Bideford and Torridge achieve Heritage Harbour status

Harbour Heritage Status approved.

Bideford and the River Torridge has been granted Heritage Harbour status by the Maritime Heritage Trust, joining eleven other ports whose contribution to Britain’s maritime history has been officially recognised.

The announcement comes as a result of a campaign by ten local heritage charities, including Appledore Maritime Heritage History Charity led by Bideford-based Way of the Wharves, and supported by the Town and District Councils, local businesses, the education sector and other stakeholders. The vision is to see the ongoing preservation and development of buildings and infrastructure along the whole waterfront from Appledore to Torrington, bringing to life stories of the maritime history of the whole Torridge Estuary.

Bringing marine history to life.

Mike Teare, Chair of the charity Way of the Wharves, said:

‘This decision is of huge significance for our area, not only for highlighting our magnificent maritime heritage, but for developing Bideford and Torridge as an attractive place to live, work, and visit.  The award of funding to create the Clean Maritime Innovation Centre in Appledore already shows how important a strong sense of heritage and identity is for attracting new investment with skills and jobs for the future. Heritage Harbour status is good news for anyone who cares about our past and wants to see us thrive in the future.’

History shaping our present lives

Adrian Wills, who is a trustee of the North Devon Museum Trust and a committee member of the Rolle Canal and Northern Devon Waterways Society, added:

‘This is an exciting opportunity to promote, showcase and develop features of the rich, historic past and future of Bideford and the River Torridge. Historic events in this area have been felt across the world as a result of its shipbuilding, as well as within the trade of importing and exporting goods such as tobacco, coal, limestone, codfish, timber and clay. All of these activities helped bring in a wealth of skilled and unskilled employment to this region. History is not just about what has happened in the past but what has shaped our way of life.  Our heritage has to be preserved, treasured and held in trust for future generations to appreciate what we are and why we are.’

Sharing the history with visitors and locals alike.

In addition to developing its website at, which will bring together information about heritage vessels, museums, buildings and heritage sites along the river, the Bideford and River Torridge Heritage Group plans to launch guided walk maps that will help local residents and visitors discover these attractions. There will be a public meeting in the near future to celebrate the Heritage Harbour status and lay out more of their plans and vision. They will be looking to the community to help uncover and tell more of the maritime stories from along the river. Mike Teare said:

‘Whether it’s something from your family history or an old boat or artefact you’ve got hidden in your garage or discovered in a field please get in touch with us.’

Heritage Harbours are a joint initiative by the Maritime Heritage Trust, National Historic Ships Shipshape Network and Historic England whereby historic ports and harbours in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can become officially recognised as ‘Heritage Harbours’. This emphasises the great value in sensitively developing their historic buildings, wasteland, mooring and maintenance facilities for both local and visiting historic vessels. 

The other heritage harbours in the UK are: Exeter, Ipswich, Bucklers Hard, Sandwich, Faversham and Oare, Maldon and Heybridge, Wells-Next-The-Sea and Bristol and the inland ports are at Shardlow, Stourport on Severn and Chester.

The members of the River Torridge Heritage Group (RTHG) are currently: Way of the Wharves (lead charity); Steamship Freshspring Trust; The Burton at Bideford; North Devon Maritime Museum, Appledore; Bideford Railway Heritage Centre; Appledore Maritime Heritage Trust; Bideford and District Community Archive; Rolle Canal and Northern Devon Waterways Society; Tarka Valley Railway; East the Water in Bloom.