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EXMOUTH

From White's Devonshire Directory of 1850

EXMOUTH, 10 miles S.S.E. of Exeter, and about 167 W.S.W. of London, has its name from its situation at the mouth of the broad estuary of the river Exe, opposite Star Gross Railway Station, within the jurisdiction of the Port of Exeter. It is a market town, and one of the handsomest and most fashionable sea bathing places on the southern coast of Devonshire, and is mostly in the parish of Littleham, and partly in that of Withycombe Rawleigh. It has now about 5500 inhabitants, but had only 4356 in 1841, when 3654 were returned as being in the former, and 702 in the latter parish. Though it is one of the oldest and best frequented watering places in Devon, it was, about 150 years ago, only a small hamlet, occupied by fishermen. It was then brought into repute by one of the Judges of the Circuit, who retired hither to bathe, when in a very infirm state of health, and received great benefit. But we are told that in early times it was one of the principal ports of the county, and that, in the reign of Edward III. it sent two members to the Council of State, held at Westminster, and furnished 10 ships and 193 mariners for the expedition against Calais. This return, no doubt, included the ships and men furnished by Topsham and other places within the present limits of the Port of Exeter. (See pages 63 and 71.) Hollinshed says there was a Castle here, to defend the entrance to the haven, and tradition affirms it to have stood on Gun Point, where some slight vestiges of embrasures may still be seen. The Earl of March sailed from Exmouth, in 1459. Exmouth Fort, then garrisoned for King Charles, was blockaded by the Parliamentarians, under Colonel Shapcote, in February, 1646, and was taken in the following month, with 19 pieces of cannon and a great quantity of arms and ammunition. (See page 56.) In 1814, the late Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, was created Baron Exmouth, of Canon-Teign; and in 1816, after his expedition to Algiers, he was raised to the dignity of Viscount Exmouth. He died in 1833, when the title descended to his eldest son, the present viscount, who resides at Treverry, in Cornwall. Until the early part of last century, the town of Exmouth consisted of a few straggling houses running down the side of the hill to the east, from the spot where the ancient chapel of the Holy Trinity stood, towards the Cross, and a few more towards the west, called the Strand. The sea at this time covered most of the ground on which the north-western part of the town is now built, and washed the base of the cliffs on the left hand side of the turnpike at the entrance to the town from Exeter. The first improvement, by which this ground was rescued from the sea, commenced by an embankment made by the late W.T. Hull, Esq., at the beginning of the present century. A number of neat houses, built near the Parade and Beacon, first gave Exmouth the name of a watering place, and led to the erection of the handsome buildings on the brow of the cliff, called Beacon hill. The manor of Littleham-cum-Exmouth has been long held by the Rolles, and the late Lord Rolle and his present surviving relict have been liberal patrons of the town. The commodious Church built in 1825, and the market house in 1830; the plantations and walks under the Beacon; the new sea wall; and most of the public improvements carried out during the last 20 years, have been at their suggestion and expense. The Sea Wall was begun in 1841 and completed in 1842, under the direction of John Smeaton, Esq. It is built of limestone, and extends 1800 feet in length by 22 in height. It contains 70,000 cubic feet of stone, and is protected by a row of piles 12 feet long. Gas Works were constructed in 1842; and the town is now abundantly supplied with pure soft water from the copious springs in the meadows at the top of the hills behind the town, where a new reservoir, covering 1½ A. of ground was constructed in 1847-'8, by J. Trenchard, Esq. Many neat houses been built during the last four years, on Brunswick terrace, &c., and a square of handsome villas are now building round the large reservoir. Upwards of 40 houses were built here in 1848, and the town is still increasing. In the lower or old part of the town the streets are narrow and irregularly built, but all the modern parts are composed of terraces surmounted by good houses, mansions of considerable size, and villas, pleasantly detached, but so placed as to present to the spectator a continuous and unbroken neighbourhood. Many of these residences are in the permanent occupation of opulent families, and nearly the whole command views which, for beauty and extent, are not surpassed in any part of England; indeed, the bay of this part of the English Channel is said to be inferior only to that of Naples. Louisa, Trefusis, and Beacon terraces, on Beacon hill; Adelaide terrace, on the Budleigh-Salterton road; and Church terrace, near the Church, are lined with large and handsome, dwellings, mostly built within the last fifteen years. The aspect of the town is south-west, and its altitude above the sea and the estuary is sufficient for all the purposes of health and