Dartmouth Devon Family History Guide

Dartmouth St Petrox is an Ecclesiastical Parish and a market town in the county of Devon, created in 1748 probably from a chapelry in Townstall Ancient Parish.

Alternative names: St Petrox

Parish church: St. Petrox

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1652
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1610

Nonconformists include: Independent/Congregational, Particular Baptist, Plymouth Brethren, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic.

Adjacent Parishes

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

DARTMOUTH, a town, three parishes, and a sub-district in Totnes district, Devon. The town stands on the west side of the estuary of the river Dart, 1 mile above the estuary's mouth, and 5 SW of Brixham; and was recently connected by railway northward with the Torquay branch of the South Devon railway. It was known to the Saxons as Ludhill; it afterwards comprised three villages, called Clifton, Dartmouth, and Hardness: and it is still known, in legal documents, as Clifton-Dartmouth-Hardness. It was burnt by the French in the times of Richard I. and Henry IV.; it repelled an invasion of the French in 1404; it was taken, in 1643, after a siege of four weeks, by Prince Maurice, and retaken by storm, in 1646, by Fairfax; it was the embarking port of the Crusaders in 1190; it contributed 31 ships, in the time of Edward III., for the siege of Calais; and it sent forth some of the earliest adventurers who achieved exploits and made discoveries in the Arctic seas. It forms terraced streets on an acclivity, overlooking a lake-like expanse of estuary, encompassed by steep shelving hills from 300 to 400 feet high, and, together with its environs, presents a picturesque appearance. Two narrow streets of it run parallel with the shore and with each other on such a steep that the pavement of the upper is nearly on a level with the roofs of the lower; and they communicate by flights of steps. Many of the houses, both in these streets and elsewhere, are old and grotesque: and a modern house, built by Mr. Holdsworth, the governor of Dartmouth Castle, in imitation of the old ones, is richly adorned with carving, and curiously cased with slates. A project was formed, toward the end of 1861, for opening a new main street through the town, of spacious width, with sites for a town hall and public offices. The present town hall is an ancient edifice, with some good carving. The subscription-rooms, on the New-Road, and the assembly-rooms, at the extreme end-of Duke-street, are modern. The castle, situated on the point of the promontory at the entrance of the harbour, consists of a round tower of the time of Henry VII., a square tower of later date, and three platforms for guns. A steamer maintains communication across the harbour with the railway at Kingswear. St. Saviour's church is a fine cruciform structure of 1372; has a south door of curiously-ornate character; and contains a carved stone pulpit, an exquisitely handsome screen, a very fine altar-piece, and a piscina and sedilia. St. Petrox church, situated close to the castle, is very ancient; consists of nave, aisles, and sanctuary, with western embattled tower; and had formerly a chantry. St. Petrox new church, in the town, consists of nave, chancel, aisles, and sanctuary. Townstall church, situated on a high hill about a mile to the north-west, is very ancient; consists of nave, north aisle, and north and south transepts with a tower; and commands a magnificent view. An Independent chapel is in Fosse-street; a Baptist chapel, in Atkin's lane; and a Wesleyan chapel, in Market-square. The town has a head post office, a telegraph office, a banking office, and two chief inns; is a bonding port, a coast-guard station, and a seat of petty sessions; and publishes a fortnightly newspaper. A weekly market is held on Friday; and a good export trade is carried on in barley, potatoes, cider, and iron ore. The harbour is landlocked; contains good anchorage for 300 sail; and is now the station for a navy training-ship. Much improvement in both it and the town was progressing in 1864-5. A steamer plies regularly to Totnes. Sub-ports are Brixham, Torquay, and Salcombe. The vessels registered at the beginning of 1863 were 171 small sailing-vessels, of aggregately 5,658 tons, 256 large sailing-vessels, of aggregately 34,193 tons, and 6 steam-vessels, of aggregately 154 tons; and those which entered, in 1862, from British colonies, were 18 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 1,459 tons, from foreign countries, 33 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 4,192 tons, and coastwise, 651 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 37,446 tons, and 86 steam-vessels, of aggregately 3,698 tons. The amount of customs in 1867 was £3,718. The town was incorporated in 1342; is governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; and sent two members to parliament prior to the reform act of 1832; but was half disfranchised by that act, and wholly disfranchised by the act of 1868 for increasing the representation of Scotland. The borough limits include the entire three parishes of the town, and part of Stoke-fleming parish. Pop. in 1861, 4,444. Houses, 825. The family of Legge take from the town the title of Earl; and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who took possession of Newfoundland, Davis, who penetrated to the Arctic sea which bears his name, and Newcomen, the famous mechanician, were natives of the town or its neighbourhood.

