At Exmouth, in the June of the year 1865, while 'sturdy fellows' were busy 'burrowing in the sand' building the dock, Captain George Gardner, master of the schooner Eleanor of Portsmouth, brought his ship laden with timber over the bar and into the sheltered water landwards of the Warren which then served as harbour to Exmouth.
A boy called Henry Hearn in the employ of Mr Redway was engaged to haul timber ashore and found himself alongside the schooner and in the same boat as Captain Gardner's boy. For whatever reason the two boys quarrelled and Captain George Gardner in the tradition of mad Victorian masters, leapt from his ship into the boat and dramatically intervened. He picked up Henry Hearn by the heels and threw him overboard and afterwards deliberately forced his head under the water until the poor boy nearly drowned. Henry was taken home senseless.
Mr Redway charged Captain Gardner with the assault and he was summoned before the magistrate, the Reverend J F Boles, on Tuesday 6th June. The matter, however, seems subsequently to have been settled out of court.
It would seem from this account that up until 1865 timber was being offloaded from ships into the river and hauled ashore by little lads in rowing boats. The new dock would change all that.
The source of this story is Woolmer's Gazette of 9th June, 1865.