THE story behind one of Pembroke Dock’s “best kept secrets” is being told as part of a 200-year timeline on display at the town’s new heritage centre.

Shrouded in secrecy during the winter of 1978/79, the Millennium Falcon spaceship – destined to fly into film immortality in the Star Wars epic ‘The Empire Strikes Back – was built in one of the Dockyard’s flying boat hangers.

“I think this is one of Pembroke Dock’s best kept secrets,” said Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust trustee Phil Thompson. "Not many people realise the Millennium Falcon was built here."

The Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre, based at the beautifully restored Georgian Dockyard Chapel, opened its doors to the public for the first time last Friday (April 11).

A timeline and panels about specific events in the town’s history provide a central focus at the centre. From royal yacht launches to HMS Warrior and future American Presidents, Pembroke Dock’s colourful past is laid bare.

A Pegasus engine recovered from the Haven Sunderland, T9044, and a giant propeller are also on display, together with many other artefacts.

The centre's first VIP visitor was Pembroke Dock mayor Cllr Jane Phillips, who congratulated the team on their work.

“This is a really boost for Pembroke Dock and will hugely benefit the town’s regeneration,” she said. “This is another visitor attraction which will bring more and more people into Pembroke Dock.

“The centre has opened at a brilliant time as the town celebrates its bicentenary.”

Mr Thompson added: “The Sunderland Trust was launched in 2005 and there have been many stepping stones up to this point, but this is really the start of something big in this iconic building.

“I really think it will put Pembrokeshire on the map. There have been many key players but without our volunteers none of this would have been possible.”

The heritage centre is open Mondays to Saturdays, from 10am to 4pm. The Flying Boat Centre, by South Pembrokeshire Hospital, remains open as usual, from 10am to 4pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays.