The Babbacombe & St.Marychurch Area

Including Wellswood, Maidencombe & Plainmoor


Chris Robillard - Editor


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M: 07775 612 154


Alan Enright - Sales


T: 01803 405 266

M: 07813 338 497


Eleanor Stafford - Design


T: 01803 212 805

M: 0777 333 9458

History notes from the 2011 guide:

The Lownds-Pateman Family

Trading in Babbacombe, St Marychurch and Torquay for 90 years.


The Lownds-Pateman name has been associated with Babbacombe since Maurice Lownds-Pateman started his business, a photography, developing and printing service, at 120, Reddenhill Road, Babbacombe in 1921.  Maurice’s parents had moved from Redhill in 1904 to join the Jenkins Marble Company based in Union Street where his father was the Office Manager.

In his Babbacombe shop Maurice hand-tinted local sepia landscapes for souvenirs and hand-stitched organza sachets of Lavender and Pot-Pourri with his locally made red pottery jars filled with Devon Violet Perfume becoming a best seller. From 1936 Maurice also traded as The Pateman Manufacturing Company at 19 Fore Street, St Marychurch (now Van-Martins The Jewellers), but in 1942 he was forced to close the business when new regulations governing the manufacture of perfume came into force.


In 1947, Lownds Pateman Limited was incorporated at Hatfield Road, with Maurice’s son, Leslie, who was born above the shop in Babbacombe in 1924,  as one of the company directors. This was after Leslie had served in the Royal Air Force during the war.


Due to the new restrictions in the amount of lead allowed to be used in the glaze on the pottery jars, the change was made to using glass.  The Devon Wicker Company was formed in 1948 to hand-wicker and cover with raffia glass Devon Violet perfume bottles, and in 1950 the business relocated from Hatfield Road and the shop in Reddenhill Road to Havelock Road, St. Marychurch, previously a chapel and mission hall.  Over 40 years many hundreds of outworkers were taught the skills of raffia and basket work, creating a cottage industry in the area. By the mid 1990s the antiquated design of the Havelock Road factory meant that new premises had to be found and in 1997 the opportunity presented itself when Babbacombe Pottery on the Babbacombe Road, then being run by Philip Laureston Design, went into administration. Sadly, after opening in 1998, with the sad death of Leslie and a market  in decline, Lownds Pateman Limited also went into administration in February 2000.


Leslie was awarded the MBE in 1985 for his community and fund-raising work and died in 1998 aged 74, a Freeman of the Borough of Torbay.


Brian, the third generation of Lownds Patemans, has been trading as The BLP Collection in Torquay since 2001, making hand-painted English Ceramic animals, Devon Violets Perfume and Pot Pourri.


The pottery industry was established in 1869 as the Watcombe Terracotta Clay Company after the discovery of a very rich vein of red clay close to Watcombe House. Potters were drawn from Staffordshire by this exciting find and other companies sprang up, each with their own distinct style and the industry flourished. The Watcombe factory concentrated on Art Pottery, mainly the copying of sculptures from Antiquity, the fashion for which was at its peak towards the end of the 19th century. Their success was virtually guaranteed when Queen Victoria graciously consented to accept a pair of Watcombe Water Bottles as a birthday present from Baroness Burdett-Coutts, one of the wealthiest women in the country, who was living in Torquay at the time. Other famous potteries that opened in the area were Aller Vale, Torquay Pottery, Daison and Longpark (who made most of Pateman’s Devon Violet Perfume jars). Each had their own distinctive designs and patterns and are highly prized by collectors today. Babbacombe Pottery was set up in 1952, St Marychurch Pottery in 1964 and Westcountry Potteries in 1969.  All of these have now closed leaving just Brian Lownds Pateman as the only pottery manufacturer in Torquay.




















The Grant family

The first of the Grant family to be born in St. Marychurch was William Henry Grant, and that was in 1836. William lived here for all of his life, 88 years, and became known as the Grand Old Man of St. Marychurch, being involved in all aspects of local life including last Chairman of the St. Marychurch Urban District Council before its amalgamation into the Borough of Torquay in 1900.  The Watcombe Marble Works was established by Henry’s grandfather, Joseph, in 1836 and continued through the family line, eventually becoming Harry Grant and Sons. On Harry’s death, Godfrey, his brother carried on the business until 1976, when it was purchased by one of Joseph’s great-great-grandsons. It was a major employer, both in Watcombe and for a time in retail shops in Torquay, for many years. Today, the firm is based in Newton Abbot.

From our 2010 guide:


As one of the earliest Christian settlements in the country, the parishes of St. Marychurch (recorded as Sanete Maria Church in old documents) and the neighbouring Coombe Pafford have a long and proud history. It has been speculated that the parish was founded around 690 AD although the earliest recorded documents seem to date from around 1050 AD. These dates are borne out by the Norman (not Saxon as previously thought) Font, still in use in ST. MARYCHURCH PARISH CHURCH today, which dates from before 1100AD.


