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Milford Haven
Milford Header.jpg
Clockwise from top: view of Milford Haven Docks from Hakin; view of Haven from town; the Tribute to Fishermen on The Rath.
Population 13,907 
OS grid reference SM899061
Principal area
Ceremonial county
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SA73
Dialling code 01646
Police Dyfed-Powys
Fire Mid and West Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament
  • Preseli Pembrokeshire
Welsh Assembly
  • Preseli Pembrokeshire
List of places
PembrokeshireCoordinates: 51°42′51″N 5°02′34″W / 51.71418°N 5.04274°W / 51.71418; -5.04274

Milford Haven ( Welsh: Aberdaugleddau, meaning "mouth of the two Rivers Cleddau") is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway, an estuary forming a natural harbour that has been used as a port since the Middle Ages. The town was founded in 1790 on the north side of the Waterway, from which it takes its name. Designed to a grid pattern, it was originally intended by the founder, Sir William Hamilton, to be a whaling centre, though by 1800 it was developing as a Royal Navy dockyard which it remained until the dockyard was transferred to Pembroke in 1814. It then became a commercial dock, with the focus moving in the 1960s, after the construction of an oil refinery built by the Esso Company, to logistics for fuel oil and liquid gas. By 2010 the town's port has become the fourth largest in the United Kingdom in terms of tonnage, and plays an important role in the United Kingdom's energy sector with several oil refineries and one of the biggest LNG terminals in the world.

Milford is the second largest settlement in Pembrokeshire, with a population of 12,830; while the 13,086 people in its community boundaries make it the most populous in the county. As a Welsh local government community, Milford takes in the town of Milford itself and its suburbs, including Hakin, Hubberston, Liddeston, and Steynton. The total population of the 6 electoral wards in question was 13,907 at the 2011 census.

The natural harbour of the Haven was known as a safe port and was exploited for several historical military operations throughout the second millennium. Campaigns conducted from the Haven included part of Henry II's Invasion of Ireland in 1171 and Cromwell's own attack on Ireland in 1649, while forces which have disembarked at the point include Jean II de Rieux's 1405 reinforcement of the Glyndŵr Rising. In 1485, Henry VII landed at the Milford Haven Waterway before marching on to England.


The town of Milford was founded in 1793, after Sir William Hamilton obtained an Act of Parliament in 1790 to establish the port at Milford, and takes its name from the natural harbour of Milford Haven, which was used for several hundred years as a staging point on sea journeys to Ireland and as a shelter by Vikings. It was known as a safe port and is mentioned in Shakespeare's Cymbeline as "blessed Milford". It was used as the base for several military operations, such as Richard de Clare's invasion of Leinster in 1167, Henry II's Invasion of Ireland in 1171, and Oliver Cromwell's 1649 invasion of Ireland; while forces which have disembarked at the point include Jean II de Rieux's 1405 reinforcement of the Glyndŵr Rising and Henry VII's 1485 landing at the waterway before marching on England. By the late 18th century the two local creeks were being used to load and unload goods, and surrounding settlements were established, including the medieval chapel, and Summer Hill Farm, the only man-made structures on the future site of Milford.

Milford Haven Panoramic Attwood
View of Milford Haven by Attwood, looking west, 1776

Sir William Hamilton, the town's founder, had acquired the land from his wife, Catherine Barlow of Slebech. His nephew, the Hon. Charles Francis Greville, invited seven Quaker families from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard to settle in the new town and develop a whaling fleet, In 1800, following the bankruptcy of the shipbuilding contractor Jacobs & Sons, who had established their shipyard there in 1797, he persuaded the Navy Board's overseer, Jean-Louis Barralier, to lease the site for the Navy Board and develop a dockyard for building warships. Seven royal vessels were eventually launched from the dockyard, including HMS Surprise and HMS Milford. The town was built on a grid pattern, thought to have been to the design of Jean-Louis Barrallier, who remained in charge of shipbuilding there for the Navy Board. Between 1801 and 1803, the town and waterway were protected by temporary batteries at Hakin Point and south of St Katherine's Church, in response to the perceived threat following the Fishguard Invasion.

