WISTON, or WIZTON, a borough and parish, in the hundred of DUNGLEDDY, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 5 miles (E.N.E.) from Haverfordwest, 15 (N. by E.) from Pembroke, and 259 1/2 (W.) from London, containing 745 inhabitants. This place, of which the Welsh name is Castell Gwys, derived that appellation from its earliest Norman or Flemish possessor, Gwys or Wiz, who constituted it the head of his barony of Daugleddau: the daughter of his grandson, Sir Philip Gwys, married Gwrgan ab Bleddyn, a native chieftain, from whom descended the family of the Wogans, in whose possession this place remained till the present generation, when, in default of male issue, the ample estates of this ancient family were divided among the coheiresses; and the castle and borough of Wiston were subsequently purchased by Earl Cawdor, the present proprietor. The ancient castle, founded by the original Norman proprietor, and a place of great strength, was frequently connected with the military events of which the ancient province of Pembroke was so often the scene, in the continual conflicts between the Welsh and the Norman invaders of their country. In 1146, the three sons of Grufydd ab Rhys joined by Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd, having assaulted this fortress with stones thrown by machines invented for that purpose, and with battering rams, succeeded, after all obstinate defence, in gaining possession of it. In 1193 it was attacked by Hywel ab Rhys who took Philip de Gwys and his wife prisoners, and carried them off; and in 1220, Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, in resentment of the violation of a treaty by which the settlers in this part of the country had sworn allegiance to him, attacked the castle, which he razed to the ground, and put the garrison to the sword. From this time the fortress never recovered its former strength, which became unnecessary, as the Welsh, after the marriage of their countryman, Gwrgan, with the daughter of Philip de Gwys, appear to have left this chieftain and his family in the undisturbed possession of it, as part of their estates. The parish lies only a short distance to the north of the main road from Narberth to Haverfordwest: the church can only be approached by very bad roads, which, in unfavourable weather, are even dangerous. It is of very considerable extent, but the land is generally poor, the only portion of tolerably good soil being about six hundred acres near the church. The houses are scattered throughout the parish, scarcely any where forming a group: a few in the vicinity of the church approach nearest to the character of a village; and one of' these is the old manor-house of the Wogans, a part of which, and the only part now occupied, is inhabited as a farm-house. A market formerly held here has long been discontinued; but an annual fair is still held on October 20th. This place appears to be a borough by prescription, for no vestige or notice of any charter is now preserved. A mayor is still elected annually, being presented by the jury of the court leet of the manor and borough, which must consist of burgesses and suitors of the manor; but he is usually some poor man who is made mayor, as a method of conferring reiief, he being entitled to the tolls of the fair, amounting to £8, £10, or £12, per annum. For a year after the mayor has vacated his office he bears the title of alderman, and there is a tradition that the borough had once a more permanently constituted aldermanic body. There is still a town-clerk. The burgesses are presented by the jury of the court leet, which is held once or twice a year, and in which the only business connected with the borough consists in the appointment and swearing in of the mayor, burgesses, and constables: the burgesses are at present five or six hundred in number, of whom from two to three hundred are resident in the borough, or within seven miles of its limits. The constables act only for the parish of Wiston, which circumstance tends to show that the borough is co-extensive with its limits, that being the more general opinion, though some consider that the borough is coextensive with the manor, which not only comprehends the whole parish, but extends a distance of two miles and a half to the north, and a quarter of a mile to the south, of its boundary. Wiston has heretofore been contributory with Pembroke and Tenby, in the return of a parliamentary representative, the right of election being vested in all the burgesses, resident and non-resident, in whom it was confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, in 1712. Under the recent act to amend the representation it remains, with unaltered limits, a member of the same district of boroughs, to which Milford is now added; but the right of election has been restricted to the resident portion of the burgesses, and extended to the £10 householders, duly registered: the number of qualifying tenements is fifty-eight, but of these only eight are of the value of £10 per annum, exclusively of the land held with them. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of St.David's, endowed with £800 royal bounty, and in the patronage of Earl Cawdor. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a plain Norman edifice, with a small tower, and, from its retired situ-ation in the bosom of a plantation, by which it is partly concealed, has a pleasing and picturesque appearance. There is a place of worship for Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. A school for the gratuitous instruction of poor children, in which at present there are about forty of both sexes, is supported by Earl Cawdor and the other proprietors of land in the parish. The remains of the ancient castle, occupying an elevated site, are but very inconsiderable, consisting chiefly of a portion of the keep, crowning the summit of a conical hill, surrounded by a deep moat. From the appearance of the site it seems to have been originally of very great extent, and, from the thickness of the walls in some parts of the family mansion of the Wogans, which, according to tradition, formed a part of the ancient fortress, it must have been a place of great strength. This ancient mansion is at present let to a farmer, who, however, occupies only part of it: from its windows, and from the ruined keep of the castle are obtained prospects of remarkable extent and beauty. The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor amounts to £249. 8.
Gareth Hicks, 1 Jan 2000
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