Solva Coast

Solva Coast

History of Solva Beach

Solva is steeped in maritime history and during its boom years, in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was one of the busiest trading ports in Pembrokeshire.

During the 16th century Solva was described by Leland in his Itinerary of Wales as “a smaul creke for ballingers and fischar botes,” ballingers being small sea-going sloops, suitable for coastwise trading. Even further back there is a reference in the St Davids Cathedral records that lime that would have been a building material to make the special mortar used to build the Cathedral, was shipped from Solva. It is believed that it was later used on the land after the masons noticed its effect on the vegetation, and Solva became an important limestone port.

At the peak of its lime-burning operatons Solva had as many as 10 lime kilns, the largest number of any port in the county except Tenby and Haverfordwest.

In 1777 the port had six trading ships, and a measure of its importance between 1828 and 1834 was that no fewer than 18 ships, whose tonnage ranged between 15 and 159 tons, were plying between Solva and ports all round the Bristol Channel area. Eight of these were actually built in Solva, all of them with Solva masters, many of them entrepreneurs capitalising on the port’s growing success.

One such entrepreneur was John Williams who moved to Solva from Hendre Eynon in about 1834 aged 23 as ‘a merchant’ with an eighth share in the 28-ton sloop Pilgrim. By 1861 he was described as ‘a Corn and Seed Merchant and a farmer of 505 acres employing 40 men, 4 boys and 12 women.’ Before he died in 1881 he had shares in 11 ships.

Eleven ships of between 25 and 122 tons were built in Solva between 1784 and 1813 and Fenton the antiquarian recorded in 1811 that 30 vessels of 20 to 250 tons were based there at that time. Lewis, in his Topographical Dictionary of Wales in 1844 recorded that from being ”one of the poorest hamlets in Pembrokeshire,” Solva had “risen within the last 50 years into a flourishing little town.”

It was not only ships that were built there. Solva had the distinction to have built a wooden lighthouse in 1775, the first to be erected on The Smalls, 24 miles to the west-south-west. William Henry Whiteside designed it but the wooden cabin on stilts 50 feet above the rock swayed alarmingly in rough weather, and one keeper went mad there when his companion died and it was nearly four months before rescue came. After that it was decreed that three keepers had to man a lighthouse. In 1840, Trinity House designed a new masonry lighthouse which was erected in 1856 and, now unmanned, it continues to flash its warning light on The Smalls. 

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Testimonials

  • We cannot recommend Sanderling House highly enough. Well situated in Dale close to the sea front, Griffin Inn, yacht club and boat house and beautifully and extensively equipped. We were a family of 7 and 2 dogs and there was plenty of room for us all.Teenagers enjoyed the outside fire…
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  • We cannot recommend Sanderling House highly enough. Well situated in Dale close to the sea front, Griffin Inn, yacht club and boat house and beautifully and extensively equipped. We were a family of 7 and 2 dogs and there was plenty of room for us all.Teenagers enjoyed the outside fire…
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  • THird time myself and my family in this lovely house. So clean and well equipped. Lovely pub The Griffin was nearby for beautiful freshly caught seafood dishes. We ate outside at Sanderling when we could, such a novelty. Plenty of wildlife in the garden and reference books and binoculars in…
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  • 'Sanderling' is a beautifully presented property with all the best in home comforts. Superbly equipped with everything to help make your stay more enjoyable. We had a party of Seven which was never a problem as there is plenty of space in all of the rooms + bathrooms are fitted…
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  • Sanderling House is s beautifully presented home from home. It is incredibly well equipped and Jill, the owner, is clearly passionate about ensuring her guests want for nothing. Four good bedrooms provide plenty of room for eight people and the upstairs living room is very comfortable. The kitchen is extremely…
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