Brixham

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Brixham a maritime treasure, where life centres on the bustling harbour, one of Britain's busiest fishing ports.
Wander around the harbour side gift shops, watch the fishermen unloading their daily catch, sample freshly caught seafood from one of the quayside's fish stalls, or relax in a pub or restaurant and watch life go by. 
Away from the harbour you can lose yourself in a maze of narrow, winding streets, and within walking distance from the town centre you will find some of the Riviera's most spectacular scenery. Sandy beaches and secluded coves give way to the towering cliffs of Berry Head, offering breathtaking views of Torbay and the English Channel. The stunning South West Coast Path continues from here and winds its way round to the village of Kingswear.
The marina, one of the busiest on the South Devon coast, is now home to a fascinating collection of heritage sailing vessels including some of Brixham’s original sailing trawlers.

           





      





























(ABOVE) Marina & Harbour By Christine Ellis

Right on the harbour are a number of stalls selling fresh sea food such as Whelks, Mussels, Cockles, Prawns and Crab. Alongside these are numerous kiosks where you can book fishing and angling trips or boat rides to Dartmouth, up the Dart to Greenaway, or across the bay to Torquay. 
 
Brixham’s coastline is brimming with history from the Napoleonic fortifications at Berry Head to the well preserved World War II batteries that were once a vital part of Britain’s coastal defences; a strong heritage that has shaped the character of the town today.









History

Although there is evidence of ice age in habitants here, and probable trading in the Bronze Age, the first evidence of a town comes from Saxon Time. It is possible that Saxon settlement originated by sea from Hampshire in the sixth century, or overland around the year 800Brixham was called Briseham in the Domesday Book Its population then was 39.
William Prince of Orange , who became  King William III landed in Brixham on 5 November 1688, during the Gloriuos 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, meaning 'passage' in Dutch. 

      
 
     
      Overgang Steps                             View of Overgang  pictures by Christine Ellis

 
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 Anglo-Saxon ‘lich’ meaning a corpse) were taken for burial at St Mary`s churchyard. Salutation Mews, near that 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 Brixham from Paignton is the old white-boarded Toll House where all travellers had to pay a fee to keep the roads repaired.

Smuggling

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.

Military

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. 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.


               

Golden Hind Replica by Christine Ellis

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 far away 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 was  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. Then 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.

Industry

Apart from fishing, most of the other local industries were connected with stone. Limestone was once quarried extensively and used to build the breakwater, for houses and roads, and was sent to Dagenham to make steel for Ford cars. It was also burnt in limekilns to reduce it to a powder which was spread on the land in other parts of Devon as 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  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 very special 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 very high quality ore but the last one closed in 1925. Most of the sites have been built over and there are now no remains of this once important industry.
Rope making was another important trade. In the late 19th century there were three long rope-walks, one on Windmill Hill, another running the length of Great Rea Road, and the third at Furzeham. Before this, rope=makers yards were fairly small, one streching along the low cliff where the British Seamans Home is past the war memorial. Another small one stood beside St. St Mary`s Church on the northern side, at least three others were known to have existed.

The Harbour

Brixham harbour as it is seen today began to take shape in 1803 when the foundation stone of the pier was laid and was completed in 1804. As Brixham prospered the harbour became too small for the number of ships, so in 1837 it was decided to build a new and longer pier and breakwater .
The foundation stone was laid in 1843 thanks to loans and gifts. After 1400 feet had been built the scheme stopped for lack of funds. The breakwater was damaged in the great storm of 1866 and in other storms.
In 1909 an extension of 600 feet was started with government help and a further 1,000 feet was begun in 1912, this bought the total length to 3,000 feet. The opening ceremony took place in September 1916, it included the lighthouse at the breakwater end with its red occulting light.

               

               The Breakwater and lighthouse by  Christine Ellis

The Great Storm

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 coast.
Hearing of this tragedy, the citizens of Exeter gave money to set up what became the RNL`s  Torbay lifeboat, which has since rescued hundreds of people.

