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Pembroke Dockyard. History and Photographs of the Royal Dockyard at Pembroke.
The early stages of constructing the armoured cruiser HMS Drake at Pembroke Dockyard in 1901.
The great naval value of Pembroke Dockyard arises from the very advantageous situation it occupies at the head of the landlocked anchorage of Milford Haven, which is capable of accommodating a great fleet, as it has many times done during the naval manoeuvres. The strategic importance of the Haven is due to the fact that it lies at the mouth of St Georgeâ€™s Channel, giving command of the approaches to Ireland, and, being the only naval port with facilities for ship building and repairing which we possess on the west coast, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a greater future is in store of it, and that Pembroke Dockyard will yet assume a larger degree of importance. Up t the present time it has, indeed, somewhat been neglected, and even in the naval works act, 1895, it had originally no place, though, later on, provision was made for the building of the new jetty, which is to be completed in the financial year 1903-4, and is seen in progress in one of the pictures accompanying this article. The place labours under some disadvantages. Although the Haven is a splendid enclosed anchorage-the dockyard being some eleven miles eastward from St. Annâ€™s Head at the mouth-the deep water channel is narrow, and the visible water area does not indicate the space available for the mooring of ships.
What, however, Milford Haven lacks in width it possesses in length, and there is in Dale roads, near its mouth, an anchorage safe in most of weathers at which vessels can lie in readiness at any hour to put to sea. In the construction of ships in the dockyard, great expense and trouble have constantly been caused by the necessity of berthing them when launched at Hobbâ€™s point for completion under the enormous shears erected there. The distance from the yard to the point is considerable, and the transport of men and material between the dockyard shops and the vessels in hand there involves some waste. Nevertheless, owing to the skilful direction of work, and its excellent organisation, Pembroke had on several occasions received great credit for the success with which ship building had been carried on. A large dry dock and a basin seem necessary, and it may be hoped that that ways and means will yet be found for adding resource to the yard. The splendid work done for the Navy at Pembroke in the past justifiers us in expecting that when improvements have been made it will rival any other dockyard in rapidity and economy of construction.
The origon of Pembroke Dockyard as a Naval station is interesting, and in some ways curious. Of course, at every period of history vessels operating on the coast have resorted to Milford Haven, and probably even in the days of Strongbow, and in the early time of that mighty keep which still frowns over a branch of the Haven at ancient Pembroke, there must, from time to time, have been ships of fighting quality in those sheltered waters. There was much of sap and siege at Pembroke castle in time of civil broil, and forces must often of come by sea. Thus in 1643 Admiral Swanley arrived in Milford Haven with the fleet of the Parliament and reinforced the garrison, so that they were able to reduce most of the neighbouring fortresses held by the king. Afterwards, however, the leaders declared for the Royal side, and Cromwell took the place. Later on the importance of Milford Haven was impressed upon the Admiralty by the events of the Great War, more particularly in regard to the defence of Ireland, against in which the efforts, of the directory were aimed, and which was constantly menaced under the consulate and the empire. It was recognised that there would have been immense advantage in possessing inland waters in such a position, where the ships could be rapidly repaired and refitted. There was, at the time, no station to which those stationed off of Cape Clear and along the south coast of Ireland could resort, save Plymouth.
Nothing, however, was done, but before the war broke out afresh Milford Haven received some facilities for building war ships. The old town of Milford, on the northern side of the Haven, about seven miles from St. Annâ€™s Head, was a place of some commercial importance, and small merchantmen and fishing vessels had been built there. As a Naval base, the importance of the place may be said to have originated with Nelson. In that eventful and remarkable period of his life which intervened between his return from the Mediterranean and his last departure from our shores he paid a long visit to Wales, and was impressed with the broad expanse of Milford Haven, and recognised its strategic advantage, which he appears to have enforced upon the Admiralty. With Sir William and Lady Hamilton he visited the Hon. Robert Fulke Greville at his residence at Castle Hill, standing at the head of a small estuary of the Haven. The singular trio had set a house up together at Merton, as Emma as â€śLady Paramount of all the territories and waters there.â€ť Poor Sir William Hamilton had expressed his delight at the arrangement, and Nelson had laughed when he saw Emma and her mother fitting up pigstyes and hencoops, the canal enlivened with ducks, and the hens strutting about the walks. Lord Minto and some others have described that extraordinary household. During the journey to Wale, Nelson and the Hamiltonâ€™s were everywhere received with boundless enthusiasm, which Nelson said flattered his feelings, and although some of the higher powers wished, he thought, to keep him down, yet the reward of the general approbation and gratitude for his services was ample recompense for all he had done.
