Piracy

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Piracy in the Haven.

1572

It was in this era that piracy was rampant on the west coasts of Wales, and our noble harbour of Milford with all its many creeks and reaches, was an excellent base from which to operate.

In this nefarious trade people from all classes were participants including admirals and customs officers, local priests, high municipal officers, victuallers, saddlers etc., and Haverfordwest was the centre of operations.

The position became so bad that the Government issued to Sir John Perrot (natural son of Henry VIII and at that time Vice Admiral for West Wales) a commission, “Sunder the Greate Seale of the Admiralitye for the suppression of Pyrattes”. Very little effective action appears to have been accomplished. Ships were openly brought into the harbour and everybody bought from the pirates including the Mayors of Haverfordwest, Pembroke and Tenby.

The two chief pirates were John Callice and Robert Hicks, who were frequently in Ship St (now Quay St), and lodged with Robert Marcroft, an innkeeper and well-known merchant of the town.

Even Sir John's old servant Herbert, turned pirate and commanded a ship called the ''Elephant'' which often sailed into port with its booty of Gascon wines, salt, wheat, rye and dried fish which he sold locally and many a tun of Gascon wine found its way to the cellars of Sir John at Carew and Haroldston.

The pirate Robert Hicks brought off one particular striking exploit by capturing the Prussian vesse1 “Jonas” of the Scilly Isles on its way to Lisbon and laden with timber, wheat, rye and salt. He sailed her into the haven and sold the cargo chiefly to the merchants of Haverfordwest. Even the local Sergeant of the Admiralty was not above suspicion in his dealings with the pirates.  

1577

During the reign of Elizabeth I the Privy Council sent an indignant letter to Sir John Perrot cataloguing the misdeeds of John Callice “whereas their Lordships are given to understand that one John Callice, a notable pirate frequenting that county and arriving lately at Milford, was lodged and housed at Haverfordwest, and being there known was suffered to escape, their Lordships do not a little marvel at the negligence of such as are Justices in those parts”.

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