The Church of St Martin of Tours, Haverfordwest.

St Martin's Church from Queen Square

St Martin’s Church from Queen Square

The church of St Martin of Tours is the oldest of the Haverfordwest churches.  It is known that there was a church on the site of the present building in 1120.  Because of its position in relation to the castle it is thought that the original church was built to serve the occupants of the castle, their retainers, and those who lived in the first habitations of the town, which were clustered around the castle and the church where they gained the protection of the original town wall.

The first building consisted of the present nave, porch and tower.  This was added to in the 14th Century when the South Aisle (Lady Chapel) was built, together with a Priest’s room or Parvis above the porch.  In the South West corner of the Chapel are found traces of the turret stairway, and descending to this position the Priest could see directly into the centre of the High Altar through the hagioscope, which is between the nave and the Lady Chapel.

Little is known about the building until the middle of the 19th Century, when it was reported in the press that “the structure of St Martins has now become sadly dilapidated.  The Parish feeling the scandal attached to this disgraceful state of the church, and of it ere long becoming a complete ruin, held a vestry meeting at which resolutions were passed to restore the building and to appeal to the public for assistance towards carrying out this praiseworthy objective”, a process that is still continuing today.

The restoration was completed in 1865, following closure of the church for three years, at a cost of just over £2,000.  Two modern arches replaced the original 14th Century arches between the Lady Chapel and the nave, for reasons we cannot know.  The base of the tower is now the only fragment of the original church.

More recent restoration, took place in 1988 when the stone mullions in the West window were replaced together with the glazing, at a cost of £11,623.

In Feb 1990 the re-slating of the church roof was completed at a cost of over £55,000, and then in 1992 work within the tower to stop water penetration, was undertaken at a cost of £66,000.

In 2011 repairs were carried out to the staging within the tower, following the collapse of a rotten beam.  Metal platforms and fixed safety ladders were fitted.  One of the wooden beams still remaining bears the date 1878.

In 2014 a major project was undertaken when the outside stonework of the church was re-pointed.  This together with the replacement of all the rainwater goods, some stonework, the bell support beam within the tower and other necessary work was completed at a cost of £180,000.  St Martin’s congregation raised considerable funds towards this project and is very grateful to the contributions made by The Heritage Lottery Fund, Cadw and other grant givers.

CHURCH FURNISHINGS.  There are a number of stalls, cupboards and furnishings around the church made by Thompson of Kilburn, Yorkshire.  These include the choir stall fronts, clergy stalls and cupboards and seats in the nave.  If you are visiting the church, you may be interested in searching for Thompson’s ‘Trade Mark’, a small MOUSE carefully carved in the furniture.