Amroth and Summerhill
Amroth is an ancient parish, a contemporary community and a coastal village. Dr. B. G. Charles suggests that the name means ‘on the stream called Rhath’, ‘R(h)ath’ being the now lost name of the stream which enters the sea south of Amroth church.
Earweare (variously spelt), the name of the site of the castle and the old name for the castle, illustrates Scandinavian influence. It is thought to mean ‘the weir of the sand or gravel bank’; there was a toll of fish here in the Middle Ages.
Summerhill may possibly originate from seasonal use of the land in early times, but by the 16th century it was an estate, with its own lord. In the 18th century it was a farm on the Lawrenny Estate. There were a few cottages and in 1879 the chapel. But it is largely a post-World War II village. Stepaside (with Pleasant Valley and Wiseman’s Bridge) is the subject of another leaflet.
The historic boundary with Marros, Carmarthenshire is the stream near the New Inn which used to be crossed by footbridge and ford. This may be the ‘Ffrwd Wrgan’ of a medieval document (Charles). Recently New Inn and the area nearby became incorporated in Amroth. Here begins the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
Scatters of worked flints on the shore, of probable Mesolithic and early Neolithic date (Middle and New Stone Age) suggest that there were people here sometime between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago. Where now there is beach there once was forest. When the sand is washed away stumps of trees and prostrate trunks can be seen over a wide area.
Until the 1940′s they were always visible at low tide. The wood is spongy and water-logged but its fibres are plain to see. Nuts, acorns and paperthin leaves have often been found. When they dry out, they fall to dust.’ (Noëla D. Davies). A member of the History Group recalls being passed a handful of acorns when the foundations of the promenade were being dug opposite the Temple Bar, about the middle of the 20th century.
The name ‘Crug’, as in the farm name Craig-yborion (Crugvorion in 1329), is a clue for a Bronze Age burial mound. The field name ‘Beaconing’ (Tinkers Hill) suggests a Bronze Age burial mound re-used as a beacon site. The Longstone at the extreme north of the parish is likely to have been of the same period. The regime of the Iron Age people extended into the Christian era, and it was into the world of these Celtic speaking tribes that the Romans arrived.
Trelessy: A Roman Site
Excavations between September 1950 and September 1951 revealed a stonebuilt rectangular structure which was established to be Roman, within the circular Iron Age type enclosure. The finds indicated occupation during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
The first edition 25:1 mile OS map (1889) shows houses and gardens in the middle of the village backing onto the sea, which were no more by the 1950′s. A series of sea walls and other defences have been built.
In 1844 a topographical writer commented ‘This parish … abounds with coal of a peculiarly fine quality, which, burning without smoke or any offensive smell, is much in request for the drying of malt and hops; for this purpose, considerable quantities are shipped from a place called Wiseman’s Bridge …’ After the building of the harbour at Saundersfoot this was the port for the trade. Old levels, shafts and waste tips occur throughout the parish. The first large scale map (1889) shows a disused pit (Castle Gate) opposite the south-west corner of Amroth Castle, and Castle Park Colliery, also disused, only about three fields distance away. It has been pointed out that the Castle Gate Pit was never worked (Roscoe Howells, Amroth, A Brief History 2000). Mr. Scourfield-Lewis has noted a mention in the Colby papers of Amroth Colliery in 1802-8; also that an adit to the beach from Kilgetty Pit is marked on a map of 1813. It passed by Thomas Hill Pit, Williams Pit, Chats Pit, Hill Pit and then through Engine Pit and to the sea near Temple Bar.
Iron ore was mined for example at Cwms Level, and also extracted from the cliff face. In the early 19th century it was shipped to Pembrey for the use of the Pembrey Iron Company. Later it was smelted at the Stepaside Iron Works.
Building stone has been quarried, for example at Pwll-y-gribin (for the church), near Steps Cottages (Summerhill Chapel) and at Trelessy (buildings at Factory 1912 and stable at Trelessy a little later). The iron supports used in the stable were cast at the Wiseman’s Bridge Foundry. Limestone was burnt at kilns like the one at the junction near the Amroth Arms.
In 1844 Samuel Lewis noted ‘this part of the bay is celebrated for Salmon, Cod and Flatfish, which are taken in abundance, and of which considerable quantities are sent for the supply of the market at Tenby…..’. But in recent memory fish have not been exploited commercially.
A medieval fulling mill was Melyn redevelyn Coid – the mill at the mill ford by the wood (in decay in 1481): Rhydlangoed. A woollen factory powered by the mill race on the western side of the border stream, was producing cloth in 1841.
Amroth, present day
The same water drove a corn mill on the land of Amroth Castle, possibly in line of continuity with the grist mill referred to as Earweare Mill in 1556 and later. Clues for further investigation are fields in Cwmrath known as Mill Hill and a little to the south-west Tuckers (i.e. Fullers) Hill, a field near Trueman’s Park Farmhouse. The farm Kings Park used to be known, in translation, as Mill Farm.
In 1841 a quarter of a mile or so from Summerhill was the Cambrian Mailway, a reminder that the parish was served by the new Turnpike road (with tollgate at Cilanow). The Amroth Castle Arms (later Amroth Cottage) was on the corner opposite the Castle. The Amroth Castle Arms (listed as the Amroth Arms) and the Temple Bar both existed in 1841. The New Inn, an ancient hostelry important in local life, became part of Amroth parish only recently.
Amongst the Vicars of Amroth was Edward Phillips, father of Peregrine Phillips leader of Pembrokeshire Congregationalists in the 17th century. However, there was no Nonconformist chapel in Amroth for almost another two centuries. Ebenezer Congregational Chapel was built in 1867, the first minister being the Rev. Lewis James who also served Carvan and Brynseion Chapels (Lampeter Velfrey). The land was given by Mr. Benjamin Rees (Mead Estate).
Summerhill Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1879-81 on land given by the Lawrenny Estate. This followed a period from 1843 of services in Summerhill farmhouse and elsewhere. In the 1930′s the Primitive Methodists were united with the Wesleyans. After its final service in August 1986, the chapel was sold and is now a residence.
A Church School built on land given by Mr. Kay of Colby Lodge, served as the local school until 1982 when it was closed.
Amroth Big Day
This was a day at the seaside between haymaking and corn harvest. It used to be the Friday after Narberth Horse Fair (second Thursday in August), but after its revival, on the Friday nearest 14th August. There used to be a fair, a carnival, sports and a concert on the Castle Green and people came in gambos from places as far away as Crymych. For several years the celebrations lapsed, but the Carnival has been revived.