Brixham /ˈbrɪksəm/ is a small fishing town and civil parish in the
Torbay in the county of Devon, in the south-west of
Brixham is at the southern end of Torbay, across the bay (Tor
Bay) from Torquay, and fishing and tourism are the major industries.
At the time of the 2011 census it had a population of 16,693.
It is thought that the name 'Brixham' came from Brioc's village.
'Brioc' was an old English or Brythonic personal name and '-ham' is an
ancient term for home derived from Old English.
The town is hilly and built around the harbour which remains in use as
a dock for fishing trawlers. It has a focal tourist attraction in the
replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship
Golden Hind that is permanently
Brixham was two separate communities with only a marshy
lane to connect them. Cowtown was the area on top of the hill where
the farmers lived, while a mile away in the harbour was Fishtown where
the seamen lived. Cowtown, the St Mary's Square area, is on the road
Brixham to the south west, in the direction of Kingswear, upon
which stands a church built on the site of a Saxon original. The town
holds a yearly pirate event which competes for the title of most
pirates in one place and this draws visitors from far and wide.
2 Festivals and events
Brixham Pirate Festival
2.4 RNLI Lifeboat Week
2.5 Fishstock Brixham
9 External links
England c. 1895
Brixham Harbour c. 1895
Although there is evidence of
Ice age inhabitants here,[citation
needed] and probable trading in the Bronze Age, the first evidence of
a town comes from the Saxon times. It is possible that Saxon
settlement originated by sea from
Hampshire in the 6th century, or
overland around the year 800.
Brixham was called Briseham in the Domesday Book. Its population
then was 39.
Brixham was part of the former Haytor Hundred. The population was
3,671 in 1801 and 8,092 in 1901. In 1334, the town's
value was assessed at one pound, twelve shillings and eightpence; by
1524, the valuation had risen to £24 and sixteen shillings. It is
recorded as a borough from 1536, and a market is recorded from
1822. William de Whithurst, a distinguished Crown official and
judge in Ireland, became parish priest of
Brixham in 1350.
Prince of Orange
Prince of Orange (afterwards King William III of Great Britain
& Ireland) landed in Brixham, with his mainly Dutch army, on 5
November 1688 during the Glorious Revolution, and issued his famous
declaration "The Liberties of
England and The Protestant Religion I
Will Maintain". Many local people still have Dutch surnames, being
direct descendants of soldiers in that army. A road
leading from the harbour up a steep hill, to where the Dutch made
their camp, is still called Overgang, Dutch for 'passage' or
The coffin house reflects
Brixham humour: it is coffin-shaped and when
a father was asked for the hand in marriage of his daughter, he said
he would 'see her in a coffin, before she wed'. The future son-in-law
bought the coffin-shaped property, called it the Coffin House, and
went back to the father and said: 'Your wishes will be met, you will
see your daughter in a coffin, the Coffin House'. Amazed by this, the
father gave his blessing.
The street names reflect the town's history. Pump Street is where the
village pump stood. Monksbridge was a bridge built by the monks of
Totnes Priory. Lichfield Drive was the route that the dead (from the
Old English 'lich' meaning a corpse) were taken for burial at St
Mary’s churchyard. Salutation Mews, near the church, dates from when
England was Catholic, and the salutation was to the Virgin Mary.
Similarly, Laywell Road recalls Our Lady’s Well. The first building
seen when coming into
Paignton is the old white-boarded
Toll House where all travellers had to pay a fee to keep the roads
The tower of All Saints' Church, founded in 1815, stands guard over
the town. The composer of Abide With Me, Rev. Francis Lyte was a vicar
at the church. He lived at
Berry Head House, now a hotel, and when he
was a very sick man, near to dying, he looked out from his garden as
dusk fell over Torbay, and the words of that hymn came into his mind.
The main church is St. Mary's, about a mile from the sea. It is the
third to have been on the site (which was an ancient Celtic burial
ground). The original wooden Saxon church was replaced by a stone
Norman church that was, in its turn, built over in about 1360. Many of
the important townspeople are buried in the churchyard.
