Tenby - Encyclopedia

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TENBY, a market town, seaside resort, a municipal and contributory parliamentary borough of Pembrokeshire, Wales, finely situated on a long narrow promontory of limestone rock washed on three sides by the sea on the west shore of Carmarthen Bay. Pop. (1901) 4400. Tenby is a station on the WhitlandPembroke Dock branch of the South Wales system of the Great Western railway. Its chief attractions as a watering-place are its picturesque appearance and surroundings, its extensive antiquarian remains, its mild climate and its two excellent beaches known as the North and South Sands. The ancient town walls survive almost intact on the north and west sides, and retain the fine St George's gateway, locally called the "Five Arches." These walls, which were largely rebuilt by Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke, during the Wars of the Roses, were again repaired under Elizabeth during the alarm of ,the Spanish invasion, as is shown by a contemporary tablet bearing the queen's cipher and the date 1588. The inconsiderable ruins of the castle, presenting a portion of the keep and outer walls, occupy a rocky peninsula to the S.E. of the town known as the Castle Hill, which also contains the Welsh national monument to Albert, prince consort, an immense statue and pedestal of white marble erected in 1865. Upon the Castle Hill is a small museum, containing some antiquities and good collections of the local flora and marine fauna, for which last Tenby has long been celebrated. Opposite the Castle Hill, about loo yds. distant, but only accessible to foot passengers at low tide, is St Catherine's Rock with a fort constructed in 1865. Facing the Esplanade and South Sands, about 22 m. from the shore, stretches Caldy Island, 1 m. in length and s rd m. in breadth, with a population of seventy persons and containing a ruined priory, which was a subsidiary house to St Dogmell's Abbey. To the west, between Caldy Island and Giltar Point on the mainland, lies St Margaret's Rock. The parish church of St Mary, situated at the northern end of Tudor Square, the principal open space in the town, is one of the largest churches in South Wales, and exhibits all varieties of architecture from the 12th to the 16th centuries. Its massive tower, crowned with a spire, is 152 ft. high, and forms a prominent object in all views of the town. The handsome interior is remarkably rich in early tombs and monuments, the most important of them being the elaborate altar-tomb of John and Thomas White (c. 1482), members of an opulent family of merchants long seated in Tenby. In the adjoining churchyard are some remains of the Carmelite friary founded by John de Swynemore in 1399. The harbour on the northern beach is protected by an ancient stone pier, and in 1895 an iron pier was erected below the Castle Hill for the convenience of the steamboats which ply between the town and Bristol, Ilfracombe, &c. The trade of Tenby is inconsiderable, but the fisheries, for which the place was noted at an early period and which gave it its Welsh name of Dinbych y Pysgod, are of great value.

The name of Tenby is undoubtedly a corrupted form of Daneby, recalling the Scandinavian origin of the place. The real importance of Tenby dates from the 12th century, when walls, castle and church were erected for the convenience of the Flemish colonists, who were then being planted in Dyfed. On more than one occasion the newly-founded town was captured, sacked and destroyed by marauding bands of Welshmen, notably in 1152; but on each occasion the place was rebuilt and refortified by the earls-palatine of Pembroke, who greatly favoured this important settlement. The first earl of Pembroke to grant a charter of incorporation was William de Valence, 9th earl (temp. Henry III.), and these privileges were extended by his successor, Earl Aylmer. Henry IV., by a charter obtained in 1402, vested the government of the town in a mayor and two bailiffs to be elected annually. Elizabeth in 1580 confirmed all previous charters and incorporated the freeholders under the designation of "the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of the borough of Tenby." During the 15th century and under the Tudors the town grew extremely prosperous, and contained many wealthy mercantile families, of which that of White offers the most striking example. A member of this house, Thomas White, whilst mayor of Tenby, did signal service to the Lancastrian cause in 1471 by harbouring Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke, and his nephew Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (afterwards King Henry VII.), prior to their escape to France. John Leland (c. 1540) described Tenby as being "very wealthy by merchandise," and noted its stone pier and well-built walls. The town suffered severely during the Civil Wars, undergoing two sieges, firstly in 1644 when the parliamentarian, Colonel Laugharne, took the place by storm, and secondly in 1648 when it capitulated to Colonel Horton. After the Restoration the importance and wealth of Tenby showed a constant tendency to decline, but towards the close of the 18th century it rose into great popularity as a watering-place, and it has since maintained its reputation as the most picturesque seaside resort of South Wales. Since 1536 Tenby has been a contributory borough to the Pembroke (now Pembroke and Haverfordwest) parliamentary district.

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