Teignmouth (/ˈtɪnməθ/ TIN-məth) is a large seaside town, fishing
port and civil parish in the English county of Devon, situated on the
north bank of the estuary mouth of the
River Teign about 14 miles
south of Exeter. It had a population of 14,749 at the last census.
In 1690, it was the last place in
England to be invaded by a foreign
From the 1800s onwards, the town rapidly grew in size from a fishing
port associated with the Newfoundland cod industry to a fashionable
resort of some note in Georgian times, with further expansion after
the opening of the South
Devon Railway in 1846. Today, its port still
operates and the town remains a popular seaside holiday location.
1.1 To 1700
1.2 1700 to present
1.3 The port
4 21st century
5 Notable people associated with the town
6 In Literature
10 Further reading
11 External links
Teignmouth from above the Ness
The first record of Teignmouth, Tengemuða, meaning mouth of the
stream, was in 1044. Nonetheless settlements very close by are
attested earlier, with the banks of the Teign estuary having been in
Saxon hands since at least 682, a battle between the Ancient Britons
and Saxons being recorded on
Haldon in 927, and Danish raids having
occurred on the Teign estuary in 1001.
There were originally two villages, East and West Teignmouth,
separated by a stream called the Tame, which emptied into the Teign
through marshland by the current fish quay. Neither village is
mentioned in the Domesday Book, but East
Teignmouth was granted a
market by charter in 1253 and one for West
Teignmouth followed a few
years later. The Tame now runs under the town in culverts and is
only visible higher up the town as Brimley Brook, joined by smaller
streams such as the Winterbourne (an intermittent stream, which flows
only in winter or after heavy rain).
Documents indicate that
Teignmouth was a significant port by the early
14th century, second in
Devon only to Dartmouth. It was attacked by
the French in 1340 and sent seven ships and 120 men to the expedition
against Calais in 1347. Its relative importance waned during the
15th century, and it did not figure in an official record of 1577.
This may have been due to silting up of the harbour caused by tin
mining on Dartmoor.
During the 17th century, in common with other Channel ports,
Teignmouth ships suffered from raids from Dunkirkers, who were
privateers from Flemish ports. It is possible that smuggling was the
town's most significant trade at this time, though cod fishing in
Newfoundland was also of great importance.
In July 1690, after the French Admiral Anne Hilarion de Tourville
defeated an Anglo-Dutch fleet at the Battle of Beachy Head, the French
fleet was anchored in
Torbay and some of the galley fleet travelled
the short distance up the coast and attacked Teignmouth. A petition to
Lord Lieutenant from the inhabitants described the incident:
... on the 26th day of this instant July 1690 by Foure of the
clocke in the morning, your poor petitioners were invaded (by the
French) to the number of 1,000 or thereabouts, who in the space of
three hours tyme, burnt down to the ground the dwelling houses of 240
persons of our parish and upwards, plundered and carried away all our
goods, defaced our churches, burnt ten of our ships in the harbour,
besides fishing boats, netts and other fishing craft ...
After examining 'creditable persons' the Justices of the Peace
by the late horrid invasion there were within the space of 12 houres
burnt downe and consumed 116 dwelling houses ... and also 172 dwelling
houses were rifled and plundered and two parish churches much ruined,
plundred and defaced, besides the burning of ten saile of shipps with
the furniture thereof, and the goods and merchandise therein ...
As a result, the Crown issued a church brief that authorised the
collection of £11,000 for the aid of the town. Churches from as far
afield as Yorkshire contributed, and the collections enabled the
further development of the port. This was the last invasion of
England,[notes 1] and French Street with its museum is named in
memory of the occasion.
In the 1600s and 1700s there are records of a windmill on the Den - an
area that was then a large sand dune, and is now a grassy public open
space near the seafront. By 1759 this windmill was demolished.
1700 to present
A new advantageous Plan of Privateering
For a Six Months Cruize
All Gentlemen Seamen and Able Landmen who delight in the Music of
Great Guns and distressing the Enemies of
Great Britain have now a
fine opportunity of making their Fortunes by entering on Board The
Privateer ... now ready to be launch'd in the Harbour of
Teignmouth... Any persons capable of beating a Drum or blowing a
French horn shall have great encouragement.
