The Last Invasion of Britain – February 1797.
One of our most popular walks here at The Walking Holiday Company is along the wonderful Pembrokeshire Coast Path, this spectacular walk stretches from Amroth in the south of the county to St Dogmaels in the north. The 186 miles can be completed in one go or broken into more manageable sections and it can also be walked north to south. It is renowned for the wonderful plant and wild life, for its breath-taking scenery, golden beaches and rugged cliffs. But one town on the route also tells a little known story dating back to 1797 when the last invasion of Britain took place in and around the town Fishguard.
A force of French invaders landed at Carreg Wastad a rocky headland three miles west of Fishguard, they were led by William Tate and established their headquarters at Trehowel Farm. When a French ship sailed into Fishguard Bay Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knox was alerted, he sent for reinforcements from Haverfordwest, but in the meantime, was heavily outnumbered by the French and withdrew from the town. The French moved inland, things were going well for Tate. But the French force was ill disciplined, many had been recruited from prisons and they were more interested in the local food and especially wine brought ashore from a recently grounded Portuguese ship. When reinforcements arrived many of the French were too drunk to fight and within two days surrendered to Knox. In the surrender agreement Tate mentioned seeing several thousand British troops, there was no such army of that size in the area, it is thought that local traditionally dressed Welsh women wearing red tunics and tall black hats could have been mistaken for British army Redcoats.
A local woman Jemima Nicholas, wife of the Fishguard cobbler, single handedly captured twelve invading soldiers, she locked them in St Mary’s church and earned herself the title of Jemima Fawr – Jemima the Great. Jemima was 82 when she died and is commemorated with a memorial stone which still stands today in St Mary’s churchyard in Fishguard.
In 1997 to commemorate the bicentenary of the invasion a tapestry was commissioned by the Fishguard Arts Society. Seventy-seven local people helped in the construction, it is one hundred feet long and twenty-one inches deep. Crewel wool was used, 178 shades in all and the stitches are mostly the same as those used by Medieval embroiderers. The contributors ranged in age from 30 to 82, they worked in small groups meeting in each other’s homes, the tapestry took four years to complete. Today it is owned by The Fishguard Invasion Centre Trust Ltd.
Today the tapestry is located in Fishguard Town Hall, in the Market Square, admission is free and donations are welcome. Opening times vary so call ahead on 01437 776638.