A church was consecrated in October 1808 and dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria in the underdeveloped eastern side of the town, it remained a chapel of ease until 1891 when Milford became a parish, until that time competing with St Peter and St Cewydd in Steynton. By the start of the 19th century, a mail coach was operating between London and Hubberston, and in 1800 the short lived Milford and Pembrokeshire Bank was established by Thomas Phillips, operating from a branch in the town. It collapsed in 1810.

Great Eastern Milford Haven 2
The SS Great Eastern harboured in Milford Haven, 1870s

In 1814 the Royal Dockyard was transferred to Pembroke Dock; though, when Robert Fulke Greville inherited the estate in 1824, a commercial dock was started which became the home of a successful fishing industry. By 1849, the district of Hakin was described as a considerable centre of boat building, and by 1906, Milford had become the sixth largest fishing port in the UK, and its population rose. The Pembrokeshire Herald claimed in 1912 that "the fish trade is Milford's sole industry....the population of the town has doubled by means of it".

Fishing fleet laid up in Milford docks during coal miners strike, 1921

In 1863, the railway network came to Milford, linking it to the Haverfordwest line and beyond. In 1866, work was completed on an additional extension which provided access to the docks and ship-breaking yard on the eastern side of the town. Between 1875 and 1886 The Great Eastern was a permanent fixture at Milford Docks, remaining there for lengthy repairs. Her arrival into the docks was heralded as an example of the scale of vessel which the town could expect to attract.

In the late 1850s, work began on a network of forts on both sides of the Milford Haven estuary, as a direct result of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. They were designed with the intention of defending the United Kingdom against French invasion, although were never used for this purpose. Notable examples in the town were Fort Hubberstone in Gelliswick and Scoveston Fort to the north east of the town.

By 1901, the town's population had reached 5,102, and by 1931 had further doubled to 10,104. The early twentieth century saw a period of increased urbanization of the area; in the period from the First World War to 1937, 312 council houses were built, and public services, such as electricity supplies and sewerage, were completed. The steep gradient of the Rath was at this time constructed, and in 1939 a Town Hall was opened on Hamilton Terrace, at that time possessing an inbuilt fire station. 1939 also saw the opening of an outdoor swimming pool on the Rath.

A British convoy, with balloon protection, leaving the port of Milford Haven during WW2.

During the Second World War Milford Haven was chosen as a base for allied American troops, and roughly 1,000 American military personnel were housed in the town at this time. They manned an amphibious base which included a hospital built in Hakin and a docks complex at Newton Noyes. The base had a complement of 71 officers and 902 enlisted men, and played a rôle in preparations for D Day. Despite its strategic importance as the home of a large fish market, a mines depot, a flax factory, and housing numerous military personnel, Milford escaped serious damage from German bombings during the Second World War. In the summer of 1941 a bomb fell in fields near Priory Road, and later that year, a bomb damaged a house in Brooke Avenue. In neither instance were there casualties.

In 1960, the Esso Company completed work on an oil refinery near the town, which opened despite environmental objections. This was followed by similar developments by many other chief oil companies in a 10-year period. In 1974, Milford could boast an oil trade of 58,554,000 tons, which was three times the combined trade of all the other ports of Wales. In 1996 the area hit the headlines internationally when the oil tanker Sea Empress ran aground, causing a substantial oil spill. By the early 1980s, the Esso refinery was the second largest in the UK.


