Favorite thing: Historically the river Dart estuary has been known for its excellent deep water harbour. The Saxons reached the Dart from the west by 705 AD., and although there are no surviving Saxon buildings there are many Saxon place-names in the area. The first written reference to a settlement at the mouth of the estuary was in the 1089 Domesday Book. Dartmouth Harbour was chosen in 1147 as the assembly-point for 164 ships departing on the Second Crusade. It was also the starting-point for 37 ships joining Richard I on the Third Crusade in 1190.
Favorite thing: I just love this cute little statue of two boys with their fish. The Italian marble sculpture was presented to the town by a local benefactor, Finch Ingram, in 1950 and has pride of place in the Royal Avenue Gardens. Finch is sometimes credited with being the artist but this seems to be erroneous, the actual sculptor isn't credited - if you look at the detail (pic #2) it is a fine piece of work.
Dartmouth's heyday as a port was during the Tudor and Stuart periods (from the late 15th to early 18th centuries) and many of the town's finest buildings were constructed then, financed by the profits from things like the salt cod trade.
Whilst at ground level many of the shop fronts and other buildings are contemporary most have lovingly restored upper floors which are well worth noting. Here's a few examples:
Unlike its mysterious counterpart across the river, The Kingswear Cannon, the Dartmouth Cannon has a well-documented history. The gun bears the insignia of the Russian Imperial double-headed eagle and has been identified as cast at Briansk in 1826. It was probably captured during the Crimean War of 1854 to 56 and placed here on the Embankment as a trophy, rather than being intended for use.
The information plaque beside it gives a bit more detail, if you are interested in this sort of stuff. I just like the pic!
As Dartmouth developed into an important port during the 15th century it obviously needed defences against seaward attack, especially given the European unrest during the course of the, so-called, 100 Years War (1337 to 1453).
In order to defend the estuary mouth the twin castles of Dartmouth and its companion over the river, Kingswear, were built - Darmouth's being completed in 1495 and Kingswear's in 1502.
Between them these had the firepower to control the entrance to the river, assisted by a chain which could be drawn taut across the surface at night.
As a secondary defence Bayard's Fort was constructed, probably around 1510, just in case the main castles failed to do their job. The eleven gunports allowed the fort's cannon to cover the immediate harbour area and despite these ports being larger than those of the castles the guns used would have been lighter.
The fort was never tested in battle and indeed the only time Dartmouth came under attack after its construction was during the English Civil War where the assaults (first by the Royalists and then by the Parliamentarians) came from inland.
The fort became disused in the 18th century and the area degenerated into slums. It did have a brief resurgence as a machine gun emplacement during World War II but that was short-lived as the field of fire was too restricted for modern weaponry.
English Heritage aquired the site in 1984 and have tidied it up so that it now forms part of the walking tour of the port's history.
Whenever I'm in this neck of the woods I'm always reminded of the old tale from the Combined Services Dinner.
A General and a ship's Captain happened to be using the urinals at the same time. When the Captain finished his business with a quick shake, zipped up and headed for the door the General, in a loud plummy voice, called after him, "What ho, my dear chap! At Sandhurst we were taught to wash our hands after using the toilet."
To which the Captain, mockingly plummily, responded, "Well old boy! At Dartmouth we were taught how not too pee on our hands in the first place." HA!
This is Britannia Royal Naval College were Naval officers have been trained since 1863. Originally the training took place on the hulks Britannia and Hindostan which were moored in the river. The present-day, purpose-built, College was completed in 1905 and is now the only officer training Naval establishment in Britain. About 400 prospective officers undergo training in all aspects of Naval requirements at any given time and as well as our own Royal Navy cadets the college offers courses for candidates from all over the world.
I think they have open days from time to time and so this could also be a thing to do. Website below is worth checking out.
Fondest memory: http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/The-Fleet/Shore-Establishments/BRNC-Dartmouth
The Dartmouth area is very beautiful. It is part of the South Hams region of Devon which in my view has some of the most stunning scenery in the UK.
There are no large towns in the South Hams, just small provincial towns and villages. Places worth visiting are Totnes, Dartmouth, Salcombe, Kingsbridge, Modbury and Ivybridge. The south Dartmoor area also lies within the South Hams and definately worth visiting.
The picture below when clicked on will show a panarama of Dartmouth from Kingswear.
Fondest memory: For more information about Dartmouth, use these links:
These gardens are in the middle of Dartmouth, just next to the North Embankment and next to the Inner Harbour.
Although very small there is a fountain, some statues and very nicely layed out flower beds.
Favorite thing: Pop down to Bayard's Cove, at the top end of the South Embankment and you'll see lots of people catching crabs. Some people are doing this for a living, whilst others are clearly doing it for fun!