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.