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




PEMBROKE, a borough, market-town, and sea-port, having separate jurisdiction, locally in the hundred of Castlemartin, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 6 miles (S.E. by E.) from Milford, 10 (S. by E.) from Haverfordwest, and 248 (W.) from London, containing, exclusively of the parish of Monkton, 5383 inhabitants. The name of this place is derived from the words Pen-Bro, literally signifying a headland or promontory, and originally applied to a district nearly corresponding in extent with the present hundred of Castlemartin, stretching out into the sea, and separating Milford Haven, on the north, from the Bristol channel on the south. On the erection of a castle and the consequent growth of the town, the name of the district in which they were situated was transferred to them, and subsequently to the whole of the county of which that town became the capital. The early history of this place is involved in some confusion: it is stated by Giraldus Cambrensis, that Arnulph de Montgomery erected here, in the reign of Henry I, a slender fortress of stakes and turf, which, on his return into England, he placed under the custody of his constable and lieutenant, Giraldus de Windesor. In the Chronicle of Caradoc of Llancarvan, who was contemporary with Giraldus, it is expressly stated that the castle was attacked in 1092, and again in 1094, by the forces of Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, but that it was so strongly fortified as to baffle every effort of that chieftain to reduce it. The latter of these dates, which is some years prior to the accession of Henry I, contradicts the statement of Giraldus Cambrensis, with respect to the time of the original foundation; and the result of the attacks by so formidable an enemy is at variance with his description of the character of the fortress. Arnulph de Montgomery, on the accession of Henry I., having joined in a confederacy against that sovereign, the castle of Pembroke, together with his other estates, became forfeited to the crown, and Henry afterwards conferred the castle, together with the lordship of Carew and several other manors, on Giraldus de Windesor, Arnulph's lieutenant, who had married Nêst, daughter of Rhys ab Tewdwr. According to Caradoc of Llancarvan, Giraldus or Gerald de Windesor rebuilt the castle of Pembroke in the year 1105, on a more advantageous site, called "Congarth Vechan," and removed into it his family and his goods. Soon after this, according to some authorities, Owain, son of Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, having heard the beauty of Nêst extolled at a banquet given by Cadwgan, either at his castle of Aberteivy, or at that of Eare Weare, in the parish of Amroath, came, under the pretence of relationship, to pay her a visit at this place, and becoming enamoured at this interview, resolved upon carrying her away by force. For this purpose, having obtained the aid of some young men as profligate as himself he returned in the evening to the castle, which he entered unobserved, and, placing a guard over the chamber of Nêst, set fire to the building, and, in the confusion and alarm which ensued, forcibly conveyed her and her children to his residence in Powys. Other writers, however, are of opinion that the castle of Carew was the scene of this outrage and abduction. The alliance of Gerald with the native princes of the country, by his marriage with Nêst, who was some time after restored to him, subsequently excited the jealousy of Henry, who used every possible means to circumscribe his authority, as far as was consistent with the safety of the English interests in this province.

Gilbert de Clare, surnamed Strongbow, was created Earl of Pembroke, by Henry I., in 1109, and thus became possessed of the royal territories in this quarter, and of the castle of Pembroke; and in 1138, the earldom was erected into a county palatine, with the privilege of jura regalia; and, under the authority of its earl, a session and a monthly county court were held within the castle. In the latter all pleas of the crown were determined, fines levied, and recoveries passed: the writs were issued in the name of the earl, who held also at this place his courts of chancery and exchequer. Strongbow enlarged the castle, which he strengthened with additional fortifications, and made it in every respect a residence suitable to the dignity of the elevated rank which he held. He also incorporated the inhabitants of the town, which had arisen under the protection of the castle, and which he surrounded with a lofty embattled wall, defended by numerous bastions, and entered by three principal gates and a postern. Under the protection and influence of its earls Pembroke became a place of great importance; and in the year 1172, Henry II. kept the festival of Easter in the castle. Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, after the defeat of the Lancastrians at the battle of Barnet, retired into the castle, in which were then residing the young Earl of Richmond and his mother; but he was soon besieged by Morgan ab Thomas, brother of the celebrated Rhys ab Thomas, a zealous partisan of the house of York, to whom he must have surrendered the fortress, had not David, another brother, who had embraced the opposite interest, come promptly to his assistance, and conveyed him, together with the Countess of Richmond and her son, to Tenby, where they embarked for France.

