About: Neil Westerman

Neil Westerman is the Honorary Curator of the town’s museum – Tenby Museum & Art Gallery. Born and raised in Tenby he worked in the communications industry for over 20 years before returning to live in Tenby. Neil has tried to give something back to the town that raised him by volunteering his time with the museum, the civic society and the town’s historical society.

Posts by Neil Westerman:

  • Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels, 17 Jan 2019 in News&Science
  • Party Time, 24 Dec 2018 in Culture&Event&Heritage&History
  • Tenby Museum Art Auction – after the dust has settled, 08 Nov 2018 in Art&Culture&Event
  • Tenby Museum Art Auction, 26 Oct 2018 in Art&Culture&Event
  • All the Fun of the Fair, 10 Oct 2018 in Culture&Event&Heritage&History
  • Hooray, hooray, it’s a Bank Holiday, 17 Aug 2018 in Culture&Event&History
  • Fun in the Sun, 30 Jul 2018 in History&News
  • ‘The Painted Word’ – The work of Alec Lewis, 27 May 2018 in Art&Culture&Event
  • Celebrating 150 years, 07 May 2018 in Art&Culture&Event&Heritage&History&Music
  • Tenby Tales – Summer reading, 28 Apr 2018 in Art&Culture

  • Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels

    Thanks to our London-centric media you may be forgiven for thinking the biggest threat facing our country is Brexit. This is simply not the case. The biggest threat facing us is climate change and the resulting increase in sea level. Over the last few years in Pembrokeshire we have observed some minor weather changes. The summers have got drier and hotter (hooray), and the winters have got wetter and stormier. Recent storms have led to significant erosion on the town’s South Beach. Anyone who doubts climate change is taking place need only walk across the beach to observe its impact.

    So how will climate change affect Pembrokeshire and what can our government and we as individuals do to help mitigate the effects? One effect of the rising sea levels is the vulnerability of settlements based on or near the sea. Climate change is being taken seriously by Pembrokeshire County Council who has been consulting and developing plans to build a new road to bypass Newgale. The council has stated that if they were just dealing with the current situation they would simple continue digging out the shingle after bad storms. That approach is however not sustainable in the future. They plan to construct a new 30 million pound road in about ten years time. This is just the beginning. Even now increased erosion on Tenby’s south beach has started to threaten the town’s golf course. Future sea level rises due to climate change combined with stronger and more frequent winter storms will cause further damage. Not only the golf course is affected, any settlement at sea level is at risk including Tenby harbour and the Strand in Saundersfoot. The coastal road at Amroth is another site at risk.

    What can our government and we as individuals do to help slow down the effects of climate change? The government’s policy is stated as being one of ‘managed retreat’. One way to slow down climate change is to reduce the amount of fossil fuel that is being burned. The main problem with relying on our government to take action is the short term nature of government. Elected representatives are not going to pass laws that force us to stop using our cars by putting up fuel prices or vehicle taxes as they know that such action will result in them being voted out of office at the next election. Better public transport needs to be part of the solution. Unfortunately we don’t appear to have joined up government in Wales. While the Welsh government is investing heavily in better bus (trawscymru) and rail services, Pembrokeshire County Council is conducting a consultation on reducing bus services to save money! The Welsh government has also missed the opportunity to vastly reduce pollution on the rail network. A new order has been placed to replace the ageing fleet of diesel trains with brand new diesel trains. In Germany brand new hydrogen powered trains are being introduced. These create no pollution at all as burning hydrogen produces only water as a waste product. By waiting a couple more years before placing the order for new trains Wales could have had a fleet of state of the art hydrogen powered trains producing zero pollution. A missed opportunity.