Nelson appears to have instituted a regatta at Milford, and the principal hostelry there bears his name, while in St. Catherineâ€™s church is a memorial of his visit. There may be seen a socket formed to receive part of a mast, with an inscription describing the relic as the truck of the mainmast of the â€śOrientâ€ť of 110 guns, blown up in action with the â€śVanguardâ€ť of 74 guns: â€śA legacy of Lord Nelson to Emma, Lady Hamilton, who placed it hear as a record of the Nile, and of its anniversary at Milford, 1st day of August, the day Lord Nelson and Sir William and Lady Hamilton were welcomed by the County of Pembroke.â€ť Unfortunately the piece of the â€śOrient is no longer there. It was lent, and some mystery attends its whereabouts. Mr Greville was an atheistic admirer of Nelsonâ€™s, and placed upon the font an inscription admonishing those baptised therein that they â€śbe taught that because Lord Nelsonâ€™s piety and loyalty, were equal to his valour, he never exclaimed in vain to his daring fleet, England expects everyman will do his dutyâ€ť; the almighty blessed his coarse, and ending it in victory, permitted him to become a immortal example of a heroic Navy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to uphold the honour and the empire of it sovereign on the seas.â€ť
So much may serve as an introduction to an account of Pembroke Dockyard, which grew from the original establishment at Milford. Mr Greville, who entered into anarrangment with the Admiralty, by which it was converted to Naval uses, owned the property at the latter place. The first principal shipwright at the yard there appears to have been Mr J. L. Barralier, followed by Mr W. Stone, and the first war ship built there was the â€śNautilus,â€ť of 18 guns, in 1804, followed by the â€śMilfordâ€ť 74, in 1811. Though built at Milford, this ship was not first of the name in the British Navy, for a â€śMilford,â€ť of 28 guns, Captain John Ford, ran ashore and captured after a long chase the American brig â€śCabotâ€ť in 1777. Although good work was done at Milford, and still another â€ś74â€ť was built there, the â€śRochefort,â€ť launched in April 1814, the position was disadvantageous. The shore was rocky, the space somewhat restricted, and the work of excavation costly. Mr Stone, the master ship Wright for it was long before superintendent was appointed-advocated that the establishment should be transferred to the position where Pembroke Dock now is, at the head of the deep-water space of the Haven, on a kind of Peninsula behind two of its estuaries, and within a couple of miles of ancient Pembroke. Pembroke Dockyard thus became a permanent establishment in 1815, and, from small beginnings, increased to such an extent that it has bee capable of undertaking the largest-shipbuilding for the Navy.
The â€śDreadnoughtâ€ť â€śEdinburghâ€ť â€śCollingwoodâ€ť â€śHoweâ€ť â€śAnsonâ€ť â€śNileâ€ť â€śEmpress of Indiaâ€ť â€śRepulseâ€ť â€śRenownâ€ť â€śHannibalâ€ť â€śDrakeâ€ť â€śSpartiateâ€ť and many other battle ships and cruisers have been built there, and now Pembroke Dockyard is one of those scenes of bustling activity which British Navy stations always are.