— Advertisement for the Dragon, 1779.
In the late 18th century, privateering was common in Teignmouth, as it
was in other westcountry ports. In 1779 the French ship L'Emulation
with a cargo of sugar, coffee and cotton was offered for sale at
"Rendle's Great Sale Room" in the town.
Teignmouth people fitted out
two privateers: Dragon with 16 guns and 70 men; and Bellona, described
as carrying "16 guns, 4 cohorns and 8 swivels". Bellona set sail
on her first voyage in September 1779, and was "oversett in a violent
Gust of Wind" off
Dawlish with the loss of 25 crew members.
The Newfoundland fisheries continued to provide the main employment
into the early 19th century (e.g. Job Brothers & Co., Limited)
and, fortuitously for the town, as the fisheries declined the prospect
of tourism arose. A tea house was built on the Den in 1787 amongst the
local fishermen's drying nets. The "Amazons of Shaldon"—muscular
women who pulled fishing nets and were "naked to the knee"—were an
early tourist attraction for male tourists.
Teignmouth was called a "fashionable watering place", and the
resort continued to develop during the 19th century. Its two churches
were rebuilt soon after 1815 and in the 1820s the first bridge across
the estuary to
Shaldon was built; George Templer's New Quay opened at
the port; and the esplanade, Den Crescent and the central Assembly
Rooms (later the cinema) were laid out. The railway arrived in 1846
and the pier was built 1865–7.
A view of Teignmouth, the Den and the Ness at
Shaldon in the 19th
A version of the legend of the Parson and Clerk dating to 1900 tells
the tale of the Bishop of
Teignmouth and whilst being
guided by a local priest, the devil turns them both to stone, which is
seen in the form of two stacks.
First World War
First World War had a disruptive effect on Teignmouth: over 175
men from the town lost their lives and many businesses did not
survive. In the 1920s as the economy started to recover, a golf course
opened on Little Haldon; the Morgan Giles shipbuilding business was
established, and charabancs took employees and their families for
annual outings to
Dartmoor and elsewhere. By the 1930s the town was
again thriving, and with the
Haldon Aerodrome and School of Flying
Teignmouth was advertised as the only south coast resort
offering complete aviation facilities.
Second World War
Second World War
Teignmouth suffered badly from "tip and
run" air raids. It was bombed 21 times between July 1940 and
February 1944 and 79 people were killed, 151 wounded, 228 houses were
destroyed and over 2,000 damaged in the raids. Teignmouth's
hospital was bombed during a raid on 8 May 1941, killing three nurses
and seven patients. It was rebuilt and reopened in September 1954,
making it the first complete general hospital in the country to be
built after the formation of the National Health Service.
A US Navy plan existed which proposed to dam the harbour and set up a
seaplane base, but it was abandoned as the war turned in favour of the
The New Quay at
Teignmouth in 1827 with a large crane and blocks of
cut granite ready for transshipment
New Quay in 2006
The port of Teignmouth, in existence since the 13th century, remains
active, mostly handling clay, timber and grain.
The Old Quay was built in the mid-18th century on land leased from
Lord Clifford. The opening of the
Stover Canal by James Templer in
1792 provided a boost to the port due to the ease with which ball
clay could be transported from the mines north of Newton Abbot. After
travelling along the canal the barges continued down the estuary to
the port. By 1820 this trade was supplemented by granite from the
Dartmoor carried via the unique
Haytor Granite Tramway which was linked to the Stover
Canal. The granite to build the new London Bridge came via this route
and was sent from the New Quay, which had been built for this traffic
in 1821–25 by George Templer, James's son.
The Old Quay was sold to
George Hennet in 1850 and became the centre
of his trading network. It was connected to the South
the previous year.
Teignmouth was legally part of the Port of Exeter. In
September of that year, after many years of campaigning (latterly
under the leadership of George Hennet), the Lords Commissioners of the
Treasury agreed that
Teignmouth should be independent which was the
cause of much celebration.
