Teignmouth is an historic port on the mouth of the Teign estuary. It has all the attractions of a seaside town, including a Victorian pier. Teignmouth is a working harbour, with many vessels, large ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft, entering and leaving the port.Teignmouth is an historic port on the mouth of the Teign estuary. It has all the attractions of a seaside town, including a Victorian pier. Teignmouth is a working harbour, with many vessels, large ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft, entering and leaving the port.Nestling below Haldon hills to the north, Teignmouth lies along a stretch of red sandstone coast at the unspoilt estuary of the river Teign, born on high Dartmoor. Wide spaces and rolling fieldscapes delight the eye with breath-taking panoramas from high ground. Lyme Bay’s well-spaced arms protect smaller bays peering out over the English Channel between Portland and Start Point. Teignmouth claims record-breaking hours of sunshine and its remarkable geographical position ensures reasonable weather for much of the time. Dartmoor National Park’s eastern approach or the city of Exeter can be reached by road in 30 minutes whilst Plymouth is about one hour’s drive. Public transport links nearby Torbay and the market town of Newton Abbot
When Isambard Kindom Brunel pushed his Atmospheric Railway down the coast in the 1840s, Teignmouth became the second health resort in Devon. Humble occupations in salt production and fishing gave way to the demands of visitors. The wealth of affluent Victorians was significant to the re-invention of Teignmouth that had suffered a devastating invasion by the French in 1690. The 19th century saw a flurry of new business and buildings. The majority of commodities were brought in under sail and waterway traffic increased. Boat building contributed to the local economy. Clay and granite quarried nearby and barged down-river were important out-going cargoes.
Between 1940 to 44, a number of air raids claimed the lives and homes of many people. Post war regeneration re-shaped the town that now displays an interesting mix of architectural styles. Georgian cottages line narrow streets whilst Victorian structures are seen at their best along the seafront. A diminutive Orangery of 1842 is found in Bitton Park. Many of the impressive residences built on the hillsides have been converted to apartments in modern times. Enthusiasts discover extraordinary variety in seven churches and numerous public houses.
Teignmouth is a town of two different characters. Along the seaward edge of the town is ‘the Den’, a large open space with lawns and flower beds that runs along the length of the town – between the promenade and an elegant crescent of Georgian buildings. The Den is where most of the town’s holiday activities take place.
Maps of Teignmouth from 1889 show the Den laid out as a park with three main lawns, a perimeter path and a fountain. The ornamental beds on the promenade were laid out in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Den is situated on Den Crescent and is less than 100m from the main shopping street. The Park has pedestrian entrances on all sides.
Next to the promenade is the Victorian pier, 700ft (212m) long. Work commenced on the pier in 1865 and was completed in 1867. The pier originally marked the dividing line between men and women bathers, gentlemen and their bathing machines to the west, and the ladies to the east. In common with most piers, the Grand Pier has suffered its share of collapses, fires and rebuilding works. If you walk the pier you will have fine views back to the town and beyond. There are a variety of amusements along its length.
As well as a pier, there is a theatre, cinema and model railway, children’s play areas, tennis courts, bowling greens and a miniature lighthouse that marks the entrance to the harbour.
The estuary side of the town has a very different atmosphere. Boats rest peacefully in the busy harbour; ferries take people across the estuary mouth to the quaint picturesque village of Shaldon, just across the water.
The estuary is a lively place, with waterside inns, boats for hire, fishing boats, yacht and beach huts – set against the stunning backdrop of Shaldon and the rolling fringes of Dartmoor, which can be seen in the distance.
One of the best things about Teignmouth is that the centre has no hills to speak of and is small enough to explore on foot.
The town has undergone significant improvements over recent years which have included the pedestrianisation of the central area, making strolling around the shops more pleasant without the bustle of traffic.
There is a wide variety of shops in Teignmouth and the area is well served by several local pubs in the town which provide a warm welcome.
The rest of the town is a thriving mixture of interesting old back streets, pedestrian precincts and open public spaces. The town has a very relaxed feel to it, as you wind your way through narrow streets that suddenly open up into an open area, with more narrow streets and alleys beckoning you to investigate them. The town is an ideal place to explore – find a pavement cafe and just watch the world go by.
