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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Old Paignton Photo Walk 2

A Brewery, a Jail, a Church, a Palace, a School of Art and a Shopping Mall. The second part of my Paignton walk is not a great distance, but there is a lot to see. So much, in fact, that the church will only get a brief mention as I will come back to that later.

This is one of the ornate lanterns in the churchyard.

We got as far as the end of Winner Street in Part 1 so to start at the beginning click here.

Now we turn off Winner Street into Church Street and this area is quite mixed when it comes to architecture, it boasts some of Paignton's oldest buildings as well as some modern infill and re-purposed old buildings. Today people will live in almost any type of building whatever its past uses. A Victoria Wood joke I remember, when repurposing hit its peak with barn conversions, was her relating an alleged story about some friends who lived in a converted Mill Chimney, "the rooms were very small but they had lovely high ceilings".

Here is the Paignton Royal British Legion. The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-Servicemen that had established themselves after the First World War.

The Royal British Legion was established to care for those who had suffered as a result of service during the First World War. Over six million men had served in the war. Of those who came back, 1.75 million had suffered some kind of disability and half of these were permanently disabled.

The church towers above this area of the town.

It is an area that is attracting some investment but more is needed and it seems to me to have much potential, with a large number of interesting and useful buildings which could be restored.

Chimneys point to a once wealthy area. Each chimney denotes a fireplace and each fireplace needed staff to maintain it, there was no central heating, there were housemaids who carried coal and swept out the ashes. In 1891, the number of British indoor domestic servants was 1.38 million. The upheavals of the First World War, combined with alternative work such as retail and clerical employment for women, saw a dramatic fall in numbers of residential servants. This resulted in a staff problem for those who wanted their home run for them, and to be fair homes were designed to need staff. Books were even written as a result, see "The One Maid Book of Cookery".

Western Morning News - Thursday 18 August 1938


Mr. George Nathaniel Forbes, Whitecote, Fisher-street. Paignton, 'died on July 20 last, aged 81 years, leaving estate of the gross value of £33,955...........

..........£1,000 to Edith Murch, housekeeper, if still in his service, or otherwise £500; £400 to Ellen Toms, servant, if still in his service, or otherwise £200; his dog to Ellen Toms;

Mr Forbes obviously thought very highly of both his housekeeper and his maid as £1000 amounts to £50,000 in today's value and £400 is the equivalent of £20,000. He even went to the trouble of adding that they were still to be remembered even if they no longer worked for him at his death which is extraordinary. Not all servants were as valued as these.

Western Times - Tuesday 03 September 1918

Paignton Servant Caught Chewing a Treasury Note

Maddelin Taylor admitted stealing a £1 note from her employer. Emily Darke, on August 24th. When tackled by the police, she denied the theft, but appeared to be chewing something, which turned out to be a 10s note. She then admitted taking the £1 note, having spent the balance.—Replying to the Bench the girl said she wanted shoes, but Supt. Crooke said she spent her evenings dancing at Torquay.—lt being the first offence; Taylor was ordered to repay 10s (the note being negotiable), and bound her over for six months.

This pub is quite highly rated on Trip Advisor and is a traditional old fashioned "local".

I particularly liked this review.

"Called in here for a quick pint before going into the Chinese opposite place was packed band were Brill bar staff were friendly ended up having 3 pints deffo be returning". Rabjohns.

Deffo- For those not familiar with the slang means definitely. Exclamation. British informal. definitely: an expression of agreement or consent.

The Coach House was formerly the London Inn, a listed 18th century building. Made from the local distinctive red Breccia stone we have seen much of in the local architecture, with much more to come.

Western Times - Saturday 09 June 1860


A Hard Case.—A young man named Henry Blatchford was charged by P. C. 119, with negligent driving at Paignton on the 2nd instant. Defendant said he had been drawing coals, and being thirsty, went to the London Inn, to have a pint of cider, and his horse walked off from the door. Fined 6d. with five shillings costs.

This amounted to a day's wages for a skilled man.

..... and here is the Chinese opposite.

At the Honeymoon you can get a....

HAPPY MEAL, Deep Fried Crispy Wonton, Kung Po Chicken, Beef in Black Bean Sauce, Fried Mixed Vegetables, Singapore Chow Mein & Egg Fried Rice for about £30.

