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South Coast Harbours 1698
report by Edmund Dummer and Thomas Wiltshaw

Text transcription
A SURVEY of the Ports on the South West Coast of England from Dover to the Lands-end.

BY Edmd Dummer Surveyor & Capt. Tho. Wiltshaw Esqrs. Comrs. of his Ma Navy together wth. Capt. James Conaway & Capt. William Cruft Masters of Trinity House at Deptford

DELINEATED in July & Augst. 1698

Adressed By way of Letter to the Principal Officers and Comrs. of his Maties. Navy.

Orders to Survey
ye: Coast
Having receiv'd Your directions grounded upon the Orders of the Rt. Honble the Lords of the Admty. of the 6th: of June last, For taking a Survey of the Ports Westward of Dover as farr as the Isle of Wight and thence to the Lands-end, and to give their Lopps. an Account which way, and at what Charge they may be made most usefull for ye Navy
When ye Survey
Wee did in pursuance of the Same proceed on the said Services ye 4th. July last, and doe now present You with an Account of all that Wee judge observable of Them, with relation to the purposes of the said Order And thereunto Wee have annex'd a Description of each Place with referrances to the remarkable particulars of each Draught as their Condition and place respectively require for their Explanation.
And to the end You may take a fitt impression of the advantages conceivable to be reaped by improvements for the Services of the Navy, Within the Generall tract of the Sea Coast which is menconed in the said Order, besides what may be done at those Places which are already in use; Be pleas'd in the First place


to Observe that the particular Places Wee have Viewed for the Same stand Named in their Course & Scituation from the said Port of Dover Westward as follows Vizt.

What place were
1 Rye
2 Pemsey
3 Cookmere
4 Newhaven
5 Shoreham
6 Arundall
7 Hampton
8 Bussleton
9 Beauley
10 Lymington
11 Christ Church
12 Poole
13 Weymouth
14 Exmouth
15 Dartmouth
16 Fowey
17 Falmouth
18 Helford

No remarkable
place omitted
By which Catalogue and by viewing the Description of the said Sea Coast in your Comon Mapps, you will perceive Wee have refused noe remarkable Place how inconsiderable or unfitt soever it might be for the purposes Wee were to enquire after; Lest the Overlooking any of them might leave room to doubt that compleatness in our Account as to the Sum Totall of Places wch. Wee conceive in an implyed Sence was intended to resolve the whole Question, Namely Whether there be any beside the Ports now in use upon the sd. Sea Coast capable of improvements, and which way and at what Charge to be made most usefull for the Navy.

And having said thus much for a preliminary to the whole, Wee shall proceed particularly upon each of them in their Order before recited, Begining wth: the Antient Port of Rye.

Rye Surveyed
Incapable of
use for ye Navy
To which Place wee came the 5th: of July 98 and were Assisted by the information of the most Ancient and best Observing Persons dwelling there, Who acquainted us in how much beeter Condition this Haven was known to be in former Times within Memory and what they Esteemed to be the reason of the Great decay of it, at this day and for the better discerning the inconveniences and Evills it hath been attended with to this Time, Wee viewed with much exactness the Barrs without, and the Banks and inclosures within towards Winchelsea and Appledoor and caused a Draught thereof to be made for the further illustration thereof to Com~on Judgement, and upon the whole of what wee saw and Observed of the Circumstances of this Place, wee are easily induced to make this Determination in our Opinion; That it is in no Case proper for a safe Harbour to resort to, nor capable to be improv'd by any tollerable charge for any Services of the Navy for the following Reasons.
Reasons thereof
There is a very high Sand Westward of the Entrance of the Haven, which Runs above two Miles in Length without the Mouth thereof; The Channell or Gutt towards the Haven lyeth on the East side, and is for the whole Length of the said Sand, One continued Barr of not above 4 and soe to 2 foot depth at Low Water, and makes it impracticable for the smallest Vessells to venture in but when the Tyde is Aloft or Lifting and smooth Water.

