Brixham (Virgin Mary)

BRIXHAM (Virgin Mary), a sea-port, market-town, and parish, in the union of Totnes, hundred of Haytor, Paignton and S. divisions of Devon, 27¾ miles (S.) from Exeter, and 198 (W. S. W.) from London; containing 5684 inhabitants. This town, at which William, Prince of Orange, landed on the 5th of November, 1688, is pleasantly situated near the southern extremity of Torbay, on the west side; and is irregularly built, though containing many good houses, several of which are on the cliffs above the harbour: a handsome column of granite has been erected on the spot where the prince landed. The inhabitants are amply supplied with water; the air is salubrious, the environs pleasant, and its vicinity to Torquay renders it desirable as a place of residence. During the late war, it was of some importance as a garrison town, the barracks, at Bury Head, being sufficiently spacious to accommodate several regiments; they are inclosed in two regular fortresses, which, with the ditches and drawbridges, remain in complete repair, though the barracks have been dismantled. The port is a member of that of Dartmouth, and carries on a considerable coasting-trade, in which 120 vessels, of from 60 to 150 tons' burthen, are employed; they are also engaged in the foreign fruit-trade during the season. The harbour, consisting of two basins, communicating with each other, is safe and commodious; the outer basin was formed by the erection of a second pier, which was begun in 1803, and completed in 1809, by subscription, under an act authorizing the lords of the manor to raise £6000 on security of the tolls. On the liquidation of the debt now due, it is in contemplation to erect another pier, on the eastern side of the harbour, towards Bury Head; in furtherance of which object, an act for improving the pier, harbour, and market, and for the formation of a breakwater, was obtained in 1837: vessels will then be enabled to ride in perfect safety during easterly winds, and Brixham will be a safe harbour for both homeward and outward bound ships. During spring-tides the water rises to the height of 24 feet at the pier-head. There are 105 vessels of from 20 to 45 tons' burthen, and 64 smaller boats, engaged in the fishing-trade, which is carried on to a considerable extent; the fish caught are chiefly turbot and soles, for the supply of the London, Bath, and Exeter markets. The trade of the town has derived some increase from being the rendezvous of ships of war, which here lay in their supply of water. There are some extensive quarries of marble in the vicinity. The marketdays are Tuesday and Saturday; a fair is held on Whit-Tuesday and two following days.

The parish is divided into Higher and Lower Brixham, and comprises 5213a. 3r. 12p., of which 777 acres are common or waste. The living is a discharged vicarage, with the perpetual curacy of Churston-Ferrers annexed, valued in the king's books at £52. 15., and in the patronage of the Crown; impropriator, Miss Knollis; net income, £494, with a house. The church, situated in Higher Brixham, is an ancient structure, containing some interesting monuments, among which is the cenotaph of the late Judge Buller; it was enlarged in 1825. The church at Lower Brixham was erected about the year 1822, by the vicar, aided by a large subscription, and by a grant of £1200 from the Parliamentary Commissioners, and was made a district church by act of the 58th of George III.; it is a neat building in the English style, and contains 300 free sittings. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Crown; net income, £150. There are places of worship for Baptists and Wesleyans. At Higher Brixham is Lay Well, the water of which ebbs and flows about nine times in an hour; the variation is about an inch and a quarter. Bury Head is said to have been the site of a Roman fortress: several ancient coins, in excellent preservation, were found in the vicinity in 1830.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.