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Tenby - Overview

Tenby is a bustling market and seaside resort town in the western part of Carmarthen Bay. Archaeological evidence shows that settlement in the area dates back as far as the Iron Age and in the medieval period, Vikings established a fishing village on the site of the current town. Following the Norman Conquest in the twelfth century, the English Crown encouraged Flemish and English settlers to the region and it developed the name of ‘Little England beyond Wales’. Tenby developed into a major Norman port and a castle was established on Castle Hill to defend this strategically important site. After three attacks by Welsh forces, including almost total destruction of the town by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd in 1260, the circuit of town walls was constructed in the late thirteenth century.

Tenby was a major merchant and shipping town up to the Elizabethan period, but fell into decay after the English Civil War due to its remoteness as well as suffering a dramatic decline in population after an outbreak of plague. The town’s fortunes returned with the rise in popularity of sea-bathing and the development of the seaside ‘resort’ towards the end of the eighteenth century. With heavy investment into the establishment of elegant hotels and fashionable bathing houses, whose Georgian and early Victorian design still dominate the architecture of the town, polite society and money started pouring in. Visiting for a few days in 1796, the Austrian count Gottfried Wenzel von Purgstall, was full of praise for the view from Castle Hill as one of the best in Wales. He also enjoyed a pleasant evening, playing cards with a small assembly of spa visitors; a few of the ladies present were even ‘quite pretty’!

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