The Quaker Walk

A walk around Quaker and other sites of Milford Haven

Typical whaling ship of the period.

Lord Hamilton, the local land owner, had petitioned parliament for permission to build a new town and port and an Act was passed in 1790 granting permission. He gave the job of overseeing the project to his nephew, Charles Greville MP.

Greville offered the opportunity to settle the new town to some whalers who has migrated to Nova Scotia from Nantucket Island in New England as a result of the American War of Independence.

The war, and the trade embargo that followed, had cut them off from the main market for their whale products: sperm oil for lamps and spermaceti candles being especially valued in London.

They arrived in five of their tall ships in August 1792, bringing their families and the trades men needed onshore to service the ships, such as sail makers, coopers, chandlers, rope makers and shipwrights.

They soon set to building the homes, warehouses and port facilities they needed.

Entrance from Priory Road


The first of the Nantucket Quakers died in 1801. She was Abigale Starbuck, wife of Samuel Starbuck snr. She was buried in the plot of land designated for Quaker use for burials and for building a Meeting House. Quakers have their own burial grounds as many Christians will not allow them to be buried in consecrated ground.

The Meeting House was built in 1811. Abiel Folger called it "a snug neet thing" in her diary entry for 1 March.

Meetings are still held here each Sunday and are open to all regardless of belief: we each bring our own truth with us, a truth that may mature and change over time.

Quakers sit in silence waiting for that truth to stir, which may compel them to rise and speak: or they may sit in contemplative silence. It is a discipline which has shaped many lives and which is the foundation of the testimonies of simplicity, integrity, equality and peace by which Quakers try to live.

​Inside the Meeting House is the Meeting Room with its original benches and panelling.

​The Meeting House, burial ground and gardens may be viewed by arrangement with the Clerk. All are welcome to come and spend time in our front garden, which is never locked. It is hoped  that it will always be a place of peace and tranquillity.

​In the garden is the last of the town's original gas street lights, presented to the Meeting House when it was removed from its location due to road improvements.

The whale oil store, now the town's museum


In 1792 a group of Quaker whalers, originally from Nantucket Island in New England, arrived with their ships in Milford Haven to settle with their families in the new town.

Creating the new town and port had been the idea of Lord Hamilton who had inherited the land all about from his first wife, Catherine Barlow, the daughter of Hugh Barlow, Member of Parliament for Pembroke Boroughs.

​His agent, Charles Greville, invited the Quaker whalers to settle because he realised they were hard working, honest, enterprising people capable of developing the port.

​Fifty Nantucketers arrived in five ships in 1792. Prominent among them were three ship owning Quaker families – the Starbucks, the Folgers and the Rotches.

​Samual Starbuck senior was the spokesman for the colony. He built his house, Priory Lodge, inland. The other whalers preferred to have their homes overlooking the sea and the new port. An American influence is noticeable in the architecture of their houses and in the strict grid-iron layout of the town and also the width of the streets.

Milford Haven port


The port is where the Quaker whalers landed in 1792. Soon about twenty of their ships were sailing to America, the South Atlantic, the Southern Ocean and the Pacific. The Nantuckers were known as the masters of the Southern Whale Fisheries: they had the expert knowledge of where and when the wales were to be found, and the skills needed to catch them.

Typically their ships were at sea for between eighteen months and two years, returning only when their holds were full. The picture at the top of the page is of a typical whaling ship of the period. The smaller boat towards the stern was the one actually used to hunt the whales from. Four members of the crew rowed whilst the harpooner stood in the bows. It was a very dangerous and risky business.

​As well as the all important whale products, they also brought back extra cargo such as sugar, maize, wheat, molasses, coffee, dried beef and timber.

​The Quakers also owned a number of smaller coasters for transhipping products on to London and Bristol. 

​Many of the old workshops and storehouses are no more, but the large red-sandstone building that contained the old customs house and whale oil store is now the town's museum.