Milford Haven is an Anglicization of an old Scandinavian name "Melrfjordr" that was first applied to the waterway – the Old Norse Melr, meaning sandbank, and fjordr, meaning fiord or inlet, developing into "Milford"; then later the term "Haven" from the Germanic word Haven for port or harbour was added. The town was named Milford after the waterway, and, as with the waterway, Haven was added later – in this case around 1868, when the railway terminus was built. The Welsh for Milford Haven, "Aberdaugleddau", refers to the estuary which is the meeting point of the "White River Cleddau" (Afon Cleddau Wen) and the "Black River Cleddau" (Afon Cleddau Ddu). The term "Aber" is associated with the 'pouring out' of a river, hence the description of the two rivers meeting and forming an estuary. Cleddau itself may make reference to the action of a weapon or tool cutting through the land.

A panoramic view of Milford Haven, as seen from the north west of the town near Havens Head. Milford to left, and Hakin to right of picture.


Weather chart for Milford Haven
temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: The Met Office

The town of Milford Haven lies on the north bank of the Milford Haven waterway, which is a ria or drowned valley. This is a landscape of low-lying wooded shorelines, creeks and mudflats. There has been a great deal of loss and degradation of local mudflat habitat as a result of industrial and commercial development – one study indicated a 45 per cent loss in Hubberston Pill.

The town itself has a historic late 18th and 19th centuries core based on a grid pattern, located between Hubberston Pill and Castle Pill and extending inland for 500 metres (1,600 ft). Milford Haven's 20th century expansion took in several other settlements. Hakin and Hubberston are older, and situated to the west of the main town. Steynton is a medieval village to the north, no longer separated due to the expansion of houses. Lower Priory, with the remains of a very early religious Priory, is located in a natural valley near the village of Thornton.

Milford Haven enjoys a mild climate. Its proximity to the coast contributes to wet winters, but it enjoys a generous amount of sunshine with around 1,800 hours of sunshine a year being recorded for the nearby village of Dale. This is comparable to the South Coast of England, and the highest annual average level of sunshine in Wales. The nearest official Met Office weather station is at Milford Haven Conservancy Board.


Population growth in Milford Haven since 1841
Year 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1951 1961 1971 2001 2011
Population 2,377 2,837 3,007 2,836 3,812 4,070 5,102 6,399 7,772 10,104 11,710 12,802 13,760 13,096 13,907
Source: Vision of Britain & Field Studies Journal

By the 1950s, the fishing industry was in decline, and unemployment in the area had reached 11%. There had been a housing boom however in the years following Second World War. The District Council took advantage of recently lifted restrictions, and built over 1,000 new homes to accommodate the rising population. A new wave of hope however arrived with the prospect of a booming oil industry. The industry however was not labour-intensive, and did not provide huge labour opportunities for locals, in the 1970s employing only 2,000 workers." The nature of large construction projects meant that workers were attracted from outside the local area, and the decline of the fishing industry was to a certain extent masked. However, this employment was not permanent. On completing the construction of construction projects such as the Esso refinery and the Cleddau Bridge, those who decided to relocate to the town were faced with what the Preseli District Council called in 1977 "the area's serious unemployment problem".

Milford Haven is not ethnically diverse, with 96.4% of people identifying themselves as white, compared with 99.2% in 2001. 92.9% of people in Milford Central ward were born in the UK, and only 3.8% of residents arrived later than 2001. 96.3% of residents claim English as their first language. 1.5% of residents identify as having religious views other than any denomination of Christianity, including no religion.

Welsh language

Milford Haven is located within the geographical and historic area known as Little England Beyond Wales, which has predominately used English for many centuries. Although it is the most westerly point of the country and the part of the county furthest from the English border, a relatively small proportion of the community knows the Welsh language. In the 2011 census, only 7.5% of residents in the Milford Central ward claimed that they could speak, read and write the language, in contrast to the Pembrokeshire county as a whole where roughly 18% of the population are able to read, write and speak Welsh, while in the neighbouring county of Carmarthenshire around 40% of people express a similar level of fluency in Welsh. Local disconnection from the Welsh language was highlighted in November 2008, when Milford Haven Town Council unsuccessfully demanded the right to opt out of a scheme in which official documents had to be translated into Welsh if requested; the council was allegedly one of about 10 that opposed having to make such translations.


