Pembroke Royal Dockyard
Phillips, Vice-President, The Society for Nautical Research.
Text from Commander Phillips'
chapter on Pembroke Yard published in the Pembrokeshire County History
Vol IV, Modern Pembrokeshire, and reproduced by courtesy of the
author and the Pembrokeshire Historical Society.
Two generations of battleships at Pembroke
Dockyard. Anchored off the Dockyard is the famous HMS
Thunderer, launched at the Yard in March 1872. With her
Portsmouth-built sister-ship HMS Devastation, they were the
first British battleships completed without masts and sails for
Thunderer suffered major gun and boiler explosions. She served as
Port Guardship at Pembroke from May 1895 to December 1900. Fitting out
alongside Hobbs' Point is the Majestic-class battleship HMS
which had been launched in April 1896. At 14,900 tons she was the
heaviest warship ever built at Pembroke Dockyard.
We beg leave most humbly to recommend to Your Royal Highness that Your
Royal Highness will be graciously pleased to establish, by Your Order in
Council, the yard forming at Pater as a Royal Dockyard.’
George, Prince of Wales, acting as
Regent in place of his demented father, George III, gave the Royal Assent to
this submission from the Navy Board and the Order in Council, signed on 31
October 1815, established not only a new royal dockyard but also a new naval
It was an unpropitious time. Waterloo,
fought on 18 June 1815, had ended the long French wars and ships by the hundred
were returning home to pay off. The existing Royal Dockyards had now more than
enough capacity to support the much reduced peacetime Royal Navy. Pater Yard,
however, had existed de facto for some years and its first two ships were
well advanced (2). The Navy Board had committed public funds to the county twice
in a decade and was no doubt reluctant to abandon its investment. The Order in
Council served to regularise what had begun as a wartime expedient down the
harbour at Milford.
A Royal Dockyard on Milford Haven
arose from the Navy Board salvaging work from a bankrupt contractor. (3)
During the long French wars the Royal Yards did not have the resources to
build large numbers of new warships, maintain the expanded fleets and
cope with repair of battle-damaged vessels. Battles could not be forecast, and
repair work disrupted and delayed ship- building and increased the costs. (4)
The Navy Board therefore depended
on private yards where new vessels could be built without interruption. During
the Seven Years War two warships were built under contract at Neyland. Richard
Chitty launched the frigate HMS Milford in 1759, the annus mirabilis, and in
1765 Henry Bird and Roger Fisher launched the two-decker HMS Prince of Wales on
the same site. (5) The Navy Board looked to Pembrokeshire again in the
Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, contracting with Messrs Harry and Joseph
Jacob of London for new warships to be built on the foreshore at Milford. When
they failed the Navy Board completed the ships, renting the site from year to
year. As ‘timber and iron could be bought there cheaper and workmen obtained in
abundance on lower terms than at any other place where ships are now
generally built’, the Board proposed to buy the site and establish a royal
dockyard there. A sale figure of £4,455 was agreed with Charles Francis Greville
and an Order in Council dated 11 October 1809 gave authority to buy the land ‘to
be employed as a dock yard for building Your Majesty’s ships’.
Greville however had died on 23
April that year. His brother, Robert Fulke Greville, who succeeded him as a life
tenant of the estate, refused to accept the price and, in consequence, ‘we
directed the Navy Board, on 3rd August 1810, to suspend the improvements then
going forward on the premises, and on the 16th October 1812, finally to give up
possession of the same at Midsummer 1814’. (6) In failing to reach an
accommodation with the Navy Board Robert Fulke Greville deprived Milford of its
one great chance for prosperity which was never to recur (7).
The dockyard facilities were
transferred over the following few years to Government land at Pater and the
last personnel finally moved out in mid- summer 1814 with the completion of HMS
Roch fort. Additional land at Pater was acquired and the first building slip and
the excavation of a dry dock was put in hand.
The Board had invested wisely. The
‘yard forming at Pater’ was well- situated within reasonably easy reach of fresh
timber supplies, particularly from the Forest of Dean, and by chance, when metal
replaced wood in ship- building, conveniently near the iron and steel foundries
at Landore. This fortunate circumstance helped the yard’s survival in the second
half of the century. Furthermore, the nucleus of a trained workforce was
available from Milford. Their numbers were considerably augmented after 1815 by
the transfer of now surplus craftsmen from other Royal Yards.
The founding fathers of Pater were
thus largely, but not exclusively, new men. Most established men came from the
West Country, shipwrights from ‘Plymouth Dock’ as Devonport was known until
1823. These Devonians and Cornishmen - the Seccombes, Saunders, Tregennas,
Willings, Trevennas (and later the Trewents and Treweeks) - although of Celtic
stock, nevertheless constituted the most radically distinct influx into south
Pembrokeshire since the arrival of the Flemings in the twelfth century. They and
their descendants, with the people of Milford, created Pembroke Dock.
The Royal Navy in 1815 was by far
the most expensive single commitment of central government and the largest
industrial organisation in the world.
With its supporting dockyards the Navy embraced a wider range of specialist
professional skills than any other single human activity. It is a matter of
wonder that part of its operations should take root in so remote a corner of the
Realm and flourish for well over a century.
Pembroke Dock developed as a
specialist building yard but its limited facilities denied it the established
status of the Home Port dockyards which were also major naval bases with
victualling depots, rope works, block mills and other specialist facilities.
Pembroke had only one dry dock, no fitting-out basins and, apart from Hobbs’
Point (completed in 1832 for the Irish packet service not the Navy) (10) and the
Carr Jetty (completed in the first decade of the twentieth century), no
satisfactory alongside berths for fitting-out newly-built warships. Before the
introduction of iron and steel, newly-launched wooden vessels were usually sent
round to Plymouth, sometimes Portsmouth, under jury rig for their masts to be
stepped, if they were to be commissioned, or to go into ordinary. Early steam
paddle warships went round to Woolwich to be fitted with their machinery. Later
in the century the large iron-hulled ships had to have their engines and
boilers - and later also their main armament - installed at Pembroke, and be
completed for sea, undertaking their initial sea trials from Milford Haven. The
completion of newly-launched ships was often delayed until the berth at Hobbs’
Point was vacated. However, it is remarkable that the greatest battleships in
the British Navy down to 1896 could be fitted out and completed alongside the
tiny, tidal jetty at Hobbs’ Point. It was an extraordinary feat of
Pembroke and its champions
campaigned ceaselessly for improved facilities. In mid-century the
Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph (11) believed that ‘the
only thing required to make the Dockyard complete is the long talked of
sea wall from the Hard across to Hobbs’ Point, thus locking in the Pill,
and making it available for a steam factory, steam basin etc for which
its leeward situation. . . so admirably fits it’, which works ‘would be
a culminating point from which additional sources of prosperity would
spring’. The steam basin never materialised.
Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert III, 1899.
Cruiser, c. 1900.
