NARBERTH - from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Wales(1833)


NARBERTH, a newly created borough, market town, and parish, comprising the North and South divisions, each of which separately maintains its own poor, in the hundred of NARBERTH, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 14 1/2 miles (N.E.) from Pembroke, and 254 (W.) from London, containing 2589 inhabitants, of which number, 1852 are in the North, and 737 in the South, division. This place, in ancient records called "Arberth," appears to have been distinguished at a very early period as the residence of some of the chieftains of the country; and mention occurs, in the earlier periods of its history, of Pwyll Pendevig, of the royal house of Dyved, setting out from his palace of Narberth to hunt in the vale of "Cych." On the conquest of Pembrokeshire by Arnulph de Montgomery, in the reign of William Rufus, this place became the head of a considerable lordship, which was allotted by Arnulph to Stephen Perrott, who had accompanied him in his expedition into this part of the principality, and who is said to have erected, for the security of his territories, a fortress on the summit of a hill (still called Camp hill) between the village of Templeton, in this parish, and the present town. This spot was well adapted to the purposes of observation and defence, and was at that time covered with a thick forest; and the remains of military works, which, according to the Welsh Chronicles, were destroyed by Grufydd ab Rhys, may yet be traced. Sir Andrew Perrott, grandson of the first knight, subsequently erected the castle, of which the remains form so prominent and picturesque a feature in the foreground of the town. For this purpose he selected a very eligible site, commanding the pass of the valley through which the high road through the county passes; and having completed the building, he garrisoned it with a party of Flemings, whom Henry I. had settled in this part of the principality, and for whom and his dependents, under the immediate protection of the castle. Sir Andrew built habitations, which formed the origin of the present town. Little is recorded of the history of the castle, which in 1256 was taken, and the fortifications destroyed, by Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales; but it appears to have recovered from the injury it received upon that occasion. The lordship and castle were generally the property of the crown, or of some distinguished member of the English peerage, till the reign of Henry VIII., who gave them to Sir Rhys ab Thomas, at which time the castle was in a good state of repair, according to the testimony of Leland, who describes it as "a praty pile of old Sir Rees." The castle suffered material injury during the usurpation of Cromwell; but it appears, notwithstanding, to have remained in a habitable state till the year 1657, when it formed part of the immense possessions of the Barlows of Slebech, who, in the 4th of James II., obtained permission to hold here a market and fair, and to receive the tolls and customs arising from them.

The town is pleasantly situated on an eminence above a narrow valley, a little to the eastward of the Eastern Cleddy river, and in the northern division of the parish: it consists principally of three narrow streets diverging obliquely from the market-place, which is in the centre. The houses are irregularly built and of mean appearance; and the town, which is neither paved nor lighted, and is indifferently supplied with water, fails in realizing the expectations which the distant view of it excites. As seen from the adjacent heights, with its church, and the picturesque remains of its ancient castle, mantled with ivy, it forms a prominent and highly interesting object; but on a nearer approach, its want of regularity in the order, and of beauty in the form, of its buildings, destroys the effect of its distant appearance. The surrounding scenery is richly varied and beautifully picturesque. The southern portion of the parish produces abundance of excellent limestone, of which great quantities are burnt for the supply of the surrounding neighbourhood, and a considerable portion is quarried for building, some of which, from its being susceptible of a fine polish, is manufactured into mantel-pieces of great beauty. The town has derived a considerable degree of importance, and a large increase in its population, from its public situation on the great western road from London to Milford. A lock-up house, having over it a room in which magisterial and parochial meetings are held, has recently been built by a grant from the county rates and by subscription; and a new market-house, considered to be one of the most commodious in South Wales, has just been completed, at the sole expense of the Baron de Rutzen, of Slebech Hall, the proprietor of the castle and lord of the manor, which he obtained by marriage with the heiress of the late Nathaniel Philipps, Esq. Hats are manufactured here to a limited extent. The market is on Thursday, and is abundantly supplied with provisions of every kind, at an extremely moderate price. Fairs are annually held by charter on March 21st, June 4th, July 5th, August 10th, September 26th, and December 11th; and to these have been added two others, recently established, of which one is held on the 13th of May, and the other, which is called the Jubilee Fair, on the 25th of October: this last was held for the first time in 1810, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the accession of George III.: they are all noted cattle fairs, and are much resorted to by graziers and drovers from England. By the late act for amending the representation of the people, Narberth has been created a borough, contributory with Fishguard to that of Haverfordwest in the return of a member to parliament: the right of election is vested in every male person of full age occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord. a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs: the present number of tenements of this value within the limits of the borough, which are minutely described in the Appendix to this work, is one hundred. It has also been made a polling-place in the election of a knight for the shire. The petty sessions for the hundred are held here.

