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Teignmouth ( , ) is a town in Devonmarker, Englandmarker, situated on the north bank of the estuary mouth of the River Teign. In 1690, it was the last place in England to be invaded by a foreign power. The town grew from a fishing port associated with the Newfoundland cod industry to a fashionable resort of some note in Georgian times, with further expansion after the opening of the South Devon Railway in 1846. Today, its port still operates and the town remains a popular seaside holiday location.


To 1700

The first record of Teignmouth (as Tengemuða, meaning mouth of the stream) was in 1044. There were originally two villages, East and West Teignmouth, separated by a stream called the Tame. Neither village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but East Teignmouth was granted a market by charter in 1253 and one for West Teignmouth followed just a few years later.

Documents indicate that Teignmouth as a whole was a significant port by the early 14th century, second in Devon only to Dartmouthmarker. It was significant enough to have been attacked by the French in 1340 and to have sent seven ships and 120 men to the expedition against Calais in 1347. However its relative importance waned during the 15th century, and did not figure at all in an official record of 1577. This may have been due to silting up of the harbour caused by the operations of the tin miners on Dartmoor.

During the 17th century, in common with other Channel ports, Teignmouth ships suffered from raids from Dunkirkers, which operated as privateers from Flemish ports. It is possible that smuggling was the town's most significant trade at this time, though cod fishing in Newfoundland was also of great importance.

In July 1690, after the French admiral Anne Hilarion de Tourville defeated an Anglo-Dutch fleet at the Battle of Beachy Headmarker, the French fleet was anchored in Torbaymarker and some of the galley fleet travelled the short distance up the coast and attacked Teignmouth. A petition to the Lord Lieutenant from the inhabitants described the incident:

After examining 'creditable persons' the Justices of the Peace concluded that:

As a result of this statement The Crown issued a church brief that authorised the collection of £11,000 for the aid of the town. Churches from as far afield as Yorkshire contributed, and the collections enabled the further development of the port.

This was the last invasion of England, (though not of Britain as the French invaded Carreg Gwastadmarker, near Fishguardmarker, Pembrokeshire in 1797). French Street with its museum is named in memory of the occasion.

1700 to present

In the late 18th century, privateering was popular in Teignmouth, as it was in other Westcountry ports. In 1779 the French ship L'Emulation together with her cargo of sugar, coffee and cotton was offered for sale at "Rendle's Great Sale Room" in the town. Teignmouth people also fitted out two privateers of their own: the Dragon with 16 guns and 70 men; and the Bellona, described as carrying "16 guns, 4 cohorn and 8 swivels". The Bellona set sail on her first cruise in September 1779, and was "oversett in a violent Gust of Wind" off Dawlishmarker with the loss of 25 crew members.

The Newfoundland fisheries continued to provide the main employment into the early 19th century and, fortuitously for the town, as those fisheries declined the prospect of tourism arose. A tea house was built on the Den in 1787 amongst the local fishermen's drying nets. The "Amazons of Shaldon"—muscular women who pulled fishing nets and were "naked to the knee"—were an early tourist attraction for male tourists.
By 1803 Teignmouth was called a "fashionable watering place", and the resort continued to develop during the 19th century. Its two churches were rebuilt soon after 1815 and in the 1820s the first bridge across the estuary to Shaldon was built; George Templer's New Quay opened at the port; and the esplanade, Den Crescent and the central Assembly Rooms (later the cinema) were laid out. The railway arrived in 1846 and the pier was built 1865-7.

A version of the legend of the Parson and Clerk dating back to 1900 tells the tale of the Bishop of Exeter visiting Teignmouth and whilst being guided by a local priest, the devil turns them both to stone, which is seen in the form of two stacks.

