John Guard was onetime Commander of the establishment. This document was first uploaded in October 2000, and had been revised January 2004.
H.M. Dockyard Pembroke
A Brief History
Revised January 5, 2004
IF A PROPER USE WERE AT LAST MADE OF THIS MOST VALUABLE THOUGH SO LONG NEGLECTED HARBOUR, THE DISTRESSFUL DELAYS TOO OFTEN EMBARASSING AND DISAPPOINTING THIS NATION IN HER NAVAL OPERATIONS MIGHT BE IN A GREAT MEASURE HAPPILY REMOVED TO THE INFINITE RELIEF AND ENLARGEMENT OF THIS KINGDOM, IN THE MEANS AND FREE EXERTION OF WHICH IS NOW SO UNHAPPILY AND SO FREQUENTLY RESTRAINED AND FRUSTRATED BY THE WANT OF AN HARBOUR SITUATED AS MILFORD HAVEN IS AND FRAMED BY NATURE WITH SUCH LOCAL ADVANTAGES.
Report from the Committee to whom the Book intituled 'Report plans and estimates for fortifying Milford Haven'
by Lt.Col. Bastide, Director of Engineers, November 1757 was referred.
1. Predecessors and Origins
2. Wooden Walls
3. Iron and Steel
5. Partial Renaissance
Annex A Ships Built at Milford Shipyard and
H. M. Dockyard Pembroke
Annex B Milford Haven Fortifications
Annex C Pater Church
Predecessors and Origins
It is possible, even probable, that the 'naval' history of Pembroke Dock started in the time of the Norsemen. They certainly settled in the area and left their mark in a number of place names, one of which adjoins the land where Pembroke Dockyard was built centuries later. Off the western end are Carr Rocks, so called in the oldest known charts of the Haven. The name almost certainly derives from the old Norse skare, meaning rock. For a Norseman, seeking a place where his longboats could be drawn up on the shore, with room for his camp or settlement, sheltered from the southwesterly gales of winter, defensible on the landward side and far enough from the mouth of the Haven to allow adequate warning of an attack from the sea, the flat shore to the eastward of Carr Rocks would seem to be ideal.
In 1172 Henry II sailed from the Haven for his invasion of Ireland, having spent the previous months preparing his ships and his army at a point by local tradition just within the mouth of Pembroke River. The same area to the east of Carr Rocks must at least have figured in this evolution. Pembroke River and Pennar Gut, which leads to it, presumably dried at low tide in those days as it does now. The flat land of what was to become the Dockyard and the sheltered anchorage off it were the most suitable places in the vicinity at which to assemble and prepare what we would now call an amphibious assault force.
In 1397 Richard II sailed from the Haven with an army for his attack on Ireland. According to the records he departed from Haverfordwest. No doubt he did, but he would certainly have first sent his shiploads of soldiers to make their slow way down the river to assemble in an anchorage to await 'such favourable weather as would further his activities' and, if the wait was long, to put the troops ashore. Where else but off this same area by Carr Rocks?
However, thus far is conjecture. The real history of H.M. Dockyard Pembroke starts in the 18th Century.
The earliest official suggestion known to the author that a Dockyard should be established on the Haven is in a Parliamentary Report of 1758:
Report from the Committee to whom the Book intituled
'Report plans and estimates for fortifying Milford Haven'
by Lt.Col. Bastide, Director of Engineers, November 1757
Together with a Survey of the Harbour at Milford.
As its title implies, this report was concerned mainly with the fortification of the Haven (1), however, with a very free interpretation of their Terms of Reference, the members of the Committee also:
'..........(Thought) themselves indispensibly obliged in this Place humbly to represent to the House That.......they have been informed by several substantial shipbuilders, who have built ships at Milford, that there cannot be a more proper place for building ships of any size than Barnlake.........'
(Barnlake (see map) is on the northern shore about two miles upstream from the Dockyard, next to where the River Cleddau road bridge now spans the waterway. No other possible site for the yard was mentioned.)
'That, above Neyland, there is safe lying for the Trade and whole Navy of Great Britain.........'
'That if it should be thought proper hereafter ever to establish a Yard and Docks for the building and equipping of Fleets at Milford no place can, from the Nature, Situation, Soil and general Concurrence of all necessary local Circumstances be more fitted for such a design.'
The report concluded with the resounding passage reprinted on page 1.
It should be noted that at this time the town of Milford Haven did not exist, on its future site was only the small village of Hubberston. By 'Milford' the Committee meant the Haven and its shores.
That these reports were commissioned and fortifications proposed indicate that the Haven was considered to be of strategic importance on the outbreak of war with France in 1756, although quite why 'The Trade and whole Navy of Great Britain'' should want to lie in the quiet River Cleddau is far from clear. The 1758 Report is far from unbiased and shows evidence of the influence of lobbying, not least by the landowner at Barnlake. Much play is made of the difficulty of sailing out of Plymouth in 'winds between South and East'' but nothing of the similar problem in the Haven in the far more prevalent southwesterlies. There was a small shipyard at Neyland, on the North shore of the Haven not far from Barnlake, and when the Committee was deliberating a frigate was under construction there, to be followed by a 2nd Rate ship of the line, but most of its shores were rural and sparsely populated and 'substantial shipbuilders'' was something of an exaggeration.
We must now move on a few years to the latter years of the 18th Century.
At that time the land on the north shore of the Haven around the village of Hubberston belonged to Sir William Hamilton, husband of Lady Hamilton, Nelson's 'dearest Emma', and was administered by his nephew and heir the Hon. Charles Grenville (2). They had various schemes for developing the property, including the founding of a town, which they named Milford (it became Milford Haven much later). They established a shipyard there and leased it to a Messrs. Harry and Joseph Jacob. In view of this and subsequent developments, did Hamilton and Greville call their new foundation Milford (rather than, say, Hubberston) in order to use the 1758 Parliamentary Report to their advantage?
In December 1796 the Admiralty directed the Navy Board to contract with the Jacobs to build a frigate and later a sloop.74-gun ship of the line In those days the Navy was run by two separate, semi-autonomous (and often mutually antagonistic) organisations; the Board of Admiralty which directed, or operated, the Fleet, and the Navy Board, which was responsible for administration and supply, including the provision of ships. Dockyards were the responsibility of the latter, a predominantly civilian organisation. This arrangement continued until 1832, when both organisations combined to form the Admiralty. The Board of Admiralty having decided what ships it wanted, it was up to the Navy Board to decide where they were to be built. It was very unusual, not to say improper, for the Admiralty to direct where a contract should be awarded.
Lord Nelson is about to enter our story and, as we shall see, his influence upon it was often based more on emotion, his own and others', rather than on practical considerations. Before this happens, it is appropriate to attempt an objective assessment of the importance and potential of the Haven and the Hamiltons' shipyard to the Navy in the last years of the 18th Century.
