprised” and said that he would refer to his landlord.  The eventual outcome is not recorded but Harris did not retain the property for 7 years and Rees stopped trying to restrict the occupation, building a wall across the pleasure ground to separate his house at one end from the rest of the terrace.  No. 2 was occupied by John Bowers in 1850 although I cannot establish on what basis. Numbers 2 and 3 then had a series of short-term tenants although it is not clear whether they rented directly from John Rees or from a head tenant.  By 1853, No. 2 was in the full holiday business with new families coming each month.

No. 6, now Lexden House, was built later than the rest of the terrace, replacing the home of the Williams family which had immediately adjoined John Rees’ Lexden Terrace.    George Williams lived on the proceeds of lodging houses and owned property in the High Street, St Mary Street and St Julian Street.  When George died, he left his property to his wife, Sarah, and his four younger children, Sarah, Rachel, Bridget and John.  The three daughters remained unmarried, lived in the High Street and then St Mary Street, and described themselves as lodging house keepers. After their mother died, Rachel leased from her sisters and her brother their share of the old family home adjoining Lexden Terrace.  She had this demolished and a house built on the site designed to harmonise with John Rees’ development, but otherwise including as many lettable rooms as possible.  I do not know exactly when the house was built but Rachel obtained the site in 1844 and the project was complete when she drew up her will in April 1850.  But she did not enjoy her new property for long.  Rachel died in June 1850; the eldest sister, Sarah, had died in the preceding March, and so the youngest, Bridget Reynolds Williams, inherited all but the residual interest that remained with her brother, John.  Bridget Williams never lived in No. 6 Lexden Terrace herself.

View from Castle Hill showing Lexden House.

 An analysis of the visitors listed in The Tenby Observer between 1853 and 1860 for both numbers 2 and 6 shows that the season ran for six months, from June to October, and the periods were mainly for three or four weeks.

There was generally a single family at a time at No.2, and never more than two, whereas there were up to four at a time at No. 6.  We cannot say anything about how full the properties were over the course of a year since, although there were times when no name was given, the names that we have are only of those who left their cards with the Tenby Observer.  Only numbers 2 and 6 have the appearance of being used systematically as holiday lets; there were some reported visitors for the other houses but these look like the friends and families of those living there.

John Rees died in 1855 and his widow, Emma, and their daughter, Emma Knox, lived at No.1 until Emma herself died, at St Tropez, in 1861.  In 1862 Emma Knox married Frederick Maitland and they went to live in London, retaining Lexden Terrace as a purely commercial investment.  The houses were eventually sold in 1922, mainly to the sitting tenants.  Bridget Williams died in 1870 having sold No. 6 three years earlier.

The Rest of the Nineteenth Century

On 15 February 1862 Joseph Craven of West House near Bradford, rented No.1 Lexden Terrace for three years at £55 a year, and in 1864 took a 21 year lease.  Craven was a worsted mill owner  who had been advised for his health to winter in a softer climate; he spent his winters in Tenby and his summers in Yorkshire.  Joseph Craven, born in 1826, was one of the principal benefactors of the Independent Church at the Old Tabernacle (now St John’s), supplementing the minister’s salary by £100 a year for a long period.  He introduced the architects Paull and Robinson for the building of the new church and contributed £100 to the cost.  He also contributed to and underwrote the building of the manse and gave £100 to the Hounds Lane Schools. In 1884, his sons, Frederick and Arthur Craven, took a lease for a further 21 years: the Cravens rented the house for a total of sixty years before buying it in 1922.  It was for most of the time a second home although in 1923 Frederick was a magistrate in Pembrokeshire. The property was also used from time to time by other families – either friends of the Cravens or possibly commercial sublets.


As noted above, the early tenants of No.2 stayed for a year or less but by 1870 there was a long term resident. Charles Prust, his wife Jane, three unmarried daughters, son, four servants and a parrot moved from Haverfordwest to Tenby.  Son Robert became the leader of the “Red Indian” tribe that ranged over the Burrows.  Young Prust’s greatest acolyte was the young Augustus John who was disillusioned when Robert lost his nerve after the two of them had started a fire in a wood.  In 1877 the Reverend John Phelps of Carew Vicarage took the house at a rent of £60,  followed in 1880 by Major General William Graves, retired from the Indian Army, and his family.  In 1885 Francis Girardot signed a lease for 3½ years at £50 a year.  He was at Victorian hero and the originator of the saying “Women and Children first”, from the incident in which he was instrumental in saving the lives of all of the women and children on a sinking troopship whilst three quarters of the men died. His successors were James Fitzgerald, retired Colonel in the Indian Army, and Charles Spark, Chief Clerk of HM Dockyard at Pembroke Dock. Harry Neame, of the brewing family, who was married to a cousin of Emma Maitland, was the last occupant of the century.

Like No. 2, the early residents of No.3 Lexden Terrace appear to have been of relatively short occupation but in 1853 George James took a 21 year lease and became a Tenby resident.  The James family were landowners from Haverfordwest and George’s widow, Martha, was still living at No.3 in 1871.  The principal visitors during the time of the James were the Misses Prust from Haverfordwest; no doubt this led to the Prust family itself renting the house next door (No. 2).  In 1877,  on the expiry of his lease for No.2, Charles Prust moved into No.3.  In 1880, Caroline Floyd, a London resident, took a 7 year lease at £60 but used the house as a second home.  Staff Commander William Edwin Archdeacon, a leading naval cartographer rented No.3 at £50 per annum in 1886. His granddaughter Nina Hamnett, born there in 1890, became a well known artist and bohemian.  Brigade Surgeon John Shaw in charge of the medical aspects of Penally Barracks and St Catherine’s Fort, was the last tenant of the century, renting in 1893 for 7 years at £50;  he could have observed St Catherine’s Fort without moving from his own drawing room.  From 1853 to 1900, No.3 was the sole or principal residence of all tenants with the exception of Caroline Floyd.

We have already seen that Agnes Dynely took a seven year lease on No. 4 in 1846 but did not renew it, moving instead to Rock House nearby.  Thomas Howell, a mariner of Tenby, signed a lease for 7 years at £50 in 1858 and sublet the house for a series of shorter periods.  Howell was followed by the Reverend Daniel Anthony in 1866 and Henry Ford took an annual lease in 1872 at £50:10s, renewing it in 1873 for a further five years.  In 1880 John Bancroft, HM Inspector of Schools, took a one year lease with a view to staying long term.  Ten years later he was still there with four children but in 1893 decided not to renew the lease because of a poor standard of maintenance.


Number 5 which had been rented by James Ord since its completion, was leased in 1863 for 7 years by the Reverend John Hooper, Rector of Upton Warren, Wenlock. He became a yearly tenant between 1870 and 75, and was succeeded by George Haig who took the house for 7 years for £65 in 1877.  In 1883 Ernest Knowling, a medical practitioner from Devon aged just 26, took the house for 7 years and was still there in 1891 with wife and two children.  Hooper and Haig must have regarded the house as an investment or holiday home since we find others living there at the time of the relevant census.  Harry Neame was in No. 5 at the time of the 1901 census – it looks as though family members very sensibly took the opportunity for a holiday created when the houses were unlet.

From the beach c1900

Bridget Williams sold 6 Lexden Terrace in 1867 to Charles Henry Smith who also bought out her brother John before embarking on a process of improvement.  Smith was a coal mine owner from  Llansamlet near Swansea, selling his colliery interests when he retired to Tenby.  He had been Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1839 and mayor of Swansea in 1845.  From the Tenby Observer we see that Smith holidayed in Tenby before settling there.  From the deeds in the Tenby Museum we know that he had a hand in many of the financial speculations of Tenby, and purchased shops in the High Street as an investment.  He became a magistrate and was Mayor of Tenby in 1875, 76 and 77.  Smith undertook a significant modernisation and upgrading of No. 6, and purchased the next door property (on the harbour, not Lexden Terrace side) demolishing it to improve access and create a larger garden.  He also named the house, “Lexden House”.  By 1871 Smith and his wife, Emily, had a resident establishment at Lexden House of footman, cook, kitchen maid, parlourmaid, and Emily had a nurse. Emily died in 1871 and Charles in 1878.   In 1873, Charles had married Georgina Willis, who continued to live at Lexden House until her death in 1893.  The property was left in trust for the benefit of Smith’s four granddaughters; they chose not to live in Lexden House which was let briefly before being sold to Edward M. R. Bryant, a general practitioner from Pembroke, in 1900..

Although a certain amount of guesswork is necessary in interpreting the above, about 60% of the occupation of the Terrace during this period (based on 292 available letting years) was by people for whom it was their sole or principal residence.  About 25% of the total provided second homes and some 15% were holiday lets. Fewer than 10% of total occupation was funded by locally earned income, the balance of the occupants’ income coming from independent sources or being earned outside the area.

Twentieth Century

Rents in Lexden Terrace had reached £65 a year during the nineteenth century, but by its end they had halved, during a period when average rents across England and Wales rose by 40%.  In 1896, Frederick Craven negotiated a renewal on No. 1 by stating that several houses were empty and that Lexden House was only achieving a rent of £35.  Lexden House sold in 1900 for £1000, half of what had been paid (in total) in 1867.  In the 1901 census numbers 1, 3 and 4 were all empty.  The amount of living-in servants also gives an illustration of how circumstances had changed – instead of the establishments of four servants that were seen in the middle of the previous century, there were two at No. 1 and at No, 2 and one at Lexden House in 1901.  Why was this? A number of factors appear to be involved.  The Georgian terrace was deeply unfashionable by the end of the nineteenth century and Tenby itself had moved downmarket.

Despite this, Frederick Craven continued to rent No. 1 until the Maitland Trust (the family trust of Emma Maitland) sold it to him in 1922.  The Cravens continued using the house until 1939 when they sold to Geraldine Lawrence, a society hostess based in Chelsea.  It was a holiday house for her and her guests which constituted much of the artistic and literary life of London.  After she died in 1962, Geraldine Lawrence’s executors sold to Irene Clink, a local widow.  In 1922 No. 2 was sold to Mrs Martha Fisher, a teacher who was still living there in 1939, and in 1987 to a local builder, Mike Webb.  Number 3 was sold in 1922 to the sitting tenant, Arthur Cowtan who owned a piano shop in Tenby and after he died the house was used by his cousins, the Musson family, as a holiday home.   In the early 1990s the Mussons sold to the Prestwich family which started to restore the house as a family home.  Number 4 was sold in 1922 to Mrs Jessie Leigh of Cowbridge and after her death to a succession of local people.  At the beginning of the century Eva and Ernest Aves, daughter and son-in-law of Emma Maitland, used No. 5 for a period until it was rented to Edwin John, a retired solicitor and father of Augustus and Gwen.  John bought the house in 1922 when it came on the market, and after his death in 1938 it exchanged hands no fewer than nine times before being bought by Mike and Brenda Vaughan in 1986.  Lexden House had the more fortunate history in this period.  Having been bought by Dr Edward Mansel Bryant, non-practising surgeon and amateur inventor, in 1900 it stayed in the same family, relatively unchanged, until 1991.  Bryant lived at Lexden House with his housekeeper, Maria Thomas, whom he married, until he died in 1944.  The house was left to a close relation and after he died in 1991, it was under threat of conversion into flats.  Lexden House was bought by Thomas Hutton and his wife, Marion, who already had a second home in Tenby and decided to save Lexden House and to live there.

Back of the Terrace over the Pleasure Ground.

During the twentieth century Lexden Terrace experienced great changes to its condition and experienced major social mix.  Some of the houses remained principal homes, some second homes and some were investments.  At various times numbers 1, 4 and 5 were divided into flats, and Lexden House faced that threat.  There is not sufficient information to analyse the mix of occupation for the period as a whole, but towards the end of the century all of the houses were in single owner occupation and were the sole or principal homes of those who lived there.   Only one resident earned his income locally. The others had independent incomes or brought their earnings from outside into Tenby, making a significant contribution to the local economy and to the community..

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park took the opportunity to make a number of shrewdly targeted grants to encourage the restoration of selected properties.  This gave the other owners and their successors the confidence to themselves invest on restoring the houses. Being Grade II* this means authentic materials and CADW approval at each stage.  The terrace is probably better maintained today than it has been for 150 years, and is an ornament for Tenby.  It is clearly important that such historical properties are well restored and well looked after. But there has been a consequence – since the beginning of the present century, house prices in Wales as a whole have increased by a factor of 2.5, whereas those of Lexden Terrace have quadrupled.  Possibly as a result, half of the properties are no longer homes but are exploited commercially for holiday letting – a reversion to the use of numbers 2 and 6 in the middle of the nineteenth century.  The occupants of the three remaining houses also own them, but for none of them does Lexden Terrace provide their only residences.  Is occupation by holiday makers, who can sometimes be a little raucous, compatible with that by residents?  The historical record is mixed, the uses did coexist but it may be significant that occupation of the terrace did not really settle down until after No. 2 acquired a long term tenant.  It would be sad if the growth of short-term letting reduced the attraction of Lexden Terrace as homes, even second homes, and hence if Tenby were less able to attract the modern equivalents of the Cravens, Geraldine Lawrence, Charles Smith or the Huttons, who have done so much for the town.


 Principal Sources

Fraser, D.  A Legacy of Opium, Tenby Heritage Publications, (Tenby 2010).

Marion Hutton  History of Lexden Terrace, (private c1997).

Lloyd, Orbach and Scourfield,  The Buildings of Wales – Pembrokeshire, Yale University Press, (New Haven and London, 2004).

Maitland Trust Papers –  D/EE/17 – Pembrokeshire County Record Office.   This is a very extensive set of documents relating to the management of the property left by John Rees, mainly between 1855 and 1922, deposited by Eaton Evans, the successors to Evans, Powell and Matthias. It is the source used most for this paper.

Lexden House conveyances.

Papers from the Lock archives held in private hands.

Wills Proved in St David’s – Pembrokeshire Record Office.

Rees Papers- D/EE/55 – Pembrokeshire Record Office.

Old Tenbyite – Tenby Observer 8 February 1957.

Various deeds and maps in the Tenby Museum, including a schedule to the Lock papers, extracts of the St Mary’s Register and extracts from the Tenby Council Minutes.

Deeds and documentation relating to Lexden Terrace held by Richard Walker formerly of No.1.

Census for 1841/51/61/71/81/91 and 1901/11 – National Archives.

Birth Marriage and Death Records – General Register Office.


The Cawdors of Stackpole


The Cawdors of Stackpole

 By David TR Lewis

The early history of Stackpole Court[1] and the origins of the Lort family owners[2] have been well documented. The house was once one of the grandest seats in Pembrokeshire, if not in Wales, with its large estate located between the villages of Stackpole and Bosherton.

Sir John Lort 2nd Bt (1638-73) left two children, Sir Gilbert Lort 3rd Bt (1671-1698) who died aged 27 unmarried, and Elizabeth Lort who married into the Scottish Campbell Clan. With a principal seat at Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire they were a junior branch of the Argyll Clan, having a Scottish royal pedigree originating from Clan Calder and whose Thanes had shown strong loyalty to the Scottish throne over centuries.

Sir Alexander Campbell 15th Thane of Cawdor MP (Scot) (c1662-1697)

Sir Alexander matriculated at King’s College Aberdeen in 1677 and then travelled in Europe to France and Italy in accordance with the custom. In 1689 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Lort 2nd Bt of Stackpole and the sister and sole heiress of her brother Sir Gilbert Lort 3rd Bt. Sir Alexander was a university friend of Elizabeth’s brother Gilbert. While sailing south from Fort William to avoid the bad roads to London, Alexander was forced to put into port at Milford Haven for repairs after a ferocious storm and visited Gilbert in Stackpole where he fell in love with Elizabeth.  Gilbert died in 1698 just after Sir Alexander had died  and Sir Alexander’s widow, Elizabeth, then inherited the Stackpole Estate from her brother and lived there and in England for the rest of her life. The Lort family seem to have had a low opinion of Scots and Lady Lort provided in her will for legacies to grandchildren provided they did not marry “North Britons”.

So the Campbells of Cawdor ceased to be merely Scottish landowners with estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire and control of the Isles of Islay and Jura, and became much more British in outlook, with substantially more profitable lands in Wales and in due course a home in London too. Thereafter the Campbells of Cawdor abandoned Cawdor Castle save for occasional visits and lived at Stackpole Court, which remained in the Campbell / Cawdor family for some 260 years until the 20th century.

Sir Alexander succeeded his father as Whig MP for Nairnshire in the Scottish Parliament of 1693-5 but he died young on 27 August 1697 for unknown reasons. He and his wife and young family spent much of their time at Stackpole. They had two sons and two daughters. Their heir was John Campbell MP 16th Thane, who was only two years old so his mother Lady Elizabeth managed the Lort estates until she died on 28 September 1714. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. John (1695-1777) inherited the Lort estates from his mother.

John Campbell 16th Thane of Cawdor MP (1695-1777)

John Campbell avoided any taint of Jacobitism by having been educated and brought up for much of his youth in England and Wales, rather than at Cawdor. After his mother inherited the Lort estates Stackpole Court thereafter became the family’s primary home. He entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1708 and Clare College Cambridge in 1711 to study law but seems never to have practised; he also studied law at Poitiers, Blois and Paris. Through his maternal grandmother he was related to Henry Pelham (1694-1754) a Whig Prime Minister and to his brother the Duke of Newcastle (1693-1768), also a Whig Prime Minister. No doubt this greatly assisted John in his political career. It is unclear why his nickname in the family was “Joyless John”.

In 1711 his elder brother Gilbert died, so John became the heir to his Jacobite grandfather, Sir Hugh Campbell, who died in 1716. John thereby became Thane of Cawdor and owner of the Scottish estates. Although the family’s primary home was now at Stackpole, younger brothers and relatives of the family continued to manage the Cawdor estates on behalf of the Thane who was essentially an absentee landlord.

When his mother died he also inherited the Lort estate at Ystradffin near the lead mines at Rhandirmwyn in north Carmarthenshire, plus properties in Carmarthen and elsewhere in the county. John was by now a wealthy man. On 30 April 1726 he married Mary, daughter and coheiress of Lewis Pryse MP (c1683-1720) of Gogerddan[3] in Cardiganshire. Lewis Pryse had been MP for Cardiganshire for much of the period from 1701 to 1715; he was a Jacobite supporter and was expelled from the Commons for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to George I. His two daughters inherited some of his valuable mining lands in 1720 but not Gogerddan mansion itself which went to a male cousin. However Mary brought with her the valuable Glanfraed estate in Cardiganshire. On the day of his marriage John wrote to Sir Archibald Campbell saying “I was this morning married to Mrs Pryse, a young lady of North Wales, who possesses in the highest degree every virtue and agreeable accomplishment….her fortune is a small estate in land among the Welsh highlands”. John, however, was embarrassed by and opposed to his father in law’s Jacobite sympathies.

In 1727 John was elected as a Whig MP for Pembrokeshire and supported Sir Robert Walpole, Henry Pelham and Henry Fox. In the 1734 election he stood for both Nairnshire and Pembrokeshire and was returned for both seats, so was the first person to be elected both sides of the border. He served as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty in 1736-42 with a salary of £1,000 a year “with lodging, fire and candle” and then as a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury in 1746-54. He voted with the administration but understandably declined to support a Jurisdictions Bill abolishing hereditary posts in Scotland. As hereditary Sheriff of Nairn he later received £2,000 in compensation for the loss of this office. He served as Governor of Milford Haven from 1734 for life and was also Governor of Chester. In 1747, when his re-election for Pembrokeshire looked unlikely, he stood for Nairnshire and held that seat until 1754. He reluctantly supported a Bill for disarming the Highlands and restraining the use of Highland dress. In 1754 he switched to stand for Inverness Burghs which he represented until 1761. He was then asked by Henry Fox to stand for Corfe Castle which he inactively represented from 1762 to 1768.  He seems to have received Royal favour and attended a number of court balls and “kissed the King’s hand”.

In 1735 John started to replace the old house at Stackpole with a large new Georgian mansion in classic Palladian style, built upon the undercroft of the much earlier house whose original hall was later used as a cellar. The bailiff, John Wright, wrote to Pryse Campbell saying…

“Since the pulling down of the old house the rats that used to run behind the wainscot are gone abroad”.

