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HER Number:MDV109850
Name:Breakwaters at Sprey Point, Dawlish


An area of breakwaters marked on the 1880s-1890s Ordnance Survey map at Sprey Point.


Grid Reference:SX 950 738
Map Sheet:SX97SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDawlish
Civil ParishTeignmouth

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BREAKWATER (Built, XIX - 1801 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'Breakwaters' are labelled and illustrated.

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

'Breakwaters' are labelled and illustrated.

Pink, F., 2014-2015, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment (Interpretation). SDV357736.

An area labelled as 'Breakwaters' is first shown on the First Edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey map to the south-east of Northcotts Farm. The area is also labelled and illustrated on the Second Edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey map, and two buildings are depicted on the largest breakwater on both the First and Second Edition maps. The area is also labelled on the Ordnance Survey Master Map, although only the eastern-most building is present.

Ordnance Survey, 2015, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV357601.

'Breakwaters' are labelled and illustrated.

Historic England, 2018, Mainline Railway on SW Coastline between Teignmouth Cutting and Parsons Tunnel Portal, Teignmouth (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360684.

Notification of application for a Certificate of Immunity fro Listing for structures and features on the railway line between Teignmouth Cutting and Parsons Tunnel including sea walls, bridges and tunnel portals.

Historic England, 2018, Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Eastcliff, Teignmouth, including Sprey Point (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360747.

Notification that Historic England is currently considering whether a Certificate of Immunity should be issued for the sea wall. They have completed an assessment upon which they will base their decision.
The Plymouth, Devonport and Exeter Railway Company was formed in 1840 to establish a railway line between Exeter and Plymouth. In 1843 the name was changed to the South Devon Railway and Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as engineer. In 1844 the South Devon Railway Act was passed, authorising the construction of a single-track, broad-gauge line.
The proposed route included a stretch along the coastline between Dawlish and Teignmouth, between the sea and sandstone cliffs, which required a series of tunnels to be cut through the protruding headland. The line had to negotiate several steep climbs and changes in gradient and Brunel’s plan to deal with this landscape was to adopt an experimental system of atmospheric propulsion. Known as the Atmospheric Railway, it was developed by Samuel Clegg and Jacob and Joseph Samuda on the Dalkey Railway in Ireland in 1844. It used a combination of partial vacuum and atmospheric pressure. Instead of a traditional locomotive engine, stationary engines were placed in pumping stations along the line, extracting air from vacuum pipes laid in the middle of the track. Brunel first used the system in 1844 on a five-mile stretch of the London to Croydon Railway. Despite criticism of the system from various contemporary engineers he also recommended it for the South Devon Railway. The first section of the line opened in May 1846; however, the atmospheric vacuum pipes had not been completed, and initially, a steam locomotive was used. The first atmospheric train ran in 1847; although only between Exeter and Teignmouth. Ultimately the railway suffered from defects, including the deterioration of the leather seals on the vacuum pipes. In 1848 the atmospheric system was abandoned and the line was converted to conventional steam locomotion.
In 1876 South Devon amalgamated with the Great Western Railway, and in 1884 the section of track between Teignmouth Old Quay and Smugglers Lane was doubled. In 1892 the line was converted from broad to standard gauge. Between 1902 and 1905 the section between Smugglers Lane and Dawlish Railway Station was also made into a double line.
The section of sea wall at Teignmouth is topped by a public walkway and runs along the south-east side of the railway line between Parsons Tunnel and Eastcliff. It was part of the original South Devon Railway opened in 1846. At about its midway point the sea wall breaks forwards to create a rectangular area known as Sprey Point which is the former site of various buildings, including the Halfway Café (not extant). In 1884 this section of railway was doubled and a new track was added to the west (cliff) side of the original track bed. In 1909 a sloping stone apron was added to the base of the wall around Sprey Point. During the C20 timber groynes were placed along the beach in front of the sea wall to limit the movement of sediment. The whole sea wall has been subject to various phases of repairs and
reinforcements, including the addition of stone and concrete aprons and footings, and repairs to the main wall in stone and concrete and the addition of capping stones. The parapet wall in front to the railway line has been repaired and rebuilt in sections, most recently following storm damage in 2014.
Sea wall built adjacent to railway line and topped by a public walkway; built 1846 by South Devon Railway, and subject to various phases of repair and reinforcement.
MATERIALS: constructed of sandstone with granite dressings, later additions and repairs in limestone and concrete.
DESCRIPTION: the battered sea wall is 155m long and averages 6m high. It is split into two sections which run between Parsons Tunnel and Smugglers Lane Viaduct and between Smuggler Lane Viaduct to Eastcliff. The small section of sea wall between Parsons Tunnel and Smugglers Lane is covered by rock armour (large blocks of rock) and is not visible on the seaward side. The walls to either side of Smugglers Lane Viaduct have been rebuilt in limestone (the viaduct is the subject of a separate assessment), while the section to the south-west of Smugglers Lane is faced predominantly in sandstone. At Eastcliff, the railway line turns west, away from the sea front, and another section of sea wall continues to the south parallel to Teignmouth Esplanade (not included in this assessment).
Limestone and concrete apron walls and footings have been added at various points along the base of the sea wall and it is topped by granite copping stones. There are sets of stone steps, placed at regular intervals along the wall, which lead from the beach up to the public walkway. Most are built of sandstone with granite or limestone treads; at least one set of steps has been rebuilt in sandstone. The walkway on top of the wall is around 2.5m wide and runs from Smugglers Lane to Eastcliff. A 1m high limestone-parapet wall separates the walkway from the railway track; stone benches have been incorporated into the wall at various points along its length. There have been incremental repairs to the whole sea wall in limestone and concrete, as well as concrete repairs to the coping stones, public walkway and parapet wall.
Around 1km south-west of Parsons Tunnel West Portal the sea wall breaks forward to create a rectangular platform, 144m long and 40m wide, known as Sprey Point. At the base of its walls is a C20 battered stone apron. To the north and south are slipways lead from the platform down to the beach along the flanking sea walls. Stone breakwaters are also attached to the north and south side of Sprey Point and run parallel with the slipways. The northern breakwater was partially rebuilt in mid-C20 and is now surrounded by protective rock armour; the southern breakwater was damaged in the early-C20 and survives as a small fragment of wall.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: timber groynes run at right angles to the base of the sea wall. At the base of the sandstone cliff and along the north-west side of the railway track are sections of stone and timber revetments walls of different dates.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV357601Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2015. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #69318 ]
SDV357736Interpretation: Pink, F.. 2014-2015. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV360684List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Mainline Railway on SW Coastline between Teignmouth Cutting and Parsons Tunnel Portal, Teignmouth. Notification of Application for a Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV360747List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Eastcliff, Teignmouth, including Sprey Point. Notification of Completion of Assessment. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV120681Related to: Sea Wall between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Aug 5 2019 4:31PM