Jump to content


Coordinates: 50°34′52″N 3°27′58″W / 50.581°N 3.466°W / 50.581; -3.466
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The seafront at Dawlish
Dawlish is located in Devon
Location within Devon
Population15,257 (2021 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSX963767
Civil parish
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townDAWLISH
Postcode districtEX7
Dialling code01626
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°34′52″N 3°27′58″W / 50.581°N 3.466°W / 50.581; -3.466

Dawlish /ˈdɔːlɪʃ/ is a seaside resort town and civil parish in the Teignbridge district in Devon, England. It is located on the south coast of England at a distance of 12 miles (19 km) from the city of Exeter and a similar distance from the town of Torquay. The 2011 Census population was recorded at 11,312, rising to 13,355 in a 2019 estimate.[3][4][5] Dawlish had grown in the 18th century from a small fishing port into a seaside resort, as had its near neighbour, Teignmouth, in the 19th century.


Black swans in Dawlish Water 2010

Dawlish is located at the outlet of a small river, Dawlish Water (also called The Brook), between Permian red sandstone cliffs, and is fronted by a sandy beach with the South Devon Railway sea wall and the Riviera Line railway above. Behind this is a central public park, The Lawn, through which Dawlish Water flows.

Immediately to the south-west of Dawlish is a headland, Lea Mount, with Boat Cove at its foot and Coryton Cove, the furthest part of the beach accessible by the seawall path behind it. There is an Italian food kiosk there. To the north-east, via the beach or seawall, the coast can be followed for some 2 km to Langstone Rock and the resort of Dawlish Warren beyond.

Dawlish is also known for its black swans (Cygnus atratus), introduced from Western Australia, which live with other exotic waterfowl in a small urban sanctuary on Dawlish Water.[6] There are several attractions in and around the town, such as beaches, safari mini-golf, a waterfowl centre, a theatre, a leisure centre with a pool, a countryside park, and the Dawlish Museum.


The name Dawlish derives from a Welsh river name meaning black stream. There was also a Roman translation of Dolfisc, meaning 'Dark river' and 'The Devils Water'. It was first recorded in 1044 as Doflisc. By 1086 it was Dovles; in 1302, Dovelish; and by 1468 it had become the more recognisable Dawlisshe.[7]


Before Dawlish itself was settled, fishermen and salt makers came down from the higher ground where they lived, to take advantage of the natural resources available on the coast hereabouts. They built salterns to produce salt and stored it in sheds nearby. The unpredictable nature of the stream, Dawlish Water, during floods is likely to have led to nearby Teignmouth being the preferred site for salt-making, and the practice stopped at Dawlish during the Anglo-Saxon period (400–1000 CE).[8]

The earliest settlement at Dawlish grew up almost a mile away from the coast, around the area where the parish church is today.[9] There is evidence of early settlements at Aller Farm, Smallacombe, Lidwell and at Higher and Lower Southwood, where the ground would have been fertile and not subject to flooding.[8]

The land that includes present-day Dawlish was granted by Edward the Confessor to Leofric, later the first Bishop of Exeter, in 1044. After the Norman Conquest, Leofric gave the land to the Diocese of Exeter, which held it until it was sold,[10] in 1802.

A gold half-noble coin of Edward III, minted c. 1351 – c. 1361 and found in Dawlish[11]

Little of note happened at Dawlish until the end of the 18th century,[10] when seaside locations on the south coast started to become popular with the wealthy, mainly caused by George III making Weymouth in Dorset his summer holiday residence from 1789. In May 1795, the antiquarian and topographer John Swete spent some time in Dawlish and reported that although not long ago it had been no more than a fishing village, and the best lodging house would not cost more than half a guinea per week, it was now so fashionable that "in the height of the season, not a house of the least consequence is to be hired for less than two guineas a week, and many of them rise to so high a sum as four or five."[12]

In the first decade of the 19th century the land between the original settlement and the sea was "landscaped"; the stream was straightened, small waterfalls were built into it, and it was flanked by a broad lawn and rows of new houses: The Strand on the north side and Brunswick Place on the south. The layout survives remarkably unchanged today,[9][13] despite severe damage from a torrent of water coming down Dawlish Water from the Haldon Hills on the night of 10 November 1810.[10]

Also worth noting are Manor House and Brook House (both about 1800) and some of the cottages in Old Town Street surviving from the old village. Dawlish's transformation from a fishing settlement to a watering hole for Victorian celebrities is documented at the Dawlish Museum.

View of Dawlish beach in May 1881.

