Penally has shops, a pub, a holy well and a church with some early carved stones. What follows is based on the SPARC leaflet on the village. According to one local tradition, Penally was the birthplace of the great St Teilo. There is a story that on his death three churches wanted his relics. The dispute was only settled when another two bodies miraculously appeared. The quality of the carved stones in the church suggests that it may have been a little early Christian monastery. Later on, the area was taken over by the Norman De Barri family of nearby Manorbier, the relatives of Wales’s first travel writer, Gerald of Wales. The church was rededicated to St Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of seafarers and the original Santa Claus.
Inside the church are three fascinating carved crosses. They were originally in the churchyard but have been moved into the south transept to protect them from the weather. They are an intriguing blend of the abstract ‘Celtic’ style and the interlaced plants and animals typical of Northumbrian and Viking crosses. The smaller cross is complete, with a delicately-carved wheel cross-head on a shaft carved with an intertwining ribbon vine. The sturdy cross shaft has dragon-like beasts entwining and devouring each other. There is also a fragment of the shaft of a third cross.
Also in the south transept is a carved slab with the heads of a man and woman, looking oddly as though they are lying in bed with a sheet pulled up around their chins. The inscription tells us that this is the grave of the local lord William de Naunton and his wife Isamay, and asks God to have mercy on their souls. You should also look out for the memorial to local painter and engraver Charles Norris, in the north transept. He is most famous for his architectural drawings of Tenby before it was ‘modernised’ in the Georgian style in the early 19th century. He also painted the local sea coast, sometimes with dramatic scenes of shipwreck, and the tranquil Pembrokeshire countryside with its villages, churches and castles. A number of his works are in the museum in Tenby. Tragically, several of his children died in infancy, and their graves can also be seen in Penally churchyard.
In the nineteenth century Penally was a busy little port and industrial village. At least four shipwrights worked here in 1841. There were limestone quarries, a brickworks and at least nine lime kilns. More recently the Army established a huge firing range on the sand dunes south of the main road. You will walk through it on your way to the village.