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By Peter Ellis Jones

Limestone quarries at the junction of the Carew and Cresswell Rivers. Surveyed by Ordnance Survey in 1862. Rev. 1906.

Limestone quarries at the junction of the Carew and Cresswell Rivers. Surveyed by Ordnance Survey in 1862. Rev. 1906.

The west to east aligned rocks of the Carboniferous series in south Pembrokeshire yielded raw materials which were in great demand during the industrial awakening of the nineteenth century. The history of coal mining on the northernmost strata has been well researched and presented by Martin Cannop-Price.1 This article focuses on the quarrying of limestone along the
shores of Carew parish in the nineteenth century.


Limestone underlies the greater part of the parish; it is, however, covered by glacial drift which forms the basis for its agricultural economy. Where the limestone meets the Carew and Cresswell rivers it forms a low escarpment rising to about 20 meters (50 feet). Between the escarpment and high water mark of the tides is a low apron of fluvial deposits of varying width.

The earliest documentary evidence for quarrying in Carew is in the form of leases and letters exchanged between landowners and their tenants which highlight some of the obstacles to the exploitation of the rock for commercial purposes. With reference to a lease of the Williamston quarries in 1816 the tenant reminded the landowner that from Michaelmas to Christmas his men were employed in “digging and wheeling earth off the beds of limestone”, an activity he deemed to be “dead work”, i.e. there was no immediate return for the labour expended. 2 Since the only means of conveying the limestone to other than local markets was by water it was necessary to dig channels across the apron of fluvial deposits to link the quarry faces and the navigable rivers. Leases stipulated that the tenant was required to keep “the drains and canals and water channels … properly open (and) navigable” and also to “clean … the banks and towing paths
thereof.”3 At or near the quarry face docks had to be cut to accommodate loading vessels which were evidently towed to deep water at high tide.

At the time of the leases it is apparent that the activity was at an early stage in its development. A lease of 1790 stipulated that not more than four men were to work Williamston quarry; another of 1810 refers to the employment of 10 men and those of 1817 and 1823, 6 men. Each man earned £32 a year in 1810 and the limestone fetched 18 pence a ton “delivered to the boats.” 4 Rent for Williamston quarry was fixed at £80 a year in 1817.

Quarrying had developed significantly by 1838, the year the Tithe Survey of the parish was undertaken. Discrete quarries now extended along a one and a quarter mile arc fringing the Carew and Cresswell rivers. Apart from two owner-occupiers, the quarries were worked by the tenants of the local gentry who owned the land. 5

Quarries are shown in greater detail on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, published in 1868 (Fig.1) The quarries have been numbered and the land and owners and tenants are listed below. (Table 1)

Quarries are shown in greater detail on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, published in 1868 (Fig.1)
The quarries have been numbered and the land and owners and tenants are listed below. (Table 1)























Table 1. Landowner & tenant of quarry based on Tithe Survey, 1838

1 Prinkley Bush estate James Stratton
2 New Dock Lettice Llewhellin
3 Tithing Barn John Harcourt Powell of Hook Thomas Adams
4 Croft George Llewhellin
5 Barley Hay Old Quarry John Harcourt Powell Anne Ormond
6 Williamston Park George Henry Carew
of Freestone Hall
James Rogers
7 West Williamston John Harcourt Powell Anne Ormond
8 Barley Hay John Hensley Allen
of Cressely
Thomas Ormond
9 ? John Hensley Allen Thomas Ormond

An insight into the working of one of the quarries listed may be drawn from an analysis of data recorded in a ledger kept at New Dock quarry over the period 1856-77, when the quarry was owned by Pearce Llewhellin.6 Although an incomplete record of the quarry’s activities, e.g. there are no entries for the years 1859 to 1865 and there is little standardization in the manner in which the information is recorded, there is sufficient data to present an albeit opaque picture of quarrying in the district during the period.

The ‘plant’ at the quarry on 30 December 1856 comprised: 3 dyricks (sic-cranes), 6 earth barrows (for removing the overlying soil), 9 stone barrows, some deal boards and planks and unspecified tools. There was a sloop, Ann Bowen, of 60 tons burthen and three lighters/barges of 18 tons. (In 1866, another sloop, the Emily, joined the fleet). From the accounts for later years money had been spent on powder (explosives) carried in carts from Saundersfoot and Pembroke Dock; items of timber and iron for repairing the boats and wheelbarrows and tar for preserving the timbers of the boats. Interestingly, 9 gallons of ale and ½ gallon of gin were bought for the men who cleared out the dock in November 1856; similar entries appeared from time to time. There is no evidence that mechanical drills, crushing and sorting machinery etc. were in use. The activity was clearly labour intensive and undercapitalized which is not surprising given the fragmented nature of land ownership. This resulted in small quarries worked by tenant farmers (apart from the Llewhellin’s) whose main interests were in their farms as their principal source of income.


Names and pay of individual workmen are recorded in the ledger for the year 1856 only. Forty five workmen were on the pay roll but only seven worked for a continuous period of six months or more. Many were employed for just one or  two weeks. Men probably moved freely between the quarries responding to the local demand for labour. Significantly, the highest number, between 13 and 20 men, were employed from Michaelmas to the year’s end when removing the overlying soil dominated work at the quarry. Workmen were paid fortnightly (a common practice at that time) for either a 12, 11½ or 11 day stint. From March 1856 rates of pay were increased by two pence a day to two shillings and one shilling and eight pence. Boys received six to ten pence a day. Rates reflected the range of skills employed, e.g. masons received four shillings and sixpence a day. Those manning the boats were paid separately: Thomas Davies, for working the sloop Ann Bowen, was paid £79.10.11 for the year 1858.


Destination of the limestone

Boats sailing from the quarry are recorded in the ledger for the years 1858, 1866 and 1876. Two broad areas were served:
(a)    The coast of Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire north of the entrance to Milford Haven (incl. Aberdyfi)
These boats carried limestone destined for the lime kilns situated along this stretch of coast. Farmers depended on lime to counteract the acidity of the soils in west Wales. Cargoes were unloaded, often on open beaches, and conveyed by cart to the nearby kiln where they were burned by the heat generated by the burning of culm. Lime was applied to both arable and pasture land in the summer months. (Table 2)


Table 2. Number of cargoes carried to named ports, 1858, 1866 & 1876

Home port No. of Cargoes
(from North to South) 1858 1866 1876
Aberdyfi 1 3
Aberystwyth 1 1
Llansanffraid (Llanon) 4 7
Aberaeron 11 10 5
New Quay 9 12 6
Llangranog 9 1
Tresaith 1
Aberporth 11
Cardigan 13 22
St. Dogmels 9 4
Newport 10 11
Dinas 5 3 8
Fishguard 1 9 21
Abercastle 2
St. Davids 20 16 14
Solva 3
Port not specified 6 3
Total 61 115 96

Fifty one sloops were employed in the trade in 1866 three quarters of which carried less than 40 tons of limestone (Table 3).

Table 3. Tonnage carried in boats, 1866

Tonnage of boats No.
10-19 3
20-29 12
30-39 23
40-49 9
50-59 2
Over 60 2

The season for carrying limestone to the coastal kilns ran from March 28th to September 10th in 1866. Nearly 70% of cargoes left in the summer months June, July and August. These were the most benign months for the hazardous journey up the coast and also the most appropriate ones for spreading lime upon the fields. (Table 4)

Table 4. Cargoes shipped in 1866

 Month of shipment No. of cargoes
March 1
April 4
May 13
June 24
July 33
August 26
September 15

(b)    The Milford Haven-Cleddau waterway system

This water system provided calm water and a large number of locations, both man-made and natural, for boats to discharge their cargoes. The trade was entirely in the hands of the quarry operator; his sloops the Ann Bowen and Emily tended to sail to the deeper waters beyond Neyland, e.g. Dale, Sandyhaven and Hazelbeach while the shallow draft lighters/barges plied the upper reaches of the water system. Sheltered waters too enabled boats to operate from mid-January to mid-October, (Table 5) allowing time in the intervening months for clearing the overlying soil and servicing the canal system.

Table 5. Cargoes shipped in 1866

Month No. of cargoes
January 12
February 22
March 23
April 21
May 10
June 16
July 23
August 25
September 8
October 2
Total 162

Although limestone, destined for the many kilns which fringed the waterway, was the principal composition of the cargo, the trade was more varied in character than that which was conveyed by sea. Prominent among the kilns supplied was Tock kiln near Blackpool on the Slebech estate of Baron de Rutzen. Lying at the head of navigation on the Eastern Cleddau and being only three miles from Narberth Tock kiln was well placed to serve the interior of the county. Others included the suite of kilns at Sandyhaven in the west and in Haverfordwest at the head of navigation on the Western Cleddau. There was a demand by the construction industry for stones fashioned by masons at the quarry e.g. quoins, blocks, coping and kerb stones, scapples, pitchings and backings.7 Among the clients supplied were H.M. Dockyard in Pembroke Dock, and the Milford Docks Company which between 1864 and 1888 enlarged the docks in Milford Haven. Others included the Bridge Commissioners and the Governor of the gaol in Haverfordwest. Twenty tons of quoins were shipped for the rebuilding of Marloes church in 1874. Undressed blocks of limestone were supplied to masons in Pembroke, Milford Haven and Haverfordwest to be fashioned into, among other things, head- and tombstones. (A block of stone from the nearby Williamston Park quarry was shipped to a mason in Haverfordwest to be fashioned into the font which was installed in St. Mary’s church, Carew in 1844.) 8 Smaller stones, called shoddies, were used for road metalling and for bedding railway sleepers. There was always a ready market too for rubble, the waste product of the quarry.

The last entry in the New Dock quarry ledger is dated 5 September 1877 the day a notice of sale of Carew Newton farm appeared in the local press.9 Pearce

Llewhellin had failed to repay a loan he had borrowed from the London and Provincial Bank and was forced to sell his house, 74 acres of land and “the
valuable and extensive well known limestone quarries now in full work … The quarries have four lifting cranes and command an extensive trade, the demand for building and limestone being great and the facilities for shipment very convenient.” 10

The above description of the quarry might contain an element of estate agents’ ‘hype’ since it is clear that the peak in the Carew coastal lime industry had now passed. Decline was particularly apparent in the supply of limestone for the kilns which had been the principal component of the trade. A number of factors contributed to this decline. Prominent among them was the growing availability of artificial fertilizers. Advertisements for superphosphate of lime and Peruvian guano appeared regularly in the local press in the mid-sixties. By the 1880s superphosphates, the product of the chemical industry, basic slag, a by-product of the steel industry and lime processed by modern crushing machinery had become readily available and, supplied in bags, could be transported with greater facility along the expanding rail network. “For farmers whose land was near a railway station the price of lime fell to a quarter of what it had been.”11 By 1887 artificial manures had “… very largely increased and superseded liming” in South Pembrokeshire.12 The later arrival of the railway to the coastal areas of north Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire only delayed their introduction there too.

Contemporary with the availability of artificial fertilizers came years of depression in crop farming as cheap grains from the Prairies of North America impacted directly on areas of marginal suitability for growing corn such as south west Wales. On a broader canvas dock developments at Milford Haven came to
an end in 1888 and the naval dockyard in Pembroke Dock entered a period of long decline.

Evidence for the decline in the limestone trade in the last two decades of the century may be gleaned from a number of sources. Prominent among them is a ledger covering the period 1889 to 1923 which relates to Tithing Barn, Barley Hay and Croft quarries operated by the Ormond family of Williamston . 13 Unfortunately there is little consistency in the form in which data are presented in the ledger, though a comprehensive list of the home ports of the vessels leaving the quarries is recorded for 1889.