Cawdor’s friend, John Vaughan, who was rebuilding Golden Grove  wrote to his son in 1756 saying that…

“…yt Stackbull, Mr Campbells, and several other Houses are not finished yet, which have been many years about, so that we should follow their Example and finish but one part, and the rest at Leisure”.[4]

The wonderful landscaping which took several years to complete was done with the help of their agent and general factotum, John Mirehouse. Two pieces of ordnance (cannons) dated 1754 and 1757 “Solano Fecit”, being wreckage from Spanish ships of war, used to adorn the lawn in front of the mansion.

John was a kind and affectionate family man who took a deep interest in his children, especially Pryse his eldest son. He wrote numerous letters to them despite his heavy Parliamentary duties; one recounted the visit of William Pitt (Earl of Chatham) to Stackpole in 1736. John died on 6 September 1777; Mary died on 18 October 1773 aged 69 and was buried in Stackpole Church. They had three sons and three daughters including their heir Pryse Campbell MP 17th Thane and:-

(1) Hon. John Hooke Campbell-Hooke (1733-95) of Bangeston, Pembrokeshire, who in 1762 married Eustacia Bassett. He served in the prestigious office of Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland, from 1759 to 1796. He legally changed his surname after inheriting the Bangeston estate from John Hooke.

(2) Lt Col. Hon Alexander Campbell (1737-85) who in 1768 married Frances Meadows,  daughter of Philip Meadows (1708-81) deputy ranger of Richmond Park who was the son of Sir Philip Meadows MP (1672-1757), diplomat and Knight Marshal of the King’s Household, and Lady Frances Pierrepont. Alexander served as a captain in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards and Lt-Col in the 75th Regiment of Foot.

Pryse Campbell 17th Thane of Cawdor MP (1727-68)

Pryse was brought up at Stackpole and matriculated at Clare College Cambridge in 1745, well away from the Jacobite rebellion of that year in Scotland, following which he went on the Grand Tour in Europe. Having a Welsh mother and grandmother he was more Welsh than Scottish and was destined for a political career given his father’s position as a Whig MP and the influence of the Campbell Argyll family in Scottish politics. When he came of age in 1748 his father transferred to him the Cawdor estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire (his father retaining a life-rent interest) so he became Thane of Cawdor, although he died in 1768, before his father in 1777. Pryse was very keen on field sports especially his hounds which he collected from different counties.

On 20 September 1752 he married Sarah, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edmund Bacon 6th Bt of Garboldisham in Norfolk and Tory MP for Thetford and Norfolk; descended from Lord Keeper Bacon he was the premier baronet in England. Sarah died aged only 41 on 20 May 1767 and was buried in St Audley Chapel, Grosvenor Square, London.

In 1754 Pryse was elected unopposed as Whig MP for Inverness-shire with the support and influence of the Argyll Campbells; meantime his father was returned as MP for Inverness Burghs. Pryse held the seat until 1761 and, unlike his father, was a strong supporter of Pitt the Elder and during his administration was appointed a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury 1766-8, a post earlier held by his father. In 1768, under the alternating rule sharing MPs with Cromartyshire, Nairnshire would not be represented in the Commons, so Pryse stood instead for Cardigan Boroughs and held that seat until his illness in November. He died intestate on 14 December 1768 at Bath and was buried at Weston Church nearby, to the great distress of his father.

Pryse’s independence of character can be seen in his portrait which shows him hand on hip, grey wigged, in a kilt and tartan doublet wearing a tartan cloak; during the period after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion the wearing of tartan was outlawed.


Pryse Campbell and Mrs Sarah Campbell, c1762, by Francis Cotes.



Pryse and Sarah had four sons and three daughters including their heir John Pryse Campbell 18th Thane FRS MP 1st Baron Cawdor and: –


(1) Hon Alexander Campbell MP (1756-85) second son, was educated at Eton College 1766-8, Harrow School 1770 and Clare College Cambridge 1774. He joined the army as an ensign in the 55th Regiment of Foot in 1775, rising to Lieutenant in 1777. While serving in America in 1778 he was wounded; he was one of the Captains in the new 75th (Prince of Wales’s) Regiment which his brother John and Col Thomas Johnes of Hafod MP (1748-1816) raised.



(2) Admiral Hon Sir George Campbell GCB MP (1759-1821) third son, joined the Royal Navy in 1771, became a Lieutenant in 1778, Captain in 1781, and Rear Admiral in 1804. He commanded HMS Terrible in the Battle of Genoa in 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars, and then commanded HMS Berwick. In 1806 George was elected as Whig MP for Carmarthen Boroughs with the influence of his brother John Campbell 1st Baron Cawdor who since 1804 had been the leader of the Blue (Whig) party in Carmarthen; he held this seat until he stepped down in 1813 in favour of his nephew John Campbell 1st Earl Cawdor. Being a friend of the Prince Regent (the future George IV) he was made a groom of the bedchamber in 1817, despite opposition from Lord Liverpool.  On 23 January 1821, while commander in chief at Portsmouth, Sir George committed suicide, being found wearing a dressing gown by his valet with a pistol in his hand. The coroner returned a verdict of lunacy. His death was a huge shock to the Navy where he was held in the highest regard; “his abilities were highly esteemed by Nelson”.


John Campbell MP FRS 18th Thane of Cawdor 1st Baron Cawdor (1755-1821)


John (Jolly Jack), the eldest son and heir, was born on 24 April 1755 at Cawdor Castle. He was educated at Eton College and, in accordance with family tradition, matriculated at Clare College Cambridge in 1772. He was brought up at Stackpole so initially knew little of Scotland. He then made the Grand Tour of Europe and probably there met up with his friend John Vaughan of Golden Grove, who was two years younger. They would later become such firm friends that Vaughan, when he died in 1804, would leave all his estates, including Golden Grove, to John. The Vaughans of Golden Grove and the Campbells of Stackpole Court were both traditional Whig supporters.

In 1768 John succeeded his father Pryse as Thane of Cawdor and the owner of the Scottish estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire. Then in 1777 he succeeded his grandfather, John Campbell, so inherited the former Lort estates in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, and Cardiganshire, becoming a very wealthy man and the owner of substantial landholdings. He was said to be worth “11 or 12 thousand pounds a year” in income, a large sum. Given the family’s influential Whig traditions John was destined for a political career. In 1777, at the age of 21, he was elected as MP for Nairnshire which seat he held until the 1780 election when under the alternating rule Nairnshire would lose its seat. He then took over the Welsh seat of Cardigan Boroughs which he held for 16 years until 1796, the year he became a peer. Despite his Whig credentials he was independently minded and was a strong supporter of Lord North, Tory Prime Minister, during the American War of Independence. John supported his policy of war to prevent French influence. In 1777 he helped raise a new regiment of foot in South Wales, the 75th (Prince of Wales’s) Regiment in which his brother Alexander served and was wounded.

Lord Cawdor 1778 by Sir Joshua Reynolds

During the 1780s John visited Italy and Siily where he bought antiquities, commissioned paintings, bought sculptures and acquired the famous Lante Vase (now at Woburn Abbey). He begun a collection of Etruscan vases and established a museum in his London house in Oxford Street, hailed by the sculptor John Flaxman as “excellent news for the arts”. He became a FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries) in 1794 and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society on 4 June 1795. Whilst he was a dilettante and collector of fine art as well as a landscape gardener and romantic, he was also a spendthrift. In 1800 needing funds he sold the contents of his museum and many items went to Sir John Soane, the son of a bricklayer, who became a famous architect to the Bank of England and many other bodies and whose museum is today still based in 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. A cultured man, John became an Honorary DCL at Oxford in 1810.


On 28 July 1789 John was married to Lady Isabella (Caroline) Howard, eldest child and very beautiful daughter of Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle KG PC (1748-1825), the guardian to Lord Byron, at her father’s house in Grosvenor Place, London; his country seat was Castle Howard in Yorkshire. John was now fully part of the British landed gentry. Lady Caroline was described by Byron as “a sweet pretty woman” (they shared a great grandfather}.She was very influential in the landscaping of Stackpole, in the damming of the meadows to form Bosherston  lakes, in the drainage

of Castlemartin Corse, and in the design of the lovely gardens and terraces. They transformed the Stackpole estate.[5]

Stackpole Court c1758

In 1802 Lord Nelson visited Stackpole during his time in south west Wales, as did Richard Fenton who wrote…

…the house is distributed into a number of noble apartments, and the library is large and well furnished….The offices are all well-arranged, and the stables forming a detached large quadrangular building, are in a style of princely pretension. Of Stackpole, without straining compliment, it may safely be said that there are few places which display more magnificence without, or more sumptuous hospitality and elegant comforts within.

William Thomas designed and produced plans in 1783 for a classical front to the west wing, but these were never executed. Additional enlargements to the mansion were made in 1821 by the eminent architect, Sir Jeffry Wyatville RA, [6] who the Campbells also commissioned to build the third mansion at Golden Grove in 1826-34.  The icehouse at Stackpole, designed by Wyatville c1821, had a 5m deep shaft, 3m wide, lined with brick and stone having an entrance into a below ground passage and was north facing. The eight arch bridge was built in 1797 over a weir between two lily ponds to connect Stackpole Court and its home farm to Stackpole Quay and the new deer park.

Eight arched bridge

Having initially been neutral on the administration of William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801 and 1805-6, John Campbell opposed some of his policies and voted with the opposition against his Regency Bill in 1788 and joined the Whigs although he did strongly support Pitt’s war policies. He became an important Whig leader in West Wales and was pro Catholic emancipation. On 28 June and again on 22 August 1794 John applied to Pitt for an English peerage with the support of his father in law. He was successful at the dissolution of Parliament in 1796 and on 21 June in that year was created 1st Baron Cawdor of Castlemartin. He went on to serve as Mayor of Carmarthen in 1808 to whom he presented two fine maces still in use.

John’s military career was also impressive and memorable. He served as Governor of Milford Haven 1780-1821, as Captain of the Castlemartin Yeomanry 1794-1802, Lt Colonel Commandant of the Royal Carmarthenshire militia 1798-1821, and Captain of the Pembrokeshire Volunteers 1803. He will always be remembered, however, for his defeat and capture of the French force which invaded in 1797 at Fishguard, the last invasion of Britain by a foreign enemy. [7]

While the French Revolution was raging across the Channel there was much fear in Britain of a revolutionary invasion to rally the poor against those in charge of government. On 22 February 1797 a French force of 1,224 men under the command of William Tate (a 70 year old American who could not speak French) consisting of French, Irish and American troops landed in four ships at Carreg Wastad Bay near Fishguard with a view to rallying the locals to their cause. The news of this unexpected landing reached Haverfordwest and within hours some 503 local troops under the command of Lord Cawdor were assembled consisting of 43 from Lord Cawdor’s Castlemartin Yeomanry, 100 Cardigan Militia, 93 Pembroke Volunteers, 191 Knox’s Fishguard Volunteers (Fencibles), and 150 naval contingent. The French force damaged some buildings including Llanwnda Church, stole food and items of value, raped two women, and drank a great deal of wine which they found in a local farm. Cawdor bravely made it known that his troops would attack the French invaders, despite Lt. Colonel Thomas Knox, commander of the Fishguard Fencibles, retreating.

The invasion was a farce, the French surrendered to Lord Cawdor on Goodwick sands wrongly thinking they were surrounded by thousands of British troops, none of the local troops were killed or injured, eight French troops were killed on the initial landing and about four French troops were killed before their surrender. Perhaps the most extraordinary fact about this invasion is that Queen Victoria later gave permission for the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry to put “Fishguard” as a battle honour on their standards and insignia, the only regiment ever to have been awarded such an honour for a conflict on British soil, and to a regiment which did not fire a shot or kill any of the enemy. Lord Cawdor gained great kudos for this surrender.[8]

Cawdor also gained popularity for acting as an improving landlord with a keen interest in new agricultural methods, like his friend John Vaughan at Golden Grove. He kept in touch with leading agriculturalists and under his guidance the Stackpole and Brownslade estates became some of the most productive in Wales. On his own home farm he experimented with the breeding of cattle, horses and sheep, various grasses and root crops; he introduced the Suffolk punch and crossed them with other breeds to produce fine draught horses. He planted over 8.5 million trees between 1800 and 1810 on his Welsh and Scottish estates. However, given the family trait of spending more than was prudent the debts of the Cawdor estates had increased to £153,000, so in 1802, short of funds, Cawdor sold some of the Stackpole estate including Henllan, Mullock and Sandyhaven. He also sold the Glanfraed estate in Cardiganshire which had come to the family through the marriage of John Campbell 16th Thane to Mary Pryse of Gogerddan in 1726.

By all accounts Cawdor was a handsome man, over six feet tall, courteous, and very able and effective in his dealings; “…a man of excellent manners and cultivated mind… and… one of the most amiable and unselfish men that ever existed”, according to his lawyer James Scarlett.[9]

Cawdor died in Great Pulteney Street in Bath on 1 June 1821, aged 66, and is buried at Bath Abbey. During his last illness Lady Cawdor sacked his physician Sir George Gibbs, who then wrote an angry letter to her after her husband’s death. This resulted in her son and heir challenging Sir George to a duel. Caroline died, aged 76, at Twickenham on 8 March 1848. Cawdor and Lady Caroline had two sons including their heir 1st Earl Cawdor.

Their second son was Rear Admiral Hon George Pryse Campbell MP (1793-1858). He joined the Royal Navy as a very young first class volunteer in April 1803 on HMS Culloden, the flagship of his uncle Admiral Sir George Campbell. In HMS Namur he saw action against four French ships after Trafalgar in November 1805. In 1821 he was promoted to Captain. He retired from the active navy list in 1846 and in the rank of a Rear Admiral in 1852. In 1820 he was elected, while absent on duties at sea, as MP for Nairnshire with the support of his father which seat he held until the 1826 election and was again elected in 1830 and held the seat until the following year when the seat reverted to Cromartyshire.

John Frederick Campbell MP FRS 19th Thane of Cawdor 1st Earl Cawdor (1790-1860)

John Frederick Campbell, the eldest son and heir, was born on 8 November 1790 in London. He was educated at Eton College and at Christ Church Oxford, gaining a 2nd Class Honours degree in classics (Greats) in 1812. That year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and later became a trustee of the British Museum.

When John had come of age his father Lord Cawdor prematurely tried to have him elected as MP for Pembrokeshire but he was defeated by John Owen. In 1813 his father persuaded his brother, Admiral George Campbell MP, to resign his seat in Carmarthen Boroughs, and John was elected in his place in the Whig interest and held this seat until 1821. However, mob violence ruled in Carmarthen and his re-elections in 1818 and 1820 were contested and it was impossible for him to chair a public meeting or canvass in public because of the threat of violence. In 1821 when his father died and he took his seat in the House of Lords, John was relieved to abandon his seat in the Commons. Politically John was a pro-Catholic Whig, keen on supporting criminal law reform, the abolition of the Welsh judicature and Courts of Great Session and integrating Welsh courts into the English system (he served as a select committee chairman on this issue), Catholic relief, and he opposed the suspension of habeas corpus.[10] He supported the Reform Bill in 1832 and then changed parties, like his father, but in the opposite direction, by joining the Tories. In 1846 he was one of 89 Protectionist peers who signed the protest against the Repeal of the Corn Laws.

On 1 June 1821 John inherited his father’s estates and became 2nd Baron Cawdor.  In 1823 he failed in his attempt to be appointed Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire against the wishes of Lord Liverpool, Tory Prime Minister.

On 13 September 1821 the King of England landed from his barge at Milford Haven and was received by Lord Cawdor. In August 1826 the Duke of Gloucester on his tour of south Wales stayed at Stackpole. In 1827 the future William IV, then Duke of Clarence, stayed at Stackpole. Cannon were fired in his honour, visits were made to Pembroke Castle and Milford Haven, and a ball was held.

On 5 October 1827 John was created 1st Earl Cawdor of Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire and 1st Viscount Emlyn of Emlyn in Carmarthenshire. The motto above his crest was: Candidus Cantabit Moriens (The pure of heart shall sing when dying) and the motto under the arms was… Be Mindful.

 1st Earl Cawdor by Sir Thomas Lawrence


On 8 September 1831 he was the Bearer of the Queen’s ivory rod at the Coronation. He served as a Harleian Trustee of the British Museum from 1834-60 and was awarded an Honorary DCL at Oxford in 1841, like his father before him. On 4 May 1852, with the support of the Tory administration he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Carmarthenshire, which post he held until his death.

John Campbell spent much of his time in London at his home at 75 South Audley Street, off Hanover Square. His household in 1841 included 19 servants, which number had increased to 24 servants by 1851, ranging from butlers to footmen, grooms, maids of all varieties and nurses. Visits to Stackpole would have been frequent and to Cawdor Castle in the warmer summer months. Occasional visits by the family to Golden Grove, not least to check on the building of the third mansion in 1826-32, and the layout of the new gardens from 1830 to c1860 would have taken place.

John was charitable to the poor. For example in 1841 he supplied roast beef and plum pudding to all the poor in the Pembroke area at Christmas. He supported cultural societies, spent money upkeeping his seven castles, removed the famous Eiudon stone from its exposed state and brought it to Golden Grove, renovated the Church in Golden Grove and built the school nearby.

John died at Stackpole Court on 7 November 1860, the day before his 70th birthday, and was buried in the parish church. He had been suffering from the effects of a carbuncle on his right arm which led to gangrene, fever and death. He was described by the diarist Henry Greville, as “…one of the most amiable and unselfish men that ever existed”. [11]

On 5 September 1816 he had married by special licence Lady Elizabeth Thynne, daughter of Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath and Viscount Weymouth MP.  Lady Elizabeth died on 16 February 1866, aged nearly 71. They had 11 children including their heir 2nd Earl Cawdor.

John Frederick Vaughan Campbell MP 20th Thane of Cawdor 2nd Earl Cawdor (1817-98)

John was born on 11 June 1817 in Grosvenor Square. He was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford. In accordance with family tradition he stood for election as an MP, but chose Pembrokeshire (where the family had more influence) rather than Carmarthenshire. He held the county seat for Pembrokeshire from 1841 until 1860, when his father died, and he moved to the House of Lords. Like his father who had switched in 1832 to the Tories, John also supported the Tories under Sir Robert Peel, who was Prime Minister 1834-5 and 1841-6. John served as private secretary to the Lord Privy Seal from 1841-2. He also served as a Deputy Lieutenant for Inverness-shire

On 28 June 1842 he was married (in a double wedding with his sister Elizabeth) at St George’s Hanover Square to Sarah Mary, second daughter of General Henry Compton Cavendish MP, son of the 1st Earl of Burlington. His army career was in the Dragoons and Life Guards and he served as an equerry to William IV in 1831 and as chief equerry and clerk marshal to Queen Victoria in 1837, as well as being MP for Derby 1812-34.

On his father’s death John succeeded to the titles as well as to the family estates in Nairnshire, Inverness-shire, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. In the Great Landowners of Wales Report[12] in 1873 Lord Cawdor had 51,538 acres in the three counties of south west Wales, with an estimated annual rental of £35,043, in addition to the Cawdor lands in Scotland of 50,119 acres, with an annual income of only £9,620. In 1880 Lord Cawdor was one of only 28 noblemen who owned over 100,000 acres in the UK, although he was in 28th position.

By the 1880s the 150 room Stackpole Court, though architecturally undistinguished, was one of the finest houses in the country.

Stackpole Court c1871 (Courtesy of Thomas Lloyd)

 In February 1902 Edward VII stayed as the guest. The hospitality of the Cawdors was renowned, with their large number of servants, the lovely scenic location, well-kept gardens and deer park, 100 acres of lakes and lily ponds created by the damming of three valleys in 1780 and 1860, two ornate bridges, unspoilt beaches at Barafundle Bay and Broad Haven South, miles of cliff tops overlooking the sea, and the innovative home farm with the latest agricultural methods. Stackpole village itself was moved in 1735 from its original medieval site to its current location to make way for a lovely deer park.

