The Harbour View building and tower was designed and built for the old Exmouth Yacht Club over the winter of 1895 to 1896 to replace a corrugated iron Clubhouse on the Pier. It was opened in June 1896, on a site leased from Lord Rolle. The veranda and tower were provided specifically to give members a good view of the racing. As built, the tower did not have glazed windows, as shown in this picture below.
The picture below, showing the glazed windows, which were probably fitted by the subsequent owners, is from a postcard sent in 1911 and was taken after 1903, as it shows the former lifeboat house, built in 1903, by which time the building had been sold.
There were problems with sea defences and the cost of maintaining it so it was sold to a local business man, Mr H S Robinson, in July 1901. He established it as a private sea water bathing facility with sea water pumped in via an underground pipe from the beach. This enterprise was short lived, closing and the building being vacated in 1904. It was sold to a Mr Hurdel in 1905 and used as a private residence up until 1934.
In 1935 it became a convalescent home as an annexe to the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital in Exeter, which in later years was incorporated as part of RD & E Wonford Hospital.
The building was requisitioned for military defensive use in about 1941. After the war it was opened as the Harbour View cafe and ice cream parlour by the Forte family in July 1946. Sometime in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s it passed to Bernard Hughes, trading as Shoreway Catering. It has been trading as a cafe now for over 70 years.
In 1998 the Tower above the Harbour View Cafe began a new lease of life, becoming the look-out station for the Exmouth branch of National Coastwatch Institution, with over 70 volunteer watchkeepers now providing a sea and beach safety search and rescue service to the local community.
(with thanks to John Fletcher)