In 1754, competition over trade between Britain, France, and Spain erupted into the Seven Year’s War, during which Bideford hosted French prisoners of war. Bideford was a parole depot, so the French officers were reasonably accommodated, often with their families and in private lodgings. The remainder were held in close confinement in a camp sited near The Pill. That is until, in October 1758, the squalid conditions of their detention triggered a riot and the camp was promptly transferred across the river to East-the-Water, and to a secure compound near Nuttaberry Hill (later to become the gasworks site). In 1759 there were estimated to be as many as a thousand prisoners, all kept in check by one half of the Somerset Militia. An Admiralty inspection of their new camp still found it inadequate for such numbers.
The war did not seem to quench the local appetite for investment in maritime trade, for in 1758 John Cleveland extended the quay in East-the-Water, southward to the bridge (see Annex 1). Nor did it seem to dent the Newfoundland salt-cod trade, for around 1759 there were about 40 to 50 ships engaged in it.
The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, saw an end to the war, but not before Britain had enlarged its territorial assets and provided maritime merchants with an even greater trading base.