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Sidmouth is a lovely old fashioned sea side resort on the south Devon coast beneath red sandstone cliffs. It feels as if it has been passed by by modern life.


Although it was mentioned in Domesday Book, it was little more than a village until C18th and never had a harbour. It became fashionable in Georgian and Victorian times and Queen Victoria was brought here for holidays when a child. The arrival of railway in 1870s led to development mass tourism.

The front is lined with splendid terrace houses The compact town centre stretches up from the beach with a range of small shops, many still independently owned.



Sidmouth is very compact and repays exploring on foot. Tourist Information on Ham Lane have free maps and trail leaflets including blue plaque trail

The Espalanade is a good starting point - overlooking a shingle beach with sand at low tide. To the east are low cliffs. There are views south west along the coast towards Budleigh Salterton.


Streets close to the beach are lined with terraces of large and impressive houses.


There is a putting green and The Triangle has well kept flower gardens with fun displays of animals made out of flowers.



The gardens are overlooked by the Parish Church of St Giles and St Nicholas #2. The tower is all that is left of the C15th which was rebuilt in the C19th


Across the road, and next to Sidmouth Museum is Kennaway House which was built in 1805 and was the family home of the Kennaway family until 1879.


It was then let out to different tenants but became quite run down and was used as a lodging house. It was then bought for use by the community as a Church House. Presumably the inscription on the outside wall of the house dates from then?


By 2001 it was derelict and threatened with demolition. A charity was set up to restore and reopen the house as a a gallery and Arts Centre and for weddings. It is worth going inside just to see the fine Georgian interiors.



Heading further away from the front, The houses become smaller and even further ways are replaced by streets lined with Victorian terraced housing.


As the population grew, a new church, All Saints’ #3, was built at the top of the town.


Just a few yards from All Saints Church at the junction with High Street is the tiny Old Dissenting Meeting House, dating from the early C18th.



Following the Act of Uniformity in 1662, re-establishing traditional forms of worship and belief after the Civil War and puritanism, many clergy refused to conform and their congregations met in secret. The Act of Toleration in allowed them to build meeting houses as long as they were a specified distance from the parish church. These were small simple buildings with no belfry as they were not allowed to use bells. The Old Dissenting Meeting House was built at the boundary of Salcome Regis and Sidmouth parishes. It is thought to be the oldest non-conformist place of worship in East Devon. The porch was added in the late C19th.

Behind the meeting house was the graveyard. Over the years this was no longer used and much of it was sold off. The remains have been restored as a ‘Peace garden’. Remaining gravestones have been placed around the walls and a seat has been placed in it. The building is still used for services and also serves as a community hub with many different activities during the week.


Next to the Meeting House is the thatched May Cottage, dating from the C17th. In 1884 the owner, Colonel Balfour, who was Lord of the Manor, along with other prominent citizens proposed it should be used as Sidmouth’s first hospital. It opened with four beds and an operating theatre. 21 patients were admitted in its first year.


It continued to be used until the larger Victoria Hospital opened across the road in 1891. This is still Sidmouth’s hospital.


Opposite is a terrace of Edwardian houses dated 1904.


Just past the hospital is the entrance to Blackmore Gardens which is now a public park with flower gardens, lawns, tennis and bowls. There are good views of the tower of St Giles and St Nicholas.


In a corner near the entrance is a statute of an eagle, commissioned by the Royal British Legion as a tribute to the residents of the Sid Valley and the service men and won men who defended the coast line and trained in Royal Air Force Dartmouth during the second World war.


Continuing back to High Street, the brick built Masonic Lodge dates from 1890, but the only information about it seems to be that it was the base of the local Freemasons' Lodge of Perseverance 164.


Off High Street just before the main shopping area is Holmdale, an attractive narrow street lined with terraced house.


The route continues down High Street and the shops to swing round by the Market Hall back onto the sea front.



I visited on a wet day in August. It definitely wasn't beach weather...


Sidmouth Churches - St Nicholas and St Giles

Set back from the Triangle, there has been a church on this site since at least the C12th. The tower dates from when this church was rebuilt in the C15th. The rest of the church is mid C19th when it was rebuilt to accommodate the rapidly growing congregation. The church was first dedicated to St Giles, and later to St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors.



Inside it feels a large building with an arcade of fluted pillars with carved capitals separating nave and side aisles.



A painted rood with Christ crucified with the Virgin and St John hangs from the chancel arch and is a memorial to a C20th vicar.

The reredos behind the altar was stone and marble that has been covered with paint in an attempt to make it look like plaster. The arches have the symbols of the four evangelists who are depicted in the window above.


At the back is the west window given by Queen Victoria as a memorial to her father, the Duke of York who died in Sidmouth. At the centre is Christ blessing the children surrounded by the eight Christian virtues. At the top is Christ in glory. At the bottom are scenes from the life of St Nicholas.


At the back of the nave is the stone font with an elaborate wooden cover.

The Lady Chapel in the north aisle contains a fragment of medieval glass depicting the five wounds of Christ from the old church,.


The walls have splendid C19th memorials.


Memorial boards on either side of the west door record the dead of both World Wars and later conflicts.


The church is open daily. There is some information in the church, but very little about it on the web.


Sidmouth Churches - All Saints' Church

As the population of Sidmouth grew in the C19th, the parish church of St Giles and St Nicholas was too small for the expanding congregation. Land was given by Sir John Kellaway of Kellawy House in 1837 to build a new church.


The exterior hasn’t changed much since it was built, apart from a modern extension at the rear, which leads into the church.

The inside has been completely modernised to become a multi-generational evangelical church. It is a very light, almost minimalist interior with plain walls with few memorials and thin narrow beams forming the roof trusses.


The small chancel is surrounded by a grass screen with as mall preaching desk in front.


A modern font stands beside this.


The carved table altar has a small reredos above


Standing on this, on either side of the east window are the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments


This has a very different feel to St Nicholas and St Giles, serving a very different church community. The website has a long list of activities.

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