Although reduced from its heyday, Teignmouth still receives considerable numbers of holiday makers. It is twinned with the French town Perros-Guirec. Apart from its sea-facing beach and pier, the beach wraps around the spit at the head of the river Teign providing another beach on the estuary side which overlooks the harbour with its moorings for many pleasure craft.
There is a ferry which operates from the River Beach carrying passengers to Shaldon which is just across the river.
It is worth taking the ferry across to Shaldon village especially on 1785 day which is usually held every Wednesday from May to September. On 1785 day the locals dress in period costume and there is a variety of stalls, crafts and entertainment.
Culture Vultures can seek out links with John Keats who wrote part of ‘Endymion’ in 1818 at Keats House: the 19th century homes of renowned marine artist Thomas Luny or the genius code breaker and father of the computer, Charles Babbage : King of Harpists, Elias Parish Alvars born here in 1808. Colourful local characters continue to inhabit the town. The 3-storey Museum in French St is a not-to-be-missed treasure trove.
Contemporary interests continue through a growing colony of artists, live theatre and a newer focus of the annual jazz festival. Regattas, carnivals, cycling and walking opportunities as well as a host of water sports including diving and angling await those who love the great outdoors.
The Light House
By 1843 the new “Hackney Cut” – a canal linking – had been completed. It allowed the clay barges to get in close to the mining areas in and around Kingsteignton and soon, 16 cellars had been built in the vicinity to store the clay prior to removal upriver to Teignmouth
Exportation of china clay to the potteries in the Midlands now became a major enterprise for the Port of Teignmouth but the Teignmouth Harbour Commissioners realised that the shifting sand in the harbour entrance would pose a greater danger to larger vessels. Quantities of granite were also exported and in-coming ships brought coal, culm and timber – all were heavy cargoes making vessels low in the water. At the point where the river Teign met the open sea, there were dangerous currents and shifting sands causing many problems even for experienced pilots.
They set about building a lighthouse at the harbour entrance on the Teignmouth side. This was completed in 1845 at a cost of £196 7s with the Earl of Devon himself paying the surveyor’s fee.
Not everyone like the idea. Someone unkindly said the “the feeble glare emitted from the lantern is of no service by night, except it be to light the fishes to their sandy beds.” An Admiralty investigation soon put paid to the local critics and the little lighthouse still performs its task of guiding incoming vessels to safe passage through the channel to the safety of the harbour beyond.
This lighthouse has never had a keeper and has often been mistaken for a “toy lighthouse”. Far from being a toy this tower is an important leading light, which together with the light on Powderham Terrace guides shipping into the harbour even now.
The rear light is much simpler in construction. It is mounted on a tall pole in front of the Lynton House Hotel. The local Harbour Master maintains the lights.
Larger incoming vessels must line up this light with that coming from the lighthouse , only then is it safe to make the turn into the mouth of the river. The structure is some 37 feet high and is visible for approximately 6 miles. The light is operated by Teignmouth Port Authority
Teignmouth and Shaldon Museum
Teignmouth & Shaldon Museum is set in a converted eighteenth century dwelling in the middle of the town, is a delightful celebration of the local area’s long association with the sea.
At the museum you will encounter a brief introduction to some of the important people and happenings in Teignmouth’s and Shaldon’s past. These include local hero Sir Edward Pellew, one of the leading naval heroes; Donald Crowhurst who died seeking maritime glory; Parish Alvars who became the world’s leading harpist and composer for the harp; local artist Thomas Luny whose sea pictures are world famous,. and much more – including the Church Rocks Wreck of a sixteenth century Venetian trading galley found a hundred yards or so from Teignmouth beach.
Teignmouth and Shaldon Museum and Historical Society
29 French Street
Devon TQ14 8ST
Telephone : (01626) 777041
Easter Saturday and Easter Monday,
and then from May 1st to mid-October
Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Sundays 2 to 4.30 p.m. School holidays only
Teignmouth is an historic port on the mouth of the Teign estuary. It has all the attractions of a seaside town, including a Victorian pier. Teignmouth is a working harbour, with many vessels, large ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft, entering and leaving the port.