Bartholomew Roberts, also known as Black Bart or Barti Ddu, came from Little Newcastle – a village just a few miles from this hotel, in the foothills of the Preseli Mountains. He went on to raid over 400 ships in the Caribbean, going down in pirate history for his audacity.
You can see a memorial to the man on Little Newcastle’s village green. And he’s not the only renowned pirate to have come from Pembrokeshire…
Maybe that shouldn’t be such a surprise – the county’s surrounded on three sides by 200 miles of wonderfully wild coastline that today creates a natural playground for walkers, climbers, coasteerers and kayakers.
In the past it was more useful for concealing anyone wanting to keep their ‘import’ business hidden, or for catching unsuspecting vessels on its rocks. “Wrecking”, the gathering of any booty shed by a shipwreck, was a regular feature of Pembrokeshire life and it’s suggested that wreckers actively worked to lure passing vessels to their doom by using onshore lanterns to confuse them.
Even the more inland communities relied on the bounty of the coast and, in medieval times, the men of Wolfscastle would be “summoned by a horn” to head to the sea shore, should news of a wreck reach the village. Sometimes it was a risky business for local wreckers: One day back in 1791, a ship carrying condemned gunpowder ran aground at Druidston, but when drunk looters started throwing gunpowder over the side of the ship they triggered massive explosions, taking many to a nasty end.
Perhaps it was growing up surrounded by such activity that gave Pembrokeshire’s youth its taste for piracy? Whatever the reason, their searoving deeds were hard to quash. Queen Elizabeth 1st tried and failed to end lawlessness along the coastline, as did many before and after her, but it wasn’t until the Napoleonic Wars, when Navy ships began patrols along the coastline, that Pembrokeshire’s age of piracy finally came to an end.
These rogues and chancers still hold a fascination for us. And, although you’re unlikely to spot the Jolly Roger being hoisted, or find a treasure on the shoreline, and although us locals have channeled their energies into more peaceful pursuits, Pembrokshire’s beautiful countryside and coastline remains as wild as it ever was – come down and explore!
Photo (C) Word Waiter PR – Pembrokeshire.