High Street, Haverfordwest
Haverfordwest shown within Pembrokeshire
|Population||12,042 (parish 2011)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SA61, SA62|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
|UK Parliament||Preseli Pembrokeshire|
|Welsh Assembly||Preseli Pembrokeshire|
Haverfordwest (//; Welsh: Hwlffordd [ˈhuːlfɔrð]) is the county town of Pembrokeshire, Wales, and serves as the county's principal commercial and administrative centre. Haverfordwest is the most populous urban area in Pembrokeshire, with a population of 13,367 in 2001, though its community boundaries make it the second most populous settlement in the county, with 10,812 people. The 2011 census quoted a population of 12,042 only lived within the confines of the parish. This agreed with the total population of all 5 wards involved.
The town includes the suburb of Prendergast (a former parish) and the largely industrial area of Withybush (retail parks, hospital, airport and showground). Merlin's Bridge, a separate village and community adjoins to the south.
The strategic position at the lowest fordable point of the Western Cleddau led to importance from the Roman era to the present.
Haverfordwest is a market town, the county town of Pembrokeshire and an important road network hub between other towns in the county such as Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Fishguard and St David's as a result of its position at the tidal limit of the western River Cleddau. The majority of the town, comprising the old parishes of St. Mary, St. Martin and St. Thomas, lies on the right (west) bank of the river. On the left bank are the suburbs of Prendergast and Cartlett. At this point, a pair of sandstone ridges extending east-west and separated by a deep, narrow valley, are cut through by the western Cleddau. This leaves two high spurs on the west side of the river. On the northern spur, the castle and its surrounding settlement form the core of St Martin's parish. On the southern spur, the High Street ascends steeply from the river, and forms the core of St Mary's parish. From the foot of each spur, ancient bridges cross the river to Prendergast: St Martin's Bridge ("the Old Bridge") and St Mary's Bridge ("the New Bridge", built in 1835). St Thomas's parish occupies the south side of the southern spur. From these core areas, the town has spread, mainly along the ridges. In addition to the four ancient parish churches, the remains of an Augustinian priory are visible at the southern edge of the town.
The name of the town means "ford used by heifers" from Old English hæfar=heifer. In local dialect, it is pronounced "harford". The Welsh language name is said by B.G. Charles to be "merely a corruption of the English name", and as such has no meaning in Welsh. Another claim is that Tudor period monarchs called it "Hereford or Hertford in the West", to distinguish it from either the English Hereford in Herefordshire or Hertford in Hertfordshire. The veracity of these competing explanations of the name origin continues to be a matter of debate amongst scholars and linguistic experts.
The town has been English-speaking for centuries (south Pembrokeshire being known as 'Little England Beyond Wales'), but because the town markets traded the goods of Welsh farmers to the north and east, there has always been a significant Welsh-speaking influence and the air of a "frontier" town. The suburb of Prendergast seems to have originated as an extramural Welsh dormitory, dating from the times when all agricultural trade had to pass through the borough, and the fearful Normans before the destruction of Anglo-Norman power in 1136 tried to prevent Welshmen bearing arms from entering within the castle walls after nightfall.
It seems likely that such an obvious strategic location would have been settled in some way from an early date. Some[who?] have asserted that there is no documentary or archaeological evidence of a settlement on the site before the 12th century, when the first Norman architecture castle was established. However archaeological discoveries in Pembrokeshire suggest otherwise. Edward Llwyd's note to Camden's "Britannia" (ed. 1695) refers to a valuable find of silver coins at Llanboidy, the latest coin being one of Domitian struck in AD 91. In the 1920s Sir Mortimer Wheeler partially excavated a Roman dwelling or villa at Wolfscastle; work was restarted in 2002 by Professor Merroney.
The scores of Iron Age and Roman coinage and artefact discoveries, and excavations by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust under the direction of Heather James at Carmarthen (Maridunum) in the 1980s point convincingly to significant Roman penetration to this westernmost part of Wales. In 1992 aerial photography identified a Roman road running west of Carmarthen past Wiston to Poyston Cross, raising the possibility of Roman fortlets at strategic river crossings at Whitland and Haverfordwest.
The strategic position of Haverfordwest with its defensive bluff overlooking the lowest fordable point on the western Cleddau and accessible to sea traffic would have required a Roman presence, probably modest in scale, from the 1st century AD to protect supplies to and from the coast. (The Roman legionary headquarters at Caerleon were roofed with slates from the lower slopes of the Preseli Hills.)
