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Dawlish History

19th Century History


Cathedral Ownership Ends

The beginning of the 19th century saw the end of Exeter Cathedral's ownership of Dawlish. In 1802 the Dean and Chapter sold the manor of Dawlish for Land Tax to Richard Eales Esq. of Easton. The number of houses in Dawlish at the time was 291 and the population 1424 people. In the coming decades the land was split up and sold to further wealthy individuals. 1802 was also the year that Jane Austen visited the town.

Landscaping of the Lawn

At about the same time, a local businessman was considering the benefits to the town of landscaping the land on both sides of the Brook to enable the construction of property closer to the beach. The businessman was John Manning, and in 1803 he started the process of draining the marshy land and straightening the stream.

The landscaping proved costly, however, as in 1810, after 3 months of rainfall, the banks of the stream broke and severe flooding washed away the newly created lawns along with 8 bridges and 2 newly built houses in Brook Street, leaving John Manning poorer by some £11,000.  Soon after, landscaping commenced again. This time weirs were placed at several locations along the Brook to prevent flooding. The Brook has generally remained the same since this time; however, the waterfowl were not introduced until sometime after.

Dawlish Flood

The Coming of the Railway

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, unique since the design called for the train to operate by way of a pneumatic tube with a vacuum ahead and atmospheric pressure behind. The model for patent purposes worked, although the full-size model built in 1844 did not, and so the Atmospheric Railway was converted to conventional propulsion.

The effect of the building of the railway on the town was great. Hundreds of 'navvies' arrived to work on the line and tunnels, and brought money to the town, particulary the public houses.  The first passenger train ran on Whit Bank Holiday, Saturday 30th May 1846 and took 40 minutes to arrive at Exeter making Dawlish the first resort in the region to be served by railway.
The original single track was later converted to double track.

Single Track Dawlish