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The History and Heritage of Fremington Quay

Fremington Quay was once a bustling port, importing and exporting goods all around the world. There is a treasure-trove of information waiting to be discovered at the newly built Heritage Centre at Fremington Quay, exhibiting the industrial history of Fremington Quay's past.

The Heritage Centre offers a fantastic, interactive journey of local history covering why and how Fremington Quay has changed so much over the years and telling the stories from local villagers and workers. Visit the lookout post to see the panoramic view of how the Quay would have looked in the past and see the signal box leverstand used by Fremington Quay Station to switch the rail tracks.

Listen to stories about the Quay, as told by the people who lived and worked within Fremington and meet Harold Mock, the old Fremington Station Master.

Read on for a taster of just some of the information and history that you can find out about Fremington Quay at the interactive Heritage Centre...

A New Quay at Fremington

By the early 1800s the River Taw was silting up and Barnstaple's quays were unusable. The river was too shallow for the bigger ships that were then being built.

The Taw Vale Railway and Dock Company was formed in 1838 to build a deep-water quay at Fremington and a horse-drawn rail link to Barnstaple

As the population of North Devon grew and industry flourished Fremington Quay became more important and by 1891, twenty nine men were employed by the railway here.

Fremington Quay Heritage Map

This is a map of Fremington Quay as it was in 1932. When a ship was being loaded or unloaded the noise at the quay was deafening.

The steam cranes would all be working and trains with wagons would be rolling up and down the tracks.

It was very dirty work with huge clouds of dust in the air, the men working here with their blackened faces would looked more like miners than quay workers.

150 years ago Fremington Quay was a very busy industrial place importing and exporting goods all around the world.

By the mid 19th Century, Fremington Quay had become the most important port between Bristol and Land's End.



was by the biggest import! During World War 2 over 88,000 tons was unloaded here and send out around North Devon. This coal was used to power industry and to hear people's homes all over Devon.

Limestone & Culm

Culm is a form of coal from South Wales - the limestone was heated in local limekilns and used to neutralise the naturally acidic soils of the area. The culm was used to heat the kilns.


was mixed with Fremington clay to open up its fine texture and prevent pots from shattering in the kiln.

Seed Potatoes

were imported from Ireland and distributed all over North Devon.


was brought in from Lundy Island and then dressed at works near the quay.

Lead Ore

came from the Mendips via Bristol port and was the main ingredient of glaze for pottery.


Ball Clay

Ball clay was dug up at Petersmarland was exported in huge quantities.

This clay was widely sought after - 20,000 tons was shipped in 1929, mainly to Europe for the manufacture of toilets and pipes.

This clay was called 'ball clay; from the time when the clay was mined by hand. It was cut into 25cm cubes and during transport the corners of the cubes became rounded off making them look like balls.

The clay was dug from pits in Petersmarland, five miles south of Torrington. This very fine white clay was also perfect for making tobacco pipes and slip.