James Phillips, in The History of Pembrokeshire (published 1909), records a find of Roman silver coins in Haverfordwest, the earliest dated coin a Valerian and the latest a Claudius Gothicus. The museum in which the coins were deposited has been "scattered to the winds" and the whereabouts of the coins is unknown. Phillips claimed that the pre-Norman name of Haverfordwest was Caer Alun, so named by the Emperor Maximus (Macsim Gwledig). His sources are not given but the Cambro-Briton in 1822 also recorded that Maximus, the last Roman Emperor of Britain, a man who for a time divided the Roman Empire with Theodosius I, on withdrawing Roman legions from Britain granted civic status and Celtic names to a number of pacified Romano British settlements, including Southampton, Chichester, Old Sarum near Salisbury, Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin) and Haverfordwest (Caer Alun). Maximus had married Elen, a Welsh noblewoman, and they had three sons. Phillips claims that the name actually given to the town was Caer Elen, in honour of his wife (the name later changing to Caer Alun).
The ecclesiastical centre of the area (perhaps the seat of a bishop in the Age of the Saints) was probably one of the several churches of the local St Ismael, most probably St. Ishmael's. This occurred around 1110.
The proposition that Haverfordwest Castle was founded by Tancred, a Flemish Marcher Lord is questionable. The Marcher Lords were not Flemish but Norman Barons originally along the Marches (Anglo-Welsh border). The castle is recorded as having been founded in 1100 by the Norman Gilbert de Chuv. The Flemings, said to have arrived in three groups in 1107, 1111 and 1151, are likely to have participated in its later development for their own and the Normans' protection from the Welsh warlords. It is recorded that the Constable of the castle in 1207 was Itohert son of Richard Tancard - possibly a descendant of the first Tancred.
The Flemish presence, reputed to result from floods in the Low Countries, was more likely to have consisted initially of Flemish mercenaries originally in the invading army of William the Conqueror, who in reward for their part in William's victory were granted lands in parts of Northern Britain, and in Wales in the Gower, and Geraldus Cambrensis recorded their presence in the Hundred of Roose in Pembrokeshire.
A Fleming, Wizo, who died in 1130 founded at Wiston a motte and bailey fortification, forerunner of the stone castle, for protection against the Welsh warlords: the Flemings were reportedly unpopular wherever they settled. The precarious position of Normans and Flemings was demonstrated in 1136 when the Normans, having already lost 500 men in battle at Loughor, re-recruited from Lordships from all over South Wales and led by Robert fitz Martin at Crug Mawr near Cardigan attacked Owain Gwynedd and his army. Routed, they fled over the Teifi Bridge which collapsed; the retreating Normans drowning under the weight of their armour. Their leader Richard de Clare had previously been intercepted and killed by Iorwerth ab Owen. Wiston and the castle were overrun in 1147 by Hywel Sais, son of the Lord Rhys. Ranulf Higden in his Polychronicus records the Flemings as extinct in Pembrokeshire by 1327 but Flemish mercenaries reappear in 1400 when at the behest of Henry IV they joined an army of 1,500 English settlers who marched north from Pembrokeshire to attack the army of Owain Glyndŵr at Mynydd Hyddgen. The attack was repulsed with heavy casualties and legend has it that English prisoners were spared but surviving Flemish mercenaries were massacred or sold into slavery.
St Mary's Church originated at the end of the 12th-century and the current (Grade I listed) building was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries and prominently visible at the top of the High Street.
Haverfordwest rapidly grew, initially around the castle and St Martin's Church (the settlement being called Castletown), then spreading into the High Street area. It immediately became the capital of the hundred of Roose (part of Little England beyond Wales), and because of its pivotal position, the commercial centre of western Dyfed, which it has remained to this day. In common with other British towns, its growth was rapid during the period up to 1300, and its extent by then was much the same as it was in the early 19th century. That being the case, its population was probably around 4,000-5,000 - a large town by the standards of the time. It received its first marcher charter from William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke some time between 1213 and 1219, and obtained the lucrative trading privileges of an English borough. It traded both by land and sea, and had a busy tidal quay on the river below the "New" Bridge. At least ten guilds operated, and there was significant woollen cloth manufacture. On 30 April 1479, the town was designated a county corporate by a charter of Edward, Prince of Wales, with the aim of supporting a campaign against piracy in local waters. It shared this distinction only with Carmarthen and a few towns in England, and remained officially "The Town and County of Haverfordwest" until the abolition of the borough in 1974.
