History of Torquay

Torquay has come a long way in its history.  From the ancient cave dwellers who lived out their lives under conditions that would make the people of the 21st century shudder, to a modern, thriving resort.

William Pengelly, Archeologist, Torquay

William Pengelly
Photograph from Wikipedia

It is probable that Roman soldiers inhabited the area during the time of the Roman Empire as they did most of England.

In the 1800's the famous local archeologist, William Pengelly, investigated a site which he found to be a settlement from the Roman era in England. Artefacts from this dig are in Torquay Museum. William Pengelly also investigated Kent's Cavern. Our knowledge of prehistory owes a great deal to William Pengelly and his fellow archeologists.

The name Torquay comes from Tor and Quay rather obviously. Tor is a weathered rock outcrop, very much a feature of Devon. It is in the county that this term originated. Tors were often places very special to Celtic people. 

Torre was Torquay's ancient name. On Tor Hill Road there are extensive remains of a very old quarry and this is where the name came from.

Quay is a later addition. As the fishing grew in the area the quay would have evolved.

The Old Fish Quay Torquay

The Old Fish Quay, Torquay
Photograph © Derek Harper

Fishing and agriculture were the main occupations of Torquay for centuries.

It developed into a seaside resort in the 1800's with the presence of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars. Royal Naval ships anchored in the Bay and its officers and their families made Torquay into a fashionable resort.

The town became a health resort because of its climate and got the nickname The English Riviera which stuck. The named is well deserved really as many modern visitors will testify.

decorative line

D Day 6th June 1944

In World War II Torquay was an embarkation point for the D Day Landings. All along the southern coast of England navies, armies and airforces of the Allies were preparing to cross the English Channel to the Normandy beaches of northern France.  It was a massive operation.

Did your ancestor leave from here?

D Day Hards for American Troops. Torquay

Embarkation point on D.Day for the 4th US Infantry Division
Photograph © Rick Crowley

decorative line

Kents Cavern

Home of Torquay's first residents. Thousands and thousands of years ago humans lived in this cave.  It did not have a sea view, it was a wooded valley ideal for their hunter gatherer lifestyle.

Now we can see how they lived for Kent's Cavern is open to the public. Allow about an hour for the interesting tour and another hour and half to see everything else. Plenty for children to do.

decorative line

Torre Abbey

Torquay's most famous historical building.  It can be found in the centre of the town. Not only a historical Abbey but houses an art collection and has beautiful gardens. Well worth the visit.

decorative line

Other pages that may be of interest





decorative line

Return from History of Torquay to Home

Or you may prefer to browse some more, please do. There are navigation buttons above on the left.


decorative line

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Field in centre is an ancient settlement

The field in the centre is an ancient Roman settlement in Rocombe Valley
Photograph © Colin Vosper

decorative line