Coppet Hall Beach
Coppet Hall is situated on the northern end of Saundersfoot Beach and that corner of the village’s golden sands is known locally as Coppet Hall beach.
Here the 170-mile-long Pembrokeshire National Park Coastal Footpath takes a rather unusual route through a tunnel from two former horizontal mineshafts or adits towards the coastal villages of Wiseman’s Bridge and Amroth. Children love this tunnel which seems to take them from one magical world to another, leaving a long stretch of golden sand behind, with another stretch of rocky shore before they reach the next golden beach at Wiseman’s Bridge. These features are legacies of the coal, iron and fireclay industries which once flourished here at the eastern extremity of the Pembrokeshire coalfield, which stretches all the way west to St Brides Bay.
The Pembrokeshire anthracite was top quality smokeless coal, shiny and clean as precious stones. You could handle it without getting your fingers black and it was prized throughout the country as far back as the Elizabethand era. Coppet Hall was by far the busiest area before Saundersfoot harbour was built, for it was there to which beach coal was hauled by means of a track from pits near the church of St Issells a few hundred yards up the valley. At the beginning of the 19th century, the local historian and author, Roscoe Howells, wrote that the carts were pulled down to the boats beached on the sands by an unusual combination of two oxen and two horses. For generations after this well-worn track was abandoned its cinder surface remained, giving this popular footpath its name of The Black Walk. It is still marked thus on modern maps. The track at that time ran along the side of a marsh which was drained and reclaimed to form the present-day Coppet Hall Meadow, by in-filling with waste from the colliery, and diverting the stream from the mill to a culvert which emerged on the beach. The name Coppet Hall is believed locally to have been derived from the words ‘coalpit haul’ as there is no grand house nearer than Hean Castle overlooking it to the north.This theory is confirmed by the inscription on one of the tombstones in St Issell’s churchyard. The original coal workings were level or slanted excavations from which the anthracite was removed near the surface; virtually an early form of opencast.The miners worked by candlelight with pick axes and shovels, labouring 12 hours a day less one hour from noon for a meal of bread and beer. It was not until the 19th century that the coal was worked by deep mines which extended perilously under the sea at both ends of the coalfield. The weight of the water above the shallower mines at high tide caused shaft collapses, such as happened in the Daucleddau Estuary at the Garden Pit near Landshipping in the mid 1840s with the tragic loss of many lives of both adults and children.