Lamphey and Hodgeston

Lamphey and Hodgeston are ancient parishes. The present day Community is Lamphey with Hodgeston. The coast forms the southern boundary of Lamphey and Hodgeston. The name Lamphey probably goes back to the time when pioneering preachers were endeavouring to Christianise the area.

According to tradition one of these was Tyfai, said to have been a nephew of the very influential Teilo who founded a ‘llan’ or church here. The name ‘Llantefei’ occurs in the 12th century, with later variants.

Hodgeston was probably the farm of someone called Hogge or Hodge, a by-form of the Continental personal name Roger (B G Charles, Place Names of Pembrokeshire) and it dates from the Norman period.


The earliest human activity locally was tool making in the Mesolithic period (between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago) and the early Neolithic period which followed. The flintworking floors were mainly around Freshwater Bay, but there have been finds also at Hodgeston Hill and elsewhere. Traces of a prehistoric hearth and cooking place were identified also at Hodgeston Hall, with the possibility of another where Lamphey Lodge now stands. Above Freshwater is an earthwork probably of the Iron Age. Amongst the Iron Age people were Celtic speakers who eventually evolved into the Welsh, and it was to them that people like Tyfai preached in the early Christian period.

The Middle Ages

Amongst remains in the landscape is evidence of a moated homestead at Hodgeston. This is a square site with the earthworks of the surrounding moat still visible. Hodgeston was a knight’s fee in the Barony of Manorbier and Earldom of Pembroke (according to Brian Howells on whom our study of the locality in the Middle Ages depends).

Documentary references show that several present day homesteads existed in medieval times. At Little Portclew (Porthlliw) there was a chapel adjoining a spring; possibly this was venerated, and hence the building of a chapel. The two parish churches were present as today. But most important of all the local medieval features is the Bishop’s Palace – for which there is a Cadw guide.

Ruins of Portclew Chapel

The surviving masonry on this very attractive site spans three centuries and includes remnants of three halls, the first largely ruinous. The second (13th century) retains noteworthy features. Henry de Gower who became bishop in 1328 was responsible for the third and associated buildings. The chapel was re-modelled in the early 16th century and in Elizabethan times certain domestic features were updated by the Devereux family (see Sian Rees, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Dyfed).

A Place of Distinction

Lamphey stands out amongst villages for its connections with the important and famous and for its high status residences.
It gained a particular aura in the Middle Ages as one of the manors of the Bishops of St Davids and the location of one of their palaces.

Lamphey Bishops Palace

Who donated the land to the See of St Davids and when is unknown. It seems likely to have been a Welsh landowner since there was already an episcopal residence here in 1096, just 30 years after the Norman arrival in England. A survey of the bishop’s properties made in 1326 and known as ‘The Black Book of St Davids’ includes Lamphey, with its four fishponds, a dovecote, two watermills and one windmill. Some of the well known features of the locality are a reminder of this time: (Lamphey) Park – the bishop’s deer park and Bishop’s Meadow. The word Callands appears in the survey as ‘Kalenge’, the rather puzzling name of one of the open fields (perhaps ‘land in dispute’ at some time unknown).

Lamphey ceased to be a residence of the bishops in the upheavals of King Henry VIII’s reign resulting from the break with Rome and royal autocracy. Many church estates fell into the hands of the Crown and most were re-granted to secular holders. Amongst these was Lamphey, granted to Richard Devereux son of one of Henry VIII’s trusted servants.

After The Bishops

The first secular holders of the manor in modern times were members of the Devereux family. Walter Devereux of Lamphey was created earl of Essex in 1572, but died in 1576.

His brother George Devereux lived at Lamphey until about 1597. Robert the second earl spent much of his youth here in the household of his uncle, but in 1584 departed for the court of Queen Elizabeth. His ambitions led him to disaster: a failed uprising in 1601 and execution. For a time the Devereux fortunes were eclipsed but in due course Earl Robert’s son was allowed to inherit his father’s titles and estates. He, the third Earl, was the leading Parliamentary Commander in the first stage of the Civil War of the seventeenth century. At that time Lamphey Palace was occupied by a tenant.

Lamphey Palace and Estate were sold in 1683 to Sir Hugh Owen of Orielton (ancient parish of Monkton). The property remained with that family until about 1822, when it was sold to Charles Delamotte Mathias of Llangwarren in North Pembrokeshire. For over a century and a half, the Mathiases were the dominant influence at Lamphey. The new Lamphey Court, built in 1823, was their seat until sold by Wing Commander Mathias in 1978.


Lamphey lies on the ancient ridge route between Tenby and Pembroke and near the waters of Milford Haven. It is said that at high water goods could be brought up from Pembroke to the mill (near Northdown Bridge), and then punted up to the Court itself . In the 19th century, road improvements and the construction of the Pembroke and Tenby Railway (linked in due course to the wider network) increased Lamphey’s attractions. The contractors were David Davies of Llandinam and Ezra Roberts of St Asaph, who had complete responsibility for making the line, providing virtually all the capital and for seven years actually operating the railway. It was reported to the shareholders on 27 February 1863 that the bridge over the railway at Lamphey had just been started and that Cleggars Bridge had been completed and the embankment was about to be closed up to it. The line was opened to public traffic on 30 July 1863. (See M.R.C. Price, The Pembroke and Tenby Railway)

Pastoral scene, Lamphey Court

The Village of Lamphey

Although the land had been enclosed early, there were still reminders of the old medieval system surviving into the 19th century, for example, farms of substance with their buildings in the village. Indeed Lower Farm (William Morgan) was one of the biggest farms in the parish in the middle years of the 19th century. The chimney in the garden of one of the houses in Ridgeway Road, (formerly High Street), viewed with imagination, affords a glimpse of the old village. Old photographs show this road tree-lined and gently curving. Buildings inhabited long before the 20th century may still be seen: The Court House, whose name describes one of its functions, Lamphey House (Malthouse today), on/near the site of the Old Malthouse, Lamphey Hall owned and occupied in the mid 19th century by George Lock who rented ‘the pleasure garden’ in front from Charles Mathias. At that time the parish had a cooper, 2 carpenters, a tailor, 2 blacksmiths, a stonemason, a shoemaker and a master bootmaker employing 3 men (Abel Thomas). Stone was quarried for building and the extraction of lime. Service occupations remind one of the lifestyle of the squire and of others – owners or short term tenants of places like Northdown, Portclew, Lamphey Park, Cleggars, Lamphey Hall (and in the neighbouring parish, Hodgeston Hall). Possibly it was the genteel strand in the social scene which encouraged the development of retail bakery. A Tonks baking oven, said to have been installed about 1890 by Joseph Bond at his bakery (present day Venison) was worked in addition to a traditional brick bread oven. About 1925 R E G White converted a little stable adjacent to the house to serve as a new bakery.

Ale houses and Inns

Early in the 19th century Jeremiah Thomas was licensed to keep an alehouse and in 1826 George Mackan. Circa 1840 he was resident at the house next to the church, believed to have been a small staging inn called The Venison. Another local inn was The Plough (1830). The Dial (name derived from a sundial) became an inn in 1966.