convenience. The promenades are numerous, but the principal is on Beacon hill, which is tastefully planted, and commands a charming view of the opposite shore of the noble estuary, studded with luxuriant woods and gentlemen's seats, and traversed by the South Devon Railway. Below the town is a gradually sloping sandy beach, enlivened on one side by the rolling sea; and adorned on the other by woody summits of unequal heights, barren rocks of various shapes, interspersed with craggy cliffs of fantastic forms, and embellished with tasteful plantations. The situation for bathing is excellent, the machines being within the bar, and well protected by hills from the north-east and south-east winds, Here is also a commodious Bath House, where warm, cold, fumigated, or vapour baths may be had on the shortest notice. In addition to the accommodation for numerous visitors of all classes at the private lodging-houses, here are several commodious inns and hotels. At the Globe Inn, near the Market place, is a large and elegant Assembly Room, where balls and concerts are held. The Public Rooms, on Beacon hill, comprise reading and billiard rooms, &c.; and there is a well supplied reading room in the Albion Rooms, on Sheppard's walk, in the centre of the town, as well as a lecture room, &c. The Coast Guard Station, near the sea wall, has dwellings for a lieutenant and 13 men; and on the Point is the station for the custom-house officers, consisting of a landing waiter and nine boatmen. Vessels take in pilots here for Topsham and Turf, the latter of which is the entrance to Exeter Canal. The Bar which contracts the entrance to the haven, consists of two shoals of sand, projecting from either side of the broad estuary. A great portion of the sand bank on the western side is called the Warren, and is now raised above high water level by means of the sea-mat weed, (arundo arenaria,) which retains the sand carried by the south winds. The gentlemen's seats and other objects of interest in the vicinity, are noticed in this volume with Withycombe-Rawleigh, Lympstone, Powderham, Mamhead, Bicton, and other neighbouring parishes, to which the walks and rides are beautifully diversified and picturesque. The soil round Exmouth is dry and well wooded, and the climate is so mild that winter seldom sets in till after Christmas, and does not often continue above six weeks; but, though deep snow is unknown, and severe frost uncommon, this part of the coast is not exempt from the piercing winds of March. The night air is generally dry and warm, and the skies during summer resemble those of Italy. Another circumstance of great importance to invalids, is the excellent medical aid which may always be procured here, from the vicinity of the town to Exeter, and the very frequent conveyances daily between the two places. The market, held every Saturday, is well supplied with provisions, and there are also large supplies every Tuesday and Thursday. There are annual fairs on the 25th of April and 28th of October. The shops are numerous, and abundantly stocked. Mackerel, turbot, salmon, herrings, soles, whitings, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, and a great variety of other fish, are caught in the estuary and adjacent parts of the coast, and give employment to a number of men and boys; while about 300 females are employed in making lace. Petty Sessions are held at the Globe Hotel every fourth Saturday, and Mr. H.C. Adams is clerk to the magistrates. The Church (Holy Trinity,) is a chapel of ease under the parish church of Littleham, and was erected by the late Lord Rolle, at the cost of £13,000 in 1824-'5. It is a handsome structure, in the perpendicular style, standing on the Beacon hill, and having a tower 104 feet high, containing a clock and one bell. The whole length of the building is 140 feet, and its breadth 84. The interior is handsomely fitted up, and has sittings for 1500 hearers. It has a fine toned organ, and over the altar table is a fine canopy of Beer stone, in the florid Gothic style, ornamented with crockets, pinnacles, &c. The curacy has a small endowment, given by the noble founder, and is annexed to the vicarage of Littleham. Until the erection of this church, Exmouth was without an episcopal place of worship; for though a small ancient chapel, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was standing in 1412, all traces of it disappeared some centuries ago. Glenorchy Chapel, at the north end of the town, belongs to the Independents, and was built in 1800. The Wesleyan Chapel, on the Parade, was erected in 1845, in lieu of Ebenezer Chapel, near Bicton place, which was built in 1807, and is now occupied by Independents. The Plymouth Brethren have also a small chapel here, built in 1843, at the expense of W.H. Hull, Esq. The National School, (attended by about 200 children,) and the Charities belonging to Littleham-cum-Exmouth, are already noticed at page 229. Here is a Mental Improvement Society, which has a numerous list of members, and has frequent lectures at the Albion Rooms; and in the town are several Benefit Societies and institutions for the promotion of religion and the relief of the poor.

Brian Randell, 7 Mar 1999

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