Countess Sarah died, aged 67, at Stackpole Court on 21 April 1881 and was buried in the Parish Church. John died from paralysis, aged 80, at Stackpole Court on 29 March 1898 and was buried with his wife. They had seven children including their heir, 3rd Earl Cawdor and:

(1)Lady Victoria Campbell (1843-1909) who on 24 January 1866 married Lt Col. Francis Lambton (1834-1921) at St George’s Chapel in Hanover Square; her uncle Rev Hon AG Campbell conducted the wedding. Initially they lived at 45 Cadogan Place in Chelsea and often visited Stackpole travelling by train to Pembroke and then by horse drawn carriage. He retired in 1873 and the family moved to Brownslade Mansion in Pembrokeshire in Castlemartin near Stackpole, which was part of the Stackpole estate and let to tenants who had to vacate; and:-

(2)  Captain Hon. Ronald George Elidor Campbell (1848-79) who was born on 30 December 1848, educated at Eton, commissioned in the Coldstream Guards in 1867, promoted Captain in 1871, becoming Adjutant 1st Battalion 1871-78. Having applied for special service in South Africa he served in the Anglo-Zulu Wars (1879-96) as Staff Officer to Col. Sir Evelyn Wood and was killed leading an assault on Hlobane Mountain on 28 March 1879, approaching the entrance to a cave. His two colleagues took the Zulu position and were both awarded VCs. Wood stated that if he had survived Ronald would also have been recommended for the VC. He died “in the performance of a most gallant act. He was buried where he fell by his comrades under the fire of the enemy” according to the citation. His wife later visited his gravestone which is on the battlefield.

Frederick Archibald Vaughan Campbell MP PC 21st Thane of Cawdor 3rd Earl Cawdor (1847-1911)

Frederick Campbell, the eldest son, was born on 13 February 1847 in Windsor. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford in accordance with family tradition. As Lord Emlyn the celebrations at Golden Grove for his attaining of his majority on 13 February 1868 involved the usual bonfires, cannon, fireworks and great festivities.

As Lord Emlyn in 1874 he was elected as a Conservative MP, being one of the two MPs for Carmarthenshire (the Reform Act 1832 had increased the number from one to two for the county). In the Commons he was active in Welsh affairs serving on the Aberdare Committee in 1880-81, set up by Prime Minister Gladstone, which resulted in the establishment of university colleges in Cardiff in 1883 and Bangor in 1884 and the passing of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889. He held his seat in the Commons until 1885 when Carmarthenshire was split into East and West divisions. He stood in 1886 for West Carmarthenshire despite most of his lands and influence being mainly in East Carmarthenshire and lost the election to the Liberal, W.R.H Powell. He then made unsuccessful attempts to be elected in South Manchester in 1892 and in Wiltshire in 1898.

He inherited the title on his father’s death, on 29 March 1898 when he became 3rd Earl Cawdor, 3rd Viscount Emlyn and 4th Baron Cawdor.

He was appointed as ecclesiastical commissioner 1880-1911. In 1886-93 he served as honorary commissioner in lunacy, and he also served as a magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant in the three counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Inverness.

Frederick was Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire from 1896 until his death in 1911. He commanded the Carmarthenshire militia and became its honorary colonel and also served as President of the Pembrokeshire Territorial Association. He acted as ADC to Queen Victoria 1889-1901, to Edward VII, and then to George V until his death.

Like his forbears he was a keen farmer and joined the Royal Agricultural Society in 1863 serving on its council for many years and as its President in 1901, and as President of the Carmarthenshire Chamber of Agriculture in 1872. In 1908 he served as President of the MCC[13] and in 1909 welcomed the Australian Test XI to Cawdor Castle before they visited Balmoral.

In 1890 he became a director of the Great Western Railway, Deputy Chairman in 1891 and Chairman in 1895-1905. He was a most successful chairman during a time of expansion and growth and had undoubted management skills in economy and efficiency. In 1903 he was described by Joseph Chamberlain as “the best chairman now living”. In March 1905 he was appointed by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour as First Lord of the Admiralty (and as a Privy Councillor), despite his lack of naval experience and his not having sat in Parliament since 1885. However, he only held that office for nine months because of illness and frequent absences.

Frederick Campbell, who inherited his titles in 1898, lived mainly in London where his political career was based. He also lived at his seat at Stackpole. The 1891 census shows the family at Stackpole with 23 servants, which by the 1901 census had increased to 25. Lord Cawdor was very interested in local history and he very kindly deposited all the volumes of the Golden Grove Book at the Public Record Office, which has assisted numerous historians.

On 16 September 1868 at Stoke Rochford near Lincoln Lord Cawdor aged 21 had married  Edith Georgiana Turnor, the daughter of Christopher and Lady Caroline Turnor. Their early married life was based at Golden Grove but they moved to Stackpole in later years.  Frederick died from pneumonia aged 63 on 8 February 1911, after a short illness in a nursing home in Mayfair. He was buried at Stackpole Church. A memorial service held at Holy Trinity, Brompton was well attended by politicians including Prime Minister Asquith. His wife Lady Edith died on 2 September 1926.

Correspondence discovered in the family archives suggests that between 1903 and 1905 a young married girl called Emily Buttercase had an affair with Lord Cawdor and then tried to blackmail him. [14] Her letters dated 3 February 1904 and 10 May 1904 contain threats…

“Cold cruel heartless man any how your people & children will know what a double life you have been leading……I am surprised at a man that considers himself a gentleman & an Earl to treat a woman who has been his mistress for years like you have done….I shall make it my business to see Lady Cawdor & tell her everything unless I hear from you. It will not pay you to treat me with contempt.”

It is unclear how the matter was finally resolved but correspondence with his lawyers suggests that he was clearly concerned that his wife who was “leading an invalid life & is nearly stone deaf” would be badly affected by such news.

Cawdor and his wife, Lady Edith, had 10 children including their heir 4th Earl Cawdor and:-

(1) Lady Edith Campbell (1869-1944) who was born on 11 July 1869 and on 21 November 1908 married Charles Ferguson of Marston Meysey Grange, Swindon, son of Lt Col. George Ferguson of Pitfour, Aberdeenshire.

(2) Lady Mabel Campbell (1876-1966) who was born on 24 February 1876 and on 7 July 1904 married Major Sir Henry (Harry) Bernard de la Poer Beresford-Peirse 4th Bt DSO (1875-1949) of Bedale in Yorkshire.

(3) Col Hon. Ian Campbell DSO TD (1883-1962) who was born on 17 November 1883 and educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge (BA 1905).  During the Great War he served with the army, was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the DSO. He retired as Colonel of the Lovat Scouts Yeomanry and was later Brigade Commander of the 152nd Seaforth and Cameron Infantry Brigade (TA) 1928-32. He was a Fellow and Bursar of Trinity Hall Cambridge 1919-28.

(4) Lt Col Hon Eric Octavius Campbell DSO and bar (1885-1918) who was born on 3 December 1885. He joined the army via the militia and was gazetted to the Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, Duke of Albany’s) on 20 December 1905. In 1914 he went to France as adjutant of the 2nd Battalion. He was awarded the DSO on 18 February 1915 and was wounded at St Julien on 25 April 1915. He then served as Brigade Major from January 1915 to September 1916. He was in hospital towards the end of 1916 and on return to duty resumed his appointment as Brigade Major to 44 Infantry Brigade in January 1917. In May 1917 he briefly commanded the 2nd Battalion before being given command of another battalion in the same regiment until May 1918 when a breakdown of health after four years of active service resulted in his being admitted to hospital again. He returned to the UK and on 24 May 1918 was mentioned in despatches for the third time. On 3 June 1918 he was awarded a bar to his DSO. On 4 June he died aged 33 of a cerebral haemorrhage in hospital in London. He was buried in the Cawdor plot of Stackpole Elidor Churchyard.

Hugh Frederick Vaughan Campbell 22ndThane 4th Earl Cawdor (1870-1914)

Hugh was born at Cawdor Castle in accordance with family tradition on 21 June 1870 and educated, like his forbears, at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford.

On 11 June 1898 Hugh married Joan Emily Mary Thynne, daughter of John Thynne and Mary MacGregor at Westminster Abbey. The 3rd Earl Cawdor and his daughter in law, Joan Thynne, were second cousins, both great grandchildren of 2nd Marquess of Bath, and thus Joan’s children and her husband Hugh were also fifth cousins to Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1898 when he obtained the curtesy title of Lord Emlyn on his grandfather’s death, he stood unsuccessfully as an MP for Pembrokeshire, the county for which his father was Lord Lieutenant. He served in the Carmarthenshire Artillery achieving the rank of Captain and Hon. Major, retiring in 1905. He also served as a magistrate in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and as a Deputy Lieutenant in Nairnshire and Carmarthenshire, but played no other part in public affairs.

He was a patron of homeopathy, launching in 1909 a National Homeopathic Fund of £50,000 with others to renovate the London Homeopathic Hospital, of which he served as president, treasurer and chairman. He was also chairman of the British Homeopathic Association. Joan’s grandfather Rev. Lord John Thynne, was a strong opponent of homeopathy and tried to get proponents prosecuted.

On 8 February 1911, Hugh inherited the titles, but was far too ill to manage his affairs. He was living at home at Stackpole in 1891, but during a later visit to Japan he contracted syphilis and became an invalid, very seriously ill and unable to manage his affairs for the last six years of his life. By 1911 he was in a sanatorium at the Retreat in Richmond, described as a “patient feeble-minded” aged 40. He died on 7 January 1914, aged 43, in a nursing home in Kingston upon Thames and was later buried in the open (like his father, rather than in the full family vault) at Stackpole Church, in a semi private service attended by many tenants of the Stackpole estate and servants in Stackpole Court. The circumstances and shame of his death traumatized Joan and affected the upbringing of their children who were quite young when their father died. Hugh and Joan had four children including their heir, 5th Earl Cawdor.

John (Jack) Duncan Vaughan Campbell 23rd Thane of Cawdor 5th Earl Cawdor (1900-70)

Jack was born on 17 May 1900. His early life was an unhappy one. He rarely saw his father who was in a sanatorium and died when he was only 14 years old. So Jack inherited the titles as a young boy. His traumatized mother never mentioned her husband again and Jack and his siblings became used to communicating with their mother by exchanging written notes. Eton was a tough school during the Great War. Jack joined the Royal Navy towards the end. He was keen on climbing and the outdoors and in 1924 set off on an expedition to Tibet with a botanist Frank Kingdon-Ward, to find a sacred waterfall and two new gorges not previously known in the West.[15] They were unsuccessful but brought back numerous species of new trees and plants. Jack later became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His writings and library of books and maps became well known; he was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. When in Scotland Jack always wore a kilt, sporran, tweed jacket and appropriate socks.

On 15 May 1929 Jack married his first wife, Wilma Vickers, the daughter of Vincent Vickers, of Edge Grove, Aldenham in Hertfordshire. The marriage was a difficult one, not helped by a bad car crash in which Jack suffered severe facial injuries which caused him years of painful headaches. The family lived principally in Stackpole and Cawdor Castle. Then in 1934 Jack returned to Cawdor Castle on his own, being unable to bear married life with his family in Wales.

Stackpole Court, a photograph taken by Jack Cawdor (Courtesy of the National Trust)

 In 1939 much of the Stackpole estate was requisitioned by the army for the Castlemartin Tank Training range. The Campbell family abandoned Stackpole and Golden Grove and the whole family returned to Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire, which was safe, although the Countess insisted on flying the Red Cross flag on the roof. Jack served in the army during WW2, was mentioned in despatches and achieved the rank of Lt Colonel of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders (TA) and was awarded the TD (Territorial Decoration). He also served as a magistrate for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, as a Deputy Lieutenant for Carmarthenshire, as Chairman of the Scottish Historic Buildings Council and as a trustee of the National Museum of Antiquities.

In the gardens of nearby Auchindoune House, then owned by his uncle Col. Ian Campbell and now the Cawdor summer residence and dower house, Jack created a wonderful Tibetan Garden with some of the collection of rare Tibetan plants brought back by him from his expedition. The arboretum and kitchen garden since added are popular with visitors.

Jack and Wilma had three children including their heir 6th Earl Cawdor. In 1961 Jack and Wilma divorced. On 29 June 1961 Jack married Elizabeth (Betty) Richardson, widow of Major Sir Alexander Gordon-Cumming 5th Bt MC with three young children. They continued to live in Cawdor Castle, Jack having handed over all the Welsh estates, including Stackpole and Golden Grove, to his son Hugh after his marriage in 1956.

On 9 January 1970 Jack died of a heart attack aged 70 and was buried in the graveyard of the local Parish Kirk at Cawdor. He had had a difficult upbringing, an unhappy first marriage, was addicted to alcohol and could be violent by nature. His son Hugh described him as a “rainbow of knowledge, anger, wit, courage and silence”.

Hugh John Vaughan Campbell 24th Thane of Cawdor 6th Earl Cawdor (1932-93)

Hugh was born on 6 September 1932 and educated at Eton and Magdalen College Oxford from where he was sent down for not working. He then went to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, and later qualified as a chartered surveyor. His varied interests included art (he became an accomplished artist), writing about Scottish history, a love of books and encyclopaedias, letter writing, conversation with wit, architecture, geology, fine wine, trees, of which he planted over one million, fast cars (he had numerous accidents and wrote off several), martial arts (he was a black belt of aikido), and piloting helicopters. He seems to have been a larger than life slightly eccentric figure. He also collected interesting writings. [16]

On 19 January 1956 Hugh married his first wife, Cathryn Hinde, second daughter of Major General Sir William (“Loonie”) Hinde of Shrewton House, Salisbury. She was  a member of the British ski team. Following their marriage his father, the 5th Earl, passed the Welsh estates to Hugh for him to manage and presumably to help avoid death duties. Hugh and Cathryn had five children.

Hugh and his young family lived initially at Stackpole, visiting Cawdor Castle from time to time. In 1939 the Campbell family had returned to Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire but after the war increasing costs and overheads as well as large taxes on the empty 150 roomed mansion were causing a real problem at Stackpole. Hugh applied for planning permission to refashion it into a more manageable size but when this was refused he demolished Stackpole Court in April 1963 after having removed the best internal features and moved them to a new house he had built in 1962 called Golden Grove House in Llangathen, across the valley from the old Golden Grove mansion. The remaining estate land in Pembrokeshire was sold, thus ending the family’s 260 year old ownership of the Stackpole estate. The sale of the remaining contents of Stackpole Court was one of the most important ever to be held in south west Wales. In 1967 some 1,993 acres of the Stackpole estate were transferred to the National Trust together with parkland, forestry, eight miles of coastline, beaches and dunes, and the lovely lily ponds.


*Unless otherwise stated illustrations are reproduced with permission of Lady Cawdor

[1] This article is based on the book by the author, The Vaughan (Earls of Carbery) and Campbell (Earls and Thanes of Cawdor) families of Golden Grove Carmarthenshire (2018).

[2] Francis Jones, The Chronicles of Golden Grove and Stackpole Court (unpublished in Francis Jones archives) and Historic Pembrokeshire Homes and their Families (2001), 264-5 and Treasury of Historic Pembrokeshire (1998), 256-293; RCAHMW; R. Fenton, A Historical Tour Through Pembrokeshire (1903),229-30. Thomas Lloyd, The Lost Houses of Wales (1989), 71.

[3] The Pryse family had won 14 Parliamentary elections in Cardiganshire between 1553 and 1714 as well as serving as Sheriff eleven times, they were Royalists and leaders in political and public affairs.

[4] Carms Record Office Cawdor archives – letter dated 13 April 1756.

[5] Charles Hassall’s Report c1796 (Francis Jones archives). Francis Jones, Some Farmers of Bygone Pembrokeshire in Cymmrodorion (1946),133-151, Cambrian 26 Jan 1805.

[6] Derek Linstrum, Sir Jeffry Wyatville Architect to the King ( 2004); ODNB; South Wales Daily News 11 Dec 1909.

[7] J.E. Thomas, Britain’s Last Invasion (2007); Francis Jones, Treasury of Historic Pembrokeshire (1998),100-102.

[8] Letter from Lord Cawdor to Lady Cawdor and Letter dated 27 Feb 1797 from Duke of Portland to Lord Cawdor expressing the King’s approbation of his conduct – copies in Francis Jones archives.

[9] PC Scarlett, A Memoir of Rt Hon James 1st Baron Abinger (1877), 94.

[10] M.Cragoe, Carmarthenshire County Politics 1804-37 in Carmarthenshire Antiquary (1993),75-9 and The Golden Grove Interest in Carmarthen Politics 1804-21 (MA thesis 1986) and Welsh History Review (1993),467-93.

[11] Henry Greville (1801-72), Diary 10 Nov 1860.

[12] Return of Owners of Land 1873. Francis Jones, Ceredigion (1960), 12-3. Brian James NLWJ (1966), XIV, 301-320.

[13], but the papers rather unkindly pointed out that he had failed to get into the XI at both Eton and Oxford –Evening Express 11 May 1908.

[14] Valerie Rouland, The Earl and the Girl-The Mystery of the Buttercase Case in Carmarthenshire Antiquary (2017),143-6.

[15] F. Kingdon-Ward and John D.V. Campbell, The Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges (1926). Ian Baker, The Heart of the World – A Journey to the Last Secret Place (2004).

[16] Thistles in Aspic (2000, published by the Dowager Countess Cawdor) contains part of his collection together with his own witty analysis of the visitors’ book at Cawdor Castle.

Medieval Llangwm in Context


 Medieval Llangwm in Context

By Dai Stephens

Llangwm is a village proud of its history. Long regarded in Pembrokeshire as idiosyncratic and somehow different from its neighbours, it has been the source of many romantic stories, not all of them strictly factual. The natives of Llangwm have told and retold these stories, and lately they have been taken up by more recent residents to promote the village, and, more especially, to obtain funding for much needed renewal projects such as the church. Sometimes, the desire for an interesting story has gone beyond what can be established historically. This essay is an attempt by an amateur historian, to delve into the records and works by professional historians, to discover what is truly documented about Llangwm, and to put the village history in the context of the wider history of Pembrokeshire, of Wales, and of even British and European events.

The Stephens family has a Llangwm association to compete with any of the still existing old Llangwm families, but our history can be traced back only until the mid-eighteenth century (though there was a William Stephens paying a hearth tax in Freystrop in 1670). In historical terms, we, like most others, are recent arrivals, our settlement occurring at a time when many were moving to the Welsh coalfields, perhaps to work as miners, perhaps as mine technicians or managers, perhaps to establish trades associated with mining, perhaps to contribute to the infrastructure on which such communities depended. In the intervening years, the Stephens have intermarried with the Jones, Palmers and, no doubt, other local families, but it is the nature of genealogies that the female side of the ancestry is often lost when the woman adopts the name of her husband. No matter. We all come from somewhere else, originally. Nevertheless, the history of the Llangwm community is of sufficient interest to have become something of an obsession. This is my attempt to bring some evidence and context to Llangwm’s history.

In the beginning…

Although Pembrokeshire has been inhabited from very early times, the Llangwm area carries sparse evidence of human activity. A fairly recent discovery of seventeen hundred and fourteen flint tools, including arrowheads, awls, and a saw in Llangwm Ferry, dates from the early Mesolithic era, perhaps 8000-6500 BC. The people who made these tools were hunter-gatherers, who probably camped briefly in Llangwm before moving on. More recent versions of flint tools dating from 6500 – 4000BC suggest that the site was also visited on later occasions.1 Another collection of Mesolithic flints was unearthed at Nash during the Llangwm Heritage Project’s dig in 2016. Nearby is a Neolithic cromlech, and a hanging stone. But, otherwise, evidence of human activity in and around Llangwm is sadly missing for much of prehistory.

