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Paignton
Preston sands.jpg
View along Preston Sands beach
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Population 49,021 (2011)
OS grid reference SX8960
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town PAIGNTON
Postcode district TQ3, TQ4
Dialling code 01803
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • Torbay
    Totnes
List of places
UK
England
Devon
50°26′7″N 3°33′45″W / 50.43528°N 3.56250°W / 50.43528; -3.56250

Paignton ( PAYN-tən) is a seaside town on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon, England. Together with Torquay and Brixham it forms the borough of Torbay which was created in 1998. The Torbay area is a holiday destination known as the English Riviera. Paignton's population in the United Kingdom Census of 2011 was 49,021. It has origins as a Celtic settlement and was first mentioned in 1086. It grew as a small fishing village and a new harbour was built in 1847. A railway line was opened to passengers in 1859 creating links to Torquay and London. As its population increased, it merged with the villages of Goodrington and Preston. Paignton is around 25 miles (40 km) north east of Plymouth and 20 miles (32 km) south of Exeter, and has the fourth largest population in Devon.

History

Paignton is mentioned in the Domesday Book of AD 1086. Formerly written Peynton and Paington, the name is derived from Paega's town, the original Anglo-Saxon settlement. Paignton was given the status of a borough having a market and fair in 1294.

Paignton was a small fishing village until the 19th century, when in 1837 the Paington [sic] Harbour Act led to the construction of a new harbour and the modern spelling, Paignton, first appeared. The historic part of Paignton is centred on Church Street, Winner Street and Palace Avenue which contain fine examples of Victorian architecture. Kirkham House is a late medieval stone house which is open to the public at certain times of year. The Coverdale Tower adjacent to Paignton Parish Church is named after Bishop Miles Coverdale, who published an English translation of the Bible in 1536. Coverdale was Bishop of Exeter between 1551 and 1553 and is reputed to have lived in the tower although this is doubted by modern historians.

Oldway
Oldway Mansion was built for Isaac Merritt Singer

The railway line to Paignton was built by the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway, and opened to passengers on 2 August 1859, providing Torquay and Paignton with a link to London.

The Paignton Pudding, first made in the 13th century, is the origin of the nickname pudden eaters for the people of Paignton. The puddings were made infrequently and were of great size. When thousands turned up hoping to obtain a piece of a huge pudding that had been baked to celebrate the arrival of the railway chaos occurred and the event became notorious. A Paignton Pudding was baked in 1968 to celebrate the town's charter, and another baked in 2006 to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Oldway Mansion is a large house and gardens constructed in the 1870s for Isaac Merritt Singer, who had amassed a considerable fortune with his improvements to the sewing machine. The building was occupied by Torbay Council until an agreement was signed in September 2012 to develop the site into a hotel and retirement apartments. Other Singer legacies in Paignton include the Palace Hotel and the Inn on the Green, which were built as homes for Singer's sons Washington and Mortimer.

Torquay Tramways were extended into Paignton in 1911 but the network was closed in 1934.

There are five parishes within Paignton: Paignton: St John the Baptist, Paignton: Christ Church, Preston: St Paul, Collaton: St Mary the Virgin, Goodrington: St George.

Places of interest

Paignton parish church2
St John the Baptist, Parish Church of Paignton St John the Baptist. The tower was built c. 1327 and 1438

The Torbay Picture House (now closed) is believed to have been Europe's oldest purpose-built cinema and was built in 1907. Seat 2 Row 2 of the circle was the favourite seat of crime novelist Agatha Christie, who lived in neighbouring Galmpton. The cinemas and theatres in her books are all said to be based on the Torbay Picture House. It was also used as a location for the 1984 Donald Sutherland film Ordeal by Innocence and the 1981 film The French Lieutenant's Woman (which was filmed mainly at Lyme Regis in Dorset).

The Royal Bijou Theatre is now demolished, but a blue plaque marking its former location can be found next to the Thomas Cook travel agency in Hyde Road. The theatre was the venue for the premiere of The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan on 30 December 1879. The performance was given at short notice to secure the British copyright on the work after problems had arisen with unauthorised performances of HMS Pinafore in the USA. The Palace Theatre in Palace Avenue has been the main theatre in the town since the conversion of the Festival Theatre to a cinema in 1998.

