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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Paignton, Town and Harbour

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 07, 2020


I have done a photo walk of Paignton and as before I have divided it into two parts, except previously when I said that it ended up being three parts, so we'll see what happens.

Part one is this one I have called town and harbour and part two will be beach and pier. I didn't even know Paignton had a harbour, as I'd always just thought of it as a holiday resort. There is a more famous fishing port, Brixham just further round the bay.

Paignton is a seaside town on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon, England. Together with Torquay and Brixham it forms the borough of Torbay which was created in 1998. The Torbay area is a holiday destination known as the English Riviera. It has origins as a Celtic settlement and was first mentioned in 1086. It grew as a small fishing village and a new harbour was built in 1847. A railway line was opened to passengers in 1859 creating links to Torquay and London.

Paignton is mentioned in the Domesday Book of AD 1086 as Peintone in the ancient hundred of Kerswell, the name is derived from "Paega" an Anglo-Saxon personal name, "ing" meaning "the people of" and "ton" an enclosure, estate or homestead, the original Anglo-Saxon settlement. Originally, the beach was backed by low sand dunes with marshes behind on the flat land between the sea and the hills behind. The settlement grew up on the dry ground at the foot of the hills, and also as a separate hamlet in the shelter of Roundham Head, which was a fishing settlement. The first church was probably built using wood in the eighth century. In late Saxon times, the manor was owned by Leofric, the Bishop of Exeter, and later bishops built a palace, some remains of which, including the "Coverdale" Tower can be seen to the south of the parish church. Paignton was given the status of a borough having a market and fair in 1294.

Having read all of that amazing history can I just warn you that you are in for a big shock, because the following photos, in particular the second set of the pier, are an assault on the senses. Personally, I think a great refreshing lovely whack in the face of an assault of colour and brash signage and kitsch that is unique to seaside towns of this nature. If I have struck the right note in my choice of images for the pier you should be able to smell the frying of doughnuts and the sweet caramel scents of warm sugar.

The photos of the town are the reflection of the mix of seaside holidays and working harbour. First we parked in a brutalist concrete shopping centre that has seen better days and maybe even it's last. You will have to endure the odd brutalist shot in my posts as I never miss the opportunity to record these great sixties and seventies icons which are fast disappearing. It is usually the same story of lack of investment and upkeep with this type of building and the common end being just a decision to let it crumble to the point where ultimately everyone is keen to see the back of it.

It's been mentioned already that the railway arrived quite early and it still commands it's right of way right through the middle of the town. Just to the left is the preserved steam railway that runs from Paignton to Kingswear, the South Devon Railway, more on that in a railway special at some point.

Now a jaunt down the main route to the sea front.

Jaunt-"a usually short journey or excursion undertaken especially for pleasure, from jaunt (v.) "tire (a horse) by riding back and forth on it, ride hard," and here's a new one "origin unknown", it's not even Middle English which is a really poor show, especially as I haven't even got a horse.

It's best described as "Kiss me quick hat" territory, although I didn't actually see one. I will have a better look on my next visit as there must be one there somewhere.

A kiss-me-quick hat is a British seaside novelty hat, typically bearing the words "Kiss me quick" or "Kiss me quick, squeeze me slow". Culturally, the Daily Telegraph describes them as "one step up from a knotted handkerchief". (Wikipedia)

I think the Daily Telegraph have probably missed the nuance between the two fashion articles. I would suggest that the "kiss me quick hat" is probably responsible for many conceptions of new baby holidaymakers in the 2oth Century, being the sartorial equivalent of flirting, while the knotted handkerchief was probably symbolic of having been there and done that. The sartorial equivalent of "not tonight love, I've got a headache".










As you reach the sea front it is a little greener with open grass areas and small parks and play areas. The ubiquitous Torbay palm is in profusion.

Covid avoiding, moored cruise ships wait out in the bay, here looking from the embankment as if they are sailing on a sea of green. These are the Westerdam and the Volendam.

Sea front hotels compete for the paint chart prize with traditional names aplenty.

There is still a lot of traditional Victorian architecture around, some restored and some with future plans.

It is illegal to sell any food item in Paignton unless it is a fish and fried potato pairing. If you don't like Fish'n'chips you really are in the wrong place, and I wouldn't recommend the word gluten in a negative context as in "gluten free", not unless the word free is being used as a promotion this week, or either of the V words that derive from the word vegetable. Vegetables if available, potatoes excluded, consist of mushy peas which like many traditional British foods are always undersold by their title. Mushy peas done right are excellent.

Why would you not class potatoes as a vegetable? Ask the government, I haven't got a clue. I thought they were good for you and very high in Vitamin C, but if proof were needed that government health rules were more about spoiling your fun than about your health this would be a good example, because when the government order you to eat "5 a day" they don't allow for potatoes being a vegetable. Maybe they are just assuming they don't need to order us to eat chips.

An interesting fact for you non-Brits out there. Fish'n'chips was the only widely eaten food not rationed during World War II. It was the governments top aim in the food ministry that whatever else happened, fish'n'chips would never be rationed and huge measures were taken and many fisherman risked their lives to achieve this aim.

In fact, thinking about it the British government seems to have had a complete volte-face on fish'n'chips, from having a food ministry to ensure we were eating them to TV commercials warning us not to eat them (almost).

Volte-face- More French. A total change of position, as in policy or opinion; an about-face.

Now we get to the harbour. Not very large but seemingly well prepared for fishing boats as witnessed by these new Lobster Pots.

Interestingly they appear to be woven from strips of car tyre, which is a great idea and a novel recycling method. You can still read the writing on the tyre wall. You could say the writing is on the wall for traditional wicker ones.

The writing is on the wall - "This idiom comes from the Biblical story of Belshazzar's feast, Daniel 5:5-31, in which, in the presence of the king, a disembodied hand appears and writes on the palace wall. The king, frightened, called for astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers and offered rewards to whoever could interpret the writing."

Well, I never knew that.

These on the other hand look like they may soon be on the way out. Much repaired and they have seen a lot of undersea action.


Traditional holidaymakers wore their "kiss me quick hats" when canoodling under the pier at dusk.

Canoodle- has to be the word of the day today. "verb (used with or without object), ca·noo·dled, ca·noo·dling. Slang. to caress, fondle, or pet amorously. " It says origin unknown again. But one suggestion is from Central Low German. "derived from a group of words meaning “knob, knot”. Compare Ripuarian Knöddel (“knot”), Middle Dutch knodde (“knob”). "

This is definitely not going where you are thinking it is going. So behave yourselves.

"These words belong to the large group of stems related with Knoten (“knot”). The original sense of the verb is “to embrace tightly”; compare English squeeze in the same sense." Now that is more like it and sounds quite likely.

Now, the modern health conscious holidaymaker canoedles in one of these instead.

Canoedle- To make a fool of oneself in public, wearing a wet suit and carrying a large stick with a big spoon at either end while balancing on a brightly coloured piece of plastic that is a poor substitute for a proper boat with seats and a roof. (Maybepedia)





And here is a view of the pier which we'll see in part two.


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