If Arthur, in his pursuit of the Irish Twrch Trwyth, a magic boar and his seven piglets, along the river Cleddau to the first skirmish at Canaston Bridge, passed Llangwm on his way, the Mabinogion gives no hint that he waved in passing, or even noticed our village. And, while at least part of Pembrokeshire was ruled for lengthy periods during the period 400-800 by Irish kings, the extent to which their influence penetrated to the area we call Llangwm is unknown.  Although Danes from Dublin and Waterford entered the Haven, sometimes, like the twenty-three ships of 878 overwintering under way to Devon, sometimes as mercenaries employed by warring Welsh princes, perhaps as raiders, stories of Viking settlement in Llangwm appear to have no evidential basis, and certainly no archaeological finds that support them. Even the existence of nearby Scandinavian place names, such as Freystrop, may indicate later settlements that occurred at the time of Henry I’s plantation of Rhos in the twelfth century with Flemings and English, some of them with Scandinavian ancestry.2 Nor has any Welsh settlement left any record, apart from two Celtic grave slabs from the tenth or eleventh centuries. These suggest that a place of worship of some sort existed on the site of the present church prior to Norman medieval times, which would be consistent with the existence of a llan in the valley that the name Llangwm indicates. But no records exist till Llangwm emerges from its anonymous past in the late thirteenth century.

Medieval Llangwm

It is a common view, based on W. Grenville Thomas’ useful little book Llangwm through the Ages,3 that the first documentary evidence for Llangwm occurs in 1244. This account itself appears to have been based upon a claim in Henry Owen’s Old Pembroke Families. 4 In that year, David de Rupe, lord of “Landegunnie and Maynclochauc”, is said to have made a grant to the abbot and convent of Albadomus [Whitland] of common of pasture over all his land of Pressely for seven years from 1303, and remission of 2s. annual rent minus one penny.5 This text, from the British Museum archives, written in Latin, is commonly cited as the first known written version of the village name. “de Rupe” is the Latinised form of the Norman French “de la Roche”, and thus also apparently provides the first evidence of an association between the de la Roche family and the village. However, there is something curious about the dates: Why would David de la Roche make an agreement with the Abbot in 1244, which only came into force some 60 years later, thus potentially compromising the interests of his descendants? The answer is simple. He didn’t. A search of the British Museum catalogue6 reveals that 1244 refers not to the date of the transaction, but to the paragraph number documenting the entry. However, in an attempt to rationalise the error, Grenville Thomas, following Henry Owen, then cites the same source for a “renewal” of the lease in 1303, ostensibly by another (but presumably actually the same) David de la Roche. Most likely, the first David did not exist.

Interestingly, the British Museum catalogue which documents this transaction provides an index entry for David de Rupe:  “Llandegwning (co. Pemb.), lord of, 1244” similarly referring to the entry number, not the date.    However, there does not seem to be any independent evidence that Landegunnie is actually Llangwm, except that Landegunnie is associated with the de la Roche family, and the de la Roche family is associated with Llangwm.


The Hundred of Rhos was initially settled by the Flemings in the early years of the twelfth century, nearly 200 years before David’s agreement with the Abbot, so why is there no mention of Llangwm until this date?  In this context, it is worth asking what was going on at that time in Pembrokeshire.

Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

As every schoolchild knows, the Normans invaded England in 1066. At that time, Wales had recently been united under Grufudd ap Llwelyn into a single kingdom (1057 – 1063). The Normans had enough on their plates in subjecting England to their rule, and largely ignored Wales, sealing it off by the establishment of military strongholds along the border (March) under the rule of essentially autonomous barons. Nevertheless, the Normans were recruited by Maredudd ap Owain, King of Deheubarth (of which Pembrokeshire was part), in his campaign against Caradog ap Gruffudd of Morgannwg in 1072. William the Conqueror made an ostensibly purely religious pilgrimage to St Davids in 1081 (though, most likely it was a demonstration to the Welsh of his military power, intended to keep them from interfering in affairs in England). William also used the opportunity to negotiate with Maredudd’s grandson, Rhys ap Tewdyr, now King of Deheubarth, offering support for his rule in Deheubarth, on condition of fealty and payment of tribute.

By 1093 this alliance had broken down, and in that year, Rhys ap Tewdyr was defeated at Brecon, opening the way for a Norman invasion of South Wales. In the same year, Arnulf de Montgomery took Pembroke from the Haven, allowing his father, Roger de Montgomery, to establish a fort, described by the twelfth–thirteenth-century Itinerarium Kambriæ as a “slender fortress built of stakes and turf”. Roger died in 1094 and Gerald de Windsor took over administration of the castle, and was subsequently made steward by the Conqueror’s son, Henry I.  Gerald married Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdyr (and previously lover of Henry prior to his accession to the throne), beginning a tradition of the invaders legitimising their presence by intermarrying with the Welsh aristocracy. In 1100, the Norman, Gilbert de Clare, established a castle in Haverford. It is during this same period that Godebert the Fleming, ancestor of the de la Roche clan, is born (1096), supposedly in Rhos, but more plausibly in Pembroke or even Flanders.

Although the Normans had established strongholds at Pembroke and Haverford, the Welsh had not been sufficiently subjugated, and Henry I boosted his efforts to tame them by bringing in settlers from outside Wales to South Pembrokeshire. In 1108 colonisation was extended across the Haven by the transfer of Flemish settlers into Rhos, possibly under the leadership of William de Brabant.  The first wave of Flemings probably came to Pembrokeshire directly from Flanders, but a subsequent (1155) group came from Northumbria, where they had initially been planted.7 The Flemings, unwanted and troublesome in Northumbria, and disliked throughout England, were attracted by the prospect of land, light rents or services and perhaps a temporary exemption of certain tithes. However, the Flemings were not alone, and Henry I also planted English settlers, mainly from Devon and Somerset who, by the turn of the twelfth century outnumbered both the Flemings and the remaining native Welsh. Indeed, so numerous were the English colonists that by the early fourteenth century, much of south Pembrokeshire was predominantly English, the Welsh, Flemings and Normans having been fully absorbed. The influence of this settlement was vastly greater than that of the Flemings both in language and farming methods. 8

Although the Welsh communities were for the most part evicted and their settlements appropriated, including fertile land belonging to the Bishop of St. Davids in Llanstadwell and St. Ishmael’s, the Bishop’s extensive estates in Burton were unaffected.9 Remember, parts of present day Llangwm, including Guildford and Llangwm Ferry were previously part of Burton, and not incorporated into Llangwm until the 1950s. If parish boundaries were based on pre-existing lordships, parts of present-day Llangwm may well have been within the Bishop’s remit. Indeed, it is remarkable that although Flemish/Norman settlements such as Burton, Llanstadwell and St Ishmael’s are documented, Llangwm, or any precursor name, does not enter the record at this time. Might it be that nothing resembling a village existed where Llangwm now exists, and that the entire area formed part of Burton, or even Rosemarket or Freystrop administrative districts?

How the land was organised amongst the planters is unclear. According to Joyce, the area settled by the Flemings was divided into various lordships, but there are no early records concerning their number and extent.10 Most of Pembrokeshire of the time would have been uncultivated woodland and heath. Joyce suggests that a preliminary scouting of the province was made in order to evaluate its size, topography and resources such as Welsh settlements, arable or pastoral farming, meadow, woodland, waste, streams, lakes, marsh and fisheries, etc. before it was divided into various lordships.  By the late twelfth century, the area under Norman/Flemish control on the northern side of the river was made up of three (or perhaps four) baronies, under the leadership of William de Brabant.

The land belonging to each barony was scattered, possibly to allow each to hold both fertile and less fertile land, to give each one access to the coast, and to allow each barony to take responsibility for defence on the borders with the Welsh areas, with the establishment of forts.  The centres of each barony were decided strategically; Roch lay near the coast and commanded extensive views across the northern district, Haverford controlled the lowest ford of the Western Cleddau river, while Walwyn’s Castle dominated the south western peninsula. By the early twelfth century the three baronies were held by Godebert, Tancred and Walwyn, respectively.

On the basis of documents outlining the military commitments of these lordships to their Pembroke overlord, Joyce suggests a fourth lordship that included Rosemarket, which was commercially important at the time and for many years to come. Twelfth century Rosemarket was held jointly by the barons, presumably as the joint commercial centre of Flemish Rhos. By the thirteenth century the neighbouring parishes of Johnston, Llanstadwell and part of Burton belonged to the baronies of Roch, Haverford and Walwyn’s Castle respectively, but it is possible that they were previously associated with Rosemarket, jointly providing military personnel and access to the Haven and Western Cleddau for the three main lordships.

In keeping with the requirement that each barony should be responsible for holding a position on the borders with the Welsh, the defensive duties of the fourth lordship may have been based on Camrose, where a motte and bailey fort lies between Roch and Haverford. Camrose parish is the largest in the province. Although land locked, it may have gained access to the sea by possessing Lambston and Haroldston West, which were held subsequently in the fourteenth century by Roch and Walwyn’s Castle respectively. Joyce suggests that the baron of Camrose, as well as leader of the whole settlement north of the river, was William de Brabant.

According to this account, then, the northern section was originally split between the lordships of Roch and Camrose, while the eastern part, running along the Western Cleddau to Llangwm, was allocated to Camrose and Haverford. The vulnerable south-western peninsula was protected by Walwyn’s Castle, while responsibility for the coastline from Newgale to St. Ann’s Head and up the river to Burton was defended turn and turnabout by the four lordships.

The dates at which these divisions were established is not clear. Godebert, the baron at Roch, was born about 1096. In 1108, at the time of the first Flemish settlements north of the Haven, he would thus have been only 12 years of age, so we can assume that the baronies were formed later than this date (or that someone else first held the Roch barony). The colonisation was disrupted in 1110 when Prince Owain ap Cadwgan of Powys raided Dyfed, supported by mercenary ships from the Norse towns of Ireland. After Owain’s forces ambushed and killed William de Brabant Henry I removed Cadwgan, Owain’s father and king of Powys, from the lordship of Ceredigion and awarded it to Gilbert fitz Richard de Clare who established forts throughout the region. This reduced the danger to the south and immigration continued, with the lordship of Camrose possibly being granted to William de Brabant’s brother, and Daugleddau newly colonised by Wizo, recently arrived from Flanders.

According to Llangwm Heritage,11 Godebert settled in Llangwm at nearby Great Nash Farm in 1120. I can find no other source for this claim, and it seems questionable since Godebert’s responsibilities lay in Roch, and the area from Haverford down to Llangwm was within the Haverford barony, and thus Tancred’s fiefdom. By 1130, the Camrose barony seems to have been taken into royal administration, with Godebert paying ‘for the land which Lambert Echeners holds’, perhaps the principal estate in Lambston parish. Thus Godebert was extending his influence from Roch towards the south. According to the Llangwm History Society, Godebert died in 1131.

The Welsh fight back

Henry I died in 1135 and the throne went to his nephew, Stephen, not, as promised, to Matilda, Henry’s daughter. The resulting civil war distracted the English crown from affairs in Wales and in January 1136, the Welsh defeated the Normans in the Gower, some 500 men dying on both sides. Although the settlement of the Flemings was supposed to have pacified Pembrokeshire, in October that year Prince Owain Gwynedd and Gruffydd ap Rhys (Tarw) destroyed a 3,000 strong Norman/Flemish army assembled from across south Wales at Crug Mawr near Cardigan. The monk, John of Worcester, continuing the Chronicle undertaken by the better-known monk-historian Florence of Worcester (d.1118), and writing contemporaneously, even suggests that over 10,000 died, partly as the result of a bridge collapsing as the Norman army and its followers fled.12 As a result, Deheubarth (i.e. southwest Wales) was incorporated into Prince Owain’s Gwynedd. During 1137 the now defenceless Rhos was devastated and Norman/Flemish influence never fully recovered in west Wales (though Pembroke and some other castles were not taken).  John of Worcester writes for the year 1137,

“The Welsh, having suffered much in defence of their native land, not only from the powerful Normans, but also from the Flemings, after numbers had fallen on both sides, at length subdued the Flemings, and did not cease to commit devastation on all sides, plundering and burning the vills and the castles, and putting to death all who made any resistance, and the helpless as well as the armed.”

A consequence was the reorganisation of the remains of the settlement. In 1138 the Earldom of Pembroke was established to secure control of Pembroke, and the first Earl, Gilbert de Clare (Strongbow), granted palatinate powers. This was bolstered by a new settlement in 1155 as Henry II banished all Flemings living in England to west Wales. Camrose (and its fees) was divided among the lords of Roch, Walwyn’s Castle and Haverford. The fertile parishes around Rosemarket were shared; Roch received Johnston; Burton (excluding the Bishop’s land) went to Walwyn’s Castle, while Haverford received Llanstadwell. The rest of Rosemarket (village, church, market, etc.) were held jointly, while the remaining lands were divided among the three lordships.

Impact of Events on Llangwm

Whether these events regarding Rosemarket had consequences for Llangwm is not known. According to CADW, Llangwm was a medieval mesne lordship (i.e.the lord had tenants, and was himself a tenant to a superior lord), and was a holding of the de Vales until a Roche kinsman, Gilbert de la Roche, acquired it in the late thirteenth century.13 The de Vales, perhaps better associated with Dale Castle (probably originally Vale Castle), but who also owned other manors, including one Morvil, near Clynderwen, were descended from a knight who had accompanied Robert fitz Martin in his invasion of North Pembrokeshire in 1136 (during which the Norman/Flemish army was heavily defeated near Cardigan ). Robert de Vale was central to the administration of the Earldom of Pembroke under the Earl, William de Valence ( Henry III’s half-brother, by their mother, widow of King John). Robert is mentioned in a letter to the King from the Earl requesting that Robert de Vale be excused attendance at legal proceedings in Shrewsbury as he was needed in West Wales carrying out the king’s service. Note, however, that William de Valence did not arrive in England until 1247. He did not assume the Earldom of Pembroke (through marriage to Joan Marshal, one of the five daughters of William Marshal) until after 1250. De Vale’s main allegiance lay directly with the Pembroke earldom, and it is thus interesting that the relationship of Llangwm to the Lordship of Haverford, within which it lay physically, was always a matter of dispute. (A parallel dispute existed between the de Valence family who claimed the right to refer legal cases within their holdings in Roose (Rhos) to the court at Pembroke, and not that at Haverford). It may be significant that when, in 1295, the de Valence family specified places within the lordship of Haverford over which they claimed jurisdiction, these included land in Llangwm. (It seems likely that although the de Valence family claimed jurisdiction over the Llangwm estate, it would have been leased out to one of his liegemen, perhaps de Vale?)

What then, was the reason that the lordship of Llangwm came into the hands of the de la Roche family? According to Henry Owen’s Old Pembroke Families,

“Roch Castle remained the “caput baroniae”. There is ample evidence that the de la Roches of Langum were a branch distinct from the lords of Roch until they were united by the marriage of David and Johanna in 1315; their residence was either at the Castle House at Langum or at a house where now Great Nash stands. They were buried in the de la Roche Chapel in Langum; the family of Roch Castle were buried at Pill”.

Despite some confusion between Castle House and Great Nash this account indicates that the notion of a link between Godebert and Llangwm is speculative.14  It would then follow that Godebert’s sons Rodebert and Robert who joined the invasion of Ireland by Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, in 1167 were also not from Llangwm. Although it is conceivable that one of the brothers now established himself in Llangwm, while the other ruled at Roch, this leaves the part played by the de Vale family unclear.  Rodebert had three sons, Adam, Henry and David. They adopted the surname de la Roche only after Adam had built a castle on the rocky promontory at Roch in the early thirteenth century, perhaps suggesting that the de la Roche association with Nash developed only after Adam had taken the name.  According to the Llangwm History Society, Godebert’s grandson, David, (b.1160) held Llangwm as his fiefdom. However, in contrast, Grenville Thomas holds that the Llangwm branch of the family is traceable to Robert, (David’s brother?), “probably the son of Richard, Rodbert’s brother, who was also granted land at Talbenny by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, who died in 1219”. Further confusion arises from documents indicating that the estate came into the hands of Gilbert de la Roche, presumably the (great?) grandson of Richard, and father of another David, from the previous owners, the de Vales, in the late thirteenth century.15

Sir Adam de Rupe/de la Roche and Llangwm Church

Equally confusingly, as early as 1185, it was a Sir Adam de la Roche, who was responsible for creating an endowment, allowing the building (or possibly re-building) of Llangwm church. Why it was Adam, rather than the postulated Llangwm brother, David, who undertook this work is unclear.  Perhaps it is important that the Normans did not rely solely on military might to subdue the Welsh. They also used religion. The lack of structure of the Welsh church did not fit well with Norman rule, while the aims of the Church of Rome were compatible with the Norman style. The Normans thus undertook reorganisation of the church in Wales, including the establishment of parishes. Might it be that the building of a Norman church in Llangwm and the establishment of a parish associated with the Llangwm lordship was one of the routine responsibilities of the baron at Roch, irrespective of who held the local lordship?

Such an account would fit with Adam’s founding of Pill Priory. The charter establishing the Priory acknowledges that the land granted to the Priory was insufficient to finance the building of the monastery, and the decent maintenance of the monastic community. For that reason, Adam also contributed the income of all the churches for which he was responsible, together with the tithes of his mills. Whether Llangwm was one of those churches is not known. The importance of such grants can be seen from documents of 1291, almost a century later, when Pill’s own temporal possessions (i.e. possessions not directly involved with its spiritual duties) were valued at £24 4s. 10d. while four churches (St Cewydd (Steynton), St Mary (Roch), St David (Little Newcastle) and St Nicholas (New Moat)) contributed £38. If Llangwm contributed at all, it would have been very little, as Llangwm had no ecclesiastical income other than that deriving from the church itself, with no income from lands in its possession.16

de Vales and de la Roches

Robert de Vale married twice, first Avelina of Wideworth, and following her death, Margaret. He left four daughters and his estate was divided into four portions as documented in a subsequent 1303 charter of Geoffrey Hascard, relating to land in Johnston which had been rented to him by David de la Roche. Geoffrey Hascard calls on the heirs of Robert de Vale to recognise this agreement, implying that David de la Roche had been acting on de Vale’s behalf. Importantly, from the point of this essay, among the heirs named were Gilbert de la Roche of Llangum, the husband of one of the daughters of Robert de Vale, and the father of David. Thus, it seems likely that the de la Roche family came into the ownership of Nash, through the de Vale daughter. This account, of course, comes into conflict with the apparent association of David de la Roche with Landegunnie already in 1244, in his agreement with the Whitland abbot, and, since Robert de Vale seems to have died in 1298, the transfer of the Llangwm estate to the de la Roche family cannot have occurred as an inheritance. However, if, as already suggested, the 1244 date is an historical error and the actual date of the agreement with the Abbot of Whitland is 1303, these dates fall nicely into place. David de la Roche acquired Llangwm through his wife’s inheritance, as late as 1298, or, as part of her dowry, a little earlier.

Thirteenth Century

One might imagine that a Flemish lord of the manor at Nash, and the (re?)building of the Llangwm church would be good evidence that the Flemish settlement of Rhos had been accomplished and a period of Norman/Fleming-dominated peace ensued below the Landsker. Not so! The Welsh were continuously fighting back, and in 1189 Rhys ap Gruffydd recovered south Pembrokeshire. Whether, and how, this affected Llangwm and its environs is unknown.

Again, a generation later in 1215, Llywelyn the Great came to Dyfed. After taking Narberth and Wiston castles, he attacked Haverford and burnt the town, (though he failed to take the castle) before spending the next five days ravaging Rhos and Dungleddau. With Haverford only 5 miles away, and the important market of Rosemarket just over the hill, it seems unlikely that a settlement in Llangwm could have been immune from such events. Indeed, according to R.F. Walker, Roose was ravaged down to the northern shores of Milford Haven.17 Were the villagers second and third generation Flemish settlers who feared the Welsh, or Welsh serfs who welcomed a chance of rebellion to recover their own property and lifestyle, or, indeed, surviving Welsh peasantry in constant fear of their Flemish neighbours? Or were they innocent bystanders and victims of the ambitions of lords of either side under whose rule they existed? Was the rout by the Welsh army followed by the pillage that was the usual consequence of such an invasion of the time?  Or a time of liberation? Let us remember, for the ordinary people, in economic terms it probably mattered little who was their lord. For the ordinary people, this was a time of raw existence.