The Life Boat Station

Since 1866, Torbay lifeboat station, located in Brixham, has operated an all-weather lifeboat. The station also has an inshore D-class 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.

                            

Fishing

Brixham is also notable for being the town where the fishing trawler was invented and were admired throughout Europe. In the 19th century; their distinctive sails inspired the song "Red Sails in the Sunset ", which was written aboard a Brixham sailing trawler called the Torbay Lass.
In the Middle Ages, Brixham was the largest fishing port in the South-West, and at one time it was the greatest in England, known as the "Mother of Deep-Sea Fisheries", its boats sailed all round the coast and helped to establish the fishing industries of Hull , Grimsby and Lowestoft . In the 1890s there were about 300 trawling vessels here, each owned by one man who was often the skipper of his own boat.
There is still a big fishing fleet, and you can see them 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 will be explained to you. The modern boats are diesel-driven, Today some of the original vessels have been restored and can been seen sailing around the harbour or moored on the town pontoon.
Pilgrim, Vigilance, Provident, Keywadin, Golden Vanity and Regard are based in port and offer training trips and charters, which include short day and evening cruises.  
             
There was once an important boat building industry here, as well as all the associated trades such as rope walks, anchor smiths, iron founders, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, sawyers, chandlers, coopers, riggers, sail lofts and so on. Walk around the narrow streets behind the Tourist Office and see something of the area long ago, or visit Brixham Heritage Museum to look at the tools used in building the ships, models and pictures of them and a reconstruction of a fisherman's cottage living room. 

The Coffin House

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 Coffin House by Christine Ellis


Grenville House



              
                                                 Picture by Christine Ellis



Grenville House was built as an orhanage as part of the Torbay and Dartmouth Mission to seamen with the object of `providing` for the sons of deceased British Seamen. It was in existence as an orphanage from 1863 to 1988.
The British Seamans Boys Home, The `orphan` which has now been omitted from the name was established in 1859 by William Gibbs of Tintersfield, Bristol. A new building was started in 1863 and completed the following year. It was further enlarged in 1873 and a school room was added in 1875.
A new wing was built in 1888-89 and a second in 1912, and a further enlargements made in 1913.
Brixham because of its many fishermen and the dangerous nature of its industry had more orphans per hundred head of population than any other place in the country. Orphan baoys also came from other ports like Portsmouth, Southampton and Plymouth.
In the first world war the number of ophans swelled.
In latter years it accepted fatherless only boys and became famous for its drum and bugle bands.
Since 1990 it has been a place of recreation, also helping ypung people prepare for life.  

Battery Gardens

Battery Gardens are only a few minutes stroll along the coast from the harbour and provides stunning views across the bay
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 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 intact
"Battery" is a military term used to describe a number of artillery weapons and the soldier's who operate them. The World War II coast and defence batteries had two main guns, anti-aircraft weapons and, in the case of Brixham, extra harbour defence guns.
A total of about one hundred officers and soldier's manned the Battery. The Battery was originally manned by soldier's from the Royal Artillery, but following the receding threat of invasion the Battery was later manned by 378 Battery - of which almost all were members of the Home Guard.
All that can be seen today was built from June - September 1940 immediately following the defeat and evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk after the fall of France.
Of the 116 Emergency Batteries built in 1940 from John O'Groats to Kent, to Lands End, and to South Wales only 7 remain. Of these Brixham battery is the most complete
              
                 
                          View from Battery Gardens by Christine Ellis

Churches

Generations of Seafarers and their families have been invovled in the development of the Christain Curches in Brixham.
Events such as `Harvest of the sea` and the recently restored `Blessing of the Fleet` give  an indication of the churches continued connection to the fishing industry here, whilst Christian groups such as 'The Fishermen's Mission' have supported generations of seafaring families and still continue to do so.
Today with a population of diverse backgrounds the range of Christian Churches throughout the town continues to support, organize and provide locations for a wide variety of community events whilst offering different forms of worship and ways of praising the Lord Jesus Christ, to which all are welcome
As you look into Brixham from the harbour, you see the tower of All Saints ' Church standing guard over the town. It was founded in 1815, and its most famous vicar was the Rev. Francis Lyte,
The main church in the town 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
Apart from St. Mary's and a small Victorian chapel, all the other Brixham churches and chapels - and once there were seven of them - were built near the harbour.