Even after the opening of the
railway through to the Dockyard town in August 1864, (12) Pembroke remained a
frontier post. ‘Pembroke labours under the misfortune of being 300 miles from
Whitehall. It is an outpost, and only visited occasionally’, commiserated the
United Service Gazette in 1859, whose writer moreover considered that ‘the
increasing value and importance of Pembroke as a building yard, seems lost, in
great measure on the authorities. (13)
Any praise for Pembroke, however
faint, was seized upon by its champions. Pioneer historian, Mrs Stuart Peters,
recalled in 1905 (14) the visit twenty years earlier of the ‘Chief Constructor
of the United States Navy’ who, she said, reported that ‘Pembroke is the first
shipbuilding yard in the world’. The visitor was Naval Constructor Philip
Hichborn USN; he had written that ‘the best adapted of the British dockyards for
building operations is Pembroke but having but one dock, no basins, and few
shops and stores, is not a fitting- out yard, and can only be rendered so at
very great expense. Vessels built there usually go to Plymouth, Portsmouth or
Chatham to complete.’ (15) Later historians of the town have likewise
accepted uncritically this opinion.
Admiral Charles Penrose Fitzgerald,
who was Captain Superintendent of the Dockyard from 1893-95, sometimes thought
‘that the Admiralty forgot altogether that there was any such place as Pembroke
Dockyard . . . our insignificant little Cinderella of a dockyard did not always
get everything she asked for, especially if one of her big sisters was asking
for the same thing at the same time’. (16)
Even when the long-awaited jetty
was being built out over the Carr Rocks after the turn of the century to provide
a more efficient - but still tidal - alongside fitting-out facility, The Navy
and Army Illustrated was unimpressed:
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 the Fleet, not only as building and repairing establishments,
but as arsenals supplied with every requirement for the life and work of the
Fleet . . A more modest role will always be that of Pembroke. (17)
The Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty paid their annual visits of inspection to Pembroke Dockyard but they
seldom lingered. Artists of the Illustrated London News were attracted to west
Wales to sketch the launchings of only the greatest vessels. Even into the
twentieth century, as the Dockyard was approaching its centenary, visiting
members of the Corps of Naval Constructors ‘never failed to suggest [to
Assistant Constructor Arthur Nicholls] that Pembroke was the end of the world
and the edge of civilisation’.’ (18)
Pembroke remained a Cinderella
yard, a poor relation of the Home Port dockyards, and the desire for
recognition, for confirmation of their worth, was a constant preoccupation of
Pembroke Dock became essentially an
Admiralty rather than a naval town. The Commissioners of the Navy Board and,
after 1832, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, influenced most aspects of
public and private life outside the Dockyard walls. Within a few years of its
foundation an Act of Parliament was passed ‘authorizing the Commissioners of His
Majesty’s Navy to establish a Market at the Town of Pembroke Dock. . . and to
make Regulations for paving, lighting, cleansing, and good Order of the said
Town’. This was followed on 10 June 1825 with an Act enabling the Corporation of
Pembroke to relinquish and convey to ‘the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Navy
the Right of Letting the Stalls, Sittings, and other Conveniences in the Market
in the Town of Pembroke Dock, and the Right to the Rent, Tolls, and Fees
Exactly 100 years later, on the eve
of the closure of the Yard, their Lordships still had a finger in every pie -
almost literally. In June 1925 the Captain Superintendent was ordered by the
Admiralty to inspect the bakeries of Mr F. Rogers, Water Street, Pembroke Dock,
and Mr A. Farrow, Charles Street, Milford Haven, and to report on whether they
were ‘a fit source for the supply of bread’. (20)
The Admiralty and its principal
officers at Pembroke Dock filled the paternalist role carried out in other
communities by the local landed gentry. The lead in founding the National
School, for example, was taken by a committee which included Captain Samuel
Jackson, the Captain Superintendent, William Edye, the Master Shipwright, and
other Dockyard officers. (21) The foundation stone was laid by Mrs Edye on 26
April 1843, the launching day of the first royal yacht,
Victoria and Albert, and the school was opened on 24 June the following
The Navy also played a leading role
in founding the first parish church. The land in Bush Street owned by Mr Meyrick
of Bush Estate was conveyed in August 1846 through Edward Laws, a principal
officer in the Dockyard. The First Lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Auckland,
attended by a Marines guard of honour and accompanied by the Band of the 37th
Regiment, laid the foundation stone of St. John’s Church on Monday 21 September
that year. (23)
Likewise, in subscription lists for
good causes throughout the nineteenth century the names of Captain
Superintendents and Master Shipwrights, rather than the local nobility and
gentry, usually headed the lists of contributors.
Pembroke’s greatest asset and the
focus of her prosperity was her thirteen building slips, many more than in any
other yard, and these made Pembroke Dockyard the nation’s principal building
yard for over a century. Nearly 250 warships and other vessels went down the
ways at Pembroke in the 106 years which separated the launching of the little
sister frigates HMS Ariadne and Valorous in 1816 and that of the fleet oiler
Oleander in 1922.
The century of Pembroke
shipbuilding witnessed the most profound developments in naval design and
construction as sail gave way to steam, driving paddlewheels and later screw
propellers, and wood was overtaken by iron and steel. Successive generations of
dockyarders had to learn new skills. Their range and complexity increased as the
technical development of war-ships advanced apace after the introduction of
steam in the 1850s and of iron a decade later. Traditional shipwright expertise
slowly gave way to the demands of metal. The rattle of the rivetting machines
and the fumes from the foundries finally overtook the thud of the adze and the
sweet smell of freshly planed oak and pine.
Pembroke-built vessels ranged in
consequence from the little cutters HMS Racer and HMS Starling launched together
on 21 October 1829, the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, to
the colossal line-of-battleship HMS Howe, christened by Miss Harriet Ramsay on
Wednesday evening, 7 March 1860, the last sailing three-decker built for the
Royal Navy. She was twice the size of Nelson’s Victory and, with a displacement
of 6,577 tons, one of the two largest wooden steam battleships. (24)
Almost every major ship that went
down the ways at Pembroke Dock represented a significant advance in naval
architecture or played some remarkable part in British imperial history. The
first forty-five years saw the construction of nineteen first- and second-rates,
ships which represented the culmination of the art of wooden shipbuilding. Among
these was Seppings’ Rodney, christened by Mrs Adams of Holyland on 18 June 1833,
the first British two-decker to carry ninety guns or more. She was towed into
action at Sebastopol in 1854 by the Pembroke-built paddler HMS Spiteful where
her broadside of 1470 lbs was employed to effect. ‘What a dose of pills for the
enemies of Great Britain’, exulted
The Nautical Magazine. (25) HMS Rodney was relieved as flagship on the China
Station in 1869 and paid off at Portsmouth on 27 April 1870, the last wooden
capital ship in active seagoing commission.
The Rodney was followed by Symmonds’
outstandingly successful Vanguard of 1835, with her beam of fifty-seven feet the
broadest ship in the Navy and the broadest ever built in Britain. She and the
Rodney were fierce competitors in the Mediterranean where the ships were
regarded as champions of two rival systems of naval architecture.
Pembroke Dockyard played a
pioneering role in the development of early steam propulsion. The Tartarus of
1834 was the first of a series of paddle wheel steam vessels which included the
famous Gorgon of 1837 and which culminated with the launching by ‘the lady of
Colonel Ellis, Commandant of the Garrison’, on Wednesday, 30 April 1851, of HMS
Valorous, the last paddle frigate ever built for the Royal Navy.
Throughout the 1850s the Yard
produced the last of the Royal Navy’s great wooden line of battleships. The
three-decker HMS Duke of Wellington was launched as HMS Windsor Castle on 14
September 1852, the same day as the Iron Duke died at Walmer. Her name was
changed in his honour a few days later. She and other big wooden liners of the
decade were converted while building to carry steam, being ‘cut asunder’ on the
slips and lengthened to make room for boilers and engines. The Duke of
Wellington served as flagship in the Baltic during the Russian War.
