History of Newport
Newport /Trefdraeth is a very attractive and busy small town at the foot of Carn Ingli (Angel Mountain) in the north of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It is on an estuary teaming with birds, with beaches on either side. There are sand dunes, moorland, marshland and ancient woodlands nearby and lots of excellent pubs, cafes and restaurants. It is loved by locals and the visitors who return every year. The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path runs along the coast through Newport and many hikers stay in Newport’s Youth Hostel on their journey walking the length of the coastal path. There is also an 18 hole golf course.
The History of Newport
Newport includes the ancient port of Parrog at the mouth of the River Nevern/Afon Nyfer. The Parrog at the seafront has beaches, water activities, a bar and restaurants.
Originally there was a small settlement on the estuary of the River Nevern. During the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age (9000-4500 BC) on the banks of the River Nevern the people knapped flint to make tools for hunting and fishing. It later became known as Trefdraeth – the town or place on the sand/shore. Alongside the river, there was a flat piece of land called Rhyd Barrog, and later called Parrog.
Following the death of the ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth, Rhys ap Tewdwr, his lands were seized by the Normans. Most of Northern Dyfed was taken by Martin de Turribus, who became the first Marcher Lord of Kemes. His seat was at Nevern Castle, which passed to his son, Robert FitzMartin. In 1197, Robert’s son, William FitzMartin abandoned Nevern, founded Newport as the new capital of the Marcher Lordship of Cemais and constructed Newport Castle.
Despite its seizure from the native Welsh, Trefdraeth remained within the FitzMartin family until the death of William, the 2nd Lord Martin, who died without a male heir in 1326.
Newport Castle sits on a spur of Carn Ingli overlooking Newport and much of the surrounding countryside. Today it is a private house, incorporating the castle walls, which face over the town, the bay and the Irish Sea.
Newport appears prominently on the 1578 parish map of Pembrokeshire as a marcher borough. In 1603 it was one of five Pembrokeshire boroughs overseen by a portreeve (a representative of the people to ensure that their duties to the mayor and community were fulfilled). Today Newport retains some of the borough customs such as electing a mayor, who beats the bounds on horseback every August.
There is a long maritime history centred on the Parrog. It’s thought the quay was built in 1566 and traded with Bristol, North Wales, Ireland. Newport rivalled Fishguard’s maritime trade.
Although the dangerous bar across the mouth of the river handicapped development, Parrog was sheltered from the prevailing west winds by Dinas Head and became an important centre for merchant shipping, shipbuilding and associated trades.
Between 1760 and 1840 some 50 vessels were built, originally using wood from the Llwyngwair estate and later importing timber from Nova Scotia and the Baltic. The first vessel built is believed to have been the 22 ton sloop Ann and Mary built in 1762. The busiest period was the 1810s when 15 vessels were launched.
The last vessel to be built is thought to be the schooner Martha. Because of the demand for larger ships and problems with the bar, no vessels were built after 1845 and some shipbuilders moved to other county ports.
Forty ships are known to have traded from Newport before 1875. At high water, ships tied up at the quay walls and at low water they unloaded on the beach, either into horse-drawn carts or, for some cargoes such as limestone, by dumping on the beach for collection later.
They brought coal, bricks, timber, wine, salt and guano as well as limestone and exported anthracite, slates, herrings, agricultural products and wool. In the 1900’s, the Parrog would have still been a working harbour with large vessels coming in at high tide.
As road communications improved and with the introduction of the railways, sea traffic declined. Today Parrog is a very different place but still shows signs of its history, including some of the old quay walls and two former lime kilns. Nowadays there are moorings for small craft, holiday lets and restaurants. At low tide you can cross the estuary on foot to the big beach Traeth Mawr.
From the Parrog there are two beaches, a golf course across the estuary, a surf club, camping grounds and sailing. Newport Boat Club, with a restaurant and bar, is housed in a warehouse dating back to the time when Parrog was a busy port.
Farming plays a major role in the life of Newport largely based on dairy, sheep and food crops. Tourism has grown to become a major part of the economy and a large proportion of the houses are now holiday homes.
Trefdraeth is a vibrant community with lots going on and many restaurants, shops, pubs, galleries, church, chapels, a school and a street market. There is an amazing range of events, community groups and activities and visitors are welcomed as they return every year to enjoy and learn about this wonderful Town.