The three parishes are St. Saviour, St. Petrox, and Townstall. Acres of St. Saviour, 40 of land and 45 of water; of St. Petrox, 40 of land and 35 of water; of Townstall, 1,688 of land and 70 of water. Real property of the three, £13,223. Pop. of St. Saviour, 2,171; of St. Petrox, 885; of Townstall, 1,337. Houses, 409, 158, 247. The parish of Townstall includes the hamlets of Norton, Old-Mill, Warfleet, and Ford. The livings of St. Saviour and St. Petrox are p. curacies, and that of Townstall a vicarage, in the diocese of Exeter; and those of St. Saviour and Townstall are united. Value of St. S. with T., £135; of St. P., £120. Patron of St. S. with T., Sir H. P. Seale, Bart.; of St. P., the Rector of Stoke-fleming. The sub-district contains also the parishes of Dittisham and Kingswear. Acres, 5,508. Pop., 5,429. Houses, 1,045.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

A Topographical Dictionary of England 1848

DARTMOUTH, otherwise Clifton-Dartmouth-Hardness, a borough, seaport, and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, in the union of Totnes, locally in the hundred of Coleridge, Stanborough and Coleridge, and S. divisions of Devon, 30¾ miles (S. by W.) from Exeter, and 204 (W. S. W.) from London; containing 4417 inhabitants. This place, which derives its name from being situated at the mouth of the river Dart, appears to have been distinguished at a very early period for the convenience of its harbour, which, in 1190, was the rendezvous of the fleet destined for the Holy Land. In the reign of Richard I. the French effected a landing on the coast, and, after setting fire to the town, retreated with inconsiderable loss. It is stated by Leland to have received a charter of incorporation from King John, but no authentic document exists of a date prior to Edward III.: whether incorporated or not, it enjoyed many privileges, and in 1226, the inhabitants obtained the grant of a weekly market and an annual fair. In the reign of Edward I. the town sent members to a parliament held at York, and had become a considerable staple for wool, wine, and iron; and in that of Edward III., the port contributed thirty-one ships, and nearly 800 men, to the naval armament for the invasion of France: in this reign the town, together with the adjacent village of South-town, which is that part of the town called also Clifton, was exempted from tolls. By act of parliament in the time of Richard II., the exportation of tin was exclusively restricted to the port of Dartmouth, but the restriction was soon after abolished. In 1404, the French pirates, having burnt Plymouth, sailed to this town, but were gallantly repulsed by the male and female inhabitants; De Chastell their commander, and several of his men, were killed, and 20 of the crew taken prisoners. The castle is supposed to have been erected in the reign of Henry VII. During the parliamentary war, Dartmouth was regarded as a very important post: it was taken, after a siege of four weeks, by Prince Maurice in 1643, and remained in the possession of the king's forces until 1646, when it was retaken by General Fairfax.

The town is beautifully situated on the western shore of the bay formed by the river Dart, near its influx into the sea. The houses are built on the acclivity of an eminence sloping gently to the margin of the water, and are ranged in streets rising above each other at different elevations; they are in general ancient, and some of them are ornamented with grotesque carvings. That which was formerly the governor's house (the office having been abolished), occupies a higher site, and is a modern adaptation of the ancient style of building that prevails in the town; it forms the front to a naval museum, and is now a private dwelling-house. The streets are inconveniently narrow, but are partially paved, and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are supplied with water brought by pipes from springs in the neighbourhood, at the expense of the corporation, who lease it to the owners of houses. A subscription reading-room and library have been established, and a regatta takes place generally in July. The surrounding scenery is strikingly beautiful: the prospect of the town from the bay is truly picturesque; and the rocks, which are of a purple-coloured slate, are finely contrasted with the verdant foliage of the trees in which the houses are embosomed, extending for nearly a mile along the coast, and interspersed with a rich variety of plants and shrubs. The bay, in several points of view from which the town and the sea are excluded by projecting points of land, has the appearance of an inland lake, of romantic beauty. Immediately opposite to the town is the village of Kingsweare, celebrated for the salubrity of its air and the longevity of its inhabitants.

The harbour is sufficiently capacious for the reception of 500 sail of vessels, and is remarkable for its security, and for the depth and tranquillity of the water, the surface of which is undisturbed, while the sea, at the distance only of a quarter of a mile, may be in a state of strong agitation. The entrance is on the south-southeast, between the ruins of Kingsweare Castle and the fort and church of St. Petrox, where a battery has been erected for its defence, and where, through the liberality of the late Sir John Henry Seale, Bart., a light was erected for the protection of vessels wishing to make the harbour in the night. The harbour is capable of receiving the largest ships in the British navy, and it has excited much surprise that it has not been made a naval depôt, as its position, depth of water, safety, and general accommodation for shipping, render it equal for commercial purposes to any in the kingdom. Outside the harbour is the roadstead called the Range, affording safe anchorage to vessels of any tonnage. The trade consists principally in the exportation of leather, tin-ware, wearing-apparel, and cordage, to Newfoundland, and sheep and lime to Jersey and Guernsey, and in the importation of wine from Portugal, and timber from the north of Europe and British America; a considerable coasting-trade is also carried on, and great quantities of corn, malt, potatoes, and cider are shipped at the port. A quay has been constructed, projecting into the harbour; and there is a custom-house, with requisite offices for the despatch of business. A moveable bridge, secured with chains to the shores, and capable of transporting four carriages, without divesting the horses of their harness, is propelled across the harbour by horse power: it was constructed in 1832, at an expense, including the approaches, of £6000, raised by a joint subscription under an act of parliament; it crosses in about eight minutes, and forms a continuation of the coast road from Exeter to Plymouth, which is one of the finest drives in the kingdom. The river Dart is navigable to Totnes, ten miles distant; and the passage is highly interesting, from the beautiful scenery with which its banks abound throughout. There is a steam-boat kept for the purpose of towing vessels in and out, and also plying daily during summer, and twice a week in winter, to and from Totnes; likewise a steam-vessel weekly to London, touching at Torquay, Teignmouth, the Isle of Wight, and Portsmouth. Much is done in the way of ship-building; there are commodious yards, in which about twenty vessels are built annually, and also a very large dry-dock. But the inhabitants are chiefly engaged in the Newfoundland and other fisheries. The market is on Friday; a cattle-market is held every month, and there is a daily fish-market well supplied.