Brunel's railway[edit]

In 1830, Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed an atmospheric railway, which operated on a pneumatic principle,[14] using a 15-inch iron tube. One of the pumping stations was in this town. The line ran right along the seafront, but Brunel ensured that the line was carried across the mouth of the stream on a small granite viaduct, leaving access to the beach.[9]

The railway opened on 30 May 1846 between Exeter St Davids and Newton Abbot. The first passenger train ran in September 1847, but the project was besieged with problems mainly with the leather sealing valve, which after 12 months of use needed replacing at a cost of £25,000. South Devon Railway directors abandoned the project in favour of conventional trains.

Literary connections[edit]

After visiting Sidmouth in 1801, Jane Austen spent a long holiday at Dawlish in 1802, later complaining about its "particularly pitiful and wretched library".[15] She mentioned it several times in her 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility.[16] In Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), the protagonist inherits a small farm near Dawlish. The novelist and poet Margaret Holford died in Dawlish on 11 September 1852, aged 84. On 23 March 1818, the Romantic poet John Keats walked the three miles from Teignmouth to Dawlish to visit the Easter Monday fair and subsequently wrote a poem entitled Dawlish Fair, which details a fantasy of seducing a Devon woman.

Notable people[edit]

Sir John Michel, 1866


The view from Dawlish station to the south-west, towards the scenic coastal and tunnelled section of line


Dawlish railway station, situated in the town centre and next to the beach, offers train services to most stations in Devon and to London, Birmingham, Manchester and further afield. The line includes one of the most memorable stretches of British track for its natural environment, but at high cost; a constant battle with sea erosion makes it one of the dearest lines in the country to maintain.[21][22][23] For example, a storm in 1974 washed away much of the station's down platform;[24][25] also, in the UK storms of January–February 2014, waves brought down the sea wall and washed away a section of line, leaving the permanent way suspended.[26]

The 2014 storm raised questions about the vulnerability of the South Devon Railway sea wall to storm damage and proposals were made to route Plymouth-bound rail services further inland, by re-opening the disused railway line via Okehampton and Tavistock, re-opening the former Teign Valley Line or reviving a 1930s GWR project to construct the Dawlish Avoiding Line.[27] In May 2019, Network Rail started to improve the sea defences along the sea wall at Marine Parade, south of the station, promising a wider, more accessible walkway with seating and lighting, and greater protection from the sea.[28]


The A379 road from Exeter to Torbay, Dartmouth and Plymouth runs through the town, parallel to the railway line.


Buses in the town are provided by Stagecoach South West. Services include Hop 2 from Exeter to Newton Abbot, running at least every 30 minutes; an hourly 2B service to Exeter via Marsh Barton; the hourly Hop 22 from Dawlish Warren to Torquay; and the summer 222 open-top bus from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth, also hourly. There is a local bus, the 186, which links the town centre, hospital and Sainsbury's to the main housing areas.


Dawlish has a mild, oceanic climate bordering on a warm to cool Mediterranean climate, according to the Köppen climate classification, with low precipitation in the summer period and high rainfall in the winter. Often termed the "English Riviera" along with Teignmouth and Torbay, Dawlish rarely has snow or frost and grows outdoor subtropical plants such as palms, olives, bananas and lemons.[29] Temperatures over 30C or under 0C are infrequent. It is one of the sunniest places in Britain, with an average of nearly 1800 hours a year. Despite more favourable conditions in the summer, the wet autumn and winter can bring copious amounts of rain, and when areas of low pressure move up the English Channel, easterly winds with dramatic storm surges and waves along the seafront.[30]

Local produce[edit]

During the early and middle part of the 20th century, Dawlish became known for Devon Violets perfume. Hundreds of varieties were grown in market gardens surrounding the town. Violet escapees can be found growing wild across the area. Lately the town has become known for growing dainthas, freesias, daffodils, tomatoes and strawberries.[citation needed]

Retail and employment[edit]

Take away cream teas

Centred on The Strand, Queen Street, Brunswick Place and Park Road, Dawlish has typical retail facilities for a resort town with gift shops, cafes, a fishing tackle shop, beach/toy shops, bakeries, restaurants and pubs, haberdasheries, ice-cream shops, national chains and many independent retailers. Along Piermont Place, by Dawlish railway station and the seafront, are further ice-cream shops, a restaurant, a cafe and a sports-bar with outdoor seating areas. In recent years, a number of art, craft and antiques shops have opened. At the north-eastern end of the town there is a Sainsbury's supermarket with an Argos facility and a petrol station.

The largest employment sector in the town is health and social work (23 per cent), due to a large number of care homes, followed by accommodation and food services (20 per cent).


