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Dawlish View.JPG
The seafront at Dawlish
Dawlish is located in Devon
Location within Devon
Population15,954 (2018[1])
OS grid referenceSX963767
Civil parish
  • Dawlish
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townDAWLISH
Postcode districtEX7
Dialling code01626
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
EU ParliamentSouth West England
UK Parliament
List of places
50°34′52″N 3°27′58″W / 50.581°N 3.466°W / 50.581; -3.466Coordinates: 50°34′52″N 3°27′58″W / 50.581°N 3.466°W / 50.581; -3.466

Dawlish /ˈdɔːlɪʃ/ is an English seaside resort town and civil parish in Teignbridge on the south coast of Devon, 12 miles (19 km) from the county town of Exeter and the larger resort of Torquay. Its population of 12,345 in 2001 had risen to about 16,000 by 2018,[2][3] and was expected to grow significantly in coming years, as several large housing estates were under construction, mainly in the north and east of the town. It had grown in the 18th century from a small fishing port into a well-known seaside resort as did its near neighbour Teignmouth in the 19th century.


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 a 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.[4] There are several attractions in and around the town, such as beaches, safari mini-golf, a waterfowl centre, 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.[5]


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 (AD 400–1000).[6]

The earliest settlement at Dawlish grew up almost a mile away from the coast, around the area where the parish church is today.[7] 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.[6]

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,[8] in 1802.

Little of note happened at Dawlish until the end of the 18th century,[8] 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."[9]

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 entire layout survives remarkably unchanged today,[7][10] despite severe damage from a torrent of water coming down Dawlish Water from the Haldon Hills on the night of 10 November 1810.[8]

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 May 1881.

Brunel's railway[edit]

In 1830, Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed a railway, which operated on a pneumatic principle,[11] 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.[7]

The atmospheric railway opened on 30 May 1846 and ran 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".[12] She mentioned the town several times in her 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility.[13] 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. The Romantic poet John Keats wrote a poem titled "Dawlish fair".

View from Dawlish station to the south-west toward the scenic tunnelled coastal section of line.


Dawlish railway station is situated in the town centre next to the beach. It is served by trains to most stations in Devon, and to London, Birmingham, Manchester and further afield. The line is noted as one of the most memorable stretches of track in Britain for the local natural environment, although at a high cost to Network Rail as it is one of the most expensive lines to maintain due to the continual battle with sea erosion.[14][15][16] One storm in 1974 washed away much of the down platform in the station,[17][18] and during the UK storms of January–February 2014 waves brought down the sea wall and washed away a section of the line leaving the permanent way suspended in mid air.[19] The 2014 storm raised questions about the vulnerability of the South Devon Railway sea wall to storm damage and proposals were put forward to re-route Plymouth-bound rail services further inland, either by re-opening the disused railway line via Okehampton and Tavistock, re-opening the former Teign Valley Line, or by reviving a 1930s GWR project to construct the Dawlish Avoiding Line.[20] In May 2019, Network rail started work 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 as well as greater protection from the sea. [3]

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

Buses in the town are provided by Stagecoach_South_West. Services include: The Hop 2 from Exeter to Newton Abbot which runs every 30 minutes (more in rush hour). The hop 22 from Dawlish Warren to Torquay which runs every hour. In summer, the 222 open-top bus from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth also runs every hour. There is also a local town 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. This is due to decreased precipitation over the summer period and surplus rainfall in the winter. Often termed the "English Riviera" along with Teignmouth and the Torbay towns, Dawlish rarely has snow or frost, boasts outdoor subtropical plants such as palms, olives, bananas and lemons. Extremes of temperature are rare: temperatures over 30C or under 0C are infrequent. It is one of the sunniest places in the United Kingdom, with an average of nearly 1800 hrs per year. Despite having more favourable conditions than much of the rest of the UK particularly in summer, the wet season (autumn and winter) can bring copious amounts of rain, and when areas of low pressure move up the English Channel, easterly winds can generate large storm surges and waves that can lead to dramatic conditions along the seafront.[21]

Local produce[edit]

During the early and middle part of the 20th century, Dawlish became known for Devon Violets perfume, and 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 freesias, daffodils and strawberries.[citation needed]

Retail and employment[edit]

Take away cream teas

Centered on The Strand, Queen street, Brunswick Place, and Park Road; Dawlish has a typical retail offering for a tourist town with numerous gift shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, and ice-cream shops; national chains such as Boots and Co-op, and many independent retailers. 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 store and a petrol station. The largest employment sector in the town sector is health and social work (23 per cent), explained by the large number of care homes in the town, followed by accommodation and food services (20 per cent).


The town has several places of worship:

Schools and education[edit]

The primary schools in Dawlish are Gatehouse Primary School,[27] Westcliff Primary School, Ratcliff School, and Oaklands Park School.[28] Dawlish College[29] (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.


Dawlish is twinned with Carhaix-Plouguer in France.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://new.devon.gov.uk/communities/your-community/dawlish-profile
  2. ^ Office for National Statistics: Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Teignbridge Archived 24 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 27 January 2010
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Black Swans and other waterfowl Archived 23 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Dawlish Town Council website
  5. ^ Watts, Victor (2010). The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names (1st paperback ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-521-16855-7.
  6. ^ a b "Dawlish History Introduction". dawlish.com. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b c Worth, R. N. (1895). A History of Devonshire. London: Elliot Stock. pp. 314–315.
  9. ^ Peter Hunt, ed. (1984). Devon's Age of Elegance. Devon Books. p. 128. ISBN 0-86114-750-2.
  10. ^ Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1989). The Buildings of England – Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp. 329–333. ISBN 0-14-071050-7.
  11. ^ Hadfield, Charles (1967). Atmospheric Railways. David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4107-3.
  12. ^ "Jane Austen... Dawlish and Sidmouth" (PDF). Devon Libraries. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  13. ^ "Jane Austen Gazetteer – Sense and Sensibility – Dawlish, Devonshire". The Republic of Pemberley. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  14. ^ "Railway cliff scheme 'on target'". BBC News. 13 October 2004. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  15. ^ "Weather could wash away rail link". BBC News. 27 October 2005. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  16. ^ Chris Ledgard (27 May 2006). "Brunel railway faces up to the sea". BBC News. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  17. ^ Kay, Peter (1991). Exeter - Newton Abbot: A Railway History. Platform 5. p. 108. ISBN 1-872524-42-7.
  18. ^ "Dawlish railway repairs halted over safety fears". BBC News. 13 October 2004. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  19. ^ "UK storms wash away railway line and leave thousands without power". BBC News. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  20. ^ Turner, Lauren (7 February 2014). "How do you fix the Dawlish problem?". BBC News. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  21. ^ Dawlish weather site Dawlish Climate Averages (2005–2018)
  22. ^ Site Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  23. ^ Site Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  24. ^ Site Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  25. ^ Dawlish site Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  26. ^ A Church Near You Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  27. ^ School site Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  28. ^ Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  29. ^ School website[2]
  30. ^ "British Towns Twinned with French Towns". Complete France. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2016.

External links[edit]