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Taken from "A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing places" published in 1803 by Sir Richard Phillips:

(The population of Dawlish in 1801 was 1,424)


"The mild and genial softness of the air, on the south coast of Devon, is generally esteemed equally salutary for invalids with that of Montpellier or Nice; and, therefore, it is frequently prescribed for persons labouring under pulmonic disorders, and all the long train of complaints known under the vulgar name of declines. But, independent of health, pleasure had erected her standard in several stations on the south-east coast of this extensive county, and between the entrances of the Exe and the Dart alone, we find four places of public resort - Dawlish, Teignmouth, Shaldon and Torquay.

Dawlish, from a small fishing cove, has, within a few years, risen into a state of comparative elegance and extent. At first it was resorted to by those who wished for more retirement than they could enjoy at well-frequented places, but by degrees, its pure salubrious air, the conveniences it affords for bathing, and its natural beauties, pointed it out as an eligible summer retreat.

It is delightfully situated in a valley, on all sides surrounded by high grounds, except towards the east, which opens towards the cerulean expanse; fronting which, upon the strand, are some good lodging houses. Higher up are several other buildings, well calculated for families which command a pleasing view of various objects; particularly of a Gothic structure, erected by Sir William Watson. This pile has a kind of arcade in front, with columns and pointed arches, decorated with escutcheons and fret-wok pinnacles. It stand in a garden filled with various exotic plants, on one of the cliffs, and proudly looks down on the shore, which it commands for a considerable way, both towards Teignmouth and the opening of Torbay. Nearer the sea, a mount, imitating a natural rock has been raised, with a cell in the interior.

Farther up the vale, a range of neat buildings present themselves, among which are two inns which furnish tolerable accommodations. Opposite is an over-shot water mill which has a very romantic effect; and higher up, where the valley contracts, are several genteel lodging-houses, fronting the sea and each possessing a small plat before it, neatly railed in.


Dawlish 1819

Dawlish in 1817

Courtesy of Devon County Council


From hence to the church is a continuation of straggling cottages on each side of the road for the space of half a mile. Here we come to a bridge, contiguous to which is another mill and two pleasant dwelling houses. The manor house, with its bell cupola and high poplars, increases the beauty of the picture; while the church, a handsome Gothic pile, with its surrounding elm rows, gives a kind of finish to the scene. The south part is very fine; and between each of the ramified windows is a niche, with the remains of mutilated statues, which probably exercised the fanaticism of the round-heads in the civil wars. The walls are adorned with battlements and pinnacles and near the east end is a projecting turret, in a similar style of architecture, which serves as a staircase to the roof.

The vicarage-house, encircled by gardens, is a charming spot. A high hill shelters if from the north and a screen of elms shades it on the west.

Though there is no regular market in Dawlish, it is pretty well supplied with necessaries from the neighbourhood and besides, there is frequent communication with the towns of this quarter and thrice a week with the city of Exeter.

The bathing machines are numerous and well-conducted. The beach in front of the lodging houses has a gentle descent to the sea, which is generally pure and clear.


Gore's Library on the beach at Dawlish 1819

Gore's Library on Dawlish beach - 1819

(Note the bathing machines to the left)

 Courtesy of Devon County Council


The promenade is kept in excellent repair and extends in a straight line across the strand. It may be lengthened at pleasure by a ramble under the cliffs, which are here bold and precipitous and of a tremendous height; though not of a very dense and compact stratum, as is evident from the effects which the waves have produced upon them."


Dawlish today - The brook

Dawlish today

The Brook, looking towards St. Gregory's Church and the old village

© Richard J. Brine


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