Finding Inspiraton in Dartmoor's History

Posted on 28th May, 2021

This week I am delighted to welcome historical novelist Tania Crosse back to my blog. Tania is having an exciting time at the moment, as two of her early novels are being reissued. Today she is here to introduce The Harbour Master's Daughter and in a couple of weeks, she'll be returning to tell us all about The River Girl.


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As an author, I’m often asked where I get my ideas from. Well, while I draw a great deal on my own experiences of life – and when writing about the Second World War, stories my parents told me of that terrible time – I would say that my greatest inspiration comes from locations. The places can be inspirational in themselves, such as the wilds of Dartmoor where so many of my books are set. But more than anything, it’s the history of the locations that inspires me, and imagining how life would have been there in the past.


This was never truer than with my debut novel, THE HARBOUR MASTER’S DAUGHTER. Originally published under the title, Morwellham’s Child, back in 2004, it was inspired by a visit to Morwellham Quay in Devon, once said to have been the greatest copper port in the whole of Queen Victoria’s empire, and a living history museum since the 1970s. If you recognise the name, that’s because it’s where the BBC series, The Edwardian Farm, was filmed. In fact, I was there once when they were filming and sat eating ice-cream with Peter Ginn who was as lovely in person as on screen.


While the farm continues to this day, the port went into decline in the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, and it is this period, the beginning of the end, that I depict in the novel. The picturesque location of Morwellham on the banks of the River Tamar that separates Devon from Cornwall, was inspirational in itself, but the turbulent years in the late 1860s to the early 1870s was what interested me most.


Copper had been mined in the area for years, and was transported to the river port along the Tavistock Canal. However, in 1844, the greatest deposit of high quality copper ever found in Europe was discovered in a slightly different direction at what became Devon Great Consols. Within a year, a one pound share increased its value to £800! A massive new dock was built, together with a new steam-powered railway to haul the ore over steep Morwell Down immediately behind Morwellham and down to the quay. The port expanded and was incredibly busy with many other goods as well as copper passing through it for many years.


However, in the late 1860s, the price of copper fell, and the easily accessible lodes at Devon Great Consols were pretty well exhausted. As the copper trade declined, so did the port, and this had a dreadful knock-on effect on the inhabitants of this small community. But where you have copper, you will often find arsenic, and Devon Great Consols, as well as Wheal Friendship on Dartmoor, survived on this for another twenty years. But it is a very different kettle of fish, extremely dangerous and requiring far fewer workers. Eventually, the arsenic industry, too, met its demise. Morwellham went into rapid decline, existing only as a rural, agricultural community, until the Morwellham Quay and Tamar Valley Trust was set up in the early 1970s to restore the port and open it to the public. The living history museum is now in private ownership.


So that terrible era of change is the one I depict in the novel. The harbour master and his family were, of course, in the thick of the action, and his spirited young daughter’s personal life is inextricably linked with the fortunes of the port. She finds herself fighting not only for her life but for the very forces that will govern the port’s future. I do so hope you will enjoy her story as she struggles with both economic and personal misfortunes!


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Prepare to be swept away by an utterly heartrending saga of one woman’s fight to find happiness.


Originally published as Morwellham’s Child.


Devon, 1867

Free-spirited Rebecca Westbrook knows her perfect match when she sees him. His name is Captain Adam Bradley.


She is the harbour master’s daughter.


He is smouldering and sophisticated — the most eligible captain ever to sail into the quay.


Anyone can see it’s meant to be. But Rebecca is anything but charmed. Her heart belongs to Tom Mason, a lowly cooper she’s known forever.


In her father’s eyes, Tom will never be worthy. But Tom has a plan to prove him wrong. And until then, passionate Rebecca refuses to wait to be with him.


But fate has other plans.


Tragedy strikes, shattering the couple’s dreams of a life together. Vulnerable and alone, how will Rebecca survive without her soulmate?


With the threat of destitution nipping at her heels, Rebecca can see only one way out. Is she strong enough to take it?


Fans of Nadine Dorries, Rosie Goodwin, Dilly Court, Freda Lightfoot and Catherine Cookson will adore this emotional coming-of-age story.





Book 1: The Harbour Master's Daughter

Book 2: The River Girl

Book 3: The Gunpowder Girl

Book 4: The Quarry Girl

Book 5: The Railway Girl

Book 6: The Wheelwright Girl

Book 7: The Ambulance Girl


Link to Tania's books on Amazon








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