​The sperm oil industry on which much of the fortune of the town rested, came to an end with the introduction of coal gas lighting.

Daniel Starbuck's home


Dartmouth House was the home of the whaler Daniel Starbuck.

Hamilton Terrace was originally called Front Street. It is where the ship owners and other important people lived and had their business.

​Parallel were Middle Street, now Charles Street, where the tradesmen had their premises, and Back Street, now Robert Street, where the sailors and other workers had their homes. There is also evidence that the streets were sometimes known in the American fashion as 1st Street, 2nd Street and 3rd Street.

​Daniel Starbuck fitted out six whaling ships. Some of the cargoes they brought home were valued at £12,000, a fortune at the time.

​Daniel and Abigail his wife were also shopkeepers in the town, an occupation that required them to pay tithes to the Anglican Church at Steynton. In 1811 he was punished by the magistrates because as a Quaker he refused to pay. ​Daniel began a long battle to justify his refusal. He lost, but still refused to pay. Eventually distraint was made on his stores and his goods were seized to the value of £2 in settlement. 

Samuel Starbuck Jr


Now the Haven Hotel it was built for Samuel Starbuck Jnr. Samuel was Daniel's brother whose house, stands opposite.

Samuel was married to Lucretia Folger, the daughter of Timothy Folger, another of the Quaker whalers, who lived further up Front Street (Hamilton Terrace) at number 28. Samuel and Lucretia had six children.

Samuel was appointed Superintendent of Wrecks, an important post in those days, which took him all round the coast of Pembrokeshire, supervising salvage and inquiring into the causes of each shipwreck.

​Like his brother Daniel, Samuel also was fined by the magistrates because, as a Quaker, he would not join the militia.

Lord Nelson Hotel


Originally called the New Inn. It was something of a transport hub for the new town. Here horses could be hired or rested, carriages rented, carters hired, and it was where the mail coach would stop, as well as being a place where food and accommodation were offered.

Its name was changed when in 1802 Lord Nelson was entertained at the inn during his triumphant tour across England and Wales. He was accompanied by Lord and Lady Hamilton.

Lady Hamilton (Emma Hart) was Nelson's mistress at the time. She had previously been Greville's mistress before marrying Lord Hamilton and accompanying him to Naples, where he was ambassador to the court, and where she became a close friend and confidant of the Queen, Maria Carolina. It was whilst they were at the court in Naples that the Hamiltons met Nelson shortly after his victory at the Battle of the Nile. Emma and Nelson almost immediately became lovers. When Sir William was recalled to London, the three of them made a triumphant tour of European capitals on their way home, and set up home together near London.

Nelson paid great tribute to the work that had gone to develop the town and said of the Milford waterway that it compared with Trincomalee, and that they were the two best harbours that he had ever seen.

Wellington bomber


Although Quakers observe the Peace Testimony, which means they try not take part in wars but work for peace instead by tending to the damage wars cause by providing refuge for those in need of shelter, relief for those who suffer, and by finding opportunities for reconciliation between the hostile parties.

Quakers have always respected those who do fight, and grieve for all the victims of war, both military and civilian.

Benjamin Rotche's house


Number 25, Hamilton Terrace, was built for Benjamin Rotch, the wealthiest of the Quaker whalers. After leaving American he based his trading operation in Dunkirk but, because of the revolution in France, he was forced to moved to Milford Haven. His arrival in 1794 gave a considerable boost to the towns development. 

His knowledge of French once caused problems. He was talking in that language to a business associate at the Castle Hotel in Haverfordwest when the local suspected him of being a spy for Napoleon.

​Rotch's daughter, Eliza, records in her memoirs, the confrontation between the infamous Lady Hamilton and her mother:

The weather was very warm when Lady Hamilton was in Milford and she walked about the town in two garments only, showing her shape most indecently. My mother resolved to take no notice of Lady Hamilton, and – being on the eve of her confinement – she excused herself from calling on her.