The Normans gain the Ascendancy in South Pembrokeshire

In 1245, following the death of Walter and Anselm Marshal without male heirs, the earldom of Pembroke was partitioned. The barony of Walwyn’s Castle was granted to Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester; Haverford was divided into three parts, one third to Maud and her husband Roger Mortimer, another to Eva and William de Cantilupe, and the last to Eleanor and Humphrey de Bohun, “homage and service of the barony of Roch” being included in Eleanor’s share.  Sometime between 1252 and 1255 the Cantilupes transferred their portion to the Bohuns who thereafter controlled most of Rhos. The Bohuns held Haverford castle until 1265 when it was given to William de Valence (King Henry III’s half-brother), who also received the Bohun portion of the lordship until 1274 during the minority of the Bohun heir.

This account thus leaves us with several puzzles. Of most concern to historians of Llangwm might be the question, “Why do the de la Roch family turn up in Llangwm so late, and in an area ostensibly within the Haverford lordship?” One potential explanation, that Llangwm’s lord was a de Vale, with primary allegiance to Pembroke castle, has already been mentioned.  Another possible solution is that the Nash estate resulted as a consequence of the death of Walter Marshall, and the inheritance of his Haverford lands by his daughters (and, thus, their husbands).  By 1247 nearby Rosemarket was in the hands of the Knights Hospitaler, while neighbouring Burton (presumably including Llangwm Ferry and Guildford) now belonged to the Stackpole estate, following its purchase by Philip de Stackpole (d. 1257) from Peter de Leia, Bishop of St Davids (1176–1198). Part of Burton, though, must still have belonged to the Bishopric of St Davids, as the building of Benton Castle, in Burton parish, is accredited to one of Peter de Leia’s successors, Bishop Thomas Beck, in about 1293.  In 1307, the associated holding comprised the castle itself, valued at 2s yearly, and a handsome 10 carucates of land (more than a thousand acres), held from Guy de Brian, the baronial lord of Walwyn’s Castle, by homage and knight-service. The knight in question is named as Thomas de Roche, Lord of Llangwm, raising yet another puzzle regarding the succession of the Llangwm estate, as other records indicate David as lord in both 1303 and at his marriage in 1315.

Fourteenth Century

The de la Roche family remained associated with Llangwm over the next few hundred years. The marriage of David to his cousin Johanna (from the senior de la Roche lineage) in 1315 was remembered in Llangwm as part of the Llangwm Heritage celebrations in 2016. Clearly, the de la Roches as a family prospered, but it is unclear what this meant for Llangwm.

In 1324, Aymer de Valence (son of William), (whose property included the lordship of Haverford) died. The resulting Inquisitions Post Mortem,18 drawn up to allow proper allocation of the inheritance, lists the fees payable by the Lordship of Haverford. These amount to nine and one tenth knights fees, based on the manors held through the Haverford lordship. Among them, William de Roche is listed as holding Roch within the Haverford barony. However, it is of considerable interest that Llangwm, although physically located within the Lordship of Haverford, is not among the knights fees listed in the 1324 Inquisition, perhaps indicating that it was separate from the Haverford lordship. Joyce suggests that Llangwm had been instead awarded to the Mortimer family in 1247, and that at the time of the Inquisitions Post Mortem in 1324, Geoffrey de la Roche held two such fees (one of them Llangwm) under the Mortimers. However, by 1376, the Mortimers were in disfavour, their holdings being taken into the hands of the king. Nevertheless, the de la Roches were unaffected and the Llangwm estate was now held by the de la Roche family directly from the king.

The de la Roche family history now becomes confused, but eventually Roch also was taken into the king’s hands following the death of one John de la Roche in 1376. John had likely held Roch during the minority of his niece, Margaret Fleming, who subsequently died, still in minority, in 1382.  John had held extensive estates some of them directly from the Earl of Pembroke and others under various lords. These  included the manor at Dale (consistent with a de Vale inheritance) as well as the manors and advowsons of “Landecombe” under the barony of Roch, and land at Guildford (then part of Burton) under Isabella, widow of Sir John Wogan of Picton, (the first mention of Guildford in the records).

However, with John, the male line of the Roch heirs of the de la Roche family had come to an end, and the Roch holdings were divided among the four sisters of the previous lord, William. One of these was Joan/Johanna who had married David de la Roche of Llangwm, and who nominated her grandson, Thomas, then aged 11, to the inheritance.  Since Thomas was still a minor, he (and his lands) were placed in the custody of Sir Thomas Bermingham in November 1382. Thomas later married Bermingham’s daughter, Elizabeth. However, the Roch inheritance was complex, and was not finally solved until 1392 when Richard II issued a writ partitioning the inheritances of the de la Roches of Roch Castle to the nominees of William’s four sisters. Johanna’s nominee, now Sir Thomas de la Roche, of Llangwm, as representative of the eldest sister, received Roch castle.  However, even this royal decision wasn’t final, and Henry IV, on coming to the throne in 1399, ordered yet another enquiry, which finally settled the matter in favour of Thomas. By 1399, Thomas Roche was listed as a “King’s esquire”, suggesting that he now held Llangwm directly under the King, rather than through the Earl, consistent with Haverford coming under the direct custody of the Crown following the deaths of several Earls and the minorities of their sons, but also consistent with a role of Thomas at Pembroke.


The Glyndŵr Uprising

The hegemony of the Anglo-Normans in Wales was again threatened in 1400-1415. In the summer of 1401, an army of 1,500 raised largely in Pembrokeshire south of the Landsker took on the much smaller 150-strong force of Owain Glyndŵr at Hyddgen, on moorland north of Plynlimon in mid-Wales. The Pembrokeshire force, poorly led and inappropriately equipped, lost over 200 men, giving Glyndŵr his first military success. By 1403, the county was under threat of invasion by Glyndŵr who took Carmarthen, leading an army of 8,000.

On 31st August, Carmarthen was recaptured by Crown forces, and placed under the command of Thomas Roche (of Llangwm), who had been constable of Pembroke Castle since 1399. This success was very short-lived, and Thomas was captured together with his men only a few days later. Given that Thomas Roche was a descendant of Robert de Vale through the marriage of de Vale’s daughter to Gilbert de la Roche, while Owain Glyndŵr was the great-grandson of her sister, Thomas and Owain were cousins, an interesting quirk of Llangwm history. Clearly Thomas was of some importance to the King, since, in October, Thomas’ wife, Elizabeth, was issued with a royal licence to negotiate his ransom, if necessary in return for the release of Welsh prisoners. With south Wales still in rebellion these negotiations had apparently not succeeded by June 1406 when Thomas was allowed to appoint attorneys to oversee his affairs during his imprisonment.

Glyndŵr soon returned westwards and by November 1405 Pembrokeshire succumbed to the Franco-Welsh allies. Against the express instructions of the King, the local lords negotiated a truce with Glyndŵr on payment of £200 in silver, with instructions to every lordship in the county to acknowledge the agreement, and to contribute to the sum. The truce held considerably longer than the six months agreed, allowing some reconstruction of the Pembrokeshire economy to occur without further disruption from the Franco-Welsh allies.

The male de la Roche line ended with the death of Thomas some time before 1413, when his wife is mentioned as a widow. However, given Thomas’ responsibilities first as constable of Pembroke castle, then in the King’s army, then his imprisonment, one may doubt whether he was truly resident in Llangwm, or whether Llangwm was just one of his extensive holdings. One daughter, Elizabeth, married Sir George Longueville, whose descendants retained Roch castle until 1601, while another daughter, Eleanor, married Lord Ferrers of Chartley, thus giving rise some generations later to the Earls of Essex. Perhaps for that reason, the family was associated with the Earl of Essex’s attempted overthrow of Elizabeth I in 1601, and, on its failure, fled to France. Local legend has it that before doing so, they hid many of their valuables in an underground passage said to connect Nash to the church, but no evidence exists for either the treasure or the passage. Grenville Thomas disputes the accuracy of the legend on the basis that the Nash family were already in residence in Nash before this time and that by 1601 the Nashes had given way to the Philipps.

However, it seems possible that Llangwm came into the possession of the de la Roche family through an association with the de Vales of Dale Castle, and it is thus of interest that one of the few records pertaining to the Nash family is an incomplete pedigree discovered in the Dale Castle manuscript.19 Were, perhaps, the Nash family also related to the de Vales, and thus cousins of the de la Roche family?

Fifteenth Century

Following the death of Thomas de la Roche accounts of the Llangwm lordship practically disappear.  From some time before 1582, the Nash family were in residence in Great Nash Sir Richard Nash died at Nash in 1582, though his ancestors came from Jeffreyston, and it is unclear when Great Nash came into possession of the Nash family.  Sir Richard was succeeded by his daughter Janet, who had married Alban Philipps of Picton some time before 1594.  Nevertheless, we are left with a century and a half between Thomas de Roche and Sir Richard Nash in which I can find no account of the manor. Grenville Thomas interprets certain carvings within Llangwm church as representing the coat of arms of the Bowens of Lochmeylir, a family into which an earlier Richard Nash had married. Similar evidence points to an association of the Barri family of Manorbier, but whether either family played  a role in Llangwm’s history is unknown.

Detail from Christopher Saxton’s map of Pembrokeshire, 1578, showing spelling of Llangum.

Some notes on life in the village

In 1376, Llangwm was held by John de Roche, who additionally held extensive lands throughout Pembrokeshire. In Llangwm his holdings consisted of the manor house, a dovecot (worth 4s annually), a garden with “herbage” and fruit (also worth 4s), and the herbage of a wood. Although possession of a wood should have been valuable to the Lord of the Manor in terms of timber Llangwm was unusual in that woods were held in common for use by the estate’s tenants, both free and unfree. Similar common rights extended (but only after haymaking) to the valuable meadow land of about 3 acres, which thus had limited worth to the lord (6s.8d.).  Other agricultural land consisted of 3 carucates (a carucate is defined as the extent that can be cultivated by one plough in one year and a day and is about 120 acres, but whether the Llangwm carucates were that large seems doubtful as they had a worth of 13s. 4d, only twice the value of the 3-acre meadow). Curiously, given the reputation of the Flemings of twelfth century Pembrokeshire for wool production, no mention is made in the records of such activity in the Llangwm estate. In addition to income directly from his land, Sir John received rents from his tenants worth £2 13s. 4d., giving a total income of £4 1s. 4d. Contrast this amount with the income from an equivalent English knight’s annual income of between £20 and £40. Even within Wales, it has been suggested that the fourteenth century, a knight might have an income of £10 to £20, an esquire half that, and a fifteenth century gentleman less.  Clearly, the Lord of Llangwm did not get by on his Llangwm income alone.

However rural and feudal Pembrokeshire had been, by 1500 it was rapidly changing, even on the land.  Enclosed fields were to be found in the Hundred of Roose, around the seats of the gentry and freehold farms. Individual tenants might hold a few small scattered plots, so that in 1623-4 a recommendation was made to exchange and consolidate such plots and allow their tenants to enclose them. Nevertheless, Llangwm was still organised as a manor, paying a knight’s fee as late as the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.20

Despite its association with the upwardly mobile de la Roche family, and later with the Nash family, one should not imagine that Llangwm had much importance in its own right. In 1563 the entire population of Llangwm (including Hook, but excluding Guildford) was only 15 households – giving an estimated total population of 60 to 70.  Burton and Rosemarket were perhaps double that size and Freystrop and Johnston a little smaller. Only five of the twenty-eight parishes in the hundred of Roose had fewer people, and Grenville Thomas speculates that Langome was not really a village at all in a modern sense, but a few dispersed clusters of dwellings. If the manor house at Nash possessed a usual number of servants for the time, then one can speculate the number of other villagers was even lower. According to the Black Book of the Household, drawn up by Edward IV in 1471-2, a knight’s household might have 16 servants. An esquire could make do with ten. 21 Thus, Llangwm differed from nearby nuclear villages like Rosemarket which showed the typical Norman structure of a manor house with nearby church and a surrounding settlement. Indeed, the physical separation of the manor house at Nash, and the church on the Green, speaks strongly against Llangwm existing as a nuclear village.

The world was on the brink of change, to which Pembrokeshire, and Llangwm in particular, were not immune. Indeed, Llangwm seems to have been radically affected, for between 1563 and 1670, the number of dwellings increased from 15 to 73, by far the largest percentage increase in Roose (or even Pembrokeshire), where most parishes remained stagnant or increased only modestly in size. In comparison, neighbouring Burton increased from 36 to 65, Rosemarket from 32 to 50, and Freystrop from 12 to 28. The cause was almost certainly the development of coal mining, providing both a need for labour and opportunity to escape from the land. Another factor was the number of Irish refugees pouring into Pembrokeshire. Already in 1528 Sir Rhys ap Grufydd complained that 20,000 Irishmen had landed in Pembrokeshire within the past year. While that may have been an exaggeration, the impact must have been enormous bearing in mind that the total population of Pembrokeshire at the time was less than that number. George Owen remarks that some parishes became entirely Irish, apart from the priest 22. Another wave of Irish came in 1628 and 1629, transported in small boats, one case citing 70 Irishmen being carried in a boat of ten tons. They arrived in an area already hungry from a shortage of corn that was being bought up by merchants and exported. A further wave of Irish refugees came in October 1641.

While south Pembrokeshire and Rhos may have had a strong Flemish influence in the mid thirteenth century, three hundred years later any remaining Flemish influence had been overtaken by English and Irish immigrants, and by influx from neighbouring Welsh areas, partly as the coalfield developed, but also with land ownership. Consistent with such changes, the Hearth Tax returns of 1670, providing the first listing of names of people living in the parish, shows a strong representation of Welsh surnames, while others may be of English origin (though the rector, Henry Purefoy seems to have a French name, consistent with the identity of the church and the aristocracy). The owner of Great Nash at this time was Thomas Corbet, but many of the other Llangwm landowners carried names like Eynon, Jones, Meredith, and Davies. The age of Llangwm as a Flemish village, if it ever truly existed, was long over.


  1. David, et al., Llangwm: a newly identified early Mesolithic site in southwest Wales, in Archaeology in Wales 54, 15 – 24.
  2. Heather James, Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. I, 382.
  3. W. Grenville Thomas, Llangwm through the Ages, ( Haverfordwest, 1991).
  4. Henry Owen, Old Pembroke Families, page 75.
  5. Bob Joyce. “Ancient lordships of Pembrokeshire”, in The Journal of Pembrokeshire Historical Society, 2016.
  6. Llangwm Heritage
  7. John of Worcester page 252
  8. CADW: Hook
  9. Haverford IPM (1324): Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward II, Vol. VI, (Hereford 1910), 336-337.
  10. The Dale Castle manuscript may be a copy of a more general geneology.
  11. Roger. Turvey, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. II, 370.
  12. Brian Howells, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. III, 67-9CADW: Hook
    1. Haverford IPM (1324): Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward II, Vol. VI, (Hereford 1910), 336-337.
    2. The Dale Castle manuscript may be a copy of a more general geneology.
    3. Roger. Turvey, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. II, 370.
    4. Brian Howells, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. III, 67-9.
    5. Haverford IPM (1324): Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward II, Vol. VI, (Hereford 1910), 336-337.
    6. The Dale Castle manuscript may be a copy of a more general geneology.
    7. Roger. Turvey, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. II, 370.
    8. Brian Howells, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. III, 67-9.
    9. Brian Howells, in Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. III, 67-9
    10. 22. George Owen of Henllys, The Description of Pembrokeshire.


Two for the Price of One – Stack Rock Fort and Gun Tower


Two for the Price of One – Stack Rock Fort and Gun Tower

By Roger J. C. Thomas

Visiting yachtsmen, sailing through the Heads for the first time into Milford Haven, often marvel at the sheer beauty of what unfolds before them. They may spot visitors or students waving to them, sitting in the sun on a low wall at West Blockhouse, or at Dale Point, but rarely will they realise that the low walls are in fact the parapets of former mid-19th century fortifications. However, taking an easterly course up Milford Haven, there is no chance of them missing the brooding mass of Stack Rock Fort, with its colonies of cormorants standing guard. Although most local people are familiar with this landmark, few know there are two forts on this rocky outcrop, as the one totally encloses the other.

Stack Rock Gun Tower and Fort: oblique aerial view from the west, showing the 1852 gun tower enclosed within the later 1872 fort, and the alternate concrete in-filled gun embrasure and shields between the granite piers.

1580 – 1850

Down the years, there have been numerous proposals to fortify Stack Rock and ever since 1580 it has been considered suitable as a ‘permanent fortification against invasion’. Interest in the site was revived by the threat of the Spanish Armada; Captain Edmund Yorke, ‘a gentleman of great …. judgement in martial actions and of good sufficiency in fortifications’, was despatched by the Privy Council to survey Milford Haven and make proposals for its defence.

Yorke’s report has not survived, but it is known that he recommended three forts, the first at Rat Island, Angle, one near Dale, and the other on Stack Rock. However, nothing materialised and in 1590 the Privy Council considered ‘the tyme is already past for the fortificacion, so as the same cannot be perfected’.

Yet more proposals were put forward during the 17th and 18th centuries, probably the most serious being those drawn up during the Seven Years War (1754-1763), but none were acted upon in full. This apparent inactivity and lack of concern shown by the authorities spurred on John Martin to produce his own proposals in a pamphlet in 1759, entitled On the Necessity of fortifying Milford Haven. He ruled out building a fort on Stack Rock, due to there being insufficient room for the necessary number of guns, and the lack of fresh water for the garrison.

In spite of John Martin’s misgivings the strategic position of Stack Rock simply could not be ignored. The Board of Ordnance produced more designs during the Napoleonic Wars, suggesting that a six or seven gun battery could be built into the body of the rock to defend the two channels, with the southernmost channel defended by three guns mounted in casemates and firing out through embrasures. Once the Napoleonic Wars came to an end and the immediate threat of hostilities evaporated so too did the Government’s desire to foot the bill for building any large scale fortifications. Nevertheless, the establishment of the Royal Dockyard at Paterchurch (Pembroke Dock) in 1814/1815 did result in some concerns being expressed about its vulnerability to attack.

Stack Rock Gun Tower, 1850 – 1862

Initially these concerns were addressed by the refurbishment of the incomplete Seven Years War fort at Paterchurch Point in 1827 and again in 1840. Unfortunately, Pater Battery was only capable of defending the immediate approaches to the dockyard, leaving the Haven open to attack and occupation, and the dockyard vulnerable to bombardment. Eventually, the need to provide for new defence at the entrance to the Haven was accepted and four forts – West Blockhouse Battery, Dale Fort, Thorne Island Fort, and Stack Rock Gun Tower, were built during the early 1850s.

Stack Rock Gun Tower; shown during the construction of the basement level of the later fort in 1861, before the building of the first floor officers’ mess that replaced the roof-top gun platform. (Milford Haven Museum)

The gun tower was the smallest and is probably the least well known of all of these fortifications, as it is totally obscured from view by the later Stack Rock Fort. The contractor was Thomas Jackson of London and work commenced on 16th October 1850 and was completed on 3rd September 1852. The two-storey tower had an oval-plan, with an entrance / services annex and flanking musketry gallery to the rear (east). It was built using Bridgwater bricks faced by ashlar limestone blocks and finished with inter-locking granite coping stones to the parapet. The walls varied in thickness, with the south and west walls being 9ft 9in (2.97m) thick. The basement housed a barrack store, a coal store, an ordnance store, a magazine and an associated shifting lobby, together with a rain filter and water tank. The first-floor was occupied by a barrack room (30 soldiers), an officer’s room, a pantry (doubling as a flanking musketry gallery), an entrance lobby, a passageway and latrines (also fitted with musketry loop-holes). The 4ft 6in (1.37m) thick, brick vaulted ceilings of the soldier’s barrack room, formed the roof-top gun platform, which was protected by a 4ft 3in (1.30m) high parapet, and was equipped with three 32-pounder Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading (SBML) guns, mounted on ‘C’ pivot timber dwarf traversing carriages that permitted 360° fields of fire. All floors were served by a single cast-iron spiral stair.


Stack Rock Gun Tower: view from south-east, showing the secondary first floor mess kitchen, dining room and officer’s quarters.

