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Torquay - A Note on its Origins

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By Jean E. Harris and Terry Leaman

There are two old parishes in what is now Torquay viz: Torre and St Marychurch. These parishes go a long way back in history and Torre once had an Abbey. The parish of Tor(re) was a tiny hamlet and fishing village whilst Mohun relates to an ancient family of that name. The de Mohuns had their seat at Dunster Castle in north Somerset and it was one of their sons who, by marrying a daughter and heiress of the de Brewer family (previous owners of the manor), became the new lords of the manor of Torre in 1232. Hence the old name of Tormohun or sometimes as Tormoham.

The more recent name of Torquay came about in the mid 1850s as the following quote from A History of Torquay and the Famous Anchorage of Torbay (Percy Russell - pub. 1960 Torquay Natural History Society):

"Until 1835 there was only one parish council, but then a body of Improvement Commissioners was set up with William Kitson as chairman. In 1850 wider powers were secured by the formation under the Public Health Act of a Torquay Board of Health. The new style of Torquay thus replaced Tormohun."

Prior to the 1850s Torquay was known as the Quay (Key) of Tor.

Although the manor of Ilsham was given to the Abbey of Torre, it remained in the parish of St Marychurch. Cockington too had its own manor but was not a separate ecclesiastical parish either, being a chapelry of Torre until 1881 when the living was separated.