The main channel of the Exe estuary was historically on the west side and as such Lighters could only reach the quay in Exmouth by way of a narrow shallow creek.

Larger vessels had to stay out in the estuary and unload their cargo into these Lighters. This quay, which was also the ferry station from Starcross, was called Pratteshide. It later became known as Mona Island, named after one of the cottages on the site, where in 1240 nearby stood Douste’s House, once lived in by Roger Douste and where ships paid their dues and ferry costs were paid. Mona Island is still there, on Exeter Road by Glenorchy Church, as can be seen in the photo.

Pratteshide came about as in 1302 there was a manor house and later on houses in a hamlet on the edge of the estuary. This had been granted to John the Miller in about 1240 but was subsequently bought by the Mayor and citizens of Exeter for use as a ferry station. It was then known as Pratteshuthe, later Pratteshide, meaning Pratt’s Landing Place.

Pratteshide, an island, the property of Exeter, was strategically important as captains of ships had to obtain permission to land their goods anywhere other than Topsham. In 1290, David Uphille claimed unsuccessfully that the water of Pratteshide belonged to the Manor of Hille (now Marpool) and in 1343 Adam Dally of Seaton paid 6 shillings and 8 pence to unload twenty quarters of salt and corn. In 1287 Exeter leased Pratteshide to John Pycard for 44 shillings per annum and for this he had to maintain the ferry and landing house. It proved so successful that Sherborne Abbey tried to contest the rights of Exeter three times, in 1348, 1412 and 1473.

In 1542, John Drake, a substantial landowner, took out a lease on the ferry and the quay, which by now was 100 feet long by 80 feet wide. The Drake family then called their home in Littleham Spratshayes; formerly it had been known as Pratteshead or Pratteshayes. In 1624 he sold it to the Watts family who employed a ferryman. On 4th September 1633 a passage boat was wrecked, drowning three men, and one of them, William Walter’s body was not recovered for a month. The profits of the ferryman were always under threat and excessive charges made by them caused problems for Exeter, who retaliated by bringing in fixed penalties. This seems to have had an adverse affect as it was reported that by 1759 the ferry station was little used and it is thought that by then the quay was almost in disuse. The second half of the 18th century saw a new Passage House built at The Point and by 1774 Pratteshide was abandoned. It was finally cut off when land was reclaimed from the estuary by the embankment built by William Thomas Hull of Marpool Hall to hold back the tide from Exeter Road in about 1811. This is the embankment along which the railway now runs. In 1822 Hull tried to reclaim the land where The Colony now is. He also started work on the higher Parade where houses were built so they had a sea view. In front of them was a gravel strip called Ferry Road, now called St Andrew’s Road.

So ended Pratteshide’s involvement in the development of Exmouth. Mona Island, as we have seen, is still there. It once housed public conveniences underneath it and the now covered-up entrances to these steps down to them can still be seen. Now, it is a place to rest awhile on the seats there and imagine its past and the ships tying up there. A blue plaque records its former importance.

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