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Pembroke Castle (SM 982015): During the winter of 1642-3, shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, the mighty castle of Pembroke was seized for Parliament by the town mayor John Poyer. He probably also aware that whoever held Pembroke could also control the sea crossing to Ireland, where large number of royalist troops were fighting the Irish rebels. It was vital that these regiments should not be brought into Wales to swell the numbers of the King’s supporters. Accordingly Poyer, ‘with a loose rabble of the meaner sort of the Town, got into the Castle...’ and for the next three years held it in defiance of the royal authority. Pembroke, together with Lamphey Palace, was the only major Parliamentary garrison in West Wales.


Poyer’s position was strengthened by the arrival of Roland Laugharne and Rice Powell, two Pembrokeshire landowners with military experience. Nevertheless, there were times when the survival of the garrison seemed doubtful, were it not for the support of the Parliamentary navy, which brought in injections of men and supplies.


By 1644, Poyer and Laugharne felt confident enough to challenge the royalist strongholds dotted across’ Pembrokeshire. Between January and March of that year the great houses as Stackpole and Trefloyne, the castles of Roch and Carew and the towns of Haverfordwest and Tenby had all fallen to a combined land and naval force led by Roland Laugharne.


This apparently unstoppable advance shuddered to a halt in June 1644 when Colonel Charles Gerard marched into west Wales with a regiment of foot and horse. Laugharne was forced to withdraw to Pembroke and Tenby and it was only when Gerard was recalled to England after the king’s forces were defeated in Yorkshire that Laugharne and Poyer were able to re-establish their authority.


Using Pembroke as a base, the Parliamentary troops were able to capture Cardigan and to range as far afield as mid-Wales. In April 1645, Laugharne was besieging Newcastle Emlyn when he was attacked and routed by Colonel Gerard, who had returned to west Wales after a forced march from England. The royalists were able to pen Laugharne’s soldiers into Tenby and Pembroke, whilst mopping up the other enemy garrisons across the county. This was a time of crisis for Pembroke and its inhabitants. It seemed likely that a prolonged siege would take place and Gerard was already constructing a gun battery on the Pembroke River to prevent help arriving by sea.


Hurried preparations were made to defend the town. Documentary evidence exists that houses close to the town walls were demolished to create a clear field of fire for the defenders. Although the locations of the buildings are uncertain, it is probable that they stood outside the town’s great East Gate or near the walls running along the present Goose’s Lane. There is also archaeological evidence that at some time in the Civil War a wall was built along the South Quay, between the modern Royal George Inn and the castle, a location where according to Speed’s map of 1611, one had not previously existed.


Fortunately for Pembroke, history again repeated itself. The royalists were defeated at Naseby in June 1645 and Gerard was recalled to England. Moving out of Pembroke, Laugharne defeated Pembrokeshire’s remaining royalists at Colby Moor near Haverfordwest and Parliament became supreme in South Wales.


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