In January 1856, probably on a cold winter’s day, a light locomotive inspected the newly-laid railway lines which connected Neyland to Johnston. On board were a number of engineers including perhaps the world’s greatest, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, creator of all manner of technical marvels from railways to bridges and mighty steam ships. Brunel himself had selected Neyland to be his terminus where the South Wales Railway would reach the shore of the Milford Haven waterway. Brunel had aspirations of the new terminus bringing forth a port where trade to Ireland and perhaps further afield would be commonplace.
The arrival of the railway (officially opening on 15 April 1856) gave birth to an entirely new community which Brunel visited a number of times. He had visited the place when it was only a small insignificant village, back in 1851. What a transformation in just a few years. In 1857 Brunel oversaw the launch of a massive floating pontoon which rode the high tidal range in the Haven and he came to visit again in 1858. He died in September of the following year (1859) desperately overworked.
Neyland’s Brunel connections are numerous and include the South Wales Hotel (where he almost certainly stayed) and the Great Eastern steamship, his bête noire which called in twice in 1860-1 and 1862. Not for nothing is Brunel Neyland’s founding father.
Modern Neyland today boasts of a Brunel Quay, Brunel Avenue and Great Eastern Terrace. We also have a Brunel Festival Association established back in 1987. The association organises a week of events every July and helps to cement what is already a very close-knit community. The events include music festivals, walks, talks, fun day, all in honour of Neylandï¿½s founder. We also work with the Youth Club, Bowls Club, and Yacht Club to sponsor events . We assist the Churches Together to host the annual Songs of Praise celebrations in the Hotel Gardens on the quay. We hope your visit to our website gives you a flavour of the rich and diverse activities going on in Neyland every summer.
Perhaps the most symbolic connection between Neyland and Brunel was the bronze statue which stood on the currently empty plinth in the gardens by the quay. Here HRH the Prince of Wales unveiled the last commission of Robert Thomas, the noted Welsh sculptor on 23 July 1999. You can see the quality of the piece from the photographs on this site. Sadly the statue was stolen in August 2010 leaving a visible chasm in the sense of local identity. The statue has never been found. Happily an identical statue is being cast using the late sculptorï¿½s original mould and it will be in place before the end of 2012. Watch this website for details.
We are especially pleased to have an article on this site by renowned Brunel expert, Stephen K. Jones, author of three acclaimed books on Brunel in South Wales. Also do watch the Events Page giving details of the Festival and other events which we occasionally host during the year. We have raised thousands of pounds for charity over the past two and a half decades many to local good causes as well as to national ones like the RNLI and Macmillan Cancer support.
Enjoy our site and do pay us a visit. During Brunel Festival Season the town really knows how to put on a good show.
Photograph of Isambard Kingdom Brunel courtesy of Ashley Warlow
Fireworks photographs provided courtesy of Gareth Davies Photographer www.garethdaviesphotographytenby.co.uk
Simon Hancock MA FSA
Brunel Festival Association