St Mary`s Church 

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 1360. Many of the important townspeople are buried in the churchyard.


                        
                                                                                Picture by Christine Ellis



The original parish church of Brixham`s is St Marys in Higher Brixham. The present church is probaly the third on the site, the first possibly a Saxon wooden church. The second was a Norman church. The foundations of this are inside those of the present church. The third church dates from the late fourteenth century, and was possibly built outside and over the old one.
In 1892 the church was re-foofed between 1905 and 1908 and the interior was restored and reseated.
In 1931 the exterior was refaced and repainted. At the same time the clock, which dates from 1740 was replaced and three new faces added.

Service times

Sunday                8am Holy Communion. 11am Parish Communion.
Sunday               6.30pm Evensong.
Wednesday       10am Holy Communion.
Saturday             10 -12Noon Coffee morning in Church Hall.
Visitors are warmly welcomed.


All Saints Church

All Saints started with the building of a chapel=of-easein 1816. Although built by subscription and supported by rent of pews and sittings, the debt was such that a grant=in-aid was sought from the church commissioners in 1821.It was consecrated as a parish church in 1824, the year that Henry Francis Lyte arrived as curate-in-charge.
The church was enlarged in 1825 when trancepts were added and again in 1872 when the chancel and other parts were built as a memorial to the Reverend J.R. Hogg, the son-in-law of the successor of Lyte. In  1877, however the roof of the nave was blown off in a gale and therefore complete rebuilding was advised, this was to be in memory of Lyte himself, as his hymns had by now become world famous.
The new church took some years to be built, the northern aisle in 1892, the tower and side chapelbeing completed in 1906. Rededication took place on 24th April 1907.
The carillon which plays the hymn tunes was installed in 1928-29
The tower of All Saints' Church, founded in 1815, stands guard over the town. The composer of  Abide with Me, the Rev. Francis Lyte , was a vicar at the church for 23 years. He lived at Berry Head House, now a hotel. In 1847 while he lay dying of tuberculosis, he looked out from his garden as dusk fell over Torbay, and the words of that hymn came into his mind, he survived only a further three weeks after its completion
All Saints Church is also known as the' Abide with me Church', where countless generations have sung, what is now a world wide anthem. This included the local fishing community who drew strength from its words. Other hymns penned by Henry  Francis Lyte include Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven and Pleasant are Thy Courts Above,    
                                          

                                                                                Picture by Christine Ellis

Services

Sunday              9.30am Parish Eucharist.
Every 1st Sunday of the month Family Service.
Tuesday    
            10am Holy Communion.

    
                   
Roman Catholic Church
New Road

    

This church was completed in 1968 and has the unique distinction of being the only church, possibly in Europe with a carpark on the roof.   

 
Services

Sunday Service at 10am 
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday Church service at 9.30 am
Saturday Evening service at 7pm

Baptist Church
Market Street      

  

The Baptist movement dates back to about 1797 and when the site of the frist church had been purchased, so great was the opposition to non conformity in the town, that no one would supply the stone for the building. So a small quarry had to be purchased. The church was completed in 1801, and rebuilt in 1858 and re-stoned in 1895.  
                                                
Services

Sunday 
 10.30am Worship Service.  6.30pm  Evening Service.

