Welsh Icons - Towns & Villages






The Norman church of St Brynach. Photograph © Janice Lane

Nevern (Welsh: Nanhyfer) is a small village of just a few houses in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It lies in the valley of the River Nevern close to the Preseli Hills of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park east of Newport.

Nevern Parish Church
The Norman church of St Brynach is on the site of St Brynach's 6th century "clas", an important ecclesiastical centre. At the time when it is said that Dyfed had seven bishops, this was probably the seat of one. Except for the castellated tower, perilously undercut by the adjacent river Caman, most of the original Norman structure of the present building has been rebuilt. The church and churchyard are remarkable for the Celtic Cross and several inscribed stones. The Nevern Cross on the south side of the church dates from the 10th or early 11th century. It consists of two sections fitted together with a mortice and tenon joint, both cut from the local dolerite. It has classic braided decorations and inscriptions reading "dns" on one side and "h.an.eh" on the other. Nearby is the Vitalianus Stone, dating from around 500 AD, inscribed in Latin "VITALIANI EMERTO" and in Ogham "vitaliani". In the Henllys Chapel in the south transept, two inscribed stones are set into the window sills. The Maglocunus Stone is inscribed in Latin "MAGLOCUNI FILI CLUTORI" and in Ogham "maglicunas maqi clutar.." and is of the 5th or early 6th century. The Braided Cross is of the early 10th century. The churchyard also contains a "bleeding yew" that leaks red sap at certain times of the year. George Owen is buried here, and he is commemorated by a plaque in the Henllys Chapel.

Nevern Castle
Little remains of this now. It was the original headquarters of the Normans in the Lordship of Cemais, built on the hill above the village by Robert fitz Martin around 1108. The castle was destroyed and Robert expelled during the rebellion of 1136. His son, William fitz Martin, regained both Nevern and Cemais via a marriage to a daughter of Rhys ap Gruffydd but was in turn driven out by Rhys about 1189. In 1197 William founded the nearby town of Newport, and transferred the headquarters of the Lordship to Newport castle. Nevern castle then ceased to be important.

Other Features
There is a Pilgrim's Cross cut into the rock on the roadside between the village and the castle. The Pentre Ifan cromlech and the Castell Henllys hillfort are in the parish, each about 2 miles from Nevern village as the crow flies. Nevern is slightly more than 2 miles from the small town of Newport.

The parish of Nevern was the largest in Pembrokeshire (5963 Ha), and was divided into four "quarters": Crugiau, Morfa, Trewern and Cilgwyn. Cilgwyn extends to the far side of the Preseli hills. The church is in Crugiau Quarter. It was a marcher borough. Owen, in 1603, described it as one of nine Pembrokeshire "boroughs in decay".

 Pubs/Bars in Nevern:
 Trewern Arms
       SA42 0NB
 01239 820395

Pentre Ifan Nr Nevern. Photograph © Pembroke Dave

Nevern - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
NEVERN, a parish, in the union of Cardigan, hundred of Kemmes, county of Pembroke, South Wales, 2 miles (E. N. E.) from Newport, and 8 (S. W. by W.) from Cardigan, the post-town; containing 1625 inhabitants. The name is derived from the river Nevern, so called from the Welsh Niver, "a number," on account of its being formed by the union of numerous rivulets that intersect the parish, and flow together in one considerable stream into St. George's Channel. Martin de Tours, a Norman knight, who, having attended William the Conqueror, was rewarded for his service by a grant of territory on the coast of Devonshire, embarked an expedition for the invasion of such parts of the principality as he might find most easily assailable, and landing his troops at Fishguard, made himself master of the lordship of Kemmes. For the protection of his newly acquired territory, which became one of the lordships marcher, he either erected a fortress at this place, or strengthened one previously built, which he made his residence, and which descended to his son William. The latter, however, having strengthened his interest by marrying the daughter of Rhŷs ab Grufydd, abandoned this seat of his father's, called Llanhyvor Castle, of which there are some remains on a hill above the church, for one that he had built on a more magnificent scale at Newport.

The parish is very large, extending from the foot of the Percelly mountains to the shore of Cardigan bay. It lies in a beautifully diversified and fertile district, and comprehends some of the most romantic scenery in the county of Pembroke, being intersected by a deep wooded dingle, along which flows the Nevern, whose banks are occasionally formed into rocks of fantastic character, while in the lower part, near Newport bay, stands the village: the prospects from the higher grounds are also pleasing and extensive. The road from Newport to Cardigan passes near Nevern, and the greater portion of the parish is inclosed and cultivated: the total area is 14,522a. 13p. The coast is generally bold, and in some parts precipitous, with a good depth of water close to the shore. There were formerly several ancient mansions, inhabited by some of the most opulent families in the county; but nearly all of them have been abandoned by their proprietors, and are at present in the occupation of tenants. Llwyngwair is an elegant mansion, pleasantly situated on the margin of the river Nevern, and within about a mile of its mouth. Among the other seats are Burry, Cwmgloyn, and HênllŷMoor - Mynwere ;s; the last was once the residence of the ancient lords of Kemmes, and of that distinguished antiquary and scholar, George Owen, lord of Kemmes, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I.

The living is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £8, and in the patronage of the Lord Chancellor; present net income, £174, with a glebehouse: the impropriation belongs to Mrs. Atwood. The advowson, which was appendant to the lordship of Kemmes, was alienated by deed, bearing date 1347, to Bishop Hoton, who appropriated it to his new college of St. Mary at St. David's, from which, on the suppression of religious houses, it reverted to the crown. The church is said to have been originally founded in the sixth century, by St. Brynach, or Byrnach, to whom it is dedicated, and to have been rebuilt by some of the Norman lords of Kemmes: the present is an ancient and venerable structure, in the Norman style of architecture. In the churchyard, to the south of the porch, is an ancient British cross, elaborately wrought, and bearing two inscriptions: the shaft consists of a single stone, thirteen feet high, two feet four inches broad, and one foot seven inches thick; it is increased in height by a circular top, a separate piece of stone, marked with a cross, and is carved on all sides with ornaments and knots of various shapes. On the north side of the churchyard was another stone, six feet high, with the inscription "Vitatiani Emeriti," but this has been for some time removed. In the chapelry of Kîlgwyn, in the parish, is a chapel of ease, dedicated to St. Mary; and there are places of worship in the parish for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic Methodists. Nine Sunday schools are held, two of them in connexion with the Established Church. Mr. William Rogers, of Kensington, bequeathed £800 in the three per cents. to the poor, the dividends arising from which, amounting to £24 per annum, are annually distributed according to the will, in barley and beef, on the 21st of December. Near Pentre Evan, in the parish, are the remains of one of the largest cromlechs in the principality; the table-stone is eighteen feet in length and nine feet wide, and is supported on two or three coarse upright stones, varying from seven to eight feet high. It is considered not to be surpassed in size by any other Druidical monument in Wales, except the cromlech at Dyfryn, in the parish of St. Nicholas, Glamorganshire. Several other Druidical remains are yet to be seen in and near Nevern.


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