In the Domesday Book the church is noted as being held by Earl Mortain. It then passed through a number of hands before being bought by Sir George Cary  in 1595.  The Cary family name is one very familiar to the local population as associations with the area are still strong today.

Like many parishes, life for many centuries has centred around the church, and this is the fourth one on the site. In 1859 the 14th century church, no architectural gem apparently, and in a very bad state of repair was rebuilt and completed by 1861. In 1873 the low tower was also rebuilt, as a memorial to Henry Philpotts, Bishop of Exeter (see Town Trail). Sadly, although the tower  was undamaged, the main part of the church was destroyed by a German bomb on Rogatian Sunday in 1943 with the loss of many children and teacher's lives. Subsequent services were then held for a time in the Tudor Cinema (now Bygones). The church was reconsecrated on 8th Dec 1956.

The Free Church at Furrough Cross (now United Reformed Church) came about in 1850 as a protest against new ideas being introduced into the Church of England and compulsory church rates, after a number of parishioners decided to form an Independent Evangelical Church.

There are three main stages to its life: the Free/Independent church years (1852 - 1904), the Congregational church years (1904 - 1972) and the United Reformed church years (1972 onwards).


In October 1942, the church was considerably damaged during the war. As a consequence, services were held in the hall for over six years. It re-opened in 1949 after repairs that cost £5,700.


In November 1971, after the union of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the name changed  to Babbacombe United Reformed Church, according to the new denomination.

Nine years later, Abbey Road and Babbacombe United Reformed, which shared the same minister, joined as one congregation, forming what we know today as FURROUGH CROSS UNITED REFORMED CHURCH.


It was in the spring of 1864 that the Bishop of Plymouth invited Mother Margaret Hallahan and her nuns to found a house in a part of his diocese, and the village of St. Marychurch was proposed as suitable for the establishment of an Orpanage for Girls.  It was 1867 when the newly built orphanage was blessed by the Bishop.  In the same year, on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, Mr William Potts-Chatto of The Daison made a definitive offer to build the votive church which he had promised in thanksgiving to Saint Denis for the recovery of his son from a grave illness.  After many delays the Presbytery and part of the church were completed in 1869.  However it was not until 1878 that work started on building the tower and in February 1881 the completed church was able to be fully opened.  Designed by Joseph hanson it is a fine exampleof Gothic architecture.  On entering the church one is struck by the length of the nave that measures 133ft, an effect enhanced by the narrow and lofty roof and by the pillars supporting the galley at the west end.  In the south aisle is a large crucifix carved by Mr Potts-Chatto himself out of a massive beam that had once formed part of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.


The Dominican Sisters, who were a familiar sight in the village and such a part of the community have been gone for over 25 years and the convent is now Margaret Clitherow House – a residential care home for the elderly.


During 1997 major restoration work was carried out on the church as the soft stone had been wearing away rapidly and rain had been finding its way in.  This work was made possible with a donation from English Heritage and much dedicated fundraising in the community.

Just over 135 years ago a young priest called John Hewitt, an assistant curate at St. Marychurch, had the vision to guide the energies and enthusiasm of his congregation to create a new church in Babbacombe, ALL SAINTS CHURCH.


Building work began a few days before Christmas 1865 – the same year that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was published. The architect chosen to design the Church was the leader of the Gothic Revival in church architecture – William Butterfield (1841 – 1900). He was a pioneer and innovator and one of the most distinguished and adventurous of all Victorian architects. The design incorporates the fifty varieties of Devon marbles. The use of polychromatic marbles for the pulpit and font, demonstrate Butterfield's passion for constructional colour and ornate interiors. A visit to All Saints is essential to appreciate the splendour of William Butterfield's achievement.

Gerard Manley Hopkins,the Victorian poet, was a great admirer of William Butterfield's work, and visited All Saints in September 1867. Hopkins described All Saints as "pure beauty of line".

By autumn 1867 the nave and north and south aisles were built leaving the chancel, sanctuary and tower to be completed when finances allowed. The building was consecrated on All Saints Day, Friday 1st November 1867, by the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, the son of William Wilberforce who brought the slave trade to an end.


The building that was consecrated was rather different from the splendour we see today. It was a simple structure only the nave and two side aisles. It didn’t take long for the builders to finish the church – the completed structure was opened on All Saints Day, 1st November 1874.


John Hewitt was to remain here as Babbacombe’s first parish priest for 44 years. When he died in 1911 at the age of 81, all the major work on the Church had been completed and All Saints had become part of Torquay’s religious and architectural life.


