Evidence of early prehistoric inhabitants in the area includes cooking hearths and Iron Age enclosures. The name Lawrenny probably derives from the Welsh.
The name Cresswell is found in Lawrenny and its neighbouring parish of Jeffreyston. Dr. B.G. Charles suggests that the original meaning was ‘Cress Spring’, but there were attempts to change it to ‘Christwell’, because of the chapel nearby(a property of the Augustinian Priory at Haverfordwest). There was also Cresswell Castle, a medieval secular building. Following the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII, the chapel called ‘Creswelle’ was granted by the Crown to a member of the Barlow family, and the ‘castle’ was developed as the Barlow residence.
In Tudor days the village was a trading place with an estimated 12 households. A 1762 map of Lawrenny shows Lawrenny Ferry and buildings at the ferry were possibly Quay House, Ferry Cottage and a public house, with a boathouse and yard, on the site of the present Lawrenny Arms.
Buildings of particular interest include Rosehill, built within the castle’s walled garden, and The Rectory (previously Quay House), which now stands derelict. There was a building on the site of Quay House in 1762; by 1861 the vicar resided there and in the 1880′s it was referred to as The Rectory. The last known resident was the schoolmaster in the 1920′s.
During the early 1850′s Lawrenny had two public houses, Ferry Cottage and The Coach & Horses. The Coach & Horses continued as a public house until around the end of the 19th century when it was closed, along with New Inn in the village. It is believed that Colonel Frederick Lort-Phillips had all the public houses closed because his staff were drinking too much, also his wife did not approve of drinking! However, the locals forded the river at low tide to reach the public house at West Williamston.
The Cricket Club was founded in 1894/95, but cricket ceased during the First World War. The first attempt at putting the team back together was in 1918 when they travelled to Cosheston and were all out for 13! Since then the club has flourished and now supports two teams. A football club has also been established. Neighbouring Coedcanlas was the birthplace of the famous jockey and author Dick Francis.
The Fleet Air Arm
A marine air base was established at Lawrenny Quay during the Second World War. This became the permanent home for 764 Squadron and its fleet of ‘Walrus’ seaplanes, with up to 15 planes sometimes being moored on the river between Lawrenny and Coedcanlas, and the officers billeted at Lawrenny Castle.
When William Barlow died in 1851 there were no male heirs and the estate passed to George Lort-Phillips (whose mother was a Barlow). Lort-Phillips built the new castle at the cost of £70,000 and later became High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire and Member of Parliament (1861). The estate was inherited in 1866 by George’s nephew, John Frederick Lort-Phillips; he too became High Sheriff (1880) and a County Councillor (1889).
When he died childless the estate passed to his great nephew, Patrick Shoubridge, who changed his name to Lort-Phillips. Patrick Lort-Phillips served in the Grenadier Guards until 1948 and reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel being awarded two DSO’s during the Second World War. In 1943 he returned to Lawrenny Castle with his family. Although magnificent to look at, the castle proved very difficult to live in, and consequently in 1952 it was demolished and a National Park picnic site and viewpoint now exist on the site.
Wildlife and Walking
The footpath from Coedcanlas to Cresswell Quay passes through Lawrenny Wood, one of the best examples of ancient broad-leaved woodlands around the shores of the waterway, now managed by The National Trust. Oak is the dominant tree, but there is a wide range of other species, none more special than the Wild Service tree, which here in West Wales is largely restricted to the Daugleddau Estuary. It is best located in the autumn when the leaves turn a deep burnished red, and there are clusters of leathery brown fruit.
The footpath provides many views of the estuary, which is best for its birds in autumn and winter. Then is the time to see diving duck like Goldeneye and Red-Breasted Merganser. The mudflats of the Cresswell River can prove attractive to waders like Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin and Shelduck breed in this area, only being absent in late summer. Cormorants are also seen diving for flatfish or standing on certain prominent points along the river.
Lawrenny School and Village Hall
Lawrenny was a Church School. It closed in 1965 and the schoolroom reverted back to the ownership of the Lort-Phillips family, who later donated it to the village.
The Lawrenny Foxhounds
Founded by George Lort-Phillips, they were known as the Pembrokeshire Foxhounds and hunted throughout the county. Later, under the ownership of John Lort-Phillips, they amalgamated with the Cresselly Pack and moved to their present home at Cresselly. Today they are known as the South Pembrokeshire Foxhounds. The kennels at Lawrenny Quay were known locally as ‘The Doghouse’ and eventually became the headquarters for Lawrenny Yacht Club and later The Lawrenny Arms.
Limestone was quarried, for building and agricultural use. The name Southern Pits and a spoil tip at Foxenhole Plantation, indicate a coal mining heritage. It seems also that a few people from Lawrenny worked at pits in Coedcanlas and Martletwy. The place-names
Tanyard and Tanyard Mountain suggest another local industry, but the main occupation was, and still is, agriculture.
Horse Racing at Lawrenny Home Farm
John Frederick Lort-Phillips trained horses at Lawrenny Home Farm and brought great acclaim to the village when Kirkland won The Grand National in 1905. Other successful horses trained at Lawrenny included Corbeen, who won The Grand Sefton and The Welsh Grand National. There was also a successful stud and local residents can recall up to 100 brood mares stabled there early in the 20th century. The house known as The Diggings was where the stable lads and jockeys used to live.