At war with Napoleon Timelines: All, Georgian (1714 - 1837)


By 1809 Napoleon was seeking to conquer Europe. A French blockade of Baltic timber caused a slump in Torridge-side ship-building. In response, Bideford expertise was shipped to Newfoundland to utilise the timber there. In that same year the first series Ordnance Survey map of Bideford was published. Along with the riverside developments in East-the-Water, it marks Salterns, Grange, Grange Barn, and Lodge. Between these latter two, nestling between the spurs, is a structure marked as Conegor Hills, where there now remains only an empty field and parts of the ancient hedge-row that once adjoined its drive.

An account from 1811 noted that whilst the streets of Bideford were clean and many of the houses were well built and occupied by opulent merchants, the town’s trade was suffering as the war dragged on.

French prisoners were again in Bideford, presumably at the Prison Field (aka Folly Field, but now Pollyfield) site. It is during this period that French prisoners were believed to have produced the beautifully carved models of ships now on display in the Burton Gallery Museum, but more recent thinking on their provenance suggests they may have originated elsewhere.

The battle of Waterloo in 1815, left Napoleon defeated and the seas a whole lot safer for Bideford’s shipping. It was a good time to be a merchant and merchants need ships. In the early 19th C. an established shipyard (on the Brunswick Wharf site) was taken over by East-the-Water resident, Robert Johnson (1794-1855). The business later passed to his son John, who lived in Springfield Terrace. The yard had two slipways and they were often both in use