Many of Brixham's photogenic cottages above the harbour were
originally inhabited by fishermen and their families. Near the harbour
is the famous Coffin House mentioned earlier. Many of the dwellings
Brixham were built largely between the 1930s to 1970s.
Several holiday camps were built in this area, for example Pontin's
Wall Park and Dolphin. The Dolphin was one of the company's biggest
camps. The camp closed in 1991 after fire destroyed the main
Brixham was served by the short
Brixham Railway from
Churston. The line, opened in February 1868 to carry passengers and
goods (mainly fish), was closed in May 1963 as a result of the
Beeching Axe cuts. Although the former line to
Brixham is deserted and
overgrown, the branch line through nearby Churston is now maintained
and operated as a heritage railway by a team of volunteers as the
Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway.
British Seaman’s Boys' Home
British Seaman’s Boys' Home was founded in 1863 by William Gibbs
Tyntesfield for the orphan sons of deceased British seamen. It was
closed in 1988 after 125 years.
On 28 April 1967, a flying saucer reportedly hovered for 80 minutes
Brixham at an altitude of 15,000 feet.
Looking west across
Brixham is also notable for being the town where the fishing trawler
was improved in the 19th century; the distinctive red sails of the
Brixham trawlers were coated with the local red ochre for protection.
In the Middle Ages,
Brixham was the largest fishing port in the south
west of England. Known as the 'Mother of Deep-Sea Fisheries', its
boats helped to establish the fishing industries of Hull,
Lowestoft. In the 1890s, there were about 300 trawling vessels in
Brixham, most individually owned. The trawlers can still be seen
coming in and out of the harbour, followed by flocks of seagulls. The
fish market is open to the public on two special days in the summer,
when the finer points of catching and cooking fish are explained. The
modern boats are diesel-driven, but several of the old sailing
trawlers have been preserved.
Hundreds of ships have been wrecked on the rocks around the town.
Brixham men have always known the dangers but even they were taken by
surprise by a terrible storm that blew up on the night of 10 January
1866. The fishing boats only had sails then and could not get back
into harbour because gale-force winds and the high waves were against
them. To make things worse, the beacon on the breakwater was swept
away, and in the black darkness they could not determine their
position. According to local legend, their wives brought everything
they could carry, including furniture and bedding, to make a big
bonfire on the quayside to guide their men home. Fifty vessels were
wrecked and more than one hundred lives were lost in the storm; when
dawn broke, the wreckage stretched for nearly three miles up the
Brixham breakwater and lighthouse
Hearing of this tragedy, the citizens of
Exeter gave money to set up
what became the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's
in 1866. Now known as
Torbay Lifeboat Station, it operates a
Severn-class all-weather lifeboat and a D-class (IB1) inshore
lifeboat. The crews have a history of bravery, with 52 awards for
gallantry. The boathouse can be visited and memorials to the brave
deeds seen; on special occasions, visitors can go on board the boat.
Two maroons (bangs) are the signal for the lifeboat to be launched.
Smuggling was more profitable than fishing, but if the men were
caught, they were hanged. There are many legends about the local gangs
and how they evaded the Revenue men. One humorous poem describes how a
notorious local character, Bob Elliott ("Resurrection Bob"), could not
run away because he had gout and hid in a coffin. Another villain was
caught in possession but evaded capture by pretending to be the Devil,
rising out of the morning mists. On another occasion when there was a
cholera epidemic, some
Brixham smugglers drove their cargo up from the
beach in a hearse, accompanied by a bevy of supposed mourners
following the cortege drawn by horses with muffled hooves.
The town's outer harbour is protected by a long breakwater, useful for
sea angling. In winter, this is a site for purple sandpiper birds.
To the south of Brixham, and sheltering the southern side of its
harbour, lies the coastal headland of
Berry Head with a lighthouse,
Iron Age fort and national nature reserve.
The replica of
Golden Hind in
Warships have been seen in
Torbay from the days of the Vikings, up
until 1944 when part of the D-Day fleet sailed from here. In 1588,
Brixham watched Sir
Francis Drake attacking the
Spanish Armada after
he had (so the legend goes) finished his game of bowls on Plymouth
Hoe. Today in
Brixham harbour, there is a full-sized replica of the
ship, the Golden Hind, in which Drake circumnavigated the globe;
visitors can go on board.
