Last Invasion tapestry

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Last Invasion tapestry, Market Square

The last time anyone invaded Great Britain was in 1797, when French soldiers landed c.5km west of Fishguard. The story is related in a tapestry, 30 metres long, made by local women in 1997. The tapestry’s displayed in a purpose-built gallery attached to Fishguard library. It copies the shape and format of the Bayeux tapestry, which documented the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The Fishguard tapestry took 80 women four years to design and sow.

Britain and France had been at war for four years when four French warships arrived at Llanwnda on 22 February 1797. They had been dissuaded from landing at Fishguard port when gunners at the town’s poorly-equipped fort fired blanks.

Arms, gunpowder and c.1,200 French soldiers came ashore. The invaders seized a local farm for their headquarters. Two local artistocrats led c.600 local men to resist the French, who surrendered before the two sides had engaged in combat. Six local people and soldiers had died in skirmishes.

The French had feared they were outnumbered after seeing what they took to be soldiers, dressed in red and wearing tall black hats. The figures were women dressed in local costume, including overgarments which were traditionally dyed red using a lichen which grew abundantly in the area. Jemima Nicholas, a cobbler’s wife, became a folk heroine for arresting 12 French soldiers, armed only with a pitchfork.

The American War of Independence played an indirect part too. The French landing force was commanded by William Tate, an American of Irish ancestry. He had fought against the British but fled America after being involved in a French attempt to seize control of New Orleans.

Thomas Knox, who led a group of local militia to fight the invaders, was the son of William Knox, formerly Britain’s last colonial under-secretary of state for America. After returning to Britain, William Knox bought land in Pembrokeshire and a mansion in Llanstinan, near Fishguard. To aid the war effort, he had assembled the Fishguard and Newport Volunteer Infantry in 1794. Thomas Knox marched 194 of those men from Newport to Fishguard in response to the French invasion.

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: SA65 9HA

Website of Fishguard library

Other MILITARY HiPoints in this region:
Former Drill Hall, Fishguard – with broad gable-end opening for artillery guns

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