Transport - boats and ships (maritime)


When the invading Normans first arrived in 1093 they came by land, but would also have sailed up the Milford haven to this arm of the estuary where the dominating limestone outcrop, surrounded on both sides by tidal waters, was there to greet them. Norman knight Gerald de Windsor was appointed keeper of the castle by his Norman overlord Arnulf de Montgomery (son of Roger de Montgomery) and married Nest, the Welsh princess.

That first Norman fortification would have been a wooden affair with a ditch on the landward side – sufficient to ensure that over the coming years Welsh attacks were unsuccessful. Within years a quay had been established, Pembroke had been granted Royal Charters, Flemish and West Country folk were bought to the area to anglicise the indigenous culture, and the first Mill was built around 1199. Corn continued to be milled on the bridge for 750 years until the last mill burnt down in 1955, which marked the end of large ships sailing into Pembroke Quays, as the castle waters had already started slowly silting up.

Rebuilt and modernised in the years around 1818, the success of South Quay trade was reflected in the high number of public houses in the near vicinity. The great North Gate of the town was situated above the Quay at the foot of the steep Dark Lane, at the side of The Royal George. Of the twenty or so pubs trading in the town 'The George', as it is known locally, is one of the oldest, and still trading.

5 or 6 ships traded regularly in a ‘triangle’ between Pembroke, Devon and Ireland. The best-remembered is probably the Kathleen and May, and others included the Garlandstone, the Arcacia and the Mary Jane Lewis. The latter was eventually wrecked on rocks at Angle ten miles away.

North Quay was the main quay for the loading and unloading of cargoes, and little 'Annie the Mill' was reknowned for being able to carry heavy bags of corn on her back as well as any man. The Quay was the site of Ford's Yard (also known as Leach's Yard) and the miller John Ford also ran one of the earliest bus services locally.

On the North Quay one of the best-remembered characters was Harry Davies, whose father had set up as a wheelwright and coach builder at the top of the slipway. Harry was not only a good wheelwright but also a popular carpenter and undertaker, and boasted that he and his apprentice had made the biggest wheel ever made in Pembrokeshire – it was six feet in diameter.

In 1979 the Local Authority built a barrage to prevent flooding of the Commons road, and thus created the Castle Pond. It proved the death knell to ships and boats ever using the waters around the castle again; but it has created a delightful walk around Castle Pond which is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.