- Public Park
Torquay has a large number of ornamental public parks, but those along the sea-front, between Torre Abbey and the Pavilion at the harbour, form an attractive ribbon group. From west to east, they comprise The King’s Gardens, Torre Abbey, Abbey Park, Royal Terrace Gardens and Princess Gardens, the latter two are on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Torre Abbey, the dominant building and landscape in the group, was founded in 1196 by William de Brewer, but the buildings were allowed to collapse and decay after the Dissolution until Thomas Ridgeway converted some of the domestic ranges to a residence after 1598. From 1662 to 1930, the Cary family were the owners and enlarged and altered the house from the late 17th century onwards. In 1924, the Council was able to buy the eastern half of the park, stretching from Belgrave Road, and ground levels were raised by the disposal of surplus soil from nearby developments. This area, formerly known as BelgraveGardens, provides bowls and tennis facilities, fronted by planting areas and sculptures, with an ornamental pool and highly decorative gates. In 1930, the Council purchased the remainder of the Torre Abbey grounds and the old kitchen gardens, at the rear of the Abbey, was developed as an experimental and demonstration garden with a tropical plant house. Between the mansion and the sea the parkland has been subject to little alteration and is now used as a miniature golf course, its setting enhanced by the mediaeval ‘Spanish Barn’. The main entrance drive to the Abbey, from Falkland Road at the north-west corner, is through impressive ornamental gates, with great swans surmounting their stone piers and a picturesque Victorian lodge nearby.
King’s Drive, named after Edward VII, dates from 1877 when the Local Board made the road to replace Rotten Row. Changes in levels in an area considered to have once been an estuary, resulted in a small park, dominated by two lakes fed by a spring rising in the SherwellValley. The park was opened by the Mayor on 19 April 1904 but, the next month, the name was changed from Alexandra Gardens to The King’s Gardens.
Torre Abbey listed Grade I and scheduled Ancient Monument.
Tithe Barn listed Grade I. Gate piers and gates, granite cross shaft, Cottage, Lodge and attached wall and railings all listed Grade II.
Cherry & Pevsner: The Buildings of England – Devon, 1989: 844-45, 852-4, 864
S Pugsley: Devon Gardens – An Historical Survey, 1994: 68, 69, 153-57
T Gray: The Garden History of Devon, 1995: 219-21 (Torre Abbey)
R Ackermann: Repository v.11, 1828: plate 31
WWJ Gendall: Views v.1, 1830: 134