The Milford Haven Waterway is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world created at the end of the last ice age when the valley flooded, known as a ria. The littoral landscape of Milford Haven shows evidence of maritime conquest, settlement, commerce, fishing and defence from the 11th century to the 20th century. Around the start of the 19th century, two new towns were constructed: Milford in 1790 and Pembroke Dock in 1802 as the site for a new Royal Naval Dockyard.
The Landsker line in Pembrokeshire involves more than 50 castles built during the 11th and 12th centuries by both invaders and defenders. It was a complex period of conflict, effectively to consolidate the line. The southernmost castle is Laugharne and others included Wiston, Camrose, Narberth and Roch, often referred to as “frontier castles” but they were in fact set back a considerable distance inland. In the heart of the Normanised colony, the two great fortresses were at Pembroke and Haverfordwest as well as including Manorbier, Carew and Tenby. The West Wales Maritime Heritage Society is based in Pembroke Dock and aims to involve members of the public to encourage research, preservation of craft, buildings and sites of historical or local interest.
In wartime RAF Pembroke Dock became the world’s largest operational flying-boat station. In 1943, at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, 99 flying-boats – mostly Sunderlands – were located in and around Pembroke Dock as the sheltered Milford Haven Waterway was ideal for such operations. The Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust’s Heritage Centre is a great place to visit if you are interested in wartime history.
The late 20th century brought the jetties, oil terminals and shore processing facilities of the oil and power industries. The industry reached its zenith in the 1970s when Middle Eastern supply difficulties forced oil transport to use ocean routes. With its deep waters and westerly position, Milford Haven was suited to receive very large Crude Carriers. As a result, The Port of Milford Haven is the UK’s largest energy port and the biggest port in Wales.