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Report on CAA Autumn Meeting: Tenby 23rd-25th September 2011

Photo by R. Griffith

Forty seven members attended, most being based at the Fourcroft Hotel. This friendly, family-run hotel overlooks the North Beach, Tenby and is a Listed Building of early 19th century date. It is one of many ‘regency’ style developments dating to the late 18th to early 19th centuries when Tenby became a popular sea-bathing resort. The Meeting commenced on Friday afternoon with a leisurely ‘promenade’ led by Heather James from the Hotel and down Crackwell Street, within the medieval walled town. Glimpses of stone, jettied medieval town houses were visible behind later facades. We paused to look down into Tenby Harbour and the changes wrought by William Paxton were pointed out. A wealthy nabob, London banker and Carmarthenshire gentlemen, he built a new carriage road down to the Harbour to give access to his new Bathhouse. The fine early 19th century townhouses at the base of Castle Hill were admired as the party progressed along the harbour wall and back, examining the exterior of Paxton’s bath-house. The history of the port and harbour was briefly outlined before walking around the base of Castle Hill, a peninsula jutting out into the sea and separating North from South Beach. The old and new Lifeboat Stations and site of the former pier were pointed out and a short outline given of St Catherine’s Island with its ‘Palmerstonian’ 19th century fort before some of the party ascended the hill to view and discuss what remained of the Castle and the fine Albert Memorial. Members then assembled in Tenby Museum for a view of the archaeological and historical collections, followed by a wine reception when Mrs Kathy Talbot, the Honorary Curator spoke informally about the highlights of the Museum’s Art Gallery.

Despite a rainy morning on Saturday, the party progressed by coach to look at the spectacular bank of 19th century limekilns at Kiln Park, Penally (now a caravan park). Moving on to Penally Village, welcome shelter was provided by Penally Church where Jeremy Knight spoke on St Teilo, his monastery at Penally and the high crosses now displayed within the church. The unusual vine-scroll decoration of one attests to close contact with the Anglo-Saxon world in the 9th century. Passing Penally Camp, we paused for Heather James to give a brief account of the 19th and 20th century military history of the camp and Penally Burrows. After a short stop at Lydstep ‘Palace’ – a ruined medieval hall-house - we descended to Lydstep Holiday Village’s beach- front Clubhouse for lunch. This holidayhouse was built by Lord St Davids in 1894 in ‘robustly eclectic style’. After lunch , with a cessation of rain and better visibility, we viewed Caldey Island, and the north side of Lydstep Bay , extensively quarried in the 19th century for a limestone capable of taking a polish. The recent discovery of a Mesolithic child’s footprints exposed in the peat shelf exposed at low tide there was described. Arriving at Lamphey the party walked, or were ferried , down from the main road to Lamphey Palace. This was in effect a country retreat of the medieval Bishops of St Davids and our guide was Rick Turner, Inspector of Ancient Monuments. He gave a full account of its architectural history as well as the post-Dissolution families associated with the site with pauses for discussion on points raised by the President. Tea was taken at Lamphey Court, now a hotel, but still with its fine Greek Revival style portico. Heather James read out an account of the house and its builder received from Thomas Lloyd who was unable to be present. The coach brought the party back along ‘The Ridgeway’ where Frances Llewellyn pointed out what remained of a line of Bronze Age barrows. The AGM was held at the Fourcroft Hotel on the evening of Saturday 24th.

On Sunday morning, Heather James led a walk around Tenby’s surviving medieval town walls, towers and gatehouse. The party then divided into smaller groups alternately visiting 1, Lexden Terrace at the kind invitation of Mrs Marion Hutton and ‘The Tudor Merchant’s House’. Lexden Terrace was built in 1843 but in a ‘regency style’ and Mrs Hutton described the history of the house and Terrace whilst members freely explored all five floors and admired the sea views and terraced gardens on the rocky crag above South Beach. The National Trust have recently installed new interpretative displays at Tudor Merchants House, a 15th century stone building. The Meeting concluded with a talk and tour of St Mary’s Church, Tenby, one of the finest in Wales. Due to a slight misunderstanding on timetable, members were inadvertent guests at a wedding in the church which slightly delayed Thomas Lloyd’s talk. John Tipton, former Hon. Curator of Tenby Museum was also on hand to guide and inform members.