THE LIMESTONE INDUSTRY OF CAREW PARISH IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
By Peter Ellis Jones
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
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|
|5||Barley Hay Old Quarry||John Harcourt Powell||Anne Ormond|
|6||Williamston Park||George Henry Carew
of Freestone Hall
|7||West Williamston||John Harcourt Powell||Anne Ormond|
|8||Barley Hay||John Hensley Allen
|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|
|Port not specified||6||3|
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.|
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|
(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|
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|
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.
RECENT AND FUTURE WORK OF DYFED ARCHAEOLOGICAL TRUST
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.