As you might expect from a town full of beautiful Regency buildings and a Blue Plaque Trail, there is plenty of history to experience when in Sidmouth. The town even appears in the Domesday Book – read on to uncover some of the secrets of Sidmouth’s history.
As we said, Sidmouth appears in the Domesday Book under its original name of Sedemuda, which means Mouth of the Sid, named for the river that runs through the town. For centuries, Sidmouth was known as a fishing village with fish and seafood being the main exports. It didn’t become known as a seaside resort popular with holiday makers until the 18th and 19th centuries.
Originally, it was somewhere for the nobility to visit, something that started after the French Revolution when British nobles started to avoid visits to France and needed somewhere else to spend their summers. They started flocking to Sidmouth and the trend of visiting in the summer for a holiday began.
In 1819, Lord Gwydir, who had a home in Sidmouth (it is now the site of the Woodlands Hotel) invited members of the royal family to stay with him. Edward, the Duke of Kent, son of George III later came to stay in the town at what was the Woodbrook Glen, now the Royal Glen Hotel. He brough his wife and baby daughter with him. The family stayed in the town until the Duke’s untimely death, a funeral procession was held for him there before he was transported to London for a royal burial. His daughter then became next in line for the throne and was later known as Queen Victoria. This was the real start of Sidmouth and other nearby places becoming popular with London socialites. Many of the regal looking buildings that are still in place now were once the country homes of these nobles and socialites, these days they have been converted into hotels and B&Bs – so coming to Sidmouth is a lot like living like a royal!
Queen Victoria wasn’t the only royal to come to Sidmouth over the years. Her son, the Duke of Connaught came to visit too, Connaught Gardens were named for him!
Later in 1912, Sidmouth became a hive of scientific discovery – one of the reasons why the Science Festival exists today. Sir Joseph Norman Lockyear, a prominent astronomer, moved to the town to continue his research and founded the Norman Lockyer Observatory. It is still there now and continues to help scientists further their research and supports local schools.
You can find out more about Sidmouth’s diverse history by visiting the town’s museum and following the Blue Plaque Trail. You can read more about Queen Victoria’s time in the town and Sidmouth’s royal connections here.