Table 6. Cargoes shipped from Tithing Barn, Barley Hay & Croft quarries, 1889

Home port No. of Cargoes
Aberaeron 5
New Quay 1
Llangranog 3
Tresaith 1
Aperporth 3
Cardigan 2
Newport 1
Fishguard 4
Abercastle 1
St. Davids 2
Solva 2
Dale 1
Milford 1

Although the name of the home ports has a familiar ring, the number of cargoes shipped from the three quarries is fewer than from New Dock quarry alone between 1858 and 1876 (Table 2). The Ormond family owned a sloop, Sarah, and lighters Betsy, Farmer and Sisters. Between 1889 and 1895 the Sarah carried 33 cargoes, each of 34 tons to the kilns at Solva and the lighters supplied the kilns at Dale, Sandyhaven, Gellyswick, Hazelbeach, Castle Pill (Burton) and
Haverfordwest into the following century. In 1894 stones from the quarries sold for £291.10.9. At Census 1881 George Ormond, who gave his occupation as
‘farmer and quarry master’ was employing 16 quarrymen and 8 bargemen; at Census 1901 his son, Thomas, gave his occupation as ‘farmer’ only. The revised edition of the Ordnance Survey six inches to one mile map, surveyed in 1906, has the description ‘disused’ applied to the following quarries: New Dock, Tithing Barn, Williamston Park and Williamston. The term ‘limekiln (disused)’ peppers the shores of the Cleddau waterway system.

By the early twentieth century it is evident that the sea and river borne limestone trade was virtually over. Croft was the last of the waterside quarries to be worked; the last recorded cargoes in the Ormond ledger were to the kilns in Haverfordwest in 1907 and to Dale and Maryborough in 1911. Thereafter there are scattered references to ‘broken stone’ for named parishes, for use as road metalling, interspersed with receipts and payments connected with the farm. The final entry in the ledger is dated November 26, 1923 and records a payment from “Thomas Scourfield, of Cheriton, Carew, for horse grazing and royalty of stone from Croft quarry.”


The lease of Croft quarry to Thomas Scourfield in 1922 opens a new chapter in the history of the Carew limestone industry. With the advent of motor transport in the new century it became possible for heavy goods to be transported direct from source to consumer markets. Expansion in motor transport in the inter-war years stimulated the demand for improved roads and road metalling while activity at the quarry was boosted during the Second World War by the construction of military facilities in the district, e.g. the airfield at Milton, and army camps at Skrinkle, Manorbier and Merrion, Warren parish. Since the war industrial developments, such as the power station and oil refineries around Milford Haven, have led to a demand for aggregate for mixing concrete and for concrete blocks for the building construction industry.

Under successive generations of the Scourfield family the quarrying of limestone in Carew parish has undergone significant development and growth. Croft quarry was abandoned in the 1950s when a quarry was opened up near Carew Newton (Grid ref. SN 048042). Over the years modern crushing and grading machinery have been installed and a manufactory built to produce, by mass production methods, concrete blocks of varying consistency for the construction industry. The firm is a major supplier of concrete blocks for markets throughout south west Wales.



1.    M.R. Connop-Price, ‘Coal, Culm and Cresswell Quay’, Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society, Vol. 6 (1994/95). M.R. Connop-Price, Pembrokeshire, the Forgotten Coalfield, Landmark Publishing, 2004.
2.    P(embrokeshire) R(ecord) O(ffice), D/CAR/123, letter dated 14 September 1816. See also D/CAR/126, letter dated 23 December 1823.
3.    PRO D/CAR/63, letter dated September 9 1829.
4.    PRO D/CAR/123.

5.    (a) Richard Llewhellin bought the freehold of Carew Newton farm in 1813 (PRO D/BUSH/10/99). At his death in 1829 the property passed to his widow Lettice (N(ational) L(ibrary) of W(ales), Wills, SD 1830/39).
(b) George William Llewhellin (1803-78), eldest son of Richard and Lettice Llewhellin bought the freehold of West Williamston on his marriage to Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Hugh and Eliza Wilson of Cresswell Quay.
6.    PRO HDX/1800/2.
On Lettice Llewhellin’s death in 1856 Carew Newton farm including the quarry, was divided equally between her children Eliza Griffiths, Pearce and Richard in accordance with the will of Richard Llewhellin (see 5 (a) above). The property was valued at £3,600. After they had drawn lots, Pearce bought his siblings out of their shares.
7.    scapples: Blocks of stone whose surfaces are reduced to a plane surface without being worked smooth
pitchings: stones in paving or set on edge, close together along a face or slope as protection against waves or currents.
backings: rough stones to form or line the back of a wall or bank.
The price per ton of stone shipped in 1874 was: blocks, quoins 6/-, coping 3/6, kerb 6/-, pitchings 4/-, backings 2/6, rubble 1/8-2/6, limestone for kilns 1/6.
8.    W.G. Spurrell, The History of Carew, Carmarthen, 1921.
9.    Pembroke Herald and Advertiser, 5 September 1877.
10.    Pearce Llewhellin, who had to borrow money to buy out his sister and brother in order to inherit Carew Newton farm (see note 6 above), was unable to repay his creditors. Among them, the London and Provincial Bank, called in a loan of £611 on 27 August 1877 (PRO D/BUSH/10/99).
For Pearce Llewhellin, a colourful character within the South Pembrokeshire farming community, see Peter Ellis Jones, A history of my maternal grandmother’s family… PRO HDX 1595.
11.    John Davies, A History of Wales (Penguin Books, 1993), 410.
12.    David W. Howell, Farming in Pembrokeshire, 1815-1974, Chapter 3, Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. 4 (1993), 90.
13.    The Ormond Ledger, NLW, MSS 18120E.




By Ken Murphy

During 2010 the Dyfed Archaeological Trust carried out several excavations and surveys in and around Pembrokeshire. Some of the highlights are described here.

A possible Roman villa was investigated at Upper Newton, near Wolfscastle. Mark Merrony had carried out geophysical survey on this site in 2003 (reported on in  Journal No. 13), and subsequently followed it up with trial excavation. In 2010 the Trust expanded the area of geophysical survey and excavated further trial trenches with the aim of trying to better characterise the site. Unfortunately the presumed site of the villa lies directly beneath large hedge-banks and trenches positioned as close to the hedge-banks as possible failed to reveal any evidence of a villa. Results from the geophysical survey were more informative, not because the villa was revealed, but because a previous unknown Iron Age defended settlement was discovered.

Just over the county boundary at Pant y Butler, near Cardigan in Ceredigion, cremation burials beneath Bronze Age round barrows were excavated in September 2009 and September 2010. In both the excavated barrows it would seem that the original Bronze Age cremation burials had been deliberately removed and replaced by later burials, still of Bronze Age date, approximately 1800 BC. In the larger of the two barrows a jet bead necklace accompanied the replacement cremation. This is a very rare find in Wales, with only four others known. The jet probably originates from Whitby on the east coast of England and would have been valued for its seemingly magical properties.


Other rare Bronze Age artefacts were found during trial excavations at Fan round barrow, near Talsarn, also in Ceredigion. Here Pygmy Cups, small pottery vessels, had been placed in shallow pits with cremation burials. Fragments of melted bronze with one the cremations suggests that a spearhead or sword had been placed on the funerary pyre along with the body.

In the northeast of Pembrokeshire, on the border with Carmarthenshire, a group of enigmatic earthwork monuments has been surveyed and a very small-scale excavation undertaken. These seem to be pond barrows, a type of monument associated with round barrows. If they are pond barrows it would be unusual to find them in west Wales as they are a rare monument type and currently only known in Dorset and Wiltshire. Unfortunately the work undertaken so far has not been sufficient to characterise the earthworks.

The Trust has been recording the coastal heritage of southwest Wales with help from members of local communities, through a project called Arfordir. Pembrokeshire has a rich coastal heritage, emphatically demonstrated in the spring of 2010 when Sarah Carlsen, a local resident of Lydstep Haven, contacted the Trust to report discoveries on the beach. She had noted human (adults and children) and animal (mostly red deer) footprints in peat – a common deposit on the beaches of west Wales and know as the submerged forest – uncovered by a storm during exceptionally high tides. Lydstep is unique in Wales as in the early 20th century the skeleton of a pig with a flint arrowhead embedded in it was found beneath a fallen tree trunk in the submerged forest. The skeleton of this pig is now in the Natural History Museum in London and has been radiocarbon dated to c. 4200 BC. The footprints may be the result of hunters standing in the shallow waters of a freshwater lagoon. More analysis on the samples taken will be needed to confirm this.

During 2011 the Trust in conjunction with other organisation such as the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park will be investigating several sites in and around Pembrokeshire, including excavations at Fan round barrow, Henry VIII’s gun fort at Angle, and a medieval village at St Ishmael in Carmarthenshire. Volunteers are always welcome, so if you would like to join in please contact Alice Pyper at 01558 823121 a.pyper@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk. Further details will be posted closer to the date of the excavations on the Trust’s website at www.dyfedarchaeology.org.uk. More information on all the projects described above can be found on the Trust’s website.

NEWS FROM PETE CRANE – Archaeologist Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Excavation is continuing this summer at Nevern Castle, between 19 June and 8 July, undertaken as a partnership between Nevern Community Council, which owns the site, Dr Chris Caple of Durham University and the National Park Authority. Students and local volunteers will be helping with the excavation.

Free guided tours of the excavations and the castle at Nevern will take place at 2.45pm every day except Thursdays. Visitors are welcome at any time during the dig and the site is open all year round.

Topographical and geophysical surveys are planned this year at Gribin Fort Solva and a ‘new fort’ further along the ridge. The dates of this work have not been fixed. More details will become available from PCNP or Dyfed Archaeological Trust.



By Susan Potts

Pembrokeshire is a special place for many of us, residents and visitors alike, and those of us not born here may consider as lucky those whose childhood was spent here. Such a one was Thomas Tomkins, one of the six most famous composers of Tudor music. Born and raised here, he is perhaps not as celebrated as he might be in his childhood county. There are, however, some possible reasons for Thomas Tomkins’s relatively unsung status.

When I first came across the madrigal ‘Too much I once lamented’, living at the time in Gloucestershire, I knew nothing of its source but the music spoke to me. I was intrigued, therefore, when my fellow contralto madrigalist in our Pembrokeshire group pointed out that Tomkins was born in St Davids. My initial interest has led me to research in Oxford, Paris and New York as well as in Wales. As other researchers will know, the enjoyment of such study is tempered by frustration over missing documentation and instances of misinformation. This article is an outline of what has come to light so far for me, based originally on Anthony Boden’s biography, Thomas Tomkins: The Last Elizabethan, which was an initial main source for me and gave me ideas for further study.

Thomas Tomkins spent his first fourteen years in and around St Davids. He was the son of Thomas Farington Tomkins, organist and Vicar Choral of the Cathedral. Traces of buildings which included the Tomkins household may still be seen in the field opposite Cloister Hall through which a path runs up to Quickwell. Although the Cathedral of St Davids was subject to direction and influence from the Tudor court in London, outside the Close the Welsh cultural traditions were strong and Welsh was the people’s first language.

Within the Cathedral, services were held in both Welsh and English, Latin having been recently ousted from the, post-Reformation church in favour of the vernacular. It had taken a little time for the Welsh dynasty in London to catch on to the idea that in Wales, English was not the language of the people and it was thanks to Elizabeth I, herself a noted linguist, that the language of heaven was incorporated into the religious life of Wales. Later in her reign, the year 1588 was made famous by the Armada but for Wales the year is as famous for the William Morgan Bible. The prayer book and the psalms were translated into Welsh around that time too.

Confusingly, Thomas had an older brother also called Thomas who was made a young Vicar Choral in order to bring some extra pay into the Tomkins household. This happened in 1577 when that older brother was 10 and the younger Thomas was 5 years old. There is a theory, which I first saw in Anthony Boden’s book which gives a plausible reason for more than one Thomas in the Tomkins household. In the past when infant and child mortality was very common in Britain, as elsewhere, it was often the case that a new-born child would be named after its dead older sibling. Many records show this feature. It is comparatively very rare, however, that a younger child would be given the same name as its living sibling. In 1571 the father, Thomas Farington Tomkins, was recorded in the Cathedral Chapter Acts Book A as being required to desist from his wrongful relationship with his Welsh maidservant and to bring home his wedded wife, Margaret. The younger Thomas was born in 1572 and was brought up in the household as the son of Margaret. Boden’s conjecture is that he may have been the illegitimate son of the 1571 liaison with the Welsh maidservant and that she, the maidservant, may have given up her son for raising within the family but made the condition that he was named after his father. The possibility therefore is that the father had two sons named after him, one being his oldest child perhaps named by his wife for him and this later one named for him by his maidservant.

