The village and the area around have had more than one name. In the early Middle Ages it was Stackpole. It is possible that raiders from the sea used the word ‘stack’ for the rock at the entrance to Broad Haven (Church Rock). ‘Pole’ referred to the pool or bay.
In the 13th century, the local manor was held by William Bosher and the name became Stackpole Bosher. Eventually the simpler ‘Bosherston’ – Bosher’s farm or settlement – became generally adopted.
Most place names reflect incomers from the Viking period onwards. However, there are also Welsh survivals. Amongst the caves near St. Govan’s Head are Ogof Pencyfrwy (Saddle back Cave), Ogof Bran Goesgoch (Chough Cave), Ogof Morfran (Cormorant Cave), and Ogof Carreg Hir (Cave of the Long Stone).
Bosherston is bordered on the west and north west by St. Twynnells and the north east by St. Petrox, and shares a very brief water boundary with Stackpole Elidor. The 4 parishes were amalgamated in 1985 and they also form Stackpole Community area.
Although the evidence is not apparent to the layman, there were coastal flint-working floors in Mesolithic and Neolithic times, also barrows or tumuli of the Bronze Age, and an occasional standing stone. Iron Age Promontory Forts at Style, Flimston and elsewhere indicate activity late in the first millennium BC by Celts.
The Stackpole Estate
In the early modern period, it was owned by the Lort family. Then it passed to the Campbells of Cawdor (Scotland) by the marriage of the heiress Elizabeth Lort (d. 1714) to Sir Alexander Campbell. One of this very able family was created Baron in 1796, while his son, was created Earl Cawdor and Viscount Emlyn in 1827 (d. 1860).
As well as being the major landlords, the Cawdors were patrons of the Church and benefactors of the village and community.
Cottagers paid only nominal rents and received gifts of firewood, culm and manure. They had large gardens, and were encouraged to exhibit at the annual flower show at Stackpole Court. Cottagers often had a few acres of land allowing them to keep a cow and they had pigs and poultry. Service at the Court and work at the Home Farm and gardens were important in the local employment structure.
For the children, there were parties. Vera Howells, who became headmistress of the village school in 1928, has commented that on her first morning, every girl curtsied and every boy saluted as they passed her into school.
In 1938, nearly one quarter of the parish – the west, was bought to form part of the R.A.C. range for the War Department. Further land was acquired to the south of the village in 1940. The takeover meant the end of Newton and Crickmail farms, Castle Tank (2 houses) Newton Cottage, Crickmail Cottages (2), Anstey’s Down, South Row and Glebe Cottage. Crickmail was a three storey house. Not originally a Cawdor farm, it is said to have been won in a wager.
The post-War years brought even more drastic change with the sale of the Stackpole Estate, the departure of the family to Scotland in 1962, and the demolition of Stackpole Court. Two recent constructive influences on the area have been the National Park Authority and the National Trust.
Farms and Houses
Until 1962, Style, adjacent to the church, was a working farm. Style farmhouse, like two other houses, Dover and Thornston, is of considerable age and interesting for its square chimney and associated oven. There is also a large chimney at Trevallen, and there used to be others. Style is also interesting because of the hung slates on the front walls.
Amongst traditional building materials were brambles or reeds and plaster for partitions, horsehair in wall and ceiling plaster, cow dung and hay in wall mortar; some old walls are said to have been ‘pummy’, that is, the centre was filled with earth. Roofs were thatched, or roofed with local stone.
In living memory, 15 dwellings have disappeared from the village; others have been renovated. Amongst the new buildings at different periods have been Coastguard Houses, and in the 1950′s six Council houses.
The land is amongst the highest grade found in Pembrokeshire. A century or so ago, servants were hired at Pembroke Fair. Pembroke Show – older than the Royal Welsh – was a local attraction. The growing of early potatoes and cauliflowers was pioneered by Mr. William Jones of Thornston and Mr. Charles Murray of Buckspool.
The by-products of farming were all put to use in the past. Goose grease was thought to be good for the chest, and pig’s lard for lubricating cartwheels. Mattresses could be made of feathers, and goose and duck feathers were used for eiderdowns and pillows.
Near St. Govan’s Head was the New Quay. Many years ago, clay from the pits at Flimston was shipped out. Smuggling is said to have taken place here. It is said that a cargo of spirits run in 1833 or 4, was taken in bags on horseback to Bentlas Ferry near Pembroke, and from thence distributed to the locality in general.
