The Heritage

 
 

The Golden Sheaf

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In the year of 1861...
Mr. James Philpin-Thomas opened a Milliners and Drapers shop, on Narberth High Street, designing and making his own hats and clothes. The shop was named “The Golden Sheaf” and it soon flourished under the custom of the fashionable ladies of Pembrokeshire. In the 1890’s the success of the shop caught the eye of Mr. Richard Davies and he bought it for £150, little guessing then that it would stay in his family for almost 100 years! Mr. Davies was an innovative proprietor and even held the very first shop sale in any Welsh store outside the city of Cardiff. With such forward thinking the shop grew into a delightfully engaging emporium... ribbons, buttons and thread filled oak drawers, rolls of wool and swathes of fabric suffused the shelves with rich colours, and a marvellous array of hats and rails and rails of exquisite clothing made The Golden Sheaf one of the most in-vogue shops to visit in the whole of Wales. This was the time of ‘votes for women’ when speakers from London would travel to address the ladies of Narberth at huge public meetings – even the great Emmeline Pankhurst came to speak, just outside this landmark shop.

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The shop continued to thrive through generations of the Davies family, continually responding to changing fashions and different expectations – through the roaring 20’s, two wars and the swinging 60’s, until the 1970’s when Mr. and Mrs. Brown, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Dickinson came to look after The Golden Sheaf. A tea room was added on the first floor where resting shoppers could gaze out of the window on to the comings and goings of the High Street. Following a lovingly crafted renovation, 1993 hailed a time of exciting new beginnings when the current owner, Suzanne Somers, reopened the shop as ‘The Golden Sheaf Gallery’. This was a transformation designed for a new era of customer looking for a fine and fashionable selection of art, sculpture, books, cards, womenswear and accessories, gentlemen’s accessories, toys, games and even luxury chocolates. The Golden Sheaf had travelled full circle to the emporium of luxury and indulgence that had been its hallmark 100 years earlier. There could be no more appropriate tribute to a century of success than the restoring of the Golden Sheaf carving which had graced the shop front since 1861. Back to its former glory, it is now safely keeping watch above the entrance to the toy room. To mark the importance of the Sheaf, a replica was made for the outside of the shop – and there it has remained, in pride of place, for over 25 years.

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Time has flown, but as we enjoy our third decade here and look back upon the work of the artisans and proprietors who have gone before us, we are reminded how lucky we are to be a part of this handsome building, taking inspiration from the past to move into the future. To all, we extend a very warm welcome to The Golden Sheaf Gallery...

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THE TOWN HALL

A building was first registered at this site in 1833, when it was listed in Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary as a “lock up house with a room over it in which a magistrate’s court and parochial meetings were held”. It is, therefore, most likely that Narberth Town Hall was built in the early 1830’s. An old tap in Water Street was the point where many of Narberth’s town folk collected their water right up until the middle of the 20th Century, and it is over this water system that Narberth Town Hall was erected.

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The stone used in its construction was quarried at the top of the hill in the nearby village of Robeston Wathen. It has a very distinctive texture composed of rounded pebbles and coarse sand, which can also be found in the walls of Robeston Wathen church.

It was in the aforementioned lock-up house that the infamous Rebecca rioters were held whilst awaiting trial during the well-known rebellions of 1839 – 1843. Men dressed as women marched to destroy the tollgates that had multiplied throughout the area – symbols of oppression during a time of economic hardship suffered by the agricultural community. This lock-up cell can be seen today to the rear of the property, where it stands empty and eerie keeping its secrets safe within the old stone walls.

William Owen, acclaimed architect and builder from the county town of Haverfordwest, carried out some alteration works in 1845 and is credited with the addition of the slightly projecting stones in the archways above the exterior windows and doorways. Despite these embellishments however, the building became dilapidated over time and so, in 1858, the magistrate’s court moved elsewhere. It was later taken over by The Mechanics Institute and housed a library and reading room for working men.

In 1880, The Institute commissioned the distinctive clock from J W Benson of Ludgate Hill, clockmakers to HRH Prince of Wales. The clock tower itself was built a year later in 1881 and originally had archways to house three clock faces, each one majestically announcing the time to the people of the town and surrounding countryside. The second floor, with its panoramic views of the town, was constructed in 1912 in memory of Mr Robert Ward MA, who was president of The Institute for many years. The addition of this extra floor however, meant raising the roof and removing the three archways, leaving in its place just one clock facing out across Narberth.

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In the early 20th Century, during the time of women’s suffrage, speakers from London would travel to Narberth to attend huge public meetings; one such speaker was the great Emmeline Pankhurst, who stood on the steps of the Town Hall to address the ladies of the town.

The beautiful clock tower still holds court in the centre of the town. Its original clock, until very recently, was wound each week by a member of the Town Council to the same, precise instructions of 140 years ago. And as the clock chimes out to remind us of the hour, we are also reminded of ‘time’, both past and present and that while many things come and go, others remain a constant.

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