    As governmental action is unlikely to make a significant impact, what can we as individuals do?  By changing our lifestyle we can make a difference. Our carbon footprint needs to be significantly reduced. How often do you travel on a plane? This is one of the most polluting methods of travel. Think twice about all the foreign holidays requiring lengthy flights. With better summers being one result of climate change why not capitalize on this and holiday in the UK. Domestic tourism could be on the verge of a boom. Good news for Tenby. If you travel regularly by car consider using the bus or train instead. Both will reduce your carbon footprint. Everyone resident in Wales over the age of sixty is entitled to a concessionary bus pass giving free travel on all bus services and selected rail services mainly in North Wales but also including the Swansea to Shrewsbury Heart of Wales line. Using your concessionary bus pass you can travel from Tenby to Swansea for a day’s shopping free of charge by changing buses at Narberth and Carmarthen. An application for the pass can be obtained from Tenby Post Office. Use it or loose it as they say! A recent study has also revealed how much pollution is created by agriculture. It seems that cows in particular produce significant amounts of pollution. As a result it has been suggested that by avoiding dairy products we can help to reduce pollution. All food for thought. It must of course be said that to make a significant impact on slowing climate change everyone would need to take action. That of course is very unlikely which leads me to believe that climate change is inevitable. Future generations will be the ones who will have to pick up the pieces for the cost of our lifestyle.

    Party Time

    It’s that time of year again when we say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new with a party and what better place to do so than in Tudor Square, Tenby. Well OK, Sydney, Australia may be slightly better as it will be somewhat warmer than Tenby. However if you wrap up warm Tenby’s atmosphere is the best. From about 11.30pm onwards the crowds start to gather and by midnight it’s shoulder to shoulder in the square. NEW YEAR'S EVE OVER TENBY HARBOURAt the stroke of midnight the impressive fireworks display provided by Tenby House commences. This lasts for about ten to fifteen minutes and is a fantastic sight. The square is packed with people, many of whom have dressed up in fancy dress. All age groups are represented and in case you were wondering it all passes off peacefully. Revelers rub shoulders with lovers with family groups and friends. It’s simply the place to be on New Year’s Eve.

    The tradition of gathering in large crowds to celebrate New Year’s Eve is not a new phenomenon. Tales and Traditions of Tenby published by Richard Mason in 1858 records that ‘there was a general desire to see the old year out and the New Year in, which was done according to the several tastes of different parties. Some danced the old year out, some sung it out, some drank it out, for the love of Auld Lang Syne, some prayed it out, but very many walked it out, which was done to the intense annoyance of invalids and of good musicians. For the promenaders, judging that music should herald in the New Year, sung away in total defiance of all rules of melody and harmony such verses as

    ‘Get up on New Years’ morning, The cocks are all a –crowing: And if you think you’re awake to soon, Why get up and look at the stars and moon: But get up on New Year’s morning’.

    To rise early on New Year’s Morning was generally considered ‘lucky’ on the principal that as the year was begun so it would continue. Old traditions such as ‘New Year’s Water’ were celebrated locally but the next big party night was Twelfth Night. Long kept as a time of wassail and revelry Twelfth Night was celebrated by proceeding from house to house with a ‘wassail bowl’ and persons partaking of the contents were expected to pay. Helping to keep old traditions alive Tenby Museum & Art Gallery have arranged a Jazz concert on Twelfth night (Saturday 5th January) so come along and continue the party festivities. Details can be found on the museum’s website or direct from the museum which reopens on Wednesday 2nd January (01834 842809).

    Tenby Museum Art Auction – after the dust has settled

    Last Friday the Friends of Tenby Museum & Art Gallery organised an Art Auction in aid of the museum. It was a lively evening with Mr Guy Manning volunteering his services as auctioneer. He was witty, informative and persuasive, helping to raise over £8,500 on the night.

    ART AUCTIONWe would like to thank everyone who turned up on the night, and all who placed bids for the various works of art.  Also a big thank you to all the artists who donated their work in support of the museum.  We would not be able to raise this money without your generousity and continuing support, of which we are eternally grateful.

    We would also like to thank both stall holders and visitors to the Annual Craft and Vintage Fayre event held at the De Valence in October.  It was a very popular event with a variety of stalls providing interesting local crafts and hand made items.

    All proceeds of both events go towards the unique and independent Tenby Museum and Art Gallery. The money raised will go on the conservation of paintings and historic artifacts, building maintenance, and the updating of IT equipment.