Teignmouth has a tradition of shipbuilding from the 17th century. By
the turn of the 19th century there were three shipyards in Teignmouth,
and three in
Shaldon and Ringmore on the opposite side of the
estuary. The industry declined in the early 20th century, but in
1921 Morgan Giles bought the last derelict shipbuilding yard and gave
the industry a new stimulus. His shipyard became a major employer,
building pleasure craft in peacetime and small craft such as torpedo
boats during World War II. The business failed in 1968 not long after
Donald Crowhurst's attempt to sail around the world.
The Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society sent
a lifeboat to
Teignmouth in 1851 and kept it in a boathouse on the
beach near the Custom House. In 1854 the society transferred its
lifeboats to the
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). A new
boathouse was provided on The Den with doors facing the harbour which
was used until 1940. After a gap of fifty years, on 3 November 1990,
the RNLI reopened
Teignmouth Lifeboat Station
Teignmouth Lifeboat Station with an Atlantic 21
A Broad Gauge Train leaving
Shaldon Bridge and the
Ness in the background, circa 1854
Shaldon Bridge in 2004
The original bridge was owned by the
Company and opened on 8 June 1827. It had 34 wooden arches and was
1,671 feet long, which made it the longest wooden bridge in England
when built. It had abutment walls of a considerable length at either
end, and a swing bridge at the
Teignmouth end to allow sailing ships
to pass up the estuary. It cost around £19,000 to build, but the
overall expenditure was about £26,000 due to the costs of the
necessary Act of Parliament and the purchase of the old
ferry-rights. Toll houses were built at each end of the bridge,
and the one on the
Teignmouth side survives.
After eleven years, on 27 June 1838 the centre arches of the bridge
collapsed, the timbers had been eaten through by shipworms. It was
rebuilt in wood and reopened in 1840, but it partially collapsed again
in 1893. The bridge was completely rebuilt between 1927 and 1931,
using steel for the piers and main girders and concrete for most of
the deck, except for the opening span which used timber.
On 28 October 1948
Devon County Council bought the bridge from the
Shaldon Bridge Company for £92,020 and tolls were abolished. The
original paintwork was inadequate to deal with the environment, and
repairs were required in 1960 and in 1980. In 1998 it was
discovered that the bridge had severe structural defects and work to
correct this continued until 2002, the bridge remaining open
throughout. After this work was completed, residents nearby
noticed that in certain wind conditions the bridge "whistles". As of
2007[update] the problem had not been solved.
In February 2016
Devon County Council announced that the moveable,
lifting section of the bridge will be raised later in 2016, for the
first time since 2002. This is in order to satisfy a condition in the
Act that permitted construction, that the opening section be
Teignmouth railway station, which opened in 1846, is close to the town
centre. It lies between the stations of
Newton Abbot on
the Great Western Main Line between London Paddington and Penzance in
Cornwall. In 2010/11 it recorded 505,000 passengers, making it the
second busiest station on the Riviera Line after Newton Abbot.
Broad-gauge rails and Brunel's atmospheric railway pipe at Didcot
Railway Centre. A 4-year-old child indicates the scale.
The line built by
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel runs along the South Devon
Railway sea wall which is a stone embankment between the sea and
cliffs that runs for several miles between
Teignmouth and Dawlish
Warren. This line was originally both broad gauge and worked by the
atmospheric system, with steam pump houses at regular intervals to
create the vacuum. It was not successful for a host of reasons and was
converted to normal steam locomotive working. Redundant sections of
the atmospheric railway pipes were used as drains all over Teignmouth.
One was set in the roadside in Woodway Lane, near Woodway House.
Such was the terrific force of the impelled water that along the
sea-wall and railway huge coping-stones, probably averaging one ton
each, were tossed about like corks...
— Illustrated London News, 1859.