The suppression of the palatine jurisdiction, in the reign of Henry VIII., deprived Pembroke of its dignity as the metropolis of a regality; but during the civil war of the seventeenth century, its strength rendered it the scene of many important transactions. The castle, at the commencement of the war, was the only fortress possessed by the parliamentarians in this part of the principality, and was placed under the command of Colonel Rowland Laugharne. ln 1643, Admiral Swanley arrived with the parliamentarian fleet in Milford Haven, and reinforced the garrison with two hundred mariners and several small pieces of cannon, with the aid of which the governor succeeded in reducing most of the neighbouring fortresses, which were garrisoned for the king. In 1647, Colonel Laugharne, and likewise Colonels Powell and Poyer, abandoning the interest of the parliament, and embracing that of the opposite party, made Pembroke their head-quarters, and the rallying point for the army which they raised on behalf of the king; and after their defeat in the disastrous battle of St. Fagan's, in Glamorganshire, retired hither with the remnant of their forces, closely followed by the parliamentarian army, led by Cromwell in person, who immediately commenced the siege of the town, taking post at Welsdon, a village about two miles and a half from it. The siege was conducted with the greatest vigour, and sustained with obstinate valour by the garrison, who were resolved to hold out to the last extremity; but Cromwell having found means to destroy their mills, and their supply of water being also cut off by the destruction of a staircase leading into a cavern under one of the towers, in which was their chief reservoir, there remained only the alternative of a lingering death or immediate submission. Under these circumstances the garrison capitulated, on condition that their chief leaders should throw themselves on the mercy of the parliament; that several of the inferior officers should leave the kingdom, not to return within two years; that all arms and ammunition should be given up, and that the town should be spared from plunder. Laugharne, Powell, and Poyer were afterwards tried by a court martial, and being found guilty of treason, were condemned to be shot; but the authorities being induced to spare two of them, it was ordered that they should draw lots for this favour; and accordingly three papers were folded up, on two of which was written "Life given by God,"and the third left blank: the latter was drawn by Colonel Poyer, who was shot in Covent Garden, on the 25th of April, 1649. That the surrender of the garrison was justly attributed to the failure of their supply of water, by the accident above noticed, has been confirmed by a recent discovery of the cavern, in which was found a copious spring of water, with the shattered remains of a staircase leading to it from the tower, the bones of a man, and several cannon balls.

Pembroke Town

The importance of this place subsequently to the abolition of the palatinate depending principally upon its castle, which, after these events, was never re-fortified, it now experienced a further decline, owing to its remote situation and want of commerce; and though it has to the present day nominally retained its dignity as the capital of the county, it dwindled into comparative insignificance, as all the substantial benefits arising from that distinction were transferred to Haverfordwest, which, from its more central situation, was found better adapted for the transaction of the business of the county. The removal of the government dock-yard from Milford to this place, in 1814, however, materially contributed to revive its prosperity; and since that period it has been gradually increasing in extent and population, and, from the many local advantages which it possesses for an establishment of this nature, there is every prospect of its becoming in due time one of the most considerable naval arsenals in the kingdom. The town is beautifully situated on an elevated ridge projecting into the head of the Pennar Mouth Pill, forming the largest southern creek of Milford Haven, and which it divides into two branches, by which, at high water, it is nearly insulated and over each of which is a neat bridge of stone: it consists principally of one long street, irregularly built, and connected on the west with the ancient village of Monkton, which forms a suburb to the town, and on the north with a new street leading to Pembroke Dock, a flourishing and populous place, about two miles to the north west, forming a distinct town within the parish of St. Mary, which has arisen since the removal of the dock-yard thither from Milford. The houses are built on both sides of the ridge, of which the western extremity is crowned with the magnificent ruins of the ancient castle, and on both sides are gardens sloping down from the houses to the water's edge: the embattled walls with which the ancient town was surrounded are still tolerably perfect on the north side, and the entire town, rising above the waters of the broad inlet, amidst some of the richest scenery in this part of the principality, has an air of venerable grandeur and picturesque beauty. The streets are partially paved and lighted, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with excellent water from seven public conduits in different parts of the town, to which it is conveyed from a distance of half a mile, by means of pipes laid down at the expense of the corporation. There are no particular manufactures carried on, the inhabitants consisting of persons of small independent fortune, shop keepers, publicans, and a few whose business is at the dock; but it serves in a great measure as a depot for the neighbouring districts. Stone coal is brought from a distance of about six miles to the east of it, and bituminous coal from Swansea, Llanelly, Newport, and other places on the southern coast. When colonial produce was not permitted to be imported into Ireland direct, it was lodged in warehouses appropriated to that purpose at Pembroke ferry, in the parish of St. Mary, but that place is at present of no commercial importance. The market, which is abundantly supplied with provisions of every kind, is on Saturday; and there are fairs on April 12th, Trinity Monday, July 10th, October 10th, and November 30th; and in the suburb of Monkton, on May 4th and September 25th. The two parishes of St. Mary and St. Michael comprise, in addition to the towns of Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, a considerable adjacent agricultural district.

