Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Tenby, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro). This delicious little town on the coast of southern Pembrokeshire, 27 miles West of Carmarthen, is a Georgian watering-place that has strayed into the 20th century. The elegant houses, perched on the cliffs, look down on golden sands and a harbour crowded with yachts. To complete the picture, the medieval walls still encircle the town. The heart of the place lies within the walls, although Tenby has now expanded. The municipal buildings, the station. and the new housing estates are outside the circle of fortifications. Tenby is popular, and overflows in high summer. Inevitably the caravan and camp sites are growing on the outskirts. But the charm and Georgian delights remain.
Tenby has a long history. It may have started its career as a Norse settlement, but by the 9th century it was a Welsh stronghold, whose attractions were celebrated in a noble Welsh poem in praise of Dinbych-y-pysgod (Tenby of the Fishes):
Pleasant the fortress on the shore of the sea,
Merry New Year on the beautiful headland,
Louder the song of the bards at their mead
Than the beat of the waves resounding below.
The Norman seized Tenby, and henceforth it became part of “Little England beyond Wales”. The castle was built on the headland that juts out between the North Sands and the South Sands. The ruins still crown Castle Hill. The statue of Prince Albert stands among the fragmented walls. Tenby became a walled town in the 13th century. The walls were strengthened in 1457, and again during the Armada scare in 1588. The line of walls is best seen from the South Parade, where the main gate, with its remarkable five-arched entrance, is well preserved. Tenby had a rough time in the Civil War. It was captured by the Parliamentarians in 1644, and retaken in 1648 after defecting during the Second Civil War. It was twice bombarded from the sea. During the 17th and 18th centuries.
Tenby was a fairly busy little port. There are some buildings that survive from the medieval period. The Tudor Merchant's House is on the narrow street of Quay Hill. It has a gabled front and corbelled chimney-breast. The ground floor is a museum. Next to it is the Plantagenet House, with its Flemish-type chimney. Both houses are owned by the National Trust. St Julian's Chapel, down by the harbour, has been much reconstructed, and at one period was Tenby's first bathing-hut. St Julian's was the place where the last special fishermen's services were held in Wales.
The finest medieval survival in the town, however, is St Mary's Church, the largest parish church in Wales. The greatest part is Perpendicular in style. Within is a splendid arcade of eight arches along the North and North East aisles. The chancel roof (1470) has notable carved bosses. The nave roof is also finely carved. The church is full of monuments, including a large Jacobean effigy to the wife of Thomas ap Rhys, and the tomb of Bishop Tully (d. 1482) in the North East chancel, and the notable alabaster tombs of Thomas White and his son John, the Tenby merchants. Thomas helped the future Henry VII to escape to Brittany with his uncle, the Earl of Pembroke, after the Battle of Tewkesbury. The cellars in which the Earls were supposed to have been hidden still remain under a chemist's shop. The church also contains a memorial to Robert Recorde. the mathematician, who was born in Tenby in 1510. He was a pioneer in algebra, the first man to use the plus and minus signs. Augustus John, the painter, was also a native of the town.
In the early 19th century Tenby emerged with a new beauty. Sir William Paxton, the flamboyant Carmarthenshire magnate, descended on the town and began its conversion into one of the most charming and elegant of watering-places. The bay-windowed hotels rose along the North Walk, Castle Square, and the cliffs above the South Sands. The Sands made Tenby's fortune.
The North Sands curve round to the yacht-crowded harbour. Beyond Castle Hill are the Castle Beach and the South Sands, which unite at low tide. St Catherine's Rock has a fort converted into a house, and the sands to it dry out at low tide. A great deal of the atmosphere of the early 19th century remains recorded in the etchings of Charles Norris, who settled in Tenby about 1805. His house in Bridge Street is now marked by a tablet.
Tenby's vogue lasted well into Victorian times. S. P. Cockerell designed the public baths, now Laston House, in Castle Square, with a Greek inscription meaning “The sea washes away all the ills of mankind”. North Bay House in High Street is known locally as the Prize House from the story that its design won a prize at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The South Sands stretch westwards to the dunes of the Burrows, where there is a first-class golf links. Behind the sand-dunes lie the Ritee marshes. About 100 years ago it was still possible to take small boats far inland to St Florence, which has some old houses, with “Flemish” chimneys, grouped round the church. The church gives an impression of age, having Norman and Early English walls, and arches inserted during the 13th century. There are some interesting wall monuments.
Between St Florence and Tenby, overlooking the Ritee flats, is Gumfreston, with its secluded church, which has an exceptionally tall tower. On the North wall of the nave are some faint wall paintings, which may represent the patron Saint of the church, St Lawrence, with his grid-iron. The recess behind the grill has a pre-Reformation sanctus bell. The springs in the yard South of the church were once places of pilgrimage. They have been cleaned, and are said to possess the same medicinal qualities as the waters of Tunbridge Wells.
Nearby towns: Pembroke, Narberth, Saundersfoot, Whitland
Nearby villages: Amroth, Begelly, Burton, Carew, Cosheston, Crunwear, East Williamston, Freshwater East, Gumfreston, Hodgeston, Jeffreyston, Kilgetty, Lampeter Velfrey, Lamphey, Landshipping, Langwm, Lawrenny, Llandowror, Llangwm, Llansadurnen, Llanteg, Ludchurch, Lydstep, Manorbier, Marros, Minwear, New Hedges, Paterchurch, Penally, Pendine, Redberth, Reynalton, Robeston Wathen, Saint Florence, Stackpole, Stepaside, Tavernspite, Templeton, Wisemans Bridge, Yerbeston
Have you decided to visit or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
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