A shipyard required easy access to reserves of timber (usually home-grown oak) and other raw materials, mainly spar timber, pitch, etc., which after the loss of the American colonies came mainly from the Baltic. It required a suitable area of flat land adjacent to an area of deep water of sufficient depth for launching and fitting out berths. It required sufficient skilled labour in the near vicinity. The completed ships required a base with a good anchorage, deep water berths alongside, stores depots and magazines and a pool of seamen from which to find crews. The base should also, preferably, be situated in a strategic position which a ship, possibly damaged by action or storm, could reach easily for refit and replenishment. The ship, and the fleet it joined, needed secure anchorages near their area of operations which could provide shelter, fresh water and provisions. It was desirable that both bases and anchorages had good communications with the Admiralty.
We must measure the Haven and the Milford shipyard against these requirements.
For a shipyard it does not look promising. The Haven is notably lacking in sites where flat land, indeed any land, has deep water close to the shore. There were no large stands of oak in the county, which lies farther from the Baltic than any other in the United Kingdom. As for labour, 'several families' of Quaker whalers had settled around Hubberston from Massachusetts a few years previously (3), but apart from these and the men who had worked on the Neyland ships there was no pool of skilled labour, there were hardly any people at all. On the other hand, this was at the height of the long French Wars and the Navy needed every ship it could get. Apart from the Royal Dockyards, few shipyards were capable of building them and any that was prepared even to try could be confident of obtaining a contract.
As a naval base the Haven was a 'non-starter'. The lack of land adjacent to deep water has been noted. Depots and magazines could be built but the entire local population, let alone the seafaring element, was small. Communications with London were among the slowest in the whole country.
The Jacobs 'failed' (went bankrupt) before any of their ships were complete and the Navy Board took over the lease of the yard on a yearly basis, to complete the ships laid down and to build more (See Appendix A). Two emigré royalist Frenchmen, M. Barallier and his son were appointed as Builder and Assistant Builder. It is significant that Barallier was a French-trained naval architect.
During the brief interlude of peace which followed the Treaty of Amiens in 1801, Nelson made a tour with the Hamiltons, in the course of which they visited Milford. There, at a dinner given in his honour on the anniversary of the Battle of the Nile on 1 August 1802 in the (now) Lord Nelson Hotel, he made the speech which has been so often quoted by his biographers and local historians. He is reputed to have pronounced the Haven 'one of the finest possible stations for the British Fleet, with command of a safe and capacious anchorage, for the entire Navy!' The choice of words in the latter phrase suggests that they were borrowed from the 1758 report (see above) by Nelson, or his biographers.
What did Nelson really mean? The Haven was certainly a good anchorage but, as we have seen and Nelson must have known, not in other respects at all a good place for a naval 'station'.
He was a very emotional man speaking on a very emotional occasion, amid the adulation of the local inhabitants and in the presence of Emma, her husband and Charles Greville, whose mistress she had been before he 'passed her on' to his uncle. The record of the occasion, so much used by subsequent authors, was first written by Harrison in his Life of Nelson and he relied largely on the account of Emma Hamilton and claimed to give only 'the substance of Lord Nelson's observations''. Nelson was making written reports during his tour but if he wrote one on Milford Haven it has not survived. There seems little doubt that he was telling his audience what they wanted to hear and perhaps giving a boost to his friends' shipyard. However, his remarks were to have a far reaching effect upon the history of the Haven and its connection with the Royal Navy, probably a much greater effect than he ever intended.
At about the time of Nelson's speech a Commission was enquiring into the administration of the Navy and, inter alia reported (4) very favourably on the Milford shipyard. Here, surely, was Nelson's influence being effective, intentionally or otherwise. The Commission's report was used in 1809 in preparing an Order in Councildated 11th October 1809 for the purchase of the yard for the Navy and its establishment as a Royal Dockyard. This stated that the ships built at Milford had proved to be cheaper similar ones built in other dockyards because 'timber and iron could be bought there cheaper, and workmen obtained in abundance, on lower terms than at other places where ships are generally built'. It was proposed to purchase the yard at a valuation of £4,455.
The Commission of Enquiry report upon which the Order in Council was based was never printed and so cannot easily be verified now and may not have been easy to verify in 1809. Labour probably was cheap in Pembrokeshire but could not be described as abundant and it is hard to believe that timber and iron cost less in so remote a place. After Trafalgar the need for ships was less pressing and one might have expected the Navy Board to be content with the temporary leasing arrangement or to abandon the project all together. The decision to make a permanent establishment may have been another example of Nelson's, now posthumous, influence and perhaps that of Lady Hamilton. However, a clue which would merit research lies in the fact that the Frenchman Barallier was to remain in charge of the new Royal Dockyard.
Towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars the Admiralty belatedly acknowledged what seagoing officers had long believed. Although the British were incomparably better seamen and had won the war at sea, the art and science of shipbuilding were more advanced on the Continent and French and Spanish warships were far better than British. In an effort to rectify this state of affairs the Royal Navy's first School of Naval Architecture was opened in Portsmouth in 1810. The Admiralty, with the same aim in view, may have seen in Milford an opportunity to establish, perhaps as a pilot scheme, a brand new model dockyard under imported expert management, free of the hidebound traditions, stultifying conservatism and legendary corruption of the established Royal Dockyards. Perhaps the Board of Admiralty deliberately played upon the memory of Nelson and his statement concerning the Haven to this end. This theory would explain the Admiralty's subsequent surprising actions when negotiations for the purchase of the Milford shipyard with Charles Greville's brother and heir Fulke (Charles having died) failed to agree on the valuation. The purchase was then abandoned, despite the fact that various improvements to the yard were in progress at the Admiralty's expense and two 74's (5) to M. Barallier's design were under construction. Instead of dropping the whole idea they promptly went to great lengths to establish a Royal Dockyard elsewhere on the Haven. The site they chose on the advice of a Mr. Rennie was a stretch of almost uninhabited shore, five miles across the Haven from Milford, near the town of Pembroke in a district called Pater or Paterchurch.
Given a resolve to establish a full-scale dockyard on the Haven, the Pater site was a fairly obvious choice. As remarked before, it is one of the few places on the waterway where a fairly considerable area of flat land gives onto deep water and a good anchorage. The contours of the estuary at this point are such that the constant scouring of the very strong tides maintains the depth of water. Much of the land belonged to the Board of Ordnance, having been purchased some fifty years previously in connection with the scheme to fortify the Haven on which Bastide had reported (6). This was easily transferred to the Navy Board, which also purchased an adjoining 20 acres from the Meyrick family for £5,500. There was more scope for development there than in the small Milford shipyard but in every other respect as a site for a Royal Dockyard Pater had all the disadvantages of Milford and several more besides. Such skilled labour as there was lived several miles away across the Haven (Pembroke was of a decidedly non-industrial character) and at Pater there was no town, or even village, to which the workers could move.
For all these difficulties, the Navy Board proceeded, with remarkable determination and dispatch, to establish a dockyard at Pater. Work there was well under way before the yard at Milford was given up in 1814. An old frigate, Lapwing, was driven ashore as a temporary accommodation hulk, officers were appointed and work was started on the construction of a '74' and four frigates. All this without an authorising Order in Council, so all, including the appointment of officers was, strictly, illegal. (7)
At this stage one must ask why the Navy Board was so keen to establish the new Royal Dockyard at so unlikely a place. The influence of the Hamilton family can be ruled out, they had no connection with the land at Pembroke and the move was against their interests. Having failed in their Milford project, the Navy Board might have felt bound by Nelson's reported words to find another site on the Haven, but this seems an unlikely reason. £275 per acre was a vast sum to pay for the additional land and as the Pater yard was starting from scratch they must have known that they were committing themselves to future expenditure which could have purchased the Milford yard many times over. And all without an authorising Order in Council! Nevertheless, they did proceed with the scheme.
In June 1815 the Battle of Waterloo was fought and won, a long period of peace was assured and the Admiralty realised that an enormous reduction of the Navy was inevitable. What more obvious economy than to abandon the embryo dockyard at Pembroke and the ships being built there, which technically did not exist? Instead, an Order in Council was prepared and presented on 31 October 1815. It begins with a statement of what had been intended with the Milford yard and proceeds:
But Mr. Greville having subsequently declined the sum above mentioned for the building ground in question, we directed the Navy Board, on 3rd August 1810, to suspend the improvements then going forward on the premises, and on the 26th October 1812, finally to give up possession of the same at Midsummer 1814, transferring the establishment to land adjoining Pater Fort near Milford, which had been surrendered by the Board of Ordnance for Naval purposes.
We further beg leave most humbly to present to Your Royal Highness that having found it would be necessary to obtain possession of about Twenty acres of land adjoining that surrendered by the Ordnance, in order to allow formation of a dockyard capable of accomplishing the purposes intended, and likely to be of advantage to the public service, we instructed the Navy Board to purchase the said land .......... for the sum of £5,500.
And having since deemed it expedient for the good of His Majesty's Service to direct the formation of a dockyard ................ on the said land at Pater, according to a plan proposed to us by the Comptroller of the Navy and Mr. Rennie, ........ being of an opinion that it will be necessary to appoint officers and clerks ........., many of whom we have found it necessary already to appoint provisionally for the purpose of superintending the building of a 74-gun ship, two 5th and two 6th rates now building there............
The Order in Council then went on to establish Pater as a Royal Dockyard and to authorise the appointment of officers (who were listed). As the Board of Admiralty and the Navy Board had by this time a fairly well established illegal dockyard with five ships building and knew that the Navy was about to suffer draconian cuts, some of their members must have felt some trepidation when this Order was submitted. It is a classic example of Whitehall politicking, which many of later generations will find familiar. It first refers to a previous Order in Council, already approved but not strictly relevant; it quotes selectively from a report which had considerable status (8) but was unpublished and difficult to consult; it makes statements which, while not untrue, are decidedly misleading (Pater is near Milford -- only five miles, but across often stormy waters ripped by some of the strongest tides in the world); it presents a fait accompli. It was approved and thus was established H.M. Dockyard Pembroke.
In the opinion of the author there is only one possible explanation. The Board of Admiralty, perhaps mindful of the memory of Nelson, who hated the Navy Board as did most seagoing officers who had suffered its inefficiency, was determined to instil new life into the traditional dockyards and all they stood for. They wanted to build a new, up-to-date shipyard employing a fresh labour force under experts imported from outside. Using Nelson's influence, the Milford yard gave them an opportunity (a 'foot in the door'), but they never really wanted that establishment because it had too little scope for expansion. However, they used Milford to obtain the site they needed for a large yard 'according to a plan proposed to us by the Comptroller of the Navy (9) and Mr. Rennie''. As we shall see, there was a plan for the development of Pembroke Dockyard and the Board of Admiralty followed it with remarkably few deviations. But in one important respect the Board of Admiralty did not succeed in their plan. The scheme must have run up against the powerful vested interests of the Navy Board and the price of their eventual co-operation was that their men should be in charge. In 1810 Barallier was superseded in the Milford yard by a Navy Board Master Shipwright whose successor later transferred to Pater.
Be that as it may H.M. Dockyard Pembroke was formally established by Order in Council of 31st October 1815. By this time the construction of a '74' and four frigates was well under way in the area immediately to the east of Carr Rocks and the first houses of what was to become the town of Pembroke Dock were already completed on what is now Front Street, along the shore just east of the dockyard. The first four houses were built in 1814 and occupied by the Foreman of Shipwrights, the Foreman of Blacksmiths, the Issuer of Stores and, predictably, a publican. The publican's house was almost certainly what is now the King's Arms.
On 10 February 1816 the first ships, the 5th rates Ariadne and Valorous were launched.
The first systematic hydrographic survey of Pembroke Dockyard (the name Pater had very soon been dropped) was carried out by Lieutenant H.M. Denham in 1832. The resulting chart is unusual as it shows projected Dockyard buildings and features as well as those existing at the time. This is clearly the 'plan proposed by the Comptroller and Mr. Rennie'' mentioned in the 1815 Order in Council. Already a good start had been made, although some buildings were not to be completed until many years later and some never were.
The whole yard was enclosed within a high stone boundary wall. Twelve building slips were established (of the eventual thirteen) but the original two were now outside the wall and presumably not in use. The graving dock was also complete, being required for the removal of the launching cradles from newly-built hulls. Behind these were a line of storehouses, workshops and offices. Behind again were the timber stacks and saw pits and along the inside of the dockyard wall were the beginnings of the elegant terrace of houses for senior officers with the Dockyard Chapel at the end. Only the first pair of houses, for the Master Shipwright and the Clerk of the Cheque and Storekeeper were complete.
Outside the wall the town was already taking shape. It was a model of its kind with wide streets and solid stone houses (most of which survive to this day) which were large for their class and with sizeable gardens, in sharp contrast to the slum alleys of the old dockyard towns. The Admiralty Reservoir supplied both the yard and the town. The dockyard wall had enclosed the landing place previously used by the local people, in recompense the Navy Board built the present Common Hard on Front Street. The new community needed a market, the Navy Board built one at considerable expense. By ancient charter, the right to trade within the Borough of Pembroke, which included the Dockyard, was reserved for Freemen of the Borough. In addition to the cost of building the market, the Admiralty had to pay £3,000 to the Freemen to breach their monopoly. Having pocketed their share, presumably those Freemen who wished to do so then proceeded to trade in the market! It was purchased by the council in 1881 and is still in use.
The Act of Parliament authorising the Navy Board to establish a market in Pembroke Dock and to make Regulations for the paving, lighting and good Order of the said Town (Geo III Cap CXXV dated 2 July 1819) shows how the Board, through their Dockyard Officers corporately combined the roles of founding fathers, sole employers and, to a large extent, municipal authority. Comparing Pembroke Dock with the equivalent towns which grew up elsewhere around commercial undertakings during the Industrial Revolution, the Navy Board and its successor the Admiralty were beneficent employers and landlords (10). Perhaps most credit is due to their representatives in Pembroke, the Dockyard Officers. In 1830 the Superintendent of Works was a Captain Savage of the Royal Engineers and perhaps most credit is due to him. At that time the other officers in post were the Master Shipwright (Thomas Roberts), Clark of the Cheque and Storekeeper (Edward Laws, who died in office ten years later and for whom a street in the town is named), Timber Receiver, Warden (the original Dockyard Police Officer), Chaplain, Surgeon and Assistant Surgeon. All were civilians, there were no naval officers appointed to the yard (11). The work force numbered 500.