My parents honeymooned in Paignton in about 1956, I think it was actually famous for honeymooners then, and Chinese food was definitely not on the menu. My father infamously and regularly told the tale of my mother and he going on the train to Buckfastleigh while on their honeymoon where they missed the last train back. So they hitched a lift in a van belonging to a Pig Inseminator. You can't make this stuff up. Having said that he grew up on a farm so he could probably have helped out in an emergency.

Over the road from the pub is this old brewery which was probably very handy. There is a sharp drop down hill at this point. This is now a private residence, although that downstairs layout due to being on the hill looks quite intriguing. Do you have to crawl at that end of the room on the left?

This was the Gottwaltz and Lind Brewery founded in 1854 which merged with a Cyder works in Crediton in 1890 to become the Torbay Brewery and Cyder Company Ltd. The large warehouse is at the back.

This was later a sports shop called "Running Free" in the 1980's. In 1987 "Running Free" was "The Sports Shop Going Places" and offered Gore-Tex Training suits of "superb quality".

The old warehouse also now houses people and not barrels, barley or hops. More red Breccia walls to savour.

During 1888 Torquay experienced a sustained challenge to established authority. This became known as the Torquay War and, bizarrely, followed the arrival in town of the Salvation Army.

Torquay became a focus for Salvationist activity due to the town’s prohibition of processions accompanied by music on Sundays. In January 1888 Torquay’s police charged a Salvation Army band with infringing these regulations. The Corps Commander, the bandmaster and several bandsmen were fined, but refused to pay and were subsequently jailed. The bandsmen refused to give up the right to play and on 3 February, eleven more were summonsed for the same offence.

A pattern then emerged. The bandsmen played every Sunday, and were then summonsed and often jailed. A regular Torquay event became the musical procession that accompanied prisoners being taken to Exeter prison, and then to welcome them on their return.

Totnes Weekly Times - Saturday 05 May 1888

PAIGNTON. Charles Fudge and John Tancock. apprentices, and who are members of the Paignton Salvation Army “Brass Band," were each fined 40s on Monday last, by the Torquay Magistrates for taking part in a procession at Torquay, on Sunday, March 25th last. Evidence was given that both defendants played brass instruments contrary the 37th Clause of the Torquay Harbour Act.

Express and Echo - Friday 25 May 1888

THE SALVATION ARMY AT PAIGNTON. The release of Charles Fudge and John Tancock, the two Paignton men, who were convicted of taking part in a procession at Torquay, and went to Exeter Gaol for three weeks, was made the occasion of a demonstration last night. The men arrived in the afternoon, and by the seven o'clock train a considerable contingent came over from Torquay, including Miss Eva Booth. A procession formed in the station yard, including the band, and marched to the barracks in Princes street, where a meeting was held, the room being nearly filled Fuge related his prison experience, and expressed his readiness to go to gaol again if necessary. Very few references were made to the prosecutions, the addresses being of a more general character. Miss Booth, John Peake, of Torquay, Captain Hopkins, and others spoke, and a collection was made at the close.

Enter William and Catherine Booth’s young daughter, the irrepressible Evangeline Cory Booth (1865-1950).

At 15 years of age Evangeline was a sergeant selling the Army’s paper ‘The War Cry’ in the slums of east London. In 1887, she became the officer of the corps in Marylebone, where there was very strong opposition to the Salvation Army. Wherever trouble threatened, William Booth’s solution was, “Send Eva!” The ‘Torquay War’, as it was known, carried on for six months before the Salvationists won and the law was changed.

Paignton Clink, last used in 1867. "An Almost Unique Mediaeval Lock-Up for Petty Offenders". Grade 2 listed by English Heritage. More red Breccia, this time 18th century or even earlier.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Wednesday 29 October

OLD PAIGNTON. THE BISHOPS PALACE. We gave last week the first portion of an article describing a visit paid by members and friends of the Exeter Diocesan Architectural and Archaeological Society to Paignton. It dealt mainly with the church, the Kirkham monument, and the bells. After leaving the church the visitors inspected the ancient clink, lock-up. This consists of a low building with walls and roof of stone. It has two compartments. The last occupant committed suicide by hanging. Some time ago it was in danger of destruction. The Rev. C. Sherwin (Rector Clyst Hydon and Hon. Secretary of the Society) got into touch with the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, and on its representations the Urban Council took measures to ensure the safety of the structure, which has been also enclosed.