In December 1852 a large landslip from the cliffs east of the town
caused the railway to close for four days, and in 1855 and 1859
the sea broke through the line at Teignmouth. There have been many
more closures since, caused both by landslips from the cliffs and
breaches by the sea, especially in winter. In 2010 the sea walls and
adjoining estuaries were costing
Network Rail around £500,000 per
year to maintain. In 1936 the Great Western Railway surveyed an
inland deviation between
Bishopsteignton and a shorter
route starting near
Dawlish Warren, but the advent of World War 2
brought these projects to an end.
The town is located on the north bank of the mouth of the estuary of
the River Teign, at the junction of the A379 coast road, the A381 road
to Newton Abbot, and the
B3192 which climbs up to the A380 on Haldon
and hence on to the M5 12 miles away.
Teignmouth is linked to Shaldon,
the village on the opposite bank, by a passenger ferry at the river
mouth and by a road bridge further upstream. The red sandstone
headland on the
Shaldon side called "The Ness" is the most
recognisable symbol of the town from the seaward side.
In the harbour area was the Salty, a small flat island created through
dredging operations but levelled, supposedly to improve natural
scouring of the main channel for shipping, in recent years to leave a
large tidal sand bank frequented by seabirds and cockle-collectors.
Salmon nets are still employed by locals, especially near Shaldon
The estuary seems disproportionately large for the size of the river
flowing through it, this being especially apparent at low tide,
because it is a drowned valley caused by a relative rise in sea level
following the last Ice Age.
Teignmouth is situated on the coast of Devon, a peninsula of South
West England. It has a mild maritime climate. Prevailing winds across
the south-west of
England are from the west.
Teignmouth lies to the
east of Dartmoor, in a lee / rainshadow, with mean temperatures
3 °C (5 °F) higher and less than 43% of the rainfall of
Princetown, which is located on Dartmoor. It receives 133
millimetres (5.2 in) less precipitate per year than nearby
Plymouth, which is located on the south-west coast of Devon.
Owing to its proximity to the sea,
Teignmouth has warmer winters with
less frost and snow, as well as slightly cooler summers compared with
inland areas of southern England. January is usually the coldest month
in Britain; however, sea temperatures usually reach their minimum
temperature in late February, which affects Teignmouth's climate,
making February its coldest month. The first frost in Teignmouth
usually occurs in late November or early December, whereas midland
England sometimes have frosts as early as September.
Snow is rare during the start of the winter season in December. Late
autumn and early winter is the wettest time of the year, because sea
temperatures are still relatively high and deep Atlantic depressions
bring moist air across the South West. On average, July is the driest
month, but summer thunderstorms can occasionally deposit more than the
month's mean rainfall in one day.
Teignmouth has average daily
sunshine totals of over 7 hours in summer and around 2 hours in
winter. Sunshine totals reflect the hours of daylight and the
fluctuations of the Azores high, which is most powerful in summer.
The climate patterns also implicate a less pronounced cooler
mediterranean climate (csa/ csb) influence which is due to the
decrease in precipitation centred over the summer period and surplus
rainfall during the winter.
Climate data for Teignmouth,
England (1981 - 2010) data
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average rainy days
Mean monthly sunshine hours
The esplanade with Den Crescent and the Assembly Rooms behind, circa
Den Crescent and its central Assembly Rooms, laid out in 1826 by
Andrew Patey of Exeter, still survive relatively unchanged today.
The Assembly Rooms were the hub of the town's social life in the 19th
century and lavish balls took place in the 70 ft (21 m) long
ballroom. In 1871, the building was taken over by the East
Teignmouth Club which had an exclusive membership taken from the
gentry and professional middle class.
Over the years, the building was used as a theatre, a dance hall, a
conference centre and a billiards hall. In 1934 it was converted
into the Riviera Cinema, in which guise it continued until 2000; part
of the building has now been converted into flats. In 2016 the
lease for the historic auditorium was taken over by the Mars Hill
Church with the intention of restoring it as both a cinema and a music
and arts facility.
