Sunday, 10 August 2014

Britain's Last Invasion

The stressy continues a bit here, but I'm hoping things will improve. As there is still nothing I can do then I am just trying to keep my mind off it as best I can. To help with this, I thought I would head back to Pembrokeshire again for this post :)

On my (not very up-to-date!) UK Bucket List, in the Wales section, is an item See the Last Invasion Tapestry in Fishguard

After days of activity and hiring equipment, Adam and I were ready for a gentler-paced day, and one that involved less expense! This therefore seemed an ideal time to achieve this item, and we headed off up the coast via coffee in St Davids – just because I love St Davids! – and on to the little town of Fishguard on Pembrokeshire’s north coast.

Pembrokeshire, showing the main towns (source)

Housed within the small library within Fishguard’s town hall is remarkable piece of work about a remarkable event.

The last time an invasion force landed on British soil was in 1797, when a French invasion force sailed across to Britain, and landed near Fishguard at a part of the coast called Carreg Wastad.

OS Map showing Fishguard, and Carreg Wastad circled in red.

Accounts of the invasion vary, but the important thing for the locals was that the invasion failed: The French troops went on to surrender fully 2 days later, following skirmishes with the British, who were mainly volunteers or local civilians. 

Though it didn’t all go smoothly for the defenders, and reinforcements were required from around the county, the locals and volunteer forces of Fishguard, along with their reinforcements, did manage to keep Britain safe. 

This isn’t the whole of the story though! The local Welsh women also played an important role, which has developed into a legend in its own right. 

'Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting' - the lady on the right is wearing the traditional costume, and the landscape looks a lot like the landscape around Carreg Wastad! (source)

There is evidence to support the fact that the appearance of local women in the countryside, dressed in their traditional red shawls and black hats, deceived the French forces into thinking that they were infantry soldiers in great number, persuading the French towards surrender. A local woman, Jemima Nicholas, even captured a dozen demoralised French soldiers, and secured them in the local St. Mary's Church!

(read more here if you like, or of course just do a search for it if you prefer :)

In celebration of the bicentenary of this event, more than 70 women worked for 2 years with 97 colours of embroidery thread in order to create a stunning 30 metre-long tapestry, telling the story of the invasion and its subsequent defeat. Fishguard’s very own answer to the Bayeux Tapestry :)

This beautiful piece of art/history is available to view for free during the library opening hours, and with a rapidly dying camera battery, I tried to capture it as best I could:

The scale of the tapestry - all that embroidery work!

Retired Sailor Thomas Williams Sights the French
Meeting the Volunteers at Goodwick

The French Land - and complete the last invasion of mainland Britain

Many of the French Soldiers were released criminals, and they pillaged and looted, and made the most of the good food and wine available.

French Soldiers Ransacked Llanwnda Church and Burned Manuscripts

The Cavalry Arrives!

The First Surrender is Offered - the terms of the first surrender note were not agreed to

Jemima Captures Twelve French Soldiers

The Troops Prepare for Battle

The Myth: That the Welsh Women Marched to Fight or Capture More French Soldiers (they most likely did go watch any battles that might take place)

The French March to Goodwick Sands

The French Surrender Fully, Lay Down Their Arms and Prepare to March to Prison

I hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of some of my local history, some little-known British history, and an amazing community project to bring the history to life and create such an fantastic artefact for all to enjoy :)


  1. I'd never heard about that story before, thank you for posting about it. What a beautiful tapestry

    1. Thanks, I do find it quite an interesting story, and I'm so glad I finally got around to seeing the tapestry. It's pretty spectacular!