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Help and advice for Dartmouth 1868

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[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]

"DARTMOUTH, (or Clifton Dartmouth Hardness), a parish, seaport, petty sessions, and market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of Coleridge, in the county of Devon, 25 miles S. of Exeter. It is pleasantly situated on an acclivity at the mouth of the river Dart, and contains Townstal, Norton, and Oldmill. The manor of Dartmouth was granted by William the Conqueror to Judhael de Totnais, but subsequently became vested in the corporation. It was at this port that the Crusaders embarked for the Holy Land in 1190. Dartmouth was destroyed by fire by the French in the reigns of Richard I. and Henry IV., but on their landing a third time, in 1404, they were intercepted and slain by the peasants. Both the contending parties warmly contested this place during the parliamentary war; it was garrisoned by Prince Maurice and stormed by Fairfax in 1646. It is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councilmen, with a recorder; and from the reign of Edward III. to the passing of the Reform Bill returned two members to parliament; it now returns but one member.

The Newfoundland fisheries first gave importance to the trade of Dartmouth, and they are still carried on to a great extent. The harbour is famed for its security, and is capable of containing 500 vessels. The largest ship in the royal navy could anchor 4 miles up the Dart. The entrance to the harbour is guarded by a fortified castle, opposite Kingswear old castle. A few years back a government commission gave the preference to Dartmouth as a foreign mail-packet station, though Southampton still retains the privilege. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the fisheries, in ship-building, rope-making, and the coasting trade. St. Petrox light, 49 feet high, and visible 7 miles, was erected in 1837. There are two quays: the New Quay, or New Ground, a commodious landing-place, with a fine promenade, lined with trees and faced with handsome shops; and Bearscove Quay, on which the custom-house is built. Steamboats ply to and from Totnes every day. On the western shore of the river are several large yards for ship-building.

The limits of the municipal and parliamentary boroughs are co-extensive, comprising 799 houses, inhabited by a population of 4,508 in 1851, which in 1861 had decreased to 4 444, though the houses had increased to 825. The streets rise gradually from the water, and have the appearance of terraces interspersed with gardens, at different elevations. Some of the houses are very old, and adorned with carvings.

The scenery in the neighbourhood is very beautiful. The Keep is a new castellated stone building, and there are other recently erected and handsome houses. The castle is surrounded by rocky cliffs, and the spring-tide all but reaches to the walls of the fortifications. There is a fort, or block-house, towards the channel, which, in 1856, was fitted up as a summer residence. Warfleet, about three quarters of a mile out of the town, is a picturesque valley, where a large brewery and corn-mill have been built. Paradise fort, mentioned by General Fairfax, used to stand to the N. of Warfleet, but it, has lately been removed to make room for a marine villa.

The living, Townstal with St. Saviour's annexed, is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter, value with the curacy of St. Saviour, £135, in the patronage of Sir H. P. Seale, Bart. The church which is dedicated to St. Clement, is an ancient stone structure in the early English style, with square tower and four bells. The parish church of St. Saviour, or Mayor's Church, as sometimes called, was erected in the 13th century, as a chapel of ease to Townstal. It is a stone structure, with square tower and eight bells; the internal workmanship is very beautiful. There is a stone pulpit, and a wooden screen supposed to be the finest in England, A western window and doorway were added about 1853. The altar-piece, "Christ raising the Widow's Son," was painted by Brockedon, a native of Totnes. There are brasses of Sir J. Hawley (the founder of the chancel) and family, in 1389. There is also the church of St. Petrox, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £120, in the patronage of the Rector of Stoke Fleming. It is an old stone edifice, and stands on an eminence behind the castle, a mile S. of the town. A chapel-of-ease in the Higher-street, was erected in 1831 at a cost of about £2 000 raised by subscription. The Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists, Independents, sad Plymouth Brethren have each a chapel.

A floating bridge was opened in 1831 across the river at Sand Quay, some 1,650 feet broad; and convenient for persons going to Exeter, Brixham, &c. Adjoining the New Quay are four ancient houses with rich exterior carvings of the 17th century; one is used as an assembly-room, and for lectures and concerts. A railway, connecting Dartmouth with Torquay and Exeter, is now in rapid progress. There are also a bank and a prison. A market-house was erected in 1829, and there are National schools for 400 children. The charities amount to £94 per annum. Sir H. P. Scale, Bart., is lord of the manor. Dartmouth gives the title of earl to the Legges, of Dartmouth House. A regatta is held in August.

A market is held weekly on Friday, for the sale of provisions, and one on the Monday before the third Wednesday in each month for cattle.

Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003