History in Dartmouth
History in Dartmouth
The origin of Dartmouth derives from the Norman Conquest, when the French realized the importance of the harbour for cross-channel voyages to territories in Normandy. During the 12th century the town was used as a meeting point for a fleet of 146 ships sets out on the second crusade in 1147 and also in 1190 when more than 100 ships embarked upon a Third Crusade. The name Warfleet Creek was given because of these events.
Across the tidal creek a dam was built joining the two villages of Hardness and Clifton that is now Dartmouth, by the 14th century the merchants of Dartmouth were growing rich on the wine trade with English-owned lands in Gascony. The king rewarded the town a charter of incorporation in 1341 and St. Saviour's Church was consecrated and became the town church, in 1372 a fort at the mouth of the river was built by John Hawley, mainly because of dangerous attacks from across the channel during the wars with France. A moveable chain was connected to another fort on the Kingswear side of the river, so as to prevent river-borne attacks, the fort was one of the first in the country to have provision for gunpowder artillery, over the years the fort has been altered several times as weapon technology progressed.
Hawley quickly organized an army of untrained locals and defeated the well-armed knights of the 2000-strong Breton force that landed at Slapton in 1404 at the Battle of Blackpool Sands. After the death of Hawley his house was used as the Guildhall for almost 400 years, when Dartmouth was under the threat from the Spanish Armada in 1588, they joined the English fleet with 11 ships and captured the Spanish flagship that was anchored in the Dart and the crew of the Spanish worked as slaves for over a year at Greenway house. One of the reasons for the prosperity of the town is the rich fishing from the cod banks, the obvious results of this prosperous trade are the surviving 17th century Butterwalk, Quay and many 18th century houses around the town. Locally made goods were traded with Newfoundland by the 18th century while by exchanging wine, the salted cod was sold to Spain and Portugal.
The Castle played an important part during the English civil war, the royalists captured the castle and held it for three days, the Parliamentarians attacked and captured the town and the royalists surrendered the castle the next day. Thomas Newcomen, Dartmouth's famous former resident invented the first practical steam engine in 1712, due to the industrial revolution many hand weavers lost their jobs, railways were slow to reach Dartmouth because of the difficult terrain. The sailing ships traditionally built in the town replaced the erstwhile steamships, the town then faced a serious economic crisis when the Newfoundland trade collapsed in the mid-19th century but gradually recovered in the second half of the 19th century. In 1863 the Royal navy stationed two ships in the river and in 1864 the railway arrived in Kingswear, both these events helped to raise the economy, though today most of the local economy depends on the tourism industry.
Also see Dartmouth Castle pages
Tor Cross was a rural community ruled by the Americans throughout World War II, the enormous stretch of rock-strewn beach at Slapton Sands was utilized in preparation for the D Day landings. In 1944 on the 28th April was the practice landing Operation Tiger, there were over 640 American service men murdered by the transient German Torpedo boat as their landing boats were struck, as the sea at Tor Cross can be very rough and deep, this was further factors for the grand loss.