Milford Haven is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway, an estuary forming a natural harbour that has been used as a port since the Middle Ages.
Quick Facts of Milford Haven
Events In The Milford Haven Area
Regular events held in this town.
Things To Do Outdoors In And Around Milford Haven
Landmarks, hikes, walks and outdoors information about this region.
History Of Milford Haven
The town of Milford was founded in 1793, after Sir William Hamilton obtained an Act of Parliament in 1790 to establish the port at Milford, and takes its name from the natural harbour of Milford Haven, which was used for several hundred years as a staging point on sea journeys to Ireland and as a shelter by Vikings. It was known as a safe port and is mentioned in Shakespeare's Cymbeline as "blessed Milford". It was used as the base for several military operations, such as Richard de Clare's invasion of Leinster in 1167, Henry II's Invasion of Ireland in 1171, John's continued subjugation of the Irish in 1185 and 1210 and Oliver Cromwell's 1649 invasion of Ireland; while forces which have disembarked at the point include Jean II de Rieux's 1405 reinforcement of the Glyndŵr Rising and Henry VII's 1485 landing at the waterway before marching on England. By the late 18th century the two local creeks were being used to load and unload goods, and surrounding settlements were established, including the medieval chapel, and Summer Hill Farm, the only man-made structures on the future site of Milford.
Sir William Hamilton, the town's founder, had acquired the land from his wife, Catherine Barlow of Slebech. His nephew, the Hon. Charles Francis Greville, invited seven Quaker families from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard to settle in the new town and develop a whaling fleet. They began by building a shipyard, and leased it to a Messrs. Harry and Joseph Jacob. In December 1796, in an unusual arrangement, the Admiralty (Navy operations) directed the Navy Board (administration and supplies) to contract Jacobs shipyard to build a frigate and later a 74-gun ship-of-the-line. However, due to a combined lack of local standing oak, access to supplies of timber from the Baltic, and local skills in volume, the Jacob operation soon went bankrupt.
Milford Haven In The 19th Century
In 1800, following the bankruptcy of the Jacobs & Sons, the Navy Board's overseer, Jean-Louis Barralier, was persuaded to lease the site for the Navy Board and develop a dockyard for building warships. Seven royal vessels were eventually launched from the dockyard, including HMS Surprise and HMS Milford. The town was built on a grid pattern, thought to have been to the design of Jean-Louis Barrallier, who remained in charge of shipbuilding there for the Navy Board. Between 1801 and 1803, the town and waterway were protected by temporary batteries at Hakin Point and south of St Katherine's Church, in response to the perceived threat following the Fishguard Invasion.
A church was consecrated in October 1808 and dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria in the underdeveloped eastern side of the town, it remained a chapel of ease until 1891 when Milford became a parish, until that time competing with St Peter and St Cewydd in Steynton. By the start of the 19th century, a mail coach was operating between London and Hubberston, and in 1800 the short lived Milford and Pembrokeshire Bank was established by Thomas Phillips, operating from a branch in the town. It collapsed in 1810.
On 11 October 1809, a naval commission recommended purchase of the Milford Haven facility and formal established of a Royal Navy dockyard. This was, according to the report, due to the fact that Millford built-ships had proved to be cheaper due to the cheap cost of supplies and abundant labour supply. It proposed purchase of the yard at £4,455. However, as this was after the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), when the need for naval ships was decreasing in the Napoleonic Wars, and in such a remote location, the proposal seemed perplexing. However, in light of the end of the Franco-Spanish naval engagement, and the merging of the two sides of the Roy al Navy under the Admiralty Board, the fact that Frenchman Barallier would remain in charge strongly suggests to historians that the Royal Navy accepted that its ships manoeuvrability was inferior to those of the Franco-Spanish alliance. In an effort to rectify this state of affairs the Royal Navy's first School of Naval Architecture was opened in Portsmouth in 1810. Effectively then, Millford was to be set up as a model dockyard under French management, from which lessons could be learnt for implementation in other dockyards.
In 1814 the Royal Dockyard was transferred to Pembroke Dock; though, when Robert Fulke Greville inherited the estate in 1824, a commercial dock was started which became the home of a successful fishing industry. By 1849, the district of Hakin was described as a considerable centre of boat building, and by 1906, Milford had become the sixth largest fishing port in the UK, and its population rose. The Pembrokeshire Herald claimed in 1912 that "the fish trade is Milford's sole industry....the population of the town has doubled by means of it".
In 1863, the railway network came to Milford, linking it to the Haverfordwest line and beyond. In 1866, work was completed on an additional extension which provided access to the docks and ship-breaking yard on the eastern side of the town. Between 1875 and 1886 The Great Eastern was a permanent fixture at Milford Docks, remaining there for lengthy repairs. Her arrival into the docks was heralded as an example of the scale of vessel which the town could expect to attract.
In the late 1850s, work began on a network of forts on both sides of the Milford Haven estuary, as a direct result of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. They were designed with the intention of defending the United Kingdom against French invasion, although were never used for this purpose. Notable examples in the town were Fort Hubberstone in Gelliswick and Scoveston Fort to the north east of the town.
Milford Haven In The 20th Century
By 1901, the town's population had reached 5,102, and by 1931 had further doubled to 10,104. The early twentieth century saw a period of increased urbanization of the area; in the period from the First World War to 1937, 312 council houses were built, and public services, such as electricity supplies and sewerage, were completed. The steep gradient of the Rath was at this time constructed, and in 1939 a Town Hall was opened on Hamilton Terrace, at that time possessing an inbuilt fire station. 1939 also saw the opening of an outdoor swimming pool on the Rath.
Milford Haven In The Second World War (WW2)
During the Second World War Milford Haven was chosen as a base for allied American troops, and roughly 1,000 American military personnel were housed in the town at this time. They manned an amphibious base which included a hospital built in Hakin and a docks complex at Newton Noyes. The base had a complement of 71 officers and 902 enlisted men, and played a rôle in preparations for D Day. Despite its strategic importance as the home of a large fish market, a mines depot, a flax factory, and housing numerous military personnel, Milford escaped serious damage from German bombings during the Second World War. In the summer of 1941 a bomb fell in fields near Priory Road, and later that year, a bomb damaged a house in Brooke Avenue. In neither instance were there casualties.
Late 20th Century
In 1960, the Esso Company completed work on an oil refinery near the town, which opened despite environmental objections.This was followed by similar developments by many other chief oil companies in a 10-year period, including Texaco, Amoco, Gulf and BP. In 1974, Milford could boast an oil trade of 58,554,000 tons, which was three times the combined trade of all the other ports of Wales. In 1996 the area hit the headlines internationally when the oil tanker Sea Empress ran aground, causing a substantial oil spill. By the early 1980s, the Esso refinery was the second largest in the UK.