Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Pembroke, Pembrokeshire. This town gets its name from its position at the head of the inlet-harbour of Milford Haven. In modern Welsh it is Penfro; but Gerald de Barn, who had a personal feeling for the area, believed the correct spelling was Pen Broch (Head of the Inlet). The town gives its name to the county, though officially the county town is now Haverfordwest. There are several divisions into which Wales naturally falls; the main ones are the provinces of Gwynedd in the North, Deheubarth or the South, and Powys with its eastern boundary from Chester to the Forest of Dean and its inner angle stretching to the mouth of Dovey. But Owent, known as Monmouthshire, has its separate history and its distinct people; Anglesey has its own individual island story of 4,000 years. Pembrokeshire, too, has been something of an island apart from the rest of Wales. The trading civilization called the Wessex Culture, which gave Stonehenge its final and surviving shape, and sent through Biscay to the Straits of Gibraltar a line of ships, one of which has in modern times been recovered from the sandy death-trap of the landes. brought the sacred stones of Pembroke’s Mynydd Preseli up the Bristol Channel to stand at Stonehenge and at further places, like Tangley in Hampshire.
How far the Romans penetrated is doubtful; one of their great roads pushed from Neath to Carmarthen and went North to Llanio, but the coastline and hinterland of Pembroke show little of their presence. This is strange, as Pembroke bears every sign that the area was favoured by human settlement, with a population that has left its mark upon every hill-top in cairns and cromlechs, standing stones and hut circles. In some ways, apparently, Pembroke was an islanded part even then. Lack of mineral riches may have made it unattractive to the imperial power; neither were the Romans themselves an actively seagoing people, however ready they were to hire native skills to police the coastline. The only ocean-based Roman naval force so far discovered was in the Bristol Channel; and it must have been manned by natives who had inherited the practical knowledge of seaboard traffic dating from the days of the Wessex Culture, 1500 nc.
Perhaps much of the unexplained history of the sub-Roman period in Britain turns upon the relatively unassimilated Pembrokeshire people, equipped with navigational skill and in contact with the offshore Irish coast. The task of those who succeeded to the rule of Rome, the “sons” of Cunedda of the North, was to carry his military organization seawards and to rule the shores of the West from Anglesey. In Pembrokeshire David, the saint, settled his centre for propagating the Christian faith on the basis of the earlier and simple beliefs of the native races. Perhaps it was from Gwent that Patrick sailed to do the same for Ireland. from the same Roman-British region that Colomba went as missionary to the Eubedes (Hebrides). The Saxon did not reach effectively so far West, though the Viking made his raids here and there when the state of Cunedda at last fell. It was the Norman, however, who chiefly created its present shape.
Pembroke Castle stands at the head of a small creek out of Milford Haven, as the town lies at the end of the long street running from the railway station. In 1090 Arnulf of Montgomery, son of the Marcher Lord of Shrewsbury, made his expedition westwards and raised what is now one of the most impressive castles to survive from those days of conquest. It was an island outpost even then, a narrow headland away from Wales, but an excellent vantage-point for reaching Ireland. In 1148 Richard known as Strongbow, with his force of mounted Welsh archers, set out from here for the further conquest of the sister island. William Marshal, who died in 1219, strengthened the Castle for its better use as headquarters of the border county, or palatinate; and his work was completed by the end of the century. This character of an outpost that grew into self-sufficient independence was maintained by Pembroke throughout its history. Henry I and Henry II settled colonists in the county, perhaps contingents of Flemish mercenaries hired to maintain it as a military stronghold. Their descendants, and those of Norse traders who had put their own strongholds on the coastline and left their names for them in Hasguard, Fishguard, Ramsey, Grassholm, Goodwick, and Milford, have made the area non-Welsh in language and somewhat non-Welsh in feeling. But this latter aspect is confined to a preference for churches with slender towers and corbelled parapets rather than the traditional bell-towered churches of the Welsh villages, and a reluctance to accept Welsh-speaking neighbours as neighbours at all. It is not so much a pro-English feeling as a sense of Pembroke independence; rather as one finds the natives of the Forest of Dean confident that the Foresters are a nation apart.
But in Pembroke Castle the man was born whose mission was to attempt to build a national unity on the basis of these local prides in independence. In the 15th century it was held by Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, and Henry Tudor grew there into manhood. To Milford Haven and the Castle he, returned in 1485 from his exile in Brittany, to take the Crown of England from the thorn bush at Bosworth and found the dynasty that built modern Britain. The system of regional government that he founded broke down when the Stuarts attempted to make it the groundwork for a centralized monarchy. Pembroke again asserted its individual character. In the First Civil War, it was the only strong-point in Wales to declare for Parliament. When Parliament was dissolved in 1648, Pembroke was the first and most determined to declare against Cromwell in the Second Civil War. The revolt of Sir John Owen in the North was an affair largely of cavalry skirmishes and counter-marches outside the walls of the great northern castles. In Pembroke, in 1648. it was a very serious matter for Cromwell, since it was a Parliamentary stronghold that had turned against him on a point of principle; Poyer, the Mayor of Pembroke, and Laugharne, its General, had not only rallied throughout Wales the feeling for the King rather than for what had proved to be a single-party dictatorship, but had drawn to their cause those whom Cromwell himself described as gentlemen of purpose and gallantry. The defences of the Castle were great enough to hold off Parliamentary assault for weeks; only the betrayal of its water-supply brought its surrender. The traitor was discovered and buried in the water-pit; but Poyer and Laugharne were captured. They were allowed to draw lots to decide which of them should pay the final penalty. It was Poyer who was shot in the Piazza at Covent Garden.
The Castle is surrounded on three sides by the tides of the haven, and shows at its best during high tide. On the landward side it is protected by a ditch. Isolated and strong, its gatehouse is magnificent, set upon a green sward with a cross-arch connecting its two drum-towers, and opening the outer curtain into the inner ward, where a unique four-storeyed cylindrical keep rises to 75 ft with walls varying from 7 to 20 ft in thickness. Its domed stone roof is also unparalleled. The prison tower and the spiral stair leading to the water gate are particularly remarkable. The dominant circular construction evidences a keen eye to all-round fields of fire.
Over a bridge close to the Castle, the way goes to the place called Monkton, now a suburb of Pembroke but formerly the outgrowth of Arnulis first colonizing. There he set the Benedictine priory that was to confirm the right way of thinking among the people. Its long, barrel-vaulted nave seems to carry on the ideas embodied in the circular keep. But it is worth noting that its outer, northern wall is the relic of an earlier church belonging to an earlier expression of faith. The tall tower of the Pembroke power station, set among green fields and grazing sheep, expresses a faith of the 20th century.
Nearby towns: Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Tenby
Nearby villages: Bosherston, Boulston, Burton, Carew, Castlemartin, Cosheston, East Williamston, Freshwater East, Freystrop, Gumfreston, Hodgeston, Hubberston, Jeffreyston, Johnston, Lamphey, Landshipping, Langwm, Lawrenny, Llangwm, Llanstadwell, Lydstep, Manorbier, Minwear, Neyland, Paterchurch, Redberth, Reynalton, Rhoscrowther, Rosemarket, Saint Florence, Saint Twynnells, Stackpole, Templeton, Warren, Yerbeston
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