Unfortunately there is much misinformation in the public domain about Tomkins. For instance, a book written by Henry Gee, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, in 1921 exists without erratum referring to Thomas Tomkins as a Gloucester boy. Tomkins himself, however, in his dedication of  Songs of 3, 4, 5 and 6 parts to the Earl of Pembroke in 1622 includes the words ‘… I first breathed, and beheld the sun in that County, to which your Lordship gives the greatest lustre, taking the Title of your Earldom from it … ‘ but even without this piece of flattery to a potential sponsor The St Davids Chapter Acts Book A allows any researcher to feel secure with respect to Tomkins’s Pembrokeshire credentials.

While considering theories for which supporting evidence is not robust, there is the pleasing idea that Thomas as a young boy travelled with his father all round Dewisland, noting its geographical and historical features. Boden (pp 27-32) suggests this because a manuscript was found describing the area in the years around or after the Armada. The authorship of the document is in doubt but there are indications that it might have been written by the composer’s father, Thomas Farington Tomkins. It contains the now well-known comment that the rocks called The Bishop and his Clerks would be a good defence against the Spanish navy at no cost to the Queen: a somewhat barbed remark, it seems!

What seems reasonably safe to assert is that while the young Thomas was growing up in St Davids he would have witnessed the lively Welsh culture which included much music. Nowadays when we think of wassailing, it is in connection with the Christmas and New Year season but for Thomas, wassailers could be heard, at every festive occasion including Easter, Calan Mai (MayDay), mid-summer’s day and Calan Gaeaf (the official beginning of winter, November 1st) among others. The traditions of Hunting the Wren and Mari Lwyd are well-known as having been regular events but others, such as Singing the Doorstep, are less widely recognised: this was a custom in which a group of people would gather at the door of a bride-to-be and engage in poetic repartee which it is thought was often sung.

Singing and dancing outside the church was also part of the cultural scene on the many feast days throughout the year. The content of these after-service revelries was not always as decorous as one might imagine. A verse that slipped into Gramadegau’r Penceirddiaid shows a punning wit in a naughty little Welsh rhyme, for knowledge of which I am indebted to Meredydd Evans; there was a well-known consequence of such gatherings especially associated with the feast days in May which was a yearly crop of babies born in February who were known as ‘The Flowers of May’.

Music was part of everyday life too, for instance in taverns and after work on farms. For these informal gatherings there would be a small, cheap and portable harp ready to unhook from the wall and pass round the company as an impromptu accompaniment to the singing. Some of the songs were favourites passed on by word of mouth in the area or brought into St Davids by traders and travellers; others were made up as the singers went along, sometimes using rhyming couplets as a form of verse structure. This inventiveness has been a social asset in this area for centuries, continuing forward in time 400 years to when we moved to North Pembrokeshire when we were told by Jimmy ‘Bettws’, our next-door neighbour, of similar rhyming contests which he remembered as happening spontaneously in a Newport inn, then known as The Com [The Commercial, now the Castle Hotel]. The skill of the feat-songs was there carried on as spoken rather than sung couplets, conjured up on the spot, and was a regular feature of pub life just a few decades ago.

There are no available records to show what happened to Margaret Tomkins, whom the young Thomas regarded as his mother, but by 1586 when he was 14, his father had remarried. Thomas’s stepmother was Anne Hargest of Pen Arthur Farm then owned by her relative Richard Hargest and where the young Thomas probably spent time. The Singing the Doorstep would have marked his stepmother’s entry to the family. Pen Arthur farm today covers about 130 acres and records indicate that it would have been much the same size in Tudor time, producing grain as well as raising animals, principally sheep. It lies just a few minutes’ walk up a lane from the Cathedral Close and includes a large farmyard surrounded by stone buildings. In Tomkins’s time there would have been a sizable permanent pool of workers, inside as well as outside, in addition to temporary extra hands at busy times such as harvesting.

In 1586 financial problems, which had beset the family for a decade or more, became acute. The older brother Thomas, whose pay for the preceding nine years as a Vicar Choral had been boosting the family income, disgraced himself in such a serious way (the details of which are not entered in the records) that he was expelled from his Cathedral post. He ran away to sea and was subsequently killed on board The Revenge, Grenville’s ship, in 1591 in the sea battle with the Spanish off  Flores. Tennyson’s poem The Revenge recalls those events.

For those interested in the younger Thomas Tomkins there is a frustrating gap in the records which concern the years 1586 to 1594 but it is clear that his family moved to Gloucester sometime during those years. The last entry referring to any of the members of the family appears in the St Davids Cathedral Chapter Acts Book for the spring of 1586 and the first entry so far found in any Gloucester records refers to 1594. Whereas the St Davids records of that time continue with details of payments to those on the Cathedral staff (which, up till then had named members of the Tomkins family), the records in Gloucester for that time are incomplete. The shame of the older son’s behaviour and subsequent expulsion from St Davids and the complaints relating to his employment conditions that the organist father had made over the years there may have combined to make continued living in St Davids uncomfortable.

By 1594 Thomas Farington Tomkins was installed as a minor canon of Gloucester Cathedral and had been given the livings of three parishes in that diocese. Clearly he regarded the young Thomas as exceptionally musical and he apprenticed him to the famous William Byrd who, though living and working in London, owned property not far from Gloucester Cathedral. It is clear that the young Thomas Tomkins appreciated his stroke of fortune, learning much from his famous tutor to whom he later dedicated Too much I once lamented in these terms ‘To my ancient, and much reverenced Master, William Byrd’.

Thomas secured the job of Cathedral organist in Worcester in 1596, aged 24, a position which he held all his working life. The next year on 24th May 1597 in Tewkesbury Abbey Thomas married Alice, widow of the former Worcester Cathedral organist Nathaniel Patrick. In 1621 he was appointed to the Chapel Royal which was based mainly in Windsor but which required its members to travel with their royal patrons around the country. Tomkins is recorded as having been included in some of this travelling though, as far as we know, he never returned to Wales. Thus started decades of combining his commitments to Worcester Cathedral with his prestigious and somewhat onerous position as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. Throughout his life he composed both sacred and secular works, many of which were settings of words, English for the most part but with some of his sacred compositions using Latin. No settings of Welsh words have been found to date. His instrumental works included many organ voluntaries but also a ground-breaking keyboard duet A Fancy for two to play which was composed some time before 1630. This piece, along with his friend Nicholas Carlton’s A Verse for two to play on one virginal or organ, is the earliest keyboard duet known to be composed in England; it has four strands of melody which interweave in madrigal-fashion, a feature that comes across clearly when played on the differing pipe-stops of an organ and it prefigures the fugal form.
The mid 1600s brought profound and severe changes to many in England and Tomkins life became harder and sadder, too. His wife Alice had died in 1642 and, as the Civil War came to Worcester, his house was badly damaged and the miseries of severe food shortages and violence were all round him. He was unable to continue at Worcester Cathedral when his role of organist was abolished by the Commonwealth Authorities. When the Puritan Army took over, the organ was broken up and church music was not wanted. During this time he was looking after two young orphaned nephews and had just married a young widow with sons of her own. This phase of his life crumbled further when his second wife died around 1653.  Thomas Tomkins had spent the best part of sixty years producing music for regular Cathedral services in Worcester alongside more than thirty years of music at the Chapel Royal for state occasions such as the funeral of James I in 1625 and the coronation of King Charles I in1626. Now he was without work, without pay and without a home.

He was to be rescued from the ruins of his life in 1654. Thomas and Alice had had two children, Nathaniel and Ursula. Of Ursula we know nothing but Nathaniel is thought to have spied for personal gain on people whose houses had offered him hospitality and it is said he had a number of feuds with people in Worcester where he was consequently not liked. He was, however, a survivor. His first wife having died around 1650, he married in 1654 Isabel Lady Folliott  who owned a small estate six miles outside Worcester in the village of Martin Hussingtree. It was here that Thomas lived out the rest of his life. Thanks to Isabel, we know he was still composing at the age of 82 because we have a Pavane and Galliard written by Tomkins for her. The manuscript Réserve MS 1122 now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, contains not only existing music he copied out but also some new works of those last years. His increasingly shaky and larger handwriting, with crossings-out and jumped pages, signifies his increasing frailty but the fact that at 82 he was still composing music and that he reached the age of 84 secure in Martin Hussingtree is remarkable for the times in which he lived, spanning the Tudor and Stuart dynasties.

That Tomkins is thought of as an English rather than a Welsh composer stems from the understanding that all his known compositions are understood to have been written in England during his adulthood. His works are included in anthologies of English music since he is regarded as a significant composer in England by compilers such as Hulay and Wulstan, themselves respected authorities. Dr Peter James, an authority on Tudor music, considers that Tomkins belongs in the top four of Tudor madrigalists in Britain, the other three being Thomas Morley, Thomas Weelkes and John Wilby whose names are almost certainly more familiar to the general public. (The works of William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons are considered by experts to fall outside this more closely-defined category.)

Madrigals by Tomkins familiar to readers may include Too much I once lamented, Oyez, has any found a lad and See, see the shepherds’ queen. He also wrote a great deal of sacred music, including When David heard that Absalom was dead, Out of the Deep and Great and marvellous are thy works. His also wrote instrumental music, both for ensembles of viols and for the keyboard, the organ in particular.

At Martin Hussingtree in his old age, with his efforts and energy no longer taken up by official requirements, Thomas Tomkins may perhaps have revisited memories of his childhood in Pembrokeshire, with Welsh tunes and stress patterns coming to mind, ready to influence his writing. Whether or not such Welsh memories can be found, I hope that this local boy’s compositions, whose works are performed across the world, may become more fêted in his native land.

The research work on which this paper is based was originally developed in connection with my MA in Music through The Open University, Milton Keynes in two parts: the project and the dissertation.
Anthony Boden’s book has played a key part in my researches and I am immensely grateful to him for his work and his encouragement, as I am also to Phyllis Kinney and Meredydd Evans.


1.   A. Boden. Thomas Tomkins: The Last Elizabethan. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005).
2.   David W. James. St. Davids and Dewisland A Social History. (Cardiff: University of              Wales Press, 1981) 159.
3. D. Parry Jones. Welsh Children’s Games and Pastimes: Nursery Rhymes and Games. (1964).
4. Thomas Morley. A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke. (London: Peter Short. (specifically the copy owned by Thomas Tomkins with all his writings therein, from the archive of Magdalen College, Oxford), 1597.
5. National Library of Wales (NLW). Collectaenea Menvensia. undated: Aberystwyth.
6. NLW St Davids Chapter Acts Books A and B. Aberystwyth.
7. George Owen. The Description of Pembrokeshire. (Archive material in the Pembrokeshire County Records Office, Haverfordwest, Pembs, 1603. Ed. Henry Owen (Cymmrodorion Record Series: London 1893-1936).
8. Trefor M Owen. Welsh Folk Customs. (Cardiff: National Museum of Wales, 1968).
9. Iorwerth C. Peate. Tradition and Folk Life: a Welsh View. (London: Faber and Faber, 1972).
10.Tradition and Folk Life: Folk Lore. (London: Faber and Faber, 1972).
11.Welsh Children’s Games and Pastimes: Posis – Puzzles and Riddles.( London: Faber and Faber, 1964).
12. 1964. Welsh Children’s Games and Pastimes: Nursery Games and Rhymes. (London: Faber and Faber, 1964).
13. Pembrokeshire Library. Francis Green manuscripts volumes 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20, 23, 24, 25 and 27. n. pub.
14. All documents in the files relating to Thomas Tomkins in St Davids Cathedral Library, Pembrokeshire.
15. Stanley Sadie, (ed.). 1988. The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music. (Repr. London: MacMillan, 1994).
16. Denis Stevens. Thomas Tomkins 1572-1656. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1967).
17. G. J. Williams & E. L. Jones. Gramadegau’r Penceirddiaid. (Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 1934).

1. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris: Réserve 1122 & 1186,
2. Bodleian Library Oxford MSS: Mus. f.20-24, Mus. Sch. C 64-9, Mus. Sch. 93, Mus. Sch. D 212-16, Mus. Sch. D 245-7, Tenbury MS 791, Tenbury 1004, Tenbury 1021, Tenbury 1303, Tenbury 1382 & Rawl. poet.23 (texts).
3. Christ Church, Oxford: Mus.MSS numbers 6, 61-6, 88, 437, 698-707, 1001, 1002, 1018-20, 1113, 1220-24, 1227 (all on film sent to The Bodleian Library during Christ Church Library repair work).
4. Public Library, New York: Drexel MSS 4180-85, 5469, 5611 & 5612.
5. St John’s College, Oxford: MSS 180 & 181.

