Heritage Trail Guide

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Walk the Wharves

Hover over the map for detailed information on each area.

Heritage Trail Map
Brunswick Wharf The Royal Hotel Queen's Wharf Milestone Clarence Wharf Pumping Station Crosspark Rock East of the Water Vinegar Hill Anthracite Mine Croft & Co Croft & Co Embery's Drang Railway Station Railway Station Bethel Church Torridge House Nutaberry Sewer Vent A A Beer Ltd Halfpenny Wharf Riverbank Bistro

Brunswick Wharf

Significant shipbuilding activity in Elizabethan Bideford centred on Barnstaple Street, with naval hero Sir Richard Grenville preparing here for American voyages. By 1717 two quays and a shipwrights yard, lay here. Such yards built diverse wooden craft, many of their workers being apprentices.

From 1839 the Johnson family built here, expanding the yard to three slipways. In their era, one launch veered into the bridge, damaging it.

The shipbuilders’ tools fell silent in 1886, the land sold to the Baker family, builder’s merchants. Latterly the vessel Kathleen & May was an attraction here.

The Royal Hotel

The northern end was built, in 1688, by John Davie, a tobacco merchant with interests in Newfoundland. Fine plasterwork and a grand stairway survive from then. A courtyard was a later addition.

Remaining a merchant’s home until 1830, it then became a workhouse, whilst three storerooms became Bideford’s prison. Rescued, in 1855, by Richard Heard (ornamental builder, timber importer, and emigration-line owner), as his home, novelist Charles Kingsley consulted Heard’s library when writing Westward Ho!

The extension of the railway saw the Heard family acquire an adjacent demolition plot, enlarging the premises onto it to become the Royal Hotel, which targeted the wealthy elite. During D-day preparation the Royal became a rendezvous for senior officers to discuss their secrets.

Queen's Wharf

Extended in 1863 by the Heard family (see Royal Hotel), this was one of the largest stores on the wharves and the first equipped with a steam crane. Various tenants stored sand, oats, corn and manure, whilst 600 people celebrated the coronation of Edward VII here.

The Pollard brothers, shipping agents, who also developed East-the-Water’s paint mines, used adjacent Steamer Wharf. Both wharfs were once occupied by the Fulford family, seed merchants, whose business became a national enterprise.

Milestone

Bearing Barnstaple’s Latin name, and its distance, milestones were installed in
1879 to mark the demise of Barnstaple Turnpike Trust. This one has survived
various phases of street widening, including in the busy 1920s, before the
Torridge Bridge opened in 1987.

Clarence Wharf

Built by Thomas Tapp, a wealthy tree bark merchant, Clarence Wharf had a shipyard, a stonemason’s yard, and manure stores. It also housed shorter-lived occupants including an iron and brass foundry (later replaced by workers cottages), the Bideford Anthracite Company (who mined the hillside opposite), and a pre-fabricated Iron Church, seating 350 worshippers.

A late 19th C. extension on the north (Agricultural Wharf) housed a steam bakery, whilst in 1905 the Devon Trading Co. extended the rest, running a siding onto it through adjacent buildings.

Pumping Station

Here stood a limekiln, one of five on the wharves (using Welsh limestone and coal to supply farmers and builders). Some were already active by 1745. Their warmth attracted vagrants, who sometimes cooked alive in their sleep. In 1873, Railway Wharf was formed by extending an existing rail terminus southward, to this point.

Later, enlarged with assistance from the North Devon Clay Co., the 300ft wharf’s business included exporting ball clay and importing timber. More exotic freight included animals for Bideford Zoo and lifeboats from Appledore.

In 1893, at the southern end, an agricultural co-operative developed Victoria Wharf, a mill and store, which claimed to be the largest of its kind in the South-west.

Crosspark Rock

Below you, Ethelwynne Brown Close (named for Bideford’s second female Mayor), extends northward, on the footprint of Railway Wharf, to the point where Crosspark Rock once extended into the Torridge. It’s older name – Saltern’s Rock – recalls the extraction of salt for the fisheries.