The First World War had a disruptive effect on Teignmouth, as elsewhere: over 175 men from the town lost their lives and many businesses did not survive. In the 1920s as the economy started to recover, a new golf course was opened on Little Haldonmarker; the Morgan Giles shipbuilding business was established, and charabancs took employees and their families for annual outings to Dartmoormarker and elsewhere. By the 1930s the town was again thriving, and with the Haldon Aerodrome and School of Flying nearby, Teignmouth was advertised as the only south coast resort offering complete aviation facilities.

During the Second World War Teignmouth suffered badly from "tip and run" air raids. It was bombed 21 times between July 1940 and February 1944 – in these raids 79 people were killed and 151 wounded; 228 houses were destroyed and over 2,000 damaged. Teignmouth's hospital was bombed during a raid on 8 May 1941, killing three nurses and seven patients. It was completely rebuilt and reopened in September 1954, making it the first complete general hospital in the country to be built after the formation of the National Health Service.

The New Quay at Teignmouth in 1827 with a large crane and blocks of cut granite ready for transshipment.

The port

The port of Teignmouth, in existence since the 13th century, is still active, mostly handling clay, timber and grain.

The first quay ("Old Quay") was built in the mid-18th century on land leased from Lord Clifford. The opening of the Stover Canalmarker by James Templer in 1792 provided a boost to the port due to the ease with which ball clay could be transported from the mines north of Newton Abbotmarker. After coming down the canal the barges continued down the estuary to the port. By 1820 this trade was supplemented by granite from the quarries near Haytormarker on Dartmoor carried via the unique granite-tracked Haytor Granite Tramwaymarker which linked up with the Stover Canal. The granite that was used to build the New London Bridge came via this route and was sent from the New Quay, which had been built for this traffic in 1821-25 by George Templer, James's son.

The Old Quay was sold to George Hennet in 1850 and became the centre of his trading network. It had been connected to the South Devon Railway the previous year.

Until 1852 Teignmouth was legally part of the Port of Exeter. In September of that year, after many years of campaigning (latterly under the leadership of George Hennet), the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury finally agreed that Teignmouth should have its independence and this news was the cause of much celebration in the town.

Teignmouth also has a long tradition of shipbuilding, from at least the 17th century. By the turn of the 19th century there were three shipyards in Teignmouth itself, and three in Shaldon and Ringmore on the other side of the estuary. The industry declined in the early 20th century, but in 1921 Morgan Giles bought the last derelict shipbuilding yard and gave the industry a new stimulus. His shipyard became a major employer in the town, building pleasure craft in peacetime and small craft such as torpedo boats during World War II. However, the business eventually failed in 1968 not long after Donald Crowhurst's notorious attempt to sail around the world.

Teignmouth Harbour from New Quay
Teignmouth Harbour from Shaldon
Teignmouth from Shaldon River Beach‎

Shaldon Bridge

A Broad Gauge Train leaving Teignmouth with Shaldon Bridge and the Ness in the background, circa 1854
Shaldon Bridge in 1830s
Shaldon Bridge today
The original bridge was owned by the Teignmouth and Shaldon Bridge Company and opened on 8 June 1827. It had 34 wooden arches and was 1,671 feet long, which made it the longest wooden bridge in England when built. It had abutment walls of a considerable length at either end, and a swing bridge at the Teignmouth end to allow sailing ships to pass up the estuary. It cost around £19,000 to build, but the overall expenditure was about £26,000 due to the costs of the necessary Act of Parliament and the purchase of the old ferry-rights. Toll houses were built at each end of the bridge, and the one on the Teignmouth side still survives.

After only eleven years, on 27 June 1838 the centre arches of the bridge collapsed, the timbers being eaten through by shipworms. It was rebuilt in wood and reopened in 1840, but it partially collapsed again in 1893. The bridge was completely rebuilt between 1927 and 1931, using steel for the piers and main girders and concrete for most of the deck, except for the opening span which used timber.

