© This Month - December

There is no lecture this month. The lecture programme resumes on 18 January at the Borough Theatre starting at 7.30pm. Non-members may join on the night.

The following article can also be seen in the December edition of the Abergavenny Focus

Unsung splendour

Pembrokeshire is famous for its coastal park and St David’s cathedral, but it has castles and industrial heritage, too. Helen Morgan reports:

Castles in southern Pembrokeshire, such as Carew, are beautiful ruins. Picton, however, stands out not only because it is still intact, but because it was a family castle unlike its garrison neighbours. Unusually, it has no internal courtyard, no moat and the original 1280 entrance led straight through a portcullis into the undercroft of the hall.

By the late 15th century, Picton belonged to the Philipps family. After the Civil War, Sir John Philipps replaced most of the arrow slits with picture windows. Eventually the family added a new entrance 12ft above the original and in 1820 replaced the original approach from the river Cleddau with a sweeping avenue from the new carriage road (now the A40).

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the Philippses of Picton Castle were the most powerful family in Pembrokeshire, exercising political, social and economic influence. Their reputation for hospitality is reflected in the recurring images of trailing vines, the god Baccus and his goats carved into the fireplaces. The Philipps were also artistic and, earlier this year, the Picton “Renoir” hanging in the grand hall was scrutinised in the TV programme Fake or Fortune.

By the 19th century, meanwhile, northern Pembrokeshire had become a hive of industry as a building boom took off in the wake of the industrial revolution. Slate mined in the Preseli hills was taken from Rosebush railway station opposite Tafarn Sinc to the mainline at Clunderwen. From here it was carried to Fishguard and on to the farthest corners of the British Empire, or to London where, allegedly, it was used on the Houses of Parliament.

By 1850 a protected harbour at Porthgain enabled slate quarried here and at nearby Abereiddi to be exported. It was then discovered that slate waste was could be used to make bricks. From 1889-1912 the village produced 50,000 bricks a week. At this time, stone, marketed as granite, was also quarried here. It was actually dolerite, a finer grained igneous rock, and in demand for building roads at the turn of the 20th century. Remains of this industrial era are clearly visible at Porthgain and Abereiddi. Many, including the flooded slate mine known as the Blue Lagoon, have disabled access.

These sights and more will be part of next year’s summer visits programme.

Abergavenny Local History Society 
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