St. John the Baptist or more commonly called The Paignton Parish Church has a long history. Originally a wooden structure, for which some remains have been discovered below ground, it was rebuilt in stone after the Norman invasion in about 1100. That church was rebuilt in 1250 and it is that third church which we see today.

Just as a taster for my later post looking at the church in more detail I am previewing only one of the highlights. Separated from the nave by a stone screen and an entranced doorway, the 15th century Kirkham chantry is also known as St Michael’s Chapel.

Right next to the churchyard is a walkway edged with the high walls of the former Bishop's Palace, home of the Bishop of Exeter.

The boundary wall is all that remains of the palace along with this tower which adjoins the wall structure.

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great works of architecture and displays of decoration. Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated, containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls, chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or courtyards. The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century.

The Bishop's Palace in Tower Road in Paignton survives as a clearly defined walled area with part of its medieval walling still standing, as well as a corner tower of the 14th century still standing to its full height.

The Bishop's Palace at Paignton with its surviving curtain walling and largely undisturbed interior, together with the ruins identified as a chapel attached to the palace, provides a well-preserved example of this class of monument. The corner tower survives and is Listed Grade II*.

You will probably be getting bored of red Breccia by now, personally I love it, particularly where it has weathered over hundreds of years.

The crenelated curtain wall as it stands represents a number of different builds and repairs with the earliest walling examined dated to the 14th century. The curtain wall was proved to have incorporated existing buildings within its circuit.

If you have seen Part 1 of my Photo Walk you will recognise the tower as being the basis for the design of the traffic bollards along Winner Street.

This tower, which is variously called the Bible Tower or Coverdale Tower, is so named after Bishop Miles Coverdale whose translation of the Bible was mistakenly thought to have been undertaken whilst he was in residence at Paignton; it was later shown to have been completed in Antwerp some years before he became Bishop of Exeter. The tower, which is built of random breccia rubble which matches the curtain wall, is believed to have been built in the mid- to late 14th century, probably within a few years of the curtain wall.

Torquay Times, and South Devon Advertiser - Friday 19 June 1891


I seem to tread the precincts of this yard,

And broken pathway to this ruined pile

And ancient tower, as if some sacred bard

Or pious monk still trod along its aisle,

Chanting their Paternoster to beguile

Their cold and cheerless path or virgin hour

In counting beads, or matins pure or vile,

Till looking up I see its roofless bower -

The only fabric left, this ivy-mantled tower.

If it be true, no legendary tale,

Centuries past, along this rugged floor

That good old man and scholar, Coverdale,

Strod with reverent mien. I would adore,

If not idolatry, the dust that bore

Such a kingly saint and honoured name,

Who gave us in our mother tongue the law

Of God's most sacred Book. Oh, England, Shame !

If e'er your Liberty become your captive chain.

Paignton. SB.

Totnes Weekly Times - Saturday 06 July 1889

THE PRESERVATION OP THE OLD PALACE TOWER. A deputation waited on the Board with reference to the preservation of the Old Tower on the Palace Orchard at Paignton, and asked that the Board would purchase the ground, in order that the Tower might not be destroyed.

Captain Hodge said last week there was a report in Paignton that the Old Palace Tower, with the ground adjoining, would,in all probability, pass into speculative hands, and certain gentlemen called on him as the chairman of the Board, and asked him call a meeting which he did. The meeting took place on Saturday, between 40 and 50 being present, and it was resolved that in the opinion of the ratepayers present The Palace Orchard and Tower, should be preserved for the benefit of the town, and made into public grounds, and used for some public purposes......

Next to the Bishop's Palace is this unremarkable looking row of former houses. I noticed a Blue Plaque of 2003 on the first house just hidden away under the glass canopy. The plaque claims it is now a surgery although that may not be the case any more. The row of four homes was built in 1857 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for "the doctor, architect, engineer and supplies manager of the South Devon Railway.

One of the houses is occupied by a dance studio.

This is probably a good time to display a couple of maps, the early one from the late 1880's and the later one from the 1960's. What is interesting is the change in size of Paignton in that relatively short time. The change of course is a result of that very railway. With the arrival of the railway, Paignton went from having a small fishing harbour bottom right to being a mass tourism destination with all that follows.

