The Tamar

No story of Calstock is complete without a short history of the River Tamar.

When you think of rivers, you probably picture something that’s slow-moving, tranquil and fairly shallow. The idea of a river being able to support shipping wouldn’t cross your mind. But what if we told you that there are some rivers that are deep enough to support ocean-going vessels? The River Tamar is one such river, and as this article will explain in more detail, it played a big part in changing the world as we know it. So join us on this journey through time to discover the history of the River Tamar…

The Ancient History of the River Tamar

As we start investigating the history of the River Tamar, it’s important to note that the river wasn’t always known by that name. In fact, the river has been known by a number of names over the centuries, including the River Tamar, the Tame, the Tham and the Tamm. The earliest known reference to the river was in the year 938, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentioned the death of King Athelstan, who was killed by a man called Edwy near the River Tamar. The river was also mentioned in the Domesday Book, which was created by William the Conqueror in 1086. It’s likely that the River Tamar was named after an ancient Celtic tribe known as the Tammars.

The River Tamar has a rich and varied ancient history. The earliest evidence of human settlements in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, circa 3000 BC. At that time, the River Tamar was already a major trading route, with the village of Looe being a major port. The River Tamar was also a significant agricultural area, and the growing of apples and blackberries was common along the banks. The River Tamar was also significant in terms of culture. There are many notable archaeological sites along the banks, including a Roman amphitheatre and Stone Age dwellings. The River Tamar was also home to a wealth of wildlife, including otters, ferrets, badgers, weasels and stoats, many of which are still around today.

The Industrial Revolution and the Tamar

As time went by, the River Tamar continued to flourish and thrive, supporting a mixture of commercial and agricultural activities. However, things were about to change and the river’s fortunes would be transformed forever. The Industrial Revolution was beginning to gather pace, and the River Tamar was set to play a key role in this development. The first signs of change were seen in the 19th century, when a number of shipbuilding yards and engineering works were established along the banks. By the turn of the century, the river was a hive of activity, with many different types of vessels being constructed. The River Tamar was also a key part of the Cornish mining industry at this time, with copper, tin and arsenic being extracted. The River Tamar had not only changed in terms of its appearance, but also its importance to the world. It was no longer a place for farmers to trade apples and clotted cream, but for engineers to build ocean-going vessels and for miners to extract minerals. The River Tamar had well and truly become a world-changing river.

The Modern World and the River Tamar

The River Tamar continued to thrive in the 20th century, and it was during this time that it played a major part in the development of the nuclear industry. In the 1950s, the British government decided to build a nuclear power station on the river, known as the Penlee station. It was the government’s intention to develop a chain of nuclear power stations along the River Tamar, but these plans were eventually abandoned. However, the River Tamar remained a significant part of the nuclear industry, and in the 1980s a radioactive waste dump was established at Wayleave. The dump was designed to house highly radioactive waste that was too dangerous to be kept in one place. The dump was controversial, with many people protesting against it. The protests were successful, and in 1999 the dump was closed.

However, the River Tamar has not only been the site of positive developments, and sadly it has also had a tragic history. In 1999, the Cornish coaster The Torrey Canyon ran aground, spilling approximately 75,000 tons of crude oil into the water. It was one of the worst environmental disasters of the century, and the River Tamar was badly affected. The Torrey Canyon oil spill was a tragedy, and the river is still recovering from this environmental disaster. However, the River Tamar remains a key part of the British economy, and it is hoped that in the future it will continue to thrive and prosper.


The River Tamar has a rich and varied history. From the Bronze Age to the modern day, the river has flourished and changed due to the location of its estuary and the presence of the nearby Tamar Marshes. The River Tamar is one of the longest rivers in the United Kingdom, and it flows through the heart of England. The river has provided a source of food and trade for people living in the area throughout its history, but it is more commonly known for the role that it played in the development of the nuclear industry.

The River Tamar is an unassuming waterway that doesn’t look particularly special from the outside. But looks can be deceiving, as the river has played a big part in the history of England and the rest of the world. The river’s history can be traced back to the Ice Age, and during the Industrial Revolution, it was transformed into a thriving shipping route. The River Tamar is responsible for 40% of Great Britain’s international trade, making it one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

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