(N.B. Following the sad demise of the author only limited editing of Susan’s text and notes has been possible. Editor.)



By Mark Muller

History has never been more popular.  Each year reveals a deeper fascination with past events, a desire to know how people used to live or perhaps a craving for deeper knowledge of family trees and their individual histories.  Television feeds this need and modern technology has introduced research resources which make tantalizing confusions all at once clear.

Here in Pembrokeshire, the 900th anniversary of the founding of Haverfordwest gave a reason for inhabitants to examine causes and explanations for the unique position that this town has held in Wales.  It still comes as a surprise to newcomers either to the area or to history, that the town was founded by Flemings following the flooding of their homeland very early in the twelfth century.  The consequences of this incursion remain extremely obvious, account for so much and mean that a county, already clove in two by the river Cleddau, is divided further and irreconcilably on language, culture and social characteristics. Is the anniversary of such an event a cause for celebration?  If the town founded as a result, is your hometown then the answer has to be yes.

During 2009, groups, organisations and councils examined the potential for a celebratory year and a calendar of prospective events was created and placed on-line by the Town Council.  In addition the 900 Committee was formed and chaired by Malcolm Green to co-ordinate and promote events during 2010.  Well in time for the anniversary year, a book was published by the Haverfordwest Civic Society, written by the author of this article, entitled People Who Shaped Haverfordwest, comprising a brief examination of people, not necessarily from the town but whose fame in one cause or another combined with their achievements or actions, coloured either the fabric of the town or its mythology in the minds of the inhabitants.  Both Queen Eleanor and Oliver Cromwell spent little time in Haverfordwest but their position, and for a brief time their overwhelming interest, for opposite reasons in the Castle, altered the appearance of the dominant feature of the town.

Parallel but unconnected with the book, the Civic Society undertook a major long term addition to the town by originating and seeing through the extremely complex undertaking of the placement in the Castle grounds, of a large stone inset with a plaque. On the plaque are inscribed the names of persons who for one reason or another deserve recognition. The idea  of the plaque was that of Geoffrey Foster, member at the time of the Executive Committee, who with the help of Robin Sheldrake and others navigated a path through the rigorous formulae that accompanies any desire to dig up as much as one blade of grass within the curtilage of a scheduled monument.

The names that appear on the plaque begin with the town’s founder, Tancred, and end with the famous singer Helen Watts. A poignant fact is that Helen Watts was initially not to be included for the simple reason that she was still alive. But she qualified with her death two days before the launch of People Who Shaped Haverfordwest in October 2009, to which she had contributed the foreword. The plaque was unveiled on the 18th July 2010 by a detachment of the Dyfed Army Cadets in front of a large audience. Speeches were made by the Lord Lieutenant, the Honourable Robin Lewis, Sir John Roch and Derek Rees (President and Chairman of Haverfordwest Civic Society), and Malcolm Green.

The job ends; the plaque is unveiled by cadets in front of the Lord Lieutenant, the Honourable Robin Lewis and Sir John Roch.

The job ends; the plaque is unveiled by cadets in front of the Lord Lieutenant, the Honourable Robin Lewis and Sir John Roch.

A host of events filled the year, with a medieval banquet organised by the Inner Wheel, held in May, and a Medieval Family Day with knights, archers and craft stalls organised by the Round Table in June.  The inhabitants of the town prove to be extremely selective in their choice of what they want and will support; guided walks of prominent landmarks (Castle and Priory). These are always popular, as are talks on social aspects (Edwardian period, Workhouse) but Walking Treasure hunts, even with an attractive prize (£100) do not draw large numbers. Period plays relevant to the town with casts in stunning costumes (performed in July) will always bring large audiences if staged outdoors, but the numbers fall significantly if weather dictates an indoor performance.  Both the Beer and Cider Festival and The Ghost Walks proved extremely popular.  The landmark event organised by the 900 Committee was a Gala Barbecue held in late July at the Withybush County Showground.  It was well attended.  In September, a Pageant arranged by Cleddau Community Arts involved primary schools with a large number of children in costumes representing different periods from the 900 years of the town’s existence.  The year, having started with a service in St Martin’s Church organised by the Town Council in January 2010 and attended by the Bishop of St Davids, ended in late December with a walking Carol Concert around the town with many singers in Dickensian costume and a service in the Priory ruins.

A group of Georgians await the arrival of Nelson outside Foley House during the ghost walks.

A group of Georgians await the arrival of Nelson outside Foley House during the ghost walks.

The year has been a difficult one for the town, suffering further losses to that ever smaller reserve of buildings carrying its identity.  Prendergast School was demolished in the first half of the year.

Prendergast School

Prendergast School

Built in 1882, the original school was a magnificent Victorian gem but had lost much of its architectural beauty (and listed status) as a result of ‘renovations’ during the 1970s.  Nevertheless the contractors employed to demolish the building suggested that it remained strong enough to put them behind schedule and commented on the fine timber beams they were tearing from within it.

The initial plan, according to the Local Authority, is to use the area as a car park with a long term possibility being to relocate the Record Office, currently in the castle, to purpose built premises at this site.

schoolA further loss then becomes evident, the plan being to sell the old prison building that currently houses the Record Office.

During the year a further controversy arose with Foley House being offered for sale by the Local Authority.  Ideas promoted by the Civic Society and others to use the building efficiently by relocating the Registry Office to it and thus removing the chaos that happens all too frequently at the current site next to the library, have been resisted and in an effort to make it attractive to would-be purchasers, the building next to it has been included in the sale.  Following a recent tour of the building the Haverfordwest Civic Society expressed disappointment at its state after fifty or so years of use by the County Council.

The eviction of the twice annual fair from its position on St Thomas Green, following the demolition of yet another longstanding Victorian building, the County Offices, remains a blow too savage for many townsfolk to bear and a move continues to have the eviction reversed.

There is, however, cause for some optimism.  After years of being viewed as an eyesore, the town’s High Street has seen major sympathetic renovations and the Shire Hall has a pleasing facade although the future of the court room remains unclear.

Perhaps all that remains now is to establish how many of the town’s inhabitants have an actual link to the town’s founders, the Flemings.  Such an investigation, using DNA is extremely possible and attracts many long established townsfolk.  It is perhaps, the next project.


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By Peter Ellis Jones

The news of the sudden and premature death of Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, in December 1861 stunned the nation. He was much loved and held in high esteem by the populace at large particularly on account of his contribution to the industrial and cultural life of his adopted country. His initiative and drive had led to the staging of the highly successful Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851, which afforded a window to the world of British industrial innovation and strength. His vision that the profits from the enterprise should be dedicated to learning and discovery on the site of the Great Exhibition in Kensington, London, were evidence of his deep commitment to the progress of the nation. 1

As was the custom of the time, those who had in their lifetime made an outstanding contribution to the life of the nation would be remembered by the raising of a memorial in a prominent position as a constant reminder of the country’s gratitude and as an inspiration to their compatriots. Within a month of the Prince Consort’s death the Lord Mayor of London had written to the mayors of urban boroughs throughout the country requesting their co-operation in eliciting subscriptions towards the erection of a national memorial in London.2 However, a number of towns and institutions wished to erect their own memorial; in particular the smaller nations of the United Kingdom desired to recognise their high regard for the Prince. Where to locate their memorial did not present a problem for Scotland and Ireland – Edinburgh and Dublin had been national capitals for centuries.3 Wales on the other hand had been administratively absorbed into England since 1536 and had never had a capital city to serve as a focus of its cultural life.

However, the green shoots of national awareness, based largely on the distinctiveness of the Welsh language, were beginning to appear, particularly in the counties of south east Wales. At Crickhowell, for example, the Welsh clergyman Thomas Price, was raising the profile of the language by his many contributions to the literary tracts of his day and in writing a History of Wales which he published in fourteen sections between 1836 and 1842.4 He founded a school in which Welsh was to be the principal medium of instruction and he condemned the practice of appointing English-speaking clergy to predominantly Welsh speaking parishes. He established Cymreigyddion societies in Brecon (1823) and in Abergavenny (1833) and a minstrelsy society to train boys to play the harp. The first national eisteddfod was held in Aberdare in 1861 and the song ‘Hen wlad fy nhadau’, composed in 1856, was soon adopted as the national anthem of Wales. In Monmouthshire, Lord and Lady Llanover, who were greatly influenced by Thomas Price’s works, became wealthy patrons of expressions of Welsh identity .Around 1840, Lady Llanover “evolved a homogenised Welsh national costume from various Welsh peasant dresses. ..and a very tall beaver hat.”5 She endowed two Presbyterian chapels in which services were to be held in Welsh. Lord Llanover rebuked the Bishop of St. David’s concerning the right of Welsh speaking people to have church services in their native language.6

The stirrings of national consciousness, however, “remained vague and unfocused” and did not represent a “coherent view of nationality”. 7 Unsurprisingly therefore no town came forward to raise a Wales memorial to the Prince Consort. This deadlock was broken by George White, mayor of Tenby.8 In the first week of January 1864, White convened a meeting in the Gatehouse Hotel, which he chaired, to gain support for his conviction that Tenby would be the ideal location for the Wales memorial. ” After waiting two years for some other place to take the initiative,” he declared that “Tenby should come before the Welsh people and ask them for their aid.” Tenby, he thought, would be an appropriate site in view of the “pre-eminence of its historical associations with the monarchy” – (Henry, the founder of the royal house of Tudor, was born and brought up in Pembroke and used Pembrokeshire as his base for his encounter with King Richard III at Bosworth), “its devotion to the throne and its unsurpassed beauties of situation, without mines and manufacturies.” White’s initiative gained the approval of the meeting and a circular was issued highlighting the claims of Tenby as the site for the memorial and canvassing “for subscriptions from all classes of the Welsh people” to fund the project.9

Soon, a committee of subscribers was formed to take the matter forward. Names of the committee members are not known. However, it is evident that Lord Llanover, no doubt a generous subscriber and a member of the committee, played a pivotal role in translating White’s aspirations into reality. As we have seen he was dedicated to supporting aspects of Welsh culture and would view a Wales memorial as a symbol of the nationhood of Wales. By the end of February £450 had been paid into the memorial fund. Such a generous response led the committee to conclude that a statue would be the most worthy memorial to the prince and since it was to be a Wales memorial the work should be entrusted to a native of Wales. The committee turned to John Evan Thomas ( 1810- 73) to advise them on the most appropriate form the statue should take. Thomas, a Welsh speaking native of Brecon “was the first Welsh sculptor to establish a significant career and reputation largely through Welsh patronage”.10 He opined that a statue, seven
feet high attired in royal robes and sculptured from Sicilian marble, would be “the most elegant. ..for a town as beautifully situated as Tenby”. He estimated that the cost of such a statue excluding the pedestal, would be £500 guineas.11 The subscribers’ committee commissioned Thomas to undertake the work and Tenby Corporation earmarked the centre of Tudor Place as the site for its erection.

Approval for raising the memorial and its location rested with Parliament (and ultimately the Queen). Lord Llanover would have been a persuasive advocate for the committee’s decision since he had long experience in Parliament -as an M.P. from 1831 to 1858, as First Commissioner of Works in Lord Palmerston’s first ministry (1855-8) and in the House of Lords after his elevation to the peerage in 1859.12 The statue, as finally approved, would be 8 ft. 9 ins. high carved from a block of finest Sicilian marble and representing the Prince with head uncovered, in Field Marshall’s uniform with baton in hand under the mantle and collar of the Order of the Garter.13 It became clear that a statue of these dimensions standing on an 18 foot high pedestal would be out of place within the confines of Tudor Place. Thereupon, the Rev. James Henry Philipps of Picton Castle, a major landowner in the district, came forward to present a plot of land on Castle Hill to site the memorial. He also conveyed to the Corporation a 99 year lease on the remainder of Castle Hill with the proviso that it should not be built upon but rather
laid out as an amenity area with walkways and seats to be enjoyed by the public at large.14 This gift of an incomparable picturesque and open site overlooking the town and harbour and with views across the bay to the hills beyond was a fitting setting for the memorial.