In common with other large towns in Europe, Haverfordwest was hit hard by the Black Death in 1348, suffering both depopulation (perhaps by more than 50%) and diminution of trade. Large parts of the town were abandoned, and it did not start to recover until the Tudor period. At the end of the 17th century, the town was still significantly smaller than in 1300. In 1405, the town was burned by the French allies of Owain Glyndwr, although in its early history Haverfordwest suffered less than most towns in Wales from such depredations.
During the English Civil War, the burgesses of the borough supported Parliament, while the ruling gentry were Royalist. As a result, there was considerable conflict, and the town changed hands five times. There followed a period of stagnation in which the comparative status of the town declined. Haverfordwest today has the air of a typical small country market town, but the centre still conveys the feel of the important mediaeval borough. The once run-down riverside area has been renovated and Bridge Street has been pedestrianised and improved.
Haverfordwest was bombed for the first time during the Second World War on 24 September 1940. The City Road and New Road areas were hit, although there had been little preparation and no warning siren sounded. There were no casualties.
For local government purposes the community of Haverfordwest comprises the Castle, Prendergast, Portfield, Priory and Garth wards. The community has its own town council and mayor.
Pembrokeshire County Council conducted an extensive review of community boundaries in 2007  which made a number of submissions to the boundary commission for Wales. These submissions included a number of recommendations for the extension of the Haverfordwest community boundary where there had been perceived community overspill due to housing developments. These suggestions were mostly implemented, with one significant exception  leading to an increase in the number of electors in the Haverfordwest community. One area of contention concerned the status of the once separate village of Merlin's Bridge which continues to have its own community council despite its close proximity to Haverfordwest and a degree of community over-spill. As such the conurbation of Haverfordwest and Merlin's Bridge is the most populous urban area in Pembrokeshire though Haverfordwest's community boundaries mean it is only the second most populous settlement in the county after Milford Haven.
Haverfordwest is part of the Preseli Pembrokeshire National Assembly for Wales constituency and UK Parliamentary constituency. The local Assembly Member is Paul Davies of the Conservative Party  and the local Member of Parliament is Stephen Crabb  also a Conservative.
In accordance with its status as a sub regional hub-town, Haverfordwest continues to serve as Pembrokeshire's principal commercial and retail centre. Recent years have seen the development of the river-side shopping centre. More recently still there has been significant retail development in the suburb of Withybush on the outskirts of the town with the opening of a Marks & Spencer store in 2010 and Debenham's in 2013.
Concerns about the relative decline of the historic town centre compared to the growth of the out-of-town centre retail centres at Withybush has led to Welsh historian John Davies expressing his concern that Haverfordwest was becoming "a medieval town surrounded by tin sheds".
- Haverfordwest Grammar School, 1488-1978, was for a period in the 20th century one of only two public schools in the whole of Wales.
- The town's current generation of young people are served by Sir Thomas Picton School & Tasker Milward School. These comprehensive schools provide secondary education and serve both the town and its surrounding areas. Both schools have a pupil roll of approximately 1,200 each.
- Pembrokeshire College, an affiliated college of the University of Glamorgan, is situated in the Merlin's Bridge suburb of the town. The college serves as the principal centre of further and higher education in Pembrokeshire.
Sport and leisure
Haverfordwest is 6 miles (10 km) miles east of the village of Broad Haven, part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Britain's only coastal national park, which attracts thousands of tourists each year. The closest boundary of the park is at Hanton Bridge 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southeast.
Haverfordwest County A.F.C., an association football team, play at New Bridge Meadow Stadium. They play in the Welsh Football League Division One. The town is also home to rugby union club, Haverfordwest RFC which formed in 1885, and Haverfordwest Cricket Club.
In 2009 Haverfordwest's sports and leisure provision benefited from significant investment with the opening of a new £8 million leisure centre situated at St. Thomas Green.
The kayaking club venture to sea as well as using the rivers.
Sir Thomas Picton School, one of the town's two secondary schools, also benefits from a wide range of sporting facilities including a purpose built sports centre, hockey pitch, astro-turf and full-sized athletics track.
Withybush General Hospital is one of the main hospitals of West Wales and part of the Hywel Dda Local Health Board, formerly Pembrokeshire & Derwen NHS Trust. The paediatric and maternity services have now been moved to Carmarthen.
The headquarters of Hywel Dda Health Board (covering Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion) are in Haverfordwest.
Haverfordwest Bus Station is located beside Riverside Quay Shopping Centre. It has six bus stops with two additional bays for coach drop off/pickup. Haverfordwest is served by Haverfordwest (Withybush) Airport. Haverfordwest railway station is on the West Wales Line.
