Tenby

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Tenby
  • Welsh: Dinbych-y-pysgod
The harbour, Tenby - geograph.org.uk - 1016019.jpg
The harbour and old town
Tenby is located in Pembrokeshire
Tenby
Tenby
Tenby shown within Pembrokeshire
Population 4,696 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid reference SN129007
Principal area
Ceremonial county
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town TENBY
Postcode district SA70
Dialling code 01834
Police Dyfed-Powys
Fire Mid and West Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament
List of places
UK
Wales
PembrokeshireCoordinates: 51°40′28″N 4°42′16″W / 51.6745°N 4.7044°W / 51.6745; -4.7044

Tenby (Welsh: Dinbych-y-pysgod, meaning fortlet of the fish) is a walled seaside town in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, on the western side of Carmarthen Bay, and the name for the local government community of Tenby.

Notable features of Tenby include 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of sandy beaches; the 13th century medieval town walls, including the Five Arches barbican gatehouse; the 15th century St. Mary's Church; the Tudor Merchant's House (National Trust); Tenby Museum and Art Gallery; and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, part of Wales' only coastal National Park. Boats sail from Tenby's harbour to the offshore monastic Caldey Island, while St Catherine's Island is a tidal island. The town is served by Tenby railway station.

History[edit]

With its strategic position on the far west coast of the British Isles, and a natural sheltered harbour from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea, Tenby was a natural settlement point.

The earliest reference to a settlement at Tenby is in "Etmic Dinbych", a poem probably of the 9th century, preserved in the 14th century Book of Taliesin.[2] At this point the settlement was probably a hill fort, the mercantile nature of the settlement possibly developing under Hiberno-Norse influence.

The blue lines show where the walls round Tenby were most likely placed, the red lines mark the wall sections that are still standing
Five Arches Gate, part of the old town walls of Tenby
Tenby, 1832

Tenby was taken by the Normans, when they invaded West Wales in the early 12th century. The town's first stone-wall fortification was on Castle Hill. Tenby's mercantile trade grew as it developed as a major seaport in Norman controlled Little England beyond Wales. However, the need for additional defences became paramount after the settlement and castle were successfully attacked and sacked by Welsh forces of Maredudd ap Gruffydd and Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1153. This was repeated in 1187 and again by Llewelyn the Great in 1260.[3] After the final attack, William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke ordered the construction of the town's large outer walls in the late 13th century. The stone curtain wall, towers and gates enclosed a large part of the settlement (in what is now known as the "old town"). With the construction of the town walls, Tenby Castle was made obsolete and had been abandoned by the end of the 14th century.[4]

In 1457, Jasper Tudor, who was the uncle of Henry Tudor, agreed to share the costs with the town's merchants of refurbishing and improving Tenby's defences because of its economic importance to this part of Wales. Work included heightening the wall to include a second tier of higher arrow slits behind a new parapet walk. Additional turret towers were added to the ends of the walls where they abutted the cliff edges and the dry ditch outside walls was widened to 30 feet (9.1 m).

Consequently, in the Late Middle Ages, Tenby was awarded royal grants to finance the maintenance and improvement of its defences and the enclosure of its harbour. Traders sailed along the coast to Bristol and Ireland and further afield to France, Spain and Portugal. Exports included wool, skins, canvas, coal, iron and oil; while in 1566 Portuguese seamen landed the first oranges in Wales.[4] It was during this period that the town was so busy and important, it was considered to be a national port. During the Wars of the Roses Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII of England, sheltered at Tenby before sailing into exile in 1471.

In the mid 16th century, the large D-shaped tower known as the "Five Arches" was built following fears about a second Spanish Armada.

Demise[edit]

Two key events caused the town rapid and permanent decline in importance. First, Tenby declared for Parliament in the English Civil War. After resisting two attempts by the Royalists forces of Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, it was finally taken in 1648. Ten weeks later the shattered town was surrendered to Colonel Thomas Horton, who welcomed Oliver Cromwell shortly afterwards.[3][4] Second, a plague outbreak killed half of the town's remaining population in 1650.

With limited infrastructure, resources and people, the town's economy fell into decline. Most of the merchant and business class left resulting in the town's decay and ruin. By the end of the 18th century, John Wesley noted during his visit how: "Two-thirds of the old town is in ruins or has entirely vanished. Pigs roam among the abandoned houses and Tenby presents a dismal spectacle."[5]

Revival[edit]

St Mary's Street, a typical old town street in Tenby
A view of Tenby Baths as depicted by in a 1825 illustration

Ironically it was another war that led to a resurgence in Tenby's fortunes. Since 1798, the French General Napoleon Bonaparte had begun conquering Europe restricting the rich British upper classes from making their Grand Tours to continental spa towns. In 1802 local resident, merchant banker and politician, Sir William Paxton, bought his first property in the old town. From this point onwards he invested heavily in the area with the full approval of the town council.

With the growth in saltwater sea-bathing for health purposes, Paxton engaged engineer James Grier and architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell (the same team who had built his home at Middleton Hall) to create a "fashionable bathing establishment suitable for the highest society." His sea-bathing baths came into operation in July 1806 and, after acquiring the Globe Inn, transformed it into "a most lofty, elegant and convenient style" to lodge the more elegant visitors to his baths. Cottages were erected adjoining the baths with adjoining livery stables and coach house.

