The area now known as the Lawn was originally called Tunnicliffe Waste and was a marshy area with a meandering stream running through it. Early drawings show a series of rickety wooden bridges crossing the boggy land.

In 1807, 23 year old John Ede Manning bought a large section of land in the middle of Dawlish and began to tidy it up by digging a canal to contain the stream within straight banks. He also widened the pathways to create Queen St and Strand Hill putting the extra soil onto Tunnicliffe Waste to create a grassy area. Unfortunately, in 1810 there was a flood caused by melting snow on Haldon and the Lawn was washed away along with several houses and two ponies.

The next year, Manning reinstated the canal and added weirs to prevent further damage. He owned much of the property next to the Lawn and in 1814, put several lots up for sale, including the Lawn for building plots. He had already allowed Joseph Parish to build at the east end of the Lawn. There was great opposition to this building and in 1816 it was burnt to the ground but soon rebuilt. The two three story buildings are still there housing The Ugly Duckling and the Children’s Society shop. However, in order to prevent any further development, a group of local business men leased the lawn on behalf of the town, in 1825. The rent was £50 a year for 99 years.

Some farmers had the right of common pasturage on Dawlish Common and Tunnicliffe, so sheep and cattle were grazed here.
In 1828, a footbridge was built from Brunswick Place onto the Lawn – known as Waterloo or Wellington Bridge. In 1844, a narrow iron bridge replaced the wooden one at the eastern end. A wider stone bridge was built for Victoria’s jubilee in 1887.

By the 1860s, the Lawn was said to be in a poor state and it was gradually improved and shrubs and trees planted. The town’s surveyor is said to have planted twelve Chestnuts on the north side and thirteen Weeping Willows on the south side. Some still remain. Ladies toilets were created underground in 1880s and in 1898, a shelter was built. A wooden flagpole was erected in 1899 (replaced in 1971 by a metal pole). And to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee a bandstand was erected – mainly of wood in a hexagonal shape with open sides and rustic wooden railings. It was replaced by the current structure in 1937.

Bowls were played on the lawn long before the green was built in 1907. A pavilion was built in 1924. Tennis was occasionally allowed on the Lawn and in 1920s permission was given for four courts for public use, which lasted until 1930s. Nowadays, fairs and concerts are regularly held on the Lawn

In 1896, two Australian black swans were ordered from Liverpool, apparently by Mr Dart the fishmonger of Beach Street as a present to the town. Two more were ordered the following year. They were fed by the miller at Weston Mill. They were a feature of Dawlish Brook until 1920. Several local people were inspired to offer exotic ducks and other waterfowl.

After the Second World War, a Captain Pitman gave the town a breeding pair raised in Sydney’s Tonga Zoo. This gift was in memory of his parents, who had happy memories of living in Dawlish.

The current flock of waterfowl are looked after in a special enclosure on the Brook.
A few years ago Dawlish made a gift of a pair of black swans to Carhaix, our twin town in France.