Case Study Site 20 – Hartland to Clovelly

Case Study Site 20 – Hartland to Clovelly

1.         Location

The case study extends from Embury Beacon, 10km south of Hartland Point, then eastwards to the village of Bucks Mills, 6km to the east of Clovelly. 

2.         Why was the Case Study Site selected?

This exposed, high cliff coastal frontage contains numerous heritage sites of interest including cliff castles at Embury to the south of Hartland, and at Windbury to the west of Clovelly.  Further north at Hartland Quay, the ancient harbour flourished in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries; most of the structure was destroyed after a storm in 1896.  Images of the old harbour bear comparison with those of the present day.  Past Hartland Point to the east is the picturesque village of Clovelly, which was one of the most painted and photographed locations in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  At Gallantry Bower at Clovelly, a circular ‘bowl barrow’ on the cliff edge is a Scheduled Monument.  At the eastern end of the case study site at Bucks Mills there is a nineteenth century lime kiln on the east side of the beach. 

3.         Summary of the Geology, Geomorphology & Coastal Processes

This case study site has both a north-south and east-west orientation, with a foreshore dominated by rocky ledges and outcrops of resistant sandstone, which are exposed to the full force of Atlantic storm waves (Royal Haskoning, 20111).  This part of the coast is renowned for its sheer cliffs, reefs and dramatic geology.  The coastline is largely composed of sandstones, mudstones and siltstones of the Holsworthy Group of the Carboniferous Period.  The coastline is characterised by low erosion rates; however, the clifflines are prone to massive rockfalls and landslides periodically. 

4.         Risks to Heritage Assets along the Case Study Frontage

The west facing coastline between Embury Beacon in the south and Hartland Point is very exposed to the westerly dominated wave climate and weather systems from the Atlantic.  Facing this coastline, the Embury Beacon fort is an Iron Age hill fort on the western side of the Hartland Peninsula.  It is located at the top of a heavily eroding cliffline.  Aerial photographs show that the inner rampart comprised a bank of simple construction and it has been estimated that three quarters of the original area of the site has been lost, including virtually all the actual occupation area within the inner rampart (Devon and Dartmoor HER, 20152).  A detailed study of this location was completed in 2012 (Sims et al., 20143).  No paintings or engravings were found of this section of coast through the CHeRISH study and, therefore, the best evidence is provided through aerial photography. 

Historically, Hartland Quay was known to have a lime kiln, labourers’ cottages, a Malthouse, stores and warehouses.  Although the exact date is not known, it is believed the pier was built in the late sixteenth century by William Abbott, inheritor of Hartland Abbey and its estate, along with similar constructions at Bucks Mills and Clovelly.  William Daniell RA, on the early part of his voyage round Great Britain in 1814, visited Hartland Quay and described it in the following way, “Hartland Quay was the first village that we encountered on Devonshire ground, and consisted of a cluster of mean cottages, which had no evident comfort about them but that of being protected by a high mountain from the east wind, and the value of this immunity is counterbalanced by their full exposure to the west, which blows from the sea, and has left marks of its fury on the roof of every cottage.  The situation in the village is more than commonly rude and romantic – in front is a little harbour, marked out and secured by semi-circular pier, which might have formed one gentle feature in the sea had it not been for the reef of rocks beyond it.  The cottages are so uncouth and weather beaten they seem to have undergone as many changes since their formation as the strata of the adjacent rocks” (Daniell & Ayton, 1814-18254). 

Hartland Quay was probably at its most prosperous during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  In 1841, after the damage to its pier head during gales, its owner, Louis William Buck, was confident enough of the quay’s future to raise funds for its repair.  The second half of the nineteenth century saw the fortunes of the quay decline, and this was augmented by the arrival of the railway at Bideford in 1855 and the climate of agricultural depression.  The end of the pier was washed away in 1887 and was not rebuilt.  Already business at the quay had ceased, with the last ship departing in 1893.  The stump of the pier was merely refaced and most of the structure’s remains were destroyed in a storm in October 1896, bringing the demise of the trade in corn, coal and limestone by sailing sloops that had carried on for nearly 300 years. 

The Hartland Pier example illustrates how coastal artworks can describe socio-economic change, not just physical change, over a period of time.  Around the coastline of south-west England there are many coastal structures including harbour arms, which may not necessarily achieve the necessary economic criteria to ensure funding for their future protection and maintenance.  This may present difficult choices for owners, as well as for local stakeholders and residents.  In the face of climate change, including the likelihood of more severe weather events, the safeguarding of such structures is likely to prove increasingly difficult and costly. 

To the west of Clovelly, Windbury Head Camp is an Iron Age hill fort, much of which has been lost to coastal erosion.  The southern ramparts still exist at a height of approximately 100m above sea level.  Whilst no artworks were found that specifically identified the hill fort, the artist Henry Moore (1831-1895), painted a fine view of this part of the coast, looking across Shipload Bay towards Lundy, in the summer of 1857 (see Figure 20.2).  The detailed portrayal of the foreground in Moore’s painting points to his Pre-Raphaelite training and eye for detail.  Many artists painted the dramatic coastal cliffs of North Devon, but they were scenic views rather than specifically highlighting any particular heritage assets.  Henry Moore also crossed to the Isle of Lundy, where he painted a fine watercolour of the coastal cliffs and wildlife in 1857.  No artworks were found depicting the historic buildings located on the Island. 

