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The History of Pembroke

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Pembroke is considered historically to be the county town of Pembrokeshire in Wales, whilst in fact the administrative centre and county town is actually Haverfordwest . The town of Pembroke does have a long and important history; which is inextricably linked to the magnificent Pembroke Castle , from whose towers you can gaze straight down Pembroke Main Street. The town and the castle both grew and were fortified simultaneously. Much of the town is surrounded by the castle’s moat and there are several defensive towers along the town wall. Much of the wall remains and some towers, such as Barnards Tower are still largely intact. Both the town and castle are linked strongly to the early history of the Christian church in Britain. The site became the home of The Knights of St John in later years. Other connections with the history of Christianity include the usage of the Great Hall of the castle as an early church and in later years its use by John Wesley to preach Methodism in the years following 1764. A tide mill at Pembroke was granted to the Knight’s Templars in 1199 and survived until being destroyed by fire in 1956. Although there are no visible or tangible signs of it today, the site of the castle is believed to date back to at least the time of Roman Britain . The first stone building was the Monkton Priory, built in the late 10th century on the cliff edge and used for worship in its early years. The present castle owes its roots to the first Norman settlement of the area in 1093. The first castle was of a wooden construction and was built to the order of Roger de Montgomery. The stone construction followed on the same site and was mostly completed for William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. William held the castle until his death in 1219. In 1457 Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke Castle, he later was to become Henry VII , King of England and father of Henry VIII .
The riverside site of Pembroke has always given it strategic value and also gave rise to trade. During the Middle Ages Flemish settlers bought the woollen trade to Pembroke; which thrived for a few centuries before declining by the end of the 16th century. Pembroke Dock is a separate and purpose built town which grew up more recently, but Pembroke had previously had a long history as a port and for shipbuilding. There are clear remains to be seen on the river banks of Elizabethan slipways used to launch the wooden ships built in the area.
For about six weeks in 1648, Pembroke found itself the centre of the attentions of Oliver Cromwell . A group of Parliamentarians, angry at not having been paid for some time, staged a Royalist rebellion which led to them being besieged by Cromwell’s troops. Cromwell made his headquarters at the York Tavern in Pembroke whilst he plotted the downfall of a medieval castle which proved a tougher nut to crack than Tenby and Chepstow , which had fallen to Parliamentarian troops earlier in the rebellion. After pounding the walls unsuccessfully with cannon fire, Cromwell discovered the pipe which provided the main water supply to the castle. Having cut off the water supplies, he forced the surrender soon afterwards. He ordered the castle to be slighted afterwards, so that it would not be able to provide effective defence again.
The Industrial Revolution bought the railways to Pembroke when it was linked to the line from Tenby in 1863. Today Pembroke is still a relatively small town, with a population of a little over 7,000.

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