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Pembroke Dock

Pembroke Dock
Welsh: Doc Penfro
Pembroke Dock is located in Pembrokeshire
Pembroke Dock
 Pembroke Dock shown within Pembrokeshire
Population 9,753 (2011)[1]
OS grid reference
Principal area Pembrokeshire
Ceremonial county Dyfed
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SA72
Dialling code 01646
Police Dyfed-Powys
Fire Mid and West Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
List of places

Pembroke Dock (Welsh: Doc Penfro) is a town in Pembrokeshire, South West Wales, lying north of Pembroke on the River Cleddau. Originally a small fishing village known as Paterchurch, the town was greatly expanded from 1814 onwards following the construction of a Royal Naval Dockyard. It is the third largest town in Pembrokeshire after Haverfordwest and Milford Haven.


  • History 1
  • Naval dockyards 2
    • 1758 Naval report 2.1
    • Milford Haven 2.2
    • First shipyard 2.3
    • New town 2.4
    • Operations 2.5
  • RAF base 3
  • Today 4
  • Proposals to re-name the town 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The natural harbour offering shelter from the prevailing south westerly winds has probably been used for many thousands of years, but the first evidence of settlement from maps is the name of the Carr Rocks at the entrance, derived from the Norse-language Skare for rock.[2]

From the 790s until the Norman Invasion in 1066, the Milford Haven estuary was used occasionally by Vikings looking for shelter. During one visit (possibly in 854, but more likely to be in 878 on his way to the Battle of Cynuit), the Viking chieftain Hubba wintered in the haven with 23 ships.[3]

In 1172, three years after the Norman Invasion of Ireland, having prepared his fleet and army in the mouth of the Pembroke River, Henry II of England sailed there from the haven. [2]

Prior to 1814, the site of modern Pembroke Dock and its nearby settlements were mostly farmland and the area was referred to as Paterchurch. The first recorded mention of Paterchurch was in 1289. In the area a medieval tower was built and, like nearby 18th century and 19th century fortifications, it may have served as a lookout post. By the 17th century, additional domestic and farm buildings stood close to the tower and the isolated settlement had its own cemetery, whose last recorded burial is that of a Roger Adams, in 1731. The ruin of the tower now lies within the walls of the dockyard.

Paterchurch Tower was the centre of an estate said to stretch from Pennar Point to Cosheston. This changed hands in 1422 when Ellen de Paterchurch married a John Adams. Prior to the building of the town and before the dockyard was thought of, various sales and exchanges took place between the principal local landowners - the Adams, Owen and Meyrick families. These exchanges left the Meyricks in control of most of the land on which the dockyard and new town were to develop. By 1802 the Paterchurch buildings were mostly ruins.

Naval dockyards

1758 Naval report

The origins of naval shipbuilding on Milford Haven were in the private shipyard of Jacobs on the north side of the Haven at Milford. In November 1757, the Admiralty sent a surveying delegation to the haven, which prepared a report for Parliament recommending the construction of a "Milford" dock yard.[2] It should be noted that no such place as Milford existed at this time, just the village of Hubberston. Secondly, the report showed early signs of lobbying existing, with the scale of the local infrastructure and ship building activity exaggerated.[2]

Milford Haven

By the late 18th century, much of the village and the lands around Hubberston were owned by diplomat and politician Sir William Hamilton, whose wife was Admiral Lord Nelson's lover, Emma, Lady Hamilton. In partnership with the lands administrator, his nephew and heir the Hon. Charles Grenville, the pair proposed a scheme of development under the title "Milford", in reference to the 1758 report.[2] 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.

