Healing in Milford Haven
In the past week I have continued to adapt to my immobile state. On the afternoon of my accident, on a pain scale I’d shot from zero to 100 in a few seconds. Conversely, on an activity scale I’ve since plummeted from 100 to zero. This has been a tough period of readjustment with all previous Victory Walk routines thrown into abeyance. From putting on my own walking boots each morning, I’m now forced to ask the Support Team to tie my shoelaces!
Waiting for swelling, bruising and soft tissues to heal is a slow process. Thankfully, our waterside apartment balcony has commanding views of Milford Haven’s bustling waterway so there is always something to watch. Fishing boats, gas carriers, tankers, tugs, pilot launches and the Oscar Wilde ferry working the Pembroke Dock to Rosslare route are all ‘regulars’ plying their trade. Directly opposite, the Valero refinery jetties are always busy: as I write four tankers are either taking-on or discharging fuel.
During my less painful moments I’ve ventured into Milford Haven’s town and Marina. I’ve decided that having the Victory Walk abruptly interrupted here isn’t such a bad place after all. In my ‘armless’ predicament I soon realised I was in the exalted company of Admiral Lord Nelson who features around the town. I took myself off to the Lord Nelson Hotel where I began to wonder why this famous Admiral had connections Milford.
Milford Haven’s initial development was conceived by nobleman Charles Francis Greville and his uncle, diplomat Sir William Hamilton. Through his first marriage, Sir William inherited estates and land in south Pembrokeshire, including Milford, on the death of first his wife in 1782. Already established in Naples as an Ambassador, Sir William returned to Pembrokeshire to bury his wife and discuss estate business with nephew Charles.
Between them they formulated a plan to design Milford on a grid pattern and develop it as a whaling centre and shipyard. Whaling never prospered and in time the town decided to concentrate on fishing – it became Wales’ principal fishing port. The shipyard was leased to a private company that went bankrupt in 1800. Afterwards the Navy Board was persuaded to lease the site for building warships; that arrangement remained until the Admiralty developed its own Royal Dockyard across the water in Pembroke Dock in 1814.
Sir William is probably better remembered through his second wife, Lady Emma Hamilton, famed as Admiral Nelson’s mistress. Emma had previously been Greville’s mistress before being passed on in 1786 to his widowed uncle who had continued in his Ambassador’s role in Naples. Emma eventually became Sir William’s mistress before they married five years later. The meeting between the Hamiltons and Admiral Nelson after his Battle of the Nile success in 1798 is well documented, as is Nelson and Emma’s affair that subsequently developed.
In 1800 Sir William indicated he wished to retire and return to England. The ménage à trois travelled together back to England and lived in close proximity to one another. Among pursuing his numerous interests, Hamilton devoted more time to his Pembrokeshire estate matters. Meanwhile, in August 1802 it was Greville who shrewdly invited Nelson to speak at a banquet at the New Inn, Milford Haven on the fourth anniversary of the Battle of the Nile.
The banquet was held in honour of Sir William and Lady Hamilton and Admiral Nelson. Who better to endorse the benefits of Milford Haven, the dockyard and assist with Milford Haven’s development? On that visit Nelson is reputed to have said that “Milford Haven was the finest natural harbour in the Northern Hemisphere.” Besides, having wooed Sir William’s wife, it was the least the Admiral could do in return!
Following Nelson’s visit to the New Inn, its name was changed to The Lord Nelson Hotel. The affinity between one of Britain’s most heroic figures and the town has lasted. A letter written by Nelson from HMS Victory in 1804 is held in Milford’s parish archives, and after Nelson’s untimely death in 1805 the town continued to honour him. The development of Milford Haven appears to have been a ‘family’ affair with street names such as Charles, Francis, Trafalgar, and Greville all used, although I’ve found no direct reference to Emma.
Old steps leading down from Hamilton Terrace to the harbour on Nelson Quay bear the name Nelson Steps, and new Marina buildings have been called Temeraire and Agamemnon after ships that fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. With its grand views overlooking the Haven’s waterway, the Lord Nelson Hotel built in Hamilton Terrace could be regarded as the ultimate cuckoo in the nest!
The healing process has required me to keep a low profile, but others have stepped forward to provide support. Invitations to Sunday lunch, a hospital taxi service, lifts to the supermarket, and the arrival of a beautiful bouquet of flowers have all helped raise the Victory Walker’s spirits. And if these were not enough, donations have also continued. This includes a generous cheque from members of the Pembrokeshire Branch of the Association of Wrens who I was able to meet in Haverfordwest. Our sincere thanks to everyone who has rallied round.
STOP PRESS: Good News. I revisited the hospital today where I was told I can start physio on Wednesday and can sling my sling – yippeeee!
See Photo Album No 67 – Healing in Milford Haven (Only a small selection of photos as I am still unable to use a camera comfortably)