Pembroke Dock

PEMBROKE DOCK, sometimes likewise called PATER, or PATERCHURCH, is situated on the southern shore of Milford Haven, about two miles from the old town. It consists of several streets of neat and well-built houses, and is partially paved, but not lighted: there are numerous good shops for the supply of the population, several of which are branches from the larger establishments in the borough. A handsome enclosed market-place was erected here about five years ago, but it has hitherto been but scantily supplied, and most of the inhabitants frequent the market at Pembroke. The dock-yard forms a spacious area enclosed within a lofty wall of stone, and comprises a neat range of buildings for the public offices, houses for the principal officers of the establishment, a well-built chapel fitted up with elegant simplicity for the use of the officers and men employed in the yard, and a fort, which is just completed, for the defence of the place, mounting twenty-three long twenty-four pounders. There are twelve slips for ship-building, which is at present the only business carried out in the yard, though, from the low price of labour in this part of the country, and the facility of obtaining materials of all kinds, it is in contemplation to introduce other branches of labour for the naval service. There are at present on the stocks, and in different states of progress, the Royal William of one hundred and twenty guns; the Rodney, of ninety two guns; the Forth, of forty-six guns; the Andromache, of twenty-eight; the Harrier, of eighteen; and the Cockatrice schooner: the number of men employed at present is about five hundred. Besides the government establishment there is a small private dock, and it is probable that the Irish packet establishment will be removed from Milford to this place, with a view to which alteration a very fine jetty is now being constructed at Hobb's Point, a few hundred yards to the east of the dock-yard, from which new roads have been formed, connecting it with the main road from Carmarthen, in a new line avoiding both Narberth and Haverfordwest, by which route the mail will save a distance of several miles. About a mile to the east of the dock-yard is Pembroke ferry, belonging to the crown, and held by Sir John Owen, Bart., who underlets it at an annual rent of £200: it forms the shortest and most usual line of communication between Haverfordwest and Pembroke, the distance between which places by the ferry is only ten miles, but by Narberth twenty-five: the fares are one-half penny for a foot passenger, one penny for a man and horse, and one shilling per wheel for carriages. The entrance from Milford Haven to the creek at the head of which the town of Pembroke is situated, at low water, is little more than a hundred yards wide, and from nine to twelve feet deep; but proceeding upwards it immediately expands into a wide oozy reach, called Crow Pool, containing an abundance of excellent oysters.


The inhabitants of Pembroke received their first charter of incorporation from Gilbert Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, in the reign of Stephen; but the earliest of which any record is preserved they obtained in the reign of John: various others have been granted to them by succeeding sovereigns, the latest being that of King James II. The corporation consists of a mayor and an indefinite number of common-councilmen (of whom all who have passed the chair are styled aldermen), assisted by a town-clerk, two serjeants at mace, and other officers. The mayor is chosen annually from the common-councilmen, who elect the members of their own body and two bailiffs from the burgesses at large, who are likewise chosen by the common council. Pembroke, with the contributory boroughs of Tenby, Wiston, and Milford, which last was added by the act recently passed for amending the representation of the people, sends one member to parliament: the right of election has hitherto been vested in the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, but is now, by the late act, confined to such of these as are resident, and extended to 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 number of tenements of this value, within the limits of the borough, which are minutely detailed in the Appendix, is two hundred and ninety-seven, including those in the parish of Monkton, which for electoral purposes has been included within the borough: the mayor is the returning officer. The mayor, who is also coroner and clerk of the market, is a justice of the peace within the old borough, his jurisdiction extending over the parishes of St. Mary and St. Michael, and likewise, as regards the duties of coroner, into the village of Monkton, in the parish of St. Nicholas. A mayor's court is held pro formû every fortnight, but all other courts formerly held have fallen into disuse. The revenue of the corporation amounts to about £100, arising out of the tolls of the markets and fairs. Pembroke has been constituted a polling-place in the election of a knight for the shire. The town-hall is a plain modern building in the centre of the south side of the principal street, and underneath it is a commodious area for the corn market.

