PEMBROKESHIRE’S link to Guy Fawkes is the subject under the spotlight in this week's Nostalgia column by local historian Mark Muller.

Haverfordwest Priory is a truly beautiful ruin with a peaceful aura to it. Perhaps the centuries-long spiritual tranquillity that was an integral part of it has soaked into the ground. I feel the same about places like St Davids Cathedral, also very relevant to this story.

But this isn’t primarily about either of those places - althoughI will happily write more about either or both at some point in the future!

It is about a figure who was prominent in both ecclesiastical buildings and who has left us a link, albeit a tenuous one, to the Gunpowder Plot.

That person is William Barlow.

After gaining a doctorate in divinity from Cambridge, Barlow, from a land owning family in the east of the country was, by the late 1520s, assisting Henry VIII with his attempts to divorce Catherine of Aragon. He was even sent to Rome to negotiate with the Pope.

The subsequent divorce and successful marriage to Anne Boleyn meant that Barlow was viewed with great favour by both Henry and Anne.

In order to make Anne appear more of an aristocrat than she actually was, prior to the marriage, she had been given the title of Marquis of Pembroke, and with that title came the Lordship of Haverfordwest.

As a result it came within her power to bestow as a gift, the position of Prior of Haverfordwest Priory... and she gave it to William Barlow.

He had been given a host of such positions already and had always accepted them and drawn the benefit from them in absentia, but this one he wanted to take in person.

This is generally considered to be because he knew that the dissolution of the monasteries was only a few years away and he had his eye on a fair number of lucrative land sales that would result in this part of the world and additionally he had his eye on the bishopric of St Davids.

He was found on his arrival to have been an incredibly belligerent man who fell out with practically everyone who he came into contact with.

He stated in his letters of complaint to his ‘boss’ Thomas Cromwell that the reason for the poor relationships was due to the attitude of his parishioners and his clergy, all of whom he felt to be committed Catholics and as such he wrote that he felt that no diocese in the country would be more difficult to bring into the Reformation.

Initially he was removed from the county but in a remarkably short time was brought back, this time as Bishop of St Davids.

Due to his ill-feeling towards his clergy and the county in general, he tried unsuccessfully to move the bishopric out of Pembrokeshire and into Carmarthenshire but succeeded in moving the Bishop’s Palace.

When the land of the monasteries and even more importantly the land belonging to the Commandery of the Knights Hospitaller in Slebech came up for sale, Barlow had his brothers in place as preferred bidders and so the Barlow dynasty came into being.

(Another one that I will write about).

When Mary came to the throne and tried to reverse everything, Barlow was initially imprisoned but escaped and fled to Poland.

He remained there until Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558 (the year that William Nichol was burnt at the stake in Haverfordwest but this happened just before Elizabeth became queen).

Elizabeth made Barlow Bishop of Chichester and he died there in 1568.

He had five daughters, all of whom married bishops, but.... he also had a son who on the 10th of November 1605 was chosen as the minister to preach the first state sermon of thanks for the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot.

This gentleman, also a William, also a bishop...of Rochester...compared Guy Fawkes with Caligula; only far worse.

It was after this forceful sermon that an Act was passed in January 1606 which made it compulsory to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night (as it became known).

It became a crime not to celebrate it or attend special sermons devoted to its failure, and it remained compulsory until 1859.