Forming one of the major "road hubs" of West Wales the town is at the junction of the A40, A4076 and A487 roads as well as several rural B roads including the B4329 running northwards to Eglwyswrw across the Preseli Mountains. The A40 connects Haverfordwest with Carmarthen to the east and Fishguard to the north; the A4076 connects Haverfordwest with Milford Haven to the south; the A487 connects Haverfordwest with St David's to the north west.
There have been numerous calls over the years for the A40 trunk road between St. Clears and Haverfordwest to be upgraded to dual carriageway standard. The Welsh Assembly Government gave approval for this upgrade in 2002  but the plan was later axed in 2005 due to "spiralling costs".
- Christian Bale, who played the protagonist in Empire of the Sun and Batman in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, was born in Haverfordwest in 1974.
- Geraint Wyn Davies, a Welsh-Canadian actor, spent his early life in the town, where his father was the Congregational Church Minister.
- Simon Davies, a footballer who has played for Fulham and Wales, was born in Haverfordwest.
- Mark Delaney, a footballer who played for Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Wales, was also born in Haverfordwest.
- Connie Fisher, the winner of the BBC talent show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, actress and singer from The Sound of Music, lived in Haverfordwest from the age of six.
- June and Jennifer Gibbons, the selective mute twins, whose story gained international interest after Marjorie Wallace documented their story, lived in Haverfordwest for much of their childhood.
- Simon Halliday, an England rugby union international, was born in Haverfordwest.
- Keith Haynes, born in Cardiff in 1963 and lead singer of punk rock band Picture Frame Seduction, attended Sir Thomas Picton School in the town. Haynes is a freelance writer and author.
- Terry Higgins, among the first people known to die of an AIDS-related illness in the UK. The Terrance Higgins Trust is named after him.
- Rhys Ifans, who starred in the 1997 black comedy Twin Town and played Hugh Grant's delusional flatmate in Notting Hill, was born in Haverfordwest in 1968.
- Elis James, stand-up and actor, was born in Haverfordwest in 1980, though he grew up in Carmarthen, which he calls his hometown.
- Gwen John, an artist, was born in Haverfordwest; and her brother Augustus John, also an artist, lived above the current Lloyds TSB offices.
- Barry John MBE, artist and former soldier.
- Chelsea Manning, who allegedly leaked tens of thousands of US Military documents, lived in Haverfordwest with her mother for most of her adolescent life.
- Peter Morgan, a councillor, mayor and rugby player (Llanelli, Wales and British Lions) born locally and went to school in Haverfordwest.
- Sir John Perrot, said to be illegitimate son of Henry VIII was born in Haverfordwest.
- Fiona Phillips, a former television presenter on GMTV, lived in Haverfordwest from the age of 18.
- Greg Pickersgill, an influential British science fiction fan, was born in Haverfordwest in 1951 and lives there today.
- Sir Thomas Picton, a British army general, was born in Haverfordwest and killed at the Battle of Waterloo.
- Picture Frame Seduction, one of the pioneers of early hardcore punk rock in the UK, formed in the town at the local Sir Thomas Picton School in 1978.
- Gruff Rhys, the singer of indie rock band Super Furry Animals, was born here.
- John Lort Stokes was an officer in the Royal Navy who travelled on HMS Beagle.
- Suggs, the lead singer of Madness, attended Haverfordwest Grammar School for Boys in the early 1970s..
- Lucy Walter, a mistress of Charles II, was born at Roch Castle near Haverfordwest.
- Waldo Williams, a pacifist and one of the most celebrated Welsh language poets of the twentieth century, was born in Haverfordwest.
- Dillwyn Miles (ed) A History of Haverfordwest, Gomer, 1999, ISBN 1-85902-738-5,
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-  Archived October 6, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
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- Merlins Bridge Community Council, Pembrokeshire Town & Community Councils
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- Williams, A. H., An Introduction to the History of Wales: Volume I: Prehistoric Times to 1063, UoWP, 1941, p 120
- Miles p 12
- "Church of Saint Mary, Haverfordwest". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
- Miles p 28
- Miles p 23
- Miles, p 177
- Richards, Bill, Pembrokeshire Under Fire: The Story Of The Air Raids OF 1940–1, Paterchurch Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-870745-05-1
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- "Excited crowds gather for M&S opening (From Western Telegraph)". Westerntelegraph.co.uk. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
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- [dead link]
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