    Tenby Museum Art Auction

    Once again the Friends of Tenby Museum are organising an Art Auction on Friday 2nd November 7.00pm at the Art Gallery. The art for sale can be viewed at the museum from 25th October and entry will be free to the exhibition. You can also view the art on-line at www.tenbymuseum.org.uk.

    There will be many wonderful artists contributing their work in support of the museum including David Bellamy, Brian Froud, Elizabeth Haines, Guy Manning, Dorian Spencer Davies, Naomi Tydeman, Wendy Yeo and many more.  And this year we are proud to have a hand tinted etching by Graham Clarke.  Graham is an artist, author, illustrator and humourist, and is one of Britain’s most popular and bestselling printmakers.  Examples of his work are included in collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Tate Gallery, Library of Congress in Washington DC, New York Public Library and the Hiroshima Peace Museum.  Definitely one for the collection.

    ‘Grand Hotel’ by Graham Clarke

    All the proceeds will go to the Tenby Museum & Art Gallery and local artist Guy Manning has volunteered to act as auctioneer for the night,  We appreciate your support and if you can’t make it on the night you can either leave a bid in a sealed box at the museum or on-line at the museum website.

    All the Fun of the Fair

    One of the highlights of growing up in Tenby during the 1960s and 1970s was the annual St Margaret’s Fair held every July in the Butts Field (North Beach Car Park). The fair was opened by the Mayor following a civic procession down to the Butts Field. It was fascinating to watch the town’s dignitaries dressed in their fine robes accompanied by the mace bearers and the town crier. After the official opening merchants sold their wares from the back of Lorries. Some employed some rather dubious techniques. I remember one who sold china where you had to buy some cheap and probably fairly worthless item to remain in the sale and then have the chance of buying something more valuable. Not sure how legal that was!

    However the highlight for youngsters like me was the amusements including the dodgems. St. Margaret’s Fair had been held in various locations around the town before moving to the North Beach Car Park. In the early years of the 20th Century it was held on Walls Field now the site of St. Teilo’s School. Later it was held in the South Parade with stalls on both sides of the road and ended its days down at the Salterns. Sadly the fair ceased over 20 years ago.

    The good news is that Tenby is once again to have a Fair. St. Matthew’s Fair will be held in the Five Arches car park from October 19 to 21. Once again a civic parade will take place followed by a proclamation and official opening by the Mayor. The Fair is being organized by the Showmen’s Guild.

    The history of Fairs in Tenby is interesting. By the 18th century there were five in Tenby. The earliest fair was granted in a charter by William de Valence and his wife Joan in 1290. This fair was granted for the Feast of the Assumption (15 August) and two days afterwards.

    In 1581 Queen Elizabeth 1 granted a charter to Tenby allowing an additional fair to be held on the vigil, on the day and on the morrow of the Feast of St. Margaret (31 July).


    St Margaret’s fair was the longest lasting of all the Tenby fairs. In 1631 King Charles 1 granted a charter to the town that among other things changed the date of the fair granted by William de Valence from 15 August to St. Matthew’s Day (21 September) and the two days following. It is this fair that is being revised this year although a little bit later (October 19 to 21). In 1693 King William lll and Queen Mary ll granted three additional fairs to Tenby – Whitsun, St. George’s Day (23 April) and St. Clement’s Day (23 November).

    The Elizabeth l, Charles l and William and Mary charters can be seen by appointment at Tenby Museum & Art Gallery on the Castle Hill, Tenby.

    Hooray, hooray, it’s a Bank Holiday

    Time flies. Hard to believe that it’s almost August Bank Holiday Monday. It set my mind to thinking about what exactly is a bank holiday and how long have they existed? A bank holiday is a public holiday in the UK although there is no automatic right to time off on these days. Bank holidays are currently regulated by the ‘Banking and Financial Dealing Act’ of 1971 but originate in the ‘Bank Holidays Act’ of 1871 introduced by the Liberal Party. The 1871 act recognized four days as Bank holidays – Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. Christmas Day and Good Friday were already recognized as Public holidays.

