The Port Salcombe

History of The Port

The four cottages next to the ferry hard, together with the boathouse to the south west of them, are unique in East Portlemouth as they are built on the foreshore.

At the time that building started, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the greater part of East Portlemouth village was owned by a harsh absentee landlord, the Duke of Cleveland, who permitted nobody to build on his land. Indeed, when his tenants chose to earn their living by fishing, rather than working on his land, they were evicted from their houses, which were then pulled down.

An enterprising ferryman, Philip Foale, decided to enclose a piece of land on the foreshore, next to the ferry-hard and to build a cottage there. The foreshore belonged then,and still does now, to the Duchy of Cornwall, who eventually charged him a rent of two shillings and sixpence per annum. (12½ p)

Philip Foale assigned his lease to a boat builder, Philip Edwin Chant, who bought the property from the Duchy and built three further cottages to the south-west of the first.

The cottages passed through several hands, then, in 1922, Bessie Harding, grandmother of Susan Bryce, Bridget Gurney and Jan Balkwill bought the two southwest cottages, which had been converted into one house, which Bessie called The Port.

Bessie was a Salcombe girl, although by then living in London, and liked to spend part of the year near her childhood home. During the nineteenth century Salcombe was well-known for its fleet of fast sailing ships , engaged in the Mediterranean fruit trade.Bessie's grandfather, John Evans, built many of these craft and her father, William Masters, a master mariner, sailed in many of them, before transferring to steam and commanding the first oil-tanker. Bessie's husband, Fred Harding, was also a master mariner, although he later had a shore job as marine superintendent of British Antifouling Paint Composition.

Our mother, Ella Harding, married Alan Balkwill, member of a Kingsbridge family who had owned many of the fruit schooners.

When Bessie died she left The Port to her two daughters, Ella and Esme, and during the 1930s and 1940s the two families would holiday together. Later the property was divided in half and Esme later sold her half. It was bought initially by family friends, then by Peter Harding, one of Bessie's grandsons. Ella and her husband, Alan,retired to The Port, which they had extended and improved, and lived there for nearly 30 years.

When Ella died , in 1990, she left The Port to her three children, who set up The Port Trust. and let the property to their friends when it was not being used by the family.

Ella Harding and Alan Balkwill

Ella Harding and Alan Balkwill's Wedding.
London, June 21st 1927.

Group Picture

Back row, L to R:
Anita Harding, (wife of Norman the photographer), Eric Harding, Joyce Harding, married to Arthur, (next to her), Alan Balkwill, Esme Harding.

Front row, L to R:
Captain Fred Harding, Granny Bessie Harding, Ella Harding, David Balkwill, Granny Annie Balkwill, cousin Peter Harding.


The Port, East Portlemouth, Nr Salcombe, South Devon TQ8 8PU Telephone: 07890 998842