Although scattered artefacts dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages have been identified in Pembroke, credit for the first major impact on the area must go to the Normans. Following up their success at Senlac (Hastings) in 1066, they rapidly extended their conquest far and wide and by the latter part of the 11th Century had established a presence in West Wales that was to dominate the area for generations to come.
In 1093 the Normans arrived in Pembroke and established a wooden fortress on the site of the present castle. From this point on the town developed rapidly. And so according to the available evidence and documents – began the history of Pembroke. Yet the excellent strategic position of the site means it might well have served as a fortified camp long before this time.
Standing on a narrow rocky ridge and surrounded by water on three sides by the tidal waters of the Haven Waterway, Pembroke presented the Normans with superb natural defences and an ideal site for settlement. In 1189, work began on building a stone castle to replace the wooden fortification of 1093 – a job which was to continue for some 350 years! The distinctive round keep was completed some time after 1200 by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, who was a mighty figure in medieval England and Wales.
Pembroke became the main base from which the Normans increased their hold on West Wales. In the 13th century, the town’s folk demanded that stone walls be built to protect their dwellings from raiders. Thirty years later the town walls were complete – and most of them are still standing today!