The town's places of worship:

Schools and education[edit]

The primary schools in Dawlish are Gatehouse Primary School,[37] Westcliff Primary School and Orchard Manor School.[38] Dawlish College[39] (formerly Dawlish Community College) in Elm Grove Road is the main secondary school. Oakwood Court College is a specialist residential college based in Dawlish, with a satellite college in Torpoint.


Locally, Dawlish is governed by Dawlish Town Council, which is currently controlled by the Liberal Democrats, as is the next local-government layer above, Teignbridge District Council. Dawlish lies in the parliamentary constituency of Newton Abbot and is currently represented by Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris, who retained her seat at the 2019 general election.


Dawlish is twinned with the Breton commune of Carhaix-Plouguer in France.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dawlish". City population. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  2. ^ "Dawlish Town Council". Archived from the original on 6 January 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  3. ^ "City Population. Retrieved 3 January 2021". Archived from the original on 25 November 2020. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  4. ^ Office for National Statistics: Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Teignbridge Archived 24 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 27 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Dawlish profile". Archived from the original on 23 July 2021. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  6. ^ Black Swans and other waterfowl Archived 23 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Dawlish Town Council website.
  7. ^ Watts, Victor (2010). The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names (1st paperback ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-521-16855-7.
  8. ^ a b "Dawlish History Introduction". dawlish.com. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  9. ^ a b c Hoskins, W. G. (1972). A New Survey of England: Devon (New ed.). London: Collins. pp. 386–387. ISBN 0-7153-5577-5.
  10. ^ a b c Worth, R. N. (1895). A History of Devonshire. London: Elliot Stock. pp. 314–315.
  11. ^ Robinson, A. "Finds record for: PUBLIC-162E15". The Portable Antiquities Scheme. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  12. ^ Peter Hunt, ed. (1984). Devon's Age of Elegance. Devon Books. p. 128. ISBN 0-86114-750-2.
  13. ^ Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1989). The Buildings of England – Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp. 329–333. ISBN 0-14-071050-7.
  14. ^ Hadfield, Charles (1967). Atmospheric Railways. David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4107-3.
  15. ^ "Jane Austen... Dawlish and Sidmouth" (PDF). Devon Libraries. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  16. ^ "Jane Austen Gazetteer – Sense and Sensibility – Dawlish, Devonshire". The Republic of Pemberley. Archived from the original on 1 July 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  17. ^ "Short, Thomas Vowler" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 52. 1897. p. 155.
  18. ^ "Merivale, Herman" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 18 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 169.
  19. ^ "Shuttleworth, Robert James" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 52. 1897. pp. 176–177.
  20. ^ "Arnold-Forster, Hugh Oakeley" . Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). Vol. 1. 1912. pp. 61–64.
  21. ^ "Railway cliff scheme 'on target'". BBC News. 13 October 2004. Archived from the original on 23 July 2021. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  22. ^ "Weather could wash away rail link". BBC News. 27 October 2005. Archived from the original on 13 November 2005. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  23. ^ Chris Ledgard (27 May 2006). "Brunel railway faces up to the sea". BBC News. Archived from the original on 23 July 2021. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  24. ^ Kay, Peter (1991). Exeter – Newton Abbot: A Railway History. Platform 5. p. 108. ISBN 1-872524-42-7.
  25. ^ "Dawlish railway repairs halted over safety fears". BBC News. 13 October 2004. Archived from the original on 6 February 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  26. ^ "UK storms wash away railway line and leave thousands without power". BBC News. Archived from the original on 5 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  27. ^ Turner, Lauren (7 February 2014). "How do you fix the Dawlish problem?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 February 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  28. ^ [1] Archived 5 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ Almond, Chris (2021). "Devon lemons: The micro‐climate of South Devon and citrus fruit cultivation". Weather. 76 (4): 136–137. Bibcode:2021Wthr...76..136A. doi:10.1002/wea.3942. S2CID 233610059. Archived from the original on 15 April 2021. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  30. ^ Dawlish weather site Dawlish Climate Averages (2005–2018) Archived 3 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "Hope Church Website". Archived from the original on 4 June 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  32. ^ "Retrieved 5 June 2017". Archived from the original on 21 May 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  33. ^ "Retrieved 5 June 2017". Archived from the original on 25 January 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  34. ^ "Retrieved 5 June 2017". Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  35. ^ A Church Near You Retrieved 5 June 2017. Archived 18 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "Diocese of Exeter" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  37. ^ School site Retrieved 15 January 2017. Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ "Retrieved 15 January 2017". Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  39. ^ "School website". Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  40. ^ "British Towns Twinned with French Towns". Complete France. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2016.

External links[edit]