Pembroke Dock

Until the establishment of the Royal Naval Dockyard there in 1814, Pembroke Dock was a small fishing village called Paterchurch.

The arrival of the Dockyard and the development of an Army Garrison there triggered a rapid expansion programme and, like Milford Haven, the streets were laid out in a grid-iron pattern of parallel lines with back lanes to service the houses.

It was from the Haven Waterway at this location that Henry 11 assembled his troops  for the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1172, and Richard 11 did the same in 1397.

First mention of the name Paterchurch was made in 1289 when a tower was built there as a look-out, the area being mainly farmland belonging to various local gentry families including the Adamses of Holyland and the Owens of Orielton, but when the Dockyard came, the landowner was the Meyrick family of Bush.

The ruin of Paterchurch Tower now lies within the walls of the former Dockyard, but it originally marked the centre point of a large estate stretching from Pennar Point to Cosheston, which changed hands in 1422 when Ellen de Paterchurch married John Adams. The Vikings were frequent visitors to the area, particularly during stormy weather, and the Carr Rocks off Pembroke Dock derive their name from the Norse word ‘skare’ meaning rocks.

The Royal Dockyard provided valuable jobs for thousands of men during its century of building warships, and, together with its large Army presence, the economy of the town burgeoned. But in the 1920s the bonanza ended and the resultant slump saw hundreds of skilled men leave the town for work in other dockyards or taking different employment elsewhere. Some of the Navy’s finest warships ships were built there, and several Royal yachts, and, when the Navy left, the RAF arrived to establish a flying-boat base there in 1931. During World War Two the base played a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic, its Sunderland flying boats proving a very effective defence against German U-boats. During the war Pembroke Dock suffered enemy bombing on a scale in ratio to its population far greater than bigger cities such as Coventry and Swansea. There were many bombing attacks and heavy casualties and damage were caused, and in one raid in 1940 a group of oil tanks at Llanreath were hit and set alight, bringing firemen from a total of 22 brigades down from as far afield as Swansea and Cardiff to battle with the inferno. Five Cardiff firemen were killed when the wall of one of the blazing tanks collapsed and engulfed them. They are still remembered in an annual ceremony at the site, now at South Pembrokeshire Golf Club, The worst blitz came in May 1941 when 32 people died. Since the war Pembroke Dock’s flagging economy has received a boost by the arrival of the Irish ferry service in 1979, the construction of the Haven Bridge, and various developments in the old dockyard where an interesting Museum has been established by the town’s Sunderland Trust. 

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