On 28 October 1948 Devon County Council bought the bridge from the Shaldon Bridge Company for £92,020 and tolls were abolished. The original paintwork was inadequate to deal with the environment, and repairs were required in 1960 and in 1980. In 1998 it was discovered that the bridge had severe structural defects and work to correct this continued until 2002, the bridge remaining open throughout. After this work was completed, residents nearby noticed that in certain wind conditions the bridge "whistles". the problem had not been solved.

Wood recovered from the bridge during 19th-century rebuilding was used to make a large table which was displayed at Lindridge House until it was destroyed in the fire which immediately followed that house's conversion into a hotel.


Approaching Teignmouth with Sprey Point in the background, October 1970
Teignmouth railway stationmarker, which opened in 1846, is close to the town centre. It lies between the stations of Dawlishmarker and Newton Abbotmarker on the Great Western Main Line between London Paddingtonmarker and Penzancemarker in Cornwall.

The line built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel runs along the South Devon Railway sea wallmarker which is a stone embankment between the sea and cliffs that runs for several miles between Teignmouth and Dawlish Warrenmarker. This line was originally both broad gauge and worked by the atmospheric system, with steam pump houses at regular intervals to create the vacuum. It was not successful for a host of reasons and was converted to normal steam locomotive working.
Teignmouth station in the 1970s
Redundant sections of the atmospheric railway pipes were used as drains all over Teignmouth. One was set in the roadside in Woodway Lane, near Woodway Housemarker.

In December 1852 a large landslip from the cliffs east of the town caused the railway to close for four days, and in 1855 and 1859 the sea broke through the line at Teignmouth. There have been many more closures since, caused both by landslips from the cliffs and breaches by the sea, especially in winter. The sea wall between Teignmouth and Dawlish is still the most expensive stretch of line to maintain of the whole British railway network. In 1936 the Great Western Railway surveyed an inland deviation between Exminstermarker and Bishopsteigntonmarker and a shorter route starting near Dawlish Warren, but the advent of World War 2 brought these projects to an end.


The town is located on the north bank of the mouth of the estuary of the River Teign, at the junction of the A379 coast road, the A381 road to Newton Abbotmarker, and the B3192 which climbs up to the A380 on Haldonmarker. Teignmouth is linked to Shaldonmarker, the village on the opposite bank, by a passenger ferry at the river mouth and by a road bridge further upstream. The red sandstone headland on the Shaldon side called "The Ness" is the most recognisable symbol of the town from the seaward side.

In the harbour area is the Salty, a small flat island created through dredging operations. Salmon nets are still employed by locals, especially near Shaldon Bridge.


Teignmouth is situated on the coast of Devonmarker, a peninsula of South West England. It has a mild maritime climate. Prevailing winds across the south-west of England are from the west. Teignmouth lies to the east of Dartmoormarker, in a lee with mean temperatures 3–4 °C (5–7 °F) higher and less than 50% of the rainfall of Princetownmarker, which is located on Dartmoor. It receives less precipitate per year than nearby Plymouthmarker, which is located on the south-west coast of Devon.

Due to its close proximity to the sea Teignmouth has warmer winters with less frost and snow, as well as cooler summers compared to other low-lying areas of southern England. January is usually the coldest month in Britainmarker, however, sea temperatures usually reach their minimum temperature in late February, which effects Teignmouth's climate making February its coldest month. The first air frost in Teignmouth usually occurs in late November or early December, whereas midland areas of Englandmarker have air frosts as early as September.

Snow is rare during the start of the winter season in December. Late autumn and early winter is the wettest time of the year, because sea temperatures are still relatively high and deep Atlantic depressions bring moist air across the South West. On average, July is the driest month, but summer thunderstorms can occasionally deposit more than the month's mean rainfall in one day. Teignmouth has average daily sunshine totals of over 7 hours in summer and around 2 hours in winter. Sunshine totals reflect the hours of daylight and the fluctuations of the Azores high, which is most powerful in summer.


