The birth of Sidmouth

Sidmouth’s beginnings predate written history. The presence of Sidbury Castle attests to human settlement in the Sid valley from at least the Iron Age, and perhaps earlier given the presence of Bronze Age burial mounds on Gittisham Hill and Broad Down. The Saxon origins of the settlement of Sidbury are documented, with the Church crypt dating from the seventh century. The Sid Valley, however, was divided into two ecclesiastical land holdings, with King Athelstan gifting Sidbury and Salcombe Regis to Exeter Cathedral, and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir (the mother of King Harold Godwinson) gifting Sidmouth, which was part of the manor of Otterton, to the Benedictines at Mont-Saint-Michel.

Sidmouth remained a village until the Georgian and Victorian eras of the 18th and 19th centuries, when beach resorts became fashionable. A handful of Georgian and Regency structures have survived. For a few weeks in 1819, George III’s son Edward, Duke of Kent, his wife, and their infant daughter (the future Queen Victoria) visited Woolbrook Glen. He died of an illness in less than a month. The property eventually became the Royal Glen Hotel, and the visit is commemorated with a plaque on the outer wall. In 1874, a branch line from Sidmouth Junction connected Sidmouth to the railway network, stopping at Ottery St Mary and Tipton St John. As a result of this, it was disassembled in 1967.