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Ghosts of the Onedin Line - The Historic Quays of Exeter

Photographs  John H. Luxton 2012

Older visitors to this web site will remember the long running BBC Maritime Drama "The Onedin Line" which entertained viewers from through the 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s. With a cast led by Peter Gilmore and a veritable and varied collection of period ships providing the shipping interest it was justifiably popular. The series was set in Liverpool, but was not filmed in the city. When the Onedin Line was created the restoration of the Albert Dock remained over a decade away. Consequently the BBC had to find locations which could, often with a stretch of the imagination stand in for 19th Century Liverpool.

Over the decade that the series was filmed various locations were used though first locations were Exeter and Dartmouth however later filming was undertaken at Gloucester Docks, Falmouth and in the Pembroke area. One of the reasons why Exeter was chosen was for its historic group of quayside buildings, several of which were once home to the Exeter Maritime Museum, a source of period vessels which sometimes appeared in the filming. Sadly Exeter Maritime Museum closed in the late 1990s due to financial problems. However, the warehouses once occupied by the museum have been turned into apartments with ground floor retail outlets. Despite the changes the quayside has changed very little since the Onedin Line was filmed.


The Customs HouseThe building with the shop window and yellow door was "Robert Onedin's Ships Chandler Shop"
Linking the east and west quays is the historic hand operated "Butt's Ferry" - fare 30p, though it is possible to walk across the river further up stream by bridge . The underground storage casemates are run as antique and gift shops.
Each side of the ferry crossing is marked by an ornamental lamp - recovered during the demolition of the 1905 River Exe Road BridgeThese warehouses formed a back drop to the Onedin Line quayside scenes and once housed the Maritime Museum. They are now residential apartments on the upper floors and eateries on the ground floor.

Transit Shed and was used to store cargo as it was unloaded. At the far end can be seen "The King's Beam" used for weighing cargo

Just off the Quay some of the old warehouses were modified to become a nightclub in the 1960s. However, they retain their historical exteriors.


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