West Blockhouse fort
West Blockhouse fort
Defences were located on this promontory over several centuries, to guard the strategically important Milford Haven waterway from attack by French, Spanish or German forces.
In 1539 King Henry VIII ordered construction of two stone “blockhouses”, equipped with guns, at the waterway’s mouth. None of the Tudor structure survives at West Blockhouse. At its sister fort East Blockhouse, on the opposite side of the waterway, some Tudor remains are visible.
The building we see today at West Blockhouse, made of immaculately dressed limestone, was built from 1854 to 1857 in response to renewed tensions between Britain and France. Three other forts were built nearby at the same time, at Dale Point (to the north) and on Stack Rock and Thorn islands (to the east, across the water).
West Blockhouse had living quarters for about 40 soldiers and six 68-pounder guns, each three metres long and intended to demolish the masts of any French ships which dared to sail up the waterway. Design features protected the fort against attack from the landward side. The threat of invasion receded and the guns were soon obsolete.
Defences around Milford Haven were ugpraded in the first few years of the 20th century. A new gun battery was built outside West Blockhouse fort, which itself was restored and equipped with modern guns. A local contractor struggled for several days to haul a 32-ton gun from Dale beach to the fort in 1908.
In 1901 the landlord of the Griffin Inn, Dale, complained about beer being sold illicitly at the fort.
The Royal Artillery manned the battery in the First World War but never needed to open fire. After 1918 the fort had caretaker staff and was used for exercises.
It wasn’t until the Second World War that the battery fired its first shots in anger, often aimed at German aircraft tasked with bombing the naval dockyard in Pembroke Dock. The battery closed in 1956. The Landmark Trust bought West Blockhouse in 1969 for restoration and preservation. The foundations of 20th-century gun emplacements are still visible on the landward side of the Wales Coast Path.
Grid reference: SM81690359
West Blockhouse on Landmark Trust website