Local History of Dawlish, Devon

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A brief History of Dawlish...

1044 First mention of Dawlish (Doflisc) in the Charter of 1044 with corresponding boundaries.  King Edward the Confessor grants manor of Dawlish to his Chaplain, a man known as Leofric
1069 William I made a grant of land to the church of St. Peter at Exeter and this grant included 'Holcombe'.  The land at Dawlish is mentioned as well as Holcombe and Southwood
1072 Manor of Dawlish bequeathed to the Church which remains under Church ownership until 1807
1086 Domesday Survey. Dawlish (recorded as Doules) remains annexed to See of Exeter
1148 First mention of a church at Dawlish
1253 Dawlish known as Douelis
1284 Dawlish known as Douelys
1348 The Plague or Black Death recorded, including deaths of at least 3 priests
1411  Dawlish known as Douelysh
1426 Dawlish know as Douelyssh
1536 Dawlish known as Douelyshe
1555 Dawlish known as Dulishe
1607 Dawlish known as Dulyshe
1629 The Plague returns until 1630
1640 Manor of Dawlish let on lease to raise funds for Charles I
1655 Sir Peter Balle is mentioned as Lord of the Manor and holder of the great tithes
1717 A mill is recorded on the rent book, probably just constructed at Brunswick Place (now The Old Mill Tea Room) mainly to produce flour
1733 New flour mill constructed known as Town Mill at Church Street
1791 Dawlish known as Dalditch
1793 Bridge House constructed
1795 First large residential house built in the Old Town, followed by Brook House and later known as New Bridge House
1797 Dawlish now known as Dawlish
1799 A letter-receiving office opens in Dawlish
1803 Land improved either side of the Brook, with stream straightened, banks built up and marshy land drained
1806 First shop recorded in the rent book at Weech Road
1810 Serious flooding washes away newly created lawns, banks and bridges.  All rebuilt with series of weirs to prevent a recurrence
1811 A new mansion built known as The Manor House
1814 Independent Chapel built in Chapel Street
1817 First fire engine purchased
1819 New poor houses erected
1820 School erected in the workhouse yard
1824 St Gregory's Church rebuilt
1825 The flour mill at Brunswick Place is rebuilt, following a fire.  Although primarily a flour mill, it is now also used to produce animal feeds. A potato store is added to the front of the building (now the Old Mill Tea Room)

Baths built at Marine Parade
First Post Office opens in Mill Row (now Brunswick Place)

1844 South Devon Railway buys almost all properties in Marine Parade including Great Cliff House (formerly Kennaway's House), to buy out opposition to the railway . SDR uses Great Cliff House as offices and as a meeting place for Directors, before being let to Joeseph Samuda (Patentee of the Atmospheric Railway), to supervise construction.
1846 Broad Gauge Railway opens at Dawlish Saturday, 30th May first train from Exeter to Teignmouth via Dawlish with 9 coaches
1847 First Atmospheric trains start to run in February but no public service trains until 13th September
1848 Last Atmospheric train runs on Saturday 9th September; replaced by steam locomotives . South Devon Railway begins to sell off properties in Marine Parade, including Great Cliff House, which is then occupied by private residents for the next 100 years
1857 Police force established to support Parish Constable
1860 "Dawlish Cider" made from locally grown apples - business lasts until 1962
1861 The Wesleyans open new Methodist Chapel in Brunswick Place
1868  Coastguard Station built
1870 York Inn demolished in the Strand, in favour of the Congregational Church in Gothic style
1873 Original Dawlish Station destroyed by fire
1875 Dawlish Station rebuilt
1879 Cast iron footbridge added from sea wall across to Marine Parade
1885 Large rock fall at West Cliff – cliff face then “sloped”.
1880 Ladies bathing pavilion opened on the main beach (gents bath at Coryton Beach)
1884 Dawlish Cemetery & Mortuary Chapel built
1887 The Dawlish Corps formed

Mail catching device in use at Dawlish Station
Click here for 1890 map of Dawlish

1892 Last Up and Down Broad Gauge trains run on Friday 20th May, both passing each other at Dawlish Station.  Line converted to Standard Gauge.
1893 First telephone exchange opened
1895 Baths on Marine Parade substantially altered - to become a gentlemen's club
1897 Extensive alterations made to St Gregory's Church - interior & exterior
1900 First trial and naming of Dawlish horse-drawn fire pump on 5th April
1901 Sea Wall widened by 18ft to enable construction of last section of double track from Dawlish to Parson's (completed in 1905).  The new wall has a dramatic effect on lowering the beach level. The sub-way from the beach to Marine Parade is reconstructed.
1907 New fishermen's shelter opened at Boat Cove - lasts until 1937

