Tenby is a popular holiday resort in south west Wales with its walled old town with brightly coloured houses, harbour overlooked by a ruined castle and four sandy beaches.
Add in a tidal island with a C19th fort (#4) and Caldey Island with its monastery, what more could you want?
Pembrokeshire has been described as “Little England beyond Wales” as the area was settled by the Normans in the early C12th. It still feels more English than Welsh, with the population speaking English rather than Welsh. It was only since the passing of the Welsh Language Act in 1993 that bilingual signs became common.
The Normans built a castle in Tenby on the high point of the headland above the harbour in around 1090 and a settlement grew up under the protection of the castle. Tenby became a major sea port under Norman control.
Over the next one hundred years, Tenby was attacked several times by the Welsh. Following the destruction of the town by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd in 1260, a defensive stone wall with towers and gates was built. Later, a barbican (the Five Arches) was added to provide extra defence to the main gateway into the town.
The walls were strengthened and improved several times and still remain as some of the best preserved medieval walls in Britain. The best-preserved section of the town wall is from South Beach along St Florence Parade and South Parade with the five Arches Barbican as the only surviving gateway.
By the C15th the castle was no longer a place of residence and was abandoned by the C15th. Now only part of the keep and barbican to Castle Hill (#3) survive.
During the English Civil War, Tenby declared for Parliament. After fierce fighting, it was taken by the Royalist army, only to be retaken a few weeks later by the Parliamentarians. An outbreak of plague killed half the population in 1650.
With limited infrastructure, resources and people, the town's economy fell into decline. Most of the merchant and business class left, resulting in the town's decay and ruin. By the end of the 18th century, John Wesley noted during his visit how: "Two-thirds of the old town is in ruins or has entirely vanished. Pigs roam among the abandoned houses and Tenby presents a dismal spectacle”.
At the start of the C18th, the Napoleonic Wars prevented the wealthy classes from doing the grand tour. In 1802 a local resident, merchant banker and politician, Sir William Paxton, bought his first property in the old town. He invested heavily in the area with the full approval of the town council. He even had a Private Act of Parliament passed that enabled fresh water to be piped through the town.
With the growth in saltwater sea-bathing for health purposes, Paxton engaged engineer James Grier and architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell to create a "fashionable bathing establishment suitable for the highest society." His sea-bathing baths came into operation in July 1806 and, after acquiring the Globe Inn, transformed it into "a most lofty, elegant and convenient style" to lodge the more elegant visitors to his baths. Cottages were erected adjoining the baths with adjoining livery stables and coach house.
The Market Hall was completed in 1829 and an upper storey added in 1860 when it became the Town Hall.
The railway arrived in 1863 bringing more visitors. Tenby was back on the map again.