Barnard's Tower

To see this tower you need to be at the far end of the Millpond walk

Barnard’s Tower is to the rear of no. 122 Main Street

The best-preserved feature of Pembroke town wall, Barnard’s Tower is certainly one of the total of six towers mentioned by George Owen around 1600. It is a large, three-storeyed drum tower, nearly 9 metres in diameter and about 11 metres in height, standing at the northeast corner of the town wall circuit. It is joined to the town wall by means of a rectangular entrance ‘forebuilding’ which is solid to second floor level, and which measures 3.5 metres by 3 metres and rises nearly to the height of the tower itself. The walls in the main body, which is roofed with a domed stone vault, are 2.10 metres thick. The Tower's fabric is medium and medium-large rubble, roughly coursed. It has been repointed on several occasions in recent years and no earlier mortars can be seen.

The ground floor of the tower is a plain circular basement chamber, accessed from the spiral stair which rises throughout the tower to parapet level. There are no other openings. The first floor features four deep, plunging arrow loops. At one time it could also have been lived in and is lit by a simple, single-light window in its southeast flank, without dressings but with window-seats, one of which features a recess or cupboard.

The second floor is even more domestic in character with three arrow loops, similar to those in the first floor, but also featuring two windows. Both are simple and lack dressings but both feature window-seats; and while one is a single light the other has two lights, with semi-circular heads, beneath a two-centred relieving arch. The chamber was heated by a round-backed fireplace to the east, which has since lost its chimney. The domed stone vault over the second floor has been extensively consolidated and is a remarkable feature to encounter within a town hall, being paralleled locally only by the castles at Kidwelly, Manorbier, Laugharne and Pembroke itself.

The tower is entered at this second floor via the forebuilding. The latter is approached, from the southwest, from the interior of the town wall where the internal ground level is three metres higher than the external level. In addition, the ‘forebuilding’ entrance doorway is raised a metre above internal ground level to enter the tower at second floor level, and is reached by a flight of (modern) steps over an area which it is suggested may have featured a drawbridge pit. This assertion is presumably based on the evidence of the two blind vertical slits over the entrance doorway, as if to receive the ends of drawbridge timbers. The doorway has a plain, undressed two-centred arch and opens into a vaulted passage contained within the width of the forebuilding.

There is a doorway in the passage south wall which leads into a small, square latrine (garderobe) chamber, corbelled out from the angle between the forebuilding and the town wall and discharging externally. In the opposite wall is a simple arrow-loop, and halfway along the passage is a portcullis slot. Beyond this is an arrow loop, now blocked, which covered the eastern line of the town wall. Opposite the loop is a doorway onto the spiral stair. The forebuilding passage finally emerges into the second floor of the tower as a plain doorway with a draw-bar socket.

At parapet level, the spiral stair emerges as a small, semi-circular ‘cap-house’. It now lacks crenellations but does, along with the forebuilding, feature a row of putlog holes which may be original and associated with a former, overhanging timber hourd.

Dateable features are few. The tower is very plain, and now lacks dressings of any kind. However, the deep, plunging arrow loops are similar to those seen in the Barbican Tower at Pembroke Castle, which date from circa 1260, and from which they were probably derived. Barnard’s Tower has been subject to regular and ongoing programmes of consolidation and repair since at least the mid 1970s, including the construction of the low walls against the southern face of the tower.

Altogether the tower is an odd phenomenon, being at least semi-habitable in its prime and having the character of a private feature attached to a ‘public’ defensive work. the tower appears to date from the early 14th century. The name "Barnard’s Tower" is recorded from the late 18th century.