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Coordinates: 50°21′04″N 3°34′44″W / 50.351°N 3.579°W / 50.351; -3.579

Dartmouth
Dartmouth.town.750pix.jpg
Dartmouth from the River Dart
Dartmouth is located in Devon
Dartmouth

 Dartmouth shown within Devon
Population 5,512 (Parish)
OS grid reference SX877514
Parish Dartmouth
District South Hams
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town DARTMOUTH
Postcode district TQ6
Dialling code 01803
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Totnes
List of places: UK • England • Devon

Dartmouth is a town in Devon in South West England. It is a tourist destination set on the banks of the estuary of the River Dart, which is a long narrow tidal ria that runs inland as far as Totnes. It lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Contents

History

Dartmouth was of strategic importance as a deep-water port for sailing vessels. The port was used as the sailing point for the Crusades of 1147 and 1190, and a creek close to Dartmouth Castle is supposed by some to be named for the vast fleets which assembled there (Warfleet Creek). It was a home of the Royal Navy since the reign of Edward III and was twice surprised and sacked during the Hundred Years' War, after which the mouth of the estuary was closed every night with a great chain. The narrow mouth of the Dart is protected by two fortified castles, Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle.

In 1373 Geoffrey Chaucer visited and among the pilgrims in his Canterbury Tales

A schipman was ther, wonyng fer by weste;
For ought I wost, he was of Dertemouthe.

Notwithstanding Dartmouth's connections with the crown and respectable society, it was a major base for privateering (state sanctioned or licensed piracy) in medieval times.

The town is dominated by the Royal Navy's officer training college (Britannia Royal Naval College) and all officers of the Royal Navy, as well as many foreign navies, are trained there.

The Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta takes place annually over three days at the end of August.

Originally Dartmouth's only wharf was Bayard's Cove, a relatively small but picturesque area protected by a fort at the southern end of the town. Bayard's Cove has been used in several television productions, because of its 18th century buildings; photographs are on show in the Dartmouth Arms public house.

The made up embankment which today extends the whole length of the town's riverbank is the result of 19th century land reclamation, started in earnest when the town played host to a large number of prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars which formed a captive workforce. Prior to this, what is now the town centre was almost entirely tidal mud flats.

Henry Hudson put into Dartmouth on his return from America, and was arrested for sailing under a foreign flag. The Pilgrim Fathers put into Dartmouth's Bayard's Cove, en-route from Southampton to America. They rested a while before setting off on their journey in the Mayflower and the Speedwell on 20 August 1620. About 300 miles west of Land's End, they realised that the Speedwell was unseaworthy and returned to Plymouth. The Mayflower departed alone to complete the crossing to Cape Cod.

Part of the town's river front

The town contains historic buildings, the most obvious of which is the Butterwalk, built 1635 to 1640. Its intricately carved wooden fascia is supported on granite columns. Charles II held court in the Butterwalk whilst sheltering from storms in 1671 in a room which now forms part of Dartmouth Museum. Much of the interior survives from that time, as does at least one ghost. The Royal Castle Hotel was built in 1639 on the then new quay. The building was refronted in the 19th century, and as the new frontage is itself listed, it is not possible to see the original which lies beneath. A claimant for the oldest building is a former merchant's house in Higher Street, now a Good Beer Guide listed public house called the Cherub, built circa 1380. Agincourt House (next to the Lower Ferry) is also 14th century.

The Royal Avenue Gardens

The remains of a fort at Gallants Bower just outside the town are some of the best preserved remains of a Civil War defensive structure. The fort was built by Royalist occupation forces in c. 1643 to the south east of the town, with a similar fort at Mount Ridley on the opposite slopes of what is now Kingswear. The Parliamentarian General Fairfax attacked from the north in 1646, taking the town and forcing the Royalists to surrender, after which Gallants Bower was demolished.

In the latter part of World War II the town was a base for American forces and one of the departure points for Utah Beach in the D Day landings. Much of the surrounding countryside was closed to the public while it was used by US troops for practise landings and manoeuvres.