The Act of 1819 was one of the first, if not the first, recorded official use of he name Pembroke Dock for the new community. It had come about almost by accident. It was still part of the Borough of Pembroke, although quite separate physically. It had been natural that the new area should become known as 'the dock' to distinguish it from the main town. It could have been called Pater but Pembroke Dock it became. It was physically quite separate from the old town of Pembroke and the two were of very different character, the quiet rural market town whose inhabitants were almost all from families rooted in the area since time immemorial and the (by the standards of the day) industrial working class community many of whose inhabitants were relative newcomers. There was not much love lost between the two sections. In later years the people of Pembroke Dock were to make frequent strenuous, but unsuccessful, efforts to gain autonomy as a separate borough. They only achieved this in the late 20th Century, when local government re-organisations had made the distinction almost meaningless.
As noted in the previous chapter, in 1832 the Navy Board and Board of Admiralty combined. One outcome of this was that naval officers were appointed in charge of all Royal Dockyards and Pembroke received its first Captain Superintendent, Captain Charles Bullen, CB. So long afterwards, having seen so many re-organisations of the Offices of State and Forces of the Crown, it is not easy for us to appreciate the concern with which some of those involved viewed this seemingly obvious and inevitable step. Master Shipwright Thomas and Storekeeper Laws, comfortably ensconced in their new houses, must have awaited the arrival of Captain Bullen with some trepidation.
The Captain Superintendent needed a suitable house and, in one of the few amendments to the original plan, an imposing residence was built adjoining the dockyard gate on the western side (it is now the Commodore Hotel) This, in turn, occasioned other amendments to the plan which must have exercised Captain Savage considerably. The Captain Superintendent's extensive outbuildings and staff quarters were behind his house. Before long the dockyard wall was moved back to enclose these and the gardens of all the other officers' houses, both building and projected. At the same time the western part of the wall was also moved out to abut onto Pater Battery, to take in the original two slipways and to allow room for a timber pond. In a further attempt to preserve symmetry, the design of the house intended at the dockyard gate end of the officers' terrace was changed and it was built adjoining the gate on the eastern side to match (almost) the Captain Superintendent's residence.
When he arrived to take over what was to become 'a much sought after post', Captain Bullen must have been well pleased with what he found. The Yard was enjoying its heyday. In modern parlance, it was 'on stream' as the Navy's most modern dockyard, doing the job for which it was designed -- building wooden hulls. It was embarked upon a fairly regular building programme, which was to last until about 1860. A frigate was launched about once a year, a line of battle ship about every three years and a steady stream of smaller vessels. It was able to keep pace with advances of technology. The first steamship to appear in the Navy List was launched in 1827 (12), Pembroke Dockyard launched its 'first steamer' (Tartarus) in 1834. The superiority of screw over paddle propulsion was proved in a dramatic comparitive trial in 1845, Pembroke's 'first screw' was launched a year later (Conflict, steam sloop). The first ship of the line fitted with steam propulsion ab initio (as opposed to being fitted after completion) was Agamemnon of 1852, Pembroke's first such vessel, the mighty 140-gun Duke of Wellington, followed in the same year.
At this stage it is appropriate to consider just what the Yard was doing and how. At this time and for many years after it only built hulls. These were then jury-rigged (fitted with temporary masts and rigging) and sailed to Plymouth for fitting out and completion, including the installation of machinery. Pembroke Dock was never a naval base, with its streets thronged with sailors and warships coming and going. Hulls were launched and departed shortly thereafter with skeleton crews, seldom, if ever, to return. For this reason the Yard never figured prominently in the tradition, or even in the written history of the Navy and faded from its collective memory very soon after it closed.
Very large quantities of timber were stockpiled in the Yard. Towards the end of the French Wars it had been in very short supply and the Admiralty, determined not to be caught in this way again, maintained large reserve stocks in the Royal Dockyards. The requirement for space for this stockpile must have been a factor in the Admiralty's apparent anxiety that their new Yard on the Haven should have plenty of space. As we shall see, in the end the large timber reserves became something of an embarrassment.
Having been stored to season, timber for the frames and other parts which required to be 'grown' to shape were soaked in the pickling pond (a large square stone reservoir) before going to the kilns to be worked to shape. They were then erected and left to 'season on the slip'. This last process took a very long time and had the a great advantage as far as the Admiralty was concerned in that partially built hulls could with benefit be left on the slip until money was available to progress or complete their construction. The Windsor Castle was no less than 14 years on the slip before her launch in 1858. This practice explains the very large number of building slips, far more than the number of launches seems to justify. It ensured that the timber was in prime condition and was a sensible method when the Yard was established. Then, basic ship design had changed little in the preceding centuries and ships were very long in service (Victory was almost 50 years old at Trafalgar and remained in service for many years thereafter). However, with the Industrial Revolution and the advent of steam the 19th Century became a time of rapid technological advance and the disadvantages of the system became apparent. Ships tended to be obsolescent before completion and the large capital investment committed in the form of uncompleted warships at any given time was a factor in the Admiralty's reluctance to move with the times in ship design.
This first era in the history of the Yard culminated in the 1850's, a busy decade for the Dockyard workers and a prosperous one for the town. A fairly regular succession of line of battle ships and frigates went down the ways and the Crimean War occasioned a sudden requirement for gunboats, often built in haste with unseasoned timber.
Let us take a look at the brief look at the Yard and town in the late 1850's. Visiting the former is not difficult. The Dockyard Police spend a great deal of their time and supplement their incomes conducting 'respectable citizens' around the establishment and we are, of course, 'respectable'.
At the gate is the Captain Superintendent's Residence and opposite it the house so hastily redesigned to match it nearly 30 years before. The terrace leading to the chapel now looks onto a neat shrubbery, a barrier between the officers' houses and the workaday world. As yet only the Master Shipwright and Stores Officer live there, beyond them the planned houses have not yet materialised but their gardens are already walled and cultivated, no doubt by those officers to whose appointments the houses will be allocated. One of these is the Queen's Harbourmaster, looking at the yellowing plans of his house, drawn more than thirty years before and wondering if their Lordships will ever get around to building it (it was eventually built in 1877, fifty years after it was planned). As to the tenants of the gardens beyond the Harbourmaster's, we can only speculate as to whose they were because the houses were never built -- the end one next to the chapel was perhaps for the chaplain.
The vast stacks of timber lie beyond, spreading their sweet aroma over the whole Yard and solid stone office buildings line the road from the gate. The Queen's Harbourmaster may not have a house but he has a fine office. An officer, James Price, a Master (a Warrant Rank in those days) and probably the Assistant Queen's Harbourmaster died recently 'in the eightieth year of his age and the sixty-third year of his naval service' (13). For the Navy, Pembroke always tended to be a station where one ended one's service, as did the author.
