Historical description of Pembrokeshire, Wales

Map of Pembroke

Pembrokeshire or Pembroke, a maritime county of South Wales, bounded on the NE by Cardiganshire, on the E by Carmarthenshire, on the SE and the S by Bristol Channel, on the W and the NW by St George's Channel. Its outline is very irregular, and its NE boundary is traced by the river Teifi. Its greatest length, from NE to SW, is 36 miles, its greatest breadth is 29 miles, its circuit is about 145 miles, of which about 100 are coast, and its area is 395,151 acres. The coast, in general, is stern and precipitous, but embraces, in the S, the long sweep and the numerous creeks of Milford Haven; includes, in the SW, the wide and long incurvature of St Bride's Bay, and is flanked by the Caldy, Skokam, Skomar, and Ramsey Islands, and by various skerries. The-interior, for the most part, is undulating, or presents a series of hills intermixed with pastoral vales; and rises, in the N, into the range of the Precelly Mountains, culminating at an altitude of 1754 feet. The chief rivers besides the Teifi are-the East Cleddau, the West Cleddau, the Nevern, the Gwayne, the Solva, and the Rudford. Lower Silurian rocks occupy most of the area, from the N boundary all onward to a line a little S of Narberth and Haverfordwest; old red sandstone forms a belt, from the E boundary to a point about 4 1/2 miles WSW of Narberth, and three other belts around Milford Haven ; millstone grit forms two narrow belts between the first and the second of the old red sandstone belts; the coal measures, chiefly with anthracite in seams of 3 feet and under, form a considerable belt between the millstone grit belts, and onward to St Bride's Bay and partly round it; carboniferous limestone dips below the millstone grit and forms a girdle round it in the E, and trap rocks protrude in many places, particularly throughout the Silurian region. Poor slate is quarried in the Precelly Mountains, hard building stone is plentiful, lime is worked for manure, anthracite is worked to some extent, and clunch and ironstone are found.

The soils on the Silurian and coal rocks are generally poor, those on the old red sandstone and the limestone are fertile, and those elsewhere are very various. Wheat and barley are grown on the best soils, and oats and potatoes are the chief crops. Much agricultural improvement has been effected by the wealthier landlords, and much also by farmers' clubs and agricultural societies. Farms commonly run from 100 to 200 acres, and are let either on lease or from year to year. Many cattle are of a fine local breed, called Castlemartins- black, soft-haired, and easily fattened. Native sheep with coarse wool, but yielding fine mutton, abound in the N, and sheep of various breeds are kept in the S. Hogs and good small horses are reared. Wood is scarce, and the aspect of many of the landscapes is bleak.

Manufactures in cotton, woollen, and linen have been tried at various periods, but without success. Fisheries are extensive and productive, and, together with the mines and the farms, yield the chief articles of export.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:-Professional, 2534 males and 687 females; domestics, 195 males and 6567 females; commercial, 2249 males and 31 females; agricultural, 7571 males and 935 females; fishing, 416 males and 38 females; industrial, 10,447 males and 2980 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 5430 males and 22,161 females; or a total in the county of 28,842 males and 33,399 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows:-Agricultural labourers, 3738; farmers, 2500; general labourers, 1576; and shipbuilders, 1417. The chief occupations of women were-domestic service, with a total of 5575; millinery and dressmaking, 1512. There were also in the county 84 blind persons, 23 deaf, 39 deaf and dumb, and 109 mentally deranged. There were 13,673 persons able to speak only the Welsh language, and 10,804 who could speak both Welsh and English.

The railways of the county are the Pembroke and Tenby, which serves the SE corner of the county, the G.W.R., which has termini at Old and New Milford, and runs thence northwards to Clarbeston Road, and thence eastwards via, Clynderwen into Carmarthenshire. From Clynderwen the North Pembroke and Fishguard railway runs northwards to Rosebush, and thence westwards to Letterston. The NE corner of the county is crossed by the G.W.R., which runs S from Cardigan into Carmarthenshire.

The county contains 153 entire civil parishes and parts of 2 others. It includes the municipal boroughs of Pembroke, Haverfordwest, and Tenby, which have commissions of the peace; Haverfordwest has also a separate court of quarter sessions. It is divided into seven petty sessional divisions. The chief towns are the city of St David's, and the boroughs of Milford, Pembroke, Tenby, Wiston, Haverfordwest, Fishguard, and Narberth; and there are about 175 smaller towns, villages, and hamlets. The county contains 114 entire ecclesiastical parishes and parts of 5 others, and is entirely in the diocese of St David's.

The county is governed by a county council consisting of 16 aldermen and 48 councillors, and is in the Western military district and the South Wales judicial circuit. The assizes and quarter sessions are held at Haverfordwest. One member is returned to the House of Commons by the county, and one by the Pembroke and Haverfordwest District of Boroughs, consisting of the contributory boroughs of Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford, Narberth, Pembroke, Tenby, and Wiston.

The chief seats are Stackpole, Johnston, Picton, Orielton, Orlandon, Slebech, Clareston, Amroth Castle, Begelly, Brownslade, Boulston, Cresselly, Ffyonen, Glyn Amnel, Hen Castell, Hill, Lawrenny, Llamphey, Llanstinnan, Merrixton, Plas Newydd, Poyston, Priskilly, Pentre, Sealyham, and Talybont.

The territory now forming Pembrokeshire belonged to the Demetae or Dyfed; was included in the Roman Britannia Secunda; was ravaged by the Danes in 987-8; was conquered by the Normans, under William de Tours, in 1069 ; received a large colony of Flemings in 1106-13; experienced improvement in arts and agriculture from that colony and from other Flemings who afterwards joined it; and was the scene of the landing of the Earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., and of his being joined by Sir Rhys ap Thomas. Cromlechs and Druidical stones are at Llanstinnan, Trefine, Treslanog, Trehowel, Llechydrybed, and Pentre-Evan, and remains of ancient British and other camps are at Rudbaxton, Summerton, Castell Coning, Poyntz, Gawnfawr, and Castell Hafod. The Roman station Ad Vicesimum was at Castell Flemish; the maritime Julian Way came in from Carmarthenshire, and went westward to Menapia, near St David's; and the Sarn Helen Way went northward from Menapia. Old castles, or remains of them, are at Pembroke, Manorbier, Kilgerran, Carew, Narberth, Haverfordwest, Newport, Roche, Tenby, Wiston, Benton, and Llanhyfer; monastic houses were at St Dogmells, Pill, and Haverfordwest; an ancient cathedral is at St David's; and notable old churches are at Flimston, Nevem, and St Govan's Head.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5