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A History of Dawlish

Dawlish takes its name from the stream once spelt ‘Deawlisc’ a Celtic word meaning ‘Devil Water’ (the name came from heavy rains churning up the red cliffs, making the brook run red). It is also recorded as ‘Dofiisc’ ‘black stream’ in a Saxon charter of 1044.

When the Romans invaded Britain, the Celts of Devon and Cornwall, like Scotland were left alone and continued to occupy the land. Early Celtic settlers occupied the higher grounds establishing Dawlish as a village as it is sheltered on three sides by hills and the sea on the fourth side gives protection from possible attack.

Bishop Leofric died in 1072 and bequeathed the Manor of Dawlish to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral, It remained in the church until 1807.

Dawlish began to slowly grow over the next few hundred years. During the Industrial Revolution it saw two flour mills turned by water wheels. The Strand Mill, Brunswick Place is now the only remaining mill in Dawlish which was a working flour mill from 1717 until 1959. The Georgian period saw new houses and villas being built. John Nash designed and built Luscombe Castle for Charles Hoare a prominent banker from Dawlish.

From 1803 onwards the land between the old village and the sea was being landscaped and beginning to take the shape of the town that we know today. The stream was straightened and broken by artificial waterfalls and houses built along the side of the lawn then known as Pleasant Row, today we know it as The Strand.

In 1830 plans were drawn up for an event that would change the face of Dawlish forever. The plans were for a unique railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The first passenger train ran on Whit Bank Holiday, Saturday 30th May 1846. In 1905 Great Western Railway built a station at Dawlish Warren and enlarged it in 1907.

Dawlish attracted day trippers and holiday visitors the 1930’s saw the opening of holiday camps and many of the villas and 19th century houses offered guest accommodation as the railways brought many visitors to the town.

The Strand Mill
The Strand Mill

The brook that runs through the pleasure gardens is home to the famous Black Swans which first arrived from Australia in the early 1900’s. Today Dawlish still retains its Regency and early Victorian architecture as well as being a thriving seaside town.


Dawlish Town Council, The Manor House, Old Town Street, Dawlish, Devon EX7 9AP
Tel: 01626 863388
Email: townclerk@dawlish.gov.uk

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