Evidence suggesting now-extinct animals and prehistoric coexistence there of
humans has been found in remains in the many layers of the floor. Hand axes
have been found in the cavern and a Maxilla chunk called ‘Kents Cavern 4’ may
be the oldest example of a modern human in Europe, dating back to 37,000-40,000
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 known as "The Face" within Kents Cavern.
The origin of the name Torquay comes from the quay of the
old village of Torre which took its name from the Tor, the extensively quarried
remains of which can be seen by the town's Tor Hill Road. Torre Abbey was the
first main building in Torquay, founded in 1196 as a Premonstratensian
In 1848 the Torre railway station was launched and Torquay
railway station was opened on 2 August 1859.
Well-known for its healthy climate Torquay earned the nickname
of the English Riviera and, rather incredibly, favourable comparisons to
Montpellier! After the growth of the earlier decades, Torquay was granted
borough status in 1872.
In the late 1980s Fleet Street was rebuilt as the Fleetwalk
shopping mall, encompassing a shopping deck on the upper level and street level
shops. Magnolia in colour and styled in mock Victoriana, the long curved construction
follows the line of the street.
New night clubs and pubs opened around the harbour in the
late 1990's and early 2000's.
The writer Agatha Christie lived in Torquay throughout her
life and the town contains an "Agatha Christie Mile", a tour with
plaques, dedicated to her life and work. Cabbage trees or "Torbay
Palms" are a notable feature of the area, and were introduced in 1820 from
New Zealand and since then have flourished. Torquay's nine beaches all have
awards, which include three European Blue Flags - greater than any other resort
in the UK.
The charming Victorian Pavilion sits on the seafront. The
adjacent "Friends Fountain" complements the Victorian architecture and
the two together sit idyllically between the Marina and the Rock Walk.
Living Coasts is built on Beacon Quay which has been there
since 1680. In 1857 the Bath's Saloons complex was built on the promontory
overlooking Beacon Cove. This included a concert hall, sunlit conservatory, a
ballroom and private bathing installations with underneath am large public
swimming bath open to the sea. Incorporated into the Living Coasts shop are the
existing public bath arches.
More attractions are the Babbacombe Model Village, which
opened in 1963, the Princess Theatre and a large tethered balloon offering
aerial views of the town. The Torquay Natural History Society was founded in
1844 and Devon's oldest museum, Torquay Museum, opened in 1845. Accommodating
around 1,500 seats, the Princess Theatre is the biggest theatre in Torquay.
Weddings, parties, seminars and other functions also take place at the Princess
Theatre. The Little Theatre, situated in the remodelled St Mark's Church in Meadfoot,
is operated by the TOADS Theatre Company.
Priding itself on having the longest running summer season
in the country, lasting nine months, Babbacombe Theatre is based on Babbacombe
Downs. Torquay hosted the World Snooker European Open 2003 at the Palace Hotel,
which was won by Ronnie O'Sullivan.
The summer training headquarters for Torbay Triathlon Club
and Torbay Athletic Club is the Torre Valley North sports field. Torre Valley
North has a 400m grass running track and it also has a long jump pit and
concrete shot put circle together with a pavilion.
A number of sketches for the Monty Python's Flying Circus
television show (1969-73) were filmed on location in and around both Torquay
and neighbouring Paignton. It was while staying in Torquay at the Gleneagles
Hotel with the Python team in 1971, that John Cleese found inspiration (and the
setting although not the actual filming) for the popular sitcom Fawlty Towers
(1975 - 1979).
In October 2010, it was reported that Bristol-based artist
Banksy had painted a mural on the wall of the Grosvenor Hotel in Belgrave Road.
The mural shows a child drawing a robot, and uses the vent of an extractor fan
as the head of the robot.