The History of Hartland Quay

Hartland Quay was built towards the end of the 16th Century being one of many quays along the coast. A pier of very similar construction can still be seen in Clovelly to this day. Heavy goods such as lime, slate and coal were shipped in from across the Bristol Channel and local produce such as barley and oats would have been shipped out. With the arrival of the railway in Bideford, maintenance of the pier ceased and by 1896 the greater part of the pier had been destroyed by storms. In 1970, access to the sea was once again established, albeit for much smaller craft, when members of the Hartland Boat Club constructed the present slipway.

The buildings were converted into a hotel and pub at the end of the 19th Century. The buildings that are now the existing pub were once the malthouse and stables with hay lofts above, with the cottages opposite for the workers.


Although countless ships have been wrecked on this coast through the centuries, the first wreck that the Hartland Quay Coastguard were known to have attended came in January 1860. This was the start of many ships running aground here and before the turn of the Century fifteen more vessels were to become wrecks on Hartland’s “tempest furrowed shore”. Four more were to be temporarily grounded and one would have to be towed off. But the most disastrous loss proved to be the 2,203 ton steamship ”Uppingham” which stranded under Longpeak on 23rd November 1890 with the loss of many lives. Within three months of the Uppingham disaster the Hartland Quay Life Saving Apparatus Company was established and a Rocket House built at the cliff-head to accommodate its wagon and life-saving gear.


More recently Hartland Quay has been the location for a number of films and television programmes including:

  • 1950        Disney’s Treasure Island (Film)
  • 1977        The Shout (Film)
  • 1984        Water (Film)
  • 1988        Paper House (Film)
  • 1996        Element of Doubt (BBC Drama)
  • 1998        War Zone (Film)
  • 2003        Hercules (Film)
  • 2004        The Dark (Film)
  • 2005        The Shellseekers (Film)
  • 2007        Sense & Sensibility (at nearby Blackpool Mill Cottage) (BBC Drama)
  • 2010        Top Gear (BBC Series)
  • 2011        Antiques Roadshow (BBC Series)
  • 2015        The Night Manager (Drama)
  • 2018        The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Film)
  • 2019        Rebecca (Film – Netflix)
  • 2021        The Long Call (ITV Series)
  • 2021        House of Dragons (Sky Series)
  • 2022        Mallory Towers (BBC Series)

Hartland Quay Museum

You can explore the history of Hartland Quay and it’s spectacular coastline inside the Hartland Quay Museum. The museum’s many colourful displays tell the story of four centuries of shipwrecks, of the locally based, heroic life saving services, and of the men and ships which traded from Hartland Quay over the centuries.

The history of the Quay is shown from its beginning in the time of King Henry V111 to its destruction by the sea now more than a century ago. Other exhibits describe the local coastal flora and fauna ,  bygone industries of the area and smuggling, wrecking and rescues.

The Museum is open seasonally from Easter until half term in October from 11am until 4pm.