It was a cold, windy, wet and stormy night when a particularly fierce storm swept away the entire Devonian fishing village of Hallsands. From a village of 39 houses, a pub (named the London Inn) and a spring, only two houses were left standing. The rest were swept away into the sea. Never to be seen again.
Although no precise dates for the founding of the village are known, a chapel was thought to have existed on the stretch of land since at least 1506. At the time of the storm, Hallsands had over 150 residents.
Miraculously, the entire population of the village survived. Particularly known for Crab fishing, the loss of Hallsands was completely due to a man-made disaster.
History of Hallsands:
Dredging of the sand bank in front of the village (which inevitably served as its’ protection from the sea) had been taking place since the early 1890s and at the height of dredging, up to 1600 tons of sand and gravel was being removed each day.
Levels of the sandy beach below the village started dropping at alarming rates and the villagers quickly appealed to their local MP to stop the dredging. An inquiry found that the loss of the sandbank caused no immediate threat to the village and the dredging continued.
On the 26th January 1917, particularly stormy waves broke through the village’s barriers. By the end of the year, only two houses remained. Those houses are still there today, standing at the edge of the sea. Earlier this year (2016), the one remaining beach at Hallsands was swept away. The peat underlayer is all that remains of this beach. And with no plans to replace the sand, the remaining two houses are under serious threat.
Trout’s Hotel (Now known as Trout’s Apartments)
The former hotel, now converted into a series of luxury apartments, was built by Ella Trout, a former resident of Hallsands who lost her home following the storm of 1917.
The story goes that while Trout was out fishing with her ten year old cousin in 1917, shortly after the loss of her house, they spotted a British ship strike a German mine. They quickly rowed out to sea in their small boat in order to save nine men from the rapidly sinking ship. Together with the help of a local fisherman, they made it back to shore.
As a reward for Trout’s bravery, she was awarded both the Order of the British Empire and compensation. Trout, along with her three sisters, used this to build a successful hotel. The Trout hotel ran on the edges of the cliff, near the lost village of Hallsands until 1959.
Although it’s no longer possible to access the village itself, a viewing platform is in place to see the village from- accessible from the same road as the Trout Apartments. There’s an information point and views over the village ruins and surrounding cliffs.
Situated in between the beach of Beesands and the cliff head of Start Point, the ruins of Hallsands sits on the same stretch of coastline is the beach of Elender Cove and the picturesque town of Salcombe.