Bayard’s Cove is a small cobbled quay situated at the seaward end of the town of Dartmouth. The first records of a quay at Bayard’s Cove appear in 1368, then known as Baiardescove. In general appearance it may have looked very much as it does today with its cobblestones and iron ladders.

At the far end of the quay sits Bayard’s Fort, a typical Tudor artillery fort built to defend the harbour entrance. The fort was constructed between 1536-37 by order of Henry VIII as part of a programme of coastal defences against threat of attack from the French. Bayard’s Quay is likely to have been rebuilt at the same time although the date of 1660 is set in the cobbles is from a later repairing of the quay.

The earliest houses on the quay are those closest to the fort with typical Tudor overhanging upper floors. The later houses are set back to provide a wider quayside. It is likely that the Customs House was always in the position it is today and customs dues collected from this quay, having a fine view of vessels entering the harbour. The present building, now a private house, is dated 1739. To the left of the Customs House is a building which was the original Cottage Hospital, opened in 1887 and later moved to its present site on the North Embankment. Beside this was the Mission to Seamen. This opened in the 1880s to provide shelter and recreation for seamen with a warm room, newspapers and books.

During the reign of James I, a time of religious persecution, the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Bayard’s Cove on their journey to the New World. The Mayflower and Speedwell spent a week in Dartmouth while repairs were made to the Speedwell, which was taking in water. She later became so unseaworthy she was abandoned in Plymouth and Mayflower continued alone.

During the civil war, Bayard’s fort was first held by Parliament then by the Royalists, until Dartmouth fell to Parliament in 1646. The fort was last used for defence during the Second World War when it was a machine gun post.

Many visitors will recognise Bayard’s Cove as a location from the 1970s BBC series The Onedin Line. Many local people remember the filming of this drama of a Liverpool shipping family and the sight of the topsail schooner Charlotte Rhodes alongside the quay. Various locations around the town became Victorian Liverpool and Kingswear Quay was disguised to become Australia, Carolina and Gibraltar.
Displayed on the wall of The Dartmouth Arms pub at the northern end of the cove, are photographs of many local people who became extras during the filming.
Bayard’s Cove today is a quiet and peaceful place to sit and enjoy the view of the river, looking out towards the sea with Dartmouth Castle and St. Petrox church on one side and Kingswear Castle on the other.


South Devon

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26 January 2010