Archaeological evidence shows that the later Romans had a presence in Pembrokeshire. Excavations carried out in the 1980s prove that a Roman road existed, running west out of Carmarthen, to a point just north of Haverfordwest. More recently a Roman fort has been found in the village of Wiston.
There followed a period when Welsh and Irish interests merged followed by the presence of the Vikings who established settlements in and around what was to become Haverfordwest.
The town took on an established form with the arrival of the Normans and Flemings in the early 12th century. (In 2010 Haverfordwest celebrated its 900th anniversary). The Flemings were relocated here partly from their homeland in Flanders (modern Belgium/Netherlands), after experiencing severe flooding, and partly from various parts of England where they had already been given land as a reward by William the Conqueror for acting as mercenaries during the Battle of Hastings.
For over a century after their arrival, the Flemings and their Norman overlords found their new town being repeatedly attacked by the Welsh, and Haverfordwest was burned up to the castle walls more than once.
The consequences of the Flemings in their adoption of English language and culture rather than Welsh, are still felt today with the southern half of Pembrokeshire becoming known as ‘Little England beyond Wales’ as early as the 16th century.
The Flemings were as equally good at trading and farming as they were at fighting, ensuring that the town was a success from the start and records from 1324 suggest that Haverfordwest was the most successful town in Wales and the same size as Cardiff.
Not long after the date of these records, this town suffered the same fate as the whole of Europe and in 1349 probably half of the population became a victim of the plague virus known as The Black Death.
In 1479 a Charter was granted to the town by Edward, Prince of Wales, (uncrowned Edward V), who remains famous to us as one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’. The Charter granted County Corporate status to the town which established it as a county in its own right within the county of Pembrokeshire and enabled the forming of a Borough Council with its own Sheriff, a right granted to only fifteen towns in England and Wales and shared in Wales only by Carmarthen.
That which follows is a comprehensive tour of this history soaked town. It will take a minimum of two hours but there are short cuts available as you progress, allowing you to pause and come back to it. Some of the stopping points have Blue Plaques, (placed by Haverfordwest Civic Society in conjunction with Haverfordwest Town Council which you are encouraged to read), some not and in some places there are plaques that have become redundant with modernisation or demolition having taken place.
For younger visitors (or older ones) there is a Quiz as you make your way around. It isn’t hard or compulsory.
Click on the button below for a map with the sites and routes for the Heritage Trail.
Make your way to the New Bridge and stand facing the High Street.