Dartmouth in 1837
DARTMOUTH, a seaport, market and borough town, situated on the southern coast of the county of Devon, 30 miles south by west from Exeter and 203 W. S. W. from London.
In ancient records this place is called Clifton-Dartmouth-Hardnesse, in fact comprising three adjacent towns. From the convenience of its harbour it was very early a place of some note, and in 1190 was the rendezvous of the fleet destined for the Holy Land. In the beginning of the 13th century it obtained a market and other valuable privileges. It sent two members to parliament from the 14th year of the reign of Edward III to the passing of the Reform Act, which reduced the number to one. In the reign of Edward I Dartmouth contributed 31 ships and 800 men towards the naval expedition against France.
Dartmouth was considered an important port during the Parliamentary war, and was strongly contended for by both parties ; it was taken by Prince Maurice after a siege of four weeks, and garrisoned by the kings forces ; but Fairfax shortly afterwards attacked it in person and took it by storm. The manor was granted by Edward III to his servant Guy de Brien, and, after several mesne possessors, finally passed into the hands of the corporation.
The limits of the borough comprise 1,650 acres, consisting of the parishes of St. Saviour, St. Peters, and part of Townstall. Dartmouth has no less than 14 charters of incorporation, and also claims to be a borough by prescription. The jurisdiction is exclusive for all offences, except treason and capital felonies. The mayor, recorder, and justices hold quarter sessions, and the magistrates hold weekly petty sessions. The revenue of the corporation is about £1,100 a year.
Dartmouth is delightfully situated on a declivity on the west bank of the river Dart. Some of the houses are extremely old and possess some fine specimens of wood-carving ; but generally the town is dirty and the streets narrow and ill-paved. The country around is exceedingly beautiful and picturesque, and contains some delightful country seats. A flying bridge has lately been established across the river Dart. The harbour is very safe and convenient, and can accommodate 500 ships. The entrance is between the ruins of Kingswear castle and the fort and church of St. Petrock, where a battery has been erected. The port is under the direction of a governor, appointed by the corporation, and extends from the river Teign to the river Erme, a distance of about 40 miles.
The parishes of St. Petrock, St. Saviour, and of Townstall, which now form the borough of Dartmouth, contain respectively 1,035, 2,316, and 1,246 inhabitants, making a total of 4,597.
The trade consists principally in the export of woollen goods and cider, and the import of wine, and formerly of iron. In 1828 there were 348 vessels belonging to the port. Nearly 3,000 of the inhabitants are employed in the Newfoundland and other fisheries.
The river Dart is navigable as far as Totness, and its banks are surrounded with beautiful scenery. There are no fairs of any importance at Dartmouth. The market-day is Friday.
The living of St. Petrock is a perpetual curacy : the church is beautifully situated at the entrance of the harbour. St. Saviour is a perpetual curacy annexed to the vicarage of Townstall, in the patronage of the corporation. The interior of the church is highly ornamented. The pulpit is of stone, richly sculptured and gilt, and the screen is beautifully carved. The old oak ceiling is still in a good state of preservation. The living of Townstall is a discharged vicarage also in the patronage of the corporation. All three parishes are in the diocese of Exeter and archdeaconry of Totness. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists. There are Sunday-schools in each parish supported by subscription. In 1715 there was a French church. There are several charitable bequests for the benefit of the poor and instruction of children : amongst others, Mr. John Lovering, in 1671, founded an alms-house for decayed seamen or their widows ; but the house was accidentally burnt down and the charity has been entirely, lost. In 1679 Walter Jago, John Haynes, and Arthur Holdsworth, gave a rent-charge of £18 per annum to the parish of St. Saviour, £3 12 shillings which was to be given to a Latin master and £3 12 shillings to an Arithmetic master. The grammar-school has no further endowment. Newcomen, the inventor of the steam-engine, was a native of Dartmouth.