Dart estuary heritage

Dart estuary, Dartmouth, Kingswear, Totnes

From : South Devon AONB

Our five estuaries form one of the most special features of the South Devon AONB. They each have a rich and distinctive history of their own. In June 2010 the AONB unit held an open evening for people interested in estuary heritage. Here are some of the memories and thoughts shared about the Dart Estuary.


There was a railway terminus on the quay at Kingswear where coal could be brought down for the ships. It was also a major shellfish trading station, one of the biggest in the country.

Kingswear was a significant ship yard for trawlers. British Steel built Chay Blyth’s boat at Phillips yard. In the 1950s and 60s he sailed in it round the world against the wind.

Kingswear Historians have done some recording of oral histories, so there’s already a good archive and a website. They meet on the first Monday of the month.

Dartmouth to Totnes

In the 1950s and 60s they used to crane timber into Dartmouth harbour and tow it up to Totnes by boat to boat build. There were significant imports into Totnes where Reeves timber yard started. There’s recent book published about the Baltic Wharf.

There’s a traditional (wood building) boatyard in the Old Mill, Dartmouth – building large traditional vessels.

Much longer ago Dartmouth was a major port for the import of wine from medieval Europe. Later the Newman family started as privateers then became legitimate in port trade – they were part of the triangle of trade with the Americas.

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Dart estuary heritage

A lot has already been published about Dartmouth and the Second World War. For example the Free French had a navy headquarters at mouth of the estuary at Brookshill. They’d send agents on high speed boats to the continent.

Thanks to Paul Folca, Geoff Foal and Roger Barrett for sharing these thoughts.

Do you have something to share about the heritage of the Dart estuary? We'd love to hear from you.

At the same meeting we discussed the other local estuaries. Use these links to read more: Yealm, Erme, Avon, Salcombe-Kingsbridge

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