View upwards to the promenade, showing the 1814 arched road built during the town's revival by Sir William Paxton

In 1814 a road built on arches overlooking the harbour was built at Paxton's full expense. He later had a Private Act of Parliament passed that enabled fresh water to be piped through the town. Despite these accomplishments, his 1809 theatre was closed in 1818 due to lack of patronage.[5]

Paxton also took in "tour" developments in the area as required by rich Victorian tourists. This included the discovery of a chalybeate spring in his own park at Middleton Hall, and coaching inns from Swansea to Narberth. He also built Paxton's Tower, in memorial to Lord Nelson whom he had met in 1802 when mayor of Carmarthen.[5] Paxton's efforts to revive the town succeeded, and even when victory at the Battle of Trafalgar reopened Europe, the growth of Victorian Tenby was inevitable.

Through both the Georgian and Victorian eras Tenby was renowned as a health resort and centre for botanical and geological study.[6] With many features of the town being constructed to provide areas for healthy seaside walks, due to the walkways being built to accommodate Victorian nannies pushing prams, many of the beaches today still retain good disabled access. In 1856 writer Mary Ann Evans (pen-name George Eliot) accompanied George Henry Lewes to Tenby to gather materials for his work Seaside Studies published in 1858.

The old 1905 (near, cream & red) and new 2008 (far, silver) RNLI Lifeboat Stations

In 1852, the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society deployed a lifeboat to the town, taken over in 1854 by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. This led in 1905 to the building of the first slip-way equipped lifeboat station, which was replaced in 2008.

Tenby railway station was opened by the Pembroke and Tenby Railway as the terminus of the branch from the Pembroke direction in 1863,[7] with the section eastwards to join the main line at Whitland following three years later.

In 1867, the construction of the Palmerston Fort on St Catherine's Island began. It was built to protect the coastline from a potential landing force.[8]

Today[edit]

Colour and variety of the shops of Tenby

There are more than 200 listed buildings and other structures in and around Tenby.[9]

The old town castle walls still survive, as does the Victorian revival architecture in a pastel colour scheme. The economy is still based on tourism, supported by a range of craft, art and other stores.

Education[edit]

Front page of the earliest surviving copy of the Welsh newspaper The Tenby Observer; 21 July 1854

There are four schools in the Tenby schools area.

  • Three primary schools:
    • Tenby Infants VC School
    • Tenby Juniors Community School
    • St. Teilo's RC School
  • One secondary school :

Most pupils from St. Teilo's School and Tenby Junior School are automatically enrolled in the Greenhill School, but the parents can enrol them into a different school. Also Tenby Infants School and Tenby Junior School include Welsh units for Welsh language speaking pupils. Most of those pupils go on to Ysgol y Preseli, (A Welsh speaking secondary school) in Crymych.

Climate[edit]

As with the rest of Wales and the wider United Kingdom, Tenby experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters, and often high winds. Due to its coastal southwest position, it is one of the sunnier locations in Wales.

Climate data for Tenby 5m asl, 1971-2000
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.5
(47.3)
8.0
(46.4)
9.7
(49.5)
11.7
(53.1)
14.8
(58.6)
17.3
(63.1)
19.5
(67.1)
19.3
(66.7)
17.1
(62.8)
14.2
(57.6)
11.2
(52.2)
9.5
(49.1)
13.4
(56.1)
Average low °C (°F) 3.1
(37.6)
2.8
(37)
3.8
(38.8)
4.7
(40.5)
7.4
(45.3)
9.9
(49.8)
12.0
(53.6)
11.8
(53.2)
10.3
(50.5)
8.3
(46.9)
5.3
(41.5)
4.0
(39.2)
7.0
(44.6)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 115.4
(4.543)
90.1
(3.547)
87.2
(3.433)
61.3
(2.413)
51.5
(2.028)
66.6
(2.622)
52.7
(2.075)
92.7
(3.65)
101.6
(4)
131.3
(5.169)
129.9
(5.114)
126.4
(4.976)
1,106.5
(43.563)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 58.0 75.4 115.6 184.8 218.2 205.8 218.9 200.6 149.1 106.0 71.7 49.9 1,654
Source: Met Office[10]

Tourism[edit]

Long sandy beaches are the staple draw of Tenby to tourists

Tenby is an exceptionally busy British holiday resort in the summer.[citation needed] The relatively unspoilt beaches and historic town walls make it a notable seaside resort.[citation needed] Most shops, pubs and restaurants in Tenby are specifically marketed to tourists. There are coastal boat trips to offshore islands and the town is a base for exploration of Pembrokeshire.

The annual Ironman Wales competition extends the visitor season into September.

Transport[edit]

The A478 accesses the town, connected via the A477, A40 and A48 roads to the M4 Motorway some 40 miles (64 km) away.

Tenby railway station is maintained and served by Arriva Trains Wales, with regular hourly services to Swansea and onwards to London Paddington via First Great Western. During peak season, trains run direct from Paddington to Tenby.

The nearest airport is Cardiff International, reached via either road or rail.

Sport[edit]

Tenby Golf Course

Tenby is home to Tenby United RFC, a rugby union club that has existed in the town in one form or another since 1876 and is a member of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Tenby is also home to the Tenby Aces Cycling Club, which has expanded quickly to become the largest club in south Pembrokeshire.[citation needed]

Tenby Golf Course provides an 18-hole links golf challenge.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "2 Ward populations 2011". Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Pryce, Huw, ed. (1998). "Literacy in Medieval Celtic Societies". Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780521570398. 
  3. ^ a b Tenby Castle
  4. ^ a b c "tenby". penmar-tenby.co.uk. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Sir William Paxton". kuiters.org. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Victorian History Tenby
  7. ^ History of Pembrokeshire Railways Pembrokeshire Virtual Museum; Retrieved 2009-03-03
  8. ^ "St Catherine's Island". Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "British Listed Buildings: Tenby". Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "Tenby 1971-2000 averages". Met Office. Retrieved 25 Sep 2011. 
  11. ^ Heathcote, Tony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 - 1995. Pen & Sword Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-835-6.

External links[edit]