Ambleston

The Community (Parish) of Ambleston, which comprises the village of Ambleston and the hamlets of Wallis and Woodstock, lies close to the centre of Pembrokeshire almost in the shadow of the Preseli Hills.

Predominantly a farming community, changes in agriculture have led to diversification in employment and the use of buildings and land. There are uncultivated areas at Ambleston Common and Wallis Moor. The latter was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1998 for its importance as wet heath and marshy grassland which is a habitat for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. Eleven species of dragonfly, orchids, otters and other valued wildlife have been recorded on the Moor. It is administered by the Countryside Council for Wales.

Origins

The earliest record of the village (1230) is of Almenolfestun or Amleston which may derive from a Norse name, Hammil or the Flemish Amelot’s tun. Wallis was recorded in 1572 as Walles possibly meaning walls and referring to the earthwork Wallis Rath. Woodstock was first mentioned as Wodestok in 1224 and may derive from wudu stoc(c), a place in a wood.

Prehistory

The boundary of the Welsh ice sheet in the last major ice age 20,000 years ago was just south of Ambleston. Rocky outcrops and deposited boulders such as those at Pengarn are relics of the glaciers, as are the scoured and rounded contours.

Wallis Rath is now covered by spoil and vegetation. It is a horseshoe shaped earthwork with a shallow ditch. It was probably a small moated dwelling. Woodstock Ring may have been a similar settlement.

Castell Fleming was a small Roman or Romano-British settlement now marked by a low rectangular rise in fields on the northern boundary of the parish. It was excavated in 1922 by archaeologists Robert Carr Bosanquet and Sir Mortimer Wheeler (of BBC fame) who confirmed its Roman connection. Its name may derive from its use as a Flemish settlement or in association with a family called Fleming who held land at Ambleston in the 14th century.

Historical Monuments

Three boundary stones survive in the parish on the northern, southern and western boundaries. They are all of engraved slate and probably date from the late 18th or early 19th century. The most significant is the western one near Garnturne for it also marks the meeting of the boundaries of the ancient hundreds of Daugleddau, Kemeis (Cemais) and Dewisland.

Church and Chapels

The Parish Church of St Mary’s is in the centre of Ambleston village. There is no record of pre-Norman Conquest religious use of the site. In the post-Conquest period, it became a parish church in the Deanery of Rhos. Between 1147 and 1176, it was granted to the Knights Hospitaller of Slebech by Wizo the Fleming of Wiston and his heirs.

Remains of church buildings, probably chapels of ease, are at Rinaston and Woodstock. At the dissolution, Ambleston, as part of Slebech Commandery, fell to King Henry VIII and remained in royal patronage until 1729 when the tithes of the parish were transferred to the Bishop of St David’s. The Chancel and Nave are 13th-14th century and the main tower early 16th century. The belfry was rebuilt in 1779. The body of the Church was restored twice in the 19th century and in 1906. A low spire was present on the roof of the West Tower until 1925. The font is medieval from 12th-13th century. It was sold at auction during the restoration of 1833 but retrieved in 1904 having been used as a pig trough at a farm in Wallis. The Church was listed as Grade II in 2000. The church bell was a gift in memory of his parents from William Meyler Francis who also donated land and property to the church.

Woodstock Calvinistic Methodist Chapel was founded in 1754 by Reverend Howell Davies the ‘Apostle of Pembrokeshire’ as a meeting house, the location being chosen near the middle of the County. Until the 1930s it had no burial ground.

It was here that Communion was first given to Methodists in Pembrokeshire in a building not consecrated by the Anglican Church. People travelled to Woodstock from afar to hear great preachers such as George Whitefield.

Bethel Calvinistic Methodist Chapel in Ambleston Village was built in 1881 and restored in 1906.

Commerce

Ambleston had a shop at Commerce House which also housed a doctor’s part-time surgery.
There was also a post office until 1991. In the past there were shops at Wallis Lodge and Llys-ygrug in Wallis and public houses at Woodstock Cross, Rock House and Gwalia in Ambleston.

Farming

This was the major activity and source of employment from historical times. There is evidence of co-axial field systems which date from prehistoric times and traces of which may be seen in contemporary field boundaries. Arable farming may have occupied a third of the land use in the past, predominantly for animal, especially horse, feed. Nowadays the land is mostly grass for livestock and milk production. It is interesting to speculate whether fields in the community which once produced biofuel for horses, will be growing newer biofuels for transport, heating and industry. The trend here, as in the rest of the UK over many years, has been for consolidation of farming into larger units with a reduction in the number of smaller family farms. Mechanisation has drastically reduced employment opportunities in agriculture.

School

The school at Woodstock was built in 1866, rebuilt and re-opened in 1937. The headmaster’s school log of 1869 records punishments meted out to some boys for walking on hedges and notes the sewing lessons for the girls on most days. The school closed in 1964.

Domestic Buildings

Rinaston was built in 1215 and the same family have lived there since. It may have taken its name from an early tenant, John Reyner. There is a record of a dwelling on the site of Hook Manor in the Black Book of St Davids c1326. Myrtle House in Ambleston, which is grade II listed, was built in 1840 and adjoins an 18th century cottage. Other cottages of similar age can be seen around the Parish Church. Some farm buildings in the Parish date from 200-300 years ago.

Famous Inhabitants

Rear-Admiral Thomas Tucker of Sealyham bought Hook Manor and land around Triffleton with prize money for the capture of a Spanish treasure ship in 1742. John Harries was not born in Ambleston but lived and worked here. He was a lay leader of the Methodists and in charge of Woodstock chapel from 1770-1776.

His son, Evan Harries, was in charge of the Chapel from 1807 to 1811 ordained a Minister of the New Methodist Connexion at Woodstock until 1819. Ann Williams of Ambleston was the mother of Sir Watkin Lewes (1740-1821), the first Welsh Lord Mayor of London.

He had the misfortune to die in the Fleet prison for debt. Dr Ernest Price (1876-1951) of Narbeth, ‘married into’ Parc-y-llyn in 1904. His wife’s family, the Dewhirsts, owned five of the neighbouring farms. His practice included Ambleston and he made his visits by pony and trap but was also known for the first non-stop motorized ascent of Rock Hill, Llawhaden.

Community Activity

The Community has meeting places at Ambleston Church Hall and the Memorial Hall at Woodstock in the former school building. From 1999 community action plans have been initiated with assistance from Menter Preseli and PLANED leading to the formation of environmental and historical groups. Projects undertaken by the Community Council and these other groups include: seating and parking at Wallis Pond, improvement of the Memorial Hall, a book to celebrate the millennium ‘Ambleston Parish in 2000′, village enhancement and footpath improvements.