Pembroke Town Hall

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Pembroke Town Hall

This building was erected in 1819 with an open market hall on the ground floor. An external staircase (shown in the old photo) led to the council chamber and courtroom above. The ground floor is now enclosed. The modern civic hall at the rear is Pembroke’s main events venue.

Old photo of staircase at Pembroke Town HallThe chamber is still the meeting place of the town council and its mayor. The first mayor was appointed in 1388.

In October 1830 an anti-slavery meeting was held here. A powerful speech was delivered by Scottish MP Sir James Mackintosh, who campaigned against slave labour in Britain’s colonies. His second wife Catherine (nee Allen) hailed from Cresselly. Other speakers included Anglican clergymen, including Rev James Byers, vicar of Lamphey. There was unanimous support for the Earl Cawdor and Hugh Owen MP to present anti-slavery petitions to the Houses of Parliament.

The town hall also hosted the county court (for civil cases) and petty sessions. In 1843, magistrates here adjudicated on cases of assault – between members of the Total Abstinence Society!

In 1865 locals were prosecuted here for playing in the annual Shrove Tuesday football match in Main Street. The authorities were trying to stop this ancient custom but the courtroom was packed with locals, including “many ladies”, supporting the 22 defendants – who included surgeon Joshua Whittaker Paynter, owner of Pembroke Castle and a former mayor.

PC Benjamin Owen estimated there were 80 players, men and boys. He saw the ball break a gas lamp (soon repaired) and passers by “crushed against the wall”. Another policeman admitted the players were in good humour. One witness said he passed by in his pony phaeton without inconvenience. Dr Thomas Mansel had also driven past and said he looked forward to the football more than the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!

Photo of the Pembroke MuralsAll defendants had their cases dropped except for William Thomas, fined a “nominal” sixpence. In later years the annual match was held on a field called the Jogram but the custom petered out – it wasn’t as much fun as playing in the street!

Inside the hall today you can see the Pembroke Murals, a pictorial history of Pembroke created by the late George Lewis and his wife Jeanne. The former courtroom now houses Pembroke Museum, telling Pembroke's story. Its collections include the silent movies of cinema pioneer William Haggar, 19th-century Welsh costume and artefacts, vintage toys and miniature worlds. Admission is free – see link below. The town hall is also the starting point of the digital town trail, also available in booklet form from the hall.

With thanks to Linda Asman and Keith Johnson, of Pembroke & Monkton Local History Society

Postcode: SA714JS    View Location Map

Website of Pembroke Museum

Website of Pembroke Town Trail