Pembroke’s first ironclad was HMS
Prince Consort, christened by ‘Miss Jones of Pantglasl, a Carmarthenshire lady’,
on Thursday, 26 June 1862. She had been laid down as HMS Triumph, a wooden screw
two-decker, but was completed as a wooden ironclad carrying 4.5-inch and 3-inch
iron plates. She was followed by other interim ironclads, the Research, Zealous
and Lord Clyde. The latter, with her Chatham-built sister ship the Lord Warden,
were the largest and fastest steaming wooden ships, naval or mercantile, ever
built. But because unseasoned timber had been used in building her at Pembroke,
the hull of the Lord Clyde soon became rotten and, known as the Queen’s Bad
Bargain, she was sold out of the Service within ten years. (26)
Pembroke, after Chatham, was the
second of the Royal Yards to receive the plant required for iron hull
construction. The first of the iron ships was HMS Penelope, a twin screw
corvette launched in 1867. A year later, she was followed by HMS Inconstant
which remained afloat for eighty-eight years, the last Pembroke-built warship in
existence. With a speed under canvas of 13.5 knots and steaming at 16 knots she
was the fastest ship in the world.
The despatch vessels HMS Iris, laid
down on No 2 Slip in 1875, and HMS Mercury, laid down on the adjoining No 1 Slip
the next year, were the first British warships built of steel and their marine
engines made them the fastest fighting ships in the world.
During the last two decades of the
century Pembroke Yard launched a series of major capital ships, beginning with
the turret ship HMS Edinburgh, launched by the Duchess of Edinburgh in March
1882, and followed by the Collingwood (1882), Howe (1885), Anson (1886), Nile
(1888), Empress of India (1891) and Repulse (1892). The final, and by far the
heaviest, battleship built in the Yard was the Majestic-class HMS Hannibal,
14,900 tons, launched on 28 April 1896.
HMS Drake, 1901.
Over the next ten years the yard
produced a line of protected and armoured cruisers of ever increasing
size. The 533.5-feet-long Drake of 1901, which was commanded by Captain John
Jellicoe from 1903-4, was the longest ship ever built at Pembroke. The last
three armoured cruisers were the monsters HMS Duke of Edinburgh (1904), her half
sister HMS Warrior (1905), and the Defence (1907). All three fought in the First
Cruiser Squadron at Jutland and only the Duke survived.
Some Pembroke ships made their
names in distant waters. The little Starling surveyed Hong Kong waters under
Lieutenant Henry Kellett where they are commemorated in Kellett Island, the
Headquarters of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (long since joined to the
waterfront) and in Starling Inlet in the New Territories. (27) On the Pacific
coast of Canada, Fisgard Island and Duntze Head honour the frigate HMS Fisgard
of 1819 (which itself recalls the French invasion of Fishguard in 1797), which
served on the Pacific Station from 1842 to 1846, and her Captain, John Duntze.
On the same chart Constance Cove recalls the visit there on 25 July 1848 of the
fourth-rate HMS Constance of 1846 which was the first British warship ever to
anchor at Esquimalt, now the Canadian Forces’ main base on the Pacific coast.
HMS Erebus, 1826.
Pembroke ships made their mark in
both the Polar regions. The Alert of 1856 sailed with the Nares Expedition to
the Arctic in 1875 and wintered at Floeberg Beach, 82.24. North, then the
highest latitude ever attained by man. In Antarctica, the great 12,400-feet-high
volcano, Mount Erebus, discovered by Sir James Clark Ross on 28 January 1841,
was named after his ship, the bomb HMS Erebus of 1826. She sailed in 1845 with
Sir John Franklin on his ill-fated expedition to survey the North-West
Passage and into history.
Many vessels from Pembroke Dockyard
met violent ends. The fifth-rate HMS Thetis of 1817, carrying home a valuable
consignment of gold, silver and plate from Rio de Janeiro, was wrecked on Cape
Frion in Brazil in December 1830. The big two-decker HMS Clarence, launched in
July 1827 in the presence of Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence, became a
training ship on the Mersey where she was destroyed by fire in June 1884. The
following year she was replaced by the Pembroke-built three-decker HMS Royal
William of 1833 which was re-named Clarence. She too was destroyed by fire on
the Mersey in July 1899. Fire also consumed that veteran of the Chinese opium
wars, HMS Imogene of 1831, destroyed in the great blaze in Devonport Dockyard in
Some ships met their ends in
collisions at sea. The Amazon, one of the last timber-hulled sloops built for
the Royal Navy, was lost within a year of her launching in May 1865. She was
commissioned at Devonport in April 1866 and two months later, on 10 July, she
collided off Start Point with the steamer Osprey and both vessels sank. All
hands were saved. The Pembroke-built light cruiser HMS Curacoa of 1917 lost all
but twenty-six of her ship’s company when she was cut in two in collision with
the Cunarder Queen Mary off the Irish coast in October 1942.
The sea also took its toll of many
early Pembroke-built sailing warships which went down the ways at Pembroke
Dockyard. The Cherokee-class sloops fared worst. HMS Wizard of 1830 was lost on
the Seal Bank off Berehaven in February 1859, the Skylark of 1826 was wrecked on
the Isle of Wight in April 1845 and the Spey of 1827 was lost on Racoon Key in
the Bahamas in November 1840.
Other Cherokees disappeared without
trace. HMS Thais of 1829 was lost on passage from Falmouth to Halifax in
December 1833 and the Camilla of 1847 in September 1860 off Japan. The composite
gunvessel HMS Gnat, christened by Miss Mirehouse of Angle in the dark on 26
November 1867, was wrecked within a year when she ran aground on Balabac Island
in the China Seas on 15 November 1868. Perhaps the most tragic loss was that of
the training frigate HMS Atalanta which had been launched as the Juno at
Pembroke Dock in 1844. She sailed from Bermuda for home on 1 February 1880 and
foundered in the North Atlantic, taking with her 113 ship’s company and 170
young seamen under training.
Pembroke Dockyard ships fought in
most of Queen Victoria’s little wars, against recalcitrant emirs, rebellious
native chiefs and omnipresent East Indian pirates. They also fought in the great
wars of the twentieth century. The first British warship sunk in the First World
War was the light cruiser HMS Amphion of 1911, mined in the North Sea on 6
August 1914. The great armoured cruiser HMS Drake, christened by Mrs Lort
Phillips in spring 1901, and the light cruiser HMS Nottingham of 1913, were both
torpedoed. German gunfire at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 claimed the last
two armoured cruisers, the last two major warships built at the Yard, HMS
Warrior of 1905 and the Defence of 1907. The Defence, flagship of Rear Admiral
Sir Robert Arbuthnot in the First Cruiser Squadron, blew up with the loss of old
Sir Robert, one of the Navy’s fitness fanatics, and all 893 men on board. The
Warrior was so badly damaged that she was abandoned and sank. The final loss in
the Great War occurred a few weeks before the Armistice. The little submarine L
10, launched in January 1918, was sunk off Texel in the following October. The
last vessel launched at Pembroke, the fleet oiler Oleander of 1922, was sunk in
Harstead Bay on 8 June 1940 after having been damaged by German dive bombers
during the Norwegian Campaign.
