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MARKET TOWNS OF DEVON (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Sidmouth in 1851

SIDMOUTH, a town on the Devonshire coast, in the east division of Budleigh Hundred, 13 miles E.S.E. from Exeter. The area of the parish is 1,970 acres ; the population at the successive enumerations was as follows : 1801, 1,252 ; 1811, 1,688 ; 1821, 2,747 ; 1831, 3,126 ; and 1841, 3,309. The number of houses at the last enumeration was 715 ; namely, 634 inhabited, 77 uninhabited, and 4 building.

The town was a borough and market town, governed by a portreeve, in the thirteenth century ; and in the middle of the fourteenth century, furnished Edward III with two small ships for the siege of Calais. From fragments of vessels and other relics, there is reason to believe that the ancient harbour has been choked up with sand and pebbles, and that it now constitutes a meadow near the town.

Sidmouth was anciently one of the principal fishing towns of Devonshire, but the fishery has declined, and the town would have fallen into decay, had it not within the present century risen into some importance as a watering-place.

Sidmouth stands at the mouth of the Sid, in the valley through which that little stream flows. The hills on each side of the valley rise to a considerable elevation, and form, toward the sea, bold and lofty cliffs which constitute a striking feature in the picturesque scenery of the place. The narrowness of the valley does not admit of the town, which is irregularly built, displaying a considerable front to the sea ; but the villas and detached houses extend a considerable distance inland, up the valley, on both sides of the stream. There is a public walk along the beach more than half a mile in length, and the baths, public rooms, and library face the sea. There are some good inns, and lodging-houses.

There are two well-supplied weekly markets on Tuesday and Saturday, and two yearly fairs, one on Easter Monday, the other on September 3. The parish church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is an ancient building, recently enlarged ; among other monuments, it contains one of Dr. Currie, the biographer of Burns. A new district church, or chapel of ease, dedicated to All Saints, has been lately erected ; and there are places of worship for Unitarians, Baptists, and Independents. The living is a vicarage in the rural deanery of Aylisbeare, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Exeter, of the clear yearly value of £481, with a glebe-house.

There were in the parish, in the year 1833, an infant-school, with 95 children ; namely, 22 boys and 73 girls, supported by voluntary contributions ; four day-schools, with 116 children, namely, 80 boys and 36 girls (one of these schools, with 40 scholars, being partly supported by voluntary contributions) ; a boarding-school, with 12 girls ; and a parish-school, with 137 children, namely, 100 boys and 37 girls, giving 360 children (namely 302 boys and 158 girls) or rather more than one in nine of the population, according to the enumeration of 1831, under daily instruction. The parish school was also a Sunday-school, attended by 148 children, namely, 88 boys and 60 girls, and there were two other Sunday-schools, with 145 children, namely 45 boys and 100 girls, giving a total of 293 Sunday-scholars, namely 133 boys and 160 girls, or less than one in ten of the population.