The town's parish church, dedicated to St. James is unusual, being
octagonal in shape.[notes 2] A story from
Cornwall suggests why these
churches are rounded, for the villagers of
Veryan built several
circular houses so that the Devil had no corners in which to lie in
wait for unsuspecting occupants and these buildings were therefore
'Devil-proof.' The church of St Michael the Archangel is in the
east of the town. St. Scholastica's Abbey, on the road to Dawlish,
built in 1864 by
Henry Woodyer is a notable
Gothic Revival building,
and the Roman Catholic Church, on the same road, is a late work by
Joseph Hansom, the inventor of the hansom cab.
In 1894, there were 26 public houses in Teignmouth. Pubs today
include the Blue Anchor Inn on Teign Street and the
Devon Arms on
Northumberland Place. The River Beach is home to a varied selection of
seasonal and permanent beach huts, one of which (now removed to the
town's museum) was a Georgian bathing machine, minus wheels. These
huts have enjoyed the boom in popularity of such properties in recent
years and now change hands for figures approaching £100,000.[citation
Shaldon museum was completed in 2011. It comprises an
architecturally iconic extension of the existing 18th century museum
building, with new roof terrace looking over the town, glass tower and
community facility. Some of the exhibits include a restored bathing
machine; artefacts from the Church Rock wreck, such as cannons;
exhibits from the nearby
Haldon aerodrome, plus film footage including
the Beatles' visit to the town and the 2009 homecoming concerts by
Muse. The new build cost almost £1.1m and was enabled by a major
community fund-raising effort, in combination with Lottery and UK
government funding and other sources such as local grant funders and
Devon County Council.
The town's newest public building is the Pavilions Teignmouth, a
community arts and enterprise centre on the Den, opened in April
On 27 July 2005
Teignmouth received status as Devon's first Fairtrade
Town. Also in 2005, the volunteer
Teignmouth Regeneration Project
in association with the town, district and county councils published a
strategic plan that identified issues to be dealt with by 2015.
Among the issues listed are to develop quality tourism, alleviate the
danger of flooding to the town and provide affordable housing.
Teignmouth from The Ness
In May 2010
Teignbridge District Council put forward for consultation
"A Vision for Teignmouth". This was a plan consisting of 21
regeneration projects for the town. A skatepark was opened on the
seafront in July 2010 and flood defences at the Fish Quay were
completed in October 2012.
Although reduced from its heyday,
Teignmouth still receives
considerable numbers of holiday makers, in particular day-trippers. It
is twinned with the French town Perros-Guirec.
Apart from its sea beach and
Teignmouth Pier with amusement arcade and
rides, the beach wraps around the spit at the head of the river Teign
providing a river beach, commonly known as the Back Beach (dogs are
allowed all year on this part of the beach), on the estuary side which
overlooks the harbour with its moorings for many pleasure craft, and
has views up the estuary to Dartmoor. An 18-mile (29 km) long
waymarked route known as the Templer Way has been created between
Dartmoor and Shaldon. It closely follows the route of George
Templer's granite tramway, his father James's
Stover Canal and finally
the estuary to Teignmouth.
Teignmouth Carnival is held during the last week of July with the
procession on the last Thursday, and since 1999 the town has hosted a
summer folk festival. In 2005
Fergus O'Byrne and Jim Payne from
Newfoundland were the 'headline' artists at that year's festival which
celebrated the town's links with that region.
Dawlish Community Interest Group commissioned
a website  to promote the town to tourists visiting.
Teignmouth Community School (formerly
Teignmouth High School, then
Teignmouth Community College), a local secondary school including a
sixth form, was formed as a merger in 1979 of
Teignmouth Secondary Modern School. More recently this has
merged further with Inverteign Community Nursery and Primary School to
Teignmouth Community School (TCS).
Other secondary schools include Trinity School (independent, with a
preparatory department and boarding facilities, formerly known as
Primary schools include Hazeldown and Inverteign which are
non-denominational, and the Catholic school of Our Lady and St
The town is the home of
Teignmouth A.F.C. whose first team currently
play in the South West
Peninsula League and reserves play in the South
Devon League division two. The town is also the home of Teignmouth
R.F.C. with the 1st XV playing in the South West 1 league. The Den
Bowling Club situated on the sea front is the home of the Teignmouth
Open Bowls Tournament.