The Harbour within likewise at Low Water time is all Dry Sand except some Gleeting of Freshes from the Country, and all the Space of Water that is therein when the Tyde is out, lyes in the very entrance of the Haven, and just within it capable only of Floating a few Fisher Boates.
The encroachments and Inning of the Lands upward in the Country, and the infinite Mass of Matter that Floates in the troubled Sea, wth. wch. all Weathers, and Tydes are Constantly Working to fill the same, have almost shut the Sea out of this Haven And wee doubt it would be very difficult to propound an effectuall means to remove it, unless it may be possible to be brought to pass to give the Sea the same freedom of Flux and Reflux, as it is presumed by Antient Tradition to have had for near 30 Miles into the Country tho' now Confin'd to less then 3 Miles Course that way, But the Propriety of Sundry Persons and the Policy of the Servers in severall Ages past, have wholly Dam'd it out, and doubtless will be very unwilling to abandon the Wast wch. have been from time to time taken in at great Expences, Therefore Wee look upon this Haven as entirely lost, at least in noe Condition to be Esteemed for any Services of the Navy as Wee have before Observed.

Is the next River Westward and likewise Noted to have been in former time a Considerable Haven, The Remains of a very large Antique Castle yet in being seems to admit that Conjecture, That with the Town is Scituate about a Mile from the Wash of the Sea, and about 5 or 6 Miles Eastward of the Head of Beachy.
Condition of
the River
Alteration in
few years
The River passes thro' a large levell piece of Ground up towards the Wild of Sussex, about 4 or 5. years since, (as we were told) Vessells of 50 and 60 Tuns took in their Lading at the Bridge of the Town, But of late a shutt hath been made upon the River it self very near the Havens Mouth beyond wch: no Vessells can now pass.
The use of it
These Levells as those of Rye are without doubt in great part recovered from the Sea, and howsoever Considerable this Haven may have been, 'tis now in our Opinion irrecoverably lost, for a Vessell of 14 Tuns meets wth: great difficulty to get within the Mouth of it, and as much to get out, therefore proper for no use in the Service of the Navy.

Never was
Scituate a little to the Westward of Beachy Head is a very small Fresh, and the Levell about it of little extent, nevertheless the same Custome of enclosing the Wast Ground within the Flux and Reflux of the Tydes have likewise prevailed, however there is very little to be taken notice of at this Place for the improvements Wee are seeking.

How Scituate
The condition
of the Haven
The decay there
of incapacity
Is distant from Cookmere about 4 Miles Westward, and Stands upon the River wch: goes to Lewis and the Wild of Sussex, about a Mile and quarter from the Wash of ye. Sea, and is likewise very inconsiderable being stopped up and Barr'd by the same means wch: hath rendered the forementioned Havens useless Namely by enclosing the Wast in the Levells about the same, and excluding the indraught of the Sea, that in all probability in former times had greater freedom to flow in and out, and kept the Channell deep and open, But there are now noe Qualifications to be discerned proper for the Navy.

The River a
Fresh Water
The Circumstances
of ye: Harbour
and ye. Barr
before it
not capable of
The next Place Westward of Newhaven hath likewise suffered the same Fate wth: those foregoing, This River is the Comon dreine of a very great Portion of the County of Sussex the Remains of the Ancient Castle of Bramber lyeth about 4 Miles above the Town whence one might take it to have been a Port invested wth: much better Circumstances heretofore, now it admits nothing improveable; The Havens Mouth is a dry Barr upon the Ebbs of Spring Tydes, and the out Sea, in foul Weather throws up Exterordinary Quantityes and heaps of Beach in the manner of small Islands, sometimes here and sometimes there in the very Mouth of it, And whether you come in or goe out you meet with great difficulty, and Hazard, They continue to Build new Shipps from 300 Tuns downwards, and waiting good Seasons with proper Care, they get them into the Sea; But wth: relation to our enquirry wee discerne nothing to be accounted for.