The gun-tower was built as a ‘bottle-stopper’, a second line of defence within the Haven, it was designed to engage sail-powered wooden-walled warships, dependent upon the vagaries of wind and tide, and armed with similar SBML guns that fired solid spherical iron shot (cannon balls for want of a term); however, by the time it was completed, a technological arms race was already well under way.

68-pdr Millar Pattern SBML gun on a timber dwarf traversing slide platform originally intended as the armament of Stack Rock Fort. (Roger Thomas Collection)

The White Heat of Science

The technological changes that drove the arms race had their origins in work undertaken by the American, John Stevens of New Jersey, who had been experimenting with the use of iron armour plates to resist gunfire. In about 1840, the Admiralty undertook some experiments of their own and concluded that iron was not a suitable material for warships, based largely upon the difficulties of using the material, rather than its resistive qualities. Unlike the British, the French Navy recognised the advantages and applied inclined plates to the sides of a number of floating batteries which famously engaged at close range, and with relative impunity, the Russian forts of Kinburn, during the Crimean War in 1855.

The successful use by the French of armoured floating batteries had a galvanising effect on the Admiralty. Between 1856 and 1859 the British conducted various experiments to study the effects of impact and penetration, to improve and maximise the resistive effects of armour, and also to establish how best to apply it to warships, using a 68-pounder SBML gun, the largest in service at the time. It was soon discovered that iron plate alone was vulnerable to attack, as large flakes of metal flew off the rear upon impact. It therefore needed to be backed by a thick layer of wood to stop this undesirable effect. After further experimentation the Admiralty settled on 4½in (11.5cm) of iron plate, backed by 18in (45.7cm) of teak, tied together by 1¼in (32mm) diameter bolts.

In the meantime, the Admiralty’s experiments had not escaped the attention of the Royal Engineers who also realised that if a foreign power was building iron-clad warships land defences would also have to be armed with guns capable of defeating that armour, and the fortifications themselves would have to be sufficiently well built and armoured to resist attack. The technological gene had been let out of the bottle and the story of leap-frog between the ascendancy of attack and defence had commenced in earnest. A mid-19 century military architect had to face the fact that he was in the unenviable position that no sooner had he sat down at his desk and put pen to paper the design was already becoming out-dated. Guns were becoming ever larger and heavier, the propelling charges became more powerful, giving greater range and velocity, and the projectiles fired were becoming more sophisticated, allowing greater accuracy, penetration and destructive effect. Within six years of its completion, the protection given by the walls and the offensive capabilities of Stack Rock Gun Tower that looked so good in 1852, were wholly inadequate!


The Building of the Commission Forts

By 1858, in addition to the rapidly developing technical obsolescence of the existing forts, concerns were also growing over the adoption of an aggressive expansionist foreign policy by the French, and the increasing political instabilities and nationalism in Europe. The launching of the French iron-clad warship, La Gloire, and the political machinations of the failed assassination attempt upon Napoleon III – attentat d’Orsini, brought the situation to a head, with both the French and British press stoking fears about a possible invasion or attack; all of which resulted in Lord Palmerston, the Whig Prime Minister resigning, only to be recalled a short time later, a clamour to fortify our coasts, and the establishment of a Committee on the Sea Defences of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dockyard.

The committee’s report was published in 1858, recommending the building of five new sea defences and floating batteries to create two new lines of defence within the Haven, and also 16 forts and batteries to resist landings on nearby beaches and to the landward of the Royal Dockyard, to prevent a Coup de main. The committee’s recommendation for Stack Rock was ‘That a powerful casemated battery of two tiers, besides guns on the roof, should be constructed round the three-gun tower on Stack Rock’.

Sanction was quickly obtained and Parliament voted £25,000 from the overall estimate of £190,000, allowing the building works to commence in 1859. However, in the meantime, a Royal Commission had been appointed to consider the defences of the United Kingdom. The Commission produced its influential report in 1860 and basically concurred with the previous committee’s recommendations. However, they did suggest a reduction in the number of the beach and landward defences, which in the fullness of time, was reduced to just two – St Catherine’s Fort, Tenby, and Scoveston Fort, Little Honeyborough.

1859 – 1872

Stack Rock Fort, view of the rear gorge wall, quay and entrance from north by north-west, showing the seven masonry gun embrasures.

The two fortifications on Stack Rock were built less than nine years apart and they tell the story of a turning point in technology, being very different in concept, design and execution. The new fort was intended to resist and defeat iron-clad steam-powered warships, travelling at speed, no longer dependant upon wind or tide, and armed with large smooth-bore guns. It was designed to be a two-tier masonry work with 19 gun casemates (an arcade of thick brick vaults) on each floor, and 16 guns on the open roof top terreplien, giving a total of 54 68-Pr SBML guns, all firing through masonry embrasures, with magazines in the basement.  But, like most designs of the period, it had to evolve as it was being built; largely due to the need for it to be armed with a new type of ordnance, the Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) gun that fired conical shells, and the need for it to be capable of resisting fire from similar guns, by the inclusion of armoured shields in the design.

George Smith and Co of Westminster was given the building contract and they commenced work on the foundations in 1859, completing them in July 1861. At this juncture, the design of the fort was totally revised, with the substitution of massive granite piers with iron shields, in lieu of the original masonry embrasures. In December 1860 another contract was granted for the completion of the carcase of the magazine, which was completed in February 1863, and a new contract was issued for the completion of the fort, with a contract being won by Messrs Cammell and Co, Sheffield for the manufacture and fitting of the iron-shields and frames.



The interior of an iron shield, showing the small size of the gun embrasure and the bobbins and brackets from which the rope mantlets were suspended.

Unfortunately, in the face of still more powerful artillery being introduced, further changes had to be made to the design of the basement even before the fort was completed, with the thickness of the outer walls of the magazines being increased from 9ft to 12ft (2.74 – 3.66m), and eventually, by 1869, this figure was increased to 14ft (4.27m). In the meantime, a decision was taken to revise the design and the armament of the fort yet again. The terreplien guns were deleted altogether and preparations were also made for the installation of three gun turrets, each armed with a pair of 12.5-inch guns on the roof, and the upper tier of gun casemates was converted into accommodation for 152 soldiers and 12 hospital patients, and the gun platform of the old gun tower was rebuilt into quarters for four officers, a dining room and a mess kitchen. The proposed armament of 68pdr SBML guns was abandoned altogether; it was revised to 16 9-in RML guns in the lower tier casemates and seven 7-in RML guns in the casemates on the two floors of the gorge (the recessed rear of the fort). The fort was eventually completed in December 1871, by which time the armament had changed again, consisting of 16 10-inch RML guns in the casemates and seven 9-inch RML guns in the gorge. Accommodation was allocated for five officers, 175 non-commissioned officers (NCO) and privates and seven hospital beds. The magazines could store 2,474 cartridges in zinc cylinders, 950 10-inch shells, and 430 9-inch shells. The water supply consisted of 17,000 gallons of fresh water, 20,000 gallons of rain water, and 5,500 gallons of salt water. 12 siphon latrines were supplied for the soldiers and a single water closet for the officers. Remarkably, in spite of the changes in design and the protracted construction, the building cost came in at £81,861 8s 9d, much lower than the original estimated cost of £96,840.

The fort was accessed by a small masonry landing stage, equipped with a small crane, an open timber stair tower set back from the body of the fort rose to the first tier floor level and a timber draw bridge gave access to the gateway, which was closed by heavy timber doors. The entrance passageway was flanked by gun casemates; to the west, casemates No’s 2 and 3 acted as the guard room and to the east, gun casemate No.1 was the officer’s servants quarters. The passageway then opened out into the open circular light well of the fort, surrounded by two floors of arched glazed timber casemate windows and the old gun tower in the centre. The window frames were fitted with slotted horizontal pivots, in order that they could be lifted out, to prevent them being shattered by the concussion of the guns when fired, and to allow for the copious quantities of smoke to be vented quickly away.

The guns in the casemates were mounted on iron traversing carriages that traversed on iron rails, called ‘racers’, that were let into the floors.  Large iron rings in the brick vaulted ceilings of the casemates allowed the guns to be lifted off their carriages for maintenance. Voice pipes to the rear of the casemates allowed communication down to the magazines in the basement and hand cranked lifts were installed to bring the heavy ammunition up from the magazines. The 10-inch RML guns were protected by armoured shields, similar in design to those fitted to an iron-clad warship, but unlike the naval examples, the front and back plates were both 4½ inches (11.43cm) thick and the 18 inches (45.7cm) of teak was replaced by a concrete mix with multiple spaced one inch iron plates which absorbed the shock of impact and resisted penetration better.

Iron shields, costing a total of £3,098 were installed in the embrasures of the lower tier gun casemates. Each was set between large granite piers and when in use it was intended that only the muzzle of the gun would be exposed, which unfortunately restricted the arc of fire to about 57°. Further protection against shell splinters or bullets entering the gun embrasures was provided by heavy rope mantlets which hung on bars and two hinged brackets on the back of the shields. The seven less vulnerable gun casemates in the gorge were not fitted with shields and only had granite embrasures.

Completion and Rapid Obsolescence

The fort was not permanently garrisoned, only during exercises. Most of the  time it was occupied by a labourer / watchman. Unfortunately, only a short time after the fort had been completed, concerns were already being expressed about the need to change its armament. In April 1873 the Defence Committee suggested that some new guns, capable of piercing the armour carried by the recently completed ships in the ‘Devastation’ Class, the world’s first steam-powered, ocean-going 12-inch turret ships, should be installed in the defences of Milford Haven. They proposed the replacement of three 10-inch guns in Stack Rock Fort with three 12-inch 36ton RML guns. Although the proposal gained the Secretary of State for War’s approval on 10th May, it ran into a practical snag. The elevation and depression of the larger guns would have been severely impeded by the small size of the embrasures in the shields, and without expensive alterations that would have entailed reducing the height of the floors by nine inches (23cm), or raising the arches of the embrasures; there would be no particular gain by their use. A memorandum on the Outer Line of the Defence of Milford Haven, dated 25 July 1876, noted that no steps had been taken to install the guns, and considering such works would be costly, recommended that the alterations should be postponed.

Over the next ten years, the accuracy, power and range of artillery continued its inexorable climb, making the existing works both deficient in gun power and protection of their magazines. New slow burning gun powder propellants had been developed to produce higher velocities. However, the stubby RML gun barrels were not long enough to achieve a complete burn of the propellant and the guns themselves had reached gigantic proportions, with a 17.72-inch, 100 Ton monster being produced by Sir William Armstrong. The guns had simply become too large to efficiently load from the muzzle or to operate in the confined spaces of a casemate. Krupps of Prussia, De Bange of France and William Whitworth of England had all come to the same conclusion at roughly the same time and all had been developing new breech-loading (BL) guns of a longer barrel length that took advantage of the new propellant’s slow-burning and the ease of loading at the breech. These developments led in 1882 to the Royal Navy commissioning its first 12-inch BL gun battleship, HMS Conqueror. While the BL guns were being developed, smaller Quick-Firing (QF) guns, which used brass cartridge cases to increase the rate of were also becoming a practical weapon, as was the Nordenfelt machine gun. Once perfected, these weapons were installed on a new type of small and elusive warship called a torpedo boat, which could race past any fort armed with the ponderous RML guns with virtual impunity. In addition to the introduction of the new guns, electric lights (searchlights), range-finders, telephone and telegraph communications, and submarine mines had all found their way into the Army’s armoury.

The Milford Haven Experiment

The submarine mine was first introduced by the Royal Engineers in 1863. It was a remarkably sophisticated weapon, laid in minefields across shipping channels, powered by electrical cables run from shore and controlled by observers, allowing friendly ships to pass safely through the minefield. The mines came in variety of sizes, with fillings of 100, 200, or 500 pounds of an explosive called gun cotton, and could be laid in a number of ways depending upon the depth of water, currents and tides, with ground mines laid on the sea floor, or buoyant mines floating just below the surface, tethered by a cable to an anchor block. The mine could be operated by observation, or by the use of a circuit breaker which, upon being struck by a ship or its wash, completed a circuit that rang a bell in a Test Room ashore where an operator had five seconds to determine whether the ship was friendly or hostile. If friendly, he would throw a lever on the test board to reverse the polarity of the circuit and set the mine to safe; if not, he left it alone and after the passage of five seconds, the mine detonated automatically.

Plan of the minefield used during the Milford Haven Experiment. (The Institution of Royal Engineers).

As these weapons were becoming ever more common around the home ports a decision was taken in 1886 to undertake a ‘Combined Naval and Military Operation’, to establish the most effective ways of conducting an attack and the defence of a fully armed port. Milford Haven was selected for the exercise which had become known as the ‘Milford Haven Experiment’, with the 22nd Company RE commanded by Captain O. E. Ruck, and the 30th Company, RE commanded by Lieutenant Van Straubenzee being despatched from Chatham on 22 June to the Submarine Mining Depot at Pater Battery, to take part in the exercise, under the overall command of Captain Rainsford-Hannay. A defended channel 3,000 yards (2743.2m) long and 700 yards (640.08m) wide was created to the south of Stack Rock Fort. It was obstructed with dummy cables and wire entanglements and was divided into two minefields by a floating boom. The minefields were powered by electricity generated by a dynamo and by a steam-engine in the former magazine of Stack Tower and in the glacis of South Hook Fort. In addition, the dynamos were also used to power a searchlight on the roof of Stack Rock Fort and two others at South Hook Fort to illuminate the minefield at night.

The attacking force, commanded by Vice-Admiral, Sir W. Hewett VC, consisted of five battleships, a torpedo depot ship, four gun boats, five 1st Class torpedo boats, seven 2nd Class torpedo boats and four counter mining launches. The exercise commenced at 7.50 pm on 17th August and continued intermittently until the early hours 19th August. The confusing spectacle of naval activity, explosions, gun fire and searchlights was watched by large crowds. Unfortunately, the press misunderstood the objectives of the exercise and pronounced it ‘The Milford Haven Disaster’.  In actual fact, it was far from the case, as valuable lessons were learned by both the attackers and the defenders. However, the naval force failed to penetrate the minefield properly and it had used up its counter-mining stores completely. In reality, it would have suffered very severe losses.

A New Role

In November 1886 the Works Committee considered that no defences were required in advance of Stack Rock Fort, and that West Blockhouse and Thorne Island Forts should be disarmed. They argued that given Stack Rock Fort’s construction and its insecure magazines, it would be vulnerable to bombardment and that its armament should be removed, rather than going to the great expense of strengthening the structure; the money being better spent mounting more powerful modern guns at Chapel Bay and South Hook Fort. They recommended removing 11 – 10-inch guns and four of 9-inch guns, together with the demolition of the upper tier of the fort, and the filling-in of the vacated magazines. The Director of Artillery and the Inspector-General of Fortifications both concurred with the proposals, and from this point onwards, Stack Rock Fort’s role was reduced from that of the prime fortification to the nonetheless important secondary role of only defending the controlled minefield.


The changes made to the fort in 1888 were not as extensive as originally proposed; the upper tier was not removed and it continued to be used for accommodation. However, the 11 – 10-inch guns were removed and five alternate casemates (no’s 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) on the vulnerable western side of the fort were filled in with mass concrete to strengthen the structure. The shields from these casemates were removed and installed into the casemates at Hubberston Fort, further up river. It is unclear whether the recommendations to install modern Quick-Firing guns to cover the minefield took place, but the five remaining 10-inch RML guns were retained in what was known as ‘running past’. Running past was a method of laying all five guns on fixed bearings to cover a wide arc of fire. Each gun was loaded with a zinc canister filled with 60 3½ lbs (1.58kg) steel balls and, had a hostile torpedo boat entered the arc of fire, an observer would have fired the guns simultaneously, producing a giant ‘shot-gun’ effect, overwhelming the attacking boat in a hail of fire.

This really was the last gasp for the RML guns, but they soldiered on in this role until 1906. In the meantime, in 1898, the fort was given two 6pdr QF guns to bolster the defences, eventually gaining a modern armament in 1902, consisting of four 12pdr QF guns, two depression range-finders (DRF) and four 0.303 Maxim machine guns, mounted in concrete emplacements on the roof, together with two fixed beam searchlights, within what had become Casemates No’s 3 and 4. Initially, the searchlights were powered by a nine horse-power vertical steam engine driving a dynamo generator, but it was replaced by a pair of diesel oil generators before the First World War. In addition, a naval semaphore post and a minefield observation post were built on the southern side of the roof, and the interior was adapted to a much smaller garrison of five officers and 64 NCOs and soldiers. The 12pdr QF gun was capable of engaging all manners of small fast craft, from torpedo boats up to the size of destroyers. The gun had a calibre of 3-inches (75mm), firing at a muzzle velocity of 2,257ft (688m) per second and, in the hands of a well-trained gun detachment, it could fire at the rate of 20 rounds per minute in daylight and 15 rounds a minute in the dark. Remarkably, three 10-inch RML guns were still retained for ‘running past’, always ensuring the attendance of large crowds to watch the spectacle of them firing during their exercises, and they continued in service until 1906.  Shortly afterwards, contractors were employed to remove all of the remaining RML guns, although the 9-inch guns were successfully extricated and rolled out to be collected at low tide. The attempt to cut up the 10-inch guns into smaller sections became too costly and difficult, so they were left in pieces and remain to this day.

The First World War

The assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, led to a political crisis that eventually drew most European countries into the First World War. On 20th July, as the crisis deepened, the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), commanded by Lt Colonel Carleton, was ordered to commence precautionary manning of the Milford Haven forts; Stack Rock Fort was garrisoned by two officers and 39 men of No.44 Company RGA and six sappers from the 35th Company, Royal Engineers.  The Pembrokeshire Royal Garrison Artillery was re-named No.26 Pembrokeshire Fire Command. It consisted of two regular army units – No.44 and No.57 Companies RGA, and three companies of the Pembrokeshire RGA Territorial Force (TF), No’s 1, 2, and 3, drawn chiefly from Milford Haven, Pembroke, and Tenby. Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August and four days later ‘War Routine’ was declared and the three companies of the Pembrokeshire RGA (TF), commanded by Major Price RGA (TF), took up their stations at the forts, and all medium and light guns were loaded and manned, with one officer and 20 sappers of the Glamorgan (Fortress) RE (TF) joining the garrison of Stack Rock Fort to operate the generators, the controlled minefield, and the searchlights.


The engine room for generating power for searchlights and the minefield, within the former magazine of Stack Rock Tower, viewed from the south. Note the white glazed tiled walls and the concrete engine beds.

It was considered highly unlikely that the Royal Dockyard at Pembroke Dock would be subject to a major naval attack as it was too far in the west but there were concerns that the German Navy might attempt a raid to destroy the facilities.  As a consequence, all shipping entering or leaving Milford Haven came under the control of the Royal Navy, which had established a Port War Signal Station at St Ann’s Head, and an Examination Service at South Hook Fort. All merchant ships entering the harbour had to anchor in the Examination Anchorage in Dale Roads, where they were boarded and inspected, all the while under the guns of South Hook or Chapel Bay Forts, and assisted by Stack Rock Fort. During the first two years of war the garrison manning Stack Rock was kept busy by the War Routine but the more experienced men were gradually being drafted away in dribs and drabs to form the core of siege batteries.  Even though there was considerable German U-boat activity in the Western Approaches the number of guns mounted within the defences was also being reduced; the first 12pdr QF gun was withdrawn from Stack Rock on 21st November 1916 and was sent to Crewe to become part of the armament of the No.1 Armoured Train. The following day 200 – 12pdr cartridges were sent to Naval Stores Officer at Crombie, Scotland. A month later another 12pdr gun was despatched to Crewe, and four months later, yet another was removed, leaving just one on the roof of the fort to cover the minefield.

The Coming of the End

The signing of the Armistice did not immediately bring about a change to the War Routine for the gunners but during 1919 the Peace Routine was reverted to. The officers and other ranks were demobilised according to orders and the strength of the Fire Command was reduced to 43% of its war establishment. The personnel on Stack Rock Fort were gradually withdrawn and the battery closed, leaving only a small detachment behind. The rundown of the defences continued into the 1920s. Remarkably though, in 1927 Stack Rock Fort had regained its full complement of four 12pdr QF guns, but they did not remain for long as the fort was disarmed and sold out of service in November 1932, for the grand sum of £60.

