We will be visiting Milford Haven, Wales, in the United Kingdom for the first time in June. In anticipation of our first visit via a cruise ship, we did a little research.
2. While the town of Milford Haven wasn’t founded until 1793, the surrounding inlet waterway with its natural harbor was used by the Vikings seeking shelter from 790 until the Norman Invasion in 1066.
3. Formed by a ‘ria’ or ‘drowned valley’ flooded at the end of the last Ice Age, the 22-mile-long Milford Haven inlet (or waterway) runs from where the Pembroke River and the Daugleddau estuary converge west to the Irish Sea.
4. With its naturally deep harbor, the Milford Haven Waterway was labeled as “one of the world’s greatest harbors.”
5. In 1790, Sir William Hamilton obtained an Act of Parliament to establish the port at Milford on the north bank of the waterway. He had inherited the land from his wife Catherine Barlow of Slebech when she died.
6. Charles Francis Greville — Sir William Hamilton’s nephew — was in charge of building the port town. Greville persuaded two leading American Quaker whaling families – the Folgers and Starbucks – to relocate from Nantucket in the United States in 1792 to become the first settlers of Milford.
7. Led by the Starbucks and Folgers, the Quaker families from Nantucket arrived in Milford with the intention of developing a whaling fleet to service the growing demand for whale oil to fuel street lights. These families had been the backbone of the American whaling industry; when the American War of Independence ended in 1783, they had to seek other opportunities.
8. Since its first residents were from Nantucket, the streets of Milford Haven followed an American grid system, and buildings were built in the same their architectural style found in New England.
9. Starbuck Road in Milford Haven was named after one of the original whaling families from Nantucket. The same family was said to be the inspiration for Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s 1851 novel. In the book, The Pequod is a fictional 19th-century Nantucket whaling ship with a young chief mate called Starbuck who is a Quaker from Nantucket.
10. The name of Starbucks Coffee Company was inspired by the character in Moby Dick. The closest Starbuck’s to Milford Haven, however, appears to be more than 60 miles away in Llanelli, Wales.
11. The whaling venture in Milford Haven was short-lived but the new town did become a thriving fishing port from 1888. Fishing boats from the entire British coast were drawn to Milford Haven’s sheltered anchorage near quality fishing grounds and direct rail links to London and other fish markets.
12. By 1906 Milford Haven was Britain’s sixth largest fishing port employing more than 500 people.
13. The fishing fleet continued to thrive in Milford Haven until the 1950’s when Atlantic fish stocks began to vanish.
14. Just as fishing was declining in Milford Haven oil came to the rescue. Led by the Suez Crisis and the temporary loss of the Suez Canal as a trade route, Milford Haven assumed a strategic importance when it became an imperative to bring oil from the Middle East around the tip of Africa. Milford Haven, with its deep water harbor, was chosen as a secure base for the huge deep-water oil tanker ships.
15. In 1960 the Esso oil company opened their refinery just outside the town of Milford, closely followed by other refineries and pumping stations. By 1970 Milford Haven was the leading oil port in Britain, and the second largest in Europe.
16. The Milford Haven “oil boom” disappeared in the early 1980s. Esso closed down in 1983 after just 20 years of operation. Gulf and BP facilities hung on until 1997-1998.
17. Open daily, the Milford Museum documents the events that impacted the area throughout its history. The small museum is housed in one of Milford Haven’s oldest buildings, originally created to store whale oil awaiting shipment to in London.
18. Although it is the most westerly point Wales and furthest from the English border, fewer than 8 percent of Milford residents are fluent the Welsh language, as English was the predominate language for many centuries.
19. Parts of the Milford Haven are within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, home to the popular Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
20. Fort Hubberstone, built in 1863 to defend the Milford Haven Waterway, was used in World War I and World War II. While on a scenic location, the fort site is not currently open to the public and is considered dangerous to trespassers. The land occupied by the historic fort is owned by Milford Haven Port Authority.
21. Pembroke Castle, located on a rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway, was the birthplace of King Henry VII of England. He became the King of England on August 22, 1485 by defeating King Richard III at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Henry ruled 24 years until his death in April, 1509, when he was succeeded by his son, Henry VIII. Henry VII was the last king of England to win his throne on battlefield.
22. A popular side trip from Milford Haven is the 23 mile drive to St. Davids, the smallest city in the United Kingdom that is home to the stunning St. David’s Cathedral.
Learn more about Milford Haven, Wales with these resources:
Have you visited Milford Haven? What interesting fact can you add?