The Dry Dock in Pembroke Dock
The Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) is unique. [An apology and a correction! There are 50+ trust ports in the UK. Milford Haven Port Authority is one of the bigger ones. It might have been one of the first. Would be glad to hear comment about this.] The Port of Milford Haven is a Trust Port, a statutory entity that was brought into existence by a specific Act of Parliament – The Milford Haven Conservancy Act 1958. It is the only trust port in the United Kingdom] [See note above and link here.]
If you want to read further into the background legislation that governs the operation of the authority, then there is no better place to do this that at their own website here.
One of MHPA's activities that are focused on the south side of Milford Haven is Pembroke Dock Marine. This main base of operations is located within the former Royal Dockyard and, as the information on MHPA's website explains, this "will deliver a world-class marine energy and engineering hub on the deep water Milford Haven Waterway."
The dockyard, despite the burying and demolition of many of its original buildings, most notably by the Royal Air Force and latterly by the deep water berthing quay at the eastern end of the yard, still has some notable buildings, many of which are listed.
However, two of the surviving structures from the original dockyard, both listed, are now under threat by proposals put forward by the Milford Haven Port Authority. Why bury and destroy these features, unique in their character? It would seem that one possibility is to provide extra parking for lorries. That would seem to be a tragic, banal waste of some unique features of local heritage.
In this post I will give a brief introduction to the first of these features - the old dry dock
The former dry dock (Listed Grade II* - see here), latterly called the Graving Dock as it was used to dismantle ships at some points in its life. This is in part of the dockyard that is rarely seen by the general public, but is easy of access, just beyond the ferry terminal. The image from Google Maps below shows its location.
|Location of the Dry Dock|
The dry dock is of the caisson type. That means that the method of closing the dock before the water was pumped out was to float a steel or iron blocking door into the mouth of the dock and sink it, within tight fitting guiding rails, so that it made a good seal between the interior of the dock and the outside. The water was then pumped out by powerful pumps, until the dock was dry within.
The picture below shows the Ocean Layer, a cable laying ship, in this dry dock in the early 1950s.
|Cable Ship(CS) Ocean Layer in Dry Dock|
The dry dock was built in the very early days of the dockyard, c1820. It was lengthened in about 1853 to its present size. It was used for the repair of warships and, later in its career, as a place to dismantle old ships - a graving dock. The photograph above of the CS Ocean Layer shows that it was also used (under lease) by the local company R S Hayes to refit this vessel for the laying of undersea cables. Follow this link for more information about CS Ocean Layer.
If you want to view this remaining feature of the dockyard, it is quite straightforward. If you enter the dockyard through the old main gate on Fort Road, take a left turn at the first mini-roundabout and then follow this road. It will take you right and then left past some large sheds and the old, grey limestone Oakum House. On your right hand side, behind a chain link fence, is the dry dock. Be careful in this area as there can be much works traffic at some of the businesses that have accommodationin this part of the yard. Wearing a reflective waistcoat might be helpful!
|This is the drydock from near the entrance. Notice how silted up it is. The caisson can be seen at the far end of the dock. The object in the foreground looks like it might be an old pontoon.|
In my next post, I will introduce the second heritage building under threat in the dockyard...the timber pond.