Historic Dartmouth river front property goes on sale for £2.3 million

Waterfront home on quay steeped in maritime history: Four-bedroom house in Bayards Cove in Devon where the Mayflower stopped before heading across Atlantic in 1620 hits the market for £2.3m

  • This historic grade II listed Mission House overlooks the River Dart estuary in Dartmouth, Devon 
  • The Mayflower and Speedwell moored outside the property in 1620 as they made their way to the US 
  • According to selling agent Stuart Millard, the property has been extensively renovated since 2000 

A beautiful waterfront home that had a front seat to maritime history is on the market for offers over £2.3m.

The Grade II Listed Mission House, is situated on Bayards Cove, in Dartmouth, Devon. The location is described as ‘one of the finest quays of the world’ and the final stopping point of The Mayflower before it crossed the Atlantic with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620.  

The area was also heavily involved in the D-Day landings, including a disastrous training exercise which claimed the lives of almost 1,000 US service personnel. 

The four-bed property is situated in a location steeped in maritime history. The ruins of an old fort built in the early 1500s are still visible and there is a mixture of 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings.

In 1620 the Mayflower and Speedwell stopped at the quay to find out why the Speedwell was taking on water. They were docked here before they headed to Plymouth and then off to the new world of America.

The Britannia Royal Naval College meant the town was also heavily involved in the Second World War.

The Grade II Listed Mission House, described as one of the ‘finest quays in the world’, saw the Mayflower stop off before it headed across the Atlantic Ocean and was heavily involved in the D-Day landings during the Second World War

The four-bedroom house has been placed on the market with an estimated sale price of £2.3 million

The property, which is on the quays overlooks the River Dart and out into the sea. The property is also being sold with a double garage and store room about 50 yards from the house

Inside the property, there are high ceilings and enough book cases for the most dedicated bibliophile 

The open plan dining space is bathed in light from various windows from the different levels inside the house

A pair of binoculars have been set up by a window offering views along the stunning River Dart

Here the debacle of Exercise Tiger took place, in which 1,000 servicemen lost their lives training for D-Day, and more than 400 vessels left from the Dart for D-Day itself.

The Mission House was built around the 1700s and has been renovated by the current owners over the past 20 years.

The entrance hall has beautiful tiled flooring and the open plan kitchen/dining room has 9ft high ceilings and a sash window overlooking the river and out to sea.

On the first floor is a 21ft drawing room with marble fireplace, oak flooring and stunning river views, as well as a cinema room and a glass porch leading to the adjoining cottage.

And on the second and third floors there are four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The two-bedroom cottage at the back of the house has separate access.

The property is also being sold with a double garage and store room about 50 yards from the house.

Stuart Millard from Millard’s said: ‘This is one of the most stunning waterfront areas in the world and the history of it is amazing.

‘It’s the most iconic part of Dartmouth, because it was the old quay and the old fort is at the end of the row. It’s very picturesque.

‘Looking out from your property you can see Dartmouth Castle, Kingswear Castle and look up stream for about a mile or two.

‘Estuary properties are amazing because there’s always movement. They have the comings and goings of fishermen, ferries, all sorts on the river.

Movie fans are well catered for with this cinema room, providing high-tech entertainment in a period property 

The property also features a wonderful kitchen – breakfast bar area with an adjacent dining table

This bedroom on the top floor has an amazing view over the estuary, pictured. It is one of four inside the luxury property

There is a free standing bath in a wood-panelled bathroom, tastefully decorated in blue

The main bedroom has windows overlooking the River Dart, allowing the new owner to watch boats travelling up and down the estuary

‘Aside from the views, the other big appeal of this property compared to others in Dartmouth is that it sits just one metre above sea level, so you have a nice level walk into town, no dealing with lots of steps.

‘The current owner’s wife likes to walk out the front door and straight into the water for a swim three times a week. It’s very much a lifestyle property.

‘I can’t remember the last time something came on the market there, I think it was about ten years ago.

‘There’s only about eight or nine houses there and the owners of this property have had it about 20 years.

‘In that time it’s had everything replaced, it’s basically a new house in an old 17th century building.

‘Dartmouth can be busy in the summer but once you shut the door you’re shut away from everything.

‘The cottage has separate access so you could let that out and get a fairly good income.

‘There’s also the double garage, which is probably worth £300,000 on its own, as garages are highly sought after in the town.’

At the rear of the property, there is a small terrace that is accessed from a sun room, pictured 

The small court yard has a barbecue and is perfect for entertaining small groups of people

One of the main reasons for buying this property is the stunning views over the River Dart through the large sash windows

Selling agent Stuart Millard said:  ‘Aside from the views, the other big appeal of this property compared to others in Dartmouth is that it sits just one metre above sea level, so you have a nice level walk into town, no dealing with lots of steps’

The main kitchen, pictured, features an Aga cooker, right, and has plenty of space for food preparation 

Mr Millard said: ‘There’s only about eight or nine houses there and the owners of this property have had it about 20 years. ‘In that time it’s had everything replaced, it’s basically a new house in an old 17th century building’

Mr Millard said: ‘Dartmouth can be busy in the summer but once you shut the door you’re shut away from everything’

What was the Mayflower and why was it so important? 

