Case Study Site 11 – Dawlish to Teignmouth

Case Study Site 11 – Dawlish to Teignmouth

1.         Location

The case study continues from the previous Exe Estuary case study, and covers the frontage from Dawlish Warren southwards to the town of Teignmouth.

2.         Why was the Case Study Site selected?

The case study illustrates the development of the popular seaside resorts of Dawlish and Teignmouth, which were developed on the open shore, and shows progressive development of the towns and construction of coastal defences.  The site includes the Dawlish Warren Spit at the mouth of the Exe, and the famous railway line, which runs directly along this coastal frontage as part of the main line to Cornwall. 

3.         Summary of the Geology, Geomorphology & Coastal Processes

The whole of this coastal frontage lies within the Exeter Group, Appleby Group, and Kinnerton and Bridgenorth Sandstone Formations of the Permian Period.  Dawlish Warren, at the northern end of the site, provides an element of protection at the mouth of the Exe Estuary, whilst to the south the open coast is exposed to attack from waves generated within the English Channel.  The storms of winter 2013/14 demonstrated the vulnerability of the frontage in the face of exceptional storm events, which may become more frequent in the future as a result of climate change. 

4.         Risks to Heritage Assets along the Case Study Frontage

Substantial areas of the historic towns of Dawlish and Teignmouth are designated as Conservation Areas, and these are protected by coastal defences.  Brunel’s ‘Atmospheric Railway’ was constructed along the seafront at Dawlish and was opened in 1846.  A section of seawall was destroyed in the storms of January/February 2014 and raised questions about the vulnerability of the South Devon railway seawall to storm damage in the future.  The exposure of Dawlish seafront to Channel-generated storms in this context is illustrated through a series of lithographs produced by William Dawson in 1848. 

An early twentieth century scattered settlement at Dawlish Warren was recorded on the Second Edition Ordnance Survey map (1904-06) but this was largely destroyed as a result of flooding in 1948, with the last two remaining buildings being lost in 1965 (MDV42070).  At Holcombe near Dawlish an octagonal ‘Customs Lookout’ was constructed alongside the coastal footpath (MDV105334).

5.         How can historical Imagery inform heritage risk management?

The detailed images contained within this case study comprising engravings, lithographs and watercolours demonstrate the high degree of detail that was achieved by the best draughtsman/artists working in the mid-nineteenth century, and show, in particular, the extraordinary detail that could be achieved through the lithographic printing process.  The views for the ‘Atmospheric Railway’ at Dawlish provide some of the most detailed depictions of coastal frontages to be found along the south-west coast (Figures 11.10-11.13).  The earliest view is that of Teignmouth by William Daniell RA (Figure 11.3), which he engraved in 1825. Sidmouth antiquarian Peter Orlando Hutchinson produced numerous watercolours to illustrate his extensive diaries including views on Dawlish Warren in the 1850s. Later the prolific painter of coastal towns, Alfred Robert Quinton, visited and painted at both Dawlish and Teignmouth in the 1920s (Figures 11.5, 11.6 and 11.9).

6.         Key Issues – What can be learnt from this site?

The artworks from this frontage show the detailed record left by artists that can be interrogated to inform us of past conditions, often before the construction of coastal defences (as can be seen in the engraving of Dawlish beach).  It also illustrates how artworks produced for construction projects such as the ‘Atmospheric Railway’ also provide a detailed record of past coastal environments and architecture. 

Figure 11.1: ‘The Baths on the Beach at Dawlish’ by Thomas Allom; a steel engraving from 1832.  As in the Sidmouth case study valuable properties at the back of the beach appear particularly vulnerable.  

Figure 11.2: This fine aquatint of ‘Teignmouth from the Walk’ by W. Read, c.1825, shows the handsome eighteenth and early nineteenth century buildings at what was to become one of Devon’s leading coastal resorts.

Figure 11.3: William Daniell RA visited Teignmouth in 1825 and produced this view over the town looking westwards.  In David Addey’s 1988 watercolour in Figure 11.4 the church is more prominent and the building across the river changes the character of the view.

Image Courtesy of David Addey.

Figures 11.5 and 11.6: Two views of Teignmouth by the prolific early twentieth century watercolourist, A. R. Quinton, show the general setting of the town (above) and the church, the pier and other prominent buildings view from the East Cliff (right).

Images Courtesy of J. Salmon Limited of Sevenoaks.

Figure 11.7: ‘The Battery on the Warren opposite Exmouth’ sketched on the spot by Peter Orlando Hutchinson, 20th July 1858.

Image reproduced with kind permission of Devon Archives and Local Studies Service.

Figure 11.8: ‘Mount Pleasant and the Coast near Dawlish from the Warren’ by P. O. Hutchinson, 15th April 1854.  Hutchinson’s numerous watercolours and pen and ink vignettes contained within his extensive diaries include a wealth of drawings of heritage features including artefacts.

Figure 11.9: The seafront at Dawlish by A. R. Quinton painted in about 1920.  By this time the railway line and the coastal properties are protected by a stone-faced seawall. 

Image Courtesy of J. Salmon Limited of Sevenoaks.

Views of Brunel’s ‘Atmospheric Railway’ at Dawlish

Across the Warren to Langstone Sands; View south of the Line.

From the Parson Tunnel to the Teignmouth Tunnel; View South of the Line.

From the Kennaway Tunnel to the Parson Tunnel Dawlish; View South of the Line.

From the Kennaway Tunnel Dawlish to Langstone Sands; View North of the Line.

Figure 11.10: This series of views of Brunel’s ‘Atmospheric Railway’ cover the Dawlish frontage.  They were published as lithographs by William Dawson in 1848 and provide a detailed description of the coastal scenery and heritage at that time. 

Images Courtesy of the Institution of Civil Engineers.