Foundation stones for the monument were laid in December 1864; they support a platform of three ranges of steps upon which a pedestal of native limestone, 18 ft. high, was erected. Four engraved panels of Sicilian marble were set into each flank of the pedestal. Two of the inserts, one incorporating the arms of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native prince, the other the red dragon of Wales banner carried to the battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor in 1485, were designed to emphasise the continuity of sovereignty between the two nations. A third panel incorporates the arms of the Queen and her Consort and the front panel bears the bilingual inscription ” Albert Dda, priod ein gorhoffus Frenhines Victoria, Albert the Good, consort of our beloved Queen Victoria.This memorial of His Royal Highness Prince Albert was raised by the inhabitants of Wales and inaugurated at Tenby by His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, his third son, on the second day of August, 1865.” (This may have been the first bilingual inscription to appear on public property in Wales). The statue was sculpted in London and conveyed gratis by the Great Western Railway Company to Narberth Road station (Clunderwen) where it was transferred onto a wagon and drawn by teams of horses along its 16 mile journey to Tenby.

Prince Arthur (1850-1942), later Duke of Connaught, was only 15 years of age at this his first public function. It was said that he was the Queen’s favourite son, the one who most resembled his father.15 He travelled from London to Milford on July 31st. At Newport, the gateway to Wales, he was met by Lord Llanover, the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire and other dignitaries. Lord Llanover probably travelled with Prince Arthur on the last leg of the journey; it would appear that Lord Kensington, the Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire, was unable to undertake the customary duty of welcoming a member of the royal family to the county and Lord Llanover deputised for him. Prince Arthur spent the night at the home of the Superintendent of the naval dockyard in Pembroke Dock. The following day he was driven to the Gatehouse Hotel in Tenby where he was received by the mayor, the Bishop of St. David’s, Lord Llanover and members of the Subscribers Committee.

The day appointed for the unveiling ceremony was declared a public holiday in Tenby, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest. The hundreds of people who converged on Tenby that day by road, rail and steamer found the town bedecked with flags, banners and greenery .A detachment of the 62nd Regiment from Milford, units of the Volunteer Corps from Haverfordwest and Pembroke Dock and members of the Castlemartin Yeomanry lined the route and were drawn up around the monument. The royal procession which formed outside the Gatehouse Hotel comprised, besides the Bishop of St. David’s and Lord Llanover, the mayors of many of the principal towns of South Wales, magistrates, clergy, sheriffs, and members of Tenby Corporation. 16 At the monument an address was given by the mayor of Tenby to which the Prince replied; a prayer was then offered by the Bishop. As the Prince unveiled the statue bands played and guns from a battery on Castle Hill fired a royal salute.17

The royal party , members of clerical and military orders and subscribers to the memorial fund then retired to the assembly room at the Gatehouse Hotel “which was tastefully ornamented with flags, the Red Dragon of Wales, the national crest, being conspicuous”. After a sumptuous luncheon Prince Arthur proposed a toast to “the health of the Queen’s loyal people” to which Lord Llanover responded. During the luncheon items of music were played by Lord Llanover’s harpist who was dressed in Welsh national costume. Evidently, an attempt was made to give the event a Welsh flavour.

Later that afternoon the royal party left by train for Pembroke Dock where it boarded the royal yacht ‘Victoria and Albert’ bound for Osborne, Isle of Wight. Meanwhile the crowd lingered on Castle Hill, in the narrow streets of the town and on the beaches before returning home to reflect upon their impressions of the day that Wales could stand proudly alongside the other nations of the British Isles in honouring the memory of the Prince Consort.

Wales, however, had to wait another century before its status as a nation was recognised with the appointment of a Secretary of State and accompanying Welsh Office in 1964. And it was Cardiff and not Tenby that became the capital of Wales in 1955!


1. The site now houses a complex of museums (Victoria and Albert, Science, and
Natural History), colleges (Imperial and Royal College of Music), other
learned bodies, e.g. the Royal Geographical Society, and, of course, the iconic
Royal Albert Hall.
2. P(embroke) H(erald) and A(dvertiser), 14th February 1862. The Albert
memorial in Kensington, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and sculptured
by John Foley was unveiled in March 1876.
3. An equestrian bronze statue designed by David Bryce and sculptured by John
Steele stands in Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh; a statue sculptured by
John Foley was positioned in Leinster Lawn, beside Merrion Square, Dublin,
but was repositioned to a less prominent site in Leinster Lawn in 1921.
4. For Thomas Price (‘Carnhuanawc’; 1787-1848) see Y B(ywgraffiadur)
C(ymreig) hyd 1940 (the Welsh Dictionary of National Biography), London,
1953, pp. 74-5.
5. Prys Morgan, ‘The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period’ in E.
Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition, London, 1983,
6. For Lord and Lady Llanover see Benjamin Hall (1802-67) in Y.B.C. pp. 313-4;
John Davies, A History of Wales, Penguin, 2007; and Peter Lord, Imaging the
Nation, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2000, pp. 251-6.
7. Morgan, K.O., Rebirth of a Nation, Wales 1880-1980, Oxford University Press,
1982, n.b. Chapter 4, ‘The National Revival’, pp. 90-91.
8. George White (nat 1826) was a native of St. Florence and a Wine and Spirit
Merchant with premises in High Street, Tenby. Census 1861.
9. P.H.A., 15 January 1865. See also P.H.A. 12 February 1865.
10. Dictionary of National Biography & YBC. “He interested himself in Welsh
affairs. With the support of Lord Llanover he led the movement to save from
misuse the endowments of Christ College, Brecon” (translation).
11. PHA, 4 March 1864.
12. M.P. for Monmouthshire Boroughs, 1831- 7 and for Marylebone 1837 -1859.
Before becoming a baron his name was Benjamin Hall. It was during his time
as First Commissioner of Works that the great bell was raised to the top of the
bell tower of the Palace of Westminster and has been called ‘Big Ben’ ever
13. Although the Prince Consort is principally remembered for his patronage of the
cultural and industrial life of the nation, he took an active interest in measures
designed to reform the Army. One of his numerous honorary titles was that of
Field Marshall. See Hermione Hobhouse, Prince Albert: his life and work,
Hamish Hamilton, 1983.
14. PHA, 23 September 1864.
15. DNB.
16. The High Sheriffs of Carmarthenshire, Montgomeryshire and Pembrokeshire;
the mayors of Pembroke, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, Cardiff, Newport
(Mon.), Newport (Pembs. ), Swansea, Cardigan and Denbigh.
17. The event was reported in PHA, 4 August, Te by and Pembroke Dock
Observer, 3 August and the Illustrated London News, 12 August 1864.



By Ray Jones

Cholera was endemic in the Indian sub-continent in the nineteenth century. This was
Indian or Asiatic cholera also known as Cholera morbus or morbis distinguishing it from Cholera nostra or English Cholera which was used, as late as 1894, for the common diarrhoeas of the time. In 1854 Dr. John Snow conclusively showed that cholera was waterborne although the aetiology was not established. The causative bacterium, Cholera vibrio, was first described by Robert Koch in 1893 and although Koch’s work was not fully accepted for several years it was agreed that cholera was spread by contaminated water or food.

In 1817-1818 cholera began to spread from India so that by 1826 a pandemic covered China, Japan and eastern Russia. By 1829, Poland, Germany, Austria and Sweden were infected and the first British case was recorded at Sunderland in October, 1831.1 It reached Flint in May 1832, Newport (Mon) in late June, Swansea on July 26 and spread to Llanelli, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest as well as to other parts of Wales.

As the disease spread across Europe, it was realised it was inevitable that it would reach Britain so the Royal College of Physicians, ‘after hurried consultation [with] the Privy Council’ established a Board of Health in January 1831.2 This Board issued guides detailing precautions to be taken. It recommended inspectors be appointed to report on the diets, cleanliness and habitation of the poor and suggested cholera hospitals be set up. However, before the end of 1831, a Central Board of Health (later to be known as the General Board of Health) was established by the Whitehall Government. It worked alongside the College of Physicians Board for a time but eventually the Physicians’ Board was superseded. This Government Board allowed for the establishment of Local Boards of Health. This was not compulsory but Local Boards were quickly set up in Haverfordwest, Milford and Pembroke.

This first British epidemic, 1831-1832, was before the formation of the Registrar General’s Office (this was established in 1834) and details of the work of the Local Committees is sparse. Much of the information must therefore come from local newspapers. There were no Pembrokeshire based local newspapers at this time but the nearby Carmarthen Journal, first published in 1810, included news of Pembrokeshire affairs.

The November 18 issue reported:

‘Boards of Health are being established in the different
areas of Pembrokeshire. One has been formed at Milford
lately [and a meeting to form one at Pembroke was held
on 16/11/1831]. There has been little or no doubt as to the
contagious nature of the disease [cholera] and it behoves all
districts particularly those thickly populated to take every
means of precaution…[if it is] instrumental in the slightest
in preventing [cholera] it will more than compensate the
Government for the expenditure it causes.’3

On December 2, 1831, the Journal reported a meeting of the Haverfordwest Local Board.4 The town had been divided into districts and district committees formed with a medical officer attached to each. An address for citizens had been published reminding them that the cholera was infectious, they must immediately adopt the advice and suggestions given by the Central Board of Health, including the advice given on cleanliness and ventilation and the special danger to the ill fed and those addicted to spirituous liquor (their italics).

There was a further comment on Pembrokeshire in the December 16 issue.

‘A most efficient Board of Health has been established
[in Milford]…which from its exertions, may be quoted as
a pattern to such Boards in general. Its meetings are regularly
held and most respectably attended and the results are the
removal of all kinds of nuisances both in the town and in the

Advice on the treatment and prevention of the disease was also given.

‘Welsh flannel is recommended by the Board of Health
as one of the antidotes against the Cholera Morbus. The
wealthy and charitable will doubtless let a portion of their
benevolence be displayed in distribution to the aged and
infirm poor during the approaching season some of this
deservingly esteemed manufacture.’ 5

For the first six months of 1832 there were no reports of cholera locally although details of the disease in other parts of Britain were sometimes given. March saw a proclamation of a ‘General Fast’ ordered by King William ‘because the country was threatened by the progress of this severe disease’ and the same issue advised that the Archbishop of Canterbury was to compose a special prayer for use in all places of worship. Advice from the Central Board of Health was also printed: ‘looseness of the bowel is the first sign of the cholera’.6

An additional newspaper, The Welshman, began publishing in Carmarthen at this time, the first issue being January 13, 1832. This included a report on a meeting of the Haverfordwest Local Board of Health, at which ‘suitable and appropriate resolutions were proposed which were carried without opposition.’ A large number of blankets had been distributed to the poor and ‘a fresh subscription was entered into.’7 On June 22, 1832, The Journal reported a case of ‘true cholera,’ at Pembroke on June 20. At 4pm on June 22, the woman was still alive ‘and rather improved than otherwise.8 This appears to be the first case in Pembrokeshire in this epidemic or at least the first case reported in the newspapers. No further information was given until July 6 when The Journal stated: ‘for the last fortnight the cholera has been making rapid progress…but in order not to create an unnecessary alarm it has been kept secret…’.9

There was a meeting of the Haverfordwest Local Board of Health on August 31, 1832 when a hand-bill was produced. The handbill included information that no person dying of cholera should be interred in the usual burial grounds and must be buried within 24 hours. Cholera symptoms and treatment were described and

‘… as many persons in the working class of life are
prevented from sending for medical assistance fearful of
incurring expense, all persons should immediately apply
for medical aid, on the first appearance of the first symptoms
of the disease, and they are strictly enjoined to do so. The
charge for such medical aid be sent to the Board of Health,
who, in conjunction with the Parish Authorities, and taking
the circumstances of the party into consideration, will declare
whether the charge shall be paid by the parish in which the
party resides, or by the party himself. And that all expenses
for comfort and medicines for the sick ordered in writing by the
medical gentleman in attendance, be discharged in like manner.’10