The living is a rectory, with Robeston-Wathen annexed in the archdeaconry and diocese of St. David's, rated in the king's books at £25. 10. 10., and in the patronage of the King, as Prince of Wales. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, and supposed to have been originally founded by Sir Andrew Perrott, the founder of the castle, has been recently rebuilt, partly by subscription, aided by a grant of £150 from the Incorporated Society for promoting the building and enlargement of churches and chapels, and partly by a rate upon the inhabitants, amounting to one-third of the whole expense. It is a very neat edifice, in the later style of English architecture, and, in consideration of the grant from the society, contains one hundred and fifty free sittings, in addition to fifty which were previously unappropriated. Prior to the incumbency of the present rector, the Rev. W. Lloyd, both the church and parsonage-house were in a very dilapidated condition; but a new rectory-house and commodious out-buildings have been just completed, at an expense of £1050, raised by a mortgage on the living, under Gilbert's Act. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists. George Devonald, Esq., of Sodston, has lately by deed charged the farm of Rushacre with the payment of £30 per annum for the support of a school in this parish, in which poor children are to be taught reading and writing; and it is in contemplation to erect a school-room, in order to carry into effect the intentions of the beneficent donor. The remains of the ancient castle, which appears to have been a structure of considerable extent, consist principally of the grand gateway between two circular towers partly clothed with ivy, and some small portions of the walls; though inconsiderable in their extent, they possess a very pleasing and interesting character, and from their situation have a highly picturesque appearance. On the eastern verge of Canaston wood, but within this parish, are the remains of a fine old British intrenchment, nearly triangular in form, and comprising an area of two acres and a half in extent, with the longest side towards the river Cleddy: it is defended on all sides, except on the east, where it is protected by a natural ravine, by a lofty rampart of great breadth, and has only one entrance at the south-eastern angle. About a mile to the south of the town is the ancient village of Templeton, so called from its having been anciently the resort of the Knights Templar of Slebech, who were accustomed to pursue the diversion of hunting at this place: the cottages in this village have an appearance of great antiquity, and the remains of numerous ruined buildings, together with the tradition that there was anciently a church or chapel of ease here, on the site of which is a building, subsequently used by a congregation of Unitarian dissenters, and now as a school-room, in connection with the established church, afford evidence of its having been at one time a place of greater importance. Grove, in this parish, the property of Charles Poyer Callen, Esq., is chiefly remarkable as having been the patrimonial inheritance of the celebrated Colonel Poyer, who so gallantly defended Pembroke castle during the parliamentary war, and who, together with Colonels Laugharne and Powell, was tried by Cromwell for high treason, and sentenced to suffer death. Cromwell, being prevailed upon to spare the lives of two, three papers were folded up, on two of which was written "Life given by God," and the third, which was blank, having fallen by lot to Colonel Poyer, he was shot in Covent Garden, on the 25th of April, 1649. From this circumstance the family motto, - "Sors est contra me," has been taken. From a field upon this estate is obtained a most extensive prospect over the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, Glamorgan, and Pembroke in Wales, and over those of Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset in England. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor of the entire parish, from March 1824 to March 1829, amounted to £492. 1., of which sum, £359. 18. was raised on the North, and £132. 3. on the South, division; but since that period the aggregate expenditure may be estimated at £660 per annum, of which the proportions are £480 for the North, and £180 for the South, division.


Gareth Hicks, 19 Dec 1999