From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Axmouth Harbour

50° 42' 13.8"N 3 °03' 30.8"W


  • History
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  • Gallery
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
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Axmouth Harbour is located next to the seaside town of Seaton in Devon.

The River Ax and the harbour was used during the middle ages. The natural harbour was much larger and deeper than it is today. The mouth of the river is thought to have been about half a mile wide, the harbour deep enough to allow ships to navigate inland as far as Colyford.

In the 14th century, heavy storms caused a land slip at Haven Cliff to fall into the sea, partly blocking the estuary. Shingle movement from the est to the west starting in the mid 14th century, caused many rivers to become completely blocked. In 1450, shingle was removed from the river mouth to try and regain access to the estuary. The sea and its tides soon bought more shingle to replace what was removed.

As the river mouth narrowed and then became closed, the water from the river percolating through the shingle, salt marched formed from Seaton all the way to Colyford. This caused the river to silt up.

In 1806, the owner of the local manor, Mr. Hallet, built a new dock on the rocks of the eastern bank. The river was diverted to follow the dock and its deeper channel. It was used to unload ships up until the Seaton Branch railway line was built, in 1868.

A bridge was built over the river in 1877, 400m from the river mouth, replacing the ferry.

Today the small harbour is dependant on the tides, so at low tide the harbour is dry, meaning it can only be used by boats with a draft of about 4ft to navigate the channel.

The entrance to the harbour is narrow and cuts through a shingle beach, marked by a starboard hand beacon located on a small groyne at the pier head. A shingle bar is located some 70 meters from the entrance and is known to shift.

Visitors can walk on both sides of the harbour; on the western bank is the yacht club and clubhouse, floating jetties and slipways. Yachts and many other types of small boats are stored on land here during the winter months.