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History of Stackpole

Historical view of two gamekeepers and their dogs across the Deer Park, Stackpole Estate, Pembrokeshire.
Historical view of two gamekeepers and their dogs across the Deer Park, Stackpole Estate, Pembrokeshire. | © The W E Morgan Collection

From Bronze Age standing stones to Iron Age field patterns and coastal promontory forts, Stackpole’s landscape is scarred by human activity, giving us a fascinating insight into the past. Discover more about the history of the area right up to the decline of the estate following the Second World War.

Stackpole’s early history

It’s difficult to imagine the many buildings that may have graced the Stackpole Court site over the centuries. Occupied since Norman times, the Stackpole Estate has seen its fair share of boom and bust over the centuries and changed hands numerous times.

Bronze Age: 3000 BC

First signs of human activity at Stackpole. We have a standing stone and a burial chamber dating back to the Bronze Age. Can you find the Devil's Quoit on Stackpole Warren? Whereas once it was considered a burial site, it's now thought to have been a ceremonial gathering place.

Iron Age: 3000 BC

Iron Age people built coastal forts to protect themselves from attack. There are two at Stackpole: Greenala is on the coast between Stackpole Quay, Freshwater East and Fishpond Camp was once on the coast but isn't any longer.

Romano-British era: AD 400

The Romano-British settlement site has the remains of livestock enclosures and hut circles. The area would have looked very different – no lakes and no pine trees and probably a lot of small fields or enclosures with rough stone walls.

The Norman era: AD 1188

The earliest known owner of Stackpole was Elidyr de Stackpole, who’s mentioned by Gerald of Wales in 1188. There’s a monument to him in Stackpole Elidor church. The Normans' legacy is the pattern of surrounding villages and churches that we know today.

Middle Ages and Tudor period: 1300-1600

The estate passed by marriage from the de Stackpoles, through the Vernon and Stanley families. Rabbits were farmed on Stackpole Warren, after they were introduced by the Normans, whether for sport or food, we don’t know.

Visitors standing on clifftops overlooking Barafundle Bay, Stackpole
Enjoy the view over Barafundle Bay, Stackpole | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The Lorts: 1611-1689 Civil war

The Lort family were Royalists and took the side of King Charles I in the English Civil War. They were originally the Stanley’s stewards and bought the estate in 1611. After Stackpole Court was besieged during the Civil War, Legend has it that Roger Lort hid in a cave near Barafundle Bay to avoid being captured. After a short siege the Lort’s surrendered.

Stackpole flourishes under the Cawdors

Elizabeth Lort was the heiress of the Stackpole Estate and she married Alexander Campbell of Cawdor in 1689, who was a university friend of her brother Gilbert.

The Campbells built the early Georgian mansion of Stackpole Court in the Palladian style in the 1730s on the site of the earlier fortified house.

Sir John Campbell II inherited the estate in 1777 and began landscaping work on a grand scale. What was once a valley was later flooded to create the Bosherston Lakes, as part of a designed landscape, and thousands of trees were planted.

Page of visiting album recording visits to Stackpole Court, Pembrokeshire, 18 April 1938, with signatures
Page of visiting album recording visits to Stackpole Court, Wales | © National Trust / Charles Thomas

The decline and fall of a great estate at Stackpole

Two world wars heralded a century of decline at Stackpole. Half of the estate, around 6,000 acres, was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence to form Castlemartin Range in 1938.

Soldiers billeted in Stackpole Court removed lead from the roof, which led to dry and wet rot. Sadly, the house was finally demolished in 1963.

Thirteen years later, what was left of this historic estate was broken up and the farms were sold. The coast, woods and lakes passed to the National Trust.

View over the Eight Arch Bridge over the Fish Pond at Stackpole on a sunny day

Stackpole's collections

Explore the objects we care for at Stackpole on the National Trust Collections website.

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