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South Hams


South Hams

South Hams
From Start Point looking towards Hallsands and Beesands
From Start Point looking towards Hallsands and Beesands
Official logo of South Hams
South Hams shown within Devon
South Hams shown within Devon
Coordinates (Totnes):
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region South West England
Non-metropolitan county Devon
Formed 1 April 1974
 • Type District council
 • HQ Totnes
 • Sub-divisions Civil parishes
 • UK Parliament South West Devon
 • MPs (respectively) Gary Streeter
Sarah Wollaston
 • Political party Conservative
 • Total 342.28 sq mi (886.51 km2)
Area rank Ranked 285th
Population (mid-2014 est.)
 • Total 63,176
 • Rank Ranked 309th
 • Density 3,910/sq mi (1,511/km2)
 • Ethnicity
ONS code 18UG

South Hams is a local government district on the south coast of Devon, England, with its headquarters in the town of Totnes. It contains the towns of Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Ivybridge, Salcombe — the largest of which is Ivybridge with a population of 11,851.

To the north it includes part of Dartmoor National Park, to the east borders Torbay, and to the west Plymouth. It contains some of the most unspoilt coastline on the south coast, including the promontories of Start Point, and Bolt Head. The entire coastline, along with the lower Avon and Dart valleys, form most of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The South Hams, along with nearby Broadsands in Paignton, is the last British refuge of the Cirl Bunting.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
  • Settlements 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


The South Hams were originally part of the Brythonic (Celtic) Kingdom of Dumnonia later reduced to the modern boundary at the River Tamar as Cornwall presumably during the tenth-century reign of Æthelstan. Post-Roman settlement on coastal promontory hillforts, such as Burgh Island, follows the established pattern of trading—of tin in particular—found across the western, so-called 'Celtic', Atlantic coastal regions. In the later Anglo-Saxon era, the South Hams was a feudal estate consisting of all of the land between the River Plym and River Dart and south of Dartmoor with the English Channel forming the southern boundary. There is some evidence that Cornish was spoken and understood in the area until the late Middle Ages.[1]

In 1917, the village of Hallsands was abandoned after much of it was lost to the sea. This happened because the shingle bank protecting the shore was removed to help build Devonport dockyard.[2]

In 1944 several villages were evacuated so that training for D-Day could be carried out in secret. The area was chosen because of the resemblance of its beaches to those of Normandy. Preparations were disrupted, and secrecy nearly compromised, by a devastating E-boat attack during Exercise Tiger.

In 1967, the suburban towns of Plympton and Plymstock were amalgamated with the City of Plymouth.

The current district was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by the merger of:

  • Borough of Dartmouth
  • Borough of Totnes
  • Kingsbridge Rural District
  • Kingsbridge Urban District
  • Plympton St Mary Rural District
  • Salcombe Urban District
  • Totnes Rural District


Geography divides into three unequal, fuzzy bands, one with bays, headlands, the birdlife, fishing and small harbour towns' estuaries and rias; an unequal wide-ranging elevations middle band with the main, well-conserved towns and; a sparsely populated, upland National Park moorland in the north. For over a century its tourism was concentrated around the railway, with most stations built here from 1847-1872 so tourism to its beaches and fishing villages began in earnest much later than to the 'English Riviera' east of the area. South Hams' widespread tourism multiplied on the dualling of the A38 and time-cutting construction of the M5 and A303 across other parts of the rest of England.

In the north, there is...the "wildscape"—...[a new] bypass [to the A30, the
— Anthony Steen, MP for this area (1983-2010), South-West Region potential and current public priorities debate, 1983)


See also


  1. ^ "When was Cornish spoken in Devon". BBC H2G2 Conversation Forum. 18 July 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "Recalling the disaster at Hallsands".  
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