A maritime history of the ports of Bideford and Barnstaple, 1786-1841
This study can be divided into two parts. The first attempts to place the ports of Bideford and Barnstaple in the broader contexts of international, national and regional trends during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The effects of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and of industrialisation in South Wales are presented as important elements in the development of the Bideford shipping industry. The work is also concerned with the more localised economic significance of commerce, trade (legal and illegal), transport infrastructures, hinterlands and industrial and agricultural production. Further, the importance of Bideford and Barnstaple in the Newfoundland cod, North American tobacco and Irish wool trades during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is emphasised and helps to reflect the retrenchment of the two ports by the 1780s, the starting point of this enquiry. The second part of this study is concerned with the shipping industry. Occupational structures and geographic distributions of shareholders with capital invested in Bideford vessels are analysed, as are investment patterns directed towards the expansion of the fleet at the turn of the nineteenth century. The shipping stock of the port of Bideford, and to a lesser extent Barnstaple, is also examined to discover, at a local level, medial models of vessels deployed by the two ports. Technical comparisons of the models for 1787 and 1803 revealed the modifications which were adopted to meet new trading opportunities in the Bristol Channel. A brief exploration of shipbuilding is also undertaken, examining broad trends and placing Bideford and Barnstaple in the wider competitive context of the Bristol Channel. Finally, the masters and men who operated the vessels are studied, with particular reference to the distribution and occupational, demographic and social structures of the mariner community located in the village of Appledore.