History of Vipers Quay

“The original ‘Viper’s Quay’ was a small quay or jetty at the Southern tip of the property, downstream of the Anchor Stone. No traces of this remains and indeed the access to it has been greatly eroded over the years. It is easy to imagine how its sunny position might have been appreciated by a snake, though we have only ever seen lizards and slow-worms.

The boathouse with its jetty originally served the Rectory. At the time transport was much easier by water than by the steep and often very muddy Devon lanes. Indeed, the importance of the river as a means of communication can scarcely be overstated. The fact that there were until after the war two completely separate villages, Higher and Lower Dittisham is entirely a result of the convenience of water transport. Many houses, such as Gurrow Point, had their own little quay or landing stage to bring in coal etc. and the Rectory, as the most important house in the village after the Court, was no exception.

The original boathouse was a single storey building with a pitched roof and it had no residential accommodation. It can be seen in the old photograph in the laundry room. It is not known when it was built but by the 1900s it had become a roofless ruin, almost lost in the oak trees which then covered the whole river bank. The original jetty was much lower than the present jetty and was also in a ruined state.

After the war the jetty was occasionally used a berthing place, in particular by a rather beautiful motor yacht called the Melisande which sometimes moored there in the late 1940s or early 1950s. It can be seen in postcards of the period. It disappeared after being caught smuggling and was later said to be involved in gun-running in North Africa.

In 1959 River Farm was acquired by our father, who also farmed at Dittisham Court, and in 1962 he began to build the present boathouse using the old buildings as the base. The builders were the men who worked on his farm (and when they could not avoid it, his children). The building was topped out in 1964.”