Jeffreyston, Loveston, Yerbeston & Cresselly

Jeffreyston (or Jeffreston), Loveston and Yerbeston are names which refer to a farm or holding of a particular person: Geoffrey’s/Jeffrey’s farm, Lovell’s farm and probably (according to Dr. B.G. Charles on whom our study of local placenames depends) Gerbard’s farm. These names became current after the Normans established themselves in the Earldom of Pembroke (from the late eleventh century). Who lived here and owned the land previously we do not know, except that they were Welsh and the descendants of the Iron Age Celts. Another settlement name is Cresselly which is thought to derive from ‘Croes’ or the English form ‘Cross’ followed by a personal name ‘Eli’ or ‘Heli’.

Prehistory

There used to be a longstone – possibly a Bronze Age standing stone – at Loveston (destroyed in the second half of the nineteenth century); hillforts and other enclosures probably in use in the Iron Age, have been identified at Myrtle Hill and Myrtle Grove, Beacon Hill and possibly Millway Lane and Vicarage Farm, all in Jeffreyston and near Dinaston (Croft Field) in Loveston – where the Welsh ‘dinas’ (fort) may have influenced the modern spelling. The field names Castle Hill and Upper and Lower Castle Hill in Loveston refer to an Iron Age fortification (not a medieval castle).

Early Christian Period

The Iron Age sites may have been inhabited during the time when the Romans were in Britain (but not here). In the centuries after the Roman departure, Christianity was preached amongst the Welsh and it seems likely that the first church at Jeffreyston was founded at this time. The rectangular slab to be seen in the church porch dates from between 600 and 800 A.D. It bears an incised ring cross. Other signs of long use of the church site are the raised churchyard and (until the 19th century) its circular shape. Around the churchyard are traces of a radial settlement plan which may date from the Early Christian Period.

The Middle Ages c1100 – c1500

Practically nothing is known of the settlers who took over following the arrival of the Normans at Pembroke. The church at Jeffreyston is referred to in 1291 as “the church of the farm [or estate] of Geoffrey”. At some time in the Middle Ages corn mills were established at Great House, Norchard and Cresswell, and Great Loveston became a monastic grange with corn and fulling mills.

Ownership of the Land

During the mid-nineteenth century the proprietors with largest acreage were John Harcourt Powell, Seymour Philipps Allen, Sir William Owen Barlow and George Lort Phillips. By virtue of residence, the Allen family of Cresselly were the local squires. Their fine home, built by John Bartlett Allen in 1770-1 (enlarged in 1869), replaced an earlier one inherited from the Bartlett family. His son John Hensleigh Allen, was M.P. for Pembroke boroughs 1818-26, and two of his daughters married sons of Josiah Wedgwood the famous potter, and of their family one daughter married Charles Darwin.

Coal

These parishes are on the Pembrokeshire Coalfield and coal was mined here from at least the 16th to the 20th century. Workings such as those at Underhill (recently designated an ancient monument by Cadw), old shafts and tips, names like Blackway and Coalpit Lane, tales of subsidence, and traditions about the old workings, all reflect the industrial past.

In 1801, Jeffreston was one of the most densely populated (non-urban) parishes in Pembrokeshire, however, by the 19th century, the industry was waning. All the coal works in the three parishes were in decline in the 1830′s and in 1867, when they ceased work. Later attempts at revival (about 1875 by Saundersfoot & Tenby Colliery Co., and in 1876 by Jeffreston Anthracite Coal Co.) were short-lived.

In 1932 Loveston Colliery was developed in an area which had been worked earlier, but on 26th May 1936, there was an in-rush of water from old workings and 7 men were drowned.

Coal Mining Techniques and Organisation (after M.R.C. Price)

The works at Underhill, Quarrybacks and other points were open-cast trenches of considerable depth. Another technique was the sinking of ‘bell pits’. Some landowners were directly involved but more often the coal under a specific area was leased to entrepreneurs, the owner of the soil receiving royalties. The term ‘colliery’ might refer to a large number of small scattered pits, so Cresswell Colliery included the area from Cresswell River to Cresselly. ‘Jeffreston Colliery… might be a general description of all the coal works in the parish of Jeffreston, under various managements.’

Coal Workers in the community

There were families for whom mining was the traditional occupation, but many left because of the 19th century fluctuations in the industry. By 1851, there were only 49 coal workers (13 female and 36 male) in Jeffreyston’s total population of 679. Nineteen heads of household were coal workers as compared with 56 in agriculture, 8 estate workers or wives of such, and 20 craftsmen (6 blacksmiths, 5 shoemakers, 3 masons, 1 carpenter, 1 ship’s carpenter, 1 weaver and 3 tailors).

