A 30 minute ferry trip from Torquay harbour will take you to Brixham, where history, fishing and tourism meet in an interesting and delightful way.
The bustle and colour of this place, the way the buildings are stacked around the harbour and beyond, and the abundance of fish sellers and restaurants already make for an interesting visit. Add to that a full size replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, numerous shops and art galleries, and “The Smuggler’s Story” and there is all the makings of a great day out from Sandays. Ferries run regularly throughout the day during the season (usually March to end October).
There are some very interesting aspects of the history of Brixham: here are a few nuggets.
For several centuries industry was in fishing, shipbuilding, net-making, and all the subsidiary trades. William Brewer’s foundation charter of Torre Abbey (1196) shows that fishing with nets in Tor Bay was even then an established practice.
On November 5th 1688 the Dutchman William of Orange arrived in Brixham with a large mercenary army with the intention of overthowing the catholic King James II of England. There were as many as 20,000 men and 5,000 horses in the armada that landed that day.
He succeeded in his ambition in what turned out to be a mostly bloodless campaign, and he was to become King William III of England. This was the last successful invasion of England; a statue of William stands on the waterfront to commemorate this incursion. The block of stone on which he first set foot is preserved in the base of the monument.
In the late 18th century the technique of trawling, or fishing along the bottom of the sea, was first devised in Brixham. The trawler-men followed the fish up the English Channel and then on up to the North Sea, where some of them settled in the ports of Grimsby, Hull, and Lowestoft, teaching the locals their trawling method. By 1843 Brixham was the largest fishing port in Devon, with some 1600 seamen employed
It was on September 4th, 1847 when the Reverend Henry Francis Lyte, curate of All Saints church in Lower Brixham for the past 23 years, wrote the first draft of the hymn ‘Abide With Me’before departing for France due to ill health.
In 1866 there was tragic loss of some 100 lives and around 50 ships in a huge storm and later that year the lifeboat was established.