From White's Devonshire Directory of 1850

TORQUAY, the Queen of Watering Places, and the Montpellier of England, as it is frequently called, is a handsome market town, seaport, and bathing place, delightfully situated on the strand and the picturesque acclivities of the shore of the northern recess of Torbay, in the parish of Tor-Moham, 22 miles S. of Exeter, 7 miles S.E. of Newton Abbot, 8 miles S. of Teignmouth, 12 miles N. by E. of Dartmouth, and 207 miles W.S.W. of London. Its terraces and suburban villas extend more than a mile westward, to the old village of TOR, or Tor-Moham; and such has been the rapid increase of buildings and population during the last twenty years, that they may now be considered as one town, which has been connected with the South Devon Railway, by a branch Railway, extending about four miles from Kingskerswell to Tor, and opened Dec. 18th, 1848. The Parish of Tor-Moham, or Tor-Mohun, comprises about 2000 acres of land, occupying most of that bold promontory which projects eastward into the English Channel, about three miles in length, and two in breadth, to Hope's Nose, the point which divides Torbay and Babbicombe Bay. Its population amounted in 1801 only to 838, and in 1831 to 3582; but in 1841 it had increased to 5982 souls, of whom 4085 were in Torquay Chapelry. The parish has now about 9000 inhabitants; and UPTON, the central portion of it, between Tor and Torquay, has recently been made, ecclesiastically, a District Parish, comprising most of the higher parts of the town. The manor of Tor Moham belonged to Wm. de Briwere, or Brewer, in the reign of Henry II., and his younger daughter carried it in marriage to the Mohuns, who had a seat here in the 13th century, but afterwards sold the Manor to the Ridgways. About 1768, it was purchased of the Earl of Donegal by Sir Robert Palk, grandfather of its present owner, Sir L.V. Palk, Bart. In 1196, Wm. Briwere founded TOR ABBEY, in the south western part of the parish, for Premonstratension canons, and endowed it with considerable revenues, which were afterwards augmented by his son. On its suppression, in 1539, its yearly income was valued at £396. 11s., and it had then fifteen monks, besides the abbot. It was granted, with the adjacent estate, in 1543, to John St. Leger, Esq., who conveyed it to Sir Hugh Pollard. It afterwards passed to the Seymours, Ridgways, and Stawells, the latter of whom sold it in 1662, to Sir George Cary, Kt., an ancestor of its present owners, Mrs. Cary, and Robert Shedden Sulyard Cary and Robert Shedden, Esqrs., who reside at the Abbey House, which has picturesque and well-wooded grounds, adjoining the coast, and commanding a view of the noble bay, and the rocky tors, or hills, in the neighbourhood. The house is mostly modern, though some parts of the old Abbey are still preserved. It consists of a centre and two wings; one of which is connected with a castellated gateway, having octagonal towers and battlements. Beyond this gateway is a large barn, which formerly belonged to the Abbey, and is decorated with loop-holes and numerous buttresses, and profusely mantled with ivy. The Roman Catholic Chapel attached to the house is ornamented with a superb altar, and fine paintings of the Crucified Saviour and the Virgin Mary. There are several interesting ruins in different parts of the grounds, and among them is a large Norman arch, with a small one on either side, richly adorned with sculpture, and clad with ivy. The Cary and Palk families own most of the parish; and the rest belongs to many smaller owners, some of whom have neat houses here.

