MICHAEL PORTILLO’S popular BBC television series ‘Great British Railway Journeys’…
DARTMOUTH has always been a good place to eat fish. When Daniel Defoe, the man who wrote Robinson Crusoe visited in the 1700s he recorded one great shoal of pilchards that came fleeing into the mouth of the river, pursued by a school of dolphin.
It chased them up as far as Totnes Bridge. “so that the country people who had boats and nets catched as many as they knew what to do with, and perhaps lived upon pilchards for several days”.
“We sent our servant to the quay to buy some, who for a halfpenny brought us seventeen, and, if he would have taken them, might have had as many more for the same money”. With these we went to dinner; the cook at the inn (probably the Royal Castle) broiled them for us, which is their way of dressing them, with pepper and salt, which cost us about a farthing; so that two of us and a servant dined—and at a tavern, too—for three farthings, dressing and all”.
Next day he dined on lobster (at 6 pence old money), “which was excellent and three shillings cheaper than London”.