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the Griffin

The Griffin Inn - Dale


©Gill Charles

Countless members of the Royal Navy and Wrens who spent part of their service life in south west Wales during the late 1940’s and 1950’s must have spent at least part of their time in the Griffin Inn in the village of Dale. With the nearest big towns being Haverfordwest and Milford Haven and little public transport, there would have been little choice but to make the trip down the hill to the only pub in the village. How anyone ever made it back up the hill after a night out is beyond me!

A recent visit to Dale and a nightly visit to the pub shows that really very little has changed since the time when it was frequented by the Navy. Talking to the current landlord has enabled me to acquire a brief history of the pub – the last surviving hostelry of eighteen in the village. This vast number seems to be largely due to Dale being a sea trading and fishing village with the inevitable smuggling and ‘salvaging’ from the ships that came to grief on this rocky coast. It is believed that way back at the beginning of the 1700’s there was a brew house in the area producing various kinds of alcohol!


George White and his wife Margaret ©Mrs Marjorie Johnson

By the time World War 2 was under way all these ‘cottage’ pubs had vanished, leaving just the one stalwart – The Griffin, which was kept going in the main by the bases at Dale and later at Kete. Originally known as the Three Horseshoes, with Thomas Morgans as landlord from 1821-1823, when fisherman William Thomas took over in 1824 he changed the name to The Griffin for unspecified reasons. William Thomas remained in charge until at least 1841. In the 1841 census he is shown as living at Dale Quay and working as a fisherman. He is living with his wife and daughter Jane, a boarder and one servant. No mention is made of the pub but the likelihood is that it was still trading. In 1848 a marriage is registered between Jane Thomas and John Jones. This is too much of a coincidence for it not to be the same John Jones who appears later in the 1851 census as landlord and with a wife named Jane.

©Bill Brimson

John is described as a ships carpenter and it is in fact Jane who is named as the publican; it would appear that Jane took over the licence from her father. Jane and John retained the pub until 1895, with John supplementing their income by helping to build ships on the seafront along with running a fishing vessel.

By 1861 the Jones’ are still publicans but The Griffin appears to have been upgraded to a hotel. The 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses record the pub as an inn with John and Jane remaining as landlords. It would seem that in 1896 John died at the good age of 77 and after some forty years the pub changed hands. This time and John Llewellyn Davies and his wife, Rose took up the reigns. He was an Auctioneer and Inn Keeper. Incumbency was short lived as it is reported that Arthur Bowes was landlord in 1906 and George White took over in 1910, a fact backed up by the 1911 census. George died in 1915 and his wife Margaret took over the licence.


2011©Gill Charles

In 1923 Mrs Sarah Jane Saunderson and Alice Snelling by 1927 was tenant landlady as James Williams of Narberth, wine merchants appeared to own it. By 1930 Lewis Lewis was landlord and continued as such until 1950. It is reputed that during the war the Misses Lewis, daughters or sisters of the landlord, were behind the bar and scrupulously rationed beer, it being in short supply, to two pints per person per night. Another story goes that the beer was watered down to make it go further, but, this is an unsubstantiated rumour.

After 1950 Mary Lewis ran the pub to be followed in 1957 by Charles English. It was during this time that the pub was extensively refurbished as the magistrates were concerned at the lack or near absence of toilets. Charles English ceded his tenancy in 1963 and since the Navy left the Dale area there appear to have been a fair number of landlords coming down to Sian and Simon, the current incumbents, who have one or two ideas to bring the pub into the 21st century without losing too much of the original atmosphere.

The Griffin today ©Gill Charles 2011


Bibliography – Dale….an Illustrated History – Dale Women’s Institute 2000

The History of Pubs in Dale – copy held by current landlord 2011

1841-1911 Census –