The Evills the
same here as at
ye: foregoing
The last River Westward (of any Moment) in the County of Sussex falls also under the like Evills those before recited suffer for doubtless the Length, and extension of its Levells have layn more open to the Sea then now they doe.
Seems incapable
of reamedy Nature of impedimt.
The Town lyeth wth:in the Mouth of it, if the crookedness be respected about 6 Miles, But by Land and more direct, 'tis accounted 4 Miles, between the One and the Other here is likewise the Remaines of an Ancient, & Eminent Castle But nothing to be found proper for those improvements wee are to search, Because the unhappy Judgements of past times taking its advantage to be in Robbing the Sea of its Wast, have repelled the influx thereof, and the reflux thereby becoming Gradually remiss by like Degrees became unable to remove the Weight of matter which is ready to Lodge in all uneven places, and even much greater Channells, Whensoever the Common Current thereof shall become too feeble to resist the Drift of the Waves that in a Constant Course, and Motion, are alwaies as it were labouring to Choake up.
The Effect
thereof the same
alwais where
are made
For this Beach appeareth, at this Rivers Mouth to lye about 10 feet above the Levell of the Sea without at Low Water, And the Tydes flowing here 19 or 20 ft. upon the Springs (& much the same att all the Places before recited) 'tis about half Flood before any indraught is made into it, Whence it seems likely from the same Obstruction that the Raines drown all the uplands during ye. Winter, there being not time nor space enough at the Havens Mouth to discharge them between the fall of one and the rise of ye. next Flood.
This impedimt. is the same in Proportion at all the other Places wee have spoken of, And may stand for ye. true Cause of Drowning all their Levells during the Winter Season, and the Daming up all their Channells or Courses of Water, wch: are absolutely necessary and make deep and proper Roades for Shipping.

Between Arundell
& Portsmouth no
Ports or Havens
Wee passed by Chichester observing only that there are many small Currents of Fresh Water, and breaking into the low Lands by the Flux of the Sea between it and Portsmouth in and about the Islands of Selsea and Hailing, But all Passages into the same from the Seaward being Covered by the East Burroughs the dangerous Rocks called the Oares, and the Sands of the Horse; There is no Room among them for any improvement for the Navy nor did there appear to be any Place fitting to Build a Shipp of the 4th. Rate within any of the Havens of those mentioned Islands upon the enquiry which was made thereof about 4 Years since by your own Directions.
The excellency
of the Ports of
Portsmo~ & ye.
Roades within
the Isle of
Portsmouth the next place in Scituation tho' not mentioned in our Catalogue, nor Subject to our present enquirie, For that having been in use many years, and its improvemts. much Augmented in the late long Warr wth: France, And if need require is still Capable of greater Additions 'tis sufficient to name it in a Course of Succession only, for our more orderly coming to places of the next consideration, However before wee leave it, Wee Crave liberty to say a few Wordes in Consideration of it wth: respect to the Parts adjacent Namely Spithead, Stoakes Bay, Cowes, and Yarmo~ Roades, the Waters of Hampton, Bussleton, Beauly and Lymington all inclos'd and Shelter'd by the Isle of Wight and Hurst Castle, and doe Adminester the most desireable Advantages either for easy and safe approaches in or going out to Sea, Security at Anchor, Close and Convenient Harbours for Building and repairing Shipps of any Burthen sufficiently Capacious

and abounding with all Navall Conveniences; in a word the Scituation of the places thus mentioned in and about ye. said Island seem to offer all that is to be desired, for the Susteining and preserving the greatest Navall strength in the World.

Southampton &c.
The Scituation
& convenience
of Hampton River
This Draught is incerted to shew the Noble and extensive convenience of those parts, just before spoken of, wth: Relation to Portsmouth Vizt.

Their Scituation respectively and their Shelter By the Island of Wight from St. Hellens point in the East to Hurst Castle in the West, accounted to be Eighteen Miles in Length.

The River of Southampton alone is very considerable, 'tis reckoned from Calshott Castle to the Town eight Miles distance of Good and even Soundings and sufficiently deep for any Shipp the flatt Ouze on each side is of large Demention, even and of small Declivity , soft and safe for any Body to rest on; In short whatever Hazard or inconvenience is to be feared of Rocky and Stony passages and Shoares or Sandy Shoales these offer no Danger.

At and about the Town during the late Warr severall Shipps of 80, 60 & 50 Guns have been Built and Launched and safely carryed to Portsmouth.

And for other particulars the annexed Draught will discover them.

The convenience
of it described
Is a small River upon the East side of that of Hampton as soon as you enter it by Calshott Castle 'Tis near 5 Miles from the Mouth of it to the Village of that Name; the Channell is narrow but Deep and safe, here likewise hath been Built some of the 20 and 60 Gun Ships with great Accomodation and Security. Over against Calshott lyes Cowes in the Isle of Wight upon the Banks of a small indraught wch: Flowes to Newport distinguished by the name of East and West Cowes, at the First there is a good Building place and some of the 4th: and 5th: Rates have been there Built.

