Seafaring in past times


From : John Risdon

The sea has always formed a strong link between the South Devon coast and the wider world. Coastal communities have learned to defend themselves from seaward attacks too. This seafaring tradition goes back many centuries. 

Here John Risdon, of the Galmpton & Churston District Local History Group (GCDLHG), writes about Tudor maritime history. The GCDLHG meets regularly and held a heritage week as part of the AONB 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2010, also featured on this website: GCDLHG celebration

Broad Reach

This open area of tidal Dart, the largest on the estuary, would have been where young lads of the surrounding Parishes learnt their initial seafaring skills during Tudor times (main picture).

In 1570, with the Spanish threat to England growing, a muster of mariners throughout the country was made.  Devon was to provide 1,250 mariners including the following from these communities:


CHURSTON  28                       





Gilberts of Greenway

In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert of Compton and Greenway planted the English flag on the New-found-land and gave breath to what was later to become the British Empire.

Just five years later, in July 1588, Sir John Gilbert of Greenway gathered together a local militia force of approximately 2000 men to face any possible Spanish landing from the Armada.



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Seafaring in past times

Captured Spanish galleon

The Nuestra Senora del Rosario was the only Spanish galleon to be captured from the Armada. Being one of the largest ships in the fleet, she was taken by Sir Francis Drake. She was escorted into Torbay by Roebuck, owned by Sir Walter Raleigh, commanded by Jacob Whiddon (see historic image, above.)

Having off-loaded the Spanish soldiers into Torre Abbey’s tithe barn the ship was brought round to Dartmouth and put under the command of Sir John Gilbert. From here she was brought up-river and anchored below the Anchor Stone, her crew then being made good use of in some early landscaping of Greenway garden!

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