Dartmouth. Report from the Industrial Archaeology Section

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Author(s): Hurley. Brendan and Miles. Mary; Year published: 2018; Origin: Section Conference Reports; Pages: 
Topic(s): IA; Location(s): Dartmouth

Much of the industrial past of Dartmouth is related to its role as a port. In the 18th century the trade with Newfoundland was of major importance to the town and this provided a further stimulus to the shipbuilding industry. The Newfoundland trade declined in the early part of the 19th century although some transatlantic trade continued (see advert aside). The impact of the decline on shipbuilding was offset to some extent by naval contracts and also Dartmouth became one of the principal centres in the South-West for the fabrication of schooners. The production of steam powered and metal hulled vessels in the South West lagged behind other parts of the country but by the 1890’s the Dartmouth firms of Philip and Son and Simpson Strickland and Co. were constructing ferries, paddle boats and luxurious steam yachts, together with a range of engine parts, boilers, and other engineering goods.

From the 1870’s coal bunkering became a major activity. Coal was shipped by sea from South Wales and the North East and stored in hulks moored in the river. Much of the shipping such as the Castle Line boats on their way to the Cape used these facilities on a calling- in basis to top up their reserves of coal. With the growth in the size of vessels and the limitations of the port, this trade declined in the early part of the 20th century.

In 1831 James Meadows Rendel developed a ‘floating bridge’ to cross the river at Dartmouth. The ferry comprised two pontoons side by side with a steam engine between them that hauled on chains using a wheel with sockets shaped to lock onto the links. Much modified over the ensuing years, the floating bridge continues in use today as the Higher Ferry.

The Dartmouth and Torbay Railway came to Kingswear in 1864. The original intention had been to reach Dartmouth but whilst tickets were sold and parcels processed from the station building that still exists (now a restaurant), it was necessary to take a ferry to board the train at Kingswear. Interestingly, the station master at Dartmouth was paid more than his opposite number at Kingswear because of the importance attached to the traffic bound for the Royal Naval College.

The Dartmouth Brewery was already in existence by 1840, when it was run by Baker Brothers & Co. They were described as wine and spirit merchants, maltsters, hop merchants, and ale and porter brewers – a “one-stop shop” in modern parlance. They also owned premises at Broadston. This may well have been the same site as the Warfleet Brewery which was owned by Henry Baker by 1850. He described himself simply as a brewer and maltster. By 1878 it had been acquired by John Madocks.

Madocks advertised himself as a consulting brewer, as an advert in White’s 1878 directory shows – his entry also shows his trade mark. This trade mark was also utilized in newspaper adverts, with the slogan around the outside: “The Barley Wine of the English Rhine”. By 1889 the brewery was owned by Jasper Bartlett.

Heavitree Brewery acquired the Brewery from Jasper Bartlett in 1926, and brewing ceased in 1929. The buildings were used by the Dartmouth Pottery from 1947/8, making items such as plates and tea ware. In the 1950’s the distinctive “gurgle” water jug was introduced and remained a firm favourite. It was in the shape of a fish, standing upright with its head resting back on its tail (hence producing the noise when the water was poured out). This was produced in a variety of colours. In 1986 the BBC Domesday Project produced an article on the Pottery, saying that it then employed 20 workers and 4 potters, using clay from Bovey Tracey. The moulds were made in Slapton, and around 8,000 pieces were said to be produced in a day and sent all over the world. The pottery continued until 2002. Wade Ceramics bought the fish jug mould and continued to produce them. Older pieces are collectors’ items. The premises are listed Grade II.


Brendan Hurley and Mary Miles

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