I t would appear that when the establishment was removed from Milford, there was scarcely a house at Pater, as the site of the dockyard was then called. It was no easy matter to procure workmen, and the Admiralty gave facilities for the building of dwellings. The dockyard men lived, as many of them do now, at villages upon the shores of Milford Haven, and were carried to their work in passage boats, as they still are, in the â€śMintâ€ť or other dockyard craft. Originally the dockyard was less extensive than at the present time. The oldest parts are to the east, but additional slips and shops have been constructed in a westerly direction, between the Can Shores and the shore of the Llanreath. The sea walls and building sheds were begun about the year 1816 or 1817, and a drawing of the establishment as it existed at the period is preserved, depicting one shed and two ships. The entrance was at a doorway at the eastern side of the yard. The present main gate, on the western side of the yard, dates from about thirty years later, when the fine avenue of approach was planted. The first ships launched at Pembroke were the â€śValorousâ€ť and â€śAriadneâ€ť both of the 28 guns, which took the water in 1816, followed by the â€śThetisâ€ť and â€śArethusaâ€ť of 46 guns in 1817. At that time Mr T Roberts was master-ship-Wright at the yard, and it interesting to note that it was he who introduced iron instead of wooden knees, thus bringing a couple considerable improvements in shipbuilding. The blacksmithâ€™s shop in those early times was on the site of the present boathouse-that is to say, about 100-yds from the eastern wall of the yard. It was in this portion of the establishment that the shipwrights worked, and, as years passed by, various other shops and offices were built. Some portions of the old buildings still remain south of the present mould loft, where was the masters-builderâ€™s office, joinery works, drawing office, mould loft, and other shops and residences. There were three rows of these buildings, of which the greater part has now been demolished.
The apprentices school was begun in 1824, and continued in existence for more than twenty years, and the present dockyard chapel, a fine stone building with a square tower and cupola, was erected in 1832. It consists of nave, chancel, aisles, and galleries, and is excellently constructed, being in this respect like all the other buildings at Pembroke Dock.
A description of the yard will in greater detail follow un another article. Here it may be useful to say that the first Pembroke ship was built in the open before the sheds were built. The â€śBelleisle,â€ť a 74, and the â€śFisguardâ€ť 46, were built in 1819, several smaller vessels in the following years, and the â€śClarence,â€ť 84, in 1827. The first Captain-Superintendent of the yard was Captain Charles Bullen, C.B., who was appointed in July 1832, and remained in office until 1837. The growing importance of the yard caused this appointment to be made, and in April 1833, the â€śRoyal William,â€ť a splendid vessel of 120 guns, was launched there, immediately followed by the â€śRodneyâ€ť of 92 guns.
Pembroke Dockyard played its part in the development of iron ship-building and the changes that were due to the introduction of steam. The paddle-ships â€śGleaner,â€ť â€śTartarus,â€ť and â€śGorgonâ€ť were built there between 1833 and 1837, and were designed by Sir William Symonds. The â€śDuke of Wellingtonâ€ť of 131 guns, laid down as a sailing ship, was converted to a screw vessel and launched in 1852. Several Royal yachts have been built at that yard. Sir William Symonds designed the â€śVictoria and Albertâ€ť paddle ship, launched there in 1843, and her successor of the same name, designed by the Surveyorâ€™s Department, when Sir Thomas Pasley was Captain-Superintendent, was built in 1851. As is well known, the lates â€śVictoria and Albertâ€ť now His Majestyâ€™s yacht, was also built in Pembroke. These are some of the interests of the dockyard, the account of which shall be supplemented by details of later history, and by a description of the yard itself, in next weekâ€™s issue.Meanwhile, it may be remarked that this interesting and valuable Naval establishment, even if it receive the additions and improvements that are so necessary, can never equal the other dockyards in their great and special importance. They are fitted in every sense to be the efficient bases of a fleet, not only as building and repairing establishments, but as arsenals supplied with every requirement for the life and work of the fleet, and thus with vast resources in Naval ordinance and victual ling stores. A more modest role will always be that of Pembroke, though it can never be regarded as a great engineering works only. Pembroke dockyard has also its place in the plans for mobilising the fleet. It is a link in the chain of preparation. Yet its chief function will be the building repairing, and fitting of ships, and for the convenient conduct of its operations are obviously desirable.