On October 26, 1832 it was reported that on the previous day, the Commodore of the Steam Packet ‘Crocodile’ had died of cholera and the body brought to Milford. The ship was ordered to be taken to sea, the body thrown overboard and the ship placed under quarantine.11 No further mention of this outbreak in Pembrokeshire could be traced and it is not clear how badly the county was affected by this epidemic. One report gives 16 deaths in the county but no source is given.12 Nationally,
King William and the Privy Council ordained April 12, 1833 as a Day of Thanksgiving for the ‘cessation of cholera in this country.’13

The second great epidemic of cholera in Britain began in Edinburgh in 1848 and reached Wales by summer 1849. By this time a Pembrokeshire local newspaper, The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Observer had appeared, its first issue being January 5, 1844.14 However there was no mention of cholera during 1848-1849. The Carmarthen Journal continued to report Pembrokeshire news and frequently gave details of cholera in other parts of the UK. It also reported that the Bishop of St Davids had written to all clergy in his diocese with a view to check progress or mitigate the ‘baneful effects’ of cholera. The clergy were exhorted to preach ‘Temperance, Cleanliness and Ventilation’ as the three most important ‘preservatives’ from cholera. Use of the appropriate Liturgy for Plague and Sickness was advised and the wealthy should form societies for the supply of food and clothing to the needy.15

On August 10 1849 The Welshman reported:

‘Mortality has not exceeded that of the corresponding period
of previous years… [we] can most explicitly state that no portion
[Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire] of her Majesty’s
kingdom is more exempt from cholera at the present period.’ 16

By August 24, a naval ship had been directed to the Pembroke yard ‘for the accommodation of the arsenal and the town in general, if requisite.’ The ship had been fitted out as a cholera hospital ship. ‘Happily, not a single case has occurred in
that town and locality.’17

‘The particular salubrity of the atmosphere of this county
[Pembrokeshire] and its almost total exemption from the
Cholera are the means of filling its towns: Tenby, Pembroke Dock,
Milford &c. are being rapidly filled from affected districts…
the shire is in general exempt from the ravages of that fatal
malady the cholera.’18

The Bishop of St Davids told his clergy to continue to use a special prayer and to set aside a day (October 10) for public prayer and humiliation before God ‘under the present affliction of the cholera.’19 He suggested ‘our dissenting brethren’ do the same but had been pre-empted by the Wesleyan Methodists who held their day of ‘fasting, humiliation and prayer on September 21. Three services were held on that day in Hakin and Milford Haven ‘on account of the visitation [of cholera] which so many afflicted districts were suffering.’20

Although there was something of a resurgence of the disease in west Wales at this time with, for example, 33 new cases and 11 deaths in Carmarthen, things were continuing to improve in Pembrokeshire.

‘We are happy to state that although this fearful epidemic
[cholera] has at length visited Haverfordwest the number
of deaths has been very few and we have not heard of any new
cases this week. Every exertion is being made by the authorities
and inhabitants to remove nuisances and promote the cleanliness
of the town.’ 21

The report continued dysentery and diarrhoea ‘having made fearful havoc amongst the inhabitants of Pembroke Dock is now returning to its usual healthy state. Not a single case of cholera has occurred.’ It reproduced the General Board of Health’s instructions for burying cholera victims including covering churchyards with quicklime with extra lime at the bottom of the grave and the top of the coffin. 21

On November 11 there were reports of ‘several cases’ of cholera in the vicinity of Amroth castle. The diseased were ‘attended by physicians from Tenby, clergy and local gentlemen…we are glad to say that the disease is partially leaving the above neighbourhood.’22 The Registrar General’s Quarterly report, summarised in the November 16 issue of the Carmarthen Journal, indicated that the highest death rates in Wales were in the newly industrialising towns such as Newport (Mon), Abergavenny, Pontypool and especially Merthyr Tydfil, ‘Higher than in some parts of London.’ Llanelly, (sic) Swansea and Carmarthen had experienced double the usual mortality, but Pembrokeshire was better:

‘Pembrokeshire … escaped; diarrhoea was very prevalent
in Pembroke during September; and a few isolated cases
of cholera occurred in the [Registration] sub-districts around;
in the unusually healthy Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn and
Tregaron the mortality did not exceed the average.’23

A Thanksgiving Day was observed at Pembroke Dock with the Dockyard closed and every shop shut. ‘A spirit of deep devotion and religious observance seemed to pervade.’ The final word on the epidemic came in the Carmarthen Journal in the same issue ‘The recent epidemic appears to have entirely left the neighbourhood.’24
Little of note of this epidemic could be traced in the Pembrokeshire newspaper or other contemporaneous documents perused. It is reported 37 people died of cholera in the County,25 but a different source states ‘records do not indicate any deaths.’26

Cholera then disappeared from the scene for several years, with no new cases being reported until 1853. Initially the infection, again coming from India via mainland Europe, spread rapidly throughout the Newcastle area causing more than 1500 deaths in two months. The disease then died down but reappeared, reaching Wales by late August 1854, the first case being in Cardiff.27

There were now more newspapers in Pembrokeshire. The Tenby Observer begun publishing in August 1853 and largely consisted of lists of visitors to the town. It
made no comments relevant to cholera during the whole of the 1853-1854 outbreak. Similarly, there was no commentary on the disease in the Pembrokeshire Herald but on November 24, 1854 it reported:

‘cholera has happily left this town [Haverfordwest] …
whilst it was present we scrupulously abstained… from any
unnecessary description of its course…. Some say that it has
been absent but there is no other conclusion that Asiatic
cholera has been present in Haverfordwest and its vicinity….
In the village of Guilford (Langum) (sic) it has raged with
much greater virulence. About 20 people have died in Langum
equalling [the mortality] which resulted in Haverfordwest.’28

The other new newspapers were the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph first published February 1, 1854 and Potter’s Electric News, first published July 1855. Potter’s Electric News was too late for the 1853-1854 epidemic but the Telegraph was vociferous. There was a long piece on ‘the fever’ on March 1, 1854.

‘…assume that the Fever (sic) whether intermittent or
typhus, rheumatic or infantile or other zygotic diseases
as cholera, influenza and the like are caused by certain
conditions of the atmosphere acting like conductors of the
fermenting poison.’29

In early April the Haverfordwest Telegraph issued a stark warning: ‘the cholera is coming…it comes from our eastern coast’ and went on to give advice on the cleaning and whitewashing of houses.30 Further information was given on April 26, when the General Board of Health’s recommendations about thinking that the apparent disappearance of the current epidemic was the end, were published. It continued that Local Boards of Health must complete their works, ‘otherwise outbreaks of the pestilence must be expected.’31 A fortnight later, it added epidemics were greatly dependent on the state of the houses and drains.32

A Report from the Milford and Haking (sic) Local Board of Health requested authority to make house-to-house visits to ‘make inquiries into the state of health of
the inhabitants that may assist in the prejudice of the health of the inhabitants and their near neighbours.’ It goes on to say that with the exception of a few cases of diarrhoea the ‘entire district is generally healthy….’ However elsewhere, the same report, dated April 19, 1854, states there had been two cases of cholera in Milford and seven in Langum (sic).33 On September 13, 1854 the Haverfordwest Telegraph cited a Registrar General’s Report that deaths from other epidemics far exceeded those of cholera. Precautions against cholera from the General Board of Health were quoted: ‘cholera strikes only those who fear him (sic). Pure air, temperate habits, scrupulous cleanliness and a resolute mind are infallible safeguards.’34 On October 11, 1854 the newspaper reported that there had been 17 deaths in the Narberth workhouse and cholera would reach Haverfordwest in three weeks. ‘When there was dirt, damp and foul air, only typhus struck; cholera only came when there dirt, damp, foul air, bad food and a poison in the air. Further, inhabitants of asylums, despite being very close to towns and villages ravaged by cholera did not suffer the disease.’ This was because ‘being mentally decayed they are incapable of being impressed or excited by the fear.’35 (their italics). However, a different Report said that there was one death and one case of cholera in Haverfordwest on October 11, 1854.36 The Daily Return of October 27 reported a further death adding that there was ‘pus on two stagnant pools.’ 37 Outlying Haverfordwest parishes had three deaths on the same day –‘condition of locality – fair.’ There was one death and another case at Hakin on November 12.38 Fishguard saw four deaths from cholera in November.39 On November 24, a letter to the Haverfordwest Union (Workhouse Union Boards of Guardians were now responsible for aspects of Public Health) signed George Rowe said there had been no new cases in Haverfordwest in the last report (date of ‘last report’ not given). 40

Llangwm was badly affected with a reported 26 cases. A letter to the Narberth Union from the Board of Health dated October 25, 1854 described the cholera outbreak there as ‘sudden and violent.’ A Medical Officer must be placed ‘within the reach of the inhabitants urgently’ and if the Union could not find one then the Board would appoint one at two guineas (£2.2/-) per day; further, ‘every hour that is allowed to lapse without medical relief…may be attended with preventable loss of life.’41 As
well as these, three further cases were reported on November 24.42 Prior to this, the Pembroke Union had written to Haverfordwest Union offering to pay half the cost of extra medical officers made necessary by the outbreak of cholera at Langum (sic) and Burton.43 There was no response. A medical officer was unable to attend a meeting of the Haverfordwest Sanitary Committee to report on Langum because he was too busy attending to cases.44 On November 15, 1854, R. H. Byers (a Milford Physician) wrote to the Clerk to the Guardians at Haverfordwest reporting 17 cases of cholera at Langum and that he (Byers) had written to the General Board of Health.45 The Guardians had already received a letter, dated November 8, from the General Board drawing attention to these deaths saying that the Board of Guardians had not exercised their special powers in this field.46

Several months prior to this, the Guardians had received ‘Short Recommendations to Guardians in Times of Choleriac Disease.’47 Also sent was a much longer document, ‘Instructions to Local Authorities on Preventative Methods in relation to Epidemic Cholera under the Nuisance Act.’ Both these were promulgated by the General Board of Health. The latter document included advice to Guardians together with the qualifications needed for appointments to various duties, what should be cleaned and administrative instructions. It added ‘the filth, intemperance and wretchedness of the [lower classes] are peculiarly calculated to be the worst sufferers and the least likely to apply for medical aid.’48

Cholera then started to die out. In late November there were complaints that it was being reported outside Haverfordwest that there was cholera in the town. People were not visiting and boarding school children had been taken home. The Western Telegraph responded ‘There is a great fear of cholera everywhere but the newspaper had consulted medical men and there is not a solitary case.’ 49 (their italics). The last mention of cholera during the time of this epidemic was a suggestion that extra care should be taken because the cholera came at night.50 This 1853-1854 outbreak resulted in 40 reported deaths in Pembrokeshire. 51

The next major epidemic of cholera in Britain was in 1865-1866. It is believed that the disease transferred to Wales via Bristol with south Wales badly affected by summer 1866. There was no news of local cholera in the Haverfordwest and Milford Telegraph, Potter’s Electric News, The Welshman or the Carmarthen Journal in 1865 and although The Welshman ran some long articles on ‘fever’ in late 1865 there was
no mention of cholera.52 The Tenby Observer now called the Tenby and Pembroke Dock Observer, published a letter from Lord Godolphin saying that the two most important topics of the day were rinderpest and cholera – the diseases were similar and cleanliness was the ‘great preventative.’ As yet humans were only threatened and he recommended ‘periodic whitewashing, covering soil up to 12 inches from the house with quicklime and a regular sanitary inspection of every house.’ 53 Rinderpest, also known as cattle plague and now called foot and mouth disease, was important. In all local newspapers of the period scrutinised, considerably more space was devoted to this than to all human diseases put together!

