Walk - Dartmouth Town Trail
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the Dartmouth Higher Ferry continue on North Embankment along the waterfront.
- At the end of Coronation Park, on your right, leave the North Embankment to turn right and walk as far as Clarence Street, with the Ship in Dock Inn on the corner.
Coronation Park was created from land filled in to build the North Embankment in 1937. Until then there were shipyards here on the edge of an area known as Coombe Mud, and a warehouse with hooks for unloading cargoes can still be seen on Mayor's Avenue, which was reclaimed at the same time.
The Dart lifeboat station in Coronation Park was re-established in 2007. There was a Lifeboat Station at Dartmouth from 1878 until 1896. In 18 years they only launched 3 times and only assisted 1 vessel. In 1896 the boat was withdrawn. The inshore lifeboat station was completed in October 2007 at a cost of £175,000. The D Class inshore lifeboat serves the Dart river as far as Totnes and the surrounding coastline from Start Point to Berry Head.
- Turn left along Clarence Street, taking the steps on your left to walk along King's Quay, turning right at the end onto Mayor's Avenue.
Being close to the docks, Clarence Street was a favourite place for sea captains to live. The original shoreline of the Hardness ridge was along Undercliff, to your right as you walk along King's Quay.
- Carry on along Mayor's Avenue, around the left-hand bend, passing the Tourist Information Centre to go on to The Quay.
Visit the Newcomen Engine House, celebrating the first steam engine used to pump out mines, designed in 1712 by Dartmouth ironmonger Thomas Newcomen.
The Quay was reclaimed between 1588 and 1640 for ships returning from the fishing grounds in Newfoundland. Between 1578 and 1605 Dartmouth was the departure port for the explorers Sir Humphrey Gilbert and John Davis, and after Gilbert colonised Newfoundland the town became heavily involved in developing the fisheries there. A fleet of up to 150 vessels sailed to the fishing grounds at the beginning of each season, salting and drying the catch on Newfoundland beaches before bringing it back to Europe to trade it for wines and other luxuries.
Sir Walter Raleigh and other Elizabethan seafarers also used the town to bring home treasure captured from Spanish ships in the English Channel. After Dartmouth ships helped defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588, the captured galleon Madre de Dios was brought here with all her spoils. The site of the Royal Avenue Gardens was reclaimed between 1670 and 1680 to provide more mooring space for all this activity and for the next two centuries, this was an island linked by a bridge to the New Quay.
- Continue along The Quay, turning left after the Boat Float to go down to the South Embankment.
Many of the houses along The Quay date from the seventeenth century. Note the Butterwalk, built in 1635, on Duke Street on your right. In 1885 the North and South Embankments were created in response to the need for a harbour capable of taking ships at low water, although there was a strong protest from shipbuilders with businesses along Mayor's Avenue, which was cut off from the river as a result. New Quay, also cut off, was given access to the water via a passage under the embankment, creating the Boat Float.
- Turn right on the South Embankment and keep going to the end, turning right here through Cole's Court.
The earliest rowboat ferry across the river was replaced in 1834 by the horse ferry, which had a capacity for two horses and carts. This operated from the same part of Dartmouth as does the Lower Ferry today. To the left, as you turn right onto Lower Street is Agincourt House, built in the fourteenth century.
- Turn left down Lower Street and carry on along beside the river to Bayard's Cove Fort.
The castle and quay at Bayard's Cove date from the sixteenth century and have featured as the location for many films as well as the 'Onedin Line' TV series. The Pilgrim Fathers paused here in 1620 on their way from Southampton to the New World. Five centuries before, the English fleet had left from here for the crusades. In the fourteenth century, Dartmouth was the fourth richest port in Devon. In 1347 it supplied 760 men and 30 ships to the siege of Calais, making it the third largest contributing port in the country.
A number of raids on French ships and ports, led by Dartmouth mayor John Hawley, led to the town becoming an object of French retaliation. Often these raids were with royal consent, and in 1374 Edward III became so concerned that he ordered Hawley to build a castle at the mouth of the river. After a French attack in 1377, Hawley complied, building a 'fortalice' between 1388 and 1400, later stringing a chain between here and Godmerock, across the river. There was a lot of military transport between Dartmouth and France until the loss of Aquitaine in 1453.
- From the old castle take the steps into Southtown, turning right to walk along Newcomen Road, bearing left along Higher Street and then turning left on Smith Street.
The Cherub Inn, a former merchant's house built around 1380, is thought to be Dartmouth's oldest building.
- Turn right off Smith Street almost immediately to bear left on Anzac Street, continuing past St Saviour's Church to carry on along Foss Street.
St Saviour's Church was built in 1335 and consecrated in 1372, and its monuments include John Hawley's tomb and a medieval ironwork door decorated with two Plantagenet leopards, thought to be from the original building.
The process of land reclamation is also evident in this area. It began in the thirteen century when the tidal inlet between the two fishing hamlets was dammed to make a mill pool, using the tide to drive two water wheels. Foss Street marks the site of the dam. The mill pool was filled in during the nineteenth century and the Market Square and New Road (now Victoria Road) were built. This was the first road for wheeled vehicles, and prior to this packhorses were used to carry goods inland. Browns Hill (below) was the main packhorse route out of town.
Off to your left as you walk along Foss Street is the Victorian Pannier Market, part of the extensive town improvements associated with the filling-in of the mill pool.
- At the end of Foss Street cross The Square and carry on up Browns Hill. Turn left on the steps and follow them uphill, bearing right to come out on Clarence Hill. Turn right and walk down to Clarence Street, carrying on ahead to turn left after Coronation Park and retrace your steps to the Higher Ferry.