First shipyard

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. The Navy took over the shipyward lease, and employed royalist French naval architect M. Rennie Barallier and his son as Builder and Assistant Builder.[2]

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.[2] It proposed purchase of the yard at £4,455.[2] 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 Royal 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.[2]

New town

Former dockyard buildings: offices ('Sunderland House', left) and storehouse (right)

After failing to agree a purchase price for the existing Millford shipyard with Fulke Greville, Charles Greville's heir, the Admiralty agreed purchase of land 5 miles (8.0 km) across the haven from Milford, near the town of Pembroke in a district called Pater (village) or Paterchurch. This was one of the few sites in the haven suitable for building a dock for constructing decent sized ships, as its shoreline was flat but led quickly into deep harbour. Secondly, the Board of Ordnance had purchased 50 acres (20 ha) in preparation from the 1758 report to strengthen the haven's defences, which was added to by the purchase of an adjoining 20 acres (8.1 ha) for £5,500 from the Meyrick family.[2]

The town of Pembroke Dock was founded in 1814 when the Royal Navy Dockyard was established, initially called Pater Dockyard. Construction started immediately, with the former frigate HMS Lapwing driven ashore as a temporary accommodation hulk. Orders were placed for the construction of 74 gun battleship, and four frigates. However, after the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, although the scheme still seemed ill placed in what would be a smaller Royal Navy, the final plans were given the go ahead on 31 October 1815. The Naval Dockyards Society published a historical review in 2004.[4]


Disused former dry dock, Pembroke Dockyard

On 10 February 1816, the first two ships were launched from the dockyard – HMS Valorous and Ariadne, both 20-gun post-ships, subsequently converted at Plymouth Dockyard into 26-gun ships. Over the span of 112 years, five royal yachts were built, along with 263 other Royal Navy vessels. The last ship launched from the dockyard was the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Oleander on 26 April 1922.

Defensible barracks, gatehouse

As the dockyard and its importance grew, the need to defend it was addressed and Pembroke Dock became a military town. Work began in 1844 to build defensible barracks. In 1845 the first occupiers were the Royal Marines of the Portsmouth Division followed though the years by many famous regiments. Between 1849 and 1857, two Martello towers of dressed Portland stone were constructed at the south-western and north-western corner of the dockyard. Both were garrisoned by sergeants of artillery and their families.

In 1925, it was announced that the Royal Dockyards at Pembroke Dock and Rosyth were redundant and would be closed. A petition was sent to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, stressing the lack of alternative employment and the economic consequences of closure, but the decision was not overturned. First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty, said, "Whether these Yards are necessary for naval purposes, the Admiralty is the only competent judge. As to whether they are necessary for political or social reasons is for the Government to decide. The fact is, that so far as the upkeep of the Fleet is concerned, they are entirely redundant."[5]

The last Pembroke-built ship afloat was the hulk of the iron screw frigate HMS Inconstant, which was broken up in Belgium in 1956. In June of the same year, Admiral Leonard Andrew Boyd Donaldson, the last Captain-Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard, died aged 81.[6]

Although active warships were not based in Pembroke Dock after the 1940s, and formal dockyard work ceased in 1926, the base remained an official Naval Dockyard, and retained a Queen's Harbour Master, until 2008 (one of the last 5 QHMs in the UK, together with those at the currently (2010) extant bases at Devonport, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Clyde). The Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) was based in Pembroke Dock until disestablishment in 2008,[7] and the Ministry of Defence sold the freehold of the site to the Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA)[8] in 2007. For most of the last 20 years of MOD usage, the principal RMAS assets seen in the base were the MOD Salvage & Marine Team [9] (formerly CSALMO) vessels located there, the majority of which were relocated to the Serco base in Burntisland on the River Forth upon the activation of the £1bn Future Provision of Marine Services (FPMS) contract in May 2008.[10]

RAF base

The hangars dominate the landscape.

With the closure of the dockyard in 1926, the year of the General Strike, unemployment was high through the Great Depression until 1931 when No. 210 Squadron RAF arrived equipped with Southampton II flying boats. For almost 30 years the Royal Air Force was based at Pembroke Dock. During 1943, when home to the Sunderland flying boats, it was the largest operational base for flying boats in the world.

During the Second World War Pembroke Dock was targeted by the Luftwaffe. On Monday 19 August 1940 a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bomber flew up the haven waterway and bombed a series of oil tanks sited at Pennar. The oil-fuelled fire that followed raged for 18 days and was recorded as the largest UK conflagration since the Great Fire of London.[11]

Following the war the town enjoyed a degree of prosperity; this, however, changed in 1957 when it was announced that the RAF would be drastically reducing its presence. A few years later the final British Army regiment left the town.

