Hallsands

Isn’t it funny how obscure folklore appears in music….

I know Seth Lakeman did “Childe the Hunter” on the Freedom Fields album and other have done similar, however the new kids on the block are (as Prog Magazine put it in the June edition) a group of folk-proggers dealing in history and so having read the article I downloaded the album “Fate Outsmarts Desire” and there is was all 14’18 about Hallsands, just around the coast from the writers’ former home.

I knew about the ruins etc having been there many time as a boy and I hope to take my own daughter there this year to show her where her father grew up before moving to Londinium like many at the age of eighteen, nearly thirty-eight years ago.

Yet again man’s greed caused destruction to a once thriving coastal village but rather than transcribe the tale, I’ve added below what that well know W…site has to say about the Village.

If I had the time I’d love to dig into the archives and explore the real village etc but for now I’m left with the final few bars of music resonating around my addled mind…

As a bit of a side, most of you know who Childe the Hunter was and if not then I’ve blogged about him previously, however Freedom Fields was the one of original hospitals in Plymouth that was originally a workhouse in 1858 before finally closing its doors in 1998…its claim to fame or not…your writer was born there at during the last quarter of the 60’s…

History

The early history of Hallsands is unknown, but a chapel has existed there since at least 1506. The village was at a cave known as Poke Hole, and probably was not inhabited before 1600.[1] 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.

 

Hallsands in 1885.

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.[2] 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.[3] By 1900, however, the level of the beach had started to fall. In 1900’s autumn storms, 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, but 1902 winter 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.[4] The villagers’ fight for compensation took seven years.

According to Pathe News newsreel footage from 1960, the last inhabitant of the village was Mrs. Elizabeth Prettejohn.[5]

Present day[edit]

 

Ruins of a house in the Hallsands

The site of the old village at South Hallsands, is closed, although South Hams District Council has built a viewing platform, which is accessed from Trout’s Apartments (formerly Trout’s Hotel) in South Hallsands. Two houses remain intact, but in summer the owners spend much time repairing the damage that the easterly winds have caused over the winter.

In May 2012, an access road, viewing platform and two houses were affected by a 200 tonne landslide, leading to the houses being evacuated and the affected area cornered off by police.[6] There was further damage to remaining houses at the site.

The beach at North Hallsands, known locally at the time as “Greenstraight”, was for 99 years the only one remaining at Hallsands, as the beach beside the village no longer exists, having been removed by the 1917 storm. In 2016 this beach was reported to have been washed away by storms, leaving only a peat underlayer; there are no plans to restore the sand or protect houses in the village.

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