Hallsands

South Devon's ruined village, destroyed by the sea in 1917 after Government approved dredging.

The early history of Hallsands is unknown, but a chapel has existed there since at least 1506. The site of the village was located at a cave known as Poke Hole, and probably was not inhabited before 1600. The village grew in size during the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1891 it had 37 houses, a spring, a public house called the London Inn, and a population of 159. Most residents of Hallsands at that time depended on fishing for a living, particularly crab fishing on the nearby Skerries Bank.

In the 1890s, following a scheme proposed by Sir John Jackson, it was decided to expand the naval dockyard at Keyham, near Plymouth, and dredging began offshore from Hallsands to provide sand and gravel for its construction. Soon, up to 1,600 tons of material was being removed each day, and the level of the beach began to drop, much to the alarm of local residents. The Board of Trade agreed to establish a local inquiry in response to protests from villagers, who feared that the dredging might destabilise the beach and thereby threaten the village. The inquiry found that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat to the village, so dredging continued. By 1900, however, the level of the beach had started to fall. In the autumn storms that year, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Rural District Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road. In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped. On 8 January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked. During 1902 the level of the beach recovered; however the winter of 1902 brought more storms and damage.

On 26 January 1917, a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences, and by the end of that year only one house remained habitable. The villagers' fight for compensation took seven years.
 
 

related internet links

Hallsands
a village betrayed.
washed away by the sea
between 1903 and 1917.
Its sea defences had been
weakened as a result of
offshore dredging of shingle
website of author Steve Melia,
giving a detailed account of the
history of Hallsands
 
from the BBC
 
In 2006, this critically acclaimed
opera company commissioned
a new opera, Whirlwind, based on
the story of Hallsands. It was
premiered at The Sage, Gateshead,
on 24 October 2006. Written by
Will Todd and Ben Dunwell, Whirlwind
tells the story of Hallsands, a small
fishing community thriving under the
shadow of Start Point at the start of
the 20th century. But in the next few
years their world is turned upside down.
Sir John Jackson’s dredgers come to
take the beach, and a winter of storms
drags their homes into the sea.
 


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