Places of worship: churches, chapels and a little bit more

Pembroke has been important for Christianity from the arrival of the earliest Christians in the sixth century; and spiritually reaching back to much earlier times. 30 miles to the north of Pembroke six huge blue stones bound for Stonehenge were reputedly taken from the Preseli Hills - about 4,500 years ago.

Pembroke's places of worship - in alphabetical order

Baptist Chapel

The Baptist chapel, set back from the road on East Back near St Michael’s Square, is a fine building of limestone with freestone dressings in the Gothic style.

It was opened in May 1878 and seated 600 people. It cost £2,500 (£260,000 in today's money) to build, with a congregation numbering 230. The minister at the time was Rev. Evan Thomas who had settled in Pembroke in 1875.

Today the congregation hold their Sunday services in the local Junior school Golden Grove, and the building now has a new lease of life as an antique centre. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Catholic Church

For many years in the 1970s and 80s the local Catholic church congregation was based in this tiny place of worship in The Green. Midnight mass at Christmas must have felt very special, especially viewed from the small balcony above. A new Catholic church - St Joseph's - was subsequently constructed in 1978 on the edge of Monkton.

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Haven Christian Centre

The Haven, as it is known locally, is based in a converted brewery and stables. It is a church-owned complex that today is a venue for functions, and accommodation.

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St Daniel's Church

It is believed that the site of St Daniel's Church was the original heritage of the Saint of that name; that it was a place of pilgrimage, and that it is the earliest church in the area.

Deiniol’s family are believed to have come from North Wales but it is not known what may have bought him to Pembrokeshire early in 500AD. Legend has it that he was ordained in 516 and became Bishop of Bangor 30 years later – he is mentioned in the earliest documents from this time.

There is little reference to the church in Norman times and it was not connected to Monkton Priory. In 1484, however, the ‘Hermitage and lands’ were granted to the burgesses of Tenby – the proceeds of which were to be used for relief of the poor.

George Owen mentions the Chapel in 1603; and after it later fell into disrepair it was restored by a passionate Reverend Howell Davies around 1742.

John Wesley preached in St Daniel's Church several times despite its small size – the Mayor of St Mary's parish having forbidden him to preach within the parish. After several centuries in private ownership in 1832 St Daniel's Church became home to a Baptist congregation, and then became the property of the Church of Wales.

There has never been heating or electric lighting in this simple church, but when certain services were held there up until its closure in the late 1900s no doubt the candlelight would have created a very special atmosphere for the congregation.

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St Mary's Church

It is thought that the first church of St Mary the Virgin was built in early 1200 as the new town settlement expanded outwards from the Castle. The oldest part of the building is an original wall to the south, with a round-headed Norman window hidden beneath the plaster. The original entrance is there too; and the pillars nearby were made from the original north wall of the church in about 1350 when the tower was built.

By the north isle are memorials to the important Adams family who lived first at Paterchurch (now Pembroke Dock) then until the last century at Holyland House. The font is Norman and it has been claimed that Henry VII was baptized here. The Lady Chapel is held by believers to be a place of special sanctity where the Sacrament is reserved for the sick and the devotion of the faithful.

Renovation took place in 1879, and the tower has been described as one of the most remarkable towers in Pembrokeshire because of its military appearance – it contains a ring of eight bells, the last two commemorating Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1897.

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St Michael's Church

This handsome church was built before 1291, and has very ancient ruins in its grounds – uncovered when nearby cottages were demolished. The oldest surviving part of the church itself is the clergy vestry with its original stone-vaulted ceiling. The tower appears to have been built in three stages with the lowest stage probably being the main entrance to the original church (the doorway is now blocked up).

In 1832 St Michael's was almost entirely re-built; and more renovation was carried out in 1887. The font is a copy of the medieval font in Lamphey Church; and the arcade of arches are interesting because none of their column-mouldings are the same. The mouldings represent a fascinating variety of fruits, flowers, and even a sparrow and swallow. The main altar and oak panels are also very interesting with a number of carved figures holding tools and a book.

One 17th century memorial of interest is that of Major David Mackenzie. It tells of his wife Ann who was 15 when they married – he was 30. Her first child was born when she was 16 and both her children died in infancy; he lived to be 45 while Ann died aged 28.

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St Nicholas Church, Monkton

In 1098 Arnulph Montgomery, founder of the first Norman Castle here in Pembroke, made a gift of the church of St Nicholas 'within his castle' to the Abbey of Seez in Normandy. The church was founded on the site of a much earlier Celtic Christian church, and the north side of the nave of today’s church (supported outside by buttresses) is the original wall of the ancient church of St Nicholas.

In 1436 the future Henry VII was born in Pembroke Castle and as a young boy was brought up and educated by the Benedictine Monks at the priory. He remained there until his teens when he was taken to France for safety.

After the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the condition of the Priory Church gradually deteriorated until there remained only the long narrow nave, which was the old place of worship for the parishioners.

This was the condition that the Reverend David Bowen found his church in when he came to be Vicar of Monkton in 1877. He gave his life to the work of restoration and was Vicar of this Parish for nearly fifty years until 1926. It was while these renovations were being carried out that the 'parvisse' over the present porch, reached by narrow steps running inside the wall, was opened and the skeleton of a monk was found in such a position to suggest that he had been locked in alive.

When the floor of the nave was levelled, hundreds of human bones were found, mingled in a most extraordinary fashion: skulls, legs, ribs and other portions of human remains were lying side by side, or crossing each other, without any order or arrangement of any kind. These were reverently collected and re-interred in a large grave twelve feet square and seven and a half feet deep under the shadow of the north wall of the Churchyard.

The church houses the vaults of three important families - the Meyricks of Bush, Owens of Orielton and the Corston families, an is also home to a chained Book of Common Prayer which is very rare being a 1604 Prayer Book.

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Tabernacle Congregational URC

Congregationalists have a chapel in Main Street, erected in 1867, which will seat 630 adults.

It also has a spacious school, class and vestry rooms and
adjacent to the chapel is a house for the minister. The total cost of the buildings was £3,500. The present pstor is the Rev Howell Powell.

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 Westgate Calvinist Chapel

 

 

West Gate Calvinistic Methodist chapel is situated, as its name indicates, close to what was once the west entrance in the ancient was of the town and near the castle. It is a structure of massive appearance built in 1866 at a cost of £2,100, the architect being Mr K. W. Lad of Pembroke Dock. Itwas internally remodelled and re-decorated in 1878 under the superintendence of Mr D Edward Thomas, architect from Haverfordwest, and seats about 500.

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A Salvation Army presence has been in Pembroke for over 100 years - and is based now in Tenby.

 
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Apostolic Church

Church members meet in this attractive little blue corregated-iron building near to Pembroke Railway Station

 

 
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Early Wesley meeting house to the rear of the old York Tavern

 

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Hundleton Chapel and Thorn Chapel

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