Tenby

Picturesque Tenby has been a favourite subject for artists down the centuries and it has also been the home of a few.

The rumbustious Augustus John was born there, his sister Gwen, though born in Haverfordwest, lived there and the 18th century artist and historian Charles Norris lived there and produced the earliest pictures of what it was like two centuries ago.

A walk around the town gives the discerning observer glimpses of how it developed, how its fortunes waxed and waned and how the emphasis gradually changed from trade to tourism.

The stout town walls, with their towered gates, are reminders of how strongly and readily defended the wealthy medieval town was, sited on its peninsula. The imposing church of St Mary’s also speaks of the wealth and piety of its citizens, its lofty spire serving as a beacon for the many ships which brought in merchandise and took a future monarch to exile.

The tall Victorian and Georgian villas which serve as a backcloth to its busy harbour, are pastel-shaded witnesses to its status as a fashionable watering place for the well to do and later the bucket and spade brigade, who have boosted its economy for the last century or so.

Visitors seeing Tenby for the first time are impressed by its beautiful setting and seemingly stage managed lay-out, which suggest that some Capability Brown of coastal landscaping planned it, rather than it being the result of gradual development down the ages.

Ancient Stone Age hunters were the first people to appreciate its location when their forested domain stretched far out into Camarthen Bay. Tree stumps of the sunken forest and the bones of their prey found in caves at Hoyle’s Mouth in the Ritec Valley and on Caldey Island give clues to their peregrinations and their tough existence.

The other ages left their mark in the form of burial chambers and promontory forts. The Vikings came leaving place names like Caldey and Goskar behind and the early Christians left their 6th to 10th century burial crosses on Caldey and at Penally.

A visit to Tenby Museum on Castle Hill opens a window to all these things, giving pointers to those who wish to visit ancient sites and see old buildings. The 135-year-old award-winning Museum is the oldest independent Museum in Wales and the range of its exhibits and collections reflects the zeal of generations of local people and visiting experts. Its Art Gallery displays the works of Augustus and Gwen John, Charles Norris, John Piper, Kyffyn Williams, David Jones, Ray Howard-Jones and many other artists who have captured the image of Tenby for posterity. There is more to Tenby than golden sand and spectacular scenery.

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