Sea defences

No history of Sidmouth would be complete without looking at the ways the sea has physically affected the town and the need for sea defences.

When Sidmouth was a sleepy fishing village it was protected in a semicircular bay which trapped shingle in a high bank in front of the town. As the cliffs either side of the town eroded the town became gradually exposed and the shingle started to move on to the east, this process is ongoing and has been a cause for concern for the last century and more.

At first the bank was stablised, then rudimentary sea defences were put in place. As these proved ineffective bigger and better defences were erected and today (2020) even bigger ones are being considered. To find the history of the proposed modern defences go to Vision for Sidmouth Beach Management Plan   There is also a search function on the site which allows you to pick up subpages and posts on the topic.

I do not yet have any documents about sea defences prior to 1900 but when I do they will be added here.

These are the plans for the early 1900s defences bought from the National Archives at Kew. Please do not reproduce them without permission and acknowledgement as it would be a breach of copyright.


Detail of new steps

Extension at Port Royal     It can be seen that this was built on part of the land given to the town as a Pleasure Ground under the terms of the Conveyance from Mr Radford in 1896. This conveyance included all the land down on to the beach, map, this area can clearly be seen in this document.


Training wall at Port Royal


Groynes at west endof Esplanade


Sea Defences

Detail Seawall, lower wall and apron



In early 1925 there was a big breach of the seawall at the west end, mainly opposite the Bedford Hotel, and much reconstruction took place.


Eastern Groyne construction

Eastern Groyne position

Reconstruction Marine Place eastward

Groynes construction

The Ham was used as a building yard and a small railway was laid along the Esplanade.


Ham Field improvements

Weir and reclamation

Groynes positioning

Groynes drawing 7

Groynes drawing 8