The Village That Collapsed Into The Sea
On a stormy night in January 1917, the Devon fishing village of Hallsands collapsed into the sea. The entire
village was destroyed together with the livelihoods of its people.
For decades the fishing village of Hallsands and its stunning coastline had been at the mercy of the forces of nature.
But it wasn't nature that led to the dozens of homes being washed into the sea on a fateful night in January 1917, it was
the foolishness of man that obliterated this small Devon village forever.
Hallsands - the buried village
Today Hallsands lies largely under the waves, a sad testament to man interfering with nature. The story of Hallsands
is a tale of greed, deception, and slow death. Our story starts in the 1890s when the Admiralty decided to expand the naval
dockyard at Keyham, 30 miles away from Hallsands. This lucrative contract was awarded to Sir John Jackson Limited, one of
the country's biggest engineering companies in 1896. The Board of Trade gave the company permission to dredge shingle from
along the coast between Hallsands and Beesands. The villagers were never consulted, but protested to their local
MP, Frank Mildmay, as soon as the dredgers appeared.
Disaster or conspiracy?
The villagers' protests centred around worries about the fishing industry, and damage to the coastline including:
fears that crab pots would be damaged.
concerns about disturbance to fish.
fears that removal of the shingle would lower the level of the beach, thereby threatening their homes.
Following pressure from the local MP, the Board of Trade agreed to an enquiry. This eventually led to an agreement whereby
Sir John Jackson paid £125 per year to the villagers of Hallsands. Fears about the long term impact of dredging abated, and
life returned to normal. Three years later, storms battered the coastline again and swept away part of the sea wall. Studies
showed that the beach had fallen by between seven and 12 feet.
Slow death of a fishing village
The worst was yet to come.... on 26 January 1917, the village of Hallsands fell into the sea.
Here is a profile of the village before tragedy struck.
Gales and extremely high tides shook houses to their very foundations, walls came toppling down, and the waves roared
over the breaking rafters. The local Gazette reported eye-witness accounts including that of the Logans who experienced the
"It had been blowing hard from the South East all day, and in the afternoon, the seas came tumbling in, shaking everything
all to pieces. We became greatly alarmed, instead of abating, as we hoped it would, the gale increased, and we soon saw that
our cottages would come down."
Another resident Edith Lamble battled vainly to save her house. She later recalled "the blackness of that fateful night."
All that remains of Hallsands today are the shells of a few of the houses and the ruins of the chapel which perches
on the edge of the cliff top. Dozens of families lost their homes when Hallsands disappeared. Miraculously, no villagers died
in the tragedy. Many of the families relocated to North Hallsands or Beesands, having lost most of their belongings.
An inquiry into the tragedy was set up, but the poverty-stricken villagers never got to see what it contained. The Government
of the day wouldn't release the report because it said the tragedy was unequivocally because of the dredging. The villagers
were eventually offered £6,000, but some believe that the villagers were never given the full compensation they deserved.
The story of Hallsands is far from over... and the village refuses to lie down despite its watery demise.