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Sidmouth community page

Sidmouth is located within East Devon local authority area. Historically it formed part of East Budleigh Hundred. It falls within Ottery 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 1252 in 1801 4033 in 1901 . Figures for other years are available on the local studies website. The lay subsidy of 1524 valued the community at £13/05/06. It is recorded as a borough from 13 cent.. A turnpike was established in 1816. A market is recorded from 14c.-1822.

A parish history file is held in Sidmouth Library. 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.

Maps: The image below is of the Sidmouth 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 94/2,3 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 94NW,NE
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SY126880. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SY18NW, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Explorer 030, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 192. Geological sheet 326 also covers the area.

Illustrations: The image below is of Sidmouth as included in the Library's Etched on Devon's memory website. Other images can be searched for on the local studies catalogue.


A fair is known from: 1792. [It is intended to include the local section from The glove is up! Devon's historic fairs, by Tricia Gerrish, by kind permission of the author].

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

SIDMOUTH is one of the most attractive seaside towns on the S. coast of England, framed in a narrow valley opening on to the sea, and sheltered E. and W. by tremendous red sandstone cliffs that rise to over 500 ft.

For centuries it was a small market and fishing town. Risdon, in the early 17th century, calls it "one of the especialest fisher towns of the shire," but the fishery had much declined by the early 19th century Fortunately, visitors had begun to discover the mildness of its climate and its beautiful scenery, and from the 1780s onwards it was increasingly patronised, even during the winter. The Napoleonic Wars gave a great stimulus to the town by closing the Continent to the upper and upper-middle classes, who began to settle at Sidmouth and to build themselves "cottages" in every sheltered spot. These "cottages"now frequently converted into hotels are a delightful feature of Sidmouth architecture. Sidmouth remained "select" throughout the 19th century. Its shingle beach did not attract families with children, it did not set out to offer other "attractions"; the railway came late (1874) and even then stopped far short of the town. For all these reasons Sidmouth has preserved its early 19th century character to a high degree.

Knowle Cottage (now the Knowle Hotel) was typical of the kind of building that created modern Sidmouth, though more opulent than most. It was built by Lord Ie Despencer in 1805, a thatched building of about 40 rooms, in ten acres of ornamental grounds, with a suite of drawing-rooms nearly 100 ft. long.(Mogridge, A discripive Sketch of Sidmouth (c.1836) 45-6 Woodlands Hotel was built as a "cottage" by Lord Gwydir, Salcombe House was occupied by the Marquess of Bute, and Wool brook Glen (now the Royal Glen Hotel) was occupied during the winter of 1819-20 by the Duke and Duchess of Kent and their infant daughter Victoria. Sid Abbey is early 19th century Gothic.

Besides these and numerous other "cottages "scattered about the vale, a number of terraces of lodging-houses were built between 1800 and 1820, when the population of the town more than doubled. Fortfield Terrace, Clifton Place, York Terrace, and Elysian Fields are characteristic of this period.

In the old town are Georgian houses and shops. The Unitarian chapel in the High Street retains its 18th century pulpit with sounding-board, gallery front, and clock. Among the ancient buildings of the parish are Wool combe House (now the Sidmouth Museum), which has a medieval hall with an open timber roof; and Manstone, which is substantially a 15th century stone house altered in 1589.

The sea-wall was first built in 1835- 8: before that there was simply a paved walk along the shore; but attempts to make a harbour at the same time failed. After 1840 Sidmouth grew much more slowly: possibly Torquay was becoming the more fashionable in mid-Victorian years. Sidmouth is thus not much disfigured by late Victorian brickwork. In recent years it has attracted wider attention as a holiday centre and as a place to retire to, and is now growing perceptibly. As a contrast to the aristocratic and genteel history of Sidmouth in the 19th century one might read Stephen Reynolds's A Poor Man's House (1908), a faIthful picture of a Sidmouth fisherman's household and life, and of the life of ancient native Sidmouth, persisting beneath the veneer that has been imposed on it during the past 150 years. The atmosphere and feeling of the book are, to a Devonian, absolutely right.

The parish church (St. Giles or St. Nicholas) was rebuilt, except the arcades and the 15th century tower, in 1859-60, and is devoid of interest. All Saints' church was built 1837-40. St. Francis's church at Woolbrook, consecrated in 1938, is one of the last works of Caroe whose most notable work is perhaps St. David's, at Exeter. The Old Chancel, near the parish church, was erected in the 1860s by the local antiquary P. O. Hutchinson from the demolished materials of the parish church, which he tried in vain to save from "restoration." He wrote a valuable history of Sid mouth in six MSS. volumes, now in the Exeter City Library.

Creator: Devon Library and Information Services
Title: Sidmouth community page
Imprint: Exeter : Devon Library and Information Services
Date: 2004
Format: Web page : HTML
Series: Devon community web pages ; GAZSID5
Ref. no.: WEB GAZSID5
Coverage: Devon . Sidmouth . History . Web pages

Last Updated: 22/02/2005

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