The department store Rossiters was a centrepiece of the town until its closure in January 2009. The store is said to have been the inspiration for the sitcom Are You Being Served?. In 2010, it reopened as a discount store.

From 1889 to 1897 the mathematician Oliver Heaviside lived in Palace Avenue, in the building now occupied by Barclays Bank. A commemorative blue plaque can be seen on the wall. Heaviside is buried in Paignton Cemetery.

Beaches

Paignton beach and the nearby Preston Sands are used for water sports including kite surfing and dinghy sailing. The reed beds found at Broadsands beach are a haunt of the rare cirl bunting. Hollicombe beach, situated at Paignton's northern boundary with Torquay, features a geological stratotype at its northern end, known as the "Corbyn's Head Member" Elberry Cove is used by jetski enthusiasts, while Saltern Cove is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its distinctive geology.

Transport

Paignton railway station is situated close to the shops and a short walk from the beach along Torbay Road. Train services are mainly provided by Great Western Railway and mainly consist of approximately half hourly services to Torquay, Newton Abbot, Exeter and Exmouth, with some longer distance services to Taunton, Bristol, Cardiff and London Paddington. CrossCountry normally provide services to Manchester but these have been curtailed to operate from Paignton to Bristol (one train) and Birmingham New Street (one train) from the winter December 2020 timetable due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Queen's Park Station for the Dartmouth Steam Railway is adjacent to the main railway station on the beachside of the level crossing. A service of steam trains is provided from February to December, although it is daily only between April and October.

The bus and coach station face the main entrance to the railway station. Bus services are provided by Stagecoach South West, Torbay Minibuses, Country Bus (Newton Abbot) and Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company. Principal services are to Totnes and Plymouth; Torquay and Newton Abbot; Torquay, Teignmouth and Dawlish Warren; Brixham; and Kingswear for the ferry to Dartmouth. A range of long-distance coach services is operated by National Express.

The other railway station in Paignton is Goodrington Sands (opened 1928), now part of the Dartmouth Steam Railway.

Ferry services are provided seasonally by Paignton Pleasure Cruises and We Ferry to Torquay and Brixham from Paignton Harbour.

Economy

Paignton Pier stitch
Paignton Pier (1879) and beach

Paignton's economy relies extensively on tourism and the town is marketed as a location for family holidays. The main seafront area is dominated by Paignton Pier, a 780-foot (240 m) long structure opened in 1879. It was designed by George Soudon Bridgman, the local architect who also designed the original Oldway Mansion. The Festival Theatre, opened in 1967, was once a seafront theatre capable of staging large summer shows. In 1999 it was converted into a multiscreen cinema. The Torbay Air Show, launched in 2016, is held over the Bay in front of Paignton Sands in early June annually. The Paignton Festival (formerly known as the "Torbay Carnival") is over 100 years old and is held annually in late July. It features a Carnival Procession together with various entertainments and charity stalls on The Green. Regatta Week during early August is the peak holiday season. During this period there is a funfair on Paignton Green, along with a large fireworks display. Later in August is Children's Week, which includes a wide range of events and competitions. Paignton has a variety of holiday accommodation, complemented by numerous pubs, nightclubs and restaurants.

Tourist attractions include Paignton Zoo and the Dartmouth Steam Railway, which operates steam trains from Paignton to Kingswear, from where a ferry can be taken across the River Dart to Dartmouth. The line was sold in 1972 without cessation of services by British Rail in the aftermath of the cutbacks of the Beeching era in the 1960s, and is operated today as a heritage railway line. The 630 mile South West Coast Path National Trail runs along the coast.

Suttons Seeds, a supplier of seeds, bulbs and horticultural products, is based in Paignton. There are small industrial estates and superstores on the outskirts on Brixham Road.

Notable people

Sue Barker, the television presenter and former professional tennis player, was born in the town.

Paignton Harbour, with Torquay in the background
Paignton Harbour, with Torquay in the background
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