The Onedin Line, a popular BBC television drama series that ran from 1971 to 1980, was filmed here

Governance

The town was an ancient borough, incorporated by Edward III, known formally as Clifton-Dartmouth-Hardness, and consisting of the three parishes of St Petrox, St Saviour and Townstall, and incorporating the hamlets of Ford, Old Mill and Norton.[1] It was reformed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The town returned two members of parliament from the 13th century until 1835, after which one MP was elected until the town was disenfranchised in 1868. It remained a municipal borough until 1974, when it was merged into the South Hams district, and became a successor parish of Dartmouth with a town council.[2][3]

Dartmouth Town Council is the lowest of three tiers of local government. It consists of 16 councillors representing the two wards of Clifton and Townstal. At the second tier, Dartmouth forms part of the Dartmouth and Kingswear ward of South Hams District Council, which returns one councillor.[4] At the upper tier of local government Dartmouth and Kingswear Electoral Division elects one member to Devon County Council.[5]

Transport

Dartmouth is linked to Kingswear, on the other side of the River Dart, by three ferries. The Higher Ferry and the Lower Ferry are both vehicular ferries. The Passenger Ferry, as its name suggests, carries only passengers, principally to connect with the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway at Kingswear station. The nearest bridge across the Dart is in Totnes, some 11 miles (18 km) away by road.[6]

Dartmouth station building, now a restaurant.

The A379 road runs through Dartmouth, linking the town to Slapton and Kingsbridge to the southwest and to Torbay to the east across the Higher Ferry. The A3122 connects Dartmouth to a junction with the A381, and hence to both Totnes and a more direct route to Kingsbridge. First Devon & Cornwall provides local town bus services and links to Totnes, Torquay, Kingsbridge and Plymouth. [[Stagecoach Devon provides links to the Torbay resorts of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay from Kingswear via the ferry.

No railway has ever run to Dartmouth, but the town does have a railway station, [7] although it is now a restaurant. The railway line to Kingswear was opened in 1864, the original plans for the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway line took the line across a bridge and into the town. Opposition from local seamen and merchants saw the route diverted to Kingswear on the opposite side of the river, but this occurred after the station had been built at Dartmouth. The railway terminated at a station called "Kingswear for Dartmouth" (now on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway) and a ferry took passengers across the river to the station at Dartmouth railway station, which had a dedicated pontoon. British Railways closed the line to mainline passenger trains in 1973, but re-opened as a heritage line and has run as one ever since.

Kingswear seen from Dartmouth

Schools

Dartmouth has one secondary school (Dartmouth Community College) and two primary schools (Dartmouth Primary school and St John the Baptist R.C. Primary School). Dartmouth Community College and Dartmouth Primary School are part of the Dartmouth Learning Campus; as from September 2007, Dartmouth Community College is part of a federation with Dartmouth Primary School and Nursery meaning that the two schools share one governing body for pupils aged birth to 19.

Notable former and present residents

Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the steam pumping engine was born in Dartmouth in 1663. The location of his house in Lower Street is marked with a plaque, although the building itself was demolished (and reconstructed on Ridge Hill) in the 19th century to make way for a new road which was named after Newcomen. An 18th century working Newcomen engine is on display in the town.

The town was home to the civil engineer and mathematical genius George Parker Bidder (1806-1878), who is notable for his work on railways over much of the world, as well as the docks of the East End in the Port of London. Bidder served on the town council, and his expertise was instrumental in draining the area which is now the centre of the town, but was then part of the River Dart. He also undertook pioneering work on steam trawling whilst living in the town. Bidder died at his home at Paradise Point near Warfleet Creek and is buried at nearby Stoke Fleming.

Flora Thompson lived in Above Town between 1928 and 1940, writing Lark Rise and Over to Candleford during this time. The books were later combined into a single volume with the later Candleford Green to form the well-known Lark Rise to Candleford. She is buried at Longcross Cemetery.

The noted stage and film actress Rachel Kempson (1910-2003) was born in Dartmouth. She was the wife of Sir Michael Redgrave and mother of Vanessa, Lynn and Corin, and published her autobiography, Life among the Redgraves, in 1988.

Gordon Onslow Ford [1](1912-2003), a leading British surrealist painter, attended the Royal Naval College.

References

  1. ^ Pigot & Co.'s Devonshire (1830) GenUKi
  2. ^ The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972 (S.I. 1972 No. 2039)
  3. ^ The Local Government (Successor Parishes) Order 1973 (S.I. 1973 No. 1110)
  4. ^ Dartmouth Town Councillors, Dartmouth Town Council, accessed March 21, 2008
  5. ^ Division 36: Dartmouth and Kingswear, Devon County Council, accessed March 21, 2008
  6. ^ "Dart Harbour : Ferries". The Dart Harbour and Navigation Authority. http://www.dartharbour.org/harbour-river-guide/ferries/. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  7. ^ http://www.southdevonaonb.org.uk/text.asp?PageId=200

External links

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