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History of Watersmeet

The outside of the tea room at Watersmeet, with tables and an umbrella
Take a break at Watersmeet | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Watersmeet’s setting is a haven for many visitors. Built originally as a fishing lodge and romantic retreat, with connections to the romantic poets, it has been a tea-room since 1901. From a factory bottling mineral water to a devastating flood, Watersmeet has had a varied history.

Life at Watersmeet in the late Iron Age

Standing at Watersmeet some 2,300 years ago you would have seen smoke rising from the hilltops, a sign of people living close by. Two fortified farmsteads known as Myrtleberry North and South camp provided a protected home.

Thatched round houses were lived in by Iron Age people and their animals. The village would have been surrounded by ramparts and steep-sided hills. Whilst not much evidence remains, the views are stunning from these now scheduled monuments.

Visitors standing on a bridge over a river in woods, in summer
Visitors exploring Watersmeet | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Lynrock mineral water factory

The Lynrock mineral water factory opened on the East Lyn river in 1911, owned and run by the Attree brothers, who lived at Myrtleberry, a short distance up the river.

It was a popular watering hole for the Edwardians who could sample what was reputed to be the most palatable water in the world with radioactive qualities that could cure gout. The factory bottled mineral water and made ginger beer until 1939 when it closed due to lack of demand.

The factory was destroyed in the flood of 1952 when 23cm of rain fell in one day. Altogether 34 people died, 93 buildings were demolished, and thousands of people were left homeless.

Close up of the river at Watersmeet in winter
The river at Watersmeet in winter | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Electricity pioneer: the East Lyn river

Lynmouth had one of the first hydroelectric power stations in the UK, built in 1890 and fed by the tumbling torrent of the East Lyn River. The station was active until the 1950s when Lynmouth was connected to the National Grid.

This hydroelectricity allowed the residents of Lynmouth to power electric lamps whilst most other households were still reliant on gas. The electricity was on for just a few hours in the evening and during winter mornings.

On the night of the flood, the engineers kept the lights going for as long as possible but were forced to leave the station at 9pm. The station survived the Lynmouth flood of August 1952 but was later demolished to make the river wider.

The house at Watersmeet surrounded by bright orange autumn trees

Discover more at Watersmeet

Find out how to get to Watersmeet, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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Man canoeing down river rapids at Watersmeet

Things to see and do at Watersmeet 

From fishing to canoeing, there's an outdoor adventure to suit everyone at Watersmeet. Take a walk through ancient woodland or along the banks of the river.

The indoor seating area at Watermeet, full of colour and life, decorated with bold colour on the walls and flowers on each table.

Eating and shopping at Watersmeet 

After a walk or a spot of canoeing, grab a bite to eat or a drink at Watersmeet tea-room. You can also pick up a pre-loved treasure from the second-hand bookshop.

Overhead view of an octagonal table with the figure of Silenus, a drunken follower of Bacchu, in The Library at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire


Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.