For centuries, ships going down the
English Channel have come into
Torbay to seek refuge from the storms and to replenish food supplies.
Sometimes these were merchants, taking cargoes to faraway places and
bringing back exotic goods and rare spices; sometimes they were
carrying pilgrims, or gentlemen on the Grand Tour.
Since the days of Henry VIII,
Brixham has played a part in the defence
of the nation. The headland known as
Berry Head is now a national
nature reserve, but it is also a military site where guns were once
positioned to defend the naval ships that were re-victualling at
Brixham. Twelve guns were put there during the War of American
Independence, but were removed when peace came in 1783. Just ten years
later, during a war with France, guns were again deployed around the
town. The major position was at Berry Head, but this time
fortifications were built to defend the gun positions. These can still
be seen, and are now some of the best preserved Napoleonic forts in
During the long series of wars against the French that began in 1689
and lasted until 1815, the
Royal Navy came into
Brixham to get
supplies of fresh vegetables, beef and water. There might have been
twenty or so of the big men-o'-war lying at anchor in Torbay,
recovering from exploits of the sort described in the books about
Hornblower, Bolitho or Jack Aubrey. On the harbourside towards the
marina, there is a grey stone building which today is the Coastguard
headquarters; then, it was the King's Quay where His Majesty's vessels
were provisioned. Local farmers brought vegetables to ward off scurvy,
and cattle were slaughtered and their meat packed into barrels. The
water came from a big reservoir situated near the crossroads in the
middle of town; from there, a pipeline carried it under the streets
and under the harbour to the King's Quay.
Many of the well-known admirals of the day visited Brixham. Not only
Nelson, but also Lord St. Vincent, Cornwallis, Hood, Rodney and Hawke.
There was also Earl Howe, who earned the nickname of Lord Torbay
because he spent so much time ashore in Brixham. A notorious visitor
was Napoleon Bonaparte, who, as a prisoner on HMS Bellerophon, spent
several days off
Brixham waiting to be taken to exile on St. Helena.
Battery Gardens have a military history leading back to the Napoleonic
wars and the time of the Spanish Armada. The emplacements and features
seen here today are those of the
Second World War
Second World War and are of national
importance. The site, listed by English Heritage, is recognised as one
of the best preserved of its kind in the UK. Of the 116 'Emergency
Coastal Defence Batteries' set up in the UK in 1940, only seven remain
During the Second World War, a ramp and piers were built on the
breakwater, from which American servicemen left for the D-day
The 1969 Fleet Review was held in Torbay, to present new Sovereign's
Colours to the Royal Navy. When the Fleet was lit up at night, "The
Bay gave the impression that it had been filled with a completely new
town: an amazing sight!"
Noted military historian & folk musician Chester Giles is a former
resident of Brixham.
Apart from fishing, most of the other local industries were connected
Limestone was once quarried and used to build the
breakwater, for houses and roads, and was sent to
Dagenham to make
steel for Ford automobiles. It was also burnt in limekilns to reduce
it to a powder which was spread on the land in other parts of
an agricultural fertiliser. The old quarries and the limekilns can
still be seen.
Another mineral found in
Brixham is ochre. This gave the old fishing
boats their "Red Sails in the Sunset", but the purpose was to protect
the canvas from sea water. It was boiled in great caldrons, together
with tar, tallow and oak bark. The latter ingredient gave its name to
the barking yards which were places where the hot mixture was painted
on to the sails, which were then hung up to dry. The ochre was also
used to make a paint. This was invented in
Brixham in about 1845, and
was the first substance in the world that would stop cast iron from
rusting. Other types of paint were made here as well, and the works
were in existence until 1961.
There were iron mines at Brixham, and for a while they produced
high-quality ore but the last one closed in 1925. Most of the sites
have been built over and there are now few remains of this
once-important industry save for the remnants of Sharkham Point Iron
Festivals and events
Brixham plays host to a number of festivals and events throughout the
calendar year. These events are run entirely by locals and contribute
significantly to the local economy.
