Manorbeer (Maenor-Bŷr) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
MANORBEER (MAENOR-BŶR), a parish, in the hundred of Castlemartin, union and county of Pembroke, South Wales, 4� miles (W. S. W.) from Tenby; containing 691 inhabitants. The name of this place is of very doubtful etymology: Giraldus Cambrensis, who was born here, calls it, in his Itinerary, Maenor Pyrr, which he interprets "the mansion of Pyrrus," who, he says, also possessed the neighbouring island of Caldey. According to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the name literally signifies "the manor of the lords," and appears to be derived from its occupation by the lords of Dyved, who were also proprietors of Caldey island. By whom the castle was originally built has not been ascertained with any degree of accuracy; it probably owed its foundation to William de Barri, one of the Norman lords that accompanied Arnulph de Montgomery into Britain, and who married the granddaughter of Rhys ab Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales. The castle and manor remained in the possession of that family till the 1st of Henry IV., when they were bestowed upon John de Windsor, but afterwards reverting to the crown, they were, in consideration of a large sum of money, granted by letters patent to Thomas ab Owain of Trellwyn, from whose family they passed by marriage into the family of Philipps, the present owners.
Giraldus, in his notices of this place, quaintly says, "Demetia is the most beautiful, as well as the most powerful, district in Wales; Pembroke, that is the present hundred of Castlemartin, the finest province in Demetia, and the place I have described (Maenorbeer) the most delightful part of Pembroke." The parish is situated on the small bay to which it gives name in the Bristol Channel, and within two miles to the south of the turnpike-road leading from Tenby to Pembroke; the sea bounds it on the south, and in other directions it is surrounded by the parishes of Penalley, St. Florence, and Hodgeston. It contains by admeasurement 3464 acres, of which 2855 are meadow and pasture, 450 arable, and the remainder common and waste. A great portion of the parish lies on the side of the hill along which the main road from Tenby to Pembroke winds, and being so immediately on the coast it is almost entirely destitute of timber; but the situation of the village is singularly picturesque, and in consequence of its contiguity to the sea and the ruins of the castle, it is much frequented by visitors. There are excellent limestone-quarries in Lydstep bay, where a very considerable number of hands are employed, the stone being shipped during the summer months in great quantities by vessels belonging to other parts of Wales, and to North Devon: vessels of 130 tons' burthen can ride in security at Lydstep. Some indications of coal have been observed, but the attempts to work it have not been attended with success. The sands on this part of the coast are fine, especially at Lydstep haven, where they are well adapted for sea-bathing; and the beauty of its situation, and its convenient distance from Tenby, render this a favourite excursion from that wateringplace. There are two small villages in the parish, called Jamestown and Manorbeer-Newton.
The living is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at �8, endowed with �600 royal bounty and �1400 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Master and Fellows of Christ's College, Cambridge, who are proprietors of the great tithes. The church, dedicated to St. James, is an ancient structure in the Norman and early English styles of architecture, consisting of a nave and two aisles, with a lofty embattled tower. Some years ago, the accommodation was increased by the erection of a gallery, containing ninety sittings, the cost of which was in part defrayed by the Incorporated Society; the chancel, also, underwent considerable repair, at the expense of the patrons. In 1847, this gallery, which filled up the west end of the nave, was removed, and open seats of oak were substituted, at the expense of Mr. E. Wilson, of Lydstep House; who also provided means for the removal of a square sash-window at the west end, and the erection, instead, of a three-light early English window. On the south side of the church is a large edifice, which was in all probability connected with it, but its history is unknown; it may have been a chantry or grange, or even some distinct religious house. It has been converted into a convenient schoolroom, capable of containing from eighty to ninety children, having been presented for that purpose by the patrons; and the school is rapidly improving, chiefly through the exertions of the vicar, the Rev. Henry Hughes: it is both a day and Sunday school. There are places of worship for dissenters.
Manorbeer Castle, distinguished as the birthplace, and for some time the residence, of the celebrated Silvester Giraldus de Barri, better known as Giraldus Cambrensis, is still an object of great attraction. The remains occupy an elevated site above the small bay of Manorbeer, of which the castle had full command. They consist principally of portions of the state apartments, whose windows faced a spacious court, the whole being inclosed with lofty embattled walls, the platforms of which are in some places still entire; the grand entrance, through a gateway flanked with two bastions, of which that on the north side has fallen down; two portcullises; and the moat, which may be distinctly traced. This castle is perhaps the most perfect model of a Norman baron's residence now remaining in the principality, having never experienced the ravages of enemies, or suffered from modern innovations. On Oldcastle Point, to the east of Manorbeer bay, are the remains of an ancient encampment of small dimensions, probably of Danish origin.
Giraldus Cambrensis was born about the year 1146, and was educated under his uncle, then Bishop of St. David's, who sent him to France for the completion of his studies. On his return to England he embraced holy orders, and rose rapidly to distinction in the Church; he held successively the office of legate in Wales to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the office of Archdeacon of St. David's. He was afterwards chosen Bishop of St. David's; but the king, fearing to raise to that dignity a man of such talent and influence in the principality, and one so nearly allied to the native princes, his mother having been granddaughter of Rhŷs ab Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales, refused to confirm his election. He attended Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, on his mission to preach the crusades throughout Wales; and, during the absence of Richard I. in the Holy Land, was one of the members of the regency. Being again denied the bishopric of St. David's, to which he had been a second time elected, and in the hope of which he had successively refused various other sees, and the archbishopric of Cashel in Ireland, he retired from public office into Wales, where he spent the last seventeen years of his life, devoted entirely to literary pursuits. He died at St. David's, at the age of seventy-four, and was interred in the cathedral church of that place, where his monument still remains. His writings were numerous, and many of them are still extant; his Itinerary, by which he is best known, was reprinted in quarto by the late Sir, Richard Colt Hoare, with an elegant English version, accompanied by notes and a catalogue of his writings, with a reference to the several works in which they are preserved.