    At one time the Bank of England recognized 33 saint’s days and religious festivals as holidays. Imagine 33 bank holidays a year! Great. Sadly in 1834 it was reduced to just 4 – 1st of May, 1st November (All Saints Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day. This remained the same until the 1871 act that replaced All Saints Day with the first Monday in August.

    In 1965 the August Bank Holiday in England and Wales was moved from the first Monday of the month to the last Monday. This was at the request of the ailing tourist industry in Cornwall. They argued that the move would help to prolong the summer holiday season. Scotland did not change their holiday and still enjoy a Bank Holiday on the first Monday of August.

    New Years Day in case you were wondering did not become a Bank Holiday until the first of January 1974. In Wales we currently enjoy eight Bank Holidays each year. Other parts of the United Kingdom have a better deal with Scotland enjoying nine Bank Holidays a year and Northern Ireland having the best deal with ten! Scottish Bank Holidays vary slightly from Wales with the second of January taken instead of Boxing Day. The extra Scottish Bank Holiday is St. Andrew’s Day celebrated on the 30 November. Northern Ireland has two extra Bank Holidays (lucky devils) celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the 17 March and the Battle of the Boyne on the 12th July.

    There is a campaign for an extra Bank Holiday to be provided in England and Wales. St. David’s Day (1st March), St. George’s Day (23 April) and St. Piran’s Day (5th March) have all been suggested. St. Piran by the way is the Patron Saint of Cornwall.

    On Monday 27th August don’t forget to thank the Liberal Party for introducing Bank Holidays in 1871. But what does the future hold for Bank Holidays now the banks are closing most of their branches and moving more and more to an on-line system of banking? Will Bank Holidays survive? Tenby has lost three banks in recent years – Nat West, Lloyds and Santander. Only two remain – Barclays and HSBC. When the branches close the cash machines go as well resulting in the remaining machines running out of cash over Bank Holiday weekends! As we move towards a cashless society this may cease to be a problem but let’s all hope that Bank Holidays as we know and love them remain for future generations to enjoy as we do! I think they are pretty safe as can you see any political party proposing their abolition. It would be political suicide. Of course adding St. David’s Day to the list would be great for Pembrokeshire and Wales. Let’s hope the new Parliament in Cardiff will have the necessary power. In the meantime enjoy the Bank Holiday. Here’s hoping the sun shines!

    Fun in the Sun

    When you meet a friend in the street and say hello what is it you talk about after asking after their health? Yes, the weather, the great British obsession. Why are we so obsessed about the weather? Could it be because it is so variable, so unreliable with no two days alike? Well until now that may have been the case. This summer, however, has seen almost unbroken sunshine with the warmth steadily building from May through to July, absolutely glorious weather to be in Tenby. If this continues records will be broken. However far too often the British summer is a few days’ hot and sunny weather followed by thunder and lightning combined with torrential rain. And yes that is what late July has just delivered! Fingers crossed that the hot weather will return for August so we can enjoy more fun in the sun!

    The latest statistics show that Wales is heading for its driest summer since records began in 1910. Drier even than the legendary summer of 1976. If August and September are hot and sunny then records will tumble.

    On a hot summer’s day where better to be than on the beach in Tenby. With four to chose from, North, South, Castle and Harbour, you are spoilt for choice. All are a short stroll from the town centre so if the heat gets too much then pay a visit to an ice-cream parlour to cool down and then enjoy some culture by visiting Tenby Museum & Art Gallery with its renowned collection of works by Tenby born artist Augustus John and his sister Gwen. Follow that with a visit to the oldest house in Tenby, the National Trust’s Tudor Merchant’s house. If Art is your thing you are spoiled for commercial galleries with award winning artist Naomi Tydeman having a gallery in Cob Lane and Guy Manning having a gallery in Upper Frog Street. Alternatively, just browse the eclectic range of shops in Tenby’s traffic free town centre and enjoy the laidback café culture. In the evening enjoy a ghostly guided walk with a blue badge guide before checking out what is on at the town’s premier entertainment venue, the DeValence Pavilion. Concerts, wrestling and films are staples of the DeValence throughout the year.