Naval histories record the battles
and the glory but the high price of Admiralty was also paid in full by the men
who built these great ships and by their families. The physical hazards of
working in the dockyard were many and often fatal. The Important Case Book
maintained by the Senior Medical Officer in accordance with Article 190 of Home
Dockyard Regulations (29) records a long list of deaths and terrible injuries
suffered by Dockyard workers. The terse clinical accounts compiled by Fleet
Surgeons a century ago and the occasional moss-covered gravestone are often the
only remaining evidence of tragedy. For them there were no drums and no
Industrial injuries increased in
severity and frequency upon the introduction of iron and steel after 1860 with
its associated foundries, forges and machine shops. Falls from staging on the
building slips continued to claim lives and hernias were common. To these were
now added burns, injuries with machinery and eye damage caused by flying metal
during rivetting. Almost every addition to the Navy List from Pembroke Dockyard
was marked by a new gravestone in a south Pembrokeshire churchyard or a family
cast into penury.
The Dockyard Surgery treated all
injuries and serious cases were sent on board the old fourth-rate HMS Nankin, a
veteran of the Second China War, which served as the dockyard hospital ship from
1866 to 1895 when facilities were provided on shore. The old Nankin was the end
of the road for many.
The case of Samuel Ellis Ball, a
fifty-four-year-old shipwright, who lies in Plot G.126 just inside the gates of
Llanion Cemetery, was not untypical. On Thursday, 10 February 1881, the said
Samuel was preparing the 465-ton composite gunboat HMS Cockchafer for launching.
He fell from a stage at the stern of the ship into the bottom of the slip
twenty-two feet below and was taken out to the Nankin in a semi-conscious state
where Staff Surgeon Henry Dawson found head, back and chest injuries and a
fractured right thigh. ‘He complained of great pain’, the Surgeon told the
inquest, ‘I attended him for ten days, when he died . . the primary cause of
death was concussion of the brain.’
The Cockchafer was launched at 9 am
on Saturday, 19 February, by Miss Philipps of Lawrenny Castle. The ship ‘took
the water beautifully, the strains of the band mingling with the cheers of those
assembled’. Just offshore, Samuel Ball in HMS Nankin was still barely alive. He
died four hours later at 1pm. (30)
Even after the turn of the century
life in the Yard could be a brutal business. John Lewis, aged fifty-six,
Established Labourer No 595, was painting a bulkhead in the port engine room of
the new cruiser HMS Drake on 30 January 1901 when he slipped and fell thirteen
feet onto the engine bearers and then into the crankpit. He fractured his skull
‘and is now totally deaf. In addition he has lost his left eye which he states
occurred when building HMS Shannon on 1st May 1875’, wrote Fleet Surgeon Edward
Luther. The latter concluded: ‘His capacity to contribute to his own support is
totally destroyed and is likely to be permanent’. Lewis was invalided on 16
The dreaded letters DD in red ink
denoted the Royal Navy abbreviation for ‘Discharged Dead’, the final epitaph of
many a fine fellow. William Williams aged forty-five, Labourer No 1899, from
Bush Street, had been greasing cogs in a machine in No 2 Fitters Shop on the
morning of 21 May 1900 when he was caught in the machinery. He was taken to the
Surgery with a fractured skull and his right hand amputated ‘all except his
thumb’. William Williams received his DD in red ink the following day.
His widow received £193 14s.lld. in
compensation from the Admiralty. The following January the Admiralty informed
the Captain Superintendent that in future coffins for workmen accidentally
killed in the Dockyard were not to be provided at public expense and,
reported the Pembroke Dock and Pembroke Gazette, ‘have directed the Yard
authorities to recover from the representatives of the late William Williams . .
. the cost of the coffin supplied’ (31)
The cost of coffins was a major
outlay against which Dockyard workers had to make prudent provision. The Royal
Dockyard Interment Society formed in about 1870 ‘to do away with collections in
the Dockyard’ collected weekly two pence subscriptions as an insurance against
funeral costs. The scheme ‘has proved an inestimable boon to very many
families’, reported the Society’s annual meeting in April 1893. (32)
Distance from the Dockyard as well
as danger when they got there was a constant problem for the Dockyarders, most
of whom lived in a widely dispersed area of south Pembrokeshire. This entailed
long journeys by horse or boat for the fortunate but by foot for the many. As
the paternal concern of the Admiralty included basic medical care it added to
the professional duties of the Dockyard surgeon.
This was recognised as early as
1841. An Order in Council dated 11 February, after emphasising that ‘the number
of artificers and workmen has greatly increased [since 1815] and the duty of the
Surgeon has become more onerous in consequence of many of the men being obliged
to reside at a considerable distance from the yard’, proceeded to ask that the
‘exigency may be provided for by such small addition to the salary of the
Surgeon as will enable him to keep a horse for the purpose of visiting his
distant patients’. His salary was duly increased from £400 to £450 a year.
The Dockyard Surgeon was still
doing his rounds on horseback at the beginning of this century. In his memoirs,
Rear Admiral T.T. Jeans, then a young doctor at Pembroke Dockyard, recalls that
houses in Pembroke Dock were so scarce ‘that many had to live in the villages in
the neighbourhood, some as far as seven miles’. He considered that ‘the long
tramp to work and home, day after day, winter and summer, a tragedy in itself,
was absolutely incompatible with a satisfactory day’s work in between’. The
doctor’s concern was, however, tempered by the tale he tells of a parson’s wife
living in one of these remoter villages who, sympathising one day with the wife
of a workman who had so far to go to his work, received the unexpected and
illuminating reply: ‘Well, Mum, he do rest all day’. Just how hard the men
worked at the Yard will be discussed later.
It was part of Surgeon Jeans’
duties to ride around the country to visit Dockyarders who had reported sick.
During the spring and at ‘potato’ time this had its lighter moments:
As I rode up a lane towards a
cottage, II would see] over the hedge, the poor ‘sick’ man hoeing his ground. He
would hear the horse’s hoof, look up, catch sight of me and dash for his cottage
and his bed, where after listening to a long-winded account of his ailments from
his wife and hearing the thump of his boots on the floor overhead, I would find
him probably fully-dressed but minus those boots. (33)
The late Admiral of the Fleet, Lord
Chatfield, who spent his early years at Pembroke Dockyard in the 1880s where his
father was Captain Superintendent, recalled to this writer how his mother
‘initiated the soup kitchen in Pembroke Dockyard the Dockyard for the men to
have hot soup in the dinner hour’. The Pembroke Dock and Tenby Gazette reported
that hundreds of the ‘employees . . . live too far away to allow them to go home
in the short dinner time granted and as a consequence they have to be content
with cold lunch in the middle of the day’. The soup kitchen was funded by
nominal contributions from the men and from the proceeds of concerts organised
by Mrs Chatfield. Over the three years of her husband’s appointment fifty-seven
gallons of soup were issued daily to 300 grateful men, a total of 17,000 gallons
to 90,000 ‘diners’. Each man received one and a half pints of soup a day at a
cost of three pence a week. (34)
Launching days were the highlights
of the Pembroke calendar throughout the history of the Dockyard. Their
importance varied with the size of the ship which in turn determined the rank of
the lady chosen to perform the christening. ‘These events are to hundreds the
"sunny spots" in their chequered existence’, commented the Pembrokeshire Herald
in its report of the launching in 1844 of the two-decker HMS Centurion by Mrs
Cockburn of Rhoscrowther. (35)
The Yard was customarily opened to
the public on launching days and the latter occasions attracted crowds of
visitors and welcome extra trade in the town. The first launchings were on 10
February 1816 before ‘an impressive concourse of spectators assembled to witness
the novel event’. The sixth-rates, HMS Ariadne and Valorous, built together on
that first improvised slip, stem to stern, went afloat, one bows first and the
other, more conventionally, stern first, ‘a circumstance which created
considerable interest at the time’. (36) The Ariadne was the last ship commanded
by the novelist, Captain Frederick Marryat, whose first book, The Naval Officer,
was completed on board at Plymouth.
