Thursday, December 25, 2014

What happened to Milford Haven after Nelson's death?

In 1921, Alexey Krylov visited the town of Milford Haven. Describing the visit, he wrote poetic dedication to Admiral Nelson.

To be fair, he deplored it not being converted to a national  monument without appreciating the fact that  Sir William Hamilton, Lady Hamilton’s husband, had owned it.  

Naval architect Sinclair, the shipyard manager, for a long time had been the Vickers representative in Petrograd. I knew him from repairing turrets on the cruiser Riurik. I unexpectedly met him while walking by the shipyard, and he kindly invited me to go in his car to the place where a highway embankment was being constructed in the absence of maritime work. This work took place directly near the gates of the historic park with a villa that belonged to Admiral Nelson, where he and Lady Hamilton spent summers during the last three years of his life. After Nelson’s death, the estate was sold three or four times. The park was in good condition, and the villa looked from outside exactly the same as in the old engravings, but it gave the impression of being uninhabited: the little pond and the pool (where according to the legend, Nelson sailed toy ships, probably not for simple amusement) were drained and overgrown with grass and weeds. The little house on the bay shore with the terrace over the water from which Nelson swam in the bay was occupied by the estate caretaker, and on Nelson’s lower terrace, a woman was rinsing laundry in the bay. It occurred to me that in 116 years since Trafalgar, prosperous England did not bother to buy and convert into a national monument the little plot of land whose every inch was connected to the memory of the greatest naval commander of all times, a man who saved England from foreign invasion and oppression and with his own blood forever imprinted its power over the sea.
 This is what I found:

  • Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire was a new town, built following an Act of Parliament of 1790 which granted to Sir William Hamilton the powers to make quays, establish markets, make docks, roads and avenues. 
  • Sir William made his nephew, Charles Greville, responsible for the enterprise, and, after Sir William's death, the estate passed to Charles, who died in 1809. 
  • He was succeeded by his brother, Robert Fulke Greville, who took little interest in the town. He died in 1824. His son, also named Robert Fulke Greville, inherited the estate, and in 1853 he came to live at Castle Hall, to which he made extensive additions.  
  • He ran out of money, and the estate became so heavily mortgaged that when he died, in 1867, it passed to the National Provident Institution, which began in earnest the work of building docks at Milford. 
  • The estate had been bought by Sir Hugh James Protheroe Thomas in 1920. Sir Hugh sold off much of the estate between 1920 and 1924, when he died following an operation for appendicitis. 
  • The Newton Noyes railway and pier were purchased by Messrs Thomas W. Ward of Sheffield for a ship-breaking yard, and in 1934 the Admiralty acquired the pier and part of the railway for the Royal Navy Mines Depot. Castle Hall was surplus to the Admiralty's requirements and demolished.

(extracts from the Pembrokeshire Record Office estate records © National Library of Wales 2013)

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