The government, by charter of Edward III., confirmed by succeeding monarchs, and extended by Elizabeth and James I., was vested in a mayor and twelve masters and councillors, forming the common-council, assisted by a recorder, townclerk, and other officers. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation now consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; the municipal and parliamentary boundaries are co-extensive; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, and the total number of magistrates is ten. The borough continued to return two members to parliament from the period of its incorporation, in the 24th of Edward III., till the 2nd of William IV., when it was deprived of one by the Reform act. The right of election was formerly vested in the corporation, and in the freemen made by them, the inhabitants of the borough (which comprised 81 acres) not being entitled to their freedom in right either of birth, servitude, or residence: by the act above-named the non-resident electors, except within seven miles, were disfranchised, and the privilege was extended to the £10 householders of an enlarged district, containing 1981 acres. The mayor is returning officer. A court of quarter-sessions is held, at which the recorder presides; and the borough has a court of record, under a charter of Edward III., for the recovery of debts to any amount, appointed to be held on Monday. The prison is a small building, with only two wards.

Dartmouth comprises the parishes of St. Petrox, St. Saviour, Townstall (St. Clement), and part of Stoke-Fleming; the first containing 929, the second 2345, and the third 1143 inhabitants. St. Petrox' is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rector of Stoke-Fleming, with a net income of £120. The old church is beautifully situated near the entrance to the harbour. A church was built in 1732, as a chapel of ease, which the Bishop of Exeter has made the parochial church, and to which a gallery has been added; and in 1832 a chapel was built in the later English style, partly by subscription, and partly by aid of a grant of £1000 from the Incorporated Society. The living of St. Saviour's is annexed to the vicarage of Townstall. The church, commonly called the Mayor's chapel, is a spacious cruciform structure, possessing little external, but considerable internal, beauty, and is principally in the decorated English style. The pulpit is of stone, richly sculptured and gilt; the wooden screen is an elaborate and highly enriched specimen of carving; the stalls of the corporation are of good modern workmanship: the original ceiling of oak is still preserved. The living of the parish of Townstall is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £12. 15. 4½., and in the patronage of Sir H. P. Seale, with a net income of £135. There are places of worship for Particular Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans. Newcomen, the inventor of the steamengine, was a native of the town. Dartmouth gives the title of Earl to the family of Legge.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1848

Parish Records


England, Devon Bishop's Transcripts, 1558-1887

England, Devon and Cornwall Marriages, 1660-1912

England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912

England, Devon, Plymouth Prison Records, 1821-1919

Exeter Marriage Licenses 1523-1631

Exeter Burial Records

Devon Cemetery Photos

South Hams Memorial Inscriptions

Appledore Burials 1844-1970

Devon Calendars of Prisoners

Devon Convicts Transported to Australia 1782-1821

Records for England

Births and Baptism Records

England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

Great Britain, Births and Baptisms, 1571-1977

England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

Marriage Records

England Marriages, 1538–1973

Great Britain Marriages, 1797-1988

England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

Death Records

England Death Records, 1998-2015

England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991

Great Britain Deaths and Burials, 1778-1988

England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957

England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1640-1660

Non-Conformist Records

England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8), 1588-1977


England and Wales Census, 1841

England and Wales Census, 1851

England and Wales Census, 1861

England and Wales Census, 1871

England and Wales Census, 1881

England and Wales Census, 1891

England and Wales Census, 1901

England and Wales Census, 1911


United Kingdom, Merchant Navy Seamen Records, 1835-1941

War and Conflict

Great Britain, War Office Registers, 1772-1935

United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records, 1760-1913

United Kingdom, Royal Hospital Chelsea: Discharge Documents of Pensioners 1760-1887 (WO 122)

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

United Kingdom, Militia Service Records, 1806-1915

United Kingdom, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920

United Kingdom, World War I Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Records, 1917-1920

Newspaper Archives

British Newspaper Archive, Family Notices

British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries


  • County: Devon
  • Civil Registration District: Totnes
  • Probate Court: Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Totnes
  • Diocese: Exeter
  • Rural Deanery: Totnes
  • Poor Law Union: Totnes
  • Hundred: Coleridge
  • Province: Canterbury