Torquay, which was merely a small fishing hamlet at the close of last century, is now a large and handsome town, comprising, with its western suburbs of Tor and Upton, about 9000 inhabitants. It is situated at the foot and on the sides and summits of that bold amphitheatre of hills which rise from its strand and harbour in the northern recess of Torbay, about two miles from Hope's Nose, - the extreme eastern point of the promontory. The houses are built of a sort of transition limestone, or marble, of which the cliffs are composed, varying in colour, and containing numerous remains of shells and madrepores, which beneath the lapidary's hands are susceptible of as fine a polish as the best Italian marble. Such has been the increasing influx of visitors to Torquay, during the last ten years, that its number of dwellings has been doubled in that period, and many wealthy families have now handsome mansions here, in which they reside continually, or during autumn and winter. Few places possess a more inviting appearance, especially as a winter residence, being open to the sea breezes of the south, and sheltered by lofty hills from the piercing winds of the north, east, and west. The lower part of the town, built round three sides of the harbour, with the quay and piers in front, is occupied chiefly by the shops and houses of the tradesmen. The next tier, which is approached by a winding road at each end, and by steps in other places, comprises handsome terraces, as also do the upper tiers, and the detached hills on either side; where the ranges of neat houses and elegant villas, towering one above another, on the rocky platforms, gracefully exhibit their marble fronts amid the luxuriant foliage of various trees and shrubs, which bedeck their pretty gardens, the carriage roads, and the intervening slopes. The sides and summits of the beautiful valleys on either side are dotted over with cottages, pavilions, and detached villas, to the extent of about two miles; and the once secluded cove of Meadfoot, more than half a mile. east of the Quay, has recently been adorned with several handsome terraces, and with a row of fifteen large and elegant mansions, called Hesketh Crescent, and erected by those spirited architects and builders, Messrs. J.T. and W. Harvey. The views from the various terraces are magnificent, taking in the whole of Torbay, where numerous fleets can ride in safety; and where is always to be seen the trim yacht and pleasure boat, the dusky sail of the Brixham trawler, or coasting merchantman; and frequently one of Britain's bulwarks - a man-of-war. The beautiful scenery and marine villas along the shores of Torbay on the south, and Babbicombe Bay on the north, are already noticed at preceding pages, in the descriptions of the neighbouring parishes of St. Mary-Church, Cockington, Paignton, and Brixham. Babbicombe, Anstey's Cove, the Bishop of Exeter's new Palace of Bishopstowe, and the large cavern called Kent's Hole, are noticed at pages 437-'8; and the landing of William Prince of Orange, at page 426. Here are hot, cold, shower, and vapour baths, for the invalid and the convalescent; and an illimitable ocean bath of spotless purity, for the recreation of the healthy bather and the experienced swimmer. On the beach and sands are found a variety of beautiful pebbles. The opening of a new road, and the cutting away the base of Waldon hill, in 1842, brought the beautiful beach along the sands of Livermead within ten minutes' walk of Torquay. Here are all the usual requisites of a favourite watering place, including assembly rooms, reading rooms, libraries, literary institutions, a museum, &c.; and a regatta takes place yearly, in July or August. The climate of Torquay is so mild, that citrons are produced in the open air, and myrtles grow in gardens to a great size and age, as also do many tender exotics. The first houses at Torquay are said to have been erected about the end of the last century, for the accommodation of families of officers and invalids belonging to the Channel fleet, which was frequently at anchor in Torbay during the last French war. After this, its reputation for the restoration of invalids spread rapidly, and from that time to the present it has continued to increase in buildings and population faster than any other watering-place in Devon. The Quay and Piers, which enclose a basin 500 by 300 feet, were formed under an act of parliament obtained in 1803, but the western pier was not completed till many years afterwards. A small Market Place was built near the strand, in 1823; but in 1819, the Torquay Market Company obtained an act of parliament for the erection of a spacious Market Place, Slaughter Houses, &c.; and these and other improvements are now in progress. The markets, held every Tuesday and Friday, are well supplied with all kinds of provisions. Gas Works were constructed in 1835, by a company of proprietors, in £5 shares. The government of the town is vested with a body of commissioners, who are elected annually, under a local act of parliament. It is well supplied with water, brought in iron pipes from springs in the neighbourhood, and is within the limits of the port of Dartmouth. Its commerce consists chiefly in the importation of coal, timber, and other articles for home consumption; but it has a small trade with Newfoundland, and a number of coasting vessels trading to London, &c.; as well as steam packets, which ply regularly to Guernsey, Jersey, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Southampton. The Town Hall is a plain building, in Lower Union street, where petty sessions are held every Monday, by the magistrates of Paignton Division, to whom Mr. G.E. Hearder is clerk. Another public building in the same street is called Union Hall, and is used for lectures, theatrical exhibitions, &c. At the Royal Hotel is a large Assembly Room, very chastely fitted up for balls, concerts, &c.; and at Hearder's Family Hotel is a spacious Subscription Reading and News Room. The large centre mansion on the Higher Terrace has been opened as a Club House, by many of the nobility, and gentry of the town and neighbourhood; but its ground floor is occupied by the Natural History Society, which was established in 1844. Here is also a Literary and Scientific Institution, an Horticultural Society, a Mechanics' Institute, a Temperance Hall, and a Book Society. On the Torwood road, adjoining the town, are the Public Gardens, comprising about four acres of land, lately appropriated by the lord of the manor to the use of the public, and tastefully planted and laid out with gravel walks, forming a pleasant sheltered promenade.