    If you’re in Tenby on a Sunday in August, don’t forget to check out what is happening down at the harbour. Summer spectaculars are staged by local organizations to entertain both visitors and locals, while at the same time raising money for charity. These feature live bands and discos and usually end with a spectacular fireworks display at 10pm.

    Finally, have a look at the ‘VisitTenby’ website to see what else is happening. To make this easier, free wi-fi is available throughout the town centre.

    As I write this, the clouds are clearing and the sun is trying to come out. Fun in the Sun is about to be resumed. Long may it last.

    ‘The Painted Word’ – The work of Alec Lewis

    After studying at Carmarthen Art School Alec obtained a Diploma in Art & Design at Maidstone College of Art, before entering the advertising industry as an art director. He worked on accounts like British Leyland Mini and Land-Rover, Big D Nuts and Pepsi; working with people like Twiggi, Henry Cooper, Hurricane Higgins and Tony Gregg.

    He later went freelance and moved to Devon living in Chagford on the edge of Dartmoor. While freelancing at a London agency he was asked to go to Bahrain for two months to work on the British Airways account and
    in the end Alec spent eleven years in Bahrain and Dubai.

    When Alec retired ten years ago and moved to Tenby full time, and started painting again (although he never stopped sketching and painting).  He has an exhibition of his paintings on at the museum at the moment called ‘The Painted Word’ which reflects his interest in the written word, whether it’s in music, poetry, myth or legend, and the people that have influenced his life. William Blake, Oscar Wilde and of course Dylan Thomas. “Also included are my musical heroes like Lennon, Dylan, Elvis and Leonard Cohen, and the two visual icon of the 20th century – Marilyn Monroe and Elvis – both tortured souls and both still iconic today”.

    “In my work I use all elements that are available to me and mix watercolour with acrylics and collage on canvas. It is possible to make art out of anything; bits of wrapping paper, pieces of cardboard, used tickets; whatever you like.”

    Alec is also concerned with the environment and has painted many images of the Green Man – the perennial symbol of our unity with the natural world – always with us especially in churches where the imagery was used as a link between Christianity and paganism.

    Celebrating 150 years

    On entering Tenby you can’t miss the fine Gothic style Church with a clock tower on the corner of Warren Street and South Parade. If you arrive by train it’s on the road you walk up heading towards the town centre. If you arrive by car you go under the railway viaduct and will pass the church on your way to the car park. What you may not know is that this church is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. As well as functioning as a thriving church St. Johns is also one of the two main cultural centres in Tenby, housing a wide range of concerts and events.

    August sees the celebration of 150 years of worship at St. Johns Church, South Parade, Tenby. The Church, then known as the Congregational Church, opened on the 6th August 1868 exactly a year after the laying of the foundation stone. The Church was built in the Gothic Style by local builder James Rogers to designs by Paull and Robinson, architects of Manchester. The corner on which the church stands quickly became known to locals as ‘Cong Corner’, a term still in use today. The original plan to include a spire was not completed until 1908 when the clock tower was added. The work was carried out by Messrs. Beynon Brothers.ST JOHN'S CHURCH

    The church has witnessed many changes over the years. In 1968 it celebrated its Centenary with the publication of a 46 page souvenir booklet detailing the history of the church. In 1972 a union between the Congregational and Presbyterian denominations led to the founding of the United Reformed Church. Then in 1986 as a result of a partnership with Tenby Methodist Church the church was renamed St. Johns after the reformer John Calvin, the martyr John Penry, the theologian John Wesley and Saint John the Apostle.

    Services are held every Sunday at 11.00am with Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month. The Church holds a regular coffee morning and freshly baked Welsh cakes every Wednesday from 10.00am to noon. Art Exhibitions, concerts and numerous special events are organized throughout the year.

    This year St. Johns has a full programme of special events to celebrate 150 years. On the 7th April Tenby Male Choir and Belle Voce will be performing. The choir is back again on May 1st performing to raise funds for scouts and guides.  May 8th will see a concert by Jim Walker and John Harrison and on the 22nd May the Griffon Choir will be in concert. In June a number of choirs will be performing including Tenby and Chesterfield Male Choir (2nd), Pembroke Male Voice Choir (12th) and the Quay Notes Choir (26th). Concerts continue throughout the summer months.

