The Captain’s Table, Saundersfoot

The Captain’s Table, Saundersfoot

This harbour-side restaurant occupies St Issell’s House, once owned by Charles Vickerman. He was a driving force in Saundersfoot’s development in Victorian times. The building was turned into a restaurant by a yachtsman who had competed in the first solo trans-Atlantic race (see below).

Saundersfoot is probably named after the Saunders family, which once farmed the land in this area. The family had a summer residence where St Issell’s House was later built, according to historical notes published in 1906.

Charles Ranken Vickerman (1818-1897) followed in his father’s footsteps as a London solicitor. He used his wealth to buy properties in Saundersfoot and develop the local coal and iron industries, including the Bonville’s Court Colliery. By 1865 he employed more than 1,000 men in the area. His Saundersfoot home was Hean Castle, which he enlarged. He became High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire and was a batsman for Narberth’s cricket team.

He attended St Issell’s Church, where he read the lessons on the last Sunday of his life. His estate was valued at £33,605, about £4.5m in today’s money. He left most of it – including St Issell’s House and Hean Castle – to his son, Charles Henry Ranken Vickerman.

Charles junior was living at St Issell’s House in 1901 with his wife, son and three domestic servants. He was a colliery proprietor. The couple were still here in 1911, now with a second son. Charles died in 1932, leaving estate worth over £2.6m today. Beneficiaries included his widow Eleanor and one son but not the other (who was still alive).

The building was converted into a seafood restaurant in 1963 by Valentine Howells, who hailed from Port Talbot. He was a ship’s navigation officer before buying a dairy farm near Narberth. He sold the farm c.1960 to buy a yacht – named Eira after his wife – so that he could take part in the first Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (STAR). The race, from Plymouth to New York, was challenging because it was westward and the wind normally blows from the west. He finished fourth in 1960 and third in the 1964 STAR. See the footnotes for more about him.

Postcode: SA69 9HE    View Location Map

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Footnotes: Sir Francis Chichester’s recollections of Val Howells

Francis Chichester won the first STAR. In his autobiography The Lonely Sea and the Sky he wrote that Val Howells was the rival he dreaded. Val had a fast boat and was a “formidable sailor” who had sailed solo to Spain. He had on board “a keg of his magic brew” – raw eggs with rum! He had a “wonderful voice” and whenever he was in trouble or unhhappy, he could “practise for the next Eisteddfod”.