Milford Architecture
Architecture in Milford Haven, 1: Georgian town house, 2: Terrace house from 19th century, 3: Council house from 1930s, 4: Private house built 1960s

Architecture in Milford Haven can be divided into roughly three broad periods of building. The number of buildings which pre-date the town's official foundation in 1790 are scarce. These include the Medieval priory, and a 12th-century 'beacon chapel'.

The initial phase of construction from the late 18th century is located in the area central to the town, the three parallel streets of Hamilton Terrace, Charles Street And Robert Street. Three-storey Georgian domestic and commercial properties are set along the northern side of the main road through the town, and overlook the harbour and waterway.

By the late 19th century, the land directly above this central area was being developed. To house the growing population, rows of terrace houses were built, which slowly encompassed the area north up to Marble Hall Road, and east to Pill, examples including Shakespeare Avenue and Starbuck Road. The Great North Road took a northerly route which sliced this new district in two. Suburban owner-occupied detached and semi-detached properties grew up on land overlooking the waterway and along the course of Steynton Road. Around the start of the 20th century, there was a recognized need to provide accommodation to poorer families. As a result, much former agricultural land was bought, and new Council Housing was built. These were frequently in large estates of houses, such as Howarth Close, Haven Drive and The Glebelands Estate. They transformed previously rural areas into an urban landscape, and considerably increased Milford's area of housing. Council estates were built throughout the 20th century, one of the most recent and largest examples being The Mount Estate, which has been the scene of a number of anti-social incidents.


The Rath, Milford Haven
The Rath, with view of the Haven estuary

Attractions in the town include Fort Hubberstone, built in 1863 to defend the Haven as part of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. Located in Gelliswick bay, it occupies a prominent position to the west of the town overlooking the Haven. Owned by Milford Haven Port Authority, the site is not currently open to the public, and has been the scene of non-fatal injuries to trespassers. In 2011 it was named as the fifth most endangered archaeological site in the UK by British Archaeology magazine. The ruins of an observatory, originally intended to be part of "The College of King George the Third founded at Milford", can be found in Hakin. Construction of the building was abandoned in 1809. Milford Haven Museum, located centrally in the docks area, is housed in the town's oldest building, the Custom House which dates back to 1797. Designed by Swansea architect, Jernigan, it was built for the storage of whale oil awaiting shipment for sale in London.

The Rath is a landscaped street on high ground, with panoramic views of the Haven. The land was used in the 18th century as a gun battery, and its eastern edge was the site of the Royalist fort constructed by Charles I known as Pill Fort. In the 1930s it became the home of an outdoor swimming pool, which was converted into a water gardens in 1990. Milford Haven Waterway is the natural harbour on which the town stands and from which the town takes its name.

Culture and community

Torch Theatre
Torch Theatre

The Torch Theatre, opened in 1977 and designed by local architect Monty Minter, is one of only three repertory theatres in Wales, and possesses its own independent theatre company. The Pill Social Centre, operating since the 1950s, is a community hall and events venue, having hosted The Who and Gerry and the Pacemakers. Annual events in the town include the Pembrokeshire Fish Week in June, and the carnival in July. Milford Haven library, recently relocated to Havens Head Retail Park offers a full lending service and internet access. Milford Haven Museum, located in the marina, houses a collection which focusses on the maritime history of the town.

The Milford & West Wales Mercury weekly newspaper covers the Milford Haven and West Pembrokeshire area. It was founded in 1992 and following a merger of its editorial team with that of the Western Telegraph, its local office was closed in 2008. The town is also home to several charities, including PATCH and Gwalia. The town's Mount Estate provided the location for a BBC documentary entitled "The Mount: A Welsh Estate", which received criticism locally for its portrayal of residents.

Milford Haven is twinned with Romilly-sur-Seine, France and Uman, Ukraine.

