Milford Haven is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven, an estuary forming a natural harbour that has been used as a port since the Middle Ages. The town was founded in 1790 on the north side of the Waterway, from which it takes its name. Designed to a grid pattern, it was originally intended by the founder, Sir William Hamilton, to be a whaling centre, though by 1800 it was developing as a Royal Navy dockyard which it remained until the dockyard was transferred to Pembroke in 1814.
It then became a commercial dock, with the focus moving in the 1960s, after the construction of an oil refinery built by the Esso Company, to logistics for fuel oil and liquid gas. By 2010 the town's port has become the fourth largest in the United Kingdom in terms of tonnage, and plays an important role in the United Kingdom's energy sector with several oil refineries and one of the biggest LNG terminals in the World. Milford is the second largest settlement in Pembrokeshire, with a population of 12,830; while with 13,086 people its community boundaries make it the most populous in the county. As a Welsh local government community, Milford takes in the town of Milford itself and its suburbs, including Hakin, Hubberston, Liddeston, and Steynton. The natural harbour of the Haven was known as a safe port and was exploited for several historical military operations throughout the second millennium. Campaigns conducted from the Haven included part of Henry II's Invasion of Ireland in 1171 and Cromwell's own attack on Ireland in 1649, while forces which have disembarked at the point include Jean II de Rieux's 1405 reinforcement of the Glyndŵr Rising. In 1485, Henry VII landed at the Milford Haven Waterway before marching on England.
Milford Haven has experienced a history of boom and slump in shipbuilding, fishing, as a railhead and an ocean terminal. At the height of the fishing boom, it was said that "every day was a pay day". In 1921, 674 people were identified as working in the fishing industry, the leading occupation in the town, followed by transport and communication with 600 employees. The development of the oil industry also helped to boost the town's fortunes. However, the slumps have been just as severe, the area being scheduled as 'distressed' in the inter-war period. During the 1980s and 1990s, the unemployment rate at times topped 30%, and the major industry of oil refining created no more than 2,000 direct or indirect jobs. Into the new millennium, its fortunes have risen, as can be witnessed in the activity surrounding the LNG terminal, and the new building works which accompanied it and its connection to the controversial South Wales Gas Pipeline. In February 2003, Pembrokeshire Council granted outline planning permission to Petroplus for an LNG storage depot at Waterston, and in March 2004, an additional site was approved at South Hook for ExxonMobil. International tourism has also increased, with the arrival of transatlantic liners and the revenue they introduce to the town. The Port Authority is aiming to double the number of cruise ships it handles in the period to 2011. The waterway transports 25% of Britain's requirement for motor fuel, and the port handled 53 million tonnes of shipping in 2008, making it the largest port in Wales, and the sixth largest in the UK. There are two major commercial centres: Charles Street in the historic town centre, and the Havens Head Retail Park located at the foot of the docks area. In 2012, it was announced that the Milford waterway was to be declared an Enterprise Zone by the coaltion government, due to its importance to the energy sector.
Attractions in the town include Fort Hubberstone, built in 1863 to defend the Haven as part of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. Located in Gelliswick bay, it occupies a prominent position to the west of the town overlooking the Haven. Owned by Milford Haven Port Authority, the site is not currently open to the public, and has been the scene of non-fatal injuries to trespassers. In 2011 it was named as the fifth most endangered archaeological site in the UK by British Archaeology Magazine. The ruins of an observatory, originally intended to be part of "The College of King George the Third founded at Milford", can be found in Hakin. Construction of the building was abandoned in 1809. The town museum, located centrally in the docks area, is housed in the town's oldest building, the Custom House which dates back to 1797. Designed by Swansea architect, Jernigan, it was built for the storage of whale oil awaiting shipment for sale in London. The Rath is a landscaped street on high ground, with panoramic views of the Haven. The land was used in the 18th century as a gun battery, and its eastern edge was the site of the Royalist fort constructed by Charles I. In the 1930s it became the home of an outdoor swimming pool, which was converted into a water gardens in 1990. Milford Haven Waterway is the natural harbour on which the town stands and from which the town takes its name.
Primary and pre school education in Milford Haven is served by six state infant and primary schools and St Francis, a Roman Catholic primary school. Milford Haven town is served by junior, Infant, and nursery schools. Hakin pupils can attend Hakin Junior School, Hakin Infants and Nursery, and the voluntarily controlled Hubberston Church in Wales VC Nursery and Primary. Secondary education is provided by Milford Haven School, a large comprehensive school with an enrollment of around 1200 pupils including the 6th form. The MITEC School of Boatbuilding & Marine Engineering, a branch of Pembrokeshire College located in Milford Docks, offers courses in boatbuilding and marine engineering.
The main road to the town is the A4076 from Haverfordwest, which connects with the A40. The town centre's road system is based on a grid pattern. The route to Hakin and the western side of the town is along the A4076 via Victoria Bridge over the docks. Bus routes passing through the town are operated by independent companies and Pembrokeshire County Council subsidies. Services include a town circular, Haverfordwest, Pembroke Dock and St Davids. National Express operate services to both London and Birmingham via Steynton.
The first links to a railway to Milford Haven came through the completion of the South Wales Railway in 1856. Brunel had a vision of connecting London to New York via a railway through Wales and then to a commuter port. The initial plan was to terminate the line at Fishguard and to create a ferry service to Ireland, but after a failure to complete Irish rail links the terminus was changed to New Milford, (Neyland), which was completed in April 1856. The first rail link direct to Milford Haven was completed in 1863, which was originally conceived as a plan to create an impressive Milford to Manchester railway. The trains using the line were operated by Great Western Railway who had part funded the original railway. Today the town is served by Milford Haven railway station. The station, and all trains serving it, are operated by Arriva Trains Wales on the West Wales Line. It is the terminus, and from here, trains depart every two hours to Manchester Piccadilly via Carmarthen, Swansea, and Cardiff Central.