St Marychurch has been a place of worship since Saxon times The Parish was founded between 637 and 690 A.D. and was called Sce Maria circean about the time of the Domesday Book, becoming Seintmariachurche in 1242. The Parish covered the areas now known as Babbacombe, Combe Pafford, Barton, Edginswell, Collaton Shiphay and Kingskerswell and was at one time far more important than Torquay. In 1850, William White’s Directory of Devonshire described it as
“a handsome village and picturesque parish with many neat mansions and marine cottages overlooking Babbacombe Bay”.
By the middle of the 1800’s the population was growing by a thousand each decade. There was very little work in the area, on the land or quarrying at Petit Tor, Long Quarry and others for lime stone, fishing and smuggling. Living in poverty was really the only life style choice, but as the Victorians began building their villas, Hampton House being one, the Marble Works and the Potteries opened, giving both service and a little local industry, far more work was available. The area really began to thrive when the tourists arrived.
In 1869 St Marychurch possessed the only doctor in the area, Doctor Herbert Chilcote who gave up so much of his time caring for the poor and needy.
In 1873 a Mr Chambers commenced a bus service ‘to’ Torquay. This was a pair of horse drawn vehicles that carried 2 people beside the driver and 6 more inside. They were painted chrome yellow and called “The Yellow Perils”.
St Marychurch was the centre of Municipal Government, the offices in the Town Hall until 1900. The village was then incorporated into the Borough of Torquay, there had been previous attempts in 1867 and 1871. It has always been said that the only reason for Torquay taking over St Marychurch was to get hold of its steamroller. Torquay did not have one of it’s own.
Tram services ‘to’ St Marychurch ‘from’ Torquay started in 1904 by the Torquay Tramway Company who also ran the Cliff Railway from 1926.
A bus service to and from the Chilcote Memorial in 1900. Buses still run from here, the building in the background is now the Co-op.
In 1933 Mrs H.A.Tessier presented the town with Tessier Gardens for the use of adults only for rest and quiet. Later in that year a Sun Temple was erected in appreciation of the gift. The delightful gem of a garden is behind the Town Hall and Furrough Cross Church.
Even today St Marychurch remains a thriving local community with it’s own identity. The Banks, Post Office and many independent shops including a Butchers, a Bakers and the candle stick maker being in the form of a Hardware shop.
Other Websites worth visiting: Terry Leaman
and the Devon Family History Society