St David’s is situated in the centre of the hamlet of Whitchurch. It is a parish church of thirteenth or fourteenth century origin, and then heavily restored between 1872 and 1874 to plans of Charles Buckeridge and executed by JL Pearson. At the time of his death in 1873 Buckeridge was also restoring churches in Marloes, Pembroke and St Brides, and Pearson completed all these commissions.
The church’s history can be recorded all the way back to 1291 when it belonged to the Cistercian order. There are some notable headstones and table tombs in the churchyard, including the tomb of Henry Whiteside (died 1826), designer of the Smalls lighthouse (1770). In 1837, when Queen Victoria came to the throne, there were, along with this Anglican church, places of worship for Baptists, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, and Presbyterians in this rural area. Much earlier, Caervoriog, in this parish, was, in 1389, the birthplace of Adam Houghton, Bishop of St.Davids, and one time ambassador to the Court of France and Lord High Chancellor of England. His name indicates that he was of an English or Anglo-Norman, rather than Welsh, family.
For much of the nineteenth century, there was a church in Whitchurch, where few people lived, whereas there was no church in Solva, where lots of people lived. Responding to this state of affairs, the National School Room in Solva was licensed as a place of worship by the Lord Bishop of Saint Davids in the month of February 1841: ‘Circumstances of License: On account of the inconvenient distance of the Parish Church of Whitchurch from the village of Solva, where the mass of the population resides.’ Eventually, of course, in 1879, a church was built in Solva.
- By the churchyard gate of St David’s is a standing stone called Maen Dewi, believed to be the lower part of a large Celtic cross.
- They might often have been large, cold and damp houses, not particularly comfortable or convenient to live in, but to most of us Georgian or Victorian vicarages seem to offer everything we might wish for in a home. An estate agent has this to say about the former Whitchurch vicarage: ‘The former Vicarage offers an amazing opportunity to acquire a superb Grade II listed character, 4-bedroom, 3 reception room Georgian-style house and former coach house, walled garden and out-buildings, set within approximately 2 acres and within 1 mile of the popular Coastal village of Solva.’
- Because of the rising toll on shipping lost to the coastal rocks of Pembrokeshire, steps were taken by private interests in the early 1770s to put a permanent light in that channel. John Phillips, a Liverpool dockmaster, obtained a lease and went with the lighthouse design sent him by 26-year-old Henry Whiteside, a distinguished maker of musical instruments. Trinity House was not involved with the design or the construction of this lighthouse. During the winter of 1775-1776, Whiteside erected the whole structure temporarily at Solva. Before work was initiated on the Smalls, iron rings were fixed to the rock to which the workmen tied themselves. There were constant setbacks, and at one-point Whiteside was stranded on the rock for over a month with gales that never abated. But eventually Whiteside’s design and the entire project were vindicated, his lighthouse serving its purpose for 85 years.
Whitchurch: Church of St David
Haverfordwest, SA62 6UB
Rev Diana Hoare: 01437 721205
Rev Canon Michael Rowlands: 01348 831382