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A Topographical Dictionary of England


 Samuel Lewis (1831)

Transcript copyright Mel Lockie (Sep 2016)


TEIGNMOUTH, a sea-port and market-town, comprising two parishes, called East and West Teignmouth, in the hundred of EXMINSTER, county of DEVON, 15 miles (S. by E.) from Exeter, and 187 (W. S. W.) from London, containing 3980 inhabitants, of which number, 2514 are in West Teignmouth. This place was originally an insignificant village, and is stated to have been the first landing-place of the Danes, in 787, on being sent to reconnoitre the British coast; who, having slain the governor, were encouraged by this omen of success to pursue their warlike purpose throughout the island. The town has been twice destroyed by fire, first by a French pirate, in 1340, and subsequently, in the reign of Anne, when the French, having effected a landing, proceeded to ransack the churches, and burnt one hundred and sixteen houses, with a number of ships and small craft lying within the harbour: in commemoration of this calamitous event, one of the streets still retains the appellation of Frenchstreet. Alarmed at the threat of a similar attack, in 1744, the inhabitants obtained permission to erect a small fort on the beach of East Teignmouth, and petitioned theAdmiralty for the requisite supply of ordnance. In Camden's time the eastern town was called Teignmouth-Regis, and the other Teignmouth-Episcopi, the manor of the latter having belonged to the see of Exeter, until alienated by Bishop Vesey. The town, as its name implies, is situated on the navigable river Teign, at its influx into the ocean; it occupies a gentle declivity at the foot of a chain of hills, by which it is sheltered on the north and west, the two parts being separated by a small rivulet, called the Tame. East Teignmouth, which is the more modern, is almost entirely appropriated as a watering-place, in which respect it is considered equal, if not superior, in magnitude and fashionable repute, to any on the Devonshire coast: its situation is beautiful, and in the vicinity are prospects, particularly from Little Haldon, of great and deserved celebrity: the cliffs are of a reddish colour, and of considerable height, and at the southern side of the river's mouth is a singular elevation, called the Ness. On the strand fronting the sea are spacious carriage drives, promenades, and an extensive lawn. The public rooms, which form the centre of a crescent, comprise spacious assembly-rooms, with apartments for refreshments, cards, and billiards; the facade of the building is decorated with an Ionic portico over a Doric colonnade this handsome edifice was lately erected by subscription. There are also a public library, bathing establishments, and a small theatre. A regatta takes place annually about the month of August. West Teignmouth is the port and principal seat of business; in this respect it had risen to some importance at an early period, having sent members to the great council for maritime affairs, and contributed seven ships, with one hundred and twenty men, towards the expedition against Calais, in 1347. The town is roughly paved, and irregularly built, and, with its quay and dock-yard, is situated on the curve formed by the sudden expansion of the river. A post-road, passing through it from Exeter to Torquay, crosses a bridge over the Teign, said to be the longest in England; it is composed of wood and iron, with a drawbridge at each end, for the passage of vessels, and was recently erected by subscription. The quay was constructed, in 1820, by G. Templar, Esq.; and in the small dock-yard, sloops of war, and vessels of two hundred tons' burden, have been built. The harbour is safe and commodious, though somewhat difficult to enter, on account of a moveable bar, or sand bank, which shifts with the wind. In the middle of the last century, twenty ships, of from fifty to two hundred tons' burden each, were employed in the trade with Newfoundland, and some business of this description is still carried on, but it is on the decline; coal and culm are imported, and the home fishery at present occupies a considerable number of the inhabitants. By means of a rail-road and canal, which latter joins the Teign at Newton-Abbot's, and is navigable thence to the sea at Teignmouth, a communication has been effected between the granite quarries at Haytor and the clay-pits of Bovey, which greatly facilitates the exports of granite, and pipe and potters' clay. A grant of a market and a fair was obtained, in the reign of Henry III., by the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, for East Teignmouth, where there is a commodious market-house, which belongs to the lord of the manor. The market is on Saturday, principally for provisions: fairs are held on the third Tuesday in January, the last Tuesday in February, and the last Tuesday in September. The government of both parishes is vested in a portreeve, who is annually elected from a jury of twelve, sworn in at the court leet and baron held by the lord of the manor; in East Teignmouth two constables are elected by the court, and two by the parish. The living of East Teignmouth is a perpetual curacy, in the peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, endowed with £800 royal bounty, and in the patronage of the Vicar of Dawlish. The church, which is dedicated to St. Michael, was almost entirely rebuilt a few years since, the only part of the ancient edifice now remaining being a well-executed doorway, after the enriched Saxon model. The living of West Teignmouth is also a perpetual curacy, in the peculiar jurisdiction of the Bishop of Exeter, and in the patronage of the Vicar of Bishop's Teignton: the church, which is dedicated to St. James, is a spacious modern octagonal structure, with a tower on one of its sides, and surmounted in the centre by a lantern. There are places of worship for Baptists at .East Teignmouth, and Independents and Calvinistic Methodists at West Teignmouth. In East Teignmouth, thirteen poor children are instructed from the proceeds of a joint benefaction, made in 1731, by Capts. John and Thomas Coleman. In West Teignmouth is a large school, founded by means of a benefaction from the family of Elwill, and additionally supported by subscription, in which from two hundred to three hundred children are educated on the National system. There is a poor-house in each parish. Teignmouth confers the title of baron on the family of Shore.