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HER Number:MDV120681
Name:Sea Wall between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth

Summary

Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth on the South Devon Railway. It was originally built of sandstone with granite dressings in 1846 but has been subject to several phases of repair and reinforcement in concrete and limestone subsequently.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 950 739
Map Sheet:SX97SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDawlish
Civil ParishTeignmouth
DistrictTeignbridge
Ecclesiastical ParishDAWLISH

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • SEA DEFENCES (Built, XIX - 1846 AD to 1846 AD)

Full description

Garnsworthy, P., 2013, Brunel's Atmostpheric Railway, 52-53 (Monograph). SDV360708.

The sea wall and breakwater at Sprey Point are shown on William Dawson's watercolour of the view from Teignmouth Tunnel to Parson's Tunnel. Part of a series of watercolours painted in the 1840s of Brunel's Atmospheric Railway


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 for structures and features on the railway line between Teignmouth Cutting and Parsons Tunnel including sea walls, bridges and tunnel portals.


Ordnance Survey, 2018, MasterMap 2018 (Cartographic). SDV360652.

Sea wall shown.


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.
History
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.
Details
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.


Historic England, 2018, Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Eastcliff, Teignmouth, including Sprey Point, centered on SX9512374007 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361191.

Notification that following a recommendation from Historic England, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided not to list the sea wall but is minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI).
The South Devon Railway was first laid out in 1846 and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The sea wall between East Cliff and Parsons Tunnel is shown in William Dawson’s 1840s illustrations of Brunel’s Atmospheric Railway. When this section of railway was doubled in the late C19 the new track was added on the landward side and the line of the original sea wall was maintained.
The sea wall is a prominent coastal feature which includes a raised public walkway and parapet wall that run parallel to the railway line. It is built principally of sandstone which contrasts with the limestone and granite detailing, and its profile is enlivened by sets of steps and a projecting platform at Sprey Point. However, the sea wall has been subject to various piecemeal repairs and alterations. While it is expected that a sea defence structure will be subject to a certain degree of repair, significant changes include the refacing of sections of the wall in limestone and concrete; the addition of substantial stone and concrete footings along the base of various sections of the wall; and the complete rebuilding in concrete of sections of the limestone parapet wall beside the railway line. These modifications have affected the overall historic character of Brunel’s original design. The wall was designed in conjunction with the flanking stone tunnel portals and the original Smugglers Lane Viaduct, all of which have been replaced. It was also built in association with other stretches of sea walls between Parsons Tunnel East Portal and Dawlish Railway Station and some of these have also been either completely rebuilt or heavily modified. The alteration and loss of contemporary railway infrastructure has diminished the sea wall’s claims to architectural interest as part of Brunel’s overall cohesive design for this section of coastal railway.
As part of Brunel’s 1846 design for South Devon Railway, the sea wall dates to a period which is recognised as a nationally pioneering period of railway construction. However, as a retaining wall it is an ancillary structure which is architecturally modest and does not appear to display any additional design interest specific to its association with the railway or to be strongly illustrative of Brunel’s Atmospheric Railway. Further to this, it is not closely associated with any listed transport buildings. The majority of railway retaining walls that have been designated are generally listed for their association with bridges, tunnel portals or stations. In terms of this particular wall’s role as a sea defence, there are regional examples of listed sea walls, including in front of The Esplanade at Exmouth, Devon (1841-2, Grade II) and along Marine Parade at St Mawes, Cornwall (1859, Grade II). Although of similar dates, these walls form a more integral part of their respective town's sea defences and have stronger group value with other nearby listed structures.
The railway sea wall between East Cliff, Teignmouth and Parsons Tunnel West Portal has very strong local historic interest as a prominent coastal feature built as part of the first phase of this early railway which was established by Brunel. However, it has been subject to incremental repairs and alterations and, as an ancillary engineering work, it does not form a strong group with any listed transport structures. It does not demonstrate sufficient special architectural or historic interest to merit listing.
CONCLUSION
After examining all the records and other relevant information and having carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of this case, the criteria for listing are not fulfilled. It is recommended that a Certificate of Immunity from Listing should be issued for the sea wall that runs along the railway line between East Cliff, Teignmouth and Parsons Tunnel, including Sprey Point.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
A Certificate of Immunity from Listing should be issued for the sea wall that runs along the railway line between East Cliff, Teignmouth and Parsons Tunnel, including Sprey Point, for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest:
* although a prominent coastal feature, incremental alterations and repairs have affected the overall historic character of this structure;
* it does not demonstrate sufficient technological interest or innovation in engineering terms in the context of the national railway network.
Historic interest:
* it was built as part of the first phase of the former South Devon Railway established in 1846 and designed by Brunel. However, the association does not compensate for its modest architectural and technological interest and lack of group value.
Group value:
* the majority of its contemporary associated transport infrastructure has been replaced or substantially altered in the late C19 and early C20.
See report for further details.


Historic England, 2018, Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Eastcliff, Teignmouth, including Sprey Point, centered on SX9512374007 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361209.

Confirmation that the sea wall has been issued with a Certificate of Immunity from listing for five years.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV360652Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap 2018. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #79923 ]
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.
SDV360708Monograph: Garnsworthy, P.. 2013. Brunel's Atmostpheric Railway. Brunel's Atmostpheric Railway. Paperback Volume. 52-53.
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.
SDV361191List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Eastcliff, Teignmouth, including Sprey Point, centered on SX9512374007. Notification of Intention to Grant a Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV361209List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Sea wall between Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Eastcliff, Teignmouth, including Sprey Point, centered on SX9512374007. Notification of Certificate of Immunity. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV109850Related to: Breakwaters at Sprey Point, Dawlish (Monument)
MDV17775Related to: South Devon Railway, Teignmouth Section (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded


Date Last Edited:Aug 5 2019 4:31PM