A History of Fishguard
There is no better way to get to know a town than coming face to face with its history. As Steve Jobs famously said, “You cannot understand what is happening today without understanding what came before.” The stunning coastal town of Fishguard in Pembrokeshire has a rich history that never fails to enthral and endear its visitors, with a range of ancient landmarks that are as visually striking as they are intellectually fascinating.
“Wales is an ancient landscape with thousands of years of history… from stunning mountains and tranquil valleys to a varied and dramatic coastline plus plenty of charming towns and villages.” Says Just Go! Holidays. This is certainly true of Fishguard, an eclectic town steeped in history, which serves as the gateway to the only coastal National Park in Britain. Take a step back in time with us as we explore Fishguard’s past through the landmarks and historical sites still accessible to visitors today.
Fishguard Fort was built between the years of 1781 and 1785, in response to the threat of an attack from an American privateer known as the Black Prince. The attack was led by a Boston man, who had been commissioned by the United States government to launch attacks on Britain in an effort to achieve independence. A local ship from Fishguard was captured by the American Black Prince and held for ransom. However, the people of Fishguard held strong and refused to meet the demands for ransom. The result was an attack on Fishguard which damaged the church and a number of homes, though the Black Prince eventually retreated after the town fought back with cannon fire.
Following this, Fishguard Fort was constructed to prevent future attacks. It played a pivotal role in the French invasion of 1797, where cannon fire to warn the town of the arrival of the French convinced the invading forces to avoid Fishguard altogether. Instead, they landed further along the coast, and Fishguard remained safe and intact. The event is known as the ‘Last Invasion’, and is the only attack Fishguard Fort ever faced. Today at Fishguard Fort you can see a single gun battery, and a curtain wall with an opening. It occupies an incredible spot at the top of Castle Point, which enjoys stunning panoramic views across Fishguard Harbour. It is an idyllic location for a picnic, or to take in the fresh sea air.
Last Invasion Tapestry
The Last Invasion Tapestry was created in 1997 to commemorate the Last Invasion on the British mainland, which took place in 1797 by French forces under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte. The troops landed three miles along the coast from the town of Fishguard, following cannon fire from Fishguard Fort, and the apparent appearance of a large British army. In fact, what the French mistook for British soldiers was a group of women marching around in tall black hats and red shawls.
The story of the Last Invasion is told through scenes sewn into the tapestry, which took four years to complete by 80 local women. Like the famous Bayeux tapestry, it is 100 feet in length. It is displayed in the library in Fishguard Town Hall, in a purpose built gallery. This is an award-winning, internationally renowned tapestry, which is a must-see for visitors of Fishguard.
Jemima Nicholas and St. Mary’s Church
Jemima Nicholas is hailed as one of the heroines of the Last Invasion, and as such she has also been named as one of the most influential Welsh women in history. Jemima single-handedly rounded up a dozen French troops during the invasion and forced them to surrender with just a pitchfork as her weapon. Jemima was known at the time as ‘Jemima the Great’, and as thanks for her efforts she was rewarded with a lifetime pension. Jemima is depicted on the Last Invasion Tapestry, and there is a memorial stone at St. Mary’s Church for her in the centre of Fishguard town.
The church itself was built between the years of 1855 and 1857, replacing the previous church on the same site. It has seen additions over the years, including the construction of a balcony to accommodate fishermen who were stopping over in the town. It is open to visitors all year round, and is an important landmark for both historic and present day Fishguard.
Fishguard is proud of its heritage, and you might be fortunate enough to witness some of the events it organises within the local community to commemorate its rich past.
North Pembrokeshire Tours
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