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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 33203

Map Reference SM90NW

Grid Reference SM9030305971

Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire

Old County Pembrokeshire

Community Milford Haven

Type of Site TOWN

Broad Class CIVIL

Period Multiperiod

Site Description Milford was founded by Sir William Hamilton, who was granted permission by Act of Parliament in 1790 to ‘provide Quays, Docks, Piers and other erections’ and develop a new town. Several Quaker whaling families fleeing from the American War of Independence were encouraged to settle in the town in 1792, and in 1796 a new navy dockyard was built at the entrance to Hubberston Pill. While the whaling industry flourished for a time, it had declined by 1819, and a further severe blow was dealt to Milford in 1812 when the Admiralty decided to move the naval dockyards to a new site further east along the Haven at Pembroke Dock. For much of the nineteenth century various attempts were made to revitalise Milford’s fortunes, and in 1888 a fully-functional floating dock was completed. Although planned to capitalise on transatlantic passenger trade, this also failed to prosper and the facilities reverted to use by the fishing industry.

T. Driver, RCAHMW, 20th March 2009

Milford Haven is a relatively new town which takes its name from the waterway on which it is situated. The natural harbour, which had been in use since the early Medieval period, is most famously associated with the landing of Henry Tudor in 1485 and the launching base for Oliver Cromwell’s 1649 invasion of Ireland. However, the town and built harbour of Milford Haven was only founded in 1790 by William Hamilton, who encouraged whaling families from Nantucket to develop a fleet here. In 1796 a military dockyard for the Royal Navy was developed, but after this moved to Pembroke Dock in 1814, traders took over and re-developed the site into a commercial dockyard.

Despite the town’s historical connection to the Welsh noble families of Pembroke and Tudor, it lies in the area commonly referred to as ‘Little England beyond Wales’. Following the Norman Conquest, Flemings were greatly encouraged to settle here and so replace the Welsh population. Ever since then, the Welsh- and English-speaking communities remain culturally and linguistically distinct.

Owing to its comparatively late foundation and strong ties to commercial seafaring, the town of Milford Haven was not traditionally considered a picturesque travel destination among nineteenth-century tourists. However, the town’s situation on the beautiful Welsh coast, the natural properties of the haven and easy access to the countryside was repeatedly praised by those who landed here. In 1894, Eugenie Rosenberger described how, after one particularly violent storm, Milford Haven experienced a small economic boom. Many crews poured their money into the public houses because their ships had to undergo extensive repairs and they were forced to remain on land for much longer than they had originally planned.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.

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