Outlying areas - the villages of south Pembrokeshire

Freshwater EastStackpole VillageOrielton Angle Village

Freshwater East beach and village (above left)

Lying only four miles south east of Pembroke, Freshwater East is as popular today as it was almost a hundred years ago. Before 1900 only a few farms and labourers' cottages were to be found in the area, but as business in town ‘modernised’ and with the advent of the motor car, wooden bungalows were built in The Burrows – the dunes behind Freshwater East beach.

During World War II when Pembroke dock with its air station, barracks and oil depot became targets for the Luftwaffe, some families were able to retreat to these bungalows and experienced idyllic long summer days and the challenge of everything from storms, accidents and illness, to rats and mould through most of the year. The ‘bungalows’ became ever more popular as summer chalets and verandas, and gardens and a network of footpaths were established.

Stackpole Village (second left above)

Lying close to Barafundle Bay, Stackpole Quay and the lovely Lily Ponds, Stackpole is a tranquil ‘picture’ village. In 1735, however, things were much different. The village itself was moved from its original medieval site when extensive renovation, rebuilding and landscaping of grounds were carried out. At this time Stackpole was primarily occupied by estate workers.

Today there is still a local school and a village pub with restaurant. The village church, Stackpole Elidor Church, lies a mile or so away in the tiny hamlet of Stackpole Elidor, and was built in the 13th century or even earlier.

The Orielton Estate (second right above) and subsequent political ruin

From the time of Henry II when the Wyrriott family – and their ghost – were written about by Gerald of Wales, Orielton has been important and politically powerful. The house we see today is the third mansion and reputed to have a window for every day of the year. A hundred and fifty years ago there was an American Garden, a Japanese garden, a folly and a gazebo, extensive fishponds and a superb walled garden. For many years the Owens of Orielton provided the Member of Parliament for Pembroke, but by the 1800s the family was investing huge financial resources to ensure success. Following several bitterly contested local elections with allegations of corruption, culminating in dubious local elections in 1831 and 1832, expenses had become so crippling that first their land and properties had to be sold, and finally the mansion itself in 1857.

Angle village (above right)

The Angle Estate has been in the Mirehouse family for over 150 years and at one time the family would have owned most of the houses in the village. Situated on a narrow peninsular at the very tip of south west Wales, Angle has a strong seafaring tradition - there is a fisherman’s chapel in the Churchyard.

Angle Village has a 14th century Pele tower, a shop, a school and pubs; and nearby are more historic buildings: the East Block Battery, Thorn Island Fort, and Chapel Bay Fort – all open to the public. They were built after the Napoleonic Wars to defend the Haven from possible attack.

 

Bosheston Lily Ponds - still as popular as when the photograph (above left) was taken

In 1939 the war office acquired a large portion of the Stackpole Estate, which had stretched ten miles from the village of Freshwater East to Freshwater West. Families and farm workers were evicted and the land became a firing range; and after the war German tanks and troops were shipped over every year for training, becoming very much involved with the local community as time went by.

Today the firing range lands are of international importance for vulnerable habitats and species, archaeology, lichens and much more. Not wanting to pay death duties, and frustrated that plans to turn the mansion, lakes and adjoining dunes, cliff-tops and woods into a holiday complex, the 25th Thane of Cawdor raised the once great Court to the ground. King Edward VII had stayed there in 1902 on his Pembrokeshire visit.

The loss of the house proved to be the public's gain. The National Trust now manages the estate with its many footpaths and superb views. Otters swim, pike lurk; and visitors still loiter on the narrow bridges as they cross on their way down to Broadhaven beach.

Stackpole Court and estate (second left above)

Today a National Nature Reserve, the lands and mansion of Stackpole became part of the Scottish Cawdor’s estate in 1689 when Sir Alexander Campbell, MP and Lord of the Admiralty, married local heiress Elizabeth Lort. Their son ‘Joyless John’ married another wealthy heiress resulting in ownership of lands that extended over 100,000 acres. An opulent new mansion was built, lakes created in the valley below, and when it was realised that the little village of Stackpole could be seen on the horizon it was simply moved – further away and out of sight!

For some 250 year the Campbells divided their time between Cawdor Castle near Inverness in Acotland, London, Gelli Aur in Carmarthenshire, and Stackpole Court. The 700-mile journey to here must have been daunting, especially for the children, but Pembrokeshire’s mild winters and good life made it worthwhile. In 1963 the once-great house was demolished. Only the brewery and the stable block were saved, and today they are the important home to a nursery roost of Greater Horseshoe bats.

King Edward VII stayed here in 1902, and the family motto is ‘Be Mindful’.

Seaweed drying huts at Freshwater West for lavaweed (second right above)

The cottage industry of collecting Lava weed in Pembrokeshire began during the 18th century. At Freshwater West up to 20 drying huts could be found along the cliff top, each one maintained by a local family – mostly from Angle. Ivor Wheeler from Pembroke and his wife were still collecting the long stranded seaweed up until the 1970s.

"Lawr" had become a staple food of pit workers in the 18th century as part of their breakfast. In 1865 George Borrow on his travels wrote of "moor mutton with piping hot laver sauce", a popular dish of the time. Today an enterprising local surfer has revived the tradition with a mobile beach café selling ‘fruits of the sea’.

 

Rock Pools and sandy beach at Angle (above right)

The rocks in the foreground of this picture are full of small fossils and rock pools of wonder, and the beach has been a favourite with families from Pembroke for eighty years or more. In the background of the photograph lies stark Thorn Island with a small fort covering almost all of it. The fort became a hotel in 1947 and one summer was the magical venue for Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’.

The rocks beyond the fort, however, can be full of treachery. One of the most famous ship wrecks in the area was in 1894 when the Loch Shiel went down with a cargo of whisky, gunpowder and beer on board. The ship[ was on its way from Scotland to Adelaide and had sought shelter. Much of the whisky was never recovered, having been 'spirited' away by locals; and stories abound about the incident to this day. Another, more recent, incident - one which had huge and unfortunate repercussions for the local environment and wildlife - took place when the Sea Empress went aground in the Haven nearby spilling 72,000 tons of crude oil into the sea. This was devastating at the time.

Manorbier Castle and village

Built above the beach, popular with surfers today, Manorbier Castle’s walls are some of the oldest in the county. Originally made of earth and timber, the first fortification was put up by Odo de Barri when the Normans established this south west part of Pembrokeshire as their stronghold. Odo’s son married Angharad, daughter of Welsh Princess Nest and Norman baron Gerald de Windsor – castellan of nearby Pembroke Castle. Their son Gerald became an important chronicler of Wales and Ireland. Known as Gerald de Cambrensis or Gerald of Wales, his books (with the language now updated) are still highly readable today. He wrote of Manorbier: “In all the broad lands of Wales, Manorbier is the most pleasant place by far”.

The Castle was further strengthened in case of attack by Owain Glyndwr and again when Oliver Cromwell was laying siege to Pembroke. Rowland Laugharne was living there at that time and although he was captured and sentenced for his part in opposing Cromwell he was later reprieved.