What its
Condition is
Is a River of somewhat less Consideration in Degree than Bussleton, But of large indraught, good Tydes, and fair Depths at low Water; 'tis about 4 Miles from the Mouth of it to the Town of that name, Tis also convenient for Building small Schipps One of the 4th: Rate hath been built about a Mile below it, at a place Comodious and Safe.

The Qualifications
of the River
Is a place more short and Scanty in the Accomodations to be found in Beauley River, than those there are to the same at Bussleton, Nevertheless Shipps of good Bulk may be here Built for the Merchant Service, Which is all in our Opinion that it is to be Commended for.

Christ Church.
The Qualifications
of the Haven
River disembogues into the Sea in a Bay within the Shingles, and about 3 Leagues without the Needles Westward The Town lyes about 2 Miles from the Mouth of it, and yet the Flood Tyde scarce Washes to it, And altho' there falls into this Haven two Considerable Freshes, the one from Salisbury, the other from Blandford, yet 'tis no Port for other Vessells than of 80 Tuns downwards.
Mean Tydes and incapable
of improvement
Great Banks of Sand lye before it and not more than 2 ft. Water upon the Barr, nor Flowes on Spring Tydes more then 6 ft. upright, are insuperable impediments to those Offices, the Workes of the Navy require, therefore utterly incapable of such improvemts:.

The description
of the Haven
Nature of the
Capable of no
improvement for
ye. Navy
In like manner tho' Assisted by a Considerable Fresh from Dorchester, and is a Capacious Water when all its Shoale Grounds are covered with the Tyde Nevertheless not having above 8ft. Water for a great Space without the Mouth of it at Low water, and that the Rise of the Spring Tydes doe not exceed 8 ft. more, those very uncertain and remiss, The Shoales very large, and the Channells very Crooked; There are very few Vessells will venture into it when they can choose to doe otherwise, The entrance into this Haven is covered by Studland Point, The Town stands about 3 Miles within the Haven, wch: together with its Generall Scituation affords nothing in our Opinion proper or improveable for the Service of the Navy.

Weymouth & Melcomb Regis
Description of
the Port
Incapable of
Stands upon a small Fresh from the Land Eastward of the Bill and Road of Portland But here the Tydes rise no more than 7 Foot or thereabouts alike uncertain as at ye. two foregoing Places, And have not above 3 ft. of Water in the Entrance to the Harbour, Which to add no more are impediments that preclude entirely all thoughts of improvemt for the Navy.

Description of
the Rivers Mouth
Altogether unfit
for the
sought for
River further Westward and two Leagues short of Torbay is found incombred wth: many inconveniences, the entrance into it (which is about 7 Miles from the City of Exeter) is almost filled wth: Rocks and Shoales continuing above a Mile in Length, These divide the Water into various and broken Channells and difficult passages, and seems insuperable to any Ordinary use, soe that without enlarging upon any other the inconveniences, and disadvantages thereof; Here are noe Qualifications fit to be recommended for any of our Emprovemts.

Description of
the Harbour
Objections to
of good
About two Leagues Westward of Torbay is a Noble River, but Scituated between mighty high Land especially at its very Entrance, there wants no Water without or within it, nor many other improveable advantages for Shipping Publique or Private wch: may be referr'd to in a Survey taken by Order of the Year 90 But by reason of the conceived Hazards of Entring the same under the High lands and Rocky Shoares, it seems to have been rejected, and the emprovemts: for the Navy then intended were made in Ham=oze by Plymouth.

Its Description
Is the next place in Order Westward to Plymouth as that is to Dartmouth which wee leave to the improvements already made and may be Augmented if the Service require it. (And Observe that)
What is proper
for but not
adviseable to be
improved for the
This is Scituate in the Bottom of a deep bay about 3 Leagues within the Dead-man it has a bold entrance Water enough within, but not much above half the space or extent of the River of Dartmouth 'tis surrounded with very lofty Hills as yt. is, And wee esteem it to serve upon great necessityes to Shelter small Shipps if they lye fair for it, to avoid more Eminent Dangers when they find themselves to much Embayed, By the Ramhead and Dead-man, But not adviseable in our Opinion to be chosen for any Services of the Navy.

