Fishermen's cottages at what was known as Livermead harbour

livermead cliff hotel

Livermead Cliff Hotel was erected on the site on the fishermen's cottages. - Credit: livermeadcliff.co.uk

Ian Handford, chairman of Torbay Civic Society, gives us the who and how each of Torbay’s Blue Plaques was chosen. This week: Livermead fishermen's cottages:

This plaque came courtesy of John Perry at the time owner of Livermead Cliff Hotel, and it was erected to honour the fishermen's cottages put up by the Mallock family of Cockington Court who then leased the cottages built on land that 800 years before had been a part of what was known as the Livermead harbour.

A short history of the Livermead area and 'Cliff Hotel' was written by Mr R G Strevett in 1991 before being amended by senior librarian John Pike in 1996, who then finally prepared a special leaflet for Torbay Civic Society which would accompany the plaque when it was unveiled in 1997.

It would seem the Livermead harbour had always been part of the Manor of Cockington long before the Mallocks, and dated back to the 11th century when a William of Falaise, a builder from Normandy, had come to Torbay to build a landing or harbour suitable for him to import wines to Torquay for personal use.

Two centuries later, a special charter was given to the Canons of Torre Abbey which allowed them to let pigs run free around Corbyn Head and its surrounding area in the 13th century.

Mallock family documents actually record the purchase and storing of oars and drag nets during the 16th century and a John Leland in 1525 referring to 'a small house set on the hard shore and a small peers (sic) by it as a secour (sic) for fischer (sic) boats'.

It was likely this house was a descendant of the small Livermead Cottages incorporated today into the main hotel building.

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The Mallocks, being in charge of all the formal leases during the 1650s, would have had access to all historic documents surviving to this day.

A lease to the wife of a John Drew of Cockington Cary family tells how she discovered a cellar or fyshing house (sic) and a pallace within the Manor of Cockington on land then described as Livermead.

Whether the 'pallace' was another house built nearby is not overly clear but by 1654 a survey undertaken by a Richard Bickford confirmed a cottage, tucking mill and and diver's quillot was established at Livermead.

Then finally in 1659 a second survey confirms there were 12 cottages, including nine cellars and a fish house.

With the plaque sponsorship assured, it was only right that Mr Perry should unveil this on our behalf, even though Livermead Cliff Hotel was merely an addition to the historic cottages.

It was agreed the unveiling could take place using the society's framed board and curtains within the hotel and that no mention of the hotel would be on the plaque.

Part of the actual wording of the plaque still on the front wall of the hotel includes the words 'site of the fishermen's cottages by the harbour'. 

On the day of the unveiling in April 1997, the chairman of Torbay Civic Society, Mrs Ena Hocking, having initially welcomed everyone to the hotel, asked the Mayor of Torbay, Cllr Mrs Carol Milward, and her escort to officially unveil the plaque in the hotel's main lounge.

The plaque was then affixed to the hotel's front wall while meanwhile the hotel served coffee and refreshments to all attending.

Mrs Hocking finally introduced John Pike, who gave some history of the Livermead area and then she formally thanked Mr Perry and other guests supporting the special event. A buffet lunch was provided by the hotel for those able to stay on.

In honouring buildings, rather than a famous person, it was a further step in our explaining the development of Torbay. 

Ena further added the society would be undertaking a variety of events to explain how the Agatha Christie Room at Torre Abbey and the Singer Museum at Oldway Mansion, Paignton, had been established by the society.

A Torbay Civic Society leaflet entitled 'Livermead' is still available for purchase by sending two second class stamps plus a stamped addressed envelope to Torbay Civic Society, 4 Palace Avenue, Paignton TQ3 3HA.