Almost seeming in a time-warp, the little market town of Narberth has carved a special niche for itself as a unique commercial community of small, select and unusual shops which have preserved its old-world charm and set it apart from the frenetic world of supermarkets and out-of-town shopping.
Compactly clustered in its High Street and in the quaint alleys branching off it, Narberth has reinvented itself in such a way that shoppers flock there from all over South Wales, their accents contrasting sharply with the local brogue. Visitors will also hear Welsh spoken in the streets and the shops, for Narberth, with its ruined medieval castle, lies on the Landsker Line, the invisible border between the Anglicized south of th county and the Welshery in the north. This is a legacy of the Norman invasion when the rich, flat corn-growing south was seized by the Conqeror’s men and the Welsh retreated to the hilly, less productive territory in the north. The Landsker is marked to this day by a line of Norman castles, from Roch in the north-west to Amroth in the south-east. The town features in ancient Welsh folklore recorded in the Mabinogion, a series of tales of magic and sorcery which have been handed down throughought the ages. Narberth was indeed an important centre in olden days and the seat of government of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed. The exterior and interior architecture of Narberth’s Georgian and Victorian buildings has been painstakingly preserved to give the town a distinctive atmosphere, entirely removed from those towns which have surrendered to modern corporate invasion. As shopping centre Narberth has everything going for it; a wide variety of select, often exclusive, merchandise which includes antiques, art, jewellery, clothing, all manner of tourist goods and gifts, fresh foodstuffs, excellent butchers, delicatessen, ironmongery, stationery, footwear, a pharmacy, several good eating places, an award-winning museum, florist, grocery and greengrocery, and all this within easy reach of kerbside and off-street parking.
There is always something going on in the Queen’s Hall and the lively and enterprising business folk and populace are forever staging festivals, carnivals, concerts and other attractions to entertain and maintain the interest of the thousands of people who shop there throughout the year. And so far it has managed to resist overtures to allow larger scale out-of-town development, which it is feared could sound the death knell of this bijou Market town with the magic touch.
It sounds paradoxical, but Narberth has ensured it is different by simply remaining the same. And this formula has paid dividends, for the visitors keep coming from all corners of South and West Wales and what is more important, they keep coming back year after year. It seems Narberth has inherited some of the magic and sorcery for which Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, made it famous a millennium ago!