Sport and leisure

The town possesses a number of venues for sport and leisure. Milford Haven Leisure Centre offers various facilities, including a 25-metre indoor swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, a bowls hall and a dance studio. The Thornton Hall, located at Milford Haven School, has an indoor sports hall and artificial turf pitch. There are rugby union and association football clubs. Nautical activities are centered around the marina and Pembrokeshire Yacht Club in Gelliswick, which dates to 1923. There is a golf club on the outskirts, which was founded in 1913

Milford Marina, the site of the former working docks, was re-branded in 1991 and offers retail facilities, the town museum and entertainment. The Marina itself houses 360 berths for private boats.

Places of worship

Places of worship in Milford Haven
Priory Road Methodist Church also known as Christ Church, opened 1902
St David's, Hubberston, a 13th century Grade I listed building

The people of Milford Haven in 2001 identified themselves as being under 1400 Christian out of near 1900 in total. The earliest known religious building in the area was the Benedictine priory, known as Pill Priory, which was dissolved during Henry VIII's reign. Other early buildings included the Catholic St. Thomas à Becket chapel, a later 'beacon church', built around the 12th century which fell into disrepair but was reconsecrated in the 20th century.

The first religious building raised after Milford Haven was founded was St. Katharine's and St. Peter's, an Anglican church, it is considered to be the town's parish church due to its central position within the town and the fact that it was built by Charles Francis Greville the founder of Milford Haven. Other Anglican buildings include St. David's in Hubberston, St. Mary's (1927) and the Church of the Holy Spirit (1971) in Hakin and St. Peter's and St. Cewydd's in Steynton. St. David's is a Norman church and is believed to be the oldest building in Milford still in regular use. St. Mary's was built in 1927 largely by funds from the local residents of Hakin.

In 2000, the church of St. Claires in Hakin closed, leaving one Roman Catholic church in Milford Haven, St. Francis of Assisi on Priory Road. Baptists congregate at North Road Baptist Church which is one of the older religious buildings of the community, built in 1878. The Friends Meeting House (Quakers), built in 1811 by the original Quaker whalers who were central to the early growth of the town, is in Priory Road. Quakers travel from distances around Pembroke to worship at the Friends House.

Members of both the Methodist and United Reformed Churches now worship at Christ Church in Priory Road (formerly known as Priory Road Methodist Church which was opened in 1902). In recent years the church has drawn together the Methodist Churches in Milford Haven, Hakin Point and Waterston as well as Tabernacle URC to form a new Local Ecumenical Partnership.

The building of Tabernacle URC in Charles Street closed in 2011 with the new united congregation moving to their new home in Christ Church. The old Tabernacle building is still used as a place of worship by the local Islamic community in the form of a Mosque.


Milford Haven Station
View of Milford Haven Railway Station

The main road to the town is the A4076 from Haverfordwest, which connects with the A40. The town centre's road system is based on a grid pattern. The route to Hakin and the western side of the town is along the A4076 via Victoria Bridge over the docks.

Bus routes passing through the town are operated by independent companies and Pembrokeshire County Council subsidies. Services include a town circular, Haverfordwest, Pembroke Dock and St Davids. National Express operate services to both London and Rochdale via Steynton.

The first links to a railway to Milford Haven came through the completion of the South Wales Railway in 1856. Brunel had a vision of connecting London to New York via a railway through Wales and then to a commuter port. The initial plan was to terminate the line at Fishguard and to create a ferry service to Ireland, but after a failure to complete Irish rail links the terminus was changed to New Milford, (Neyland), which was completed in April 1856. The first rail link direct to Milford Haven was completed in 1863, which was originally conceived as a plan to create an impressive Milford to Manchester railway. The trains using the line were operated by Great Western Railway who had part funded the original railway. Today the town is served by Milford Haven railway station. The station, and all trains serving it, are operated by Arriva Trains Wales on the West Wales Line. It is the terminus, and from here, trains depart every two hours to Manchester Piccadilly via Carmarthen, Swansea, and Cardiff Central.

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