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Torquay

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  Summary  

Torquay is a town in the unitary authority area of Torbay and ceremonial county of Devon, England. It lies south of Exeter along the A380 on the north of Torbay, north-east of Plymouth and adjoins the neighbouring town of Paignton on the west of the bay. Torquay’s population of 63,998 during the 2001 UK Census made it the third largest settlement in Devon. If the Torbay area, of which Torquay forms a third, were to be recognised as a city, it would rank as the 45th largest city in the United Kingdom with a population only slightly less than that of Brighton, which was granted city status in 2000. During the peak summer season the resort's population swells to around 200,000.

The town's economy was initially based upon fishing and agriculture as in the case of Brixham across Torbay, but in the early 19th century the town began to develop into a fashionable seaside resort, initially frequented by members of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars while the Royal Navy anchored in the bay and later by the crème de la crème of Victorian society as the town's fame spread. Renowned for its healthful climate, the town earned the nickname of the English Riviera and favourable comparisons to Montpellier.

Torquay was the home of the writer Agatha Christie, who lived most of her life there. The town contains an "Agatha Christie Mile", a tour with plaques, dedicated to her life and work.

Torquay's name originates in its being the quay of the ancient village of Torre. In turn, Torre takes its name from the tor, the extensively quarried remains of which can be seen by the town's Tor Hill Road.

  History  

The area comprising modern Torquay has been inhabited since paleolithic times. Hand axes found in Kents Cavern date to, and a maxilla fragment known as Kents Cavern 4 may be the oldest example of a modern human in Europe, dating back to 37,000–40,000 years ago.

Roman soldiers are known to have visited Torquay during the period when Britain was a part of the Roman Empire, leaving offerings at a curious rock formation in Kent's Cavern, known as "The Face". No evidence has been found of Roman settlement in the town.

The first major building in Torquay was Torre Abbey, a Premonstratensian monastery founded in 1196. Torquay remained a minor settlement until the Napoleonic wars, when Torbay was used as a sheltered anchorage by the Channel Fleet, and relatives of officers often visited Torquay. The mild climate attracted many visitors who considered the town a convalescence retreat where they could recover from illness away from the cold winters of more northerly or easterly locations. The population of Torquay grew rapidly from 838 in 1801, to 11,474 in 1851.


The second phase in the expansion of Torquay began when Torre railway station was opened on 18 December 1848. The improved transport connections resulted in rapid growth at the expense of nearby towns not on Isambard Kingdom Brunel's railways. The more central Torquay railway station was opened on 2 August 1859. After the growth of the preceding decades, Torquay was granted borough status in 1872. Previously regarded as a convalescence retreat, Torquay began to encourage healthy visitors, and 1902 saw the first advertising campaign to market Torquay to summer tourists.

Torquay Tramways operated electric street trams from 1907. They were initially powered by the unusual Dolter stud-contact electrification so as not to disfigure the town with overhead wires, but in 1911 was converted to more conventional overhead-line supply. The line was extended into Paignton in 1911 but the network was closed in 1934.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution's Torquay Lifeboat Station was at the Ladies Bathing Cove from 1876 until 1923. A second lifeboat was kept at the harbour from 1917 until 1928. Torquay was regarded as a "Spa Town" after the Marine Spa was built on Beacon Hill near the harbour. Originally called the "Bath Saloons complex", it had an open air tide filled swimming bath. The four stone arches exist to this day. The complex was opened in 1853 after Beacon Hill headland was dynamited to make space for it. Charles Dickens was said to have made readings there. In the 1900s a ballroom and a new sea water filled swimming pool were built. The Marine Spa, provided various therapies such as seaweed baths, needle, doche showers, hot and cold water baths and electric shock treatment. Bands such as Ivy Benson played at Marine Spa ballroom, and the place was regularly visited by Edward Heath.

During World War I, military hospitals were sited in Torquay – many survivors from the Battle of Gallipoli recuperated in the town – and it was used as a troop staging area. In September 1915 King George V and Queen Mary visited. After the war the Great Western Railway launched an advertising campaign to attract tourists, and this helped the town grow to a major south coast resort.


During World War II Torquay was regarded as safer than the towns of South East England, and played host to evacuees from the London] area, the town did however suffer minor bomb damage during the war, mainly from planes dumping excess loads after participating in the Plymouth Blitz. The last air raid on Torquay took place on 29 May 1944 shortly before the D-Day landings in June and in the months leading up to D-Day thousands of US Army personnel arrived with the 3204th Quartermaster Service Company billeted in Chelston and Cockington. During Operation Overlord more than 23,000 men of the American 4th Infantry Division departed Torquay for Utah Beach.

The water sport events of the 1948 Summer Olympics were held in Torquay, and the Olympic flame brought from London to Torre Abbey Gardens. Although it will not host any Olympic events for the 2012 Summer Olympics, with the sailing taking place in Weymouth, Torbay is looking to host teams as a preparation camp.

After World War II several private high-rise apartment blocks were constructed above the rock walk and harbour, giving the area a Monte Carlo feel.
In 1971, after a tragedy, the Marine Spa was demolished to make way for the ill-fated Coral Island leisure complex. This was characterised by its concrete arches on its uppermost floor and sunbathing decks like those of a cruise liner. The site featured a hexagonal outdoor plunge pool, surrounded by sunbathing terraces leading down to Beacon Cove beach. Inside the building were several lounges, a restaurant and a nightclub within the arches of the ancient swimming bath. All levels were served by a hydraulic passenger lift. Coral Island opened in 1977 and closed in 1988. The complex was demolished in 1997, 20 years after its construction. The site remained derelict until 2002 when the Living Coasts Penguin park was built there.

In the late 1980s Fleet Street was rebuilt as the Fleetwalk shopping mall, which has street level shops and an upper level shopping deck. The long curved building, which follows the street, is magnolia coloured and in mock Victorian style. In the late 1990s and early 2000s new pubs and night clubs opened around the harbour, leading to an increase in binge drinking, however in recent years a better police presence and responsible drinks promotions have improved the situation.
Since World War II, the nature of tourism in the United Kingdom has changed significantly. Increasing wealth has meant that holidays abroad are now commonplace, and coastal towns are now more popular for short stays as part of a touring holiday. Recently Torquay has seen an increase in foreign visitors, and is a major destination for foreign exchange students.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Torquay", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.