Skip to main content
Severn Scimitar GRAHAM HOBBS
Bideford from Upcott Hill Graham Hobbs
Gravel barge C26 Rowena hulk GRAHAM HOBBS

About the Heritage Harbour:

With its medieval long bridge Bideford is at the centre of the Torridge Estuary and UNESCO Biosphere, connecting Appledore, at the mouth, to Torrington at the tidal limit.

Shipbuilding, fishing and cleantech innovation in this active port means both the past and future are anchored in the maritime environment. Heritage sites along the estuary are accessible by road, from the Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path.

 Bideford and River Torridge Heritage Harbour has working and heritage vessels, museums, self guided walk maps and stories of: raiders in longships, civil war fort, preparations for D Day invasion and much more.

Maritime Visitor Attractions:

  • Working vessels – MS Oldenburg passenger ferry to Lundy.
  • Static vessels - Steamship Freshspring; Lifeboat Jane Hannah MacDonald lll
  • Canal/lock - Rolle Canal Sealock at Landcross, viewing platform and interpretation panels along Tarka Trail.
  • Historic buildings - Richmond Dock Appledore; Bideford Long Bridge; Royal Hotel (Colonial House) East the Water; Chudleigh Fort, civil war site, East the Water.
  • River/coastal environment & walks - Tarka Trail cycle and walking path; South West Coast Path; self guided heritage walk maps around Bideford and East the Water.
  • Museum/visitor centre - North Devon Maritime Museum, Appledore; The Burton Museum and Art Gallery, Bideford; Bideford Railway Heritage signal box and displays, East the Water; Tarka Valley Railway displays, Torrington.
  • Archives/library - Bideford Library Chope Collection; North Devon Maritime Museum, Appledore; Bideford and District Community Archive, Northam.
  • Wreck - Hulks visible at various places in estuary – see website.

In the Past:

This is one of the few sheltered harbours along the dangerous North Devon Coast; Bideford Bar, the sandbank at the estuary mouth, has wrecked many vessels.

Shipbuilding has always been important but other economic activity thrived along the river: timber & emigration, tobacco & pottery, lime production & gravel extraction, steamboats & tourism. Merchants were trading across the Bristol Channel to South Wales, and overseas to Ireland, Spain, France and the Americas.

Raiders from Ireland came in longships, pirates occupied Lundy, Sir Richard Grenville left to combat the Spanish. Sailors from the Torridge founded the first colony in North America and much wealth came from importing tobacco. Salt cod, fished off Newfoundland, was sold in Southern Europe, the boats returning with wine, olive oil and oranges.

During the Napoleonic Wars fireships and bomb vessels, including HMS Beelzebub, part of Sir Edward Pellew's fleet bombarding Algiers, were built. Later many North Devonians emigrated to Prince Edward Island, taking their pottery and folk songs with them. Sailing vessels continued to be built and traded here even after steamships became dominant. In World War II a Combined Operations base (HMS Appledore) developed weapons and techniques essential to the success of the D Day invasion of France.

Now and the Future:

At the estuary mouth, Appledore is home to North Devon Maritime Museum, historic quay, Richmond Dock and a working shipyard.

In Bideford, The Burton Museum and Tourist Information has local history, pottery, art and self guided walking maps. Historic vessels, working and being restored, include Lundy passenger ferry MS Oldenburg and steamship Freshspring, open Sundays April to October.

Cross Bideford Old Bridge to Bideford Railway Heritage signal box and displays. Follow the Tarka Trail along the course of the Rolle Canal, with interpretation panels and viewing points, to Torrington.

Future plans include the publication of a self-guided walk map around Bideford and brochure and map with information about heritage sites along the river Torridge. Working with partners there are plans to attract more visiting heritage vessels and maritime heritage events.


Contact Information

Bideford and River Torridge Heritage Harbour (BARTHH) is run by a partnership of local heritage groups led by Bideford based charity Way of the Wharves.
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.