20 Interesting facts about Torbay and South Devon you may not know...

Torquay beach today
(Last Updated On: September 2, 2016)

South Devon is a place steeped in history and fascinating events; we all know about Agatha Christie and William of Orange landing in Brixham- but there is so much more hidden information which emphasises just how special a place South Devon is to live.

  • In order to claim you are from Devon, you must have 3 generations of your family buried in a church graveyard.
  • Torquay’s original name was Torrequay, then it was Torkay, next it was Torkey, it then became known as Tor Quay, before finally joining the words together to make Torquay.
  • In the Domesday book, Brixham (then known as Briseham) only had a population of 39.
  • The former British Prime Minister James Callaghan attended Furzeham Primary School.
  • 16 million Americans can trace their lineage back to that iconic journey on the Mayflower- which set off in Plymouth in 1620.
  • Houdini asked Devonport Naval Base to make a box that he could not escape from, the carpenters set to work and thought they had created and impenetrable box- but Houdini escaped within 12 minutes.
  • The Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter is the oldest in the UK- with some parts dating back to the 1500s.
  • Splashdown QuayWest in Paignton is the UK’s largest outdoor waterpark.
  • J K Rowling and Will Young attended Exeter University.
  • Dartmouth is home to the oldest working steam train in the world, dating back to the late 18th century.
  • Chris Martin, Coldplay frontman, was born and raised in Exeter. 
  • A human jawbone found in Kent’s Cavern is the oldest human fossil in North-West Europe. 
  • Totnes is the second oldest borough in England and is traceable back to 1200 BC, when Brutus of Troy landed in England (the legendary first king of England). 
  • The yearly Totnes Orange Races are widely considered to be inspired by when Sir Francis Drake bumped into a boy delivering oranges and they rolled down that same steep hill. 
  • The Wrigley’s factory, situated in Plymouth, produces approximately 3 million packets of chewing gum per day. 
  • The Watersports of the 1948 Summer Olympics were held in Torquay. 
  • St Leonard’s tower in the middle of Newton Abbot town is all that remains of a medieval chapel, dating back to 1220, as the chapel of St Leonard was demolished in 1836.
  • Teignmouth endured disruptive and deadly air raids during World War Two, between July 1940 and February 1944. In total, 79 people were killed, 151 people were wounded, 228 homes were destroyed and a further 2,000 were damaged; this was all carried out over the course of 21 bombings.
  • Berry Pomeroy castle is now a famous ruin and John Prince (who knew the castle when it was occupied by the Seymours) said in his book ‘The Worthies of Devon’ (written in 1697) – ‘…The apartments within were very splendid; especially the dining room, which was adorn’d, besides paint, with statues and figures cut in alabaster’ ‘‘tis now demolished, and all this glory lieth in the dust…’.
  • Sean O Casey- the first playwright of note who wrote about the Dublin working classes, whose works include Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock, lived in Totnes from 1938-1954 and died in Torquay in 1964.

These are just a few of the compelling snippets of information about our lovely area- comment with how many facts you knew or your own knowledge or trivia about the ever- absorbing South Devon.