BrixFest is a relatively new, annual family friendly festival in
Brixham. In 2018, it will run from 26 - 30 May. The festival took over
from the now defunct
Brixham Heritage Festival in 2010 and has
recently established itself as one of Brixham's core annual
Brixham Pirate Festival
Brixham Pirate Festival (5 - 7 May, 2018), more formally called
Brixham Pirate Festival', is known for its world
record attempts, live music, free entertainment and for filling
Brixham with pirates. It is an annual event which takes place over the
Mayday Bank Holiday.
Brixham Hap'nin, also known locally as 'Party in the Park', takes
place 6 - 7 July, 2018 and is an annual live music and arts festival
in Brixham. It is generally a two-day festival operating out of St
Mary's Park in the Cowtown part of Brixham, with live music,
performances from local schools, food and drink market stalls and
concessions, dance acts and amateur dramatics.
RNLI Lifeboat Week
Torbay has been served by Lifeboats since 1866 and
provided the base for a lifeboat since then. The station was granted
the Freedom of the
Torbay in 1988.
Torbay Lifeboat Station
is based close to the Breakwater, and this becomes the centre of a
series of events planned by the local volunteers and sponsors. Taking
place in August, events include the ‘Walk the Extra Mile’ for the
Lifeboat crew and the prize draw, guided tours of the All Weather
Brixham has Talent’, with local school bands on the
XRadio One Stage, and an evening ticket only event ‘Bands on the
Brixham is a one-day, annual seafood and live music festival
held in aid of the Fishermen's Mission (RNMDSF). It is a licensed
event, organised by volunteers and held inside the new Fish Market
Development on the harbour side.Normally the event is held on the
second Saturday of September, but the date also varies for Spring
Doddstock is a semi-annual music festival held in Astley Park in
memory of local man, Julius Dodd.
On 1 April 2007,
Brixham Town Council was established after a
forty-year gap since
Brixham Urban Council disappeared. In its first
meeting the council changed its name to
Brixham Town Council per the
Local Government Act 1972
Local Government Act 1972 and adopted the term chairman instead of
Mayor to avoid confusion with the
Torbay elected Mayor. The Council's
duties are those of a standard English civil parish.
Brixham is included in the UK parliamentary constituency of Totnes
whose MP is
Sarah Wollaston (2010-)
The former British Prime Minister,
James Callaghan was educated partly
at Furzeham Primary School.
Brixham has a number of schools, mostly located in the centre of
The town has one secondary school,
Other schools and academies in
Brixham and the surrounding area
Eden Park Primary School Academy
Brixham Church of
England Primary School
Saint Margaret Clitherow
Saint Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary School
Furzeham Primary School
Brixham is home to the
Brixham Archers. This is the biggest
archery club in the bay and shoots outdoors at their field at
Brixham Archers also use an indoor facility in Brixham. The
Archery club was formed in 1969 and has been successful at county and
national level competitions.
Brixham Rugby Club
Brixham Rugby Club was founded and became one of the founder
Devon RFU of which six clubs are now left. They played
Rugby on Furzeham Green until 1896 when they moved their present
ground to New Gate Park (now Astley Park). The club will play their
league fixtures in the National League 3 South West division of
Footballer Dan Gosling, of Bournemouth F.C., was born and raised in
Brixham, and is the fourth-youngest player to have ever played for
Plymouth Argyle aged 16 years and 310 days.
Brixham Station entrance in 1964
The railway station in
Brixham was the terminus of the
Brixham Railway. It served the town from the bay platform at Churston
Station until the line was closed in 1963. Some of the track bed
remains in place. Houses in Harbour View Close were built on the site
of the station. The
Association of Train Operating Companies
Association of Train Operating Companies included
Brixham as one of fourteen towns that, based on 2009 data, would
benefit from a new railway service. This would be an extension of the
First Great Western
First Great Western service on the
Riviera Line from
Exmouth as far as
Churston, which would then act as a railhead for Brixham. It would
also serve other housing developments in the area since the opening of
the steam railway, and may require the doubling of that line between
Paignton and Goodrington Sands.