Having given our policeman guide a suitable token of our thanks, we leave by the (only) Dockyard Gate and turn left towards the town. It has grown more or less as the planners intended except in the immediate vicinity of the Dockyard Gate. Here, to the south of the gate the founding fathers had foreseen development and planned streets accordingly. This was Admiralty land and if it was not intended to be 'Officers' Country' in the stratified Victorian society it soon became just that. 'Queen Street or Officers' Row' (now Cumby Terrace) consists of houses a good deal larger than most in Pembroke Dock of the period and in the 1850's and for long after they looked west across 'Pastures let to the Dockyard Officers'. The original plan had shown further neatly ordered streets in this area but only two houses were ever built (14). The inhabitants of Officers' Row preferred to look out over their leased pastures! By 1858 they also looked out onto the Admiralty Gasworks in the far corner of the pastures, naturally, this had not been foreseen by the original planners.
By the 1850's architectural styles in the town were changing with the times but the high standard of construction had been maintained as the town grew. As the Centenary Memorial erected in Albion Square in 1914 proudly proclaims:
'The town was built almost entirely by the working classes, by whose thrift and industry upwards of 2000 houses were erected.
To thrift and industry one could add 'and ingenuity in acquiring timber from H.M. Dockyard'' because by mid-19th Century a notable feature of local domestic architecture was apparent. Even in the most modest dwellings most of the woodwork is solid teak or oak, beautifully worked by the shipwright builders. Local tradition has it that this was obtained by men throwing timber into the tideway from the Yard when the tide was right and subsequently collecting it as flotsam off Front Street, having passed innocently through the Dockyard Gate. There may be some truth in this but it seems likely that the taking of reasonable quantities of timber was, at least, condoned. As already noted, the Dockyard Officers were benevolent landlords and when to build a ship-of-the-line required the equivalent of 2,500 or more fully grown oaks the timber for a whole street was insignificant in comparison.
Also by the 1850's another feature of Pembroke Dock had become apparent. It was a fortified town and a garrison. It was to remain a garrison town for a century or more and soldiers were much more in evidence than sailors. Despite this, in the 'folk memory' of its people it was always a 'Navy town'. To be told in full the story of the fortifications would require a book of its own but it is summarised briefly in Appendix B.
Despite the apparent prosperity and general atmosphere of permanence, in the 1850's there were many associated with the Yard, and every family in the town depended upon it directly or indirectly, who sensed that their livelihood was precarious. Whenever the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty or others of influence visited, as they did regularly for launchings, they were waited upon by delegations of citizens with two petitions. First, that Pembroke Dockyard should be equipped to fit out ships, that is to build them completely and not just the hulls. Secondly, they asked, could a Receiving Ship be stationed at Pembroke? (15). Fitting out ships might have been considered, although its remoteness from the centres of the engineering industry was against it; the second petition was a forlorn hope, Receiving ships were stationed at naval bases or where there were plenty of recruits coming forward. In the latter argument the contemporary and rival Royal Dockyard at Queenstown, Southern Ireland, which had a Receiving Ship, was usually quoted but unlike Pembrokeshire Southern Ireland was a good recruiting area, by reason of its relative poverty if none other.
Whether or not these delegations waiting, no doubt somewhat nervously, upon The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty realised it, their fears were not without foundation. A revolution in shipbuilding was at hand, for which Pembroke Dockyard was ill-prepared. In 1860 at Blackwall (a commercial shipyard), the first iron warship, HMS Warrior, was launched (16).
The Iron Age
With the launch of Warrior the Navy moved quickly into the age of the iron warship. Ships of traditional all-timber design which were at a late stage of construction were completed but Pembroke's ship of the line Howe (91 guns) of 1860 and the frigate Aurora (50 guns) of the following year were the last of their kind to leave the yard.
The evolution of the iron warship left the Admiralty facing a number of problems. Almost every major warship in service was suddenly obsolete. Relations with France were not good and that country was already building a series of ironclads (timber ships sheathed with iron armour), indeed it was the appearance of these which had finally spurred the Admiralty to change to iron construction. Warrior and her sistership Black Prince, being all iron, were superior to their French contemporaries but the United Kingdom shipyards did not have the capacity to match the French programme 'keel for keel'. It was therefore decided that the design of certain timber ships under construction should be modified drastically and that they should be completed as ironclads. Three were thus modified at Pembroke. Prince Consort, launched 26 June 1862, was the Yard's 'first iron-cased ship'.
While these hybrids were completing the Admiralty considered the future of Pembroke Dockyard and it cannot have looked promising. It was not well suited for building the ships of the new era. There was a small coal field nearby but it produced anthracite, not good steam coal. Iron works were far distant. The large numbers of slipways for seasoning on the slip were no longer an asset. Pembroke shipwrights did not know much about iron, and probably did not want to know. Elsewhere in the country there were commercial shipyards skilled in the working of the new material, adjacent to coalfields, iron works and engine builders, often all belonging to the same company or ironmaster. Once the most modern of shipyards, Pembroke, like the ships it had built, was obsolescent.
The vast reserves of timber in the Royal Dockyards were now unlikely to be required. To use up some of the surplus it was decided to build ironclads designed as such ab initio. One of these, Lord Clyde (launched 1864) was built at Pembroke. She and her sister ship Lord Warden were of truly massive construction. The main shell of the hull was 24 inches of timber bound by 1½ inches of iron, then a 6 inch thickness of planking, then armour 5½ inches thick and finally round the waterline a 4 inch belt of oak.
One can speculate on the attitude of the craftsmen as they worked on Lord Clyde. Knowing that this would be the last, or almost the last, wooden capital ship they may have decided to 'make it a good one'. On the other hand, the future of the Yard was in doubt and even if it was to continue there would be much less need for workers in wood, so there hearts may not have been in their work. At all events, Lord Clyde (but not Lord Warden) turned out to be a disaster. She had a very short life and completed only one active commission. However, her main problems arose because in the desire to use up stocks and the enormous quantities required much of the timber used was insufficiently seasoned, which was no fault of the Pembroke shipwrights, nor was the fact that her main engines were very unsatisfactory.
In 1864, the Government considered closing the Royal Dockyards at Deptford, Woolwich, Sheerness and Pembroke. In the event, the axe fell only on the first two, many of whose craftsmen transferred to Pembroke, their London accent contributing to the distinctive Pembroke Dock nuance of the South Pembrokeshire dialect.
Pembroke then became the second Royal Dockyard (after Chatham) to be equipped for building iron ships. The first such to built there was Penelope (launched 1867). Ships of that time were fitted with propellers which hoisted into the hull to reduce drag when under sail. Penelope was the first to have two of these, which involved a very complicated stern construction.
In 1866 the railway reached the town, making the import of materials easier. The future looked brighter.
The real salvation of the yard, though, was the evolution of composite construction, wood planking on iron frames. It was considered suitable for small warships, the gunboats of the gunboat era. Large numbers of these were required as the British Empire approached its high noon and, to the surprise of no-one, those small vessels built so hurriedly during the Crimean War proved to be short lived. Composite built gunboats and sloops became something of a speciality of Pembroke Dockyard and for years a long line of such ships was built there and departed to show the White Ensign and to represent British sea power in the farthest corners of the world.