Contemplated as early as 1832, when the road to Instow was constructed, it was 1855 before a railway terminus finally claimed the rock. Before then, warships to combat Napoleon (including a bomb-ship and a fire-ship) were built there. A pottery also shared the rock.

East of the Water

Once the Currier’s Arms and later the Terminus Inn, the earlier name hints at the local small-scale leather-workers of the early 19th C.

Adjacent, to the south, the original Terminus Inn became cottages in 1882. No’s 1 and 1a, once a single building, were owned by William Brook, a shipbuilder and merchant, whose ship yard lay opposite, and who dealt in coal and salt.

Vinegar Hill

Once packed with tiny workers’ cottages, Vinegar Hill is said to celebrate the pivotal 1798 battle of an Irish rebellion, at the hill of Fhíodh na gCaor (pronounced fee-na-gare). Troops bound for Ireland often embarked in Bideford, and the port was at risk from the threat of French backed Irish invasion.

The name might also reflect the residence nearby of maltster Henry Tucker. Beside Vinegar Hill stands the former Princess Royal Inn, named after a packet steamer that operated from Clarence Wharf. Such steamers provided a valuable link with Bristol.

Anthracite Mine

hillside here, through which run three seams of Culm (Anthracite) and one of Bideford Black. In 1848 the Bideford Anthracite Co. opened a mine here. By 1850, they had driven a tunnel into the hillside from their Barnstaple Street stores, with an engine house on the hill above and a wooden gantry across the road, that allowed the delivery of Culm direct from coalface to waiting vessels. This process spread dust and debris onto the road below.

Culm, burning too hot for domestic fires, was used in limekilns and silver smelting, whilst a grinding mill produced pigment and briquettes. In 1856 alone, 5,000 tons were dug.

Croft & Co

Formerly the Ship-on-Launch pub, which supplied beer to shipyard workers from as early as 1823. Extended northward to incorporate an adjacent house, by 1929 the pub’s license rested on their ability to provide a good cup of tea and place for workmen to eat their lunch. Elliot’s Cottages once stood in its garden, on the site of former malthouses.

In 1868, in a new dry dock opposite, John Johnson converted a wreck, from Northam Burrows, into the 850-ton Lady Gertrude, the largest ship ever launched from East-the-Water.

Croft & Co

Formerly the Ship-on-Launch pub, which supplied beer to shipyard workers from as early as 1823. Extended northward to incorporate an adjacent house, by 1929 the pub’s license rested on their ability to provide a good cup of tea and place for workmen to eat their lunch. Elliot’s Cottages once stood in its garden, on the site of former malthouses.

In 1868, in a new dry dock opposite, John Johnson converted a wreck, from Northam Burrows, into the 850-ton Lady Gertrude, the largest ship ever launched from East-the-Water.

Embery's Drang

Embery, a joiner, undertaker, and estate agent, occupied the adjacent cherub adorned house, whilst a drang refers to a narrow passage in both Bideford and Newfoundland, highlighting an intimate connection. Bideford’s transatlantic traders typically shipped goods – such as butter, pottery, or people (servants and criminals) – to the Americas, those returning with salt cod then headed for Spain or Portugal, before returning with fruit, wool, or wine.

Such traders included the Strange family (descendants of Bideford’s famous mayor, John Strange, who took office at the height of the plague), who occupied a nearby wharf.

Railway Station

Opened in 1872, the railway extension to Great Torrington saw the station moved nearer the bridge, with an Inn demolished and the hillside excavated to provide access.

The line fell victim to network closures, led by Dr Richard Beeching, so the last passenger train ran in 1965, but freight – mostly clay – continued to flow until 1982. In 1987, the line became a Country Park, and later part of the Tarka Trail.

2011 saw Bideford and Barnstaple temporarily re-connected by an OO scale model rail line along the trail. The park on the hillside above, the site of Civil War fortifications at Chudleigh Fort, was bought as Bideford’s war memorial.

