Westgate Hill and medieval cottages

100 years or more ago the people in the scenes in these photographs would have felt they lived in rather modern times. Gas lamps lit the way at night, and the road had been widened many years before, and a pavement had been provided to improve matters for when rain resulted in torrents of water pouring down the hill. The hill had also been extremely steep and so attempts were made to ease the situation.

The row of cottages on the hill are mediaeval and the oldest houses in Pembroke. They are little changed today, with under-crofts, the remains of a town lock-up still with iron rings, and sturdy chimneys, all evident. The buildings have the ‘Corbel Table’ feature – which is the row of stone brackets which cause the upper wall to project in order to protect the wall beneath from the elements.

On the opposite side of the road (and to the left-hand side in the photograph) there stood another row of cottages, called 'mean dwellings'. There were even more cottages built just above them under the town walls, including a pen-fold for stray livestock, a small stone masons yard, and one of the earliest Methodist chapel meeting houses - in 1843 it had a congregation of 14. The cottages were demolished in the late 1870s and the narrow mud road was widened for reasons of safety.

All that remains of the vast West Gate situated at the bottom of Westgate Hill is a small part of the springing arch. This would have stretched across to the corner tower of the castle and was the entrance into the walled town from the settlement and priory at Monkton, and from the quay below. The gate would not have had a portcullis but was extremely important strategically, because it was so close to tidal waters. When closed at nightfall travellers used the small postern gate situated to the south in the area of what is Long Entry car park today.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s when extensive renovations of the castle walls and interior buildings were undertaken, limestone had to be brought in from far and wide. Some of this came from quarries in Monkton, and great weights were hauled up the Westgate Hill by horses. The slope was so steep that extra horses had to be used, and young boys (including Mr. John Russel) living in nearby houses would vie to be allowed to be the one to ride the horses back down the slope.