The Green - north of 'The Pond'

The Smithy on the Green

It is hard to realise just how important blacksmiths were in times past. This one was situated a few doors up from the Waterman’s Arms, just past a tiny church meeting house. Beside the smithy was a blacksmith's shop and stores used by Pannells the furniture removers.

We take water ‘on tap’ for granted today but a hundred years ago it was often unclean, and had to be fetched. In the late Nineteenth Century a scheme to supply water to sites all over the town resulted in the building of many collection points providing fresh water on dermand for nearby properties. Many of these collection points still remain and can be seen around the town either in dressed limestone recesses or with red brick walls. Unfortunately the supply near to the Smithy disappeared around the time the cottages and Smithy were removed for redevelopment.

 

The Waterman's Arms

Trading for over 200 years, the Waterman’s public house is a pleasant place to enjoy Millpond views and look for glimpses of otters. Until the 1960s however it was not a place that you would have taken your family: the front door in the once slate-clad front of the building led straight into a ‘Men Only’ bar, with sawdust on the floor.

 

Croft Court childrens home

In 1912 the Pembroke Board of Governors bought Croft House for £850 and opened its doors as an orphanage in November of that year. It was known as a happy home - unusual for the times, considering that it originally took children from the local workhouse. By the time of the First World War it was home to around 25 children - many staying for only a few weeks at a time.

For a short time in the 1950s the children were moved up to Bush House (complete with ghost) while Croft House was renovated to include 8 bathrooms and a large dining room. The Matron and Master were Mr and Mrs Hughes, and the deputy Matron was Mrs Ivy Griffiths who remembers sing-songs (there was no TV in those days), sock darning, parties and invitations to tea from local families and organisations. Christmas was a special time and again kindness was widespread with local people providing presents for the children.

In the 1930s the East End School had an excellent rugby team and several of the key players were Croft House boys - reknowned for their toughness. Another Croft House success was boxer Jimmy Leonard who went on to become profesional, and many of the boys found jobs locally when they had to leave the home.

Croft House finally closed in 1956 and sadly the once fine house with its elegant balcony was demolished and redeveloped as Croft Court, which offers sheltered housing for older people.

 

Riverside - the old Pembroke Workhouse

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, poverty in Britain was widespread and parishes had the responsibility of looking after their local poor. By 1834 a new Poor Law had been passed which grouped the parishes into Unions, and Boards of Guardians were elected to administer them.

Pembroke’s Board of Guardians included the Earl Cawdor of Stackpole, Sir John Owen of Orielton, John Adams of Holyland, and Abraham Leach of Corston, as well as prosperous farmers, tradesmen and magistrates; and their Union served the area from Angle to Tenby, as well as Neyland, Llawhaden, and Rosemarket (Pembroke Dock was in its infancy). The large and handsome Victorian Union Workhouse was then built on 3 acres of land to the north of the Millpond and cost nearly £5,000.

Accommodation for 180 paupers was provided along with a schoolroom, chapel, boardroom, hospital, workrooms, dormitories, a 'lunatic yard', kitchen and staff accommodation. Good staff could be hard to find – drunkenness, petty theft and poor housekeeping were reported so that pauper women were expected to cook, clean and nurse the sick.

The inmates included the elderly, sick, infirm, unmarried mothers, orphans, tramps and other vagrants, 'lunatics', and the able-bodied unemployed and their families. Families were not allowed to live together and all who were able were put to work. Women also had to spin and knit stockings. The men had the indignity of spending their days picking oakum – a job associated with punishment as it was usually carried out by prisoners. Rope, called junk (made of coconut fibres and covered with oakum – a loose film of tar) was bought from the dockyard and it was the mens' task to scrape off the tar so that the rope could be recycled and sold, mostly for use in caulking boats.

Breakfast consisted of watery porridge made using skimmed milk served with gritty black bread. Meat was served only on Sunday and tea and sugar were restricted to the over-60s. Idle vagrants received only bread and gruel and slept on bare boards. The influx of Irish potato farmers after the famine of 1848 caused the Board to reluctantly add a separate vagrants’ block to accommodate these men who often carried typhus (then known as ‘jail fever’).

In 1865 a joint County Asylum was built in Carmarthen, and Pembroke’s workhouse 'lunatics' were moved there. Food choice and quality was very poor and deaths of babies, small children, the elderly and the weak were commonplace; and eventually better conditions were called for. At last, by the turn of the century building improvements were made and a new home for children was provided at nearby Croft House (see above). The food improved as well and better supplies of coal were provided for fires.

By March 1930 workhouses and Unions were abolished. In Pembroke’s workhouse a few vagrants were still given an occasional night's accommodation, and the infirmary, taking the new name Woodbine House Hospital, remained operational. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the former workhouse building was designated an Emergency Medical Services Hospital and was used for the treatment of hundreds of service personnel. Patients from the Meyrick and Military hospitals in Pembroke Dock were evacuated to Woodbine House; and at the time of the oil tank blaze in 1940 many of the injured fire fighters received treatment under its roof while it also took in many of the civilian casualties of the great air raids of May and June 1941.

In this year too a maternity unit and nursery was opened at the hospital, and these persisted until 1949 when the name was changed to Riverside and it became an institution which cared for older people. Many radical changes were made and the entire main structure (the glorious Victorian ‘pile’) was demolished, with the exception of the entrance to the old south wing. Rebuilding began in 1962 to provide a home for 60 older residents, and the new construction became known by all as Riverside Home for the Elderly. It continues to provide a happy and secure home, unlike life on the site 100 years previously.

Fishguard Invasion: French prisoners held at Golden Farm

The remains of an old lime kiln lie to the right of the photograph, and beyond the trees there is a small quay near Golden Farm. In 1797 what is known as the last invasion of Britain occured when French soldiers (under the command of an Irish-American William Tate) landed at Carregwastad near Fishguard - blown off course on their way to Bristol.

The invasion force consisted of 1,400 troops of which 800 were irregulars. Transported on four French warships under the command of Commodore Jean-Joseph Castagnier. On landing, discipline broke down amongst the irregulars, many of whom deserted to loot nearby settlements. The remaining troops were met by a quickly-assembled group of around 500 British reservists and militia, including Pembroke yeoman soldiers under the command of John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor.

The renegades were quickly defeated with a little help from the local women dressed in red (thus looking like soldiers themselves, with Jemima Nicholas at their head), and the prisoners were taken to Golden Prison. Thirty of them made their escape, allegedly by digging a tunnel, and with the help of two local girls and a boat, made their escape.