Meanwhile, the Yard adjusted uneasily to building the new types of larger warship which were evolving. A number of interesting and important ships were launched, including Shannon of 1875, the first British warship with an armoured deck. However, the output of all-iron ships (later steel) was slow and composite ships and other small craft were, literally, the bread and butter work. One factor in this slowness to adjust to the new methods was the need to modify the Yard for the purpose (and, perhaps, resistance to change) but others were the great controversies about and changes in ship design in the 1870-80's. These need not concern us but one effect was that ships once more tended to lie long on the slipway before launch, this time because of many and radical design changes. Pembroke's long line of slipways (now roofed) were again useful. Iron and steel did not season but would rust if on an open slip for too long.
There followed a prosperous period for the yard It seemed able to keep abreast of technological advances and there was plenty of work. Iron fairly soon gave way to steel as the main material of construction. Shannon was the last ironclad and was followed in 1877 by the dispatch vessel Iris (later reclassified as a 2nd Class cruiser), the Royal Navy's first steel ship. More and more fitting out work after launch was being done at Pembroke. The fitting out berth at Hobbs Point, on the opposite side of town a mile or so upstream from the yard had been built many years earlier for the Irish Packet service before it moved across the Haven to Neyland, where there was better rail connection. To have the fitting out berth so far from the yard, with very little space around it and not connected to the railway was a shipbuilders' nightmare but there was no other deep water berth.
The last composite built ship, the sloop Blonde, was launched in 1889 and the following year saw the final end of the use of wood for ship construction when the training brig Mayflower was launched. It must have been a sentimental occasion for many.
The dockyard workers were settled into a routine, building ships of types unknown to the grandfathers -- barbette ships, turret ships, protected cruisers. An idea of the extent to which the town lived for and by the Dockyard can be gleaned by reading contemporary press accounts of launchings. Schools were closed and the whole community was en fete. But as the century drew to a close, in the list of launches one can sense that Pembroke Dockyard was again falling behind. The world was entering the age of the battleship. Naval supremacy would be reckoned buy the numbers belonging to each power. Each succeeding class represented the latest of the rapidly advancing technology, 'the state of the art'. Launches of battleships at Pembroke became rare. Empress of India (laid down as Renown) of 1895 was the largest battleship in the world (briefly) when launched and was followed by Renown, laid down February 1893, and Hannibal, laid down May 1894, but was the latter proved to be the last Pembroke-built battleship.
There were other signs that the yard was in decline. Comparison of the building times of ships of the same class show that at Pembroke they were consistently longer than at commercial yards or other Royal Dockyards. One must be slightly wary of such comparisons, as Pembroke was still not equipped to complete the fitting out of hulls, which were towed elsewhere (usually Plymouth) for completion, also the Admiralty financiers used on occasion to slow construction in the royal yards to shift costs to the next accounting year, but the difference in building times is marked.
But at the time the man in the Pembroke Dock street or on the dockyard shop floor -- they were the same -- can have had few qualms about the future. It was a tight little community, almost like an island. Pembrokeshire was different from the rest of Wales and Pembroke Dock different from rural Pembrokeshire. Life was undramatic but it was settled and relatively prosperous. Nearly every man was in Government employ, which was not highly paid but was permanent and pensionable. By the turn of the century the future looked more settled than ever as a start was made on an extensive modernisation of the yard This included the general introduction of electricity with the yard's own power station replacing the Admiralty Gasworks and, at long last, the construction of a deep water jetty (Carr Jetty) within the dockyard wall. Everyone was confident that when this was completed battleship construction would be resumed; certainly it would at last be possible to complete the construction and fitting out of ships. The latter was achieved, the first being Essex of 1901, the second of a series of large armoured cruisers built there in the decade from 1909.
There were also signs that Pembroke might after all become a naval base. It became one of the ports where was stationed a permanent guardship of the First Reserve, for many years this was Bellerophon. Permanent guardships were battleships of some age but still considered fit for war service. They were maintained at various ports in commission with nucleus crews which in time of war or for annual manoeuvres were made up by reservists drawn mainly from the adjoining Coastguard District (Coastguards were all naval pensioners or reservists). Also, the Haven figured prominently in naval manoeuvres and mobilisation plans. For many years the old frigate hulk Nankin had been moored off the Yard as a Dockyard hospital. As part of the modernisation it was replaced by a naval hospital ashore, now the South Pembrokeshire District Hospital.
There is a photograph which shows a fine panoramic view of the Yard towards the end of the 19th Century before the modernisation. It is in a period of transition. Wooden construction is coming to an end but it is not yet organised for the complete construction of modern steel ships. The panorama seems to exude tranquillity and not a little complacency. The same might be said of the whole Navy at the time. It is a calm day, just past high noon in the saga of the British Empire and, from the shadows, not long past noon at Pembroke Dock.
Also, the tide is about to turn.
In October 1904, as the modernisation of Pembroke Dockyard neared completion, Admiral Sir John (Jacky) Fisher became First Sea Lord. He was a man of implacable will and boundless energy and determined to revolutionise the Navy in almost every respect. Some of his reforms were to have a direct and adverse effect upon the future of the Yard.
One of his first moves was to decree the end of the gunboat era. The gaggle of small ships which had constituted the British naval presence in distant parts of the world were, in his view, "too weak to fight and too slow to run away". "Scrap the lot!" he ordered and most were discarded. As we have seen, such ships had been Pembroke speciality. Next, he caused to be built in an unbelievably short time (17) the famous Dreadnought, of such revolutionary design that all other battleships in the world were rendered obsolete. The main naval powers, particularly Great Britain and Germany, immediately started to build numbers of similar ships, known as dreadnoughts. The maritime strength of a nation came to be measured simply by the number of such ships it possessed. Even after the recently completed modernisation, in no way could Pembroke Dockyard, so far from the industrial heartland of the nation, build ships of this size and complexity. Even the largest of the slipways could not accommodate ships approaching that size.
Fisher also changed the strategic posture of the Navy to concentrate on facing the new enemy, the German High Seas Fleet, across the North Sea. This entailed a chain of naval bases along the east coast -- Dover, the Nore, Harwich, Rosyth, Invergordon, Scapa Flow. In such a strategy the Haven was not relevant and that put paid once more to hopes of its becoming a naval base.
Since the yard was built the role of the Royal Dockyards had changed. In the days of the 'wooden walls' few commercial yards could build warships, so they were built in the Royal Dockyards. Most refitting and repair work was done by their own crews with but little outside assistance. However, by the beginning of the 20th Century warships were built in many commercial yards but thereafter required considerable dockyard assistance for refits and repairs. The role of the Royal Dockyards thus changed from mainly building to mainly refit and repair. This in turn meant that the dockyards should preferably be also naval bases. Pembroke was at a disadvantage in this respect and also in its lack of alongside berths, which could only have been provided at great expense.
In the years 1905-14 the Yard continued to function and launched a light cruiser once or twice a year, but this was a very modest output at a time of hectic naval expansion. One may wonder why it did not switch to building destroyers, which were being produced in large numbers at this time. Apart from the tiny experimental Vesvusius of 1874 and the Torpedo Gunboat Hazard of 1894, it built none of this type. There were commercial yards specialising in this type of ship which could build them more economically in batches.