The Parishes

The livings of all the three parishes of St. Mary, St. Michael, and St. Nicholas, are consolidated into one discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of St. David's, rated in the king's books at £9, (viz., £4 for St. Michael's, and £5 for that of Monkton, or St. Nicholas, St. Mary's not being in charge,) and in the gift of Sir John Owen, Bart. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient and venerable structure, in the Norman style of architecture, situated near the centre of the town, and composed of a nave, chancel, and north aisle, with a small chapel on the southern side: in the north aisle and in the chancel are doorways, now closed up, which formerly communicated with additional buildings no longer standing. That dedicated to St. Michael has been nearly rebuilt from the ground, in the later style of English architecture, the expense having been defrayed by a parochial rate. Each of these churches had anciently chapels of ease, situated a little distance without the walls of the town; and on the summit of an eminence, about three-quarters of a mile to the south of the town, still stands an ancient ecclesiastical edifice, dedicated to St. Daniel, with a lofty spire rising from a low tower, now private property. The chapel within the dock-yard is not consecrated, and is in the patronage of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. There are places of worship for Baptists and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. A grammar school was founded here, in 1690; but its endowment does not exceed £10 per annum. A National school for the united parishes (including therefore the village of Monkton), in which two hundred children of both sexes receive gratuitous instruction, is supported by subscription: the school is held in a house in the town, hired for the purpose, which is also appropriated to the use of a savings-bank. Dr. I. Jones, of Carmarthen, in 1698, bequeathed his estates, real and personal, to be appropriated to the apprenticing of poor children and the relief of the poor of the four parishes of Lawrenny, St. David's, Cosheston, and Lampeter-Velvrey, with a discretionary power to his brother, the Rev. William Jones, to add such other parishes as he should think proper to the four named by the testator; and Mr. W. Jones accordingly, by deed in 1703, vested in three trustees the several sums of £300, £100, and £44, to be laid out in the purchase of land, and the rents to be appropriated to the apprenticing of poor children and the relief of the poor of this place, to which purposes the income, now .£143. 13., is applied. Matthew Warren bequeathed a rent-charge of £2. 12., and George Evans another of fourteen shillings, for bread to twelve poor widows; Richard Howell bequeathed £100; Margaret Mears £30, of which £10 has been lost; Sir Hugh Owen, Bart., £20; and Sir Martin Beckman £5, for the poor: there are also some other charitable donations and bequests.

Pembroke Castle

The majestic and venerable remains of the ancient castle occupy the western extremity of the elevated ridge on which the town is built, and are justly regarded as among the most picturesque and magnificent ruins in the country. The entire fortress was surrounded by a lofty embattled wall, defended by numerous bastions, and having only one entrance from the land, through a grand gateway defended by two circular towers of prodigious strength, and a barbican. On this side it had likewise a dry moat, and the enclosed area was divided into an inner and an outer ward, the former of which comprised the state apartments, and the latter the inferior buildings and the offices for the use of the garrison. The principal remains consist of this grand entrance, the state apartments occupying the northern side, and the keep, which latter is in the inner court, a massive and lofty round tower, seventy-five feet high, and one hundred and sixty-three feet in circumference at the base, and gradually diminishing in diameter towards the top, which is covered with a vaulted roof. This tower is divided into five stages, and the walls are seventeen feet in thickness at the base, and fourteen feet thick at the summit, from which is obtained a most extensive and delightful prospect, comprehending the greater part of Pembrokeshire, from the Pencelly mountains, on the north, to the sea, and from the Carmarthenshire hills, on the east, to St. George's channel, presenting a fine open champaign country, intersected by the numerous aestuaries which unite to form the noble haven of Milford, and richly diversified and enlivened with cheerful villages and gentlemen's seats, among which those of Cresselly, Clareston, Orielton, and others, the grounds of which are richly wooded, form a striking and beautiful contrast to the general appearance of the surrounding country, which is elsewhere almost destitute of timber. In the inner court, besides the keep, is a suite of apartments apparently of later date than the rest of the castle, extending over the cavern called the Wogan, or Hogan, by corruption of the Welsh word Ogov, signifying"a cave:" this subterraneous chamber is seventy-five feet in length and fifty-nine feet wide, and communicates with the upper part of the castle by a staircase, and with the harbour below by a sally-port. The rock on which the castle is built is forty feet high, and is almost insulated by the two branches of the estuary into which it projects, and which is navigable to the town: under the south-eastern bastion there is a natural opening in it, of unknown extent. The great solidity of the walls, and its commanding situation, must have rendered this fortress impregnable against any hostile attempt and its ponderous towers, with the northern suite of state apartments rising above the embattled walls, and part of the platform and parapet, which are still remaining, give its present ruins an air of venerable grandeur; and the ivy and other parasitical plants with which they are overspread contribute to heighten the picturesque beauty of their appearance. Leland says he was shown an apartment in one of the gateway towers, in which he was informed Henry VII. was born; but other writers refer that circumstance to a room in the inner court of the castle. Pembroke castle is now the property of the crown, and is held, under lease granted in the reign of James ll., by Pryse Pryse, of Gogerthan, Esq. This place gives the title of earl to the noble family of Herbert. The different parishes of Pembroke, though ecclesiastically united, continue separate for all civil purposes; the average annual expenditure for the support of the poor in the two forming the ancient borough amounts to £1284. 11, of which sum, £854. 2. is assessed on the parish of St. Mary, and £430. 9. on that of St. Michael.


Gareth Hicks, 9 Jan 2000