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21 facts about Dartmouth in Devon

View of Dartmouth across the River Dart in Devon

Dartmouth is a Devon town packed full of history, heritage and culture that gives it a prominent position in the South West and also the world. If you are visiting, come armed with these facts about Dartmouth so you can really appreciate this unique place.

Historic facts about Dartmouth 

  • The first mention of a settlement in the Dartmouth area was made in the Domesday Book in 1086. This was at Townstal, up the hill from Dartmouth town as we know it today.
  • Dartmouth was used as the sailing point for the Crusades of 1147 and 1190.
  • The oldest building in Dartmouth is The Cherub Inn in Higher Street, which is a former merchant’s house. It was built in c.1380.
  • The Mayflower and the Speedwell both called in Dartmouth for repairs on 23 August 1620 before continuing their voyage towards the New World. There’s a Mayflower 400 trail around the town.
  • Dartmouth Castle isn’t really a castle. It was a fort designed with its partner Kingswear Castle (on the opposite side of the Dart) to protect the mouth of the river.
  • Dartmouth was a base for American forces towards the end of the Second World War and one of the departure points for Utah Beach during the D Day landings. There’s a monument in Royal Avenue Gardens.

Facts about Dartmouth people

  • In 1375 a wealthy merchant John Hawley was elected as Dartmouth’s mayor and was reelected 13 times. He was also a privateer and pirate who is said to have inspired the character of the ‘schipman’ in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
  • Charles II sheltered from a storm in Dartmouth in 1671. He held court in a room that is now part of Dartmouth Museum on the Tudor Butterwalk on Duke Street.
  • Dartmouth was the home town of Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the Steam Engine. You can see monuments celebrating his role in the industrial revolution all around the town. The oldest working model of the first atmospheric steam engine can be found in Dartmouth Visitor Centre.
  • The Queen and Prince Philip are said to have fallen in love while playing croquet at Britannia Royal Naval College in 1939.

Geographical and natural world facts

  • Dartmouth town itself started life as two hamlets called: Hardness and Clifton. They were on either side of an inlet that was dammed in c.1243 to create one linked community around a mill pond.
  • All of the level areas in Dartmouth town centre were once under water. The area that is now Royal Avenue Gardens, which is the hub of all Dartmouth’s big events, was reclaimed from the river in 1670.
  • It’s common to spot grey and harbour seals in the River Dart and on pontoons near Dartmouth.

Maritime facts about Dartmouth

  • Dartmouth has been the home of initial Naval Officer training in the UK since 1863. But the imposing college that you see on the hill above the town was not the first place the Royal Navy trained officers in Dartmouth. That took place on the ship HMS Britannia in the river. The college you can see today opened in 1905.
  • The original Dartmouth Higher Ferry was built in 1829. It was first powered by steam and then later horses. The current chain ferry was built by Pendennis of Falmouth, Cornwall, and came in to service in 2009.
  • The Dart Lifeboat, based at Coronation Park, is called out on average 36 times a year.

Fun facts about Dartmouth

  • You might mistake the Platfrom 1 restaurant on the Embankment for a former train station. However no locomotive has ever visited Dartmouth. This station building is the embarkation point for a passenger ferry to Kingswear Station on the other side of the River Dart. Trains have been running here since 1864.
  • The ‘Royal’ Dartmouth Regatta was given royal approval by Queen Victoria in 1856, although she never actually attended.
  • The population of Dartmouth more than triples during the Regatta in August each year.
  • The 1976 film ‘The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea’ was filmed in Dartmouth, while fans of ‘The Coroner’ (aired 2015 to 2016) will have viewed scenes shot in the town too.
  • Dartmouth’s award-winning Blue Flag beach Blackpool Sands regularly features in lists of the UK’s top beaches.

Here’s some more helpful guides to Dartmouth and South Devon to help you plan your holiday:

Where to stay in Dartmouth

If our facts about Dartmouth have inspired to you visit take a look at our selection of cottages in Dartmouth and Kingswear. We have accommodation in town with parking as well as self-catering properties in nearby Dittisham, Stoke Fleming and Strete.

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