Brixham is no longer on the rail network, frequent buses
taking 25 minutes connect
Brixham with the national rail network at
Paignton, where the bus station is conveniently situated opposite the
rail station. From
Paignton CrossCountry trains run daily direct
services to Manchester (via Bristol and Birmingham) and Great Western
Railway operate some direct services to London Paddington. Local
services operate to
Newton Abbot and Exeter.
Torbay's flagship bus route, Stagecoach service 12 operates up to
every 10 minutes and has its terminus at
Brixham Town Square, with the
service returning to
Newton Abbot via Paignton, Torquay, and
Kingskerswell. The service also calls at the
Brixham Park and Ride
site located on the A3022 (Dartmouth Road). Flat rate parking charges
include a bus ride for a car's occupants to
Brixham and return..
Stagecoach services 18/18A run from
Brixham (Bank Street) to
Kingswear, where a river crossing to Dartmouth can be made by ferry.
Local town services operated by both Stagecoach and Country Bus, serve
Furzeham, Wall Park, Sharkham, South Bay, Higher Brixham, Summercombe,
and Hillhead. Following the withdrawal of evening services in March
2015 on Stagecoach's 17, 17A, and 18,
Torbay Community Bus began
running services 17E and 18E in the evenings to replace these routes.
There are direct National Express coach services to London (via
Bristol and Heathrow Airport) and also Yorkshire (via Bristol and
Frequent ferry services for foot passengers operate to
the months of April and October, the fastest taking 35 minutes. There
are also seasonal ferries to Paignton. Dartmouth bound pleasure
cruises call at
Brixham en route from Torquay.
Brixham Cave, called also Windmill Hill Cavern
Ash Hole Cavern
English Riviera Geopark
Discovery of human antiquity
Discovery of human antiquity: Acceptance of human association with
extinct animal species
'Empirical Evidence for the Antiquity of Mankind at
Brixham Cave' -
Claude Nelson Warren - 1998
The Antiquity of Man by Sir Charles Lyell
The Antiquity of Man by Sir Charles Lyell (gutenberg.org/ebooks)
The Seventy-Year Itch: Controversies over Human Antiquity by DJ
Meltzer - 2005 - Journal of Anthropological Research Volume 61, Number
^ a b "Census 2011 -
Torbay Council. 3 July 2013.
Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February
2014. (Word document)
^ "About Brixham". Pictures of England.com. Retrieved 16 July
Brixham archive". The National Archives. Retrieved 17 July
^ Nicholls, Richard. "Torquay,
Paignton and Brixham". A History of
Devonshire. Adamant Media Corporation. p. 302.
ISBN 0-543-92000-3. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
Brixham community page".
Devon County Council. Retrieved 16 July
^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray
^ "Overgang" at Lookwayup.com. (retrieved 17 January 2009)
^ coffinhouse.co.uk Archived 29 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "British Seaman's Boys' Home". Nigel Owen. Retrieved 5 May
^ "UFO Report". NICAP. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts
Society. p. 59.
Brixham Archers. Retrieved 27 December
^ "RFU Competition Line-Up – 2008" (PDF). English Clubs Championship
South West Leagues website. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May
2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
^ "Connecting Communities - expanding access to the rail network"
(PDF). London: Association of Train Operating Companies. June 2009.
p. 17. Archived from the original (pdf) on 29 July 2013.
Retrieved 20 February 2015.
Brixham Cavern was discovered in 1858 and subsequent excavation
revealed mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and cave lion remains -
Ash Hole Cavern
Ash Hole Cavern was explored by Rev. Henry Lyte in 1840 and later by
William Pengelly Archived 11 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brixham.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Brixham.
Brixham at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Brixham Town Council
Brixham Chamber of Commerce
Ceremonial county of Devon
Boroughs or districts
Ottery St Mary
See also: List of civil parishes in Devon
Devon County Council
Towns by population
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
South West Coast Path
North Devon's Biosphere Reserve