The Village Name

The present name of the village is taken from the saint to whom the church is dedicated.

It is highly probable that the actual dedication is to St. Florent who is commemorated at the Abbey of St. Florent in Saumur in the Loire valley, an area with which the de Valence Earls had connection. 

C.J. Burns says it should be noted that, "a brother of Arnulph de Montgomery, Norman conqueror of South Pembrokeshire, was 'Robert of Poitu' " (Poitu is in the Loire).

Ref: THOMAS, Owen. St. Florence : hidden heritage. Narberth : SPARC, 1994

 

Village History

In 1652, Haverfordwest market was closed by pestilence and St Florence was permitted to hold a weekly market on Thursdays. This does not seem to have been done after the 17th century, but neither does it seem that this permission has ever been rescinded.

In 1811 Fenton reported that he saw, '... the remains of houses and fragments of wall' which suggested that the village, '...appears to have been more populace than now...due to the overflow of manufacturers who administered to the commercial wealth of Tenby...'. Perhaps as a result of the medieval system of open field farming, there was a number of farms centred in the village as recently as the 1960s. These have now gone and St Florence is entirely residential, exemplified by the high percentage both of in-migrants and retired folk.

In 1991 the population of St Florence parish was just over 600 the highest total reached since the first census was taken in 1801. Farming has been the primary work of the area, but amongst other occupations have been fulling (a process of cloth making) at Flemington, quarrying of limestone for building and agriculture and marble cutting; there were 4 marble masons in 1841. The census of that year shows 2 shipwright apprentices. Other craftsmen of the period were shoemakers and a basket maker. At this time there were 3 public houses: the New Inn, the Sun and the Ball (now Grove Farmhouse). Some ancient locational names survive amongst the present day enclosed fields: the West Field, "Honnyland", Ladyland, Slade and "Cherrie Land" to cite just a few.

Today diversification proceeds apace with the retrenchment to agriculture. Ivy Tower opened as Manor House Wildlife and Leisure Park in 1975 and Heatherton Farm recently opened a Country Sports Park; in 1994 a Dinosaur Park opened at Great Wedlock; all are on the B4318 a mile north of the village.

The place names and language in St. Florence are almost exclusively English, stemming, as in the rest of South Pembrokeshire below the Landsker, from a two-fold process in the early 12th century. Firstly, the Normans possessed the land and encouraged English followers; secondly, Henry I is said to have sent the Flemings, (who had first migrated and then fled to England after their land was inundated by the sea and who had become a nuisance top the King), to colonise South Pembrokeshire, centred in Rhos. They brought with them the English to teach them the customs and language. Giraldus Cambrensis says they were also to, 'despoil the unquiet Welshmen'. Little is known of the village before the 13th century, the first reference being in a return of lands owned by Walter Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, in 1248/9: this included the 'Lordship of Sanctus Florencius', which later passed to the next Earl, William de Valence. When William's son, Aymer de Valence, died in 1324 the manor of St. Florence was valued at £33-14s-0d. In the 12th century, the population of the village could have comprised a mix of Scandinavians, Irish, Normans and Flemings, all being 'anglicised', together with Anglo-Saxons and some of Welsh origin. B G Charles reports that out of 60 tenants in 1324, there were only 5 or 6 with Welsh names. There was at one time a walled deer park, owned by the Earls of Pembroke, on the northern slopes of the Ridgeway: in his travels (1538-1544) Leland observed, 'the church of St. Florence and Tounlet is in a botom by the parke'. By 1600 this park had largely been enclosed for farming.

Park Wall farm remains today. By the Act of Union 1536, which constrained the palatinadal powers of the Earls of Pembroke and established Pembrokeshire as a County within the English Realm, St. Florence became a part of the hundred of Castlemartin.

 

Author: Owen Thomas, Copyright: 'Planed' Narberth, Pembrokeshire