Methodist Church
 Fore Street




The first services were held on Brixham Quay and the first Methodist Chapel was in Bolton Street.
The erection of the church in Fore Street followed in 1816, it was enlarged and improved in 1871

Services


Sunday 10.30am Worship Service 6.30pm Evening Service.
Junior Church runs with morning service and crèche.
Monday and Thursday  Mother & toddlers 10-11.30am.
Monday.   Brownies 6pm.
Wednesday and Friday.  Church coffee morning's 10-12 Noon.
Thursday  Bible Study afternoons 2.30pm.
Friday 
fellowship 10.30am – 11-30

Salvation Army
Bolton Street




What does the Salvation Army do locally?
Give sleeping bags and food to the homeless.
Put people in touch with our missing persons dept.
Public House Ministry.
Distribute toys at Christmas.
Also give Christmas gifts and food to the homeless.
If you feel drawn to visit the Salvation Army then all are welcome.

Services

Sunday            9.45 -10.45am Children's Sunday Club.
Sunday            11am Church Services in the Army Hall.
June to Sept   3pm Church Service on the Quay.
Tuesday          Bible Study open to all
Tuesday          Open air service on the Fish Quay 7.45pm.
Wednesday     2pm Over 50's Club.
Thursday         10-12noon Coffee Mornings.
Sept to June:
Every 2nd Sunday of the monthFree & Easy Cafe Church 3pm.
All other Sundays : Afternoon Service 3pm

Brixham Heritage Museum


                                    
         
Brixham Heritage Museum, The Old Police Station, New Road,

Step into the past: history of the fishing port of Brixham, 19thC ships' instruments and tools, models, memorabilia, social history, costume and lace, also local regalia, transport room settings and audio displays and local archaeology.
The Brixham Heritage Museum and History Society was founded in 1958 for the purpose of recording, saving and displaying the heritage of the historic town and fishing port.
The spacious Maritime Gallery celebrates Brixham's illustrious seafaring past, and includes displays of shipwrights' tools, sailmaking navigation aids and models of famous local fishing vessels.
There are imaginative and nostalgic reconstructions of Victorian life, a display of churches in Brixham and a military display about the Napoleonic Wars. Brixham's more recent wartime experiences are recorded in a display devoted to the two World Wars. Other displays include an archaeological glimpse into the Yarde Buller family, working scale model of Brixham railway station in 1947 and a computer slide show of Brixham in past times.
Free activity sheets for children
Virtual Tour of 1st Floor available

Opening Times:

April to October:
Monday - Friday 10.00am - 5.00pm Saturday 10.00am - 1.00pm.


Brixham Theatre 

Sitauted in Bolton Square stands Brixhams own small theatre (the history of it is explored in an exhibition in the Brixham Museum).
It's a cosy, community theatre showing sporadic drama performances and concerns.
The new Market Building opened in 1887 at a cost of £3,000. Over the Magistrate’s room and offices for the Harbour Commissionaires was a large upper hall for public meetings, concerts and theatre, originally seating 800.
The theatre use now is mainly amateur, and there are plans to offer cinema presentations to help viability.

                                          

Cowtown Carnival

In summer the Cowtown carnival is held, a reminder of when 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 leaving Brixham to the south west, in the direction of  Kingswear. The main summer attraction in Cowtown is the Hap'nin in St. Mary's Park, an annual music event, with local bands, that takes place in mid July
Bolton SquareBrixham has it's own small theatre (the history of it is explored in an exhibition in the Brixham Museum) It's a cosy, community theatre showing sporadic drama performances and concernsThe new Market Building opened in 1887 at a cost of £3,000. Over the Magistrate’s room and offices for the Harbour Commissionaires was a large upper hall for public meetings, concerts and theatre, originally seating 800. The theatre use now is mainly amateur, and there are plans to offer cinema presentations to help viability.                                          
In summer the Cowtown carnival is held, a reminder of when 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 leaving Brixham to the south west, in the direction of  Kingswear. The main summer attraction in Cowtown is the Hap'nin in St. Mary's Park, an annual music event, with local bands, that takes place in mid July.


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