Friday, 22 June 2012


This amateur watercolour of uncertain date shows what appears to be a firing range with targets ranged against the red cliffs of Orcombe Point .   I can find no written record of butts on the beach but the targets, if  there to be engaged by the rifle volunteers or indeed the yeomanry, seem pretty antique.   My guess is that the picture was painted between 1890 and 1910 but I might be way out.

The little salmon boat in the foreground with her two man crew seems to be prepared to shoot a seine from the beach into the river,  something that has not been done for many a year although it was common enough to take salmon across the channel from the Pole Sand.  Is that the polestaff projecting from the stern?

There is more ledge and less cliff at Orcombe now.  

I am curious to know more about those butts.  


  1. You're right about the date. If you look at Old Maps, on the 1905 map the beach on the Exmouth side of Orcombe Point is labelled "rifle range", with "old targets" at the position depicted in the painting. There's a reference in Besley's 1870 The route book of Devon:

    "On the [Exmouth] beach is the house for the life-boat, supported by voluntary contributions. Next to it is the Coast Guard station. Just beyond it is a small battery, mounting three guns, commanding the entrance of the river. About half-a-mile from it is the magazine, and near it is the road to Littleham, and also the path over the cliffs, both of which we have already pursued. If it be low tide, we can continue our walk very pleasantly for a long distance under the cliffs, and numerous shells and sea anemones will reward the researches of the naturalist. The coast guard and naval coast volunteers have their butts for rifle practice set up against a projecting part of the cliff on the beach."

  2. Update: on Old Maps, the 1890 also has "targets" at the same place, and shows the rifle range's line of fire: 800 yards, with the firing point about where Queen's Drive now branches off to the Orcombe Point cul de sac.

  3. Thanks Ray! Tour de force! Very impressive!