Star Wars Millennium Falcon exhibition comes to Pembroke Dock to celebrate town that built the ship

The iconic Millennium Falcon spaceship, featured in the Star Wars franchise, was built in Pembroke Dock in the 1970s. Credit: PA Images

Pembroke Dock could soon see an influx of excited Star Wars fans after it was announced a Millennium Falcon exhibition is coming to the town later this year.

Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre will be housing the permanent instillation to celebrate the making of the iconic Star Wars spaceship in the town in 1979.

Photographs, film props and costumes will be on display, telling the story of how the life-size model was built.

The exhibition has been made possible by £8,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida is home to a Star Wars attraction and ride. Credit: PA Images

The model was made in Pembroke Dock for the Oscar-winning film The Empire Strikes Back. It appeared alongside characters including Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca.

Craftsmen from a local engineering firm built the impressive structure, the first of its type ever constructed, in a WW2 aircraft hangar in the town’s docks.

The work took place under a veil of secrecy but eventually word got out into the community that a UFO was being built.

"It was the worst kept secret in Pembroke Dock," recalled Gareth Mills, who is a trustee of the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust.

"Everybody in the town knew they were building a UFO in the hangar and that period of time and that story is an important part of the town’s living memory. 

"The story of the building of the Millennium Falcon in Pembroke Dock, which we will now be able to tell in a new and permanent exhibition, is an iconic event to fans across the globe."

Mr Mills added: "The exhibition, once opened, will provide a significant boost for Pembroke Dock with increased visitor numbers helping with the economic regeneration of our town and will also have major benefits for Pembrokeshire."

The Millennium Falcon is not Pembrokeshire's only connection to Star Wars. Lynwen Brennan, Lucasfilm executive vice president and general manager, is also from the county.

"I am so delighted that this wonderful moment and place in Star Wars history will be preserved,” said Ms Brennan.

"I love that such an iconic, beloved ship was built in the town where my Mum was born and in the county where I grew up, and I’m hopeful this exhibit will become a new destination for fans around the world."

The first Star Wars film was released in 1977 and the franchise has fans across the globe. Credit: PA Images

The Millennium Falcon exhibition is due to open midway through 2022 and local Star Wars expert and enthusiast Mark Williams will oversee the project.

Mr Williams said: "George Lucas set a new standard in both storytelling and film making with Star Wars and the story of the Millennium Falcon being built in Pembroke Dock was big news at the time.

"The whole world knew about it, then the story faded into legend."

Mr Williams, who is a member of the 501st Legion Star Wars costuming group, which sets out to promote interest in the film series, added: "With the recent resurgence of interest in the Star Wars franchise, a new generation of fans has been created and as these fans start to look deeper into the saga, older fans tell stories about the original trilogy.

"The idea of a town in west Wales making a significant contribution to this incredible story by being the place where one of the most iconic starships in science fiction history was built, creates a mixture of disbelief, awe and pride."

Andrew White, director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, said the exhibition will shed light on "an often overlooked and unknown but major Welsh contribution to film and cinema history".

He also explained: "The funding for the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK.

"It is just one of the more than 635,000 good causes in the UK that has received a share of over £41 billion raised by National Lottery players since 1994."