Pembroke Dock or The Port of Pembroke is a town with a short but illustrious past. At the end of the eighteenth century the area was just farmland but by 1901 the town had 11,000 residents. It originally grew up around the Royal Naval Dockyard and produced 260 fine ships between 1814-1926, including several royal yachts and men-of-war.
Pembroke Dock is connected by several bus services linking to Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Tenby. Pembroke Dock also has a railway station.
Irish Ferries operate a ferry service from Pembroke Dock to Rosslare in southern Ireland. The ferry runs twice a day in the early afternoon and the early hours of the morning.
Before the arrival of the Royal Naval Dockyard on the southern bank of the Cleddau estuary, the site of present-day Pembroke Dock was an isolated farming community called Paterchurch.
The only surviving remains of Paterchurch are of a tower from the medieval manor which is thought to date from the 1300s to 1400s. Paterchurch Tower is within the present day walls of the dockyard, and survived in spite of the rest of the estate falling into ruin and being demolished to make way for the dockyard in the first half of the 1800s.
The Royal Dockyard
Royal Navy shipbuilding on the Cleddau estuary began in the late 1700s with a report recommending the construction of a dockyard here. At this time, neither Milford Haven nor Pembroke Dock existed as any kind of settlement.
The Royal Navy started building ships on the northern shore of the Cleddau, on land near Hubberston, under the title ‘Milford’. A dispute over the price of the land meant that they moved, settling on a site 5 miles away, on the southern bank of the Cleddau, near to Pembroke.
The town of Pembroke Dock was established in 1814 with the start of the Royal Navy Dockyard.
As the Royal Navy Dockyard began to be established, construction immediately started, and in February 1816 the first ships to be built there were launched.
Over its 112 years of active service, the Dockyard saw the construction of five Royal Yachts and 263 other Royal Naval vessels. The last ship built there was launched in April 1922.
Defending the Town
As the Royal Dockyard grew rapidly in size and importance so did measures to defend it. In 1844 work began on the huge Defensible Barracks, overlooking the new town. After a remarkably short build time, Royal Marines moved in a year later. As part of a chain of fortifications along the Haven, all to defend the Dockyard, two Cambridge Gun Towers were constructed to the west and east sides of the dockyard. These are dated 1851 and locally are known as ‘Martello Towers’.
RAF Pembroke Dock
In 1930, four years after the Dockyard’s closure, the Royal Air Force began establishing a flying boat base – this continued for 29 years. Here in the 1930s several flying boats were introduced into service, including the Sunderland in 1938. In World War II Pembroke Dock became the world’s largest flying boat station and home base to airmen from many countries. Post war Sunderlands continued in service locally until 1957 and the station closed in 1959.
Pembroke Dock Today
For 150 years Pembroke Dock was a military town, and home to all three Armed Services. The last military unit left in the 1960s and the town has striven to find new roles ever since. This fine Victorian town with its grid-like street pattern and impressive buildings has expanded considerably in the past 50 years. It still has connections to its illustrious industrial past. Today the former dockyard is a commercial port and a gateway by ferry to Ireland.
Thanks to Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre for their help with this section.
The South Pembrokeshire Golf Club occupies a superb location above Pembroke Dock with fine views over The Milford Haven waterway.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path crosses the Cleddau Bridge, passes next to the National Park offices and traverses round the waterfront past the Martello Tower on Front Street before heading uphill on the way to Pembroke. The character of the coast path around the haven is quite different to that around the more rugged coastline.
The Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre based in the beautiful Garrison Chapel recounts the towns link with the Sunderland flying boats. Designed by naval architect George Ledwell Taylor, the Grade II listed Garrison Chapel is believed to be the only surviving classical Georgian Church in Wales. It was built by the Admiralty in 1830 as a place of worship for its employees in the dockyard.
Llanion Cemetery contains the war graves of 23 Commonwealth service personnel, including two unidentified Royal Navy sailors, of the First World War and 51 of the Second, including four unidentified Royal Navy sailors and an unidentified airman.
Pembroke Dock Military Cemetery contains the war graves of 40 Commonwealth service personnel of the First World War and 33 of the Second
Food and drink
The Station Inn pub, as its name suggests is right on the station and was previously the waiting room! It serves real ales and has weekly live music.
Other pubs include the Shipwright Inn on Front Street overlooking the historic Martello Gun Tower and The First and Last pub; its right in between Pembroke and Pembroke Dock which is how it’s got its name, it’s the last pub in Pembroke Dock and the first in Pembroke!
There are coffee houses and cafes and takeaways. La Brassaria on Law Street is a family friendly restaurant and further choices can be found in Pembroke.
There are a number of hotels in Pembroke Dock including The Cleddau Bridge hotel. There are a few B&Bs and guesthouses in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. The nearest camp sites or caravan sites would be south of Pembroke. There are self catering cottages in the area but more likely to be found nearer the coast.