Many famous people have been moved to praise the Milford Haven Waterway. William Shakespeare was so inspired by its beauty he used it as one of the settings in his play Cymbeline “...how far it is to this same blessed Milford: and by the way tell me how Wales was made so happy as to inherit such a haven...” Cymbeline Act 3, Scene 2, (1611), Shakespeare.
Admiral Lord Nelson called it ‘one of the greatest harbours in the world’ in 1802 and Daniel Defoe described it as ‘one of the best inlets of water in Britain’.
The Milford Haven Waterway is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, formed by a ‘Ria’ or ‘drowned valley’ flooded at the end of the last Ice Age. The Pembroke River and the Daugleddau estuary converge and wind west to the Irish Sea, forming 22 miles of spectacular waterway.
Parts of the Haven are within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the UK’s only coastal National Park. Along the waterway there are various sites designated as Special Areas of Conservations and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
From the 790s until the Norman Invasion in 1066, the waterway was used by Vikings looking for shelter. During one visit in 854, the Viking Chieftain Hubba wintered in the Haven with 23 ships, his name later being used for the Milford Haven district of Hubberston.
In 1171 Henry II started his Irish expedition from the area. His army of 400 warships, 500 knights and 4,000 men-at-arms gathered in the haven before sailing to Waterford and on to Dublin. This expedition marked the first time an English king had stood on Irish soil and was the beginning of Henry's invasion of Ireland.
The town of Milford Haven on the Northern bank was first founded as a whaling centre and then developed in 1790 by Sir William Hamilton.
Situated on the Southern bank, Pembroke Dock was established in 1802 as the site for a new Royal Naval Dockyard. Both towns have experienced a history of shipbuilding and fishing as railheads and terminals. The towns created concentrated trading that had previously carried out at up-river quays, jetties and landing places. By the late 18th Century, the two Milford Haven creeks of Hakin and Castle Pill, were being used as harbours for ships to load and unload coal, corn and limestone.
Small ports up-river such as Pennar, Lawrenny, Landshipping and Cosheston served the coal mines of the Pembrokeshire Coalfield and also the large limestone quarries at West Williamston. These ports continued to work through the 19th Century by changing to using barges to transship cargoes down river to the new generation of larger vessels using Pembroke Dock and Milford.
In the late 19th Century, concerns about the potential threat posed by the French Navy prompted the construction of a number of Palmerston Forts at various strategically important coastal sites, including Milford Haven. These, although unused, can still be seen today.
Milford Haven also became home to a thriving and important fishing port in the 19th Century. On 27th September 1888, the steam trawler ‘Sybil’ was the first vessel to enter Milford Docks. Trawler owners from ports all around the British coast were quick to spot the advantages of fishing from Milford, the most important of which were: proximity to good fishing grounds, a sheltered anchorage, and direct rail links to London and other centres where the fish could be marketed.
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, Milford residents boasted that each weekday was a pay-day, as the fishermen were noted for spending their hard earned income. Even through the years of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s Milford sustained its busy and bustling quayside atmosphere.
The late 20th Century brought the jetties, oil terminals and shore processing facilities of the oil and power industries. The first oil terminal and oil refinery was opened in 1960.
Milford Haven Museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in the Town, which was originally built for the storage of whale oil awaiting trans-shipment for sale in London. The Museum documents events that have been instrumental to the way in which the people, industries and fortunes of the town have evolved.
Opening Times: Easter - October.
Monday - Saturday 10.30am - 4.00pm (last entry is at 3.30pm)
Parties accommodated at any time, by appointment.
Children & concessions: £2
Under 5s: Free
Family ticket: £7 ( 2 adults and 2 children)
Milford Haven Museum, The Old Custom House, The Docks, Milford Haven, SA73 3AF
Tel: 01646 694496