During the Second World War Babbacombe became an important centre for the

Royal Air Force. It was both the No 1. Air Crew Receiving Centre and the No1.Initial Training Wing for aircrews. The Norcliffe Hotel  was the officers headquarters, whilst the ranks were billeted at The Sefton, Foxlands, Oswalds and Palermo Hotels. The equipment was stored at  Babbacombe Garage. In four years approx 27 ,000 airmen passed through Babbacombe to become Pilots and Observers.


Apart from farming and agriculture one of the main trades of the area was in marble, and later pottery. The limestone quarries had been worked for centuries, but it was not until the late 18th century that the intrinsic value of the stone was begun to be appreciated. By the mid - 1850's

The marble works in St. Marychurch Rd. was one of the main attractions of the area and could boast of Royal patronage (see Town Trail) as could Harry Grant's Marble Works of Watcombe.

The pottery industry was established in 1869 as the Watcombe Terracotta Clay Company after the discovery of a very rich vein of red clay close to Watcombe House. Potters were drawn from Staffordshire by this exciting find; other companies sprang up, each with their own distinct style and the industry flourished.


Another trade that flourished in Babbacombe Bay was that of smuggling. With many small sandy coves to land their catch and high cliffs to shelter their movements, the illicit goods were conveyed to many secret hiding places, and by many ingenious means, if local stories are to be believed. The old lime kilns were a favoured spot, and even hollow trees. Some of the old cottages in Park Road had hiding places for contraband, in particular the three beside the Post Office. You can still see the outside staircase that led to the loft across all three cottages and the steps also contained a secret hiding place from inside the chimney. The Gothic Cottages on the opposite side of Park Road are reputed to have secret passages and cellars but none have yet been uncovered.


The districts of St. Marychurch and Babbacombe became merged with Torquay in

1900 as part of the enlarged Borough of Torbay. Many objections were voiced and it was even said that the only reason this was happening was so that Torquay could have the use of the only Steamroller in the bay, which belonged to St. Marychurch! By 1930 it was seen that the area was not being promoted properly and it was in this year that the Traders and Hoteliers Association was formed.


The Babbacombe and St Marychurch Local History Society continues to attract many with an interest in the area, regularly meets throughout the year and also provides guided walks in the summer months. For further information contact 01803 391415.


From our 2008 guide:

Babbacombe Beach: Some reflections. An article by Michael Brown of The Babbacombe & St. Marychurch Local History Society.


With the prospect of imminent changes about to occur in the area around Babbacombe Beach, which is a topic of much local discussion, it is interesting to note the comments made in the nineteenth century on a similar theme. The following is a charming description taken from, A Guide to the Watering Places on the Coast between the Exe and the Dart: including Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay, published in 1817:


‘ ascend on the down, overhanging those stupendous cliffs, which terminate in the pebbly beach of Babbicombe(sic), on which, and amidst the cliffs of the beetling rocks, stand some picturesque cottages, which the romantic situation of this hamlet has induced the owners to build for their summer residences; but the most beautiful is that of Mr. Cary, constructed of the rudest materials..The two sitting rooms are ornamented with highly finished sea views in one and landscapes in the other;The summer residences of Mr Cosserat, Mr Hubbard and Mr Atkins are laid out with much taste, but though they tend to embellish the spot, they take away from the wilderness of the scenery, which has constituted its most attractive feature . It is difficult to find a view more pleasing than that of Babbicombe; the bold projecting rocks around it, which terminate in the Ness, and afford a partial view of Teignmouth, - the line of wavy hills that stretching from the mouth of the Exe, and reaching the white cliffs of the Dorset coast, in one glance portray the most frequented and most beautiful part of the south west coast, whilst the shingle beach beneath, glitters with the broken fragments of the marble rocks.’


This piece and similar articles appear in the many travel guides that contributed to Torquay enjoying the fastest population growth as a Devon south coast resort in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. It indicates a romantic and picturesque setting, provides a reference for social history, highlights the importance of art and is indicative of the tension between the past and future change. This location attracted many visitors, including artists, whose works are still sought after. Later extracts depict the changing perception of the location.

The Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay Guide:1829 by Carrington and others says, ‘Proceeding onward we reach Babbicombe, a romantic rocky glen, twenty years since there were only a few fishermen’s huts, but the beauty of the spot having excited attention, several ornamental cottages have been built, and gardens formed along the steep sides of the hill and amongst the rocks, which have to great degree destroyed the beauty of the scene, depending as it does on its wild secluded character’.


A Handbook for Travellers in Devon and Cornwall: 1851, says, ‘A few years ago this pretty village was one of those romantic seclusions which have rendered the coast of Devon a favourite with the novelist. Speculating builders are now effecting a change in Babbacombe The village is extending inland in ugly houses..’


Mathew’s Handbook for Torquay 1856, states, ‘Babbacombe was a short time since a most romantic spot, consisting of a few ornamental cottages, together with one or two of a lower class which are built on the side of the cliffs bounding a small bay. These still remain but the place is now disfigured by a number of new dwellings quite out of character with the scenery.’


