The Newcomen Road
In the early part of the 19th century Dartmouth bore little resemblance to the genteel and affluent place it is today – indeed, in this book Ivor Smart described it as a “medieval, stagnating, evil-smelling town”. The need for fundamental improvements finally became irresistible, and in 1861 the Corporation agreed to go ahead with an ambitious plan prepared by an engineer named William Bell to provide improved road access to the town, proposing a new modern highway sweeping down from Southtown as far as the Quay.
The eventual implementation was far more modest than Bell’s original conception, but nevertheless the Newcomen Road vastly improved Dartmouth’s accessibility, though a large number of old properties in Higher and Lower Streets were demolished. Ivor Smart’s inimitable account of the political and commercial wranglings that beset the project provide a fascinating insight into how Dartmouth was run 150 years ago.
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