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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Ancient Dartmouth

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas SEPTEMBER. 01, 2020

[27-365] 1st September 2020- This is a dual purpose 365 project and photo-walk today.


Dartmouth is a small town in Devon, very popular with tourists and yet relatively unspoiled and original in feel. It is an historic naval port, home to the Britannia Naval College where Princess Diana met her Prince. Set on the western bank 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 and South Hams district.

It is described in Daniel Defoe's "A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain". 1724

"From hence we went still south about seven miles, (all in view of this river) to Dartmouth, a town of note, seated at the mouth of the river Dart, and where it enters into the sea at

a very narrow, but safe entrance; The opening into Dartmouth Harbour is not broad, but the channel deep enough for the biggest ship in the royal navy; the sides of the entrance are

high mounded with rocks; without which just at the first narrowing of the passage, stands a good strong fort without a platform of guns, which commands the port. "

"The narrow entrance is not much above half a mile, when it opens and makes a basin, or harbour able to receive 500 sail of ships of any size, and where they may ride with the greatest safety, even as in a mill-pond, or wet-dock:"

"I had the curiosity here with the assistance of a merchant of the town to go out to the mouth of the haven in a boat to see the entrance, and

castle, or fort that commands it; "

"Round the west side of this basin, or harbour in a kind of a semicircle, lyes the town of Dartmouth, a very large and populous town, tho' but meanly built, and standing on the side

of a steep hill; yet the key is large, and the street before it spacious. Here are some very flourishing merchants, who trade very prosperously, and to the most considerable trading ports of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Plantations; but especially, they are great traders to Newfoundland, and from thence to Spain, and Italy with fish, and they drive a good trade also, in their own fishery of pilchards, which is hereabouts carried on with the greatest number of vessels of any port, in the west, except Falmouth. "

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, upon realising that the Speedwell was unseaworthy, it returned to Plymouth. The Mayflower departed alone to complete the crossing to Cape Cod. Dartmouth's sister city is Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

The Royal Castle Hotel was built in 1639 on the then new quay. The building was re-fronted in the 19th century, and as the new frontage is itself listed, it is not possible to see the original which lies beneath.

The ferry has been transporting vehicles and foot passengers between Dartmouth and Kingswear since the 1700s.

The Ferry is operated using a floating platform pushed along by a tug.

The crossing offers lovely views of Dartmouth, Kingswear, Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth Castle and the open sea.

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