Teignmouth Shotokan Karate Club was established
in 1984 and trains twice weekly at
Teignmouth Community College.
The seafront benefits from
Teignmouth Lido, a public open-air heated
swimming pool. This is one of four outdoor pools operated by
Teignbridge District Council. The others are at Buckfastleigh,
Ashburton and Buckland.
Notable people associated with the town
Teignmouth in the mid 19th century.
Fanny Burney, the diarist and novelist, visited
times in the late 18th century. She took her first dip in the sea here
in 1773, as she recorded in her journal. Elias Parish Alvars, the
harpist, was born in East
Teignmouth in 1808, and three years later
Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt, vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist,
was born at Woodway House.
In spring 1818 the poet
John Keats spent several weeks in Teignmouth
and completed his epic poem Endymion here. His arrival coincided
with a period of wet weather and he wrote to a friend of "the
abominable Devonshire Weather ... the truth is, it is a splashy,
rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, muddy, slipshod
George O. May (born 1875), who made significant contributions to the
field of accounting, and rose to senior partner of Price Waterhouse's
American firm in the early 20th century, was born and raised in
From 1812 until his death in 1833, Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth
had his home at Bitton House, which was then called West Cliff House.
Meanwhile, Thomas Luny, the painter of seascapes, lived in the town
for thirty years until his death in 1837 and executed over 2,200
paintings while living here. Shortly afterwards George Hennet, the
railway engineer and contractor who was closely involved with Brunel's
railway, moved to the town and took a close interest in local affairs.
He died here in 1857.
Charles Babbage (1791–1871), the mathematician, philosopher,
inventor and mechanical engineer, who originated the idea of a
programmable computer, also lived here for some years. Sir John Smyth,
(1893–1983) was a recipient of the
Victoria Cross and was made 1st
Teignmouth in 1956.
The Belgium footballer
Charles Vanden Wouwer was born in
1916, while his parents were staying there as
World War I
World War I refugees.
The businessman and musician
Danny Thompson was born in the town in
1939, and the writer and environmentalist John Bainbridge (born 1953)
spent his teens and early adulthood here and was educated at West Lawn
School. The
Norman Wisdom film, Press for Time, in
which Norman becomes a reporter at the seaside town of "Tinmouth", was
shot largely on location in
Teignmouth in 1966.  A bus and bicycle
chase shows many scenes of the town centre and sea front as it was at
The Beatles stayed one night at The Royal Hotel on the
seafront at the start of their filming of the Magical Mystery
The next year, on 31 October 1968, Donald Crowhurst, competing in the
Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, started his ill-fated attempt to sail
round the world single-handed from the town. His boat was a trimaran
Teignmouth Electron after the town and his electronics
company. The town featured in the film of this tragic event The Mercy
released in 2018, starring
Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz.
The three members of rock band Muse (Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme
and Dominic Howard) attended
Teignmouth Community College in the early
1990s. They started the band in the town and based their song Falling
Down on their teenage years living there. The band performed two
homecoming concerts entitled
A Seaside Rendezvous
A Seaside Rendezvous there in September
Patrick Wolf wrote a song called "Teignmouth"
for his 2005 album Wind in the Wires, which focuses primarily on the
view of the town and the
River Teign when taking a train along the
England rugby union and
Exeter Chiefs player Sam Simmonds lives in
Teignmouth, as does his brother and fellow
Exeter Chiefs first team
player Joe Simmonds. Sam helped the Chiefs win the Aviva Premiership
in 2017. He has currently scored two tries for
England and has one Man
of the Match award.
The triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards lived in
Teignmouth in his early years. He went to school at the Inverteign
Juniors site (now Mill Lane). His world record has stood since
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
'A Legend of Teignmouth',
a poem by L. E. L.
Letitia Elizabeth Landon's poem A Legend of
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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
Associated British Ports
Port of Grimsby
Hams Hall Distribution Park
Port of Hull
Port of Immingham
Tilbury Container Services
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