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Brixham

Brixham is located within Torbay local authority area. Historically it formed part of Haytor Hundred. It falls within Holsworthy Deanery for ecclesiastical purposes. The Deaneries are used to arrange the typescript Church Notes of B.F.Cresswell which are held in the Westcountry Studies Library. The population was 3671 in 1801 8092 in 1901 . Figures for other years are available on the local studies website.In the valuation of 1334 it was assessed at £01/12/08. The lay subsidy of 1524 valued the community at £24/16/00. In 1641/2 264 adult males signed the Protestation returns. It is recorded as a borough from 1536. A market is recorded from 1822. You can look for other material on the community by using the place search on the main local studies database. Further historical information is also available on the Genuki website

Brixham area on Donn's map of 1765 (sx95don)

Maps: The image is of the Brixham area on Donn's one inch to the mile survey of 1765.

On the County Series Ordnance Survey mapping the area is to be found on 1:2,500 sheet 128/2,3 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 128NW,NE
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SX925555. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SX95NW,SW, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Outdoor Leisure 20, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 202. Geological sheet 350 also covers the area.

Illustrations: The image below is of Brixham as included in the Library's illustrations collection. Other images can be searched for on the local studies catalogue.

Brixham, looking over Torbay, Devonshire

Extract from Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954), included by kind permission of the copyright holder:

BRIXHAM now a fishing port on the S. shore of Tor Bay, has a long history, much of it still awaiting exploration. Most of the parish consists of the dove-grey Devonian limestone, which gives fine cliff scenery (particularly at Berry Head); but from Sharkham Point southwards to the mouth of the Dart the slates and grits give even bolder cliffs and hills, from which one gets superb seascapes.

On Berry Head was a promontory fortress formed by a great rampart 18 ft. high constructed across the narrow neck of land, approximately where the outer wall of the Napoleonic Fort now stands. This rampart was said to have been constructed of masonry, and within the enclosed space a considerable number of Roman coins have been found. (D.A. 18 (1886), 199.) The earthwork, probably of Early Iron Age date, was of the same type as the numerous cliff-forts on the Cornish headlands and elsewhere in Britain, about which little is known. Another was constructed on Bolt Tail, and there were apparently others on the Hartland coast in North Devon. The Berry Head rampart was destroyed in the making of the Fort during the "invasion scare" of 1803, but it is commemorated in the name of the headland itself (from burh, "a fort "). Celtic pottery and bones have been found in a cavern named Ash-hole, near Shoalstone Point. About 3 m. SW. of the town, on a hill commanding the Dart estuary, is another Iron Age earthwork, of an irregular oval form, with a single rampart and ditch. The Berry Head earthworks, pottery, and coins suggest a late Celtic trading settlement, persisting into Roman times, as at Mount Batten (see PLYMSTOCK). The Windmill Hill cavern at Brixham, in the Devonian limestone, has produced evidence of occupation by palaeolithic man. This cavern, discovered in 1858, is now open for inspection by visitors.

The old harbour of Brixham formerly stretched about t m. farther inland than it does to-day, giving a fine natural estuary locked in and completely sheltered by the limestone hills on either side. The central part of Lower Brixham is now built over this harbour (plate 43). The original Saxon settlement was at Higher Brixham, where the parish church now is. It was an early nucleated village, possibly founded by colonists arriving by sea in the 7th century, with its open fields, and its original territory included the whole of the great peninsula S. of the Galmpton neck, between the lower Dart and the sea.(See the map facing D.S. 308. For the open fields, ibid., 277-8.) That this was a royal estate in Saxon times, like most of these primary villages, is evidenced by the placenames of Kingswear and Kingston in this peninsula, names which go back to pre-Conquest times; but the estate had passed out of royal hands before 1066, when it belonged to one Ulf. A number of daughter-settlements had come into being by the middle of the 11th century Kingswear and Churston (both now distinct parishes), Coleton, Lupton, and Woodhuish. The later manorial history of Brixham is of no interest, merely the usual succession of great feudal names like Nonant, Valletort, Pomeroy, Bonville, and Grey. At a later date, the manor became divided into four parts, one of which was bought by a syndicate of twelve Brixham fishermen. Some of these shares became further divided, but "all the proprietors, be their shares ever so small, call themselves Quay lords."

The whole life of Brixham, for several centuries, was in fishing, shipbuilding, net making, and all the subsidiary trades. William Brewer's foundation charter of Torre abbey (1196) shows that fishing with nets in Tor Bay was even then an established practice. In the 16th century Leland refers to the net fishing in Tor Bay, and the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 shows that Brixham, Paignton and St. Marychurch were all important fishing port Brixham had probably taken the lead by this date, and it remained the foremost fishing port in Devon until overtaken by Plymouth in the 1870s. Lysons tells us that in his day the Brixham fish supplied the Bath and Exeter markets, and that great quantities were also sent to London, being taken by sea to Portsmouth and thence overland. About 100 trawlers were then employed at Brixham, sixty of which fished along the S. coast, and the others in the Bristol and Irish Channels. About forty smaller boats were occupied with inshore fishing during the summer season. By the 1840s there were more than 270 vessels in the port (20,000 tons in all) employing about 1,600 seamen. The subsequent growth of the Brixham industry, and its disastrous collapse from 1919 onwards, has already been related in Part I. The town more than doubled in population during the 19th century; it fell in numbers during the first quarter of the 20th century but has lately acquired a reputation as a holiday centre and is now growing again.

Though Brixham has a strong character of its own, there is little in the town of architectural interest. Lower Brixham church (All Saints) was built 1820-4, but has been considerably altered since. Its first incumbent was the Rev. H. F. Lyte, the author of the hymn Abide with me. He lived at Berry Head House, which was built as a military hospital during the Napoleonic Wars (1809), and is now a hotel. On the N. side of Berry Head are extensive limestone quarries which are eating into the headland, and on the summit is a diminutive lighthouse, erected in 1906, with a powerful light. On the Quay at Brixham is a statue, erected in 1889, to commemorate the landing of William of Orange at this point on 5 November 1688.

At Higher Brixham, the original parish church (St. Mary) is a late 14th to 15th century building of red sandstone, with Beer stone arcades, and a number of interesting monuments, especially that to John Upton of Lupton (1687). The altar tomb is that of a former vicar, William Hille, 1464-87.

At Upton, and near Sharkham Point, were iron mines, now disused. Upton Manor was built in 1768. Lupton House, now a school, was a seat of the Bullers for a time, and was rebuilt c. 1770. It has been gutted by fire and reconstructed in recent years. Nethway House, in a small park, was built in 1699 by John Fownes, and contains much work of this period. Coleton Fishacre is a modern country house by Oswald Milne (1925-6).