The Little Church By The Sea

It stands beside the Wales Coast Path looking down on St. Bride’s Haven, a rocky cove with a long, long history. The church is also called St. Bride’s and is dedicated to St. Bridget of Kildare who, it is said, arrived on these shores from Ireland c500 CE.  The original chapel dedicated to her is long gone, though before it went, local fishermen used the place for curing herring, for which act of ecclesiastical disrespect, the herring have ever since steered clear of St. Brides Haven.

It’s a good, if fishy yarn.

The present church was probably  built by at least the 14th century, during which time it would have served the lords of the neighbouring medieval manor house known as The Abbey, and whose ruins may still be seen in the nearby woods. The old church was then thoroughly renovated in 1868, by which time it was very much the family church of the occupants of St. Bride’s Castle, a great baronial pile built by the Allen-Phillips family in 1830, but subsequently the second home of the Barons Kensington between 1880-1920. The latter marked their passing with monumental Celtic Crosses that rise starkly in the windy graveyard.

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Between the church and the beach there are the remains of a lime kiln. Lime burning was an important trade in Pembrokeshire from at least the 13th century, the resulting quick lime used to neutralize acidity of farm fields before sowing wheat and barley. It was also an essential material in the building trade – for the mixing of lime mortar and whitewash. For 500 hundred years ships landed on Pembrokeshire’s beaches, coming and going with the tides, and bringing in cargoes of limestone and culm (coal chippings and anthracite dust) to be burned in the kilns. It was a highly skilled process, and a dangerous one.

These days the ships seen off St. Bride’s Haven are oil tankers waiting their turn to put in at the great oil refineries of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock. Their presence adds to the daily seascape below St. Bride’s Castle.

After the Barons Kensington sold up, the Castle became a sanatorium for sufferers of tuberculosis. Those poor souls who did not recover also have their graves in St. Bride’s graveyard. After World War Two it was a convalescent home. More recently the Castle and grounds have been given over to holiday apartments and cottages, the Castle’s public rooms – great hall, library, and billiard room – restored in English country house style for shared use by all the guests. And here we had our week’s family gathering (including cockerpoo puppy), staying in one of the cottages in the old walled garden. The only sounds were racketing rooks and jackdaws busy building their nests in the woods, and more distantly, the crash of surf on the cliffs at St. Bride’s Haven.

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At the start I mentioned that St. Bride’s Haven has a long, long history. So far, time-wise, I’ve only scratched the surface. Later I discovered that if I’d taken the coast path around the cove and behind the cottages I would have come upon an Iron Age hillfort (c 800 years BCE). And more ancient still, near this site had also been found Mesolithic tools (9,000-6,000 BCE). This Middle Stone Age era of the post Ice Age is distinguished by the making of tiny flint arrowheads called microliths – usually around 1 cm in size. These were then mounted on a wooden shaft to create a hunting harpoon. Mesolithic hunters were also very fond of shell fish, camping out at likely beaches as part of their seasonal food gathering round. They thus left archaeologists with that other very exciting prehistoric find – the shell midden. Some are enormous, and were possibly used for several generations.

So next time we go to St. Bride’s I have promised myself a  microlith ‘n midden hunt. It will make a change from gathering seashells.

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In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockerpoo Puppy  – holiday snaps #2

 

Jo’s Monday Walk

Please visit Jo for some captivating scenes of Portuguese fisher-folk and a very gentle walk.

March Square #21

And pop over to Becky’s for more March squares and circles in squares.

#MarchSquare20

 

50 thoughts on “The Little Church By The Sea

  1. Fabulous, darlin! Thank you so much 🙂 🙂 I love this coastline of ours, with its crannies and its nooks. Beautifully captured and another spell woven, Tish.

    1. Thank you, lovely Jo. I perhaps should have said in the post that the Wales Coast Path is an astonishing 870 miles long. And now I’ve told you, I hope you don’t make us walk it! 🙂

  2. What a marvelous tale to mull over for elevenses!
    I missed so much history of my land of birth as ”other things” had far more appeal. I used to laugh at American tourists in their funny get ups and twangy accents arriving at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester – I worked at Steiners for a while – but I can now appreciate the appeal of why they were there.
    I sincerely hope that the opportunity arises where you can at least play the guide for a day around your spot.

    1. Ah, the Grosvenor! Had a few afternoon teas there, and very wonderful they were too. My home country history is patchy too, so it’s good to pick things up here and there. I will be happy to provide guiding services 🙂

  3. a lovely write up Tish full of interest and very nicely illustrated (textures of the stone celtic cross weave?).
    “racketing rooks and jackdaws busy building their nests in the woods” – I hear a poem coming on here too

    1. Thank you, Laura. This was only our second visit to Pembrokeshire, and I’m beginning to find myself fascinated by its history. Today it looks so underpopulated, beyond the presence of the oil refineries that is, but it seems to have had a very busy and prosperous history and prehistory.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. Nothing like Welsh daffodils. These ones had taken advantage of a sheltered corner to burst into flower. In nearby woods there were only leaves showing, and the odd bud. I’ve never seen a daffodil wood, so was sorry to miss the full blooming. It must be an astonishing sight.

  4. Seeing daffodils makes me happy, but then so does the rest of the walk I also like a good Celtic cross and those stone buildings… Off for a walk here shortly, even though it’s quite cold and windy. Sigh. Come quickly, Spring!!

    janet

  5. You do find some very interesting places to stay in. We must have skirted St Bride’s on our trip down to Marloes and on to see Skomer and Skokholm islands on the windiest day I can ever remember. The wind was so strong that the OH went back to sit in the car whilst I battled to get some photographs. Love your little church and churchyard, the textures of the stone celtic cross weave are fantastic. Actually, we considered Pembrokeshire as a place to move to as it has such beautiful scenery and beaches and is much quieter than Cornwall.

    1. You did skirt by it. St Brides is on the other side of the little peninsula to Marloes. In walking distance in fact, but not in a high wind. There is definitely much quietness in Pembrokeshire. Marloes village might be a good place to live.

      1. We had a meal in a pub in Marloes, took a photo of the unusual clock tower and then headed for Dale. The one and only day of sunshine in a week of rain and mist – but it was Christmas – probably not the best time to visit that region.

      2. Found lots of lovely little golden yellow mollusc shells on Dale beach. It was rather funny, and made me think how easily happy we can be when confronted with a bit of beach. Almost as we’d set foot on it,
        heads of both older, and younger generations (upper 20s that is) were down, eyes fixed on shell and pebble searching. The puppy was happy too. It found an old table tennis ball.

    1. There may just be the odd one or two. Actually there is a shot of the lime kiln in the foreground of the distant castle shot on the slide show. I naturally thought of you when I took a photo of the ruins. I meant to go back and take more time over them.

  6. A glorious walk so rich in history I always marvel at how these buildings have stood the test of time and the bright yellow accent of the daffodils made me smile. Well done capturing that wave, not easy to get the precise moment.

    1. I was a bit windswept myself, the wind blowing the camera lens as I tried to capture the waves. But yes, the remarkable survival of ancient buildings. Built to last centuries instead of a decade or two.

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