The launch of the great
three-decker HMS Windsor Castle in 1852 was typical. According to one report:
‘From an early hour on Tuesday morning conveyances of every description
commenced swarming into Pater . . . and every description of passage boat from
Carmarthen, Tenby, Haverfordwest and Milford and other places, lent their aid in
conveying to the scene some of the thousands who, throughout the day, thronged
the neighbourhood of the Dockyard.’ (37)
At the other end of the scale the
little flat iron gunboats HMS Tickler and Griper, launched on Monday, 15
September 1879, were christened by two little girls, Miss E.J. Warren, daughter
of the new Chief Constructor, and Miss H.M.F. Powell, the six-year-old daughter
of Pembroke Dock’s second Vicar and former naval officer, the Rev. F.G.M.
Powell, of St John’s Church. ‘Each young lady’, ran one press report, ‘was
presented with an elegantly polished mahogany boxes (sic), lined with blue
velvet, containing a burnished miniature steel axe, with which each young lady
used to sever the cords suspending the weights over the dogshores.’ (38)
The launching process was a
complicated engineering undertaking and was not always a success. The launch of
the ninety-gun screw two-decker HMS Caesar in the summer of 1853 took seventeen
days round-the-clock effort. Lady Georgiana Balfour, daughter of the Earl of
Cawdor, christened the 2,767 tons ship on Thursday, 21 July, but the vessel
stopped after sliding only half her length down the slip. ‘Nothing could equal
our consternation’, wrote Captain Sir Thomas Pasley, the Captain Superintendent,
in his diary, ‘No one could guess the cause.’ (39) When the tide ebbed the
ship’s bilgeways and stern were found embedded in the mud with fifty-six feet of
the hull suspended without support over the groundways. The operation mounted
over the next seventeen days to free the ship became an epic and was fully
reported in the Pembrokeshire Herald. On the following day ‘all the casks of the
town were borrowed and it was gratifying to see the alacrity with which these
were furnished by publicans and others - the former in some instances actually
emptying both beer and porter into tubs and vats’.(40) The tide rose more
quickly than expected next day, Sunday, and the Dockyard bell was rung and ‘the
(Dockyard] Battalion drums sent through the town - beating to quarters, and
messengers on horseback and foot sent off in all directions’. Improvisations
failed and it took specially-built camels lashed beneath her counter at low
water on Friday, 5 August, to move her. Across the weekend the ship moved
forty-eight feet. Then, at 6.10 on Sunday evening, two hours before high water,
she started to move. The Battalion drums again ‘paraded the town . . . the
church and chapels etc were soon deserted’.41 Sir Thomas Pasley recorded: ‘And
at length she came and marvellous was the excitement and loud and long were the
cheers of our men who, poor fellows, have worked as hard as men could work’.(42)
The cause was long debated. Local
tradition held that a local witch, excluded from attending the launching, put a
curse on the Caesar. More likely there was insufficient tallow between the sole
of the ways and the launching slip and the sliding surfaces had been planed too
The launching of minor vessels,
too, could prove disastrous on the day. The little 238-ton screw gunboats HMS
Janus and Drake were built on the same slip sharing one set of bilgeways. They
were christened at 5.30 pm on Saturday, 8 March 1856, by Mrs Mathias of Lamphey
Court, wife of the High Sheriff, from staging erected on the side of the slip
between the two vessels. Both hulls moved off together, Drake leading. As the
Janus passed she demolished the platform and Mrs Mathias and her children were
‘whirled out of their place’ and ‘hurled with frightful violence’ into the slip.
In the confusion ‘the gallant little vessels went off without a single cheer or
other symptom of approbation’. Miss Mathias, with a broken collar bone, ‘was for
some time insensible’, but they all survived. A week later Mrs Mathias, ‘being
deeply sensible’ of the workmen’s help in rescuing her family ‘from the
confusion and entanglement into which they were cast’, rewarded them each with
Victoria and Albert II and III, two generations of Royal Yachts, at Pembroke
Dock in 1899.
Much more calamitous was the
accident to the new royal yacht Victoria and Albert in the winter of 1900, an
event which seriously damaged the professional reputation of Pembroke Dockyard
and ruined the career of the ship’s designer, the Director of Naval
Construction, Sir William White.
The 380-foot steel yacht was laid
down in December 1897 as a replacement for the veteran paddle yacht of the same
name which had been built at Pembroke Dockyard nearly fifty years earlier. The
new vessel, the last ship to be launched from Pembroke Yard in Queen Victoria’s
reign, was launched by the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) on 9 May 1899.
After her engines and boilers had
been installed and her masts stepped under the sheerlegs at Hobbs’ Point, the
berth had to be vacated for fitting out the new cruiser HMS Spartiate. As there
was no other jetty (Pembroke’s limitations again!), the yacht was put into dry
dock for completion. This was not an unusual proceeding but it led to disaster.
The completed yacht was to be
floated out of the dock at dawn on 3 January 1900. As the dock flooded the ship
slipped to starboard off her blocks aft with a list of eight degrees to port.
‘The Marine guard immediately sounded the bugle call’ and all ports and scuttles
The caisson could not be secured at
high tide allowing much of the water to escape, leaving the ship unsupported,
despite the efforts of the Dockyard fire brigade pumps. Sir William White,
summoned from London, arrived at 2 am on ‘the bleak dock-side and saw the
beautiful thing heeled over with naptha flares burning all round, a host of men
climbing over her and shouting angrily’. He felt the hostility in the air but
was generous in his praise of the emergency measures which had been taken. ‘It
is not possible for me to over- state the value of the prompt and skillful
action of the Dockyard officers’, he wrote, ‘to which we owe the rescue of the
vessel from a dangerous position.’ (46)
The yacht was safe and watertight
with damage limited to an 8-inch dent running over twenty-five feet amidships.
She was ballasted with 200 tons of water and 105 tons of pig iron before the
next tide, when she was floated out with a ten degree list and taken to a buoy
where, on 4 January, Sir William conducted stability tests using a team of 475
men rushing from side to side.
There was a subsequent furore in
Press and Parliament. An enquiry presided over by Mr G.J. Goschen, First Lord of
the Admiralty, reported on 29 April. The accident was due ‘not to a single error
or miscalculation in the general design but to an excess in weight and equipment
[771 tons] distributed over a number of items’. In short, the ship was top
heavy. (47) Sir William was formally censured by the Admiralty and retired a
broken man. (48)
HMS Thunderer, launched 1872, later Pembroke Dockyard's guardship.