Pembroke has taken noticeable part in the development of ship building-from wood to iron and from iron to steel, from sail to steam and from paddle to screw. It has also been successful, notwithstanding its disadvantages, in economical construction. Thus, in 1878, the building there, in several remarkable instances, was brought well within the estimates, and Admiral Hall adduced the facts before the committee on stores to illustrate the great importance of constant personal supervision of work in progress in the several dockyards on the part of the chief constructors. The officers at Pembroke were able to bestow this attention on their duty from having time enough at their disposal to give the requisite attention to the details of construction. Admiral Fellows made a strong representation on the same subject. At the time the chief constructor at Pembroke was receiving £700 a year for supervision over a body of men whose aggregate wages amounted to £97,000, whereas the official at Portsmouth received £850 for supervision over an annual expenditure of £326,191 on wages, and perhaps an equal amount on stores. This is not the only period in which the constructive work a Pembroke has received commendation, and something of the success is doubtless attributable to the fact that the duties have not overtaxed the attention of those responsible for the execution of them.
The Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard has always been a captain, as at Sheerness and although the staffs have been able to devote this full attention to the work, they have never been so numerous as at the larger dockyards. There is reason to think that, with the larger future, which seems to be promised for Pembroke, that yard will sooner or later have an Admiral Superintendent. In this connection it may be worth a wile to recall the fact that Mr. Pretyman, C.M.G., Civil Lord of the Admiralty, and Colonel Raban, R.E., Directors of works, visited Pembroke last November, not only for the purpose of inspecting the works and improvements in hand, but to consider on the spot proposals for the development of Milfred Haven which the Admiralty had under consideration. Captain William Price Cumby, a hero of Trafalgar, who died at Pembroke and was buried there, succeeded Captain Charles Bullen, C.B., superintendent of the yard from 1832 to 1837. Captain Samuel Jackson, C.B,. Followed him in 1838 and then came Captain Sir Watkin O Pell in 1842, Captain G.F. Falconer in 1845. Captain Peter Richards in 1849, and Captain Sir Thomas Pasley, Bart in the same year. The last named officer established the National school at Pembroke docks, and was superintendent of the yard at an important period in the development of Naval construction. He was followed by Captain Roberts Smart, 1854, Captain George Ramsay, C.B. Captain William Loring C.B. Captain Robert Hall C.B. Captain William Armytage, Captaun R. W. Courtenay, and Captain R. P. Hamilton, Captain G.H. Parkin, Captain A. J. Chatfield, Captain Edward Kelly, Captain G. Digby Morant, Captain Samuel Long, A.D.C. Captain Walter Stewart, C.B. A.D.C,. Captain C.C Penrose Fitzgerald, Captain W.H Hall, Captain C.J. Balfour, Captain Burges Watson, and Captain C.J. Barlow, Captain G.W. Russel succeeded the latter officer promoted to flag rank, in September last.
Recurring now to the development of Pembroke Dockyard itself, it may be interesting to note that, when the â€śFalmouth Packest,â€ť established in 1688 for the conveyance of mails, were taken over by the Admiralty in 1823, changes were made which many years later caused Pembroke to become a packet station. After the inauguration of the yard, the ship-building facilities were steadily improved, and the old slips, which were roughly constructed, were successively replaced by more solid buildings, which have lasted until the present day. At the same time the original building sheds gave place to others of larger and better construction. It was not until after 1830 that the yard was extended from its original boundary to the westward. Before that time the Captain Superintendentâ€™s house had stood near the western boundary, but owing to the enlargement it is now in approximately in the middle of the dockyard enclosure. The camber at the opposite end of the yard belongs to the earlier days of the establishment. There was a considerable increase in the number of vessels built at Pembroke, and the â€śRoyal William,â€ť 120, the â€śRodneyâ€ť 92, the â€śVanguardâ€ť 80 as well as the â€śSuperbâ€ť 80 and the â€śCentrionâ€ť 80, were launched there between 1833 and 1844, as well as a number of smaller vessels. The increase in the work of the yard made necessary a number of additions, and several shops were built and improved, while the appointment of the Captain Superintendent and an increase in the staff made necessary the erection of the official residences. Up to that time the officers of the yard had resided in private houses. The graving dock was the work of the same period, and after 1850 it was enlarged to its present size, and a caisson for closing it was fitted in the place of the iron gates. This dock is in length about 420-ft, with a depth of water of 26-ft. over the sill, but the docking facilities of the yard are not yet adequate to the larger needs of the fleet.