There are well over forty paintings and prints produced in the nineteenth century, depicting Babbacombe Beach and it is interesting to consider how the artists recorded the local historical, economic, political, theological and sociological changes that took place. Although the chronological sequence of pictures depicts the rustic, picturesque, topographical, Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist genre, there is little correlation with the growth of tourism and landscape development. As is often the case, the loss of aesthetic quality of the setting results in imaginative pictures. In the eighteenth century, the perceptions of the sea changed from being a place of terror to a place of recreation, whilst in the nineteenth century, those who made their livings from the beach were forced to accommodate those who spent their livings on frivolity. The beach was also the focus for the debate between the evolutionist and biblical creationist, and the extent of retention for the beach’s aesthetic qualities had to be balanced with the need for ensuring adequate coastal defences. These all add interest to this topic which may well continue into the next century !


The Babbacombe and St Marychurch Local History Society continues to attract many with an interest in the area, regularly meets throughout the year (see events page) and also provides guided walks in the summer months .


Editorial from our 2007 guide:

The fascination for an interest in history is demonstrated by the extraordinary growth in the Babbacombe and St. Marychurch Local History Society, launched in June 2004, which achieved a membership of over two hundred in February 2007. Its success is a reflection of the richness of our local heritage that includes many interesting events within living memory and others going back to Anglo-Saxon times.
























Postcards provide a visual and social commentary for the nineteenth century and significant changes from the present can be observed. One card, posted in 1905, depicting the footpath, Shady Lane, Crows Nest, Babbacombe,well describes what holiday makers did. The card addressed to Miss Micah Parry in Bromsgrove says, ' I quite intended sending you a long letter yesterday, but Tone and I went for a drive and did not return until 1:30. Then after lunch I was induced to play croquet-my partner and I winning-then cakes and tea in the garden and after that a return match at croquet, winning again !! Then dinner and talk. This morning Tone and I were out until nearly 1.0’c. I have been on the shore this afternoon and was late for tea ! – my first visit to the beach and I think it will be my last! It is such a long way up again - Besides the steep paths there are steps (over 100 altogether) at intervals in the steepest places. Bay very pretty but tiring"

This quite delightful account should not deter future visitors to the beach, previously noted and famous for its white pebbles, as a short walk leads one to the Babbacombe Cliff Railway. This enables one to see the site of the Babbacombe murder associated with the ‘man they could not hang’, the pier, the Cary Arms, the six-hundred-foot-high cliffs, the waterfall previously used for supplying ships and other features, all with much historical interest. This and other walks around the parish can be greatly enhanced by doing some research or enlisting a guide; available though the local history society. (01803-391415)


From earliest times Babbacombe was a fishing community, though quarrying in the eighteenth century was important, as this quote from The History of Devonshire 1793-1806 describes, ‘This coast of marble exhibits a busy scene. Here boats are continually loaded with stone which is used in building or burnt into lime. The detached beautifully variegated rocks are sawn in to blocks.’ St. Marychurch had its own marble works, known as Harry Grant and Sons with royal patronage, providing, among other items, a marble fire place for the Queen’s Doll’s-house. All Saints’ Church, Babbacombe has many fine items made from Petitor marble. Smuggling was another feature of this era with many conflicts. In 1789 the customs officer at Babbacombe was attacked by smugglers landing on the beach. They were brought to court, but acquitted! The Dartmouth collector raged,    ‘We think it almost impossible to convict an offender by a Devonshire jury who are composed of farmers and generally the greatest part of themeither smugglers or always ready to assist them in removing and secreting their goods’.    


The recent transcription of the 1723 oaths of allegiance rolls by the Devon Record Office has enabled local historians to identify and name many inhabitants of Babbacombe and St. Marychurch. Through the use of other eighteenth century records including freeholders lists, Quarter Sessions, churchwardens accounts and Cary Estate papers one can populate the community and discover more about their lifestyle including literacy rates and means of transportation. The transcription of Episcopal Visitation Returns shows that in 1744, St Marychurch had 159 families and not one dissenter, no school, no hospital but one almshouse.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the enactment of the slave trade abolition legislation which made it illegal for British ships to be involved. Interestingly in the seventeenth century not only did the Africans suffer, but pirates from North Africa with English renegades and others anchored in Torbay, carried off local people into slavery in large numbers. From Dartmouth scores were taken,while in Cornwall 60 men, women and children were taken from a church into captivity.

These are some of the many interesting accounts relating to the area, there are many more to be found and possibly shared.


Michael Brown(Babbacombe & St. Marychurch History Society)

babb pottery 2010 HistoryBabbBeach


Bookings are now being taken to feature in our 2018 guide please get in touch