The hierarchy of the Royal
Dockyards was as strictly determined as the Royal Navy which they served. At the
head was the Commissioner or, after the absorption of the Navy Board by the
Admiralty in 1832, the Superintendent - a rear admiral in the major yards but a
captain at Pembroke Dockyard. He commanded in all respects: ‘Commissioner - head
of the yard - great man - remarkably great man’, was the accurate description by
Arthur Jingle in Pickwick Papers of the Commissioner at Chatham where Dickens’
father was employed. These sea officers had no shipbuilding knowledge and there
was often tension between them and their civilian Master Shipwrights, later
Chief Constructors, who had spent a lifetime in the trade. These senior
captains, however, knew about handling men.
Pembroke had thirty-five Captain
Superintendents between 1832 and 1926 who were borne on the ships’ books of the
successive guardships at Pembroke which they formally commanded. They were a
mixed lot but all great characters. The first two were Trafalgar veterans. Sir
Charles Bullen, who formally commanded the old Royal Yacht Royal Sovereign off
the Yard, had been Flag-Captain to Rear Admiral The Earl of Northesk,
third-in-command, in HMS Britannia. His successor, William Pryce Cumby, had been
First Lieutenant of HMS Bellerophon at the battle and had taken command from the
mortally wounded Captain John Cooke: ‘Tell Cumby never to strike!’, cried the
dying Captain. (49) Cumby was the senior captain in the Royal Navy when he came
to Pembroke but he died in post in 1837.
Another veteran of the French Wars,
Watkin Owen Pell (Superintendent 1842-45), had lost his leg in a gallant frigate
action in 1800. He is said to have spied with a telescope on his men from
Barrack Hill and his donkey, on which he toured his domain, was trained to carry
him up the gangways onto the decks of ships under construction. (50)
Pembroke, despite its secondary
status, was a sought-after appointment. ‘I shall always look back on Pembroke
Yard as the most comfortable and satisfactory epoch of my life’, wrote Sir
Thomas Sabine Pasley (1849-54) in his diary. His daughter, Louisa, recalled:
‘Pembroke Dockyard was.. . a paradise to the Captain Superintendent. No
telephone disturbed his equanimity or harassed his clerks. The railway did not
approach within 40 miles at the date of his taking up the appointment though it
had advanced to only ten miles when his time expired.’ Old Sir Thomas, wracked
by money worries, was cheered by the Dockyard workers and sailors from the
guardship HMS Saturn when he left in the Pros pero steamer on 5 June 1854: ‘At
last the Yard was cleared’, he wrote, ‘and the last sound of Pembroke Dockyard
that I shall ever hear died away. But the recollection will never die from my
memory. I was quite overcome and felt it all very deeply . . . God bless them
Forty years later Pembroke was no
less attractive. That tough old sailorman and harsh disciplinarian, Admiral
Charles ‘Rough’ Fitzgerald, came to the Yard in 1893:
Their Lordships... appointed me to
the very best captain’s appointment in the Service . . Superintendent of
Pembroke Dockyard . . . and a delightful two years it proved to be. A good home,
an excellent garden, a nice compact little dockyard a good long way from London
and the Admiralty, and the kindest and most hospitable neighbours I have ever
come across. (52)
The Captain Superintendents at
Pembroke were a colourful lot. Their reign of nearly a century in west Wales
came to a close with AFO (Admiralty Fleet Order) 1477 dated 4 June 1926: ‘As
Pembroke Dockyard will be reduced to a care and maintenance basis by 31st May.
it has been decided that the appointment of Captain Superintendent is to
terminate on that date’. On that last day of May the 35th incumbent, Leonard
Donaldson, wrote to his staff: ‘I wish you all every good luck and trust that
the Yard may before long be used for some useful purpose and bring some help to
the Town and District’. (53)
These Dockyarders were a gallant
band. The Devonport Dockyard historian, George Dicker, considered that
‘Pembroke Dockyardsmen . . . brought the conscientious devotion and pride of
achievement of the countryman to the art of shipbuilding. Tough to a degree
unheard of today they worked hard and earned for themselves a nationwide
recognition of their skill and ability.’ (54)
They were certainly proud of
their connection with the Yard; many gravestones throughout south
Pembrokeshire and further afield include among their inscriptions the proud
association ‘late of Pembroke Dockyard’ or ‘of Her Majesty’s Royal Yard at
Dicker accurately reflects the
Pembrokians’ pride but overstates their devotion. There is nothing to
suggest that Pembroke men were any slower than their colleagues in other
royal Yards in seeing off Their Lordships. Indeed, Surgeon Jeans was of the
opinion that the well-known ‘dockyard crawl’ was more apparent in Pembroke
Dockyard than in any of the other three great dockyards, and that even the
Dockyard shire horses adapted themselves to it:
A couple of these splendidly conditioned animals might be seen drawing,
painfully and slowly, a small empty lorry, but at the first sound of the
dinner bell, the drivers would slip off their harness and away they would
go, helter skelter across the pieces of waste land, jumping the low chain
railings in between, frisking like colts, each trying to get to the harness
shed and his feed before the others. I often went out into the Yard simply
to watch this horse play - and some sign of active vitality. (56)
Captain Burges Watson, Captain
Superintendent just before the turn of the century, was convinced that his
workforce was idle and his suspicions reached dramatic climax on 15 July 1898,
when he assembled every Dockyard officer from Chief Constructor down to the
humblest chargeman in the Dockyard Schoolroom. He reported that he had found a
hutch in a timber stack, roofed with corrugated iron, and equipped with towels,
water and pillows and in which, it seemed, men had been going to skulk, sleep
and - worse still - perhaps smoke, for weeks or months previously. The Dockyard
Police had later found three men in there and he had discharged them. A few days
earlier he had been on board the cruiser HMS Andromeda when, at five minutes to
Noon, he had distinctly heard the sound of a bell, not the official bell, but a
hammer striking on a shackle, and immediately afterwards nearly all hands ceased
working. There were other examples of shirking. He had come ashore at the
landing stage one night in plain clothes and noted that there was no sound of
activity on board the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert where the night shift was
on overtime but that when he got near ‘a perfect din’ was set up.
Of course, this all caused a great
uproar in the local newspaper with complaints that 2,200 men should not be
tarred with the same brush as three errant skulkers. (57)
The workforce was a close-knit
community which any senior naval officer found almost impossible to penetrate.
Surgeon Jeans observed that the workmen through inter-marriage over long years
had become so closely inter-related that ‘it was no uncommon thing to find a
gang of riggers or shipwrights whose foremen and timekeepers were the fathers or
uncles or brothers of most of the gang’. They must have led the Captain
Superintendents a merry dance.
The decline of Pembroke Dockyard
began soon after the turn of the century. This was not evident to the men then
employed. The armoured cruiser HMS Defence, launched in 1907, was the last major
warship built at the Yard. Thereafter only light cruisers - averaging one a year
- and a handful of submarines occupied a few of the slips which throughout the
Great War were concerned with war repair work.