Railway Station

Opened in 1872, the railway extension to Great Torrington saw the station
moved nearer the bridge, with an Inn demolished and the hillside excavated to provide access.

The line fell victim to network closures, led by Dr Richard Beeching, so the last passenger train ran in 1965, but freight – mostly clay – continued to flow until 1982. In 1987, the line became a Country Park, and later part of the Tarka Trail.

2011 saw Bideford and Barnstaple temporarily re-connected by an OO scale
model rail line along the trail. The park on the hillside above, the site of Civil
War fortifications at Chudleigh Fort, was bought as Bideford’s war memorial.

Bethel Church

The Bethel opened in 1877, for a congregation that had outgrown a loft at Queen’s Wharf, and led by Henry Morgan Restarick, a rope-maker and the last of the major East-the-Water shipbuilders. Based on Brunswick Wharf, his shipyard’s output included several vessels for the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, before closing in 1886.

As a local politician, Restarick often found himself in conflict. Most notably in the “Battle of the Posts,” a dispute over rope-making posts on the strand, but also through his stance on temperance reform.

Torridge House

Richard Annesley, 6th Earl of Anglesey, and a man once called “the greatest rogue in Europe,” lived here in the early 18th C.

A sensational court case revealed Annesley’s kidnap and enslavement of a nephew (to falsely claim his title and estates), his bigamous marriage, and his murderous attempts to suppress the truth following his nephew’s reappearance.

Annesley kept one wife a prisoner in Torridge House for years. Richard Henry Glynn, Admiral of the White and former Mayor of Plymouth, also resided here for many years, as, later, did the Barrow family, whose former brewery is now part of the Blacksmith’s Arms.

Nutaberry

An ancient part of East-the-Water, an old trackway was once uncovered here. In 1758, Folly Field on the hill above, became a camp for over a thousand French prisoners of war.

South of Nutaberry Hill lay gasworks, with gasometers. Its towering gas ‘retort’ (where combustion occurs), was narrowly missed, in 1945, when Canadian Wellington bomber, “P” Peter, crashed in fields beyond.

Just south of here was a busy timber mill, and, during World War I, Belgian refugees, at Kynoch’s adjacent munitions plant, used its wood as a first step to producing cordite.

To the north, the shore saw 18th C. shipbuilding and connections with 19th C. gravel bargemen, whilst the river-facing, ‘back to front,’ cottages on Torridge Place are 19th C., the remainder were added later.

Sewer Vent

Installed in 1902, to improve drainage, Bideford’s Edwardian sewers had elaborate cast-iron vents, resembling lampposts, but with four vents, a crown, and an arrow (showing the direction of flow). Some are now listed as ancient monuments.

A A Beer Ltd

The early 18th C. boat-building yard of George E. Parkin was here. Parkin, who later moved to Appledore, specialised in pilot boats and lifeboats, trading on a reputation gained in local regattas. He also made a laudable habit of life-saving, rescuing at least 29 folk from drowning.

After the Elementary Education Act, 1870, the site became a school. pening in 1874, it served several generations.

Until the early 19th C. the main road to Great Torrington was Torrington Lane, opposite which lay a slipway.

Halfpenny Wharf

This former thoroughfare to the beach, Donkey Slip, was used by potters to collect gravel to reinforce their coarseware. Though shipbuilders and timber merchants frequently blocked it - as timber was often rafted up or down the river to be collected or sold from the shore - it was also the main access point for pony races.

In the 18th C. Halfpenny Wharf was a coal store, and beside it were built the Royal Hotel’s stables, later to become Bideford Motor Works’ garage.

Riverbank Bistro

From 1822, until its 21st C. closure, this was the Swan Inn. However, a plan from 1745 shows that stables and a limekiln pre-dated it, whilst, between the Inn and the bridge was a chapel and toll house. The chapel raised funds to help with bridge repairs.

 

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