The Yard had finally been left behind the times. The last of the light cruiser programme and the last surface warship built at Pembroke, Curacoa, was launched in 1917. During the First World War the Yard also turned to building submarines and five were completed.
There was another development of importance in 1917. The war at sea entered a new and unexpected phase when the Germans mounted a devastating submarine campaign against merchant shipping. The Haven was suddenly strategically important and the Yard, at long last, became a base for anti-submarine forces.
These various activities kept the Yard fairly busy for as long as the war lasted, indeed the work force rose to its highest ever of over 4,000. However, after the war it was soon reduced by more than 50% and from 1919 the threat of closure was very real. The final decline was prolonged and at times there were hopes that it might survive, but this was not to be, despite an energetic campaign waged by its supporters. It was finally close in 1926 at the same time as Rosyth Dockyard but there had been little work done in the preceding seven years. After the war programme only one more ship was launched, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary oil tanker Oleander in 1922. In addition, the light cruiser Capetown, having been launched elsewhere, was towed to Pembroke for completion. The allocation of even this minor work was probably influenced more by political considerations than by economic or military factors.
As we have seen, the town of Pembroke Dock had arisen as a result of the establishment of the Dockyard, which remained its only industry and reason for its existence. The effect of the closure was shattering. The once prosperous community became a depressed area. There were at the time, and have been since, other examples of 'specialised' towns losing the industry or trade upon which they depended but few were so dependent upon one employer.
More than fifty years later and with the advantage of hindsight we can be objective and view the events and circumstances in perspective. We can see that the closure was inevitable and there must have been many in the Yard at the time who realised that this was so. The campaigners for its retention tended to press for a return to its pre-1914 status but they forgot, or were unaware, that it was already in decline then and had been for many years, perhaps even from 1860. In a time of naval expansion and a boom in the shipbuilding industry Pembroke could make a modest contribution. After the war, with a depressed shipbuilding industry competing for the few warship orders there was no point in retaining it. Even in terms of political power and trades union muscle, Pembroke could not match such areas as the Tyne and the Clyde.
The tight little community of Pembroke Dock was depleted by the departure of many of the craftsmen to other Royal Dockyards and times were hard but not, as it turned out, for too long.
In 1930 a large part of the yard was taken over by the Royal Air Force and became an important flying boat base. Many of the old dockyard buildings were retained and put to new uses, others were demolished and gave way to neat red brick barrack blocks. The story of this base and the important part its aircraft played in the campaign against the U-Boats has been written elsewhere.
The Navy retained a small part of the Yard for storing the Haven's anti-submarine boom defences. and two Admiralty Oil Fuel Depots were built at Pembroke Dock. A few years later, during the hasty re-armament of 1938-39, the naval presence in the Haven was again increased when a Royal Naval Armament Depot was opened at Newton Noyes, near Milford Haven.
During the war the Haven was only of limited use as an escort vessel base and anchorage after the unforeseen fall of France forced most convoys to be routed North of Ireland, but a corner of the Yard was re-activated as a small repair base. On the other hand it was a very good place for a flying boat base.
Pembroke Dock suffered air attacks and there was a bitter irony in this. After the War it transpired that the German intelligence was faulty and that they thought that they were attacking an active naval dockyard.
One other small association of the Royal Navy with Pembroke Dock deserves mention. From 1940 764 Squadron Fleet Air Arm was stationed there. Its role was to train aircrew for the seaplanes then carried by battleships and some cruisers. It is indicative of the independent spirit of the Fleet Air Arm (or the intensity of inter-service rivalry) that the Squadron seems to have spurned almost completely the facilities of the RAF's largest flying boat base and moved a few miles up the river to the small village of Lawrenny, there to base themselves on the local inn and fly from Beggars' Reach!
The RAF remained until 1957, when flying boats again went out of service and the base closed. The Navy retained a small area of the old Dockyard as a Moorings and Marine Salvage Depot until the mid 1990's. When this closed the association of Pembroke with the Royal Navy finally came to an end.
Ships Built at Milford Shipyard and H.M. Dockyard, Pembroke
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Milford Haven Fortifications
The history of the coastal fortifications on and around the Haven is not, strictly, within the scope of this study (18) but is related to it and should be touched on.
Between 1539-1748 various fortification schemes were proposed but little or nothing came of them.
On the outbreak of war with France in 1756 a Lt Col Bastide was ordered to make a survey and report, as noted in Chapter 1. His report was considered by a Parliamentary Committee.
Basted was presumably thinking of the danger of the Haven being used by an invasion force and designed his scheme accordingly. Her proposed six forts and batteries at Dale Point, Bicton Point (Great Castle Head), West Angle, Popton Point, Paterchurch and Neyland, plus a floating battery off Chapel Bay. This plan was dismissed by the Committee in a very few lines, partly on the grounds of expense but mainly because in their opinion neither the forts proposed by Bastide nor any others in the lower Haven could cover the waterway adequately because the maximum range of cannon was '500 yards to point blank'' (19). As we have seen, the Committee then went on to extol the advantages of a safe anchorage in the River Cleddau above Neyland and proposed the dockyard at Barnlake. To defend these they proposed forts at Paterchurch (Pembroke Dock), Llanion Point and Neyland Point.
Bastide was Director of Engineers and a fortifications expert. What he thought of the Committee's findings is not recorded but can be imagined. He knew very well that the range to point blank was less than half the maximum effective range of the gun, particularly if mounted on high ground. He had not been asked to defend a dockyard (neither had the Committee) and their plan did no more than provide a safe and remote bolthole for ships. A fleet in such a situation would be quite useless and apart from other considerations could be very easily blockaded and so enable an enemy to land at leisure lower down the Haven.
Nevertheless, the Committee's fortification plan was approved. Land was purchased and the construction of Paterchurch Fort started, only to be abandoned in 1759, when the threat of invasion had passed.
The establishment of Pembroke Dockyard necessitated a re-appraisal, done by Maj Gen Sir Alex Bryce in 1817-18. There being no immediate threat of war, nothing was done at the time but Bryce's recommendations formed the basis of all future plans. It included a chain of forts across the South Pembrokeshire peninsular to the eastward of the Yard for defence against land attack. Thereafter, for many years plans were intermittently made and modified, construction started and stopped, resumed and stopped again. The details need not concern us. The fortifications that can be seen today were completed by 1870, with most of the work being done in the 1850-60's. The Prime minister Lord Palmerston was much concerned by the apparent from France and strengthened the defences of all the Dockyard ports. Although some of the forts were much modified in later years and all are now derelict or put to other uses, they can still be seen as fine examples of their kind.
The final plans of the 1860's were never implemented. Had they been, the defences of the Dockyard would have been:
Five forts covering the possible landing beaches to the south at Tenby, Caldey Island, Lydstop, Freshwater East and Freshwater West. Only Tenby (St. Catherine's Island) was built.
Nine forts against land attack from all directions at Pennar, Bush Corner, Ferry Hill, Scoveston, Walterston, Honeyborough, Barnlake, Newton and Barton. Only Scoveston was built.