The principal buildings now in the Pembroke Yard belong to the period after 1850, and were mostly erected within the next decade, though building continued at intervals until 1880. Various improvements have been made from time to time since, and a new smithery and other works are now completing, as well as a new stone jetty. The plan of the yard is simple and good. A main road runs parallel with the water edge, and behind the building slips and sheds. Its direction is east and west, and it is approached from the main gate on the south side by a broad way. A beautiful avenue, planted about the year 1850, leads down from Fort Hill to this entrance; which is characteristic, with anchors and chains supporting the lamp over the gate. Proceeding from the main gate we have on the left the office of the Captain Superintendent, with the surgery and the police station, forming a fine block, and beyond these the offices of the Harbour master, Captain W.J. Symons, R.N, the works department, and others , and still further on is the office of the Chief Constructor of the yard, at the present time Mr A.E. Richards/ On the other side of the way are the mould loft, facing the last-named building, and store sheds, etc. We now reach the constructive side of the yard, there being eleven sheds alone the water frontage of the establishment, each with its building slip, eight of the slips being covered in.
Near the second slip from the west is the fitting shop, and close by the dry dock, near which are the armour-plate shops, and the principal ship fitting shop. Many years ago No. 3 building slip was filled up and a large machine and fitting shop erected on the site. The building slips extend along the frontage to within about 100-yards, of the eastern boundary wall, the boat slip and the east camber filling the intermediate space. Close by are the receiving shed and boathouse. The principal storehouses are to the west of the main road, and there is a block of storehouses to the south of it, as well as the fire station. The smithery, now being replaced, is further to the west, and beyond it the foundry with the joinery works and sawmills near. Roads leading lengthwise though the yard give easy communication to the various parts of it, and the dockyard railway and various parts of it, and the dockyard railway and various facilities considerably expedite work. At the present time the yard is not fitted in such a way that many large vessels can be in hand at the same time. As a matter of fact, only two of the slips are available, for the building of large modern vessels, although it would not be a matter of great difficulty to adapt others for modern requirements. But perhaps a fitting basin and a large new dry dock are the greatest wants of the Pembroke yard.
Many most capable shipbuilding offers have served at the yard, or the successful results, which have been alluded to, could not have been attained there. Perhaps the most distinguished of them was Mr. Oliver Lang, whose service at the yard extended from 1853, when Sir Thomas Pasley was superintendent to 1859. Shortly after he had assumed the position there, a some what remarkable incident happened at the launch of the Caesar,â€ť a 90-gun ship, which had been, in hand some time. The date fixed for the launch was August 7th, 1853, but the vessel stopped on the ways, and it was not until after a fortnight, and by extraordinary efforts, that she was got into the water. It is stated that soft wood and bad tallow had been used, but persons inclined to the marvellous are reported to have attributed the mishap to the maledictions of an old woman regarded as a witch, who had been denied admission to witness the launch. The principal officers of the establishment have been alluded to, but it may be stated that Mr N. A. Hay is Naval store officer, the Rev J. W. Longrigg, M. A. Chaplain and Mr H. S. R. Sparrow fleet surgeon of the yard.This account of the important Naval establishment at Pembroke linked with those that have been given former issues of this paper of Portsmouth, Devonport, and Chatham, and Sheerness, completes the survey of our home dockyards, but the true function of a great dockyard is the work of repairing, fitting, and commissioning ships of war. The home establishments are great ship building works, it is true, but that is only part of their function. Their vast ranges of storehouses, their great coaling facilities, their magazines, training establishments and Naval depots, are all evidences of their supremely important work in establishing the efficiency of the fleet, taking their part in its maintenance, and ready for the final work of mobilisation.
Everything we obtain for this site is shown on the site, we do not have any more photos, crew lists or further information on any of the ships.
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