Post Office & Telgraph Office saved by firemen on 21 August
Nos 1 & 2 Sea Lawn properties gutted by fire on 22 December

1909 St Agatha's Roman Catholic Church completed in Exeter Road

Walford's Cinema opens in Chapel Street
Two more bells added at St Gregory, in commemoration of George VI's coronation

1914 Restoration of the original Dawlish fire pump completed, for display
1918 Bridge House taken over by GWR as a railway convelescent home in July
1929 GWR builds Haldon Aerodrome for flights to Torbay, Cardiff & Plymouth
1930 Motor fire engine purchased
1935 Extensive playing fields opened, with 2 football pitches, a hockey/cricket pitch, bowling green, hard & grass tennis fields, children’s playing area and car park
1937 New fishermen's shelter built at Boat Cove
1940 Improved water supplies from the Haldon Hills completed
1941 Automatic telephone exchange installed
1942 Herbert Brooks Hancocke moves to Hope Cottage, Dawlish, prior to his retirement as Chief Boiler Inspector for the Great Western Railway in 1945 - later to become the Chairman of Dawlish Town Council.
1943 B17F Flying Fortress crash lands in field near Langdon Hospital, damaged by flak. Later repaired with 3 new engines and flown out
1945 Victory Tea celebrations held
1946 The Manor House purchased by Dawlish Urban District Council. The whole house was used as new Offices for the Council and the Gardens opened to the public
1947 Black Swans introduced from the Taronga Zoo, Sydney, by Captain C.R.S. Pitman
1950 Great Cliff House combined with 2 or 3 other properties in Marine Parade to form The Great Cliff Hotel.
1952 Sub-way to Marine Parade filled in – slight protrusion marks site
1954 Herbert Brooks Hancocke Chairman of Dawlish Town Council
1955 Fire destroys 6 bedrooms at Mount Pleasant Inn

The Shaftsbury Theatre constructed by The Repertory Company with seating for 170
The mill at Brunswick Place closes.  (Later restored to become The Old Mill Tea Room).


Deep snow and freezing temperatures closes roads and schools
Dawlish cider-making business closes 

1965  New concrete footbridge from sea wall to Marine Parade replaces cast iron bridge
1971 The Great Cliff Hotel becomes The Great Cliff Hotel for Residents
1974 The Manor House taken over by Teignbridge District Council and rooms were let out. The building eventually falls into disrepair but bought back by Dawlish Town Council
1980 Dawlish Town Council reopens The Manor House, following extensive renovation
2004 The huge wheel at The Old Mill is restarted on 5th May by the Mayor of Dawlish, Cllr Bill Farrow, with the wheel pumps turned on by Mr Bill Strickland, who turned it off 45 years ago when he worked at the mill.
2005 The Great Cliff Hotel for Residents is demolished
2006 23 new luxury apartments built on site of The Great Cliff Hotel, now known as Great Cliff

The name of Dawlish
The place of Dawlish is as written 'Doules' in the Domesday Book and is supposed to derive its name from Dol-is, a compound word, signifying a fruitful mead in a bottom, or on a river's side. This relates to the location, as Dawlish is situated in a picturesque valley, being sheltered by hills on 3 sides which lead to the sea on the East.  For different reasons today, Dawlish would have been an attractive place to live in early days, when survival was main objective; with fish from the sea, fresh water from the river, salt marshes for preserving food and woods for weapons, hunting and fuel.  Another possibility is the discovery of the name Deawlisc which means devil water and is supposed to represent the reddish coloured water from the hills, after heavy rain!

A poem about Dawlish


Bird watching colonels on the old sea wall
Down here at Dawlish, where the slow trains crawl
Low tide lifting, on a shingle shore
Long-sunk islands from the sea once more
Red cliffs rising where the wet sands run
Gulls reflecting in the sharp spring sun
Pink-washed plaster by a sheltered pach
Ilex shadows upon velvet thatch
What interiors these names suggest
Queen of lodgings in the warm south-west

                                    Sir John Betjeman 1906 - 1985

Useful links.....

Atmospheric Railway 
Broad Guage Railway 
Dawlish Town Council 
Great Western Railway 
Haldon Aerodrome 
Herbert Brooks Hancocke
Steam Locomotives 
Taronga Zoo
The Old Mill Tea Room