Richmond dock was built at Appledore on the mouth of the River Torridge in 1856 and was said to have been the largest dry dock in all the Bristol Channel ports at that time. By the early nineteenth century much of the timber for shipbuilding in Britain was being imported from North America, the traditional supply from the Baltic Ports being interrupted by the Napoleonic Wars. Appledore was excellently sited to use the North American trade economically, but the business became more sophisticated when ships were rough built on Prince Edward Island and sailed over to Appledore for finishing. Its exceptional importance in the history of North Devon shipbuilding has been recognised by its designated Grade 2* listed status. That puts it in the most important 5% of all listed buildings.
The dock was built by William Yeo who had 5 large ships that were engaged in the emigration trade. A diary was kept by a passenger emigrating on the Ocean Queen. Sailing from Appledore to Quebec, William Gliddon, says: "About half past four, we got under way with a good breeze, having on board a fine crew of 20, Mr Yeo, the pilot, 22 passengers, a pig, a cat, and a dog. Half past five, safe over the bar, the pilot and the owner took leave amid the cheers of all of board."
Today the dry dock lies unused and as you can imagine property developers have moved in with the intention of putting lots of posh houses here by the sea.
In 2005 a local group called Celebrating Appledore's Shipping Heritage started campaigning to use the dock as a local maritime heritage centre including restoring the dock to working condition and using it for shipbuilding, fitting and repair. The Heritage Crafts Association support this groups vision and have contributed to helping oppose the planning application. The application was turned down in 2010 and we are delighted that the appeal has also just been turned down. This decision means that it would now be virtually impossible to build any residential development on the dock.
What is most pleasing is the wording of the decision written by independent planning inspector Olivia Spencer
"Appledore retains a strong working relationship with the river and the sea. It is clear not just from the written historic evidence but also from the submissions of local residents, many of whom worked or whos families worked at the dock, that it has played a very major part in the economic and social history of Appledore. It lies both physically and culturally at the heart of the community. The working history of the dock thus has considerable significance nationally and locally."
"The form and structure of the dock has value as a rare and interesting object but the dock is a tool, a machine for building and repairing ships. It's operation as a dry dock is thus fundamental to its significance. For this reason and and in view of its role in the working life of the community, I consider development that would prevent or seriously curtail the operation of the dock as a dry dock for the building and repair of of boats would therefore amount to substantial harm to the significance of the listed structure."
What is important about this wording is how well it recognises the living heritage aspects as well as the physicality of the site, this sets a great precedent which we can use in future cases. Often in the UK heritage is managed as if it was dead and people were not part of it. HCA have been involved over the last 2 years in 4 important sites where there are linked physical and living heritage, we now feel to have seen 3 wins and one loss.
Farnham Pottery has now been purchased by the Farnham Pottery Trust thus securing it's use as a community pottery and avoiding the risk of development.
Portland Works in Sheffield successfully opposed planning for conversion to flats and the craftspeople tenants have formed a company to attempt to buy the building and run it is a community venture, you can even buy a share in the building here
Sadly the story at Standard Quay was different. The local council and local English Heritage officer did not recognise the living heritage aspects of the site. The craftspeople have been evicted including Colin Frake one of only two ships blockmakers in the country (he rigged Nelson's flagship Victory)
The story at JW Evans silversmiths was different with the fabric and contents of the building saved but the business of making silverware gone.
We have just heard of a new case, the living looms project which aims to preserve the heritage of carpet making in Kidderminster, lets hope this one reaches a happy ending.