Our story begins some 10.000 years ago when we have our first evidence of human settlement in Wogan's Cave under the castle and Catshole or Priory Farm Cave in Monkton. This was a time of climate change when a warmer, temperate climate melted the ice sheets which had made the land inhabitable and allowed life to flourish.

10,000 years ago - Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age

Then the landscape was not as we know it today. Britain was attached to the Continent and Pembroke was a long way from the sea (the coast would have been near the west coast of Ireland)

Pembroke River was therefore not tidal – what is now the estuary would have been a wooded river valley.


Modern coracle, very similar to earliest Stone Age boats

Boats on the River

People who lived in the caves would have made coracles, kayaks or canoes using a light wooden frame covered with hides for fishing and travel up and down the river.


Log boat


5.000 BC

Changes have occured: the sea level has risen to somewhere near present levels and Pembroke was now the head of of a tidal inlet.


Irish Curragh

Bronze Age 2,000 - 500  BC

By the end of the Stone Age the Beaker People came to Britain from Northern Europe. (We have evidence of important Bronze Age finds in the Priory Farm Cave). They were farmers and may well have had a settlement where Pembroke Castle now stands. 

This period would have seen greater activity on the Pembroke River: Trade and mining grew with the import of copper from Ireland and tin from Cornwall: the two metals from which bronze is made.


Iron Age: c800 BC

People developed the ability to smelt iron and make iron tools.  It was at this time that the hill forts would have been built. 

Boat building was becoming more sophisticated with the development of bronze tools.  Planked boats were developed and would have been used for trade around the coast and over to Ireland.


Iron and Rome

The Iron coincided with the arrival of the Celts from Europe. Groups of Celtic immigrants were next to settle here via the sea trading routes. The indications are that the Castle would have been the site of a fortified settlement.When the Romans occupied Britain from 43 AD, the local Celts (the Demetae) appear to have cooperated with Roman rule and there is no evidence of Roman occupation here.


The Roman fleet patrolled the Bristol Channel and possibly the Haven in

Their boats were planked vessels with oars and a single square sail.

The Celts would still have used simple coracles and curraghs on the rivers.


The Age of Saints

410 BC with the collapse of Roman rule, increasing barbarian attacks saw the Celts driven westwards during a time known commonly as the Dark Ages. But it was also the golden age of Celtic Christianity. The Pembrokeshire coast provided isolated places for the Celtic saints to land safely and they would have sailed up the Pembroke River to found religious settlements.  St Deiniol is one of the oldest sites and an early Christian site existed on what was later to become Monkton Priory.


The Vikings

We know the Vikiings were active in Milford Haven: in the winter of 877AD - the Viking Chief Hubba spent the winter here.  But, besides raiding, the Vikings set up trade routes and settled here. 

The familiar shape of a Viking ship


The coming of the Normans

We now enter more familiar ground as we enter the Early Middle Ages and the Norman Invasion. The year 1093 witnessed Arnulf de Montgomery sailing up the Pembroke River to found the first Norman fortress which was to become Pembroke Castle. 


The Normans were, like the Vikings, Norsemen.  Their ships were built along the same lines as can be seen in this detail from the Bayeux Tapestry.


The Normans successfully established themselves around the powerbase of Pembroke, driving out the native Welsh and establishing a colony of Flemings.


Mediaeval Port by George Lewis

The MIddle Ages : the growth of a prosperous port Pembroke town grew and prospered in the shadow of the castle. Granted a charter of privileges by Henry I and  Henry II , Pembroke gained sea trading monopoly. Under the terms of its charters, all merchant ships were required to report to the customs house in Pembroke making it the centre of trade for the whole of the Milford Haven Waterway.

Click to enlarge this artist's impression of the Mediaeval Port (from George Lewis' Town Hall Mural).



Pembroke and the Invasion of Ireland 

Ever thirsty for land their eyes turned westwards to Ireland. In 1171 Richard Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, assembled at Pembroke a massive fleet.  Said to consisit of 400 ships this was the largest gathering of warships ever to be seen on Milford Haven.  King Henry II himself visited Pembroke Castle prior to the invasion in the Autumn of 1171.



