About us

About the Dartmouth History Research Group

The Dartmouth History Research Group began in 1991 when Ray Freeman, a local history teacher and author, first brought together people interested in exploring local history. Sadly Ray died on 19 September 2023. A page dedicated to her memory, giving an account of her life and work, can be found here.

Although Ray’s published works had contributed a great deal to the understanding and appreciation of our local history, there was still a lot left to discover. The group agreed to concentrate on research and making historical information about Dartmouth and the surrounding area available to everyone – that remains our focus today.

Under Ray’s leadership, progress was rapid – by the end of 1993 there were ten books in print. To help the growing number of people interested in local and family history, the Group began collecting and transcribing documents such as parish registers and census returns. In 2003, under new Chairman Irene O’Shea, and led by Wally Fleet, longstanding member and later the Group’s third Chairman, the Group began a new project, the development of a website, “The Dartmouth Archives”, bringing together an extensive collection of information and resources, and funded by a generous grant from the Local Heritage Initiative of the Heritage Lottery Fund (and others). The website went live in 2007, enabling people all over the world to discover the history of Dartmouth and the surrounding area. The present website aims to build on that very considerable and remarkable achievement.

Over the years we have made available much family history information including parish registers, census records and burial records. Other activities include transcribing and summarising original records such as property deeds which are a rich source of information on the history of the town. Oral history has also been an important theme and we have taped the memories of older residents and anyone with stories to tell about the past. We have produced many books and articles and contributed to many collaborative projects, working with Dartmouth Museum, Dartmouth Town Council, and other local groups and organisations. Our contribution to Dartmouth’s Mayflower 400 project in 2020 is one recent example.

Perhaps you have memories of life in this part of Devon locked in your head, or longstanding family links to the local area, or other local knowledge? If so, come and join us and help make history! We’re always delighted to welcome new members and value all skills and experience. You can learn as you go along and you don’t need any research qualifications – just enthusiasm, perseverance and an enquiring mind! Members pursue whatever aspects of local history they are interested in, support other members in their research, or get involved in wider DHRG projects. Everyone works in their own way and contributes in whatever way suits them best.

To find out more, come to one of our meetings (see the home page for details) or email us at enquiries@dartmouth-history.org.uk

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We are marking International Women's Day today and World Book Day yesterday with a post about Flora Thompson, who lived in Dartmouth from 1928 until 1940. Living in Above Town with far-reaching views over the Dart and out to sea, and reflecting on her Oxfordshire childhood, she wrote the first book in her now famous trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford. A blue plaque marks the house today.Eldest surviving child of Albert and Emma Timms, a stonemason and a nursemaid, Flora went to elementary school and began working life at 14, as a post office clerk. Working in the post office she met John Thompson, another post office worker; they married in 1903. In 1927, John was appointed Dartmouth postmaster; Flora did not want to move, but grew to love the Devon countryside. In 1940 she and her husband moved to Brixham. Sadly her health never recovered after the death of their youngest son Peter, lost at sea in 1941 when his merchant ship was torpedoed. Flora died in 1947 and her ashes were interred in Longcross Cemetery, Dartmouth. Her modest memorial there - appropriately in the form of a book - fondly commemorates Peter too, as she requested in her wi#dartmouthm#localhistorys#internationalwomensdayn#worldbookday2024y2024 ... See MoreSee Less
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Celebrating the Chinese Year of the Dragon with some Dartmouth dragons, on the front of Raleigh Court. It was built in 1889 on the recently completed Southern Embankment as the "Raleigh Temperance Hotel". The architect E H Back combined up to date facilities, like lots of bathrooms, running hot water and electricity, with "ancient architecture" and lots of elaborate ornamentation, including dragons. They've been guarding the building for a while now and look in pretty good shape. Many of Dartmouth's buildings have interesting features - why not have a look up and see what you can find?#dartmouth #localhistory #yearofdragon 🐉🐲 ... See MoreSee Less
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News of upcoming February events: a naval theme from our friends at Kingswear Historians, with a talk about BRNC on Monday 12 February at 7.30pm; from our friends at Dart Valley U3A Classics group, a military theme in a talk about The Roman Army in the West on Thursday 1 February at 10.30am; and from us, history, cake and our AGM on Monday 5 February at 10.00am - see our website for more details:dartmouth-history.org.uk #localhistory #flavel #dartmouth #kingswear #U3A ... See MoreSee Less
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A century ago this week, there was some good news in Dartmouth. "Improved prospects" in shipbuilding were reported. Philip & Son were expecting a new floating dock, significantly increasing capacity, and there were new orders for three oil-carrying steamers. Under construction were a fireboat for the river Tyne; a barge for the Exeter-Topsham canal; and three yachts for private clients. Finally the new Dart river steamer Kingswear Castle was "well in hand", expected to be "ready for service in the coming spring". She's now a sprightly and beautiful centenarian, looking forward to her big birthday this year.#Dartmouth #localhistory #paddlesteamer #Kingswear ... See MoreSee Less
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Dartmouth Christmas past: In 1923, a century ago, times were hard for many people. Unemployment in Dartmouth was the highest amongst towns in the Torquay District. A deputation from Dartmouth threatened to march on Totnes Workhouse if they were not given “the necessities of life for the coming Christmas”; many feared destitution. They were told any application for relief would be considered "sympathetically".Great Western Railways was planning a new cross-channel ferry service to Brittany. The Harbour Commission wanted it to go from Dartmouth, as the shortest route, but Plymouth was more likely.Christmas weather was mild, wet and windy. Many ships were laid up in Dartmouth harbour. One of them, the Grecian Prince, dragged her anchors in a gale, damaging several small vessels. But encouragingly, after a lapse of ten years (due to the Great War) the Dartmouth Fat Stock Show was a great success.Thanks to everyone who's found and followed us in 2023. Happy holiday season and we look forward to seeing you in 2024.🎄🎅#localhistory #dartmouth ... See MoreSee Less
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