The Hampton Estate, as it is today, was the vision of a local solicitor Mr Theodore Foster in 1913.
On the 13th October 1913 The Western Times reported the sale of Hampton House and Estate. It was bought by Theodore Foster for £9000. Fosters’ desire and ambition was to develop the estate on “Garden City” lines, as expounded by Sir Ebenezer Howard and later realised by his architects Parker and Unwin.
The Hampton Estate occupied the area from St Marychurch Road, near the Co-op, along Fore Street towards Babbacombe, the Babbacombe Road down Babbacombe Downs Road to below the Cliff Railway top station, just above Oddicombe beach and all the land between, including the Model Village. The Gatehouse was opposite the Town Hall where the junction of Hampton Road now exists.
Theodore Foster and the architects put together the idea of three roads Higher Downs Road, Hampton Avenue and Hampton Valley Road, the later was not built. The square was to consist of Babbacombe Road, Babbacombe Downs and Higher Downs Roads, with Hampton Avenue completing the square. The houses were to be well spaced all with sea views towards Portland Bill. In the centre a tennis court and croquet lawn. The other houses on the seaward side of Higher Downs Road would be spaced in such a way as to not block any other properties view.
The first house on the estate was built in 1914 and building continued after the 1st World War into the 1920s and 1930s. The centrally located site of the croquet and tennis courts was in existence until the 1960s when two bungalows were built there. Apart from that, little has changed on the Estate from the original concept. The area retains the same style and ambience as when conceived and built with many properties having spacious gardens, and enjoying long held spectacular views of outstanding natural beauty.
Theodore Foster should be remembered for having the vision and determination to create the delightful Hampton Estate which is unique in the Torbay area.
Hampton House was built along with many other villas in the area in the 1820s. Hampton House was somewhat grander with a castellated facade and rather more land. A manor house.
The first occupier was Charles Kane Sivewright, who invited his friend Edward Vivian to stay at Hampton House in 1829.
Vivian was to become a benefactor of the poor, and his mission in 1829 was to persuade the poor of St Marychurch to move to Lancashire and take employment in the cotton mills. Sivewright married Edward Vivian’s sister Lucy and moved to Scotland, but Vivian himself was to become important to the development of Torquay, and was the founder member and first treasurer of Torquay Natural History Society.
He lived in the area for the rest of his life.
Other tenants included Sir Richard and Lady Plasket.
In 1851 the house was purchased by Charles Tayleur. Fiona Freer has written an excellent book ” A Long Time Dying ” where she tells the story of the Tayleurs.
I will give a brief insight to the Tayleur story.
Charles Tayleur made a vast fortune building locomotives in his Vulcan Foundry in Warrington and exporting them around the world. His foundry at Bank Quay on the river Mersey built a massive iron clipper to take emigrants to join the Gold Rush in Australia. Tragically RMS Tayleur sank on its maiden voyage. The ship was lost on January 21st 1854, after hitting rocks off Lambay Island in the Irish Sea and 300 people lost their lives. Charles Tayleur heard this terrible news while he was living in Torquay and died a few weeks later.
His son William Houlbrook Tayleur inherited the mansion and had a very chequered past, affairs, divorce, loss of sanity leaving his family bickering over the management of his estate. He finally died in 1879.
His son Charles William Tayleur moved into Hampton House with his family of five children. It was their happy family home until Charles’s death in 1912.
Continuing the story ……. references have been found to a tunnel linking the well at Hampton House to the top of the cliff, suggesting that residents could have been involved in smuggling. The gentry in this area did of course obtain their fine wines and brandies from little boats that had sneaked over from Roscoff without paying any duties!
The substantial building programme that Foster had planned had to be postponed because of the outbreak of the First World War, and only one house was built. Hampton House was used as a convalescence home for New Zealand soldiers during the war years. Indeed, behind the shutter in a classroom was a penciled note written by one of these soldiers, giving the date on which he brushed the dorm.
In the grounds tents were erected for sleeping quarters.
Many of the soldiers used the Tea Caddy in the Babbacombe Road, just outside the estate walls.
photo by Fiona Freer.
During the 1920’s Hampton House was divided into three – Hampton House, Hampton Dene and Little Hampton. The former servants’ quarters and domestic wing were converted to Hampton Dene and Little Hampton and the main house became the Hampton Court School.
During the 1930s and 1940s the school took girls up to the age of 18 and boys up to the age of 10. At some time pupils were able to board. During the war several of the pupils had escaped from Europe and some of the children who died in the bombing of the church were pupils from Hampton Court School.
During the Second World War each senior girl was delegated to look after a kindergarten child in the event of air raids. When the siren sounded, the senior girl would collect her charge from the classroom, pick up gas masks from the cloakroom and lead them down to the cellar.
In 1935 the headmistress of the school was Miss Strickland, and she was succeeded by Miss James. Hampton Court School is now the Abbey School.
Hampton Dene and Little Hampton were demolished to build the by pass.
Along Fore Street, between where the lodge house stood and opposite the Chilcote memorial, a row of shops, cafe, cinema and a bank.
The Cliff Railway was built down the Babbacombe side of the estate, opening in 1926.
The Model Village was built on some of the farm land alongside Hampton House in 1963, remains of the farm buildings can still be seen near by.
The row of houses alongside the by-pass called Hampton Close used to be the stables for Hampton Court.
Some of the houses, built along the roads, took names from the old estate fields.
A returning travellers observation;
As a St Marychurch lad I lived in Hampton Farm Cottage, Hampton Farm, Hampton Lane, St Marychurch, Torquay, Devon. I had been away from Torquay for several years – Army Service, etc ……. but did eventually return to find that a BY PASS had been cut through the Farm area and there it was in front of me… the road by passing St Marychurch…. but no Farm and no House … not a trace … except for perhaps an end piece of old timber in the wall at the back of the MODEL VILLAGE (where the allotments used to be)…
Many of the old estate walls still exist. Take time to explore and have a look.