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Pembroke Dockyard

Pembroke Dock, Wales








Project achievements

Used engineering skill

Used pioneering iron cover roofs to mimic timber framing slip roofs

Area improved

Became a site to honour the ICE’s first president, John Rennie

Solved the problem

Created a space to build warships and protect the country from invasion

Establishing a dockyard for shipbuilding

In 1813, John Rennie visited Paterchurch in Wales with the Comptroller of the Navy to determine the best scheme to build a dockyard.

The purpose of the dockyard was to provide a space to build warships to protect the country from the threat of invasion.

Rennie’s last business letter, relating to the construction of the entrance gates to Pembroke Dock, is written on 28 September 1821.

From its opening, Pembroke Dock develops through two main periods of extension in 1830-2 and again in 1844. Several Royal Navy warships are built there.

Following its closure in 1926, it’s renewed with the establishment of a Royal Air Force flying-boat station, RAF Pembroke Dock, which operates until 1959.

In 1979, Irish Ferries use the dockyard site for its ferry services. A modern terminal was built over some of the ship-building slips of the old Royal Navy dockyard.

Although active warships weren’t based in Pembroke Dock after the 1940s, the base remained an official naval dockyard and held a Queen's Harbour Master until 2008.

The site was sold to the Milford Haven Port Authority by the Ministry of Defence in 2007.

Did you know …

  1. Pembroke Dockyard is the only Royal Dockyard on Britain’s west coast, created solely for shipbuilding.

  2. Pembroke Dockyard was the subject of Rennie’s last business communication.

  3. Pembroke Dock saw the last wooden slipcover in a Royal Dockyard (1841) and the first iron roofs to shipbuilding slips (1845).

Difference the dockyard has made

Before it closed in 1926, over 260 Royal Navy vessels were launched at the dockyard.

Contractor Fox Henderson pioneered iron cover roofs that mimicked the timber framing slip roofs developed by naval architect, Sir Robert Seppings.

ICE’s Panel for Historical Engineering Works celebrated the John Rennie 250th anniversary in 2011 by unveiling a plaque at Pembroke Dock on Sunderland House.

How Pembroke Dockyard was built

Due to invasion threats, a fort is built at Paterchurch in 1758 by the Ordnance Department in the army.

In 1797, Charles Greville persuades the navy board to establish a dockyard to build warships on the other side of the Haven at Milford, in Surrey, England.

However, by 1809, the government face unreasonable financial demands for the purchase of Milford Yard and look for another site.

William Stone, the master shipwright of Milford Yard, reports on the qualities of Paterchurch for the new dockyard in 1810.

In 1812, works begin with an initial 20 acres of land acquired from the Ordnance Department. The name Paterchurch was soon dropped.

By 1825, 12 building slips have been constructed or planned along with all the workshops and storehouses necessary.

A hydrographic survey of Pembroke Dock in 1832 showed projected dockyard buildings and features as well as existing ones, according to the plan ‘proposed by the Comptroller and Mr. Rennie’.

Building work was carried out under the resident engineer William Wallace and the contractor Hugh McIntosh.

People who made it happen

  • John Rennie
  • Hugh McIntosh
  • Sir Robert Seppings
  • Fox & Henderson (iron roofs over slips, [c.1845])