The fort was not garrisoned by the army in the Second World War but the RAF did install equipment, associated with the flare-path for the Short Sunderland flying-boats that operated from RAF Pembroke Dock. After the Second World War it was subject to the removal of much of its metal work as part of the post-war scrap drives, which only went to hasten its decline into dereliction.


Stack Rock Fort, view from the south-east, showing some of the gun embrasures blocked with concrete, those fitted with shields, and the 1902 12-pdr QF gun emplacements and war shelters on the roof.



Report of Committee on the Sea Defences of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dockyard, 1858

Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Consider the Defences of the United Kingdom, 1860

J. Martin, On the Necessity of Fortifying Milford Haven, 1759

Capt. F. Rainsford-Hannay, R. E., The Milford Haven Experiments, Chatham, 1886

Capt. A. E. Black, 1st Lanarkshire Engineer Vol. Corps. Drill Book for the Use of Sub-Marine Mining Engineer Volunteers, London, 1887

Major J. T. Bucknill, Submarine Mines and Torpedoes as Applied to Harbour Defence, 1888

Lieut. R.N. C.W. Sleeman, Torpedoes and Torpedo Warfare, Portsmouth, 1889

Anon,  Handbook  for the 10-inch R.M.L. GUNS. (Land Service), London, 1903

Anon, Coast Artillery Drills and General Information, Portsmouth, 1924

I.V. Hogg, Coast Defences of England and Wales 1856-1956, Newton Abbot, 1974

R. F. Sarty, Coast Artillery 1815 – 1914, Bloomfield, Ontario, 1988

County Record Office, Haverfordwest

DB/13/119            Sale Catalogue of former military properties, Messrs John M. Leeder & Son.

D/RTM/1/773      Sale particulars Stack Rock Fort.

The National Archives, Kew

Cabinet Papers:        CAB16/1  Committee of Imperial Defence, Minutes, Memorandum and Reports. 1905.

CAB36/16  Committee of Imperial Defence, Sub-committee, Minutes, Memorandum and Reports. 1924 – 1927.

State Papers:             SP12/12/146/37



War Office Papers    WO33/47    War Office: Reports, Memorandum and    Papers. 1905.

WO33/555      Defence Scheme Western Defended Ports, Part 1,

Milford Haven Defences, revised to March, 1911.

WO44/308       Ordnance Office & War Office, Correspondence,  Western District. 1833 – 1836.

WO44/313      Ordnance Office & War Office, Correspondence, Western District. 1851.

WO44/314      Ordnance Office & War Office, Correspondence,  Western District. 1852 – 1853.

WO44/315     Ordnance Office & War Office, Correspondence, Western District. 1855.

WO55/731     Ordnance Office & War Office, Miscellaneous Entry   Books, and Papers. Engineering Papers (Midland District, including South Wales). 1849 – 1851.

WO55/732    Ordnance Office & War Office, Miscellaneous Entry  Books, and Papers. Engineering Papers (Midland District, including South Wales). 1853 – 1855.

WO78/3780         Plans and drawings of Stack Rock Fort.

WO192/315          Fortress Record Book, West Blockhouse Battery 1904 – 1954.

WO196/30           Précis of Correspondence relating to the Defence of  Pembroke,  prior to January, 1893.

MPHH1/161       Wales: Pembrokeshire: Stack Rock Fort,  9 sheets of maps and drawings, 1856 – 1900.

Papers from the Past: A 16th century Visitor




By Mary John

John Leland, poet and antiquary, noted for his Itinerary, included Wales in his six year tour of Britain and at some time during the years 1536 to 1539 visited Pembrokeshire.

Mary Fig 1

Leland was born around the year1506 and was educated at St Paul’s in London, Christ College, Cambridge and All Souls, Oxford. He took holy orders and later served as tutor to the son of the Duke of Norfolk. Having spent much of his time writing poetry in Latin, often in praise of the monarch and his court, he was appointed Royal Librarian by Henry VIII.

By 1533 he had become the king’s Antiquary. This was at a time when the effects of the break with Rome were beginning to be felt, with the ensuing destruction in cathedrals, churches and monasteries throughout the land. The Valor Ecclesiasticus  was made in 1534-5, followed by the acts for suppression of the monasteries 1536 to1539. In addition to this, under a new Act (27 Hen. VII, cap.26), Wales found itself united to England ‘for lawes and justice to be ministred in Wales in like fourme as it is in this realme’.

Leland may have been in Pembrokeshire when St Dogmaels Abbey and its dependent priory on Caldey Island were dissolved in 1536. Notorious Bishop Barlow abandoned St Davids Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace around this time. He had a hand in the closure of both Haverfordwest Priory and Friary in1538 and Pembroke Priory was dissolved in 1539. Within a few years the bishop’s episcopal residences at Llawhaden and Lamphey and the Hospitaller’s Commandery at Slebech were no longer required by the church.

With the dissolution of the monasteries Leland became most concerned about the removal and dispersal of their precious archives and books. He received authorisation from King Henry to conduct a survey of the libraries of all the religious houses and made extended excursions into Wales, detailing where hr went in a series of notebooks.

These notes contribute considerably to our understanding of Tudor times and as Roger Turvey reminds us, ‘Leland’s legacy was in introducing the notion of the county or shire as an appropriate unit for studying the history of Britain…’

Unfortunately, within less than ten years after his visits to Pembrokeshire we learn from his friend, John Bale, that Leland ‘…fell besides his wits’ and by 1550 he was certified insane. We are told that in April 1552 he was buried in the church of St Michael Querne, Cheapside in London, which was later destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

Leland left a vast quantity of manuscripts which were subsequently used by other antiquarians who were not always prepared to acknowledge him; one being William Camden who was accused of ‘feathering his nest with Leland’s plumes’, when writing Britannia. The manuscripts, including those which would make up The Itinerary, passed through numerous hands until finally arriving in the Bodleian Library.

Historians have been left speculating on Leland’s route into Wales, whether from Gloucester, Shropshire or possibly Chester and North Wales. Because of the scattered nature of his notes one cannot tell how many times he came into west Wales or whether he gleaned information from other people rather than it being from material gained first hand. There are a host of questions one could ask regarding Leland’s tour of Pembrokeshire, not least, how did he travel?  Was he on horseback? Did he go from place to place in a carriage and what were the roads like? Perhaps he travelled round the county by boat. Did he have company? A clerk? A scribe? A man servant?  Where did he stay? Was he welcomed in any of the threatened church properties? Was he entertained in any of the big houses? Did he spend nights in rural hostelries? We will probably never know.

The Itinerary, as it was to become known, was not published in Leland’s lifetime. John Stow was noted for his transcriptions in the 16th century but it was not until 1710 that the first edition, edited by Thomas Hearne, appeared in several volumes in Oxford.

Mary Fig 2

Further editions of this work appeared in the 18th century and in 1906 a new version, the first of five volumes, of The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535- 1543, edited by Lucy Toulmin Smith, was published.






It is extracts from her version that are used here to describe Leland’s time in the county of Pembrokeshire which he claims to approach from ‘Wormes Hedde’ in ‘Gower Land’, mentioning Caldey on the way.Mary Fig 3

‘Tinby ys a walled towne hard on the Severn Se yn Penbrookeshire. Ther is a sinus and a peere made for shyppes. The towne is very welthe by marchaundyce…One thinge is to be marveled at. There is no welle yn the towne, as yt is saide, wherby they be forced to fech theyr water at S, Johns withowte the towne.’  

He is next in Mainopir…a towne of howsbondry…The ruines of Pirrhus Castel there, many walles yet standynge hole, do openly appere.’

‘A good deale upward above Milforde Haven lyith Great Scalmey and Lytle Scalmey, one almost joyning to a nother, longing booth to the king, but not inhabited propter pirates et celi inclemantium. Great Scalmey hath no howse in yt, as I remember M Hogan said that therein is a chapel. The fermers bring over thither shepe and coltes of horses the which feede very wildly there, but the coltes taken fro thens be larger and better fed then be harted or apt for war.’

After mentioning  the islands of Schoukhold, Gresse Holme and Ramesey Leland finds himself in Narbarthe, ‘ a little preati pile of old Syr Rheses given onto hym by King Henri the VIII. There is a poore village….’

Dueglevi lordship is conteynid bytwixt the ii river of Glevi. In this lordship or grounde be few or none notable buildinges…Lannhadein lordship is on the est side Gledi wher is a castel buildid on a roke longgng to the Bisshop of S, David…Therby is also a forest of redde deere caullid Lloydarth.’

Leland moves on erratically through the county-

‘Slebyche  comaundry of the Rodes liith apon the Est Glevy even adjoining to the west parte of Narbarth lordship.’

‘Roche Castel longing to the Lorde Ferres an old Langeville knight of Bukinghamshire bytwyxt Harford West and S.Davids.’

‘Haverford West lordship hath the waullid toun of Haverford and castel… thre paroch chirches, one of them withowt the toune in suburbe. Blak-Freres within the toune.Chanons without suppressed.’

‘Gualwin castel and lordship is pertaining to Harford West. It longgid to the lord of Northumbreland, now to Perot.’

‘Rose Market. The market is lost, and is now a poore village.’

‘In the extreme part of Penbrokeshire after the old limite is a pore village caulid Angle touching hard upon Milford Haven.’

Now he is back in the north-

‘There appere in dyvers partes of Pebidiauc hilles and dikes with bulwarkes of yerth as campes of men of warre or closures for catelle. The soil of Pebidiauc is stony, yet there is meatly good corne, there is plenty of fisch bycause of the crekes.’

Finally Leland is in S. Davidislande where, due to his attention to the various crekittes and havens one is left with the feeling he must have spent more time, perhaps in the company of the anxious clerics.


Some Thoughts on the Romanization of Pembrokeshire


Some Thoughts on the Romanization of Pembrokeshire

 By Mark Merrony

In 2003 I surveyed and excavated what I believe to be a Roman villa at Ford near Wolfscastle that was previously identified by the antiquarian Richard Fenton in 1811. The results of the survey were published in the present journal in 2004,[1] and the time is now ripe to present, in brief, the findings of the trial excavation.[2] In light of further discoveries over the past fifteen years, it is also the intention here to integrate these into the emerging picture of Romano-British Pembrokeshire, since it is now becoming increasingly clear that the county – and those that adjoin it – are more Romanized than previously thought.

Classical references

To put the more recent findings into their rightful context, there is some necessary but brief overlap with my publication in 2004.[3] Logically, the most appropriate place to begin our grand tour of ancient Pembrokeshire is in the Roman period itself. The first evidence is referenced by Ptolemy, the Graeco-Roman historian who compiled Geography (II.3.2) in the second century AD,[4] which mentions Octapitarum Promontorium, thought to refer to the Bishops and Clerks islets west of Ramsey Island near Saint Davids Head.[5] The map also mentions Moridunum (Carmarthen), along with the Demetae, the Celtic tribe that inhabited the region in the Iron Age, Moridunum being their political centre in the Roman period.

Moridunum is also mentioned in an itinerary known as The Peutinger Table, thought to be a thirteenth century copy of a Roman original of the third century AD, acquired by the German antiquarian Konrad Peutinger in 1508, and now in the Hofbibliothek, Vienna.[6] Other ancient references to place-names in the county come from a forged work, The Description of Britain, supposedly by Richard of Cirencester. This includes an itinerary of Roman Britain (Iter XI), listing a road known as the Via Julia west of Moridunum to Ad Menapiam (Saint Davids), via Ad Vigesimum (a supposed Roman station located in north Pembrokeshire).[7] The authenticity of this document was widely accepted when it was first published in 1757 by Charles Bertram, but proved a forgery by Bernard Woodward, Librarian in Ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1847. Richard of Cirencester was actually a fourteenth century monk and historian at the Benedictine Abbey of Westminster.

Archaeological findings

After a millennium and a half of silence, something of Roman Pembrokeshire revealed itself to the antiquarian pursuits of Richard Fenton, who was informed of an unusual discovery at Ford near Wolfscastle. After visiting the site, he confirmed that it was a Roman villa, observing a bath with protruding flues, roofing tiles, iron nails, various bricks, some grooved, and others etched with lines.[8] Shortly after this, Fenton visited Castle Flemish, mistaking it for Ad Vigesimum, where he found fragments of Roman brick.[9] The site was later excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1921, and sherds of Roman pottery, hexagonal roofing slates, and flue-tile, were among his discoveries.[10] The site is now identified as an enclosed Roman villa.

It seems that Fenton was not an entirely trusted source and the idea of the Romans penetrating as far as Pembrokeshire was put on the backburner after the rather sceptical address of the Bishop of Saint Davids to the British Archaeological Association during the Tenby Congress in 1884.[11] In spite of this, subsequent investigations at Ford continued to recover Roman material through the course of the twentieth century, such as roofing slates,[12] and a Roman oil lamp, which is presently in Carmarthenshire Museum at Abergwili, Carmarthen.

Roman material has been recovered from a number of sites in the county, notably from coastal promontory forts at Brawdy, Buckspool, and elsewhere, furnishing evidence of steady occupation through the Roman period. The same may be said of a series of so-called ringforts near Llawhaden and other areas.[13] There have been numerous Roman coin hoards discovered in the county and the broader region, especially since the successful implementation of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).

After Fenton’s identification of the villa at Ford, the next site of its kind was not discovered until 1950. This occurred at Trelissey near Amroth in the southeast of the county, excavated under the direction of W.G. Thomas and R.S. Walker in 1950 and 1951.[14] They found an enclosed Roman villa with coarse and fine pottery, the head of a javelin, and other finds (now in Tenby Museum).

In 1995, a Roman road was excavated during the construction of the Whitland bypass just over the border in Carmarthenshire, a section of a route first observed by Terry James from aerial photographs, heading west from Carmarthen and into Pembrokeshire by RCAHM traced, in sections, by aerial photography, digital mapping, and fieldwork as far west as Wiston.[15]

The next tangible Roman discovery or – more correctly – rediscovery, occurred on the site of the Ford Roman villa observed by Fenton. In January 2003, guided by an Ordnance Survey map, I visited the site and found several large roofing slates of varying size (some with nail holes; one cut to perhaps fit around a chimney). Subsequently, a geophysical survey was undertaken with Tony Johnson of Oxford Archaeotechnics (based in Noke, Oxfordshire). As expected, the ferrous material in this general location (fences, gates, water trough) significantly impaired the geophysical plot, but it was possible to identify an unenclosed subterranean building under the intersection of three hedges (approximately 18.5m by 7.5m). Rectilinear features to the east of the building were revealed, which may record field boundaries associated with the site, but it is not possible to be certain of this. A trackway appears to lead directly to the building from the east and seems to bisect a similar feature running north-south.

The original excavation at Ford took place with the kind assistance of several local volunteers on the weekend of 29 and 30 March. It was logical to excavate the area that corresponded to the clearer part of the geophysical survey, southeast of the water trough. This entailed the investigation of an area on a north-south alignment, carefully removing the overburden to reveal a number of large stone slabs (Fig. 1).

Merrony Fig 1

These were the foundation stones of the building but there was no trace of the superstructure apart from an area of tumble, which did not appear to correspond with the alignment of the structure. Overall, the site appears to have been heavily robbed of stone, a process that was underway between the rediscovery of the building and Fenton’s visit in the early nineteenth century.


The excavated site at Ford photographed from the south in March 2003 by Martin Cavaney



Disappointingly, there was a lack of pottery, apart from a piece of Roman ceramic that is a tile or brick, so it was not possible to establish any firm dates for the construction or development of the building. A significant find appears to be part of an igneous saddle quern, which consists of a lower stone (saddle) on which corn was placed, and an upper stone (rider), which was pushed to-and-fro on top of this. Normally these were replaced in the Iron Age by rotary querns, but in some areas, saddle querns remained in use into the Roman period (Fig. 2).[16]

Merrony Fig 2


Fig.2. Saddle quern found at Ford in March 2003. Ian R. Cartwright.

Copyright Institute of Archaeology, Oxford University.












Several more roofing slates were discovered (Fig. 3). These are of particular interest since George Boon has established that they are from the same source in the southern Preseli Hills (also spelled ‘Prescelly’) as the slates found in the secondary metalling of the Roman quayside at Caerleon, Carmarthen, Castle Flemish, Cwmbrwyn villa near Llandorow,[17] and Coygan Camp[18] close to Laugharne, a Romano-British defended enclosure (both sites in Carmarthenshire).[19]

Merrony Fig 3

Fig.3. Slate roofing tiles recovered at Ford in March 2003.

(Martin Cavaney)

In light of the fact there are no navigable rivers between the two Pembrokeshire villas and the source of the slates found there, the material must, of course, have been transported by road; but their point of origin and distribution is too far north for the material to have been conveyed along the Carmarthen-Wiston route, a factor that will be revisited below.








Arguably the most important find was a piece of flue-tile, with a distinct combing pattern, reminiscent of Fenton’s description of similar artefacts over two hundred years ago. Other finds included a small voussoir (perhaps part of an arch), and several roofing nails, originally used to affix the slates to the timbers of the roof. The tile is a fragment of a box flue, which functioned as a component of a wall chimney, venting the hot air and smoke from the hypocaust (underfloor heating). The incised lines on the surface enabled the adhesion of plaster in much the same way that modern plasterers scratch render before the coat of skimming is applied (Fig. 4).

Merrony Fig 4


Fig.4. Flue-tile found at Ford in 2003. Ian R. Cartwright 2017.

Copyright Institute of Archaeology, Oxford University.

Fenton also described a bath and its embedded wall flues in considerable detail and the balance of evidence appears to indicate that the building at Ford was probably a villa, perhaps of the corridor type.

The tenant farmer of Bank Farm had kindly agreed to fence the site off to prevent cattle trampling the excavated area, but he was unable to sink any stakes at a sufficient depth to the immediate east of the excavation, due to the presence of substantial buried material – probably stone slabs. Clearly, the base of the building continues on a southeast alignment and extends beyond the present farm track, so there is certainly scope for future excavation in this location.

Recent discoveries

In 2010, the site was surveyed and excavated by Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) with the assistance of local volunteers under the direction of Duncan Schlee (former Project Manager), but their investigation was hampered by the presence of the farm track mentioned above, which now overlies much of the area originally investigated. The geophysics echoed the results of our survey, with the exclusion of the villa building, but the coverage was more comprehensive, and revealed the presence of a prehistoric enclosure as well as a possible Romano-British building to the southeast of the villa.[20] With the kind technical assistance of James Meek, Head of DAT Archaeological Services, a geophysical plot now exists that combines both surveys (Fig. 5).

Merrony Fig 5


Fig.5. Geophysical survey combining the results of the 2003 and 2010 surveys.

Reproduced by courtesy of Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Oxford Archaeotechnics.



Since this survey and excavation were undertaken, further discoveries have been made. One of the most significant of these is a Roman fort at Wiston. This was found in 2012 through geophysical survey, followed by trial excavation (in 2013 and 2014) under the direction of Meek. Part of this has been visible for some years on Ordnance Survey maps, but it had been previously dismissed as a recent feature. Pottery suggests that the fort was occupied in the late first century/early second century AD and that it was reused in the mid-second to the mid-third century AD, perhaps as a civil site. A significant breakthrough was made when the presence of an extensive civilian vicus settlement to the south was identified by geophysics. This was confirmed by excavation in 2014 (Fig. 6).[21]

This extraordinary development is by no means the end of the story. In January 2017, I received correspondence from Luke Hooper, a student at Bournemouth University, who sought my opinion about an interesting discovery after undertaking a geophysical survey in north Pembrokeshire under the auspices of University College London (UCL) the previous summer.[22] My conclusion accorded with his: the plot recorded an enclosed villa of the corridor type with a square Romano-Celtic temple adjacent to it. On my advice, he contacted Revd Professor Marine Henig, who concurred with our interpretation.[23] A small excavation of this site was undertaken in late summer 2017, and this appears to confirm that the site is a Roman villa.

Merrony fig 6










Fig.6. Geophysical interpretation of the Roman fort and vicus at Wiston.

Reproduced courtesy of Dyfed Archaeological Trust.


