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Pembroke Dock (Doc Penfro) and adjacent Milford Haven (Aberdaugleddau) both developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from small village settlements, Paterstown and Hubberstown, on the banks of the Cleddau river. The vast natural harbour of Milford Haven was the point of departure for multiple invasions of Ireland, including those under Henry II and Oliver Cromwell, and the place to which Richard II returned from Ireland to meet his defeat by Henry Bolingbroke in 1399. Milford, on the north side, was founded as a new town in 1793 by Sir William Hamilton and his nephew Charles Greville, who invited a number of Quaker families from Nantucket to settle there and run a whaling fleet; from 1800 a naval dockyard was established there, building ships throughout the Napoleonic wars.

In 1814 the Royal Dockyard was transferred across the river to Pembroke Dock (initially known as Paters Dock), and a new town grew up around it. Royal navy ships were commissioned and built there for over 100 years, with the last one, the Oleander, launched in 1922. The base nonetheless remained a Royal Dockyard until it was transferred to the Milford Haven Port Authority in 2007. During the twentieth century Pembroke Dock was an important base for the RAF, and became the most significant centre for flying boats (seaplanes) in the world. In 1940 the Luftwaffe attacked the Dock, bombing a series of nearby oil-tanks and causing a massive conflagration.

This overwhelmingly military history has left a striking architectural legacy of admiralty buildings, Martello towers, barracks, a naval chapel and large-scale hangars (one of which saw the creation of the ‘Millennium Falcon’ built in 1979 for the Star-Wars film The Empire Strikes Back). Today, Pembroke Dock houses the Irish Ferries passenger service to Rosslare.

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