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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Old Paignton Photo Walk 1 - Winner Street

Old Paignton? I bet most people who visit Paignton don't even realise there is an old Paignton. Paignton today is a holiday resort that is all about the seaside, the pier and the beach. There is also a heritage steam railway and a really old fishing harbour, beach huts, "Kiss me Quick" hats, seaside rock, hot dogs and ice cream and boat trips to see the seals.


But all of that came much much later and most of all of that is built on what was sand dunes and swamp between Old Paignton and the sea.


My first post about this photo walk is in Winner Street. Although it may not look it, this is old Paignton, but I don't mean Victorian Paignton, I mean medieval Paignton, and it isn't called Winner Street because all the gambling arcades are here, because as I said, those are all at the seafront, half a mile away.


No, this Winner Street was originally called Wynerde Street, or vineyard street because Winner Street follows the foot of an escarpment where grapes were grown for wine production, for the Bishop of Exeter. Behind the buildings on the left, modern Paignton rises up the slopes of what used to be that vineyard and we're talking about a place that was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Peintona.

Behind the buildings on the right in Winner Street is the old Bishop's Palace.


Peintona became an episcopal manor under Bishop Leofric of Exeter around 1050, but back then it would have taken the best part of a day to get here from Exeter. His successor, Bishop Osbern FitzOsbern, is credited with building the palace to help him with the administration of the large manor.


We will see what is left of the palace later in this series. Just as a point of interest, Fitz to the Normans was as Mac is to Scots or Ap is to the Welsh, it means "son of". So Osbern was the son of Osbern.


By way of no connection, my family tree is full of Evans' or should that be Evanses, including my great great grandfather Evan Evans, as names seemed to be in short supply in times gone by. If he had more accurately called himself Efan Ap Efan, the family name may have elided into the name Bevan which is where that name derives from. New surnames retained the ap in several cases, mainly in reduced form at the start of the surname, as in Upjohn (from ap John), Powell (from ap Hywel), Price (from ap Rhys), Pritchard (from ap Richard), and Bowen (from ab Owen).


But I digress. Here we are at the start of Winner Street as marked by the Winner Street statue. I can say it is a mermaid but can't say much more as it seems to draw a blank on the internet.


Unfortunately it is a classic, art by committee job, as you can see below where it is completely lost in the street chaos of lights, signs and planters. It is safe to assume that most people drive by without even seeing it. That's a shame, because as public art goes, it isn't the worst I have seen, it just fails on where it has been situated. It is also overshadowed by the very ornamented building behind it.


There are more than twenty historic listed buildings in Winner Street, but this, strangely, isn't one of them. I defy you to spot most of them too, as most are listed for their out of sight structures, behind their modern shop facades.




Winner Street was a medieval high street before it became the fast food takeaway alley that we see today. This means where we see a Chinese takeaway or a Nepalese food specialist today, there, deep down in the back rooms, could have once stood a medieval tailor or bakery, or maybe a shop specialising in hats. Hats were the thing back then.


To anyone not in the know, these bollards are a bizarre sight, standing outside the nail bar or the chip shop along the length of the street, but we will see this tower later in the series, as it is still standing guard over the now empty grounds of the Bishop's Palace.


Here is a tiled shop front conveniently dated by the artist of those blue sheep in 1921. This was more than likely a butcher's shop until quite recently.


Today it is more Sriracha than Scrag End.


Lamb scrag, also known as lamb scrag end or neck of lamb, is a cut of lamb taken from the top of the neck. Lamb scrag is one of the least expensive cuts of meat, but it does not lack flavour by any means! If cooked correctly it makes a great addition to a stew or casserole.


The Nepalese Gurkha restaurant and the furniture shop next door are a Grade 2 listed building, with the remains of a fine and rare c1830s shopfront: 3 reeded Ionic columns support an entablature with projecting fascia with moulded cornice.


It's a Greek Temple of retail in miniature.



Further along Winner Street is The Oldenburg, below. Named after Peter ll, Duke of Oldenburg 1853-1900, it is said that there is evidence that an inn has existed on this site since 1688.


Called the "Ship Inn" at least as far back as 1688, and then the "Hero of the Nile" in honour of Nelson from 1798-1808, it reverted to the "Ship". It was renamed the Oldenburg Inn "in recognition of Peter, Grand Duke of Oldenburg. Peter II was the reigning Grand Duke of Oldenburg from 1853 to 1900. The Duke was a frequent visitor to Torbay, and is pictured on the inn sign.


In July 1850, Prince Peter of Oldenburg and his wife Princess Therese and their eight children came to Torbay and stayed for many months in the secluded terraced Villa Borghese on the hillside overlooking the bay.


Eventually, other Russian families came to Torquay including the Romanoffs, who on spending holidays here, chose to lease and stay at the mansion Villa Syracrusa on Daddyhole Plain Road. This property, sitting 200ft above sea level, enjoyed magnificent views of Torbay and many members of the Russian aristocracy including HIH the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia stayed here in the years to 1867.





A nice bit of Art Deco has crept in down a side street. This is now a major supermarket on the ground floor.


Meanwhile upstairs, Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore have come to visit.




Having reached the other end of Winner Street, I can now tell you about the signs. I parked in The Rose and Crown Car Park behind Winner Street and there is a small alleyway through to the car park.


Someone has unofficially called it Sign Walk and a community project has decorated the alley with murals and mosaics. It has been sponsored by the council and children from several schools have taken part.



But there are other signs in Winner Street, so I have saved those until last. I can't find out why they are here or who put them here but they are a highlight of the stroll down this historic thoroughfare. Outside several of the businesses are metal sculptures displaying the wares of the shop below, although some no longer relate to the existing business. This, I believe is something that was commonly done in medieval times when the majority of the public were illiterate and when shops didn't have large display windows. The signs indicated the type of business inside.


Not just a Gingerbread Man, but a rolling pin too.


I'm not sure about the meaning of the grasshopper but traditionally it is a symbol of abundance and wealth. Martin's Bank which later became Barclays at one time used the grasshopper as its logo.



The Golden Lily Chinese Restaurant is still trading.



This was originally a Hardware Shop.




At the very end of the street is this memorial to the late Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee in 2002. Maybe the shop signs date from that same period.



At the end of the alley you can tell that this area is still a work in progress. This building is a former grain store. On the other side of the car park where I will be in Part 2 is the really old Paignton and we should see the tower I mentioned here and find out more about its history.


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5 Comments


Laurence Orrell
Laurence Orrell
Mar 01

Really enjoyed your photos and stories. I lived in Torquay for a while and always suspected that Paignton has a treasure trove of hidden historical gems, especially after visiting the parish church and Kirkham House which I was lucky to find open one day. Many thanks!

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Unknown member
Feb 13, 2023

Loved the murals and the signs. Some what sad that the pavement and the structures are not being kept up. Another enjoyable tour.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Feb 13, 2023
Replying to

Yes, parts of the town are undergoing major change at the moment. We'll see what happens.

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John Durham
John Durham
Feb 13, 2023

I love that juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern - you capture it so well. So much to in the story, left to the imagination of the viewer. A rich experience, indeed.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Feb 13, 2023
Replying to

Thanks John. The best is yet to come on this series.

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