In 1866, The Haverfordwest and Milford Telegraph changed its name to the Western Telegraph and first mentioned cholera by reporting the disease in Calcutta.54 One week later the death of one child with five others exhibiting ‘ cholera-like symptoms’ was recorded.55 The location was not stated but Haverfordwest was implied. In August 1866 the Telegraph reported a letter from the Chief Poor Law Commissioners saying to Boards of Guardians that vestries and District Boards were to be responsible for carrying out cholera regulations and Guardians and Boards would cooperate. Boards were allowed to supply medical aid and disinfectants free of charge but cholera patients were not to be admitted to workhouses. There was also an article on prevention, advising that towns should be sluiced as often as possible and lime and disinfectants should be used in the ‘various alleys, back slums and other crowded and confined parts…so that [these] hotbeds of disease can be rendered innocuous.’ The public should not eat any unripe or stale fruit or vegetables, foreign ships and coastal vessels entering local waters should be carefully watched and the condition of the water inspected.56 The newspaper repeated these precautions the following week adding rooms should be well-ventilated and in diarrhoea all discharges should be buried, covered with ashes or deep soil and then covered with lime. The slightest amount of diarrhoea should not be ignored and further ‘mortality in Haverfordwest is higher than in Carmarthen, Aberystwyth and Chelsea.’57

On August 15, a letter in the Western Telegraph complained about Haverfordwest water.58 There was further correspondence on water supply and quality, including a mention of the effect of impure water on cholera outbreaks and pointing out Dr Snow’s discovery saying districts with pure water did not have the cholera but other districts, with less pure water, had high death rates from cholera59. A further letter complimented Dr Snow (now deceased) on his discovery and urged Haverfordwest to provide pure water. 60 These were the last mentions of cholera in the Western Telegraph of 1866 that could be traced.

The correspondence prompted the Town Council to ask for an analysis of the water and when this was reported decided to utilise the 1866 Sanitary Act (the Act empowered Local Authorities to improve house drainage and water supplies and if the Local Authorities did not do the work, the Privy Council would arrange to carry out the work and charge the Local Authority). The Town Council agreed to borrow money from the Government to carry out the Act’s provisions and improved water and better sewage did eventually arrive in Haverfordwest.

Meanwhile Narberth improved its sewage system and distributed lime and brushes to poor people. Narberth was said to be ‘particularly healthy.’61 Langum (sic) was described as ‘in a perfect state of cleanliness…[and] a model of cleanliness.’62 However, Martletwy ‘[is] in a filthy state, houses badly ventilated, some smelling offensively and the water in the well is foul….’ In September 1866 there had been four deaths at Begelly and two at Templeton and ‘the cholera had prevailed very much in this and surrounding neighbourhoods.’ 63 By early October there was ‘a great decrease of cholera and diarrhoea in the parishes of St. Issells, Begelly and Jefferston.’ However, in Pembroke Dock all the soldiers in the garrison were prohibited from visiting the town ‘on account of the prevalence of cholera.’64

Potter’s Electric News, published in Haverfordwest, had no news of cholera until May, 1866 when it published a letter from the Admiralty, written in reply to separate
letters from both Haverfordwest and Pembroke Town Councils requesting a hospital ship for cholera victims be moored at Milford Haven. The Admiralty refused, saying that they had no suitable ships, it would cost up to £3,000 to convert ships and there would be the additional costs in moving and mooring any ships, staff and a guard vessel. 65 Pembrokeshire Quarter Sessions also tried, unsuccessfully, for a hospital ship but to the Home Office. The Home Office replied that the Admiralty had no ships available.66

In late September, the Sanitary Commission made a house-to-house ‘visitation’ to Kilgerrran (sic). The crier had been sent out to warn the inhabitants the previous week. This was following four deaths from cholera. ‘The dwellings were well white-washed and in every other respect clean. The Committee (sic) decided that it was dangerous to hold a funeral service in the house of a person who had died of cholera and also in the church…the corpse should be at once closed up in a coffin.’ The Committee also decided it was necessary to construct a new drain and to recommend the Union to give bedclothes to those without as it was ‘quite useless to endeavour to ward off the epidemic by cleanliness only….’67

Following the rejection of the appeal for a hospital ship, an application was made to the Lunacy Commissioners to move lunatics from Haverfordwest Asylum so that it could be made into a cholera hospital. This was agreed and lunatics were transferred to Carmarthen. It was also agreed that only patients from Haverfordwest County could be admitted to the cholera hospital and only on the recommendation of a doctor.68 No further information on the use of this facility could be traced.

The final report on cholera in Potter’s Electric News was on October 10, 1866 when it quoted a letter from the Registrar General’s Office stating that there had been 20 deaths from cholera in Haverfordwest up to September 30, 1866.69 A separate report gives ten deaths in Narberth and three in Pembroke up to the end of November, 1866,70 while a third states there were 18 deaths in Narberth and 42 in Pembroke for the whole of 1866. 71

The outbreak of 1865-1866 was the last major epidemic of cholera in the UK. Following this, a few sporadic cases occurred from time to time with a minor outbreak in 1893, 20 deaths in the whole of south Wales, none being traced in Pembrokeshire. A number of factors would have contributed to this substantial reduction in the morbidity and mortality of cholera, including general progress in public health and especially sanitation, better nutrition and hence greater immunological tolerance, better understanding of the aetiology of the disease and perhaps reduced pathogenicity in the causative organism. However, even if these facts could be individually elucidated it would not be possible to disentangle individual contributions.

What is clear is, of all the infectious diseases of the nineteenth century, cholera had the greatest impact on stimulating improvements in sanitation, water purity and general hygiene. This was despite the fact that several other diseases had greater mortality than all the cholera epidemics in the UK put together. It is now generally accepted this was because, while other diseases, such as typhus, tended to attack only the poorer classes and were thus considered less important, cholera indiscriminately assailed the poor and rich alike.


1. F. F. Cartwright. A Social History of Medicine (London, 1977), 98.
2. Antony S. Wohl. Endangered Lives: Public health in Victorian Britain (London,
1943), 32.
3. Carmarthen Journal, November 18, 1831.
4. Carmarthen Journal, December 2, 1831.
5. Carmarthen Journal, December 16, 1831.
6. Carmarthen Journal, March 6, 1832.
7. The Welshman, January 13, 1832.
8. Carmarthen Journal, June 22, 1832.
9. Carmarthen Journal, July 6, 1832.
10. Pembs. Record Office. Printed Notice of Symptoms of Malignant Cholera
Produced as a Result of a Meeting of the Board of Health for Haverfordwest.
31 August 10 184916, 1832. HDX/1/1/159/9.
11. Carmarthen Journal, October 26, 1832.
12. The Welshman, March 22, 1833.
13. Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain (2 Vols.). (London 1894,
reprinted 1965), 822
14. The Pembrokeshire Herald, January 1844 – November 1854.
15. Carmarthen Journal, November 17, 1848.
16. The Welshman, August 10, 1849.
17. The Welshman, August 24, 1849.
19. Carmarthen Journal, September 28, 1849.
20. The Welshman, September 28, 1849.
21. Carmarthen Journal, October 26, 1849.
22. Carmarthen Journal, November 9, 1849.
23. Carmarthen Journal, November 16, 1849.
24. Carmarthen Journal, November, 23, 1849.
25. Pall Mall Gazette 1892 quoted in Fredk. J. Jones. The Carmarthenshire Antiquary,
IV Part 3&4 (1962), 207-208.
26. Donald Jones. The Implementation of the 1834 PLAA with Special Reference to
the Haverfordwest, Narberth and Pembroke Unions. Unpublished MA
Dissertation. University of Wales, Trinity College Carmarthen. (2001).
27. G. Penrhyn Jones. ‘Cholera in Wales,’ National Library of Wales Journal, X
(1958), 14.
28. Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, November 24, 1854.
29 Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, March 1, 1854.
30. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, April 5, 1854.
31. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, April 26, 1854.
32. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, May 10, 1854.
33. Pembs. Record Office, Report from Milford and Hakin Board of Health (1854)
34. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, September 13, 1854.
35. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, October 11, 1854.
36. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from G. L. Millard Reporting New Cases of
Cholera at Haverfordwest. DB/19/70.
37. Pembs. Record Office: Return of Daily Deaths from Cholera and Diarrhoea
(Haverfordwest) 12/11/1854. DB/19/91/

38. Pembs Record Office: Letter from Thos. Williams (Hakin) dated 27/10/1854 – 1
case cholera, 1 case diarrhoea. DB/19/73.
39. Pembs. Record Office: Return of Daily Deaths from Cholera and Diarrhoea
(Fishguard), 12/11/1854. DB/19/93.
40. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from George Rowe (Haverfordwest) to (?)
Haverfordwest Union dated 24/11/1854 regretting being unable to attend meeting
of Board of Guardians; no cholera since last report. DB/19/79.
41. Letter from General Board of Health to Narberth Union re cholera at
Langham (sic) dated 24/11/1854. HD/X/4/77.
42. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from George Phillips reporting three cases of
cholera at house called Castkle at Langum (sic). 24/11/1854.DB/19/78.
43. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from Pembroke Union to Clerk of the Guardians
Haverfordwest Union, October 1854. DB/19/78.
44. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from Luke Heslop (Haverfordwest): unable to
attend Sanitary Committee because of cases of cholera at Llangum(sic). 15/11/54,
45. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from R. H. Byers (Milford) reporting 17 cases of
cholera. 15/11/1854. DB/19/76.
46. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from general Board of Health to [Haverfordwest]
Clerk of Guardians re cholera at Llangwm saying Board of Guardians have not
exercised their special powers. 8/11/1854. DB/19/72.
47. Pembs. Record Office: Table of Short Recommendations, Spring 1854, to
Guardians at Time of Choleriac Diseas. Issued by General Board of Health.
48. Pembs. Record Office: Clerk of Peace Quarter Sessions. Correspondence Papers.
General Board of Health Instructions for Prevention of Cholera. Spring, 1854.
49. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, November 15, 1854.
50. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, December 27, 1854.
51. G. Penrhyn Jones, op. cit,. 296-298.
52. The Welshman, December 1, 1865.
53. Tenby and Pembroke Dock Observer, August 31, 1865.
54. Western Telegraph, May 9, 1866.
55. Western Telegraph, May 16, 1866.
56. Western Telegraph, August 1, 1866.
57. Western Telegraph, August 8, 1866.
58. Western Telegraph, August 15, 1866.
59. Western Telegraph, August 29, 1866.
60. Western Telegraph, September 29, 1866.
61. Carmarthen Journal, August 17, 1866.
62. Carmarthen Journal, August 31, 1866.
63. Carmarthen Journal, October 5, 1866.
64. Potter’s Electric News, September 26, 1866.
65. Potter’s Electric News, May 23, 1866.
66. Potter’s Electric News, May 30, 1866.
67. Potter’s Electric News, September 26, 1866.
68. Ibid.
69. Potter’s Electric News, October 10, 1861.
70. The Welshman, November 9, 1866.
71. G. Penrhyn Jones, op. cit. 298.



By John Burgess

Family history is one of the great cottage industries of the 21st century and has been regarded as lowbrow history by some academic historians. However, as this article is designed to prove, it can be very useful in putting human flesh onto the conceptual and theoretical bones of historical argument and in illustrating national themes. It is my contention that the story of this one family is a perfect example of the social and economic changes in this corner of Wales in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

William Rees (1800-76) migrated from Dinas to Tredegar to Bridgend to Cardigan to Fishguard to Salt Lake City and back to Fishguard between 1820 and 1860. This mobility reflects all that has been written about this part of Wales in the first half of the nineteenth century and as one historian has put it: ‘From the 1790’s the dissident south-west of Wales…was being transformed into the human matrix and the service centre of a new industrial society in the south-east’.1

William’s father, John Rees (d.1815) of Dinas was a slater who probably worked in the North Pembrokeshire or Prescelly slate quarries mentioned in trade directories of the period. The privations of the Napoleonic Wars and the post-war depression made north Pembrokeshire and neighbouring areas the most disturbed region in Wales – the ‘Galicia of Wales’ according to Gwyn A Williams – and public order and social control virtually collapsed.2 Fishguard was called ‘a miserable port’ (1798), ‘a miserable fishing town’ (1803), and ‘so filthy, so ill-built and so uncivilised… with a hatred of strange faces….The streets are barely passable with literal and bona fide dunghills’ (1807) by a succession of uncomplimentary visitors.3 The town saw food riots in the 1790’s and serious rioting from defenders of common rights in the 1820’s with the result that troops were stationed in the town by 1827 and all this was before the better-known Rebecca Riots of the 1840’s.4 The economic crisis led to heavy migration both overseas and within Wales to ‘The Black Domain’ – the world’s greatest coal and iron centre in the strip of land between Blaenavon and Hirwaun in Gwent and Glamorgan. The Rees family illustrate both migrations. John’s son David died in Calcutta in 1838 serving with the East India Army and son William (1800-1876) had an illegitimate child in Tredegar in 1825. William was probably working in the iron works, coalmines, or limestone quarries of the district.