CHURCHES AND CHAPELS. - The Parish Church at Tor-Moham, more than a mile west of the Quay, is an ancient structure, which was re-pewed and thoroughly repaired in 1849 . It has an embattled tower, two galleries, and a good organ; and contains some handsome monuments, one of which supports the effigy of one of the Ridgway family, father of the first Earl of Londonderry, who resided at Torwood manor house, now pulled down. The living is a perpetual curacy, valued at £360 per annum with that of Cockington annexed to it. C.H. Mallock, Esq, is the patron, and the Rev. J.H. Harris, B.D., is the incumbent. The living has been augmented by Queen Anne's Bounty and Parliamentary grant; and the great tithes were purchased some years ago, by the two principal land owners. On the summit of a hill is the shell of St. Michael's chapel; and there was another small chapel at Torwood, built by Reginald de M.ohun, in 1251. Upton District Parish Church (St. Mary Magdalen,) is near the high road between Tor and Torquay, and is a handsome Gothic structure, which has been recently created by subscription, and was consecrated April 12th, 1849, but the intended tower and spire are not yet built. It is neatly fitted up with open seats, and has room for about 1000 hearers. The late F. Dawson, Esq., gave £2000, on condition that a large portion of the sittings should be free; and the site was given by Sir L.V . Palk. It has been endowed, and constituted a parish church, by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and its perpetual curacy, valued at £130, is in the alternate patronage of the Crown. and the Bishop of Exeter, and is now enjoyed by the Rev. R.R. Wolfe, M.A. St. John's Chapel of Ease, at Montpellier place, in the centre of Torquay, was built in 1822, by Sir L.V. Palk, Bart., and was enlarged at the east end about sixteen years ago. It is a neat structure, partly in the Doric order, and has a small cupola and bell. It has about 500 sittings, and its east window has been enriched with stained glass. Its perpetual curacy, valued at £207 per annum, is in the patronage of the incumbent of Tor-Moham, and is now enjoyed by the Rev. W.G.P. Smith, M.A. Trinity Chapel, at Park hill, Torquay, is a neat cemented structure, of mixed architecture, which was erected by subscription, in 1837-'8, at the cost of about £5500, and will seat nearly 900 hearers. The Rev. Richard Fayle, M.A., is the incumbent and patron. There is a Roman Catholic Chapel at Tor Abbey, as noticed at page 445. Here are three Independent Chapels, situated in Lower Union street, Braddon's place, and Abbey road. The latter was built in 1847, at the cost of £2200, and is a handsome building in the Italian style. There is a Baptist Chapel in Temperance street; an Unitarian Chapel, in Lower Union street; a Wesleyan Chapel, in Warren place, built in 1807; and an "All Christians" meeting-house, in South street, Tor. There are large National Schools at Pimlico and East street, built in 1826 and 1841; and another at Meadfoot, erected in 1842. The latter belongs to Trinity Chapel; and there are also schools attached to St. John's and some of the other places of worship. The various congregations are liberal contributors to various institutions for the relief and the religious instruction of the poor.

The Torbay Dispensary and Infirmary was established in 1814, but the handsome building which it now occupies was not erected till 1850. Here are Clothing Clubs, a Lying-in-Charity, a Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Benevolent Society; several Friendly Societies, and a Lodge of Freemasons. The latter is at the Union Hall. The poor parishioners have interest of £62, left by Thomas Kingsley and other donors: and the dividends of £468. 8s. 6d., Navy five per cent. stock, purchased with £500 left by George Baker, in 1800.

Brian Randell, 23 Dec 2002