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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Hallsands, No Sand

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas NOVEMBER. 12, 2020

[99-365] 12th. November 2020- This is the village of Hallsands. The earliest history of the village is not documented but there has been a chapel there since 1506. It grew through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a thriving fishing village which even had it's own pub, The London Inn. So where is the sand and what happened to the village.

This is what it looked like in 1885 and at it's peak it had a population of 159. Like nearby Beesands and Torcross the houses fronted the beach and the fishing boats were pulled up onto the beach which also served as the front yard for repairing and drying fishing nets and drying washing. Beesands and Torcross now have sea defences to protect the houses but they still do have a beach out front.

Maritime Archaeology Trust

In the 1890s, following a scheme proposed by Sir John Jackson, it was decided to expand the naval dockyard at Keyham, near Plymouth, and dredging began offshore from Hallsands to provide sand and gravel for its construction. Soon, up to 1,600 tons of material was being removed each day, and the level of the beach began to drop, much to the alarm of local residents. The Board of Trade agreed to establish a local inquiry in response to protests from villagers, who feared that the dredging might destabilise the beach and thereby threaten the village. The inquiry found that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat to the village, so dredging continued. By 1900, however, the level of the beach had started to fall. In 1900's autumn storms, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Rural District Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road. In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped. On 8 January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked. During 1902 the level of the beach recovered, but 1902 winter brought more storms and damage.

On 26 January 1917, a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences, and by the end of that year only one house remained habitable. The villagers' fight for compensation took seven years.

According to Pathe News newsreel footage from 1960, the last inhabitant of the village was Mrs. Elizabeth Prettejohn. (Wikipedia)

Below is Beesands today, set behind it's sea wall. It still has a great pub, The Cricket Inn, that does a mean Fish and Chips, a small fishing enterprise for shellfish in the bay and a fish selling business Britannia Shellfish.

Below, the South West Coast Path is just visible as a diagonal line rising from top right above Hallsands to bottom left. From there it continues around to the Start Point Lighthouse, where I am standing.

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