Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dartmouth, Devonshire, England - September 12, 2010

Dartmouth is a little way up the estuary of, wait for it, the River Dart. It is a tourist destination and has a population of about 5,500. Historically, Dartmouth was an important deep-water port used as the sailing point for the Crusades of 1147 and 1190, and the home of the Royal Navy from the reign of Edward III.
The town was sacked twice during the 100 years war with France and, after the second attack, the estuary was closed by a chain every night and the narrow mouth was protected by two fortified castles, Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle. Dartmouth also had the dubious distinction in medieval times of being a major base for "privateering", AKA state sanctioned and licensed piracy.
The town contains many medieval and Elizabethan streetscapes and is patchwork of narrow lanes and stone stairways. A number of the historic buildings are listed one of which is the Butterwalk, built 1635 to 1640. The Royal Castle Hotel was built in 1639 on the then new quay while a claimant for the oldest building is a former merchant's house in Higher Street, now a listed public house called the Cherub, built circa 1380.
Dartmouth sent numerous ships to join the English fleet that attacked the Spanish Armada in the 17th century and the Spanish Armada's "payship", commanded by Admiral Pedro de Vald├ęs, was captured along with all its crew by Sir Francis Drake. Local folk lore tells how the ship was reportedly anchored in the river Dart for more than a year while the crew were used as laborers on the nearby Greenway Estate. Centuries later, Greenway was to become the home of Dame Agatha Christie.
In the latter part of World War II the town was a base for American forces and one of the departure points for Utah Beach in the D Day landings. Much of the surrounding countryside was closed to the public while it was used by US troops for training.
More pictures of this backwater treasure are here.

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