The esplanade with Den Crescent and the Assembly Rooms behind, circa 1860.
Den Crescent and its central Assembly Rooms, laid out in 1826 by Andrew Patey of Exeter, still survive relatively unchanged today. The Assembly Rooms were the hub of the town's social life in the 19th century and lavish balls took place in the long ballroom. In 1871, the building was taken over by the East Devon and Teignmouth Club which had an exclusive membership taken from the gentry and professional middle class. In 1934 it was converted into the Riviera Cinema, in which guise it continued until 2000; part of the building has now been converted into flats.

The town has a rather unusual parish church in the shape of the octagonal St. James's church. Another example of this rare church design is now called Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church (formerly Dreghorn and Percetonmarker) in North Ayrshire, Scotland. A story from Cornwallmarker suggests why these churches are rounded, for villagers in the village of Veryanmarker built several circular houses so that the Devil had no corners in which to lie in wait for unsuspecting occupants and these buildings were therefore 'Devil-proof.' St Michael the Archangel church is in the east of the town.

St. Scholastica's Abbey, on the road to Dawlish, built in 1864 by Henry Woodyer is a notable Gothic Revival building, and the Roman Catholic Church, on the same road, is a late work by Joseph Hansom, the inventor of the hansom cab.

In 1894, there were 26 public houses in Teignmouth. Pubs today include the Blue Anchor Inn on Teign Street and the Devon Arms on Northumberland Place.
Teignmouth from The Ness

The town today

In 2005, the volunteer Teignmouth Regeneration Project in association with the town, district and county councils published a strategic plan that identifies issues to be dealt with by 2015. Among the issues listed are to develop quality tourism, alleviate the danger of flooding to the town and provide affordable housing.

In Teignmouth there is a lack of winter centres and places for teens to go. The council have recently put a survey out to the people about what they should do with the money they received and plan to do with "The Rowdens" and this is going through Teignmouth Community College.


Teignmouth sea front
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 Teignmouth Piermarker with amusement arcade and rides, 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, and has views up the estuary to Dartmoormarker. An long waymarked route known as the Templer Way has been created between Haytormarker on Dartmoor and Teignmouth. It closely follows the route of George Templer's granite tramwaymarker, his father James's Stover Canalmarker and finally the estuary to Teignmouth.

Teignmouth Carnival is held during the last week of July with the procession on the last Friday, and since 1999 the town has hosted a summer folk festival. In 2005 Fergus O'Byrne and Jim Payne from Newfoundlandmarker were the 'headline' artists at that year's festival which celebrated the town's links with that region.


The local secondary school, Teignmouth Community Collegemarker, gets high GCSE results with 2007 graduates getting some of the highest in the country and the college is now ranked top 30% of all secondary schools in England and Wales. It was formed as a merger of two older schools, Teignmouth Grammar School and Teignmouth Secondary Modern School. There is also a sixth form. There is also Our Lady and St Patrick catholic primary school, and the Hazeldown and Inverteign non-denominational primary schools.


The town is the home of Teignmouth A.F.C. whose first team currently play in the South West Peninsula League and reserves play in the South Devon League division five. The town is also the home of Teignmouth R.F.C. with the 1st XV playing in the Cornwall & Devon League.

The Den Bowling Club situated on the sea front is the home of the Teignmouth Open Bowls Tournament.

Teignmouth Shotokan Karate Club was established in 1984 and trains twice weekly at Teignmouth Community College. Also some of the local Tae Kwon Do black belts have been selected to perform in front of Desmond Tutu, 25,000 people, a member of England's royal family and secretary general of the U.N.

The seafront benefits from Teignmouth Lido, a public open-air heated swimming pool. This is one of three pools operated by Teignbridge District Council. The others are at Buckfastleigh and Ashburton.

