A Topographical Dictionary of England
Samuel Lewis (1831)
Transcript copyright Mel Lockie (Sep 2016)
TOPSHAM, a market-town and parish in the hundred of WONFORD, county of DEVON, 3½ miles (S.E.) from Exeter, and 170 (W. S. W.) from London, containing 3156 inhabitants. In the civil war between Charles and the parliament, the Earl of Warwick brought some ships up the river Exe, and captured a small fort here; but the vessels being left upon the sands, on the ebbing of the tide, two were captured and one burnt by the army under Fairfax, who remained here some time. This neat little town is situated near the influx of the river Exe into the sea, and is within the limits of the port of Exeter; the river expands here to a considerable width, forming, at high tides, a noble sheet of water. About a mile to the south, on the opposite side of it, are the sea locks, opening into the canal leading to Exeter; the prosperity of the commercial interests of Topsham is dependent, on the foreign and coasting trade and the manufactures of that city. The chief local occupations consist of ship-building, and the manufacture of paper, sacking, ropes, and twine; the coal and timber trades employ several persons, and are somewhat extensive; anchors and chain cables are also wrought here. A quay, built about 1313, by Hugh Courtenay, was purchased by the Chamber of Exeter, in 1778, and is capable of receiving vessels of two hundred tons' burden: it is large and commodious. On the strand are some neat residences, fronted with gardens extending to the water's edge, the view being justly admired for its variety and extent. In 1257, an annual fair for three days was granted to the inhabitants, and, together with a market on Saturdays, confirmed to them by Edward I. The market is still held on Saturday; and there is a small fair on the first Wednesday in August. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the peculiar jurisdiction and patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter endowed with £15 per annum and £200 private benefaction, £200 royal bounty, and £500 parliamentary grant. The church, which is dedicated to St. Margaret, has been enlarged with one hundred and eighty free sittings, towards defraying the expense of which the Incorporated Society for the building and enlargement of churches and chapels contributed £150; it contains some good monuments by Chantry, and the view from the churchyard is considered very fine. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists. Sundry benefactions for the instruction of poor children, producing an income of about £30 per annum, are paid to the National school for the education of ten boys; this school contains about sixty boys and fifty girls, and is further supported by voluntary contributions.