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You are in: Devon > History > History features > Recalling the disaster at Hallsands

Cover of the book

Cover of the book

Recalling the disaster at Hallsands

Sisters Against the Sea tells the story of four sisters, whose family home was washed away by the sea in the 1917 disaster at the South Devon fishing village of Hallsands.

Sisters Against the Sea
By: Ruth and Frank Milton
Publishers: Halsgrove

The remains of the lost village of Hallsands stand as a testament to the pig-headed stupidity of man.

This once bustling fishing village in the South Hams was washed away by the sea, when the powers-that-be at the time gave permission for the shingle in the bay to be removed for use in construction work at Devonport docks.

The Trout family home is on the far left

The Trout family home is on the far left (1894).

The removal started in 1897, despite protests from villagers that the loss of the shingle would lead to the encroachment of the sea.

Sure enough, in 1902-4, the first structural problems began. Bit by bit, the village was gobbled up by the sea until eventually, in 1917, Hallsands was abandoned for good.

Thirty-seven homes were lost, as well as the store and the pub, The London Inn.

A whole community, which had been there for centuries, was destroyed.

One of the families who lost everything was the Trouts - William and Eliza Anne, and their four daughters, Patience, Ella, Clara and Edith.

Patience and Ella in their boat, circa 1920

Patience and Ella in their boat, 1920

Their cottage was right in the firing line and, following initial structural damage just after the turn of the century, it finally succumbed in the winter of 1916-17.

Sisters Against the Sea tells their story: of how William - a crabber - fought the shingle removal, and how Patience and Ella took over the family business.

It also gives an affectionate portrayal of life in a fishing village a century ago - a way of life that is now history.

Of the four sisters, only one married - Clara, and Sisters Against the Sea is written by her son Frank, who still lives in South Devon, and his wife Ruth.

Fishermen, pictured just before the 1917 disaster

Fishermen pictured before the 1917 storm

The Trouts, like the other families in Hallsands, had to start all over again following what the book describes as "a wanton act of vandalism."

Only half were re-housed at the top of the cliffs at Hallsands. The Trouts remained and, led by Ella, they opened up Trouts Hotel.

The hotel was a huge success. From being homeless and penniless, the Trouts had fought back from adversity - a real rags to riches story.

Unfortunately, as with Hallsands village itself, there was to be no happy ending to the story of the Trouts.

Sisters Against The Sea ends with another swipe at "the bureaucratic insanity" that led to the loss of Hallsands, and a warning that the erosion continues to this day.

The book will make you angry about the man-mad disaster and sad about the way it affected so many lives.

None of the villagers who were there to witness the loss of Hallsands are alive today, so this book provides an invaluable insight into exactly what happened.

For details about purchasing the book (hardback, A4, 152 pages), visit the Halsgrove website linked from this page.

last updated: 18/02/2008 at 15:58
created: 01/07/2005

You are in: Devon > History > History features > Recalling the disaster at Hallsands

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