Henry Tudor’s escape site, Tenby
If you’ve just scanned the QR codes at the former Harbour Master’s Office, you’ll see Tenby Harbour down the slope. The course of British history would have been very different if the young Henry Tudor had not managed to escape from here in 1471 to spend 14 years in exile. He returned to Pembrokeshire in 1485 and became King Henry VII, founding the Tudor dynasty.
Today Tenby Harbour is primarily used for pleasure boats but it was still a working port when the Harbour Master’s Office was built in the 1870s on the site of an earlier weighing house, where carts were weighed. As you descend the slope, look back at the building’s north gable to see a Victorian barometer.
The harbour was improved in the 1840s, when the breakwater was widened.
In Henry Tudor’s time, Tenby was one of Wales’ busiest ports. His uncle Jasper, Earl of Pembroke, improved the town’s defensive walls in 1457 after the townspeople agreed to cover half of the cost. During the Wars of the Roses, Jasper was stripped of his lands by the Yorkist King Edward IV but continued to shelter young Henry, who represented the Lancastrians’ best hope of reclaiming the throne by 1471. Jasper and Henry, aged 14, were probably the most wanted people in Wales and England when they were smuggled into Tenby from Pembroke Castle, which was besieged by men loyal to the king.
The White family hid the pair under their houses, near St Mary’s Church, until a ship was ready for them. Underground passages, which still survive, connected the houses and other buildings and probably helped Henry and Jasper to reach the harbour undetected. On 2 June 1471 they departed, in darkness, for France. The weather intervened and forced them to land in Brittany, then a separate nation.
After his coronation, Henry granted the lease of his lands around Tenby to the White family.
Postcode: SA70 7BS View Location Map