The coal and iron industry suffered a major slump from 1829 and wages were reduced, strikes resulted and there was the Merthyr Rising of 1831. 20% of Merthyr’s population left in that year alone. There was also a serious cholera outbreak in Tredegar in 1832.5 This may explain why William Rees had moved to Bridgend by 1833 when he married at Coity. His son was baptised in the parish of Higher Coychurch, which contained many collieries, but Bridgend also had a coal-gas plant and the Quarella limestone quarry.

The economic depression continued throughout the 1830’s culminating in the Newport Rising of 1839 and by 1835 William and his young family are found living in Cardigan. Cardigan was a boom town and the second largest port in Wales between 1820 and 1850, but he made little money there because by 1837 he had moved to Wallis St., Fishguard, where 2 more sons were born and William is described as a hawker or a labourer in the certificates and in the 1841 census and his wife was illiterate. William had arrived just as the economic and social malaise of the area was about to erupt into the Rebecca Riots. There were 2 main toll-gates in Fishguard: at Pendre at the top of High St. and at Parc-y-Morfa between Lower Town and Dinas and the latter was smashed in September 1843 and up to 600 rioters entered the town. 26 Fishguard citizens were sent to the Assizes where the Crown offered no evidence.6  It is not surprising that this tinderbox of a town was so receptive to the fundamentalist, millenarian message of Dan Jones, the Flintshire Mormon, who made 4,600 converts in Wales between 1845 and 1849 from his headquarters in another tinderbox town – Merthyr. The Mormon Church offered escape to a New Jerusalem of economic opportunity and limitless land purchase and the California Gold Rush of 1849 added to the appeal.7

The 1851 Census describes William Rees as a marine store dealer and his 14-year-old son was still at school and from 1850 he begins to appear in trade directories. Therefore, he must have gone up in the world since the labouring and hawking days of the 1840’s and the family was converted to the Mormon faith in 1849. The Journal of Mormon John Price notes that he held regular saints meetings at William Rees’ house in Wallis St. from August 1849 and that the whole family had been baptised by Elders John Evans and William Rees and William was ordained as a Teacher in November 1850.8

Between 1850 and 1862, 116 Pembrokeshire Mormons crossed the Atlantic, including 6 members of the Rees family in April 1855. They sailed on The Chimborazo, an American sailing ship of 916 tons built in 1851. There were 431 passengers and the crossing from Liverpool to Philadelphia took 35 days. The Millennial Star, the British Mormon newspaper, reported that 200 of the passengers had their fare paid by the Perpetual Emigration Fund and that Elder Edward Stevenson was President of the company. He wrote an account of the journey in The Millennial Star, which shows that the Reeses arrived at St. Louis in June and at the River Platte, 400 miles from Salt Lake City in August. The journey overland was made by ox-wagons in 1855 but this was such a slow method that handcarts were used the following year.9

Unfortunately, the Reeses arrived in the Promised Land at an inopportune time. 1855 was a drought year in Utah followed by grasshopper plague and a severe winter in 1856, which killed half the cattle. Between 1857 and 1859 the so-called Mormon War occurred involving internal feuding and divisions and violence between Mormons and gentiles and between the US Army and the Mormon elders. In June 1858, the Army marched into Salt Lake City.10 Perhaps this is why some of the Reeses came home by 1861 but there must have been a major rift in the family because William was living in West St., Fishguard, in 1861 and his eldest son William (1833 – 1885), wife and 2 young sons, both born in America, were living in Wallis St. William’s wife and 2 other sons settled in the USA and died there. They lived in the Spanish Fork area of the city, which was popular with Welsh immigrants, and Mrs. Rees remarried and son Joseph Alexander Rees became a prominent professor and educationalist in Utah.

JOSEPH ALEXANDER REES courtesy of www.welsh mormonhistory

JOSEPH ALEXANDER REES courtesy of www.welsh mormonhistory

The prodigal Reeses who returned must have travelled via New Orleans where one of William junior’s sons was born in 1860. This was common practice because The Chimborazo, for example, worked the ‘cotton triangle in the 1850’s carrying emigrants from Europe and then returning with cotton and passengers from New Orleans. On return, they resumed their old business as marine store dealers. William senior remarried wrongly claiming he was a widower on the marriage certificate and he was buried in Hermon Baptist cemetery in 1876.

William junior was also buried in Hermon in 1885 and so they preserved the family’s Nonconformist tradition and indeed the tradition of the area.


In the 1851 Religious census, 16% of Haverfordwest Poor Law Union area attended Anglican places of worship and 84% attended Nonconformist ones.11 However, between 1881 and 1889 all 6 of William’s (1833-85) children were baptised at age 14 into the Anglican Church, including those born in the USA. This exactly mirrors the revival of the established Church in the later nineteenth century. By 1880 there were 223 church schools in St.David’s diocese teaching 19,000 pupils and it was much more likely that aspiring retailers would choose Anglicanism than Nonconformity.12

Also in the late nineteenth century occurred what has been called ‘the retailing revolution’. Average real wages rose by 40% between 1860 and 1875 and another 33% between 1875 and 1900 and the number of bakers/ confectioners and greengrocers/fruiterers rose from 76,400 and 16,500 respectively in 1851 to 171,000 and 52,600 by 1901. The Bank Holiday Act of 1870 started the growth of leisure time to spend these increased wages and the spread of the railways created the mass seaside holiday in Pembrokeshire. In short, retailing was to create an urban shopocracy which ‘bridged the worlds of municipal politics, local government, chapel and church affairs and social leadership in organic and democratic communities’ and which eventually led Lloyd George to rail against Conservative ‘glorified grocers and beatified drapers’.13 Even a brief glance at Fishguard trade directories between 1844 and 1912 shows a major development of retail outlets and leisure facilities and the arrival of the harbour for the Irish ferries in 1906 was a major commercial boost to the town. The urban district population grew from 1,739 in 1901 to 2,892 in 1911 and there were 13 grocers and drapers in 1844 and nearly 40 by 1901.14 The sons of William Rees (1833-85) reflect this social change perfectly.

William (1860-1923), the second son became a china and earthenware dealer in Lower Town, Fishguard and became a minor member of the shopocracy serving on inquest juries in 1903 and 1906 and he owned land on the Wallis worth £4 per annum and a house in Wallis St.

REES BAKERY, MAIN ST. FISHGUARD – a newspaper copy of a Frith postcard

REES BAKERY, MAIN ST. FISHGUARD – a newspaper copy of a Frith postcard



DAVID REES courtesy of County Echo 20/04/1911

DAVID REES courtesy of County Echo 20/04/1911

David (1865- 1943), the third son, became the most prominent of the retailing Reeses and he started as a china and earthenware dealer. In 1894 he made his first attempt to join the Parish Council and came last but one, but he was successful 5 years later by which time he was a baker and confectioner. In 1901, he won a diploma for Hovis in a London competition of 700 bakers and he was providing the cakes from his Main St. bakery for various local groups. Business was so good that he extended the bakery in 1902 and he may even have acquired a bakehouse in Cardiff between 1901 and 1906. The local paper was regularly mentioning his innovative methods and use of modern technology like ‘electric yeast’. In 1906, his prosperity was assured when he won the bakery contract for the GWR ferries from the new harbour and in the same year he had acquired additional premises in High St. His firm still had the GWR contract in 1932. His bread continued to win awards and in 1911 and 1919 he was appointed Chair of the Urban District Council, Fishguard’s equivalent of Mayor. It is his name that appears on Fishguard George V Coronation mugs and Peace mugs. Just before the Great War, he diversified into mineral water and purchased a motor van. At his retirement in 1922, the Main St premises were worth a rental of £104 per annum and he owned a house in West St. and in Park St. and 3 houses in Hottipass St. and at least 3 acres of land as well as renting 9 other acres. As a Churchwarden of St.Mary’s for 16 years and a County Councillor between 1919 and 1925, David Rees is the best example of the new urban shopocracy in the family and his Conservative politics would have put him firmly in Lloyd George’s line of fire.


Joseph (1871- 1926), the fifth son, was a china dealer in Main St in 1901 on the opposite side of the road from brother David’s bakery.


ADVERT FOR JOSEPH REES courtesy of Borough Guide to Fishguard 1910

ADVERT FOR JOSEPH REES courtesy of Borough Guide to Fishguard 1910

er, by 1905 he was a greengrocer and fruiterer and he won the contract to supply these products to the GWR ferries in 1906. This made him a wealthy man like his brother because by 1910 he owned 4 acres of land, 5 houses in Wallis St., a house in Main St. and a house in Market Square. Like his brother, Joseph diversified – in his case, into fish, rabbits and running a café. He delivered bread and cakes to Croesgoch, Mathry and Trevine and was in the Kemes Freemasons Lodge. Times were harder after the First World War. In 1918 there was a serious fire in his shop and his wife died soon after, although the two events were unrelated. He remarried in 1923, and, when Joseph died in 1926 his prosperity was reflected in effects to the value of £1,721 although he also had an overdraft of £450.



Although William (1860-1923) was buried with his father and grandfather in Hermon cemetery in Fishguard, brothers David and Joseph were buried in St. Mary’s Church of Wales cemetery, illustrating the family move from Nonconformity towards the established Church.

In just over a century, 4 generations of the Rees family had experienced life as slaters, coal/iron workers, hawkers or labourers, marine store dealers, Mormon pioneers and city builders, and prosperous retailers. As we have seen in a previous article, the 5th generation, represented by the war hero Ben Rees, moved into mobile retailing as a commercial traveller using the motorcar to cover the whole of West Wales. So this article illustrates how the investigation of one family can be used to humanise and bring to life the broad trends of Welsh history over more than a century as well as providing a story worth telling in its own right.


The sources for family history are well known and include wills, certificates, local papers, solicitor’s records, parish registers and church records and tax and electoral records. The information about the family has not been referenced in footnotes because there would be too many. However, sources for the historical context of these years have been referenced in these notes

    1. G.A. Williams, The Welsh in their History, (1981), 45
    2. G.A. Williams, The Merthyr Rising (1978), 32 and see D. Jones, Before Rebecca – Popular Protests in Wales 1793-1835, (1973), 18-19
    3. H. Skrine, 2 Successive Tours Throughout the Whole of Wales, (1798), p.92 and J.T.Barker, A Tour of South Wales, (1803), 91 and B.H.Malkin, The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales, (1807), 236
    4. D.Gareth Evans, History of Wales 1815-1906, (1989), D.Williams, The Rebecca Riots, (1955), 79-80, and D. Jones, Before Rebecca, (1973), 44 and 61
    5. G.A.Williams, The Merthyr Rising, (1978), D.J.V.Williams, The Last Rising: The Newport Insurrection of 1839, (1985)
    6. P.Molloy, And They Blessed Rebecca, (1983), 52,109,177-8 and B.R.Lewis, ‘Turning the Clock Back: Fishguard a century ago’, County Echo, 20/12/1951/27/12/1951
    7. A.Conway, The Welsh in America, (1961), 310, R.Mullen, The Mormons, (1967), 84-5 and P.A.M.Taylor, Expectations Westward: Mormons and Emigration of their British Converts in C19th, (1965)
    8. www. Welshmormonhistory.org. Journal of John Price.
    9. P.A.M.Taylor, Expectations Westward, (1965), 248-9. Mormon Church Shipping Registers, Tape 0025690, Book 1040 Liverpool Office. Millennial Star, various issues throughout 1855.
    10. J.Allen and G.M.Leonard, The Story of the Latter-Day Saints, (1976) and N.F.Furniss, The Mormon Conflict 1850-9, (1960)
    1. D.Gareth Evans, The History of Wales 1815-1906, (1989)
    2. D.Gareth Evans, The History of Wales 1815-1906, (1989)
    3. G.E.Mingay,(ed.) The Victorian Countryside (1982), 282 and 301-3. J.Walvin, Leisure and Society 1830-1950, (1978). D.Gareth Evans, The History of Wales 18151906, (1989), 305. G.A.Williams, When Was Wales? (1985)
    4. County Echo, 22/06/1911