The future United States President,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, visited Pembroke Dockyard in July 1918 when he was
Assistant Secretary of the (US) Navy. He thought Pembroke was ‘an old, small
affair somewhat like our Portsmouth Navy Yard’. In a letter to the Secretary of
the Navy, Josephus Daniel, Roosevelt reported: ‘It has been expanded since the
War from 1,000 to nearly 4,000 employees, and does mostly repair work to patrol
vessels etc, and is also building four submarines. I was particularly interested
to see over 500 women employed in various capacities, some of them even acting
as molders’ helpers in the foundry, and all of them doing excellent work.’ (58)
It was somewhat prophetic of future
developments in the harbour that the very last vessel launched at Pembroke
should have been an oil tanker. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Oleander, named by Mrs
Dutton, wife of the Captain Superintendent, went down the ways on Wednesday
evening, 3 May 1922. As she entered the water ‘a loud cheer was raised by all
present’. (59) It must have been a pale shadow of the great launching days
the Dockyard had seen. She was brought alongside the Carr Jetty, that first
class fitting-out jetty - the lack of which had hindered fitting-out operations
for half a century - but which had come too late.
The home dockyards were all now
seriously under-employed. The machinery and boilers for the Oleander were made
at Devonport, Portsmouth and Chatham, ‘the work having been distributed for the
purpose of keeping workmen in the several engineering departments at those
dockyards in employment’.
The following month the Dockyard
suffered a terminal injury with the burning down of the mould loft. Various
newspapers reported the tragic event. ‘Practically the whole population of the
town came to witness what was, in many respects, a wonderful spectacle.’ A
north-westerly breeze fanned the fire ‘which consumed, not only the constructive
centre of the Yard, but its archives and collections of ship models and
figureheads’. The best efforts of the Metropolitan Police, ship’s company of the
light cruiser HMS Cleopatra in refit, and two companies of the York and
Lancaster Regiment, were in vain. The serious fire . . . would have been
regretted at any time, but happening just now, when the future of the Yard is in
doubt, it can only be regarded as a first class calamity. The towns of Pembroke
Dock, Pembroke and Neyland, with many adjacent villages, are entirely dependent
on the Government Dockyard, and the heavy reduction of workmen employed, ranging
from 4,000 to a matter of 1,700, has materially contributed to the attenuated
resources of the whole district. (60)
The long and vigorous campaign to
save Pembroke Dockyard has been ably documented elsewhere. (61) A petition to
Prime minister Stanley Baldwin stressed the lack of alternative employment and
the economic consequences. The town would be denuded of wage earners with the
transfer of 400 established men and the discharge of 800 hired workers for whom
there was no other work; trade would be paralysed and there would be bankruptcy
and ruin for traders; homes would be broken up and family ties severed.
The decision, however, was
irreversible. The Navy simply had too many dockyards and the Admiralty had to
keep a fleet together with much-reduced funds. Pembroke and Rosyth had to go.
The choice was laid out starkly by the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Earl
Beatty, in his speech at The Lord Mayor’s Banquet on 9 November 1925: ‘Whether
these Yards are necessary for naval purposes, the Admiralty is the only
competent judge. As to whether they are necessary for political or social
reasons is for the Government to decide. The fact is, that so far as the upkeep
of the Fleet is concerned, they are entirely redundant.’ (62)
Pembroke Dock is now ‘almost
entirely a town of unemployed and pensioners’, commented the Telegraph Almanack
in 1927. The direct consequence of State policy was thus to destroy a town:
between 1921 and 1931 some 3,500 people, a quarter of the town’s inhabitants,
migrated, while in 1937 over half of the insured population of the borough were
unemployed. (63) It is now apparent that in its heyday things had been very
different. Growth had continued fast down to the close of the nineteenth
century, the Pembrokeshire Herald of 20 January 1899 observing: ‘prospects for
the future of the Yard are bright’; it pointed out that very recently there had
been only about fifty joiners in the Yard, whereas at the present time the
number was 200. If we turn to the total numbers employed, then we discover that
on 1 May 1860 some 1,356 worked there, a number which grew to between 2,200 and
2,500 by 1898~1899. (64) Wages were high compared with those of other
workers: thus the average weekly wage of skilled labourers in the Yard in
September 1899 was 24s. whereas the annual average weekly wage in 1898 for those
Pembrokeshire farm labourers who were married and provided their own food was
15s. lOd. (65)
There is no mistaking the calamity
of 1926 for Pembroke Dock inhabitants. But a good many employed in the Dockyard,
we have seen, lived in Pembroke, Neyland. and in outlying villages like Llangwm,
many from the country districts having been formerly employed as farm labourers.
Some of the Dockyard mechanics and artisans living in these outlying rural
villages rented smallholdings - a reminder once again that Pembrokeshire workers
employed in industrial undertakings often had links with the land. (66) These
neighbouring towns and villages also suffered in 1926. Local farming, too, was
adversely affected through the loss of demand for its produce from dockyard
workers and their families. And, as the later chapter on Leisure and Recreation
will show, local sport suffered through young men migrating from the district.
On 4 April 1956 the hulk of the old
iron screw frigate, HMS Inconstant, which Lady Muriel Campbell had ‘gracefully
and dexterously [sic]’ launched at Pembroke Dockyard on a Thursday afternoon in
1868, arrived at a Belgian port for breaking-up. She was the last Pembroke-built
ship afloat. On 29 June that year, Admiral Leonard Andrew Boyd Donaldson, the
last Captain-Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard, died aged eighty-one in a
Portsmouth hospital. The last ship and the last sailor had gone to their haven
under the hill just thirty years after the closure of His Majesty’s Royal Yard
at Pembroke Dock.
Today almost nothing remains of
those former glories. The building slips have almost all disappeared beneath new
developments. A few surviving Dockyard offices, priceless examples of the
stonemason’s art, are slowly crumbling. The old Dockyard Chapel has been
stripped of its memorial window to the lost Atalanta, its oak pews were taken
away by the Royal Air Force and its famous bell, captured from the Spaniards,
gone without trace. (67) Nothing survived. No pubs are nanted Duke of Wellington
or Drake, Hannibal or Howe. The origins of Melville Street, Clarence Street,
Cumby Terrace and Laws Street are known to the few and never taught in the
schools. Even the grave in the old Park Street Cemetery of Captain William Pryce
Cumby was destroyed by Pembroke Borough Council. Old Cumby, ‘Tell Cumby never to
strike!’, deserved better. The decay cannot, however, dim the achievement.
Ruskin wrote fervently:
For one thing this century will in
after ages be considered to have done in a superb manner and one thing I think
only. . . it will always be said of us, with unabated reverence, "They built
ships of the line" . . . the ship of the line is [man’s] first work. Into that
he has put as much of his human patience, common sense, forethought,
experimental philosophy, self control, habits of order and obedience, thoroughly
wrought handwork, defiance of brute elements, careless courage, careful
patriotism, and calm expectation of the judgement of God, as can well be put
into a space of 300 feet long by 80 broad. And I am thankful to have lived in an
age when I could see this thing so done. (68)
1 ) Order in
Council, 31 October 1815.
2 ) Ibid.
3 ) J.F. Rees,
The Story of Milford (Cardiff, 1954).
4 ) B. Pool,
Navy Board Contracts 1660-1832: Contract Administration under the Navy Board
(1966), p. 86; Id., ‘Some Notes on Warship Building by Contract in the
Eighteenth Century’, The Mariner’s Mirror 49, 2 (May 1963), pp. 105-09.
5 ) Gent. Mag.
xxxv (June 1765), p.294.
6 ) Order in
Council, 31 Oct. 1815.
7 ) For a
detailed account of naval shipbuilding at Milford, see Rees, op.cit., pp. 25-42.