1369: Disaster Strikes


From the sea boats imported an unwanted cargo – bubonic plague! Pembroke suffured a huge death rate which devastated the town and wiped out whole families


Henry VII & The Wars of the Roses

Henry VII, born in Pembroke Castle, under the protection of his uncle Jasper Earl of Pembroke.


In 1471, beseiged by Yorkist forces, Henry escaped by sea to France. 1485 he returned, his ships landing at Dale. He became Henry VII after defeating Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth.

Henry VII by Daniel Hollway

Shipping in Tudor Times

artist George Lewis' impression of a Pembroke's busy Tudor Quay. 

Click on the picture to enlarge.


A Welsh King on the English throne might have meant renewed prosperity for Pembroke -   but this was not be

The Act of Union 1536 took away Pembroke’s Palatine status and brought to an end the Earldom. 

The Second Act of Union 1543 gave Haverfordwest county status & it effectively became the county town.

The ravages of war, loss of status & prestige meant 15th & 16th centuries were a period of decline for Pembroke.


Civil War and Destruction

After helping to secure a parliamentary victory, discontent with parliamentary rule led Pembroke, under its mayor John Poyer, to declare against Parliament.1648 Poyer delivered the first shots of the second civil war at Parliamentary troops


Pembroke under siege – Cromwell’s heavy seige guns were shipped up the river, brought ashore and mounted at Monkton where they bombarded the castle and town. Poyer surrendered 11th July 1648 and Pembroke Castle was left a ruin.


Oliver Cromwell by Daniel Holloway


Recovery and Prosperity

1660 the monarchy was restored and Charles II crowned. The history books write off Pembroke at this point - it no longer was to play a part in the affairs of the nation.  But, in fact, Pembroke’s fortunes did improve, benefiting from a general growth of trade in the Bristol Channe. Pembroke was again the major port on Milford Haven and trade was booming.



In the early 18th Century, Daniel Defoe wrote

“Here is the richest and …most flourishing town of all South Wales."


19th Century Decline

Pembroke’s fortunes took a down turn in the 19th Century.

Shipping had made Pembroke the largest and richest town in S Wales but now much maritime trade was taken by Haverfordwest & Milford:

the opening of the railway in 1866 resulted in the further decline of Pembroke’s shipping industry providing a much faster and easier way of transporting goods. 

The Coastal Trade continued well into the 20th Century .



The Kathleen and May at the North Quay


Modern Times In the mid 20th century ships finally stopped using the quay – the last to do so was the “The Kathleen & May” which continued trading up to 1960.


The end finally came in the 1970s when the Council constructed the barrage to create a permanent pond around the castle. Pembroke's maritime heritage has been almost obliterated and sadly this is still happening with the construction of modern flats on the North Quay and similar plans on the South Quay.


The old south quay












10,000 BC


Middle Stone Age



5,000 BC


New Stone Age


2,000 BC

Bronze Age


800 BC

Iron Age





43 AD


Roman Invasion of Britain



446 AD


Roman rule ends and the Dark Age descends. 

Also known as the
Age of Saints






877 AD

Viking Chief Hubba winteredin the




1066 AD -

Norman Conquest


1093 AD

Pembroke invaded

and the castle





1130 AD

Heny I grants Pembroke its 1st


1138 AD

Earldom of Pembroke created

1154 AD

Henry ii grants Pembroke's

2nd Charter



1171 AD

Invasion of

Ireland launched

from Pembroke

Henry II visits


1210 AD

John in Pembroke assembling a force at Kingsbridge en route to Ireland



1369 AD



1485 AD

Henry invades to

become Henry VII

after winning the

Battle of Bosworth


1485 AD






1509 AD

Henry VIII


1536 AD

1st Act of Union

End of Earldom

1543 AD

2nd Act of Union


given County




1603 AD




1st Civil War


2nd Civil War




Restoration of the




Recovery and Prosperity



Decline of the Port