A defence line from Pennar Gut to Llanion Pill. Not built.
As innermost defences, the Defensible Barracks on the hill above the Dockyard (the 'intended fort' in H.M Denham's chart) and a Martello Tower at each end of the Dockyard Wall, with embrasures aligned along the wall. All were built.
For defence against ships eight forts or batteries at West Blockhouse Point, Pater, Stack Rock, Dale Point, Thorn Island, Hubberston Point, Popton Point, Chapel Bay (plus the two Martello Towers above). All were built.
There was a Dockyard Battalion consisting of the dockyard officers and workmen. Service in this was a condition of employment in the Yard.
The threat of invasion seemed very real to some at the time but the scenario implied by such defences seems incredible now. Did they really see the possibility of a French armada sailing from, say, Brest, brushing aside the British fleet to land a considerable military force in South Wales across open beaches beset by fierce tides and exposed to the south westerly gales; the landing force then to fight its way across country supported, perhaps, by a fleet battling its way up the Haven; all culminating in a last rush through the Dockyard Gate -- to do what? To destroy the workshops, fire the timber stacks and the uncompleted hulls of half-a-dozen warships -- the effect of which would hardly be felt by the British fleet until years later.
On is tempted to think that the Ordnance Board was directed to fortify all naval bases and was not told that Pembroke was not one!
As remarked in Chapter 1, the site of Pembroke Dockyard was previously known as Pater or Paterchurch, Pater being derived from Patrick. Just within the Dockyard wall towards the western end is an ancient structure known as Paterchurch Tower. It considerably pre-dates the Dockyard and has no connection with its history. There is considerable doubt as to its origins and history.
Some accounts state that it is the remains of a 'Mission to Seamen' established in the 13th Century by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem on land granted for the purpose by the First Earl of Pembroke. Others maintain that it was a lookout associated with Pembroke Castle.
Its later history is more certain. It formed part of a house occupied by David de Paterchurch, later passing to the Adames family, thence to the Owens and the Meyricks, to be sold to the Board of Ordnance in 1757 and later transferred to the Admiralty.
When the Admiralty took possession the house is reported to have been in ruins. Demolition and decay continued until all but the present tower had disappeared by the mid-19th Century. H.M. Denham's chart of 1832 shows 'Pater Church in Ruins'. He was a meticulous cartographer and drew an irregularly shaped building of a fair size facing north and probably incorporating the tower at the east end of the facade. Surprisingly in view of the fact that it was then outside the dockyard wall, there is no sign of outbuildings, yards, paddocks or gardens, etc., which indicates that it had been unoccupied for some considerable time.
In the 1830's and again in the 1880's excavations in the area in connection with modifications and extensions to the Dockyard unearthed large numbers of human bones. One theory is that they were the remains of Knights Hospitallers, another suggests that it had been the private burial ground of the Adames family. It is known that the latter existed and the last known interment in was in 1731, but its site is unknown.
No reference to a church on the site can be found in the ecclesiastical archives.
The author offers the following theory, which might merit further research.
The suggestion that the tower was a lookout is implausible. It does command a view down the Haven but it lies at the foot of St. Patrick Hill and on the opposite side of it from Pembroke Castle. There is a much better view from the top of the hill, which would be the obvious place for a lookout.
On the other hand, the scanty evidence does support the Knights Hospitallers theory. The Order was established not far away, at Slebech, in the 12th Century. Its members held St. Patrick in particular reverence and named their institutions after him in more than one part of the world. It is possible, at least, that the association with Patrick derives from the Knights and that David de Patrickchurch took his name from his estate rather than vice versa. However, a 'Mission to Seamen' in anything like its modern form seems unlikely in the 13th Century and even if there had been such an institution it would have been in a port rather than in the remote countryside.
That the disturbed burial ground was the Adames family plot also seems unlikely. The bones were first found a bare hundred years after the last recorded interment and when the family was still thriving and influential in the area, resident in Pembroke. Had the remains been of their forebears, surely they would have known and probably objected and arranged re-interment, even if they were making no effort to maintain and protect the graves of their ancestors, which seems improbable. It also appears that the number of remains was large for a family plot.
The author suggests that the Knights of St. John, who were Hospitallers, established at Pater a lazaret, 'an (isolation) hospital for the diseased poor', for victims of the plague, etc., at the time leprosy was by no means unknown in the country. Many of these would have been seamen and Pembroke Reach may have been some sort of quarantine anchorage for the ports of Pembroke and Haverfordwest. It is noteworthy three centuries later, in the 15th Century, the proceedings of the Pembroke Borough Council contain references to the problem of accommodating the large numbers of 'diseased seamen' with whom they frequently found themselves burdened. Those who died in such a lazaret would have been numerous and would for obvious reasons have been buried in the vicinity rather than in public burial grounds and without lasting memorial. This would account for the lack of written records. The people of Pembroke would not have felt unduly concerned about or felt responsible for plague stricken 'foreigners', provided that they were kept well away. They would not want to know and in later years would want to forget. It having been a place to be avoided might also explain the local tradition that the tower is haunted. The Knights would certainly have had a chapel or church but it would not have been subject to the local ecclesiastical authorities nor featured in their records and, like their parishioners, they had good reason to avoid it.
1. The subject of Appendix B
2. Hamilton had inherited the property from his wife, whose family seat was at Lawrenny farther up the River Cleddau.
3. Part of the not-inconsiderable 're-emigration' back to the British realm from the newly independent United States, which tends to be overlooked.
4. In their 15th Report
5. '74' - 74 gun ship. Known as 'Second Rates', they formed the majority of the ships of the line.
6. See Appendix B
7. No doubt the officers were appointed to Lapwing.
8. 15th Report of the Commissioners Enquiring into the Civil Administration of the Navy (see above).
9. The Head of the Navy Board.
10. One is reminded of such towns as Port Sunlight and Bourneville of a century later.
11. The census returns show two lieutenants RN resident in the town but they were unemployed on half-pay.
12. Before this date the Navy owned small steamers (tugs, etc.) but these did not merit inclusion in the Navy List.
13. He lies in the old cemetery in Park Street, Pembroke Dock, near Captain Cumby, a previous Captain Superintendent and a veteran of Trafalgar. Was Price, perhaps a more lowly veteran of the battle? If so, he must have been one of the last to survive.
14. At the Dockyard Gate, on Melville Terrace. They have since been demolished.
15. Receiving Ship. An old warship or hulk moored in a naval port for the accommodation of recruits until drafted to sea-going ships.
16. HMS Warrior after a long and varied career, was from 1929-1979 used as an oil fuel depot at Pembroke Dock. She was then restored and is now on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
17. A year and a day" -- but this was an example of Fisher 'spin' (media management). An unusual amount of steel was cut and equipment stockpiled before the keel was laid and the time was from keel-laying to first basin trial, when the ship was far from completion and commissioning. Also, considerable design work was complete before Fisher took office.
18. There is a short but well detailed account in a pamphlet The Fortifications of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock by M.J. Wheeler, published by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Committee.
19. Point Blank - the range at which a shot fired horizontally from a cannon begins to fall appreciably.
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