8 ) Many were
Cornish Methodists - see C. Mason, Pembroke Dock, Pembroke Dockyard and
Neighbourhood (Pembroke Dock, 1905), p.157 and Peters, Pembroke Dock, p.159.
For a scholarly
article on Richard Tregenna, see J. Armstrong, ‘Then and Now’ in the Western
Telegraph, 14 Dec. 1988.
9 ) J. Coad,
The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850 (Aldershot, 1989), p.ix.
10) C. Dicker,
‘The Neglected Dockyard’ (unpublished manuscript, 1971), pp.7-8; Peters,
11) H and MHT.
28 May 1856.
Price, The Pembroke and Tenby Railway (Oakwood Press, Oxford, 1986), pp.18,31;
Peters, op.cit., p.45.
Services Gazette, 12 Nov. 1859.
15) Report on
European Dockyards by Naval Constructor Philip Hichborn, United States Navy
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886). 49th Congress 1st Session. House
of Representatives Misc. Doc. No.237. See also Report by Chief Engineer I. W.
King USN on European Ships of War . . . Dockyards etc. (Washington, 1877). 44th
Congress 2nd Session. Senate Ex. Doc. no.27, p.246.
Penrose Fitzgerald, From Sail to Steam (1916), p.198.
17) J. Leyland,
‘The Royal Dockyards. Pembroke Pt. 1’, Navy and Army Illustrated (20 Dec. 1902).
Nicholls, ‘They built Ships of the Line’ (unpublished manuscript autobiography
in the Ministry of Defence Whitehall Library, c.1946).
19) 59 Geo 3 c
125 (authority to establish market); 6 Geo 4 c 36 (Borough of Pembroke
relinquish and convey to Navy Board right of letting stalls etc); 2 and 3
Williams 4 c 40 (property vested by 6 Ceo 4 c 36 transferred by Navy Board to
General, Medical Department, Admiralty LN 1653, dated 25 June 1925, to Captain
HM Dockyard, Pembroke. Surgeon Commander R.B. Scribner reported to the
Superintendent on 6 July both ‘to be quite suitable and fit’. Copies in author’s
op.cit., p.110 (but Captain Samuel Jackson had been succeeded by Captain Watkin
Owen Pell by the time of the bazaar in September 1842).
22) Dates taken
from National School commemorative medallion in author’s possession.
op.cit., pp. 85-7.
24) When HMS
Howe was dismantled in 1921 her timbers were used to build Liberty’s in Regent
Street, London. The company has preserved her figurehead, a bust of Admiral
Nautical Magazine ii (1833), p.492.
26) 0. Parkes,
British Battleships (1956), p.94.
27) The name is
unlikely to survive the reversion of the colony to the People’s Republic of
China in 1997.
Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names 1592-1906. Their Origin and History
(Ottawa, 1909); B.M. Gough, The Royal Navy on the Northwest Coast of North
America 1810-1914 (Vancouver, 1971); Lawrence Phillips, ‘An Interesting Frigate
from Pembroke Dockyard. HMS Constance of 1846’, The Mariner’s Mirror 73, 1(Feb.
1987), pp. 61-9.
Dockyard Regulations, 1904, p.58.
30) PD and TG,
10, 24 Feb. 1881.
31) PD and PC,
17 Aug. 1900, 25 Jan. 1901.
32) Ibid., 13
April 1893, 28 June 1901.
33) T.T. Jeans,
Reminiscences of a Naval Surgeon (1927), pp. 123-30.
34) Letter to
the author from Lord Chatfield, 9 Dec. 1959; see also Chatfield, The Navy and
Defence (1947), p.18; PD and TG, 22 Feb. 1883, 6 Nov. 1884, 5 Nov., 3 Dec. 1885.
35) PH, 3 May
36) H and MHT,
3 Oct 1855.
London News, 18 Sept. 1852.
38) PD and TG,
18 Sept. 1879.
39) Sir Thomas
Sabine Pasley’s personal diary; Louisa M. Sabine Pasley, Memoir of Admiral Sir
Thomas Sabine Pasley (1900), ch. xiv; Lawrence Phillips, ‘Captain Sir Thomas
Sabine Pasley Bt RN and Pembroke Dockyard’, The Mariner’s Mirror 71, 2 (May
1985), pp. 159-65.
40) PH, 29 July
41) Ibid., 12
Robinson, ‘On Completing the Launching of Ships which have stopped on their
Launching Ways’, Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects xii (1871).
44) H and MHT,
12, 19 March 1856; PH, 14 March 1856.
45) PD and PG,
5 Jan. 1900.
46) F. Manning,
The Life of Sir William White (1923), pp. 418-40.
Report of the Committee appointed by The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to
enquire into the circumstances which led to the accident to the new Royal Yacht
at the time when the vessel was undocked at Pembroke (29 April 1901); C. M.
Gavin, Royal Yachts (1932), App. vi; ‘Walrus’, ‘Royal Disaster’, Naval Review
xlvi, 4 (Oct. 1958), pp. 437-42.
48) Sir William
White had known Pembroke Dock in happier days. When employed on building the
Dreadnought at the Yard thirty years earlier he had become engaged to Alice,
younger daughter of Richard Martin, the Chief Constructor. The couple married at
St. John’s Parish Church on 4 August 1875. It was a long and happy marriage.
Pengelly, The First Bellerophon. A Famous Ship of the Royal Navy (1966).
Memoir; Pasley diary.
to ‘All Departments’ and dated 31 May 1926. Copy in the author’s possession.
Manuscript, ch.1, p.2.
55) Such as the
grave of Edward Laws, the longest-serving Principal Officer at Pembroke
Dockyard, who died on 2 January 1854. He and his wife were buried in the
catacombs at Kensal Green in London.
57) PD and PG.
22 July 1898.
58) M. Simpson,
Anglo-American Naval Relations 1917-1919 (Naval Records Society, 1991), p.163.
59) PCG, 5 May
60) PH, 30 June
1922; PCG, 30 June 1922; Ward-Davies’ Free Press, 30 June 1922; PT, 28 June
Tilbury, WWG, 6 Sept. 1957 to 1 Nov. 1957.
Chalmers, The Life and Letters of David, Earl Beatty (1951), p.469.
63) D. Thomas,
‘Economic Decline’, in T. Herbert and G.E. Jones, eds., Wales Between the Wars
(Cardiff, 1988), p.16.
64) PH, 20 July
1860, 20 Jan. 1899.
65) Ibid., 15
Sept. 1899; Employment in Agriculture, 1919, p.108.
66) PH, 24 Nov.
1899; Welsh Land Commission, 1893-96, Evidence, ii, Qs. 29130, 31062.
67) The bell
was taken from the Spanish second-rate Fenix captured during Rodney’s
Battle on 16 January 1780. The ship was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS
Gibraltar and was broken-up at Pembroke Dockyard in November 1836 when,
presumably, her bell was mounted in the recently-completed Dockyard Chapel.
68) John Ruskin
in Thomas J. Wise, ed., The Harbours of England (Orpington, 1895), pp.24-5.
Pictures by courtesy of: two
generations of battleships, cruiser, c. 1900, HMS Drake, HMS Thunderer, two
generations of Royal Yachts, shipwright, Tenby Museum and Art Gallery - Royal
Yacht Victoria and Albert III, Pembrokeshire County Council Museum Service
- HMS Erebus, Pembrokeshire County Libraries.