The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth in the UK to the New World in 1620, carrying the Pilgrim Fathers to North America, but the ship was registered in Harwich in Essex, where its captain, Christopher Jones, was from.

Its landing site was named Plymouth Rock, the settlement was called Plymouth Colony, and it developed into the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

David Whittle, vice chairman of the Harwich Society local history group, said: ‘I don’t want to decry Plymouth in any way.

‘They are part of this thing.’

A replica of The Mayflower was built the 400th anniversary of the arrival in America of the Founding Fathers in 1620

But he said it was only by chance that the Mayflower went to Plymouth, after an accompanying ship sprang a leak and they both turned back.

If this had not happened ‘Plymouth wouldn’t have come into the equation’, he said, adding: ‘If that hadn’t happened and the two ships had gone across there, would there be Plymouth Rock?’

He said that Harwich was where the Mayflower was registered, and its captain Christopher Jones once lived in King’s Head Street in the town.

The house is being leased by the local council and will open to the public for the first time next year, 400 years after the ship’s voyage, with historical information displayed inside.

It is believed that Captain Jones was born in Harwich in 1570, and died in 1622.

Captain Jones, whose first wife died aged 27 in 1603, married twice at St Nicholas Church in the town.

His one son from his first marriage died in 1596. He had eight children with his second wife.

Captain Jones’s name appears in Harwich’s royal charter of 1604.

Mr Whittle said that the rebuilt church and the guildhall, where a copy of the charter is displayed, will be included in Mayflower guided tours next year.

He said the first person to step ashore at Plymouth Rock was Harwich barrel-maker John Alden, whose descendants are said to include Marilyn Monroe and Dick Van Dyke.

It is known that the Mayflower, a ‘very popular name’ for ships at the time, is the vessel from Harwich, due to the will of passenger William Mullins, who died in America, Mr Whittle said.

He said there were three witnesses to the will, including Christopher Jones of Harwich, captain of the Mayflower.

He said that ‘people in America don’t know about Harwich’ and that visitors are ‘absolutely astounded’ when they are told.

Mike Carran, head of sport and leisure at Tendring District Council, said: ‘I think the beauty of this is, if Harwich has been lost out of the story to some degree in the US, this is the opportunity to re-cement those links.’

He said sites around the UK that are connected with the Mayflower have worked together with the US travel trade to create new Mayflower tours.

More than 30 million people can trace their ancestry back to the 102 passengers and about 30 crew of the ship, according to the Mayflower 400 website, which was established ahead of the anniversary year.

A new visitor centre is being created in Harwich, and images will be projected on to Captain Jones’s house on Friday as part of an international Mayflower 400 opening event called Illuminate, involving locations connected with the Mayflower.

For further information see www.mayflower400uk.org.

Operation Tiger: The D-Day rehearsal that cost hundreds of American lives but was covered up for years to maintain morale

Preparations for D-Day began a year in advance of the famous landings themselves, with 3,000 people in the areas around Slapton, Strete, Torcross, Blackawton and East Allington in South Devon evacuated from their homes so the American military could carry out exercises.

The Slapton Sands area was chosen because of its similarity to parts of the French coast, which would ultimately be the location chosen for the war’s largest invasion by sea.

Ships and landing craft filled up the usually tranquil River Dart, while Nissen huts – quickly-built structures used as temporary housing –  appeared across Dartmouth’s Coronation Park.

The ships were torpedoed in an exercise around the Slapton Sands area, chosen for its similarity to parts of the French coast, to prepare for landings on Utah Beach later that year

Operation Tiger was designed to be as realistic as possible and was eventually launched in April 1944, as landing craft packed with soldiers, tanks and equipment were deployed along the coast. 

But the military were shocked when nine German E-boats – ordered to investigate unusual radio activity in the area – managed to slip in amongst them under a cover of darkness in Lyme Bay.

Two landing ships, LST-507 and LST-531, were torpedoed and quickly sank, while a third was badly damaged.

Many American troops had not been briefed how to don lifejackets and plunged into the Channel, where they drowned or succumbed to hypothermia before they could be rescued. 

The total death toll fluctuates in different reports, but the Ministry of Defence estimates 749 lives were lost.

However, this was not public knowledge until around 30 years later, as leaders covered it up over fears the tragedy would have a disastrous impact on morale during the conflict.  

Their deaths were not in vain, though, as the training at Slapton during Operation Tiger ensured fewer soldiers died during the actual landing on Utah Beach in Normandy later that year. 

Their sacrifice has since been marked by an art installation of their bootprints on the sand created by artist Martin Barraud, the man behind the WW1 ‘silhouette Tommy’ statues, placed around the country to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War.

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