Solva harbour

Solva harbour

This inlet, protected by steep hillsides, has a long history as a natural harbour. During the Iron Age there were forts on the hill south of the water.

Photo of Solva fishermen with porpoise in 1906By the 18th century Solva was prospering on the inward and outward movement of goods through the harbour. Warehouses and limekilns were developed.

In the 1770s components and labourers departed from here for The Smalls, small islands far out to sea, where Britain’s first piled lighthouse was erected. Initially it perched on legs of iron and timber, but it was soon rebuilt with timber legs only. Engineer Henry Whiteside thought his design would withstand the fierce storms and waves better than a solid tower, as it allowed water and wind to pass beneath the building which housed the lantern and lighthouse keepers’ quarters.

Fishing boats also worked out of Solva. On Good Friday 1906, two of the fishermen brought in a porpoise, now a protected species. Their catch drew admiration, and amateur photographer CM Rees took a photo of it with its captors (right). He developed the film quickly and had the photo on sale as a picture postcard in his shop within two hours!

Solva harbour was also a place of entertainment. Spectators would gather on the slopes each side to watch regattas. One participating sailing boat was capsized by a gust of wind during the 1910 regatta. Water polo matches were held in the harbour, sometimes during regattas. The 1907 regatta match was billed as “Solva v The World”. One match in 1906 involved 18 players.

During the First World War, a soldier from Cardiff suffered some embarrassment when he had to be rescued. Lance Corporal Woodward, of the Army Cyclist Corps, went for a swim in the harbour one afternoon in September 1915 but was too tired to swim all the way back. Onlookers heard his cries for help and Rees Palmer, also visiting from Cardiff, jumped in fully clothed and brought the soldier to safety with difficulty.

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