People who shaped Haverfordwest
Haverfordwest Civic Society has a longstanding tradition of publishing, from time to time, books that address different aspects of the history of Haverfordwest and surrounding area. They have always proved to be successful. The latest of these is a volume by historian Mark Muller entitled People Who Shaped Haverfordwest. Written as part of the Society’s celebrations of the town’s 900 year celebrations in 2010, it provides mini biographies on men and women who had an influence on the town over many centuries. The main outlet for this book is through Victoria Bookshop in Bridge Street where owner Marley Davies continues with unrivalled generosity to pass on all of the sales monies to the Society. He has recently described it as a ‘best seller’ and the University of the Third Age has issued a review describing it as a ‘little gem’. The price is £9.95.
There follow a few abridged highlights from the book and a line-up of portraits of a small selection of Haverfordwest luminaries.
Sir John Perrot
Sir John Perrot was born and bred in Pembrokeshire and through his stepfather, a gentleman usher in King Henry VIII's chamber, was presented at court age 21.
He lived during politically turbulent times and fell in and out of favour with several regents. His flamboyant and quarrelsome nature got him into difficulties on several occasions. Eventually he returned to the county and held several positions of power in Haverfordwest, including mayor, but was soon sent to Ireland on several appointments. Intrigue was a way of life then, and his political enemies accused him of treason. Perhaps his description of the queen as 'a base, bastard, pissing, kitchen woman' barred him from any last reprieve. In any event, he cheated the executioner by dying in the Tower before the appointed time.
Many myths prevailed about Perrot, from being the illegitimate son of Henry the VIII to his involvement in piracy. One thing is for sure, however, he was a colourful and larger than life character who remains in our awareness to this day.
General Sir Thomas Picton
One of the more controversial characters of the past is Haverfordwest born General Sir Thomas Picton, who's epithet "The Tyrant of Trinidad" only hints at the brutality for which he was known during his six years as Governor, even in his own, harsher time. He would stand trial later on several counts of misconduct, including the torture of a thirteen year old girl. However, his code of justice extended to all, regardless of creed - he had one of his own soldiers executed for the rape of a Negro woman, a penalty unheard of then.
Whatever his conduct in the colonies, Picton was a brave soldier who would lead his men into battle despite the risk to his own life. He came from a military family and fought in many campaigns. After his return from Trinidad his last campaign was at Waterloo under Wellington. There, a bullet to his temple killed him as he charged the French enemy, roaring to his Scottish troops 'Rally the Highlanders!'. As such he played his part in the shaping of not only the history of Haverfordwest but that of Britain as a whole.
Of all the people who shaped Haverfordwest, William Owen was one of the few who did so literally and substantially. Owen was the son of a cabinet maker and went on to become an architect. He designed much of the familiar Victorian Haverfordwest that can still be seen today. He built such landmarks as the New Bridge, which he also financed, and the Shire Hall as well as entire imposing terraces like Victoria Place. Not content to change the physical shape of Haverfordwest, Owen was also a four times mayor of the town and left his mark beyond bricks and mortar.