Brixham is a small fishing town on the South West coast of Britain. Together with Paignton and Torquay it makes up the borough of Torbay. It is the smallest and poorest of the three towns, however, built as it was on the now failing fishing industry, rather than the Tourism trade which supports the others.

A Brief History

Brixham is the oldest part of Torbay, with evidence of settlements in pre-historic times, through the Bronze and Iron Ages, and Saxon times - The name Brixham itself is thought to be Saxon.

The earliest documentary evidence for the town is in the Norman Domesday Book where it was known as Briseham. It was probably around this time, that they town may have turned to fishing for its main industry; the Normans encouraged people to give up meat on Fridays making fish a more sought after meal.

In 1688, Brixham was the center of the Glorious Revolution. The Protestant Prince William of Orange landed at the port and went on to claim the throne as King William III. The 300th Anniversary was celebrated in July 1988 with a week of festivities. H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh joined in the celebrations and stayed in the Bay overnight onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. A commemorative statue of Prince William of Orange overlooks the harbour in Brixham.

During medieval times, the town had become an important port, exporting tin, importing wine and pilgrims would travel through Brixham on their way to holy sites in Spain. The fishing industry still coninued to grow as well; many of the townsfolk were involved in the production of salted pilchards.

Brixhams fishing fleet had reached its peak by 1890 with about 300 trawlers. Where other fishing towns were moving to steam engines, the high price of coal in the South West made this uneconomic. Trades declined rapidly and after World War I only a dozen or so remained; some falling easy prey to German U-Boats.

The town has also had an important role in defence. Fortifications were built and manned here to defend from Catholic invasions from across the channel, and during the Napoleonic and World Wars, the latter of which still stand at Berry Head. Many of Brixham's trawlers would later play in important role in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France and in 1944 the harbour was one of many along the South coast harbours to be used by the US army for embarking prior to the invasion of Normandy

It was between the wars that Brixham turned to the tourist trade, and post WWII the population has grown rapidly. However, since the decline of the fishing industry there is little employment to sustain such a population - although hard work is going on to rebuild it - and most new residents seem to be of retirement age.

What to see in Brixham

Brixham lacks the individual attractions of Torquay and Paignton, but most people visit for the atmosphere of a history-filled bustling fishing town; wandering the maze of narrow, winding streets to the harbourside where you can sample some great fresh seafood caught the same day just round the corner.

The Golden Hind

A complete full-size replica of the ship Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world on in 1577. Moored in Brixham harbour, the ship gives a fascinating insight into life on board in the 16th Century, as well as a range of exhibitions and re-enactments.

Back to Everything Quests: Places to visit in Ireland and the UK
An Outline History of Brixham by Tony Morton (
The English Riviera Online. (
BBC Devon. (

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