Time for Tenby with Elm Grove Country House
23 April 2019
Tenby, and the wider county of Pembrokeshire are steeped in history from its origins as a 9th century settlement. The Norman invasion of south Wales prompted the town's growth as a major port and trading centre and it is rumoured to be the first place in Britain to see an orange brought in by ship through the harbour. Despite its fortifications Tenby was quickly absorbed into the new Norman territory that became known as 'little England beyond Wales'.
Tenby's Welsh name is Dinbych y Pysgod, which rather beautifully translates as 'the fortified town of little fishes'. It is built on a network of tunnels which began in the Middle Ages when Tenby was a busy market town and trading centre. Merchants built underground cellars and tunnels to store their goods, and over time the tunnels were linked to each other, creating a network of passageways, many of them running down to the harbour where goods were loaded and unloaded. The National Trust run the Tudor Merchants House in Tenby – allowing visitors to see what life was like.
These tunnels proved to be a lifesaving feature for 14-year-old Henry Tudor (father of Henry VIII) who was born in Pembroke Castle (8 miles away). He escaped from his enemies by hiding in the tunnels and then sneaking down to the harbour to board a ship taking him to safety in Brittany, France.
Jumping forward to the Victorian era Tenby became a destination for people keen to enjoy the health-giving benefits of its seaside location. The growth of the railways meant people could get to Tenby far quicker than ever before. People dressed in their finest apparel elegantly strolled where they could see and be seen by other members of polite society – the esplanade in Tenby and Lexdon Terrace on the way down to the harbour has some wonderful examples of grand Victorian houses. Walks were created linking Castle Hill to the major beaches. On the slope of Castle Hill, a bandstand was built for outdoor concerts. Later in the Victorian period, a striking monument to Prince Albert was erected on the top of Castle Hill, within the medieval castle walls.
With its beautifully coloured houses surrounding the harbour and lining the sea fronts it’s easy to see why Tenby has become known as the Napoli of Britain. Any one who has visited that beautiful part of Italy will see the resemblance.