Parish Churches

With the coming of the Normans, existing churches were re-built and sometimes re-dedicated, and churches were built where none had existed previously.

For Jeffreyston Church see the recently published History of Jeffreyston Parish Church by Thomas Lloyd, (to whom we are indebted for comments on local buildings). The medieval churchyard cross is particularly notable. Loveston Church is dedicated to St. Leonard. It has a fine medieval tower with high battlements around the top and a small Tudor east window. It escaped restoration in the last century, so that much of its ancient character is retained. Yerbeston (now closed) was dedicated to St. Lawrence. It is a very small and simple building of medieval origin, with a tiny bellcote and no tower.

Famous Preachers

On 16 April 1743 George Whitefield, a fellow worker of John Wesley, preached at Jeffreyston ‘to several thousands very like the Kingswood colliers.’ Amongst those present was James Relly, who came to disturb the service but remained to listen, and in consequence became active in the religious revival. His younger brother John (d.1777) ministered in Jeffreyston and neighbouring villages. Both brothers were hymn writers. Their followers were known as ‘Rellites’.

The enthusiasm generated by the Methodist preachers was echoed over a century later when George Thomas, farmer of Barn Walls, named his second son George Whitefield and his third John Wesley.

Nonconformist Chapels

The strong response to the Wesleyan Methodist movement in this area led to the building of a chapel in Jeffreyston village some time before 1820. It was re-built in 1886 but closed in the 1940′s and is now a house. At Cresselly there was a Primitive Methodist Chapel built in 1837. A new chapel was built on the opposite side of the road in 1893, the roof of the old one being transferred to the new building. It was united to the Wesleyan Methodists in June 1933, but closed in the mid 1980′s when membership had decreased to 6. Loveston Baptist Chapel originated as a branch mission of Molleston. In 1867 a cottage was hired and converted into a meeting house called Bethel. The members formed a separate church in August 1906, and a new chapel was opened in May 1907. The original deacons were William Watkins and Frederick Merriman. At Cresswell Quay, but not within the community of Jeffreyston, is Pisgah Baptist Chapel founded in 1820, a branch of Molleston.

Jeffreyston

Jeffreyston village is an ancient settlement and the location of the parish church. There used to be a village green and here Jeffreyston Fair was held until the 1920′s. The buildings within the village are mainly post-World War II, but there are also some of considerable age such as Jeffreyston House, with its graceful arc of Georgian garden railings. This was a gentry house. A curiosity in the village is a stone structure known as a ‘coffin rest’ which has been recently renovated.

The nature of the village has changed: where once there were 11 working farms and small-holdings, now there are only 2. There used to be a Police Station (closed in 1930), a Shop/Post Office (closed in the late 1960′s) and 2 public houses (The Rose & Crown and Prince of Wales). When the Prince closed in 1935 the village was without an inn until the 1970′s.

Bishops Bridge

The bridge over the Cresswell river is said to be so called because it was formerly the responsibility of the Bishop of St. David to keep it in repair.

Sport

Activities here primarily revolved around Cresselly and the game of cricket, Cresselly cricket team having been founded in 1887. Each year the elite teams of the county compete for the ‘Harrison Allen Bowl’ (donated by Mrs. Harrison Allen in 1948), the final taking place on the Cresselly cricket field, usually in August. A Sports Club was built in the 1960′s and is still successful.

The South Pembrokeshire Hunt was founded in or about 1790. The Allens, well-known for their love of hunting, have been masters, with only a few breaks, through to the present day. The gentle rolling landscape makes ideal country for riding to hounds, and this activity has helped to produce some notable steeplechasers and jockeys.

Walks and Wildlife

There are a number of Footpaths and Bridleways in the area, which can be used, along with quiet country lanes, to make ‘circular’ walks. The ‘Landsker Borderlands Trail’, a 52 mile circular walk, passes through the area, and gives access to some very attractive countryside.

Along the Cresswell River, tidal mudflats are home to the large brown and white Shelduck, along with Mallard, Teal and Wigeon particularly in the winter. Waders such as Redshank, Dunlin and Curlew are also common in the winter, travelling in from colder areas to feed on the abundant food on the mudflats. Inland, the land is ‘heavy’, with much clay, the drier fields provide good grazing while the wetter areas are dominated by marshy grassland and willow scrub. The willow bushes are festooned with grey lichens in the clean air, and these areas are an excellent habitat for a range of birds, flowers, ferns and fungi. Some of the paths pass through areas of oak and ash woodland, home to foxes, badgers and squirrels, as well as numerous woodland birds such as Nuthatches and Blackbirds.