Way of the Wharves Update – Society Showcase 2023

On a beautiful sunny June day in 2023 DHS members enjoyed a trip to Bideford to find out more about the achievements of Way of the Wharves (WOTW). WOTW started life in 2016 as a community volunteer project researching the history of East the Water and its wharves. In 2020 it became a charity with the objective ‘To advance the education of the public in the maritime and industrial heritage of the Wharves at East the Water and the Torridge Estuary’.

Tour of East of the Water wharves

The day started with coffee at the Grade 1 listed Royal Hotel, followed by a guided walk around the East the Water wharves. This is a unique moment as new building has not yet commenced on the new development so there are uninterrupted views of Bideford and East the Water. The walk ended up back at the Royal Hotel, where the group discovered its fascinating history. It started out as a tobacco merchant house, later becoming a prison and a workhouse before the Heard family, who made their fortune taking emigrants to Prince Edward Island and returning with timber, built the present hotel, complete with its own railway platform.

Mike & Theresa from Way of the Wharves

After lunch in the Royal Hotel’s newly refurbished ‘secret garden’ next to the river, local storyteller Katy Lee told some historical based stories. This was followed by a lively discussion about how to use storytelling to engage people in local history. Finally the session concluded with a presentation on ‘Maritime Heritage Stories from the Torridge’ and some ideas for future plans.

A huge thanks to the Way of the Wharves team for their support with this event. It was great to discover the historical and cultural impact East-the-Water’s estuary wharves, ships, businesses, people and events had on Bideford and how the WOTW team are engaging different audiences.

The idea behind the ‘Society Showcase’ is to share the achievements of some of Devon’s heritage organisations, projects and local groups. If you know a group or organisation who would like to be involved in 2024 please email events@devonhistorysociety.org.uk.