Notable people associated with the town

East Teignmouth in the mid 19th century.
Fanny Burney, the diarist and novelist, visited Teignmouth several times in the late 18th century. She took her first dip in the sea here in 1773, as she recorded in her journal. Elias Parish Alvars, the harpist, was born in East Teignmouth in 1808, and three years later Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt, vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist, was born at Woodway Housemarker. In spring 1818 the poet John Keats spent several weeks in Teignmouth and completed his epic poem Endymion here. His arrival coincided with a period of wet weather and he wrote to a friend of "the abominable Devonshire Weather ... the truth is, it is a splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, muddy, slipshod county."

From 1812 until his death in 1833, Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth had his home at Bitton House, which was then called West Cliff House. Meanwhile, Thomas Luny, the painter of seascapes, lived in the town for thirty years until his death in 1837 and executed over 2,200 paintings while living here. Shortly afterwards George Hennet, the railway engineer and contractor who was closely involved with Brunel's railway, moved to the town and took a close interest in local affairs. He died here in 1857. Charles Babbage (1791–1871), the mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, who originated the idea of a programmable computer, also lived here for some years.

More recently, the Norman Wisdom film, Press for Time, in which Norman becomes a reporter at the seaside town of Tinmouth, was shot largely on location in Teignmouth in 1966. A bus and bicycle chase shows many scenes of the town centre and sea front as it was at the time. The Riviera Cinema was used as a film post-production house for showing that day's film rushes to cast & crew. In 1967, The Beatles stayed one night at The Royal Hotel on the seafront at the start of their filming of the Magical Mystery Tour. The next year, on 31 October 1968, Donald Crowhurst, competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, started his ill-fated attempt to sail round the world single-handed from the town. His boat was a trimaran named the Teignmouth Electron after the town and his electronics company.

Teignmouth and popular music

In popular music, all the members of the rock band Muse attended school at Teignmouth Community Collegemarker in the early 1990s. They performed two homecoming shows in the town on September 4th and 5th, 2009.

British singer Patrick Wolf wrote a song titled after this town which he published on his second studio album Wind in the Wires in 2005.


  1. Griffiths 1989, p.24
  2. Trump 1986, p.1
  3. Trump 1986, pp.2–3
  4. Trump 1986, p.3
  5. Trump 1986, pp.5–6
  6. Trump 1986, p.18
  7. Trump 1986, p.19
  8. Gray 2003, p.96
  9. (Text available online at the Devon Libraries Local Studies Service.)
  10. Trump 1986, p.108
  11. Trump 1986, pp.46–48
  12. Trump 1986, p.27
  13. Griffiths 1989, p.129
  14. Carrington 1830
  15. Carrington 1830, pp.36–37
  16. Griffiths 1989, p.91
  17. Gray 2003, p.126
  18. Hawkins 1988, p.78
  19. Hawkins 1988, p.95
  20. Mitchell and Smith 2000, caption 77
  21. Gray 2003, p.128
  22. Mitchell and Smith 2000, "Diversions" p.4 (unnumbered)
  23. The AA Book of British Villages. Drive Publications. 1980. p.394.
  24. Gray 2003, p.41


Further reading

  • Adshead S D (1945) Report to the urban district council on improvement and development after the war. Teignmouth Urban District Council.
  • Andrews, G. J & Kearns R. A. (2005) Everyday health histories and the making of place: the case of an English coastal town.
  • Andrews G J, Kearns R A, Kontos P, Wilson V (2006) “Their finest hour”: older people, oral histories and the historical geography of social life.
  • Spratt, Thomas (1856). An Investigation of the Movements of Teignmouth Bar. Pub. London.
  • Through the Window. Number 1 - Paddington to Penzance (1924). Great Western Railway. Paddington station. Price 1s.
  • Wilson V (2000) Teignmouth at War: 1939-1945, Wilson Teignmouth.
  • Wilson V (2002) Teignmouth: Frith's photographic town memories. Frith Book Company, Teffont.
  • Social and Cultural Geography 7, 2, 153-177
  • Social Science and Medicine 60, 2697-2713

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