The tide used to run in “above a quarter of a mile from a place called Broad Haven to the East between this and the parish of Stackpole Elidor”. Between 1790 and 1840 the first Baron Cawdor and the first Earl dammed narrow tidal creeks so creating a large freshwater lake system. The Bosherston Lily Ponds form two arms of the lake system. The western arm is fed from White Well.
St. Govan’s Head is the southernmost point of Pembrokeshire. At the time of the 1841 Census, there were two Coastguards in place, and in 1851 they were each described as living at ‘New House’. These (1 & 2 Coastguard Cottages), are now the Tearooms. From about 1880 the coastguards were replaced by coastal watchers. However, the service was restored in 1941 and three new houses were built; these were replaced about 1959-60.
Apart from farmers, agricultural workers and coastguards, those living in the village or near about in 1851 included quarrymen, a school mistress, a clergyman, a groom, a smith (John Lloyd at Towns End), a carpenter (Lewis Hay at Towns End) and a laundress. Kilns at Style and elsewhere indicate lime burning.
The village pump was built over a well at the western end of the ponds just a few hundred yards below the church. This was a meeting place, and during the 19th century the annual election of the mayor of Bosherston took place here, the last being James Davies, a maltster on the Stackpole Estate for 63 years.
A branch of the Womens’ Institute was formed about 1930, with Mrs. Griffiths of Style farm as first President. The Church Hall has been the venue for village meetings, concerts and plays, the last plays being put on in 1952. St. Govan’s Inn, established in 1977, is on the site of a former tearoom.
A Venue for Tourism
One of the village inhabitants recalls a chapel trip from Swansea when charabancs and about 6 taxis arrived in Bosherston on a wet day. School pupils were sent home early so that the visitors could take shelter! Early in the 20th century there were 3 tearooms in the village; 2 were kept next door to each other in the twenties and thirties by Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Evans. For many years now there has been one only (that of Mrs. V. Weston, daughter of Mrs. Evans). The Olde World Cafe has been visited for its teas and cakes for over 70 years. There were also two tearooms at St. Govan’s.
In 1800 a sum of £260 was raised by mortgage and used to take down the old Parsonage and erect a new one on the glebe. This high quality Georgian home was sold in 1985. The Rector now lives at Stackpole Rectory.
The Education Commissioners 1846-7 were told by the rector that there were two dame schools in the parish, but the few children attending went as to a nursery (one of these may have been at Dover). Children in the parish usually attended the Earl of Cawdor’s School at Stackpole. A school was built in the village in 1859, the mason being the grandfather of the future Sir John Simon, an estate craftsman. He was assisted by James Evans of Furston. The school was not always big enough for the pupils, and a family memory of one resident shows that around 1889, the older children used to go to Stackpole. The first head teacher was a certain Mrs. Holden. The last was Miss Vera Howells, who wrote a short memoir of the parish. The school was closed in 1935 and the children taken by bus to Stackpole. The building has subsequently been used as the Church Hall.
Cure and a Superstition
Sufferers from whooping cough were taken to a limestone cave at Bullslaughter Bay and held over stirred up kelp until they were sick! The standing stone on the road to Crickmail was known as the Devil’s Stone. It was believed to give off a smell of sulphur when struck by a hard object, and was generally an object of fear.
A villager, Joyce Lewis (née Thomas) who married on the same day as H.M. Queen Elizabeth II was given one of the dresses presented to the royal bride.
Walks & Wildlife
From car parks at Bosherston Church, Trevallen, St. Govan’s, Cheriton Bottom or Stackpole Quay, you can carry out various circular walks.
The woodland walks created by the National Trust are in woods mostly planted by the Cawdors, containing a mixture of native trees and non-native evergreens.
The Lily Ponds are a National Nature Reserve, managed by the National Trust in partnership with the Countryside Council for Wales. On the lakes you will see many varieties of ducks and gulls, and, if you are very lucky and very quiet, you may see an Otter in the pools or along the banks. In early summer, parts of the Ponds are covered with the large white flowers of the white waterlily.
Along the Coast Path, look out for Buzzards, Ravens, Fulmars, and Choughs. In Spring and early Summer, thousands of Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes nest on Stackpole Head.