The town's prosperity did increase again with the opening of the oil refineries on the Milford waterway and the construction of an oil-fired power station, but never to the high levels experienced when the dockyard was fully operational.

Pembroke Dock has a link to Hollywood - the full-scale Millennium Falcon built for The Empire Strikes Back was created in one of Pembroke Dock's hangars by Marcon Fabrications in 1979.[12]


Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre, housed in the former Dockyard Chapel
Pembroke Dock ferry terminal

Pembroke Dock is served by the A477 trunk road which runs from St. Clears through Pembroke Dock and over the Daugleddau estuary via the Cleddau Bridge to Haverfordwest. It has a ferry terminal from which ferries sail twice-daily to Rosslare in Ireland. The service is operated by Irish Ferries.

The town is served by Pembroke Dock railway station.

The two

  • Pembroke Dock Museum
  • Pembroke Dock History website
  • : photos of Pembroke Dock and surrounding area

External links

  1. ^ "4 Wards and community population 2011". Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j J.S.Guard (January 5, 2004). "H.M. Dockyard Pembroke - A Brief History". J.S.Guard. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Milford Haven Town Council website History, Chronology of Events
  4. ^ "Pembroke Dock Community Web Project". 1926-07-15. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  5. ^ "From W.S. Chalmers, The Life and Letters of David, Earl Beatty (1951), p.469". Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  6. ^ "History of Pembroke Dock". Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  7. ^ p26"desider" (PDF). May 2008. Retrieved 2015-03-23. 
  8. ^ Page 9
  9. ^ "Ministry of Defence: Salvage and Marine Team". Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "1bn MoD Marine Services Contract". Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  11. ^ "Memory of Pembroke Dock’s biggest oil fire lives on". Wales online. 19 August 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Parry, Nick (2005-05-18). "Town's secret Star Wars history". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  13. ^ "Listed building descriptions for Pembroke Dock". 
  14. ^ "Pembroke Dock - Llanion Barracks - 4 Group AAOR for the Milford Haven GDA". Subterranea Britannica. 2002-11-12. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  15. ^ [3] CWGC Cemetery Report.
  16. ^ [4] CWGC Cemetery Report.
  17. ^ "Pembroke Dock cemetery for soldiers who died at home". BBC. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "Technium Project". Pembroke Dock Community Web Project. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  19. ^ "Castle Pill Farm windfarm, United Kingdom". Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  20. ^ Ditch Dock' town is urged"'". BBC News. 16 May 2003. 


Pembroke Refinery

See also

There have been a number of occasions over the years (most recently in 2003)[20] when it has been suggested that Pembroke Dock should undergo a change in name in order to improve the town's image in respect of its reputation for high unemployment and industrial decline. Suggestions for a new name have included Pembroke Haven, Pembroke Harbour and a reversion to the original pre-1814 name of Paterchurch. To date none of these proposals have come to fruition.

Proposals to re-name the town

The Pembrokeshire Technium[18] was built and opened in 2006. Although the initial interest was slow the first major uptake on this facility began in 2009 when Infinergy built a wind farm[19] in the local area and based its local office in the centre. There has been approval given by Pembrokeshire County Council for a new yacht marina to be built alongside Front Street but work has yet to begin.

Two cemeteries in the town both hold many service graves. Pembroke Dock (Llanion) Cemetery contains the war graves of 23 Commonwealth service personnel, including two unidentified Royal Navy sailors, of the First World War and 51 of the Second, including four unidentified Royal Navy sailors and an unidentified airman.[15] Pembroke Dock Military Cemetery contains the war graves of 40 Commonwealth service personnel of the First World War and 33 of the Second,[16] and is believed to be the only dedicated military cemetery in Wales.[17]

A few buildings on the site of the old Llanion Barracks still stand. The Officers' and Sergeants' Mess once used as council offices is now occupied by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. The original guardroom remains and is now residential accommodation and a listed Victoria Powder Magazine[14] remains set into the coastal slope which is accessible from Connacht Way. The old parade square has recently been converted for housing.

Dock wall and martello tower

and now serves as the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre and Sunderland Flying Boat Trust headquarters. European Union funding from the Objective One at the end of the Terrace has been rebuilt using Dockyard church The [13]

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