Gelliswick Beach

Gelliswick is one of those many places around the Pembrokeshire coast which got its name from the marauding Vikings.

Vik, as also in the names Goodwick and Musselwick, means harbour in the Norse language, but who or what Gelli or Gelly was the historians seems wary about speculating.

Once known as a boating and bathing area a mile down the Haven, its sand only shows itself when the tide is out, and it is no longer popular for bathing. However, it has been for many years the Headquarters of the Pembrokeshire Yacht Club and its launching facilities and quick access to the Milford Haven waterway make it an excellent place for sailing. Races are regularly held in the bay and in the Haven, and some national events have been held there for the smaller sailing craft.

On the cliff to the east is the imposing pile of Fort Hubberston (another Viking name ) one of the chain of Victorian defensive forts built around Milford Haven when Napoleon 111 was perceived as a threat. Built in 1863 it has casemates for 11 guns, plus eight in an open battery and nine in a battery to the eastward. Like many of the other forts dotted around the harbour it was updated in 1900 with a cartridge magazine below the casemates, a powder magazine cut into the rock behind and a two-storey bomb-proof barracks. 

Since it was decommissioned after World War 11 there have been several abortive plans to develop it as offices or a hotel. A local preservation society was formed a few years ago to ensure it is not lost for ever.

The Amoco Oil company built a 3,000-foot long jetty on the western shore to link their refinery near Tiers Cross with the deepwater channel, and the local authority developed a recreation area between the beach and the Milford Haven Golf Club to serve the large council housing estate at Hakin. On the shore below the fort is the jetty of Milford Haven Port Authority with the Harbour Master’s HQ, the Port Pilots’ base and the Signals and shipping control station on the clifftop.

Just inland of Gellyswick is an interesting ruin which was an early Technical College and Observatory for the training of mariners in the arts of navigation. An innovative facility when it was built as part of the visionary plan proposed in an act of Parliament passed in 1790 “to build a proprietary town …. with quays, docks, piers and other erections,’ it never really took off. The plan was that of Charles Francis Greville, nephew of Sir William Hamilton of Nelson and Emma fame, who owned the land, and much of the development, which included the new docks, the grid-iron patterned new town and St Katharine’s Church, was carried out. But only the Observatory was completed on the college site, the developers unable to raise the funds for the ancilliary buildings for the rest of the proposed Technical College that never was. 

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