Falmouth and Helford
Their Scituation
and Description
Lye both between the Dead-man & Lizard and are the Principall that Remain to be Noted within the Bounds of our Order on which wee have to remark as follows.
Surveyed in 93
referr'd to
That of Falmouth the nest Port to Fowey containes a great Water extending by many Branches into the Country nevertheles is clogged, wth: many inconvenient Shoales and suddain Soundings, and therefore not very much frequented by Shipping it was Surveyed by Order in the year 93, & judged not to abound in those Qualifications wch: are proper for the emprovement of the Navy as in the said Report are more at large recited to wch: wee desire to be referred.
No conveniences
at Helford
adviseable to be
improved for
the Navy
Helford about 5 Miles West of Pendennis Castle is a River which Runs East and West out and in, Small and inconsiderable for Shipps of Warr, But convenient for the small Coasters the Tinn and Corne Vessells and what that Country produces, soe that wee doe not Observe any thing of Moment in its Scituation extent or other Circumstances to give encouragement of improvement for the Services of the Navy.

upon ye fore
recited Ports
& Rivers
These short Notes upon the Eighteen Places before Named wee humbly think may be taken for their Just Characters, and distinctions respectiveley, at least they seem so to us, and craving leave to add a Short review of the whole shall submit to better Judgement.
Of Rye Pemsey
Cookmere Newhaven
Shoreham &
Generall reasons
of decay and
improbability of
It may be observed that the Havens and Rivers of Rye, Pemsey, Cookmere, Newhaven, Shoreham & Arundell are now (whatever they have been) no proper Subjects for improvement for the Navy, For want of that benefitt all usefull Ports have Namely a sufficient indraught of the Sea suitable to the rise of Tydes upon the same Coast that there (on Springs are) Observ'd to be 19 & 20 ft. upright, For industry by enclosing Wast on the One hand, and Nature on the Other, By the plenty of Sullage the Sea Washes from the higher Shoares and carrys about in Motion to Lodge again in Places more confin'd and quiet, have by Degrees not only filled Vast spaces once doubtless possessed by the Sea wth: firme Ground But have likewise Choaked up almost ye very passages of the Land Fresh which Naturally tend to it soe that in these as in the decays of Naturall things in Generall the Conduits and Channells of their being are destroyed with themselves and Wee doubt without hopes of reviving
Difference of
the Harbours
about the Isle
of Wight from
those of Sussex
The Ports of and about Portsmouth under ye. Shelter of the Isle of Wight are Observ'd to abound in all ye Accomodations those others are found to want, and altho' these Harbours or recesses of Water doe fall short almost a third of the hight of the Tydes Nature and their Scituation affords the former, it Ordinarily flowing here but 14 ft. the highest which Abates their force and Weight in Proportion, nevertheless these Channells are open, deep, and profitable for all Commerce tho' at the same time also they have less of the Country Freshes to help them.

Of X Church
Pool Weymouth &
Exmouth their
and incapacity
for Shipping
Christ Church, Pool, Weymouth, and Exmouth appear to have Other but more Originall imperfections than are found in those of Sussex, those may have been great indraughts in former times, But these seem never to have been Capable of it, The Soile of the adjacent Land lyes in another Nature, and the Tydes at highest seem to be not above 8 foot, and those Both as remiss and uncertain as the Winds on which their Motion mightily depends, so that their Agitation is in no wise Capable of that force and virtue which the Service of great Shipping call for, besides their Exits are Scituate in great Bayes which render approaches to them more difficult.
Of Dartmouth
Fowey Falmouth
& Helford
how & what
they differ from
all ye rest and
our opinion of
Dartmouth, Fowey, Falmouth & Helford are places of resort upon some occasions, And there are some particulars at Dartmouth improveable for the Services of the Navy, But in other Circumstances all these seem much more Subject to Hazards for the intercourse of Shipping than those Places do that are already in Use upon this Coast of England to which our Order Confines us, wherefore upon the whole wee see little good Grounds to recom~end or advise any Expences or disbursements at any of the Places wee have mentioned and Surveyed from Dover to the Lands-end, for their being made usefull for the Navy - and Remain
Dated ye 19th.
Novbr. 1698
   Yor. most humble Servts.
     Edmd. Dummer. Thos. Wiltshaw
     Jams. Conaway. Willm. Cruft.

South Coast Harbours 1698 logo, button to main menu
South Coast Harbours 1698
report by Edmund Dummer and Thomas Wiltshaw