Unlike the quays at Hartland and Bucks Mills, that at Clovelly has survived the ravages of storms, and the quay is depicted by numerous artists (see figures 20.5-20.11).  Within this Case Study frontage there are three Conservation Areas at Hartland, Clovelly and Bucks Mills, as well as cliff top Scheduled Monuments and numerous Listed Buildings and archaeological sites which are at risk of erosion.  Clovelly and Bucks Mills may also be at risk of flooding in the future (Halcrow, 20095). 

The steep cobbled main street of Clovelly, flanked by whitewashed cottages, leads down to the small harbour, which was the base of a fishing fleet, which prospered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on huge catches of herring.  The beach consists of shingle and cobbles from the slowly eroding cliffs.  The images of Clovelly illustrate the changing face of this picturesque village from the early nineteenth century up until about 1930. 

At the eastern end of the case study area is Bucks Mills, where the village street leads down to the beach and the ruins of a large lime kiln.  Adjacent to the village in Bucks Woods is a site of an Iron Age hill fort at Peppercombe Castle. 

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a break in the rocks on the foreshore was created with gunpowder to allow access to the small quay, which has since disappeared, creating a small harbour for fishing vessels.  It was used in the eighteenth century for the import of all the necessary raw materials, which were burnt in kilns to produce fertiliser.  The remains of two of the lime kilns can be seen on either side of the beach access. 

5.         How can historical Imagery inform heritage risk management?

This Case Study illustrates the strengths and limitations of artworks, which depict coastal villages and harbours but not archaeological sites specifically.  They also describe the social history of the locations that they depict. 

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

The case studies demonstrate how sites of topographical and touristic interest were favoured as subjects by artists (e.g. Hartland Quay, the wider north Devon coastline and clifflines, and the picturesque village of Clovelly), whilst specific archaeological sites, such as the hill forts at Embury Beacon and Windbury, rarely feature in artworks.  For these sites, clearly historical drawings by antiquarians or past researchers, together with aerial photography, represent the best available medium. 

Figure 20.1: ‘Hartland Pier’ by William Daniell RA.  Aquatint Engraving. 1814.  This view was produced by Daniell at the start of his eleven year ‘Voyage Round Great Britain’ (1814-25) and shows the stone arm/pier in sound condition.  The rocky, hazardous coastline and exposure of the location to Atlantic storm waves are obvious in Daniell’s view.

Figure 20.2: ‘Across Shipload Bay to Lundy Island’.  An oil on canvas by Henry Moore RA. 1859.  The view looks along the coast towards Windbury Head, the site of an early hill fort.  Moore conformed to the Pre-Raphaelite ethos of capturing the natural environment in a precise and accurate way.  Views of the coast of South-West England of this quality are numerous.  Whilst they show us the nature of the coastline at a point in time they rarely show detail of early heritage sites. 

Image courtesy of the Maas Gallery, London.

Figure 20.3: This early aquatint of ‘Clovelly’ by William Daniell RA, 1814, provides us with an accurate record of the village before its discovery by tourism.  Figure 20.4 shows the Red Lion Hotel (depicted also in Daniell’s view) by the artist, David Addey, on his coastal tour in the footsteps on Daniell, in 1991.

Image courtesy of David Addey.

Figure 20.5: ‘Figures on the Beach at Clovelly’ by William Turner of Oxford. Watercolour. c.1840.  The massive harbour wall is well illustrated in this view.  The cottages in Daniell’s view (above) are on the left of the harbour.

Image courtesy of John Spink.

Figure 20.6: ‘Clovelly from the Pier’, a mid-nineteenth century steel engraving taken from the end of the harbour arm.  The steep street leads down to the quay from above with cottages clustered round the waterfront.

Figure 20.7: ‘A view of Clovelly’ by Charles Robertson RWS. C.1880.  Like Moore (Figure 20.2) he worked in Pre-Raphaelite detail and with a high degree of accuracy.

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Figure 20.8: ‘Clovelly’ by Edward Wilkins Waite.  Oil on canvas. 1881.  Waite’s view is taken looking eastwards past the harbour and along the North Devon coastline.

Image courtesy of Burlington Paintings, London.

Figure 20.9: This watercolour entitled ‘Among the Shingles, Clovelly’ is by Charles Napier Henry (1864).  Painted in Pre-Raphaelite photographic detail every stone on the beach can be seen together with its height and profile as well as the nature and condition of the harbour wall.  Artworks of this kind equal a colour photograph of today in their detail.

Image courtesy of the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Figure 20.10: ‘Clovelly’ by Alfred Robert Quinton painted c.1920 provides a more detailed view of the interior of the harbour.  The buildings on the left and behind can be seen in William Daniell’s view in Figure 20.3.

Image courtesy of J. Salmon Limited of Sevenoaks.

Figure 20.11: Henry B. Wimbush, a watercolourist, shows the massive harbour well from water level in c.1895.  Both Wimbush and Quinton produced watercolours for use on colour picture postcards with Wimbush working for Raphael Tuck and Quinton employed by Salmon’s of Sevenoaks.

7.         References

  1. Royal Haskoning, 2011.  ‘Cornwall and Isles of Scilly SMP2’.
  2. Devon County Council, 2015.  ‘Devon and Dartmoor Historic Environment Record’.
  3. Sims, R., Allen, M. J. & Rainbird, P., 2014.  ‘Iron Age and Medieval Activity and Land Use at Embury Beacon Fort, Hartland, Devon’.  Proc. Devon Archaeol. Soc. 72 (2014, 71-102. 
  4. Daniell, W. & Ayton, R., 1814-1825.  ‘A Voyage Round Great Britain’.  Longman & Co.
  5. Halcrow, 2009.  ‘Hartland Point to Anchor Head SMP2’.