But the bold woman was resolved that it should not be said that Mrs Rotch would not receive her; so one very warm day, when all our doors and windows stood open, she walked into our drawing room, where my mother and I were sitting, and greeted us very familiarly.

Though I was but a child, I was struck with the coldness of my mother's reception, and wondered that she was not more cordial to such a lovely and fascinating guest.

Benjamin's increasing wealth enabled him to buy Castle Hall on the east of the town, and to turn No.25 into the town's first bank.

War memorial, Milford Haven


This is the town's memorial to the soldiers, sailors and airmen killed in the First World War, 1914-18; the Second World War, 1939-45; the Korean War, 1950-53; and the Iraq War, 2007.​

Quakers also try to remember all the civilians who have died as a result of war. It is often not realised that civilian war deaths are frequently more numerous than military deaths. Some Quakers will wear a white poppy in remembrance of all of the victims of war, not just the military victims.

Sometimes you may also see purple poppies which are to remember the animal victims of war.

​The Quaker Peace Testimony means that they seek for better ways of settling international disputes. As part of such efforts Quakers maintain a Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and another in New York. Quakers were granted consultative status at the UN in 1948. A privilege they use to advocate for the victims of war.

In 1947 the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their peace work.

Timothy Folger's house


No. 28, now the Belhaven Hotel, was the home of the Quaker whaler Timothy Folger and his wife Abiel. He was the nephew of the American statesman Benjamin Franklin, one of the authors of the American Declaration of Independence.

Timothy was a very experienced sea captain. After setting up in Milford he oversaw the provision of grain stores for the ships. He later provided food when the harvest failed in Pembrokeshire. He was eventually made the American Consul in Britain.

​We know a lot about Abail, his wife, because of the diary she kept between 1806 and 1811, which has survived, and which we have a copy of in the Meeting House. It is full of cryptic entries:

​I have made two Shirts this week I think that prity well for a woman in her 75 year.  ​Captain Gwinns Blackman Departed last night with the Small pox. 

30 Hamilton


This is believed to be the home of the Frenchman, Jean Louis Barrallier, a highly skilled naval constructor.

He fled the Reign of Terror unleashed in France under Robespierre in 1793. Charles Greville appointed him to be the chief town planner for Milford Haven and to supervise the building of a shipyard.

​Greville, Barrallier and the Quakers worked in close collaboration in designing and creating the port and the town.

​We know from Abail Folger's diary that Barrallier became a close and valued friend with whom they often shared a meal. 

Great Eastern


In the wall near to a four foot high metal post is a plaque commemorating the development of ships in the era following the Quaker settlers.​

In 1875 Brunel's ship, The Great Eastern, was brought into Milford Haven for repairs. She was designed by Brunel to carry passengers to Australia non-stop.

She was used to lay the first transatlantic telegraphy cable.

​She was the largest ship of her day, some 692 feet long (211metres). She would have stretched all the way from the plaque to St Katherine's Church at the top of the road. 

Ostend memorial


During the First World War the Belgian trawlers, fishermen and their families were evacuated to Milford Haven. They were made welcome and the Belgian fishing fleet operated out of Milford for some years.

In both wars, and at may other times, Quaker were actively engaged in work with refugees, displaced people, and other victims of war, most famously with the Kindertransports in 1938-9.

In 1947 the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for such peace work. Quakers still continue such work today.

Memorial to the fishermen of Milford Haven


The memorial in honour of the fishermen of Milford Haven, which, starting as a whaling port went on to become one of the principle fishing port of the UK.

The Haven has been used for ships ever since Viking times. The name Milford may come from the Norse Meir Fjord meaning Sandy inlet

​Shakespeare certainly knew about the Haven for in his play Cymbeline he wrote:


​How far us it

To this same blessed Milford?

And by the way

Tell me how Wales was made so happy as 

To inherit such a Haven. 

The Quaker walk now returns to the Meeting House past St Katherine & St Peter's Church, along Charles Street to Priory Road and ends at the Friends Meeting House.