History of Tenby


This delicious little town on the coast of southern Pembrokeshire, 27 miles west of Carmarthen is a Georgian watering-place that has strayed into the 20th-century. The elegant houses, perched on the cliffs, look down on golden sands and a harbour crowded with yachts.  Wealthy Victorians provided the finance to develop the town into one of Britain's most attractive holiday resorts.  They came to Tenby for the good of their health, but it was the birth of the coming railway in 1866 which saw the growth of tourists.    The 13th century wall which surrounds Tenby is still intact and the narrow streets, freshly recobbled to imitate a bygone age are still packed tight with shops and places to eat.  The picturesque harbour is unchanged except for the boats.  In Victorian time Tenby's link with the sea was dominated by the boats of a once thriving fishing industry as opposed to the leisure craft, which now shuttle visitors to Caldy Island, home to a Reformed Order of Cistercian Monks.  Tenby is popular and overflows in high summer (July- August)  Inevitably the caravan and camp sites are on the outskirts but charm and Georgian delights remain.  

Tenby has a long history.  It may have started its career as a Norse settlement but by the 9th-century it was a Welsh stronghold, who attractions were celebrated in a noble Welsh peom in praise of Dinbych-y-pysgod (Tenby of the Fishes).

The Normans siezed Tenby and henceforth it become part of "Little England beyond Wales".  The castle was built on the headland that juts out between the North Sand and the South Sands.  The ruins still crown Castle Hill overlooking Tenby harbour with panoramic views across Carmarthen bay to Worms Head and the Gower Peninsula.  Amongst the fragments walls is the Welsh national memorial to Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria, inaugurated by Prince Arthur in 1865.

Tenby become a walled town in the 13-century and the walls were strengthened in 1457 and again during the Armada scare in 1588.  The line of walls is best seen from the South Parade where the main gate with its remarkable five-arched entrance, is well preserved.  During the Civil War the town was captured by the Parliamentarians in 1644 and retaken in 1648 after defecting during the Second Civil War.  It was twice bombarded from the sea.  During the 17th and 18th centuries Tenby was a fairly busy little part. 

Tenby's 15th century Tudor Merchant's House is the oldest furnished residence in the town.  Standing on Quay Hill, between the harbour and Tudor square, its authentic furniture and fittings recreate the atmosphere of the period and illustruate the manner in which a successful Tudor merchant and his family would have live.  Three of the interior walls bear the remains of early Frescoes.  Owned and managed by the National Trust, the house is open between March and October.

St Catherine's Fort lies on a small island just off Tenby's South Beach. It was built in the 1860s to protect the Pembrokeshire coast from possible invasion by France. There are gun embrasures down both the Northern and Southern sides. It was never called to action and was eventually sold and has been many things since including a zoo. Tide and weather conditions permitting, you can enter the Fort main hall/ground floor level.  This is an impressive structure and is easily visible from the South Beach.