    Those interested in history should note the dates 25th to 30th May as the Church is mounting a special Church History exhibition.  Later in the year the Church is running an arts project workshop for young people and December will see the Christmas Tree Festival.

    Every Friday night (except during the summer months) the church houses the Tenby and District Arts Club meetings featuring a wide range of activities and events varying from a water colour painting demonstration to local choirs and jazz musicians. The club welcomes everyone, members or not, to come along and enjoy themselves with other like minded individuals.

    St. Johns is one of two main cultural centres in Tenby. The other one is Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, located on the Castle Hill above the harbour. As a trustee of the museum you may be tempted to say that I would say that wouldn’t I. This year is special however as the museum celebrates its 140 birthday with a full programme of events and art exhibitions throughout the year including the first ever public exhibition of Paintings and Polaroids by Nicholas Jones, also known as Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, from the 14th September to 21st October. Look forward to seeing you there.



    Tenby Tales – Summer reading

    If you are looking for a book to while away the warm summer evenings why not select one featuring Tenby as the setting.

    There are several to choose from. Probably one of the best is The Hourglass by Tracy Rees published TENBY STORIESby Quercus books, part of Hachette UK, in 2017. The paperback features a photo of a very attractive young lady in a red dress against a photo-shopped picture of Tenby on the cover. Without giving away to much of the plot the story is set in two different time periods, 1950’s Tenby and 2014 Tenby. The historical detail is fairly accurate with one major change to fit in with the plot. At 527 pages it may be a bit long for a short break but is perfect for that two week break in the sun. The author, Tracey Rees, a Cambridge graduate who lives in Wales has been writing non-fiction since 2009 to excellent reviews. She has been called the ‘most outstanding new voice in historical fiction’.

    Tenby has featured in several novels over the years. Sage Peveril by Margaret Mackinlay, the pen name of Audrey Philpin, is worth looking for in secondhand bookshops. Published by Robert Hale in 1982 the story is set in the area overlooking Tenby harbour in the sixteenth century. Sage Peveril lives in what we know as the Tudor Merchant’s House and much of the action takes place in Bridge Street and Quay Hill. The book is firmly based in Tenby’s history with the two mayors mentioned in the book, John Howell and Howell Howell, both being actual mayors of Tenby. Audrey spent several months researching the period before writing the book and was so grateful for the help she received from Tenby Museum that the book is dedicated to ‘The Curator and Friends of Tenby Museum, particularly Hector Lee’. Sage Peveril was Audrey Philpin’s second book her first being The Pawn of Kings set in Pembroke Castle during the Norman period. Love Lives by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees (Arrow books, 2004) is another book with a local setting. Although the town featured in the novel is called Shoresby it is clearly a slightly disguised version of Tenby with plenty of references to Tenby including the Croft, Crackwell Street and the North Beach as well as local businesses including Equinox although strangely it is relocated to Southcliffe Street. The story concerns an architect obsessed with restoring an old house, a documentary film maker and two local teenagers. The lives of the four lead characters converge in this popular romance. The husband and wife writing partnership have received significant praise in the national press including ‘brilliantly written and wittily observed’ (Daily Express), ‘vivid and funny’ (The Times) and ‘A moving story of childhood friendship and grown up love’ (She).

    One of the oldest novels I have come across featuring Tenby is The Mystery of Hoyles Mouth by M.E. Ropes. The book is not dated but a sticker in the copy at Tenby Museum library reveals it was published before 1919. The book is a boys own type adventure featuring the adventures of two runaway boys (Tom and Davey) who stowaway on a schooner at Bristol bound for Tenby. The boys’ adventures in Tenby and surrounding area include the uncovering of a smuggling operation based at Hoyles Mouth cave.

    Enjoy your summer reading. If you know of any other books set in or around Tenby please share the details with us. Thanks.