The Milford Haven waterway is generally recognised as one of the greatest natural harbours of the world. Such waterways invariably have a rich history attached to them thanks to their relatively calm, deep waters providing a safe haven for vessels and their occupants, and Milford Haven is no exception. The Haven's virtues caught the attention of the Vikings as long ago as the 9th century. In 877 a Viking chieftain called Hubba wintered there with 23 ships and 2,000 warriors. Later, the waterway proved of great strategic importance to the Normans during their conflicts with the Welsh princes. During the reign of Henry VIII two forts, East Blockhouse and West Blockhouse, were built to protect the Haven, and these were probably manned during the Spanish Armada and the Civil War. Then during the Civil War the Royalists built an armed encampment and gun emplacement at Pill near Milford Haven.
Shakespeare was an early enthusiast of the waterway, declaring: "...how far it is to this same blessed Milford; and, by the way, tell me how Wales was made so happy as t'inherit such a haven." Later in 1802, Lord Nelson described it as the finest natural harbour in the Northern Hemisphere. Ironically it was the husband of his mistress Emma, Sir William Hamilton, who bankrolled the building of the town of Milford Haven, with Charles Greville in charge of the planning as the town became a whaling station and a naval dockyard was opened . The latter closed in 1926, however Milford Haven assumed an important role in the preparations for D-Day, when the docks became part of the US Navy advanced amphibious base. The LTS (landing ship tanks) were overhauled there and made ready for the Normandy landings. More recently it was the oil industry that discovered the benefits of the Haven's deep waters, what with the increasing size of oil tankers. Esso was the first company to open a refinery there in 1960, followed by several others, and between the 1960s and 1980s Milford Haven was one of Europe's biggest oil ports. Since then there has been a decline, and in fact it was just a few days ago that it was announced that a deal to rescue the Murco refinery had collapsed threatening hundreds of jobs.
The town of Milford Haven still retains signs of its planned origins, while its growth over the years has led to the surrounding villages of Hubberston, Hakin and Steynton becoming part of the town. The docks, like so many elsewhere in the country, have undergone a renovation, with a variety of attractions for visitors. The Heritageand Maritime Museum is housed in the old Custom House and has displays on whaling, fishing and petroleum. The Waterfront Gallery proclaims itself the largest gallery in Pembrokeshire and showcases the best artists and craft workers in West Wales. The town also has a marina for the use leisure craft. A short distance from the waterfront is the Torch Theatre, which puts on plays and cinema screenings.
Map of the area.
|Milford Marina. Photo by Deborah Tilley, via Wikimedia Commons|