Martin Davies has provided a major contribution to the study of Roman Pembrokeshire most recently, investigating parts of the elusive Roman road network in the county.[24] Of special interest is an apparent route that appears to head north from near the Roman fort and vicus at Wiston, over the Preselis via Tafarn-y-Bwlch (where there may be a Roman fort), and into Ceredigion.

A section of this appears to run past the Roman villa and temple site mentioned above.

Administration and economy

It is important at this stage to make some general comments about civilian villas and military forts in the county. Evidence elsewhere in Britain indicates that the owners of what we term ‘Roman villas’ were not Roman but indigenous elites who adopted their lifestyle in political territories known as civitates that were adapted to pre-existing Celtic tribal territories. In southern Wales these were implemented by the Roman authorities in the second century AD to frame the polities of the Silures in the east with their civitas caput at Venta Silurum (Caerwent) and the Demetae in the west, their caput at Moridunum (Carmarthen), (as mentioned above), the territory of the Demetae, equating with Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, and southern Ceredigion, comprising a single political unit. In the western Roman empire, civitates were essentially city-states based on the constitution of Rome, with landowning classes (decuriones), defined by a property qualification, controlling power in a senate (ordo), from which the council (curia) were elected, as well as two annually elected magistrates (duoviri), who exercised power within the civitas during their tenure. This political arrangement, notwithstanding some variations, operated on the basis of circumscribed self-government.[25] Tenant farmers (coloni) sold their produce in the urban market-place and paid a proportion of their revenue in tax and rent. Their landowning overlords, who were often pagan, and later, ecclesiastical officials, in turn paid part of their tax to the state and funded public building projects (euergetism).[26]

It is not possible at present to reconstruct the economy of the region with any level of precision until future discoveries are integrated into the broader picture, but it is the case that Moridunum was the urban market of the Demetae, where financial transactions took place, goods were exchanged, and taxes levied.[27] Coins recovered from Carmarthen indicate that they were in circulation from the late first century.[28] In the wider region they were minted in Rome until the second century, and elsewhere in the empire thereafter, at Aquileia, Arles, Lyons, Siscia, and Trier, and in London and Colchester from the late third century AD. In accordance with the general picture in Britain, the bulk of coins are found on military sites and vici close to them, indicating a minimal impact of coinage on the civilian population in the territory of the Demetae.[29] Several hoards discovered in Pembrokeshire have a coastal provenance with coins dating to the first half of the fourth century (Newgale Beach), or predominantly around the middle or the second half of the fourth century (Stackpole Warren, Newgale Beach, Whitesands Beach, Saint Davids and Goodwick Harbour); the later coins are plausibly interpreted by Heather James as having a restricted function as military pay or donativa (bonuses) rather than a broader economic function.[30]

Forts in Britain were garrisoned by Roman legionary troops and auxiliaries from different parts of the Roman empire. The Wiston fort was probably built by soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta), whose fortress was at Caerleon near Newport. Inscriptions from Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall, and their hinterlands, prove that the legion was active in northern England and Scotland until the early third century. It is therefore plausible that Caerleon was the hub for broader activities in Pembrokeshire, and they were present in the fort at Loughour, where a stamp tile of Legio II Augusta has been recovered.[31]

The establishment of the base at Caerleon was necessary to pacify the Silures who, according to the Roman historian Tacitus, were hostile, since he records that: ‘…neither severity nor clemency converted the Silurian tribe, which continued the struggle and had to be repressed by the establishment of a legionary camp’ (XII.32).[32] In contrast, the Demetae are absent from Roman accounts, and it is generally considered that they were subdued with relative ease.[33] Wales was finally brought under Roman sway by AD 77 during the tenure of governor Julius Frontinus.[34]

The search for a lost Roman road

A Roman road of particular general interest, mentioned above, is the route from Carmarthen to Wiston (Fig. 7). Where is it heading from Wiston? An obvious place is the Cleddau, in or near Haverfordwest, but there is no evidence of this as yet. It is often thought that its destination is Saint Davids, and there are some clues, provided by place-names and archaeology, that it may run in that general direction. At Rudbaxton, a possible trace of a Roman road was observed by aerial photography on a west-southwest – east-northeast bearing by Chris Musson of The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) in 2002. The further clue is a long stretch of road known as ‘the Causeway’, north of Camrose which tracks in a northwest direction. This is not marked on the modern 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map of north Pembrokeshire, but it appears on older OS maps, notably the Six Inch (1888-1913) and 1:25,000 (1937-61) versions. Most recently, Martin Davies has identified a possible enclosed Romano-British villa south of its course.[35]

Merrony fig 7


Fig.7. Map of the Carmarthen-Wiston Road and the ‘Via Julia’. Courtesy of Dyfed Archaeological Trust. Published in Pembrokeshire County History, Volume I.

It is probable that this was the route taken by Gerald of Wales in the later twelfth century. He recorded that: ‘From Haverford we proceed on our journey to Menevia [Saint Davids]… and passed through Camros… We then passed over Niwegal sands…’ (I.13).[36] Fenton refers to a possible stretch of Roman road in Newgale that was exposed by a storm around 1780, as described by a Mr Jones of Lether, and in the winter of 1795, where he observed: ‘…two lines of pebbles parallel, and for a mile in length; the pebbles from one inch to a foot [in] diameter…’ He speculated that this was, ‘…by tradition, said to have extended from Old Menapia along the coast to Dale on Milford Haven, and known by the common appellation of the Old Welsh Way’.[37]

He considered that Brawdy, on the hill to the north, could derive from ‘Broadway’, but it may in fact have its root in the Welsh name ‘Breudeth’. In a manuscript of 1293, Breudeth had been shortened to ‘Bre’udy’, according to Bertie Charles.[38] If the paving observed is a Roman road, it may intersect a route from Saint Davids through Brawdy to Carmarthen (see below). Roman roads are marked on the older OS maps between Brawdy and Saint Davids but these appear to be influenced, perhaps in large measure, by the forged map of Bertram. For instance, Menapia Roman Station is marked above Whitesands Bay. It is, however, curious that the latter is also known as ‘Porth Mawr’ (‘Great Port’). This was an important medieval crossing point to and from Ireland, and I am grateful to the Rt Revd (John) Wyn Evans, Bishop of Saint Davids (2008-2016), for clarifying this point.[39]

Pliny the Elder, the admiral and historian, who was killed at Stabiae by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 25 August AD 79, mentions that: ‘Hibernia lies beyond Britannia, the shortest crossing being from the lands of the Silures, a distance of 30 miles’ (IV.16.103), (28.33 conventional miles or 45.6 kilometres).[40] The distance is in fact about 47 miles (75.6 km). The importance of Whitesands Bay as a point of crossing to Ireland is underscored by the excavation of some 50 skeletons at Saint Patrick’s Chapel, dating to the early medieval period (seventh to eleventh century), in 2015, under the direction of Ken Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, DAT.[41] Interestingly, a large hoard of Roman coins discovered at Whitesands Bay in 2010, recorded by the PAS, comprises 115 coins of several denominations dating from around the mid-second to the mid-fourth centuries. There is no other certain evidence for a Roman presence in the area apart from an unconfirmed fort at Trepewet east of Saint Davids.[42]

The curious irony of the Via Julia

There are reasonable grounds to assume that a road runs from Saint Davids to Carmarthen, roughly parallel to the Carmarthen-Wiston route (Fig. 7). Is this the ‘real Via Julia?’ Place-names, as recorded on the older OS maps, and archaeological evidence play a crucial role here. For the sake of convenience, I reference here the OS Six Inch (1888-1913) map from this point onwards. We pick up the chase again near Brawdy, with reference to the place-name ‘Broadway’ (SM850238) near the southern end of the old runway of the military base. There is possible archaeological evidence for a Roman road a little to the south of Brawdy at Lower Llethr, photographed from the air by Dr Toby Driver, Senior Investigator (Aerial Survey), RCAHMW, in 2003, running west-east (although the possibility that it may be a pipeline should not be discounted).[43] In the same year, a parchmark was photographed by Driver near another ‘Broadway’, located west of Llawhaden, part of the Carmarthen-Wiston Roman road. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the name may also indicate the presence of a Roman road near Brawdy.

Significantly, just a few kilometres to the east of Broadway, is another identical place-name (SM917245) and also Broadway Quarry (922244). This lies not far to the southwest of the Ford villa near Wolfscastle. A large section of hedged trackway runs in a general east-northeast direction for some distance, commencing as South Hill Lane (932250), past a site labelled as ‘Old Camp’, and below the course of the Roman road marked on the old OS maps.

Further east, near the Roman villa at Castle Flemish, the old OS maps bisect the site and this is probably because it was originally thought to be the Roman station Ad Vigesimum. It is plausible to think that a Roman road runs further to the south, since there is a place-name a little to the southwest of a farm called Stradland (994264), which may perhaps be interpreted as ‘Streetland’, referring to the presence of a Roman road, an observation that accords with that of Fenton.[44] The passing of this suggested route south of Ford and Castle Flemish is perhaps not surprising, since, judging from examples elsewhere in Britain (Akeman Street in southern England is typical), Roman villas tend to be located near Roman roads, as in the case of the possible route identified by Martin Davies from Wiston to Ceredigion.

There is reason to suppose from place-names on the old OS maps that the road continues east, crossing this north-south road suggested by Davies  somewhere near LIys-y-Fran. The next relevant place-name, Pen-sarn, is about seven kilometres to the east-southeast, near to the western bank of the Eastern Cleddau (SN111249). It is appropriate at this convenient geographical juncture to consider the slates found at Ford, Castle Flemish, Caerleon, and elsewhere, since this stretch of road is not far south of their probable source. The comments of George Boon on the slates found in the secondary metalling of the quayside at Caerleon are especially relevant: ‘The blue-grey, thinly cleaved, spotted slate was readily recognised as being strikingly similar in external appearance to the Foel Tyrch Beds Arenig Slate. This Ordovician slate is exposed and has been extensively quarried in the southern part of the Prescelly Hills. The specimen was also compared with other slates and slate-like rocks from various southern Dyfed localities; but even on macroscopic examination only, it almost certainly came from Prescelly.’[45] These are dated to the later third-century,[46] when the quay was extended, which obviously indicates that a quarry was operational in this period. It is not clear exactly where the slates were quarried, but I am grateful to Robin Sheldrake, a local historian, for drawing my attention to the slate quarry at Llangolman (128270).[47] It is curious that its location is little more than a kilometre north of Pen-sarn, and there are several other quarries in the area, such as Tyrch, some five kilometres to the northeast (154295).[48] While post medieval activity is attested at both sites, there is scope for further investigation to establish if any Roman slates have been worked or discarded. In any case, the proximity of southern Preseli slate to the suggested line of the Roman road may well account for its distribution at Romano-British sites close to its general latitude.

Approximately three kilometres to the northeast of Pen-sarn, at Glandy Cross, appear the names Parcsarnau and Sarnau, a short way to the northeast (145266). As with ‘the Causeway’ near Camrose, it is often the case that crucial names have been removed from the modern OS maps, such as Parcsarnau in this case.

The next place-name, Pen-sarn, is east of Login (193238). Then east-southeast of Llanboidy there are a cluster of relevant place-names, tracking towards Carmarthen and all labelled to the north of the Via Julia as marked on the old OS map. Approximately 1.5km to the north of the first Sarnau (211253) is an earthwork labelled as ‘Caer’ (‘Y Gaer’ on the modern OS map), where a hoard of Roman silver coins is recorded. Further to the southeast are: Blaen-sarn-goch (238222), Sarn-goch (232218), Sarn-newydd (236219), Caerlleon (256220), Efail-Caerlleon (257219), Penyrheol (308208), Sarnau (313209), and Sarn-y-bwla (318205).

This concentration of place-names did not escape the attention of the late Professor Barri Jones. In the early 1970s he identified a corresponding agger west and east of Meidrim, on a general east-west alignment towards the confluence of the Afon Cywyn and the Nant Cynnen, near Rickett’s Mill in the direction of Saint Davids Hospital.[49] In this context, I am indebted to Martin Davies for his diligent observation in the field during March of this year; augmented by his Lidar analysis in this area, both avenues of inquiry appearing to support the existence of a well-defined route along this course (Fig. 8).

Merrony Fig 8


Fig.8. Lidar survey detailing the Roman road west of Meidrim proposed by the author, based on the observations of Martin Davies


The most extraordinary thing is that the collective evidence, from archaeology and place-names, appears to confirm the existence of a Roman road that roughly follows the spurious Via Julia, although I am not suggesting that Bertram’s Itinerary was genuine, but rather coincidental.

It is perhaps appropriate to conclude by considering the likelihood of future discoveries, and I am convinced, as are others, that a number of villas exist, but with perhaps fewer large forts to be established along the emerging Roman road network. It is not difficult to envisage the presence of a Roman road linking the Cwmbrwyn villa with the Trelissey site at Amroth, especially sin ce there is reason to suspect another site nearby at Eastlake Farm.[50] In the meantime, the forthcoming excavation of the Roman villa discovered by UCL in north Pembrokeshire may even produce the long-awaited discovery of some Roman mosaics. Such is the unpredictability and excitement of archaeology.


1 Merrony, M.W., ‘Richard Fenton’s ‘Roman Villa’ at Ford Revisited’, Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society 13 (2004), 5-22.

[2] A more technical paper on the results of the 2003 excavation is in preparation.

3 The most recent study on Roman Pembrokeshire is presented by James, H., ‘Roman Pembrokeshire AD 75 – 410’. In Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. 1, Prehistoric, Roman and Early Medieval Pembrokeshire, edited by H. James, M. John, K. Murphy, and G. Wainwright (Haverfordwest: Pembrokeshire County History Trust, 2016), 293-339.

4 Ptolemy, Geography of Claudius Ptolemy, translated and edited by E.L. Stevenson (New York, NY: New York Public Library, 1932).

5 Rivet, A.L.F., and Smith, C., The Place-Names of Roman Britain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 430.

[6] Rathmann, M., Tabula Peutingeriana. Die einzige Weltkarte aus der Antike (Darmstadt: Philipp von Zabern, 2016).

7 Bertram, C., The Description of Britain: Translated from Richard of Cirencester: with the Original Treatise, De situ Britanniæ; and a Commentary on the Itinerary (London: J. White & Company, 1809), 144.

8 Fenton, R., A Historical Tour Through Pembrokeshire (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Company, 1811), 182-183.

9 Fenton, 1811, 184.

10 Wheeler, R.E.M., ‘A Roman Site in Pembrokeshire’, Archaeologia Cambrensis 78 (1923), 211-224.

11 Laws, E., The History of Little England Beyond Wales: and the Non-Kymric Colony Settled in Pembrokeshire  (London: George Bell and Sons, 1888), 37.

12 ‘In the course of a further examination if this site [at Ford] on the 14 March, 1924, when the surface of the ground was clear of vegetation and the soil in the adjoining field had been turned over by the plough, several pieces of slate roofing tiles of distinctly Roman appearance were picked up, of which we append an illustration. There can be no doubt that a Roman building of some description has occupied the site’ (No. 305A). Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions in Wales and Monmouthshire, An inventory of the ancient monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire. VII, County of Pembroke (London: HMSO, 1925), 117.

It is probable that a roofing slate donated to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff by W.J. Hemp (Acc. No. 27.317), is one of these slates. For this information, I am grateful to Dr Richard Brewer, Keeper of Roman Antiquities at the National Museum of Wales.

13 Arnold, C.J., and Davies, J.L., Roman and Early Medieval Wales (Stroud: Sutton, 2000), 74; Crane, P., ‘Iron Age Promontary Fort to Medieval Castle? Excavations at Great Castle Head, Dale, Pembrokeshire’, Archaeologia Cambrensis 148 (1999), 86-145; Williams, G., and Mytum, H., Llawhaden, Dyfed: excavations on a group of small enclosures, 1980-1984, edited by K. Blockley. BAR British Series 275 (Oxford: Archaeopress, 1998); Benson, D.G., Evans, J.G., Williams, G.H., Darvill, T., and David, A., ‘Excavations at Stackpole Warren, Dyfed’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 56 (1990), 179-245; Davies, J.L., Hague, D.B., and Hogg, A.H.A., ‘The Hut-Settlement on Gateholm, Pembrokeshire’, Archaeologia Cambrensis (1971), 102-110; Wainwright, G.J., ‘The Excavation of a fortified Settlement at Walesland Rath, Pembrokeshire’, Britannia 2 (1971), 48-231.

14 Thomas, W.G., and Walker, R.F., ‘Excavations at Trelissey, Pembrokeshire, 1950-1’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 30 (1959), 295-303.

[15] Driver, T., Pembrokeshire:Historic Landscapes from the Air.

(Aberystwyth: CBHC/RCAHMW,      2007),       174-177.

[16] Carroll, M., and Lang, A., ‘The Iron Age’, in R. Adkins, L. Adkins, and V. Leitch, The Handbook of British Archaeology, revised edition (London: Constable, 2008), 104.

[17] Ward, T., ‘Roman remains at Cwmbrwyn, Carmarthenshire’, Archaeologia Cambrensis 24 (1907), 175-212.

[18] Wainwright, G.J., Coygan Camp: a Prehistoric, Romano-British and Dark Age settlement in Carmarthenshire (London: Cambrian Archaeological Association, 1967).

[19] Boon, G.C., Roman Sites (Cardiff: Cambrian Archaeological Association, 1978).

[20] Schlee, D., Archaeological Investigations at Upper Newton ‘Roman Villa’, Wolfscastle, Pembrokeshire 2010 (Llandeilo: Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2010), 13.

[21] Meek, J., Archaeological Investigations at Wiston Roman Fort and its Environs, Pembrokeshire 2014: Interim Report (Llandeilo: Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2015).

[22] Luke Hooper, personal communication, 6 January 2017.

[23] Martin Henig, personal communication, 6 January 2017.

[24] Davies, M., Ancient Causeways Uncovered (Cardigan, 2017).

[25] Millett, M., The Romanization of Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 66.

[26] Merrony, M.W., The Plight of Rome in the Fifth Century AD (London: Routledge, 2017), 81.

[27]The most advanced study of Roman Carmarthen is presented by James, H., Roman Carmarthen: Excavations, 1978-1993 (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2003).

28 Besly, E., ‘The Coins’, in H. James, Roman Carmarthen: Excavations, 1978-1993 (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2003), 283-288.

29 Guest, P., ‘The Early Monetary History of Roman Wales: Identity, Conquest and Acculturation on the Imperial Fringe’, Britannia XXXIX (2008), 33-58.

30  James, 2016, 331.

31 Fulford, M.G., ‘The Second Augustan Legion in the west of Britain’. In Birthday of the Eagle: The Second Augustan Legion and the Roman Military Machine, edited by R.J. Brewer (Cardiff: National Museums & Galleries of Wales, 2002), 83-84.

[32] Tacitus, Annals, Books 4-6, 11-12, translated by J. Jackson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1937).

33 Mattingly, D., An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC – AD 409 (London: Allen Lane, 2006), 144-145.

34 Arnold and Davies, 2000, 15-26.

35 Martin Davies, personal communication, 8 March 2018.

[36] Giraldus Cambrensis, The Journey through Wales and The Description of Wales (London: Penguin, 1978).

37 Fenton, 1811, 80.

[38] Charles, B.G., The Place-Names of Pembrokeshire, 2 vols (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 1992), 198.

[39] Bishop Wyn Evans, personal communication, 3 January 2018.

[40] Pliny, Natural History, Vol. II, Books 3-7, translated by H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942).

[41] Murphy, K., Shiner, M., and Wilson, H., Excavation at St Patrick’s Chapel 2015 Interim Report (Llandeilo: Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2015).

[42] This appears on the RCAHMW website Coflein as NPRN 416862 (National Primary Record Number).

[43] NPRN 413847.

44 Fenton, 1811, 184.

[45] Boon, 1978, 11.

[46] Boon, 1978, 2.

[47] Robin Sheldrake, personal communication, 6 February 2018.

[48] Llangolman quarry (412706), Tyrch quarry (401348).

49Jones, B.D.B., ‘Fieldwork and Air Photography in Carmarthenshire’, The Carmarthenshire Antiquary 7, 3-40.

[50] NPRN 410762.