St Ann’s Head

button_lang_frenchbutton_lang_welshSt Ann’s Head

This is one of the oldest lighthouse sites in Wales. The headland is near the entrance to the busy Milford Haven waterway and takes its name from St Ann's Chapel, built atop the cliffs in medieval times. Legend has it that King Henry VII ordered the chapel’s construction in thanksgiving for his safe landing at nearby Mill Bay in 1485, from where he marched to Bosworth and deposed King Richard III.

The chapel became an important landmark for mariners approaching the waterway in daylight. They needed to navigate carefully to avoid Crow Rock, about 11km (7 miles) south east of the headland. The chapel had a round tower, and at night a fire may have been maintained at the top as a navigational aid.

The first records of lighthouses here date from the 17th century. One chart shows two lighthouses. If that’s an accurate record, it would indicate early use of the system of showing two lights, giving mariners a precise bearing when the higher light was directly above the lower.

The remnants of that system are visible today. The taller lighthouse was decommissioned in 1910 and soon afterwards converted into a Coastguard signal station. The tower and its cottages are now a private residence.

The lower lighthouse still operates, remotely controlled from Essex. It was built in 1844 to replace an earlier tower, which was closer to the sea and threatened by cliff erosion.

Many ships were wrecked in the vicinity, despite the lighthouses’ presence. They included a steamer named Tormes, of Barcelona, which was travelling from Malaga to Liverpool with a cargo of fruit and wine when it hit Crow Rock in 1894 and quickly disintegrated with the loss of 21 of the 28 crew. One of the ship’s officers shot himself in the head on realising the hopelessness of his situation. Mutilations to the throats of two other sailors, whose bodies washed ashore, led to speculation that they too had killed themselves in preference to drowning.

Postcode: SA62 3RS    View Location Map

Wales Coastal Path Label Navigation anticlockwise buttonNavigation clockwise button