Here are the four railway houses above built on the former Palace site, set in an orchard with views of open country and farmland. On the right is the railway they were responsible for and in between was marshland and sand dunes all of the way to the beach.

Then came modern Paignton more like the one we know today.

Just further along Bishop's Place is the old School of Art and Science, today Paignton Community College. It's nice to see an old building still fulfilling its original purpose. The datestone is 1908 while the style is 17th century. It is a grade 2 listed building. Rusticated red breccia with red brick and freestone and some terracotta dressings.

The date above the door is topped by the Palace Tower and flanked by symbols of art and science. My symbol recognition favours the arts rather than the sciences but I can spot a palette and paint brushes, a mahl stick, a mallet and chisels, a canvas stretcher with wedges and a picture frame. On the science side I can see some sciency bits and pieces, dividers, glass apparatus, and scales with various weights, and a pestle and mortar. The laurel wreath represents knowledge and learning and when you have the knowledge, and you have learned what there is to learn, you have a laureate bestowed upon you.

On the right side of the building are sgraffito panels that extend the full length of the building. These illustrate respectively Applied Design, Sculpture, Painting and Architecture.

Totnes Weekly Times - Saturday 03 October 1908



For a long time past and more especially during the past year or two, Paignton with a steadily increasing population has sadly been in want of a suitable building for a school of Science and Art ............ In the meantime a palatial and exceedingly well situated building was erected in Bishop's-Place, being practically the centre of the town, but at the same time away from the bustle and vibration of traffic in the main street ....... Art Master, Mr. A. G. Wallis, has volunteered to fill same with magnificent design in Sgraffito work. The portion already done gives good idea of the artistic result which will be obtained. The executing of the panel is a big undertaking, and has necessitated the preparation of a large number of cartoons, which has kept Mr. Wallis very busy during his summer holidays. Mrs Wallis has also rendered great assistance, and as far as can be judged at present, it will form one the finest of this class of decoration in the West of England.

The sgraffito panels are said to have been influenced by the sgraffito work on the Royal College of Organists, Kensington. They are a rare example of English external sgraffito work. They were in poor condition at time of survey (1991) but there are plans to repair them.

Thirty two years later it seems those plans have not come to fruition yet. I managed to get this panoramic blend of photos with a lens distortion, by climbing to the top of the next door fire escape.

Sgraffito is a technique of wall decor, produced by applying layers of cement plaster tinted in contrasting colours to a moistened surface. Sgraffito and sgraffiti come from the Italian word graffiare (“to scratch”), ultimately from the Greek gráphein “to write”.

Finally by way of contrast and with absolutely no red breccia in sight anywhere we come to The Crossways Shopping Centre, currently being, and by now, possibly already totally demolished. Back in February it was boarded up as the final businesses moved out in August 2022.

Definitely Brutalist in design and definitely unloved and badly maintained until the end, there may well come a time when there are virtually no typical examples of late 20th century architecture left in most of our towns. I have mixed feelings about this as I have not seen a single example so far of a Brutalist building replaced with anything markedly better. Replacements are usually bland in the extreme and almost invisible from the day they open. This is slated to be replaced with sheltered housing above new retail. As a lot of the old neighbouring retail is already empty and now there will be no car park, we'll see how successful they are.

Torbay MP Kevin Foster said: “While sad my offer to lend a hand with demolition work has not yet been taken up, I am delighted the backing from the Government for the Paignton Future High Streets Fund provided the spur to finally deal with this eyesore. Few residents will shed a tear for the loss of this building and regenerating the site will provide much-needed housing and give Paignton Town Centre a major lift.”

Part 3 will take in some more shots of Crossways which will be history by then. We'll also see the oldest purpose built cinema in Europe approaching the end of its restoration, so it's not all tales of demolition.

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John Durham
John Durham
Jul 22, 2023

Wonderful tour, as usual. What really struck me was, oddly enough, the Bishop's Palace.For some reason - it immediately brought the words of an old, old blues song by Son House to mind: "Goin' get me religion, goin' join the Baptist church, goin' get me religion, goin' join the Baptist church, goin' be a Baptist preacher so I don't never have to work." Check it out:

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jul 23, 2023
Replying to

You're educating me. I'd never heard of this guy. Amazing life story and his music quite unique. Really enjoyed listening to this. Thanks. If I am at the palace I will be hearing it too next time.🙂

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