MANORBEER (MAENOR-BYR), a parish in the hundred of CASTLEMARTIN, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 4 1/2 miles (W.S.W.) from Tenby, containing 582 inhabitants. The name of this place is of very doubtful etymology: Giraldus Cambrensis who was born here, calls it, in his Itinerary, Maenor Pyrr, which he interprets "the mansion of Pyrrus," who, he says, also possessed the island of Caldey. According to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the name literally signifies "the manor of the lords," and appears to be derived from its occupation by the lords of Dyved, who were also proprietors of the neighbouring island of Caldey. By whom the castle was originally built has not been ascertained with any degree of accuracy: it probably owed its foundation to William de Barri, one of the Norman lords that accompanied Arnulph de Montgomery into Britain, and who married the granddaughter of Rhys ab Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales. The castle and manor remained in the possession of that family till the 1st of Henry IV., when they were granted to John de Windsor, but afterwards reverting to the crown, they were, in consideration of a large sum of money, granted by letters patent to Thomas ab Owain of Trellwyn, from whose family they passed by marriage into that of Philipps, the present proprietor. Giraldus, in his notices of this place, quaintly says, "Demetia is the most beautiful, as well as the most powerful, district in Wales; Pembroke, that is the present hundred of Castlemartin, the finest province in Demetia and the place I have described (Maenorbeer) the most delightful part of Pembroke." The parish is situated on the small bay to which it gives name, in the Bristol channel, and within two miles to the south of the turnpike road leading from Tenby to Pembroke: it contains a moderate portion of good arable and pasture land in good cultivation, and a small tract of hilly and barren waste; and, with the exception of such as are employed in the limestone quarries, which are worked only to a small extent, the population is wholly engaged in agriculture. The stone obtained from these quarries is shipped in small vessels, and sent into Cardiganshire: at Lydstep haven vessels of one hundred and thirty tons' burden can ride in security. Some indications of coal have been observed on the estate of John Adams, Esq.; but the attempts to work it have not been attended with success. The sands on this part of the coast are fine, specially at Lydstep haven, where they are well adapted for sea-bathing; and the beauty of its situation, and its convenient distance from Tenby, render this a favourite excursion from that watering-place. Within the limits of the parish are two small villages, called Jamestown and Manorbeer Newton. The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of St. David's, rated in the king's books at £8, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £1400 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Master and Fellows of Christ's College, Cambridge, who are proprietors of the great tithes, which are now let on lease to John Adams, Esq., of Lydstep House. The church, dedicated to St. James, is an ancient and spacious structure, in the early style of English architecture, with a lofty square embattled tower, and is in a rather dilapidated condition. Close to it, on the south side, is a large ancient edifice, which was in all probability connected with it, but its history is unknown: it may probably have been a chantry or grange, or even some distinct religious house. There are places of worship for Calvinistic and Primitive Methodists. Manorbeer castle, distinguished as the birthplace and for some time the residence of the celebrated Giraldus de Barri, better known as Giraldus Cambrensis, is still an object of interest and attraction. The remains occupy an elevated site above the small bay of Manorbeer, of which the castle had full command: they consist principally of portions of the state apartments, the windows of which faced a spacious court, the whole being enclosed with lofty embattled walls, of which the platforms are in some places still entire; the grand entrance, through a gateway flanked with two bastions, of which that on the north side has fallen down; two portcullises, and the moat, which may be distinctly traced. On Oldcastle Point, to the east of Manorbeer bay, are the remains of an ancient encampment of small dimensions, probably of Danish origin. Silvester Giraldus de Barri, commonly called Giraldus Cambrensis, was born about the year 1146, and was educated under his uncle, then bishop of St. David's, who sent him to France for the completion of his studies. On his return to England he embraced holy orders, and rose rapidly to distinction in the church: he held successively the offices of legate in Wales to the archbishop of Canterbury, and Archdeacon of St. David's, of which see he was afterwards elected Bishop; but the king, fearing to raise to that dignity a man of such talent and influence in the principality, and one so nearly allied to the native princes, his mother having been granddaughter of Rhys ab Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales, refused to confirm his election. He attended Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, on his mission to preach the crusades throughout Wales, and, during the absence of Richard I., in the Holy Land, was one of the members of the regency. Being again denied the bishoprick of St. David's, to which he had been a second time elected, and in the hope of which he had successively refused divers other sees, and the archbishoprick of Cashel, in Ireland, he retired from public office to the principality, where he spent the last seventeen years of his life, which he devoted entirely to literary pursuits: he died at St. David's, at the age of seventy-four, and was interred in the cathedral church of that place, where his monument still remains. His writings are numerous, and many of them are still extant; his Itinerary, by which he is best known, has been lately reprinted in quarto by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Bart., with an elegant English version, accompanied with notes and a catalogue of his writings, with a reference to the several works in which they are preserved. The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor amounts to £271. 19.
Gareth Hicks, 30 Dec 1999