Located on the coastline of Start Bay, Hallsands is a ruined fishing village that is believed to have first originated in around 1600. Throughout the 18th and 19th century it grew and by 1891 it was home to 37 houses, a pub and 159 residents. They very close community with everybody including women and children helping to haul in the boats and the nets. It was a challenging and tough business with irregular earnings and frequent losses at sea.
During the 1890s, the Admiralty decided that the naval dockyard at Keyham, near Plymouth, should be expanded. This was a vast project and by 1896 a construction contract was awarded and permission granted by the Board of Trade to dredge shingle from the coast between Hallsands and Beesands. Villagers protested due to fears that this work would threaten their beach and village but an inquiry found that it was not likely to pose a significant threat. By 1900 the beach level had began to fall and storms in the autumn that year washed away part of the sea wall. After more complaints from the villages a new Board of Trade inspector concluded further severe storms may cause even more serious damage so recommended that the dredging be stopped. In 1902 to dredging licence was revoked and during that year the beach began to recover. However, on the night of the 26th of January in 1917, exceptionally high tides and easterly gales swept the village of Hallsands into the sea. Miraculously no one was hurt but only one house was left standing. The owner continued to live there until 1964 and nowadays the house is used as a holiday home.
Visitors can see the ruins which now perch precariously on the cliff face some 500m metres away from a viewing platform on the South West Coast Path. It’s a fascinating place and serves as a stark reminder of how exploiting natural resources can have a devastating effect.