Major Edward Vivian - a man who left his mark on Torbay

The Torbay Civic Society Blue Plaque at Woodfield, home of Major Edward Vivian

The Torbay Civic Society Blue Plaque at Woodfield, home of Major Edward Vivian - Credit: Torbay Civic Society

It was in July 2001 that Mr and Mrs T and B Gaylard contacted me about the possibility of having a Blue Plaque for Mr Edward Vivian at what was his home, Woodfiel.

The house, a villa in Lower Woodfield Road, Torquay, was a listed building although in recent years had been converted into holiday apartments.

Torbay Civic Society's pamphlet - Edward Vivian (1808-1893) and Woodfield showing a drawing of Major Edward Vivian

Torbay Civic Society's pamphlet - Edward Vivian (1808-1893) and Woodfield - Credit: Torbay Civic Society

During the mid-19th century Edward was a banker with the local Kitsons Bank in Vaughan Parade, but also a renowned benefactor to our area.

The society had already put up one of its first Blue Plaques in 1987 to honour him at 'The Vivian Institute' - School of Art, although now trading as the Piazza restaurant in Union Street.

My first task after meeting Tony and Betty was to check the local authority had no objection to a second plaque being placed on Mr Vivian's listed home, which would be a first for us.

With permission given and the plaque sponsored, a new second pamphlet was researched by Frank Cawson with the text written by John Pike, Torquay librarian.

Edward was not just banker in the town but an artist, educationalist and a hyper activist in society.

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Frank wrote he was 'one of the most eminent Victorians of Torquay, being active in public affairs, prominent in educational institutions and a luminary in its social life'.

Edward was certainly worthy of a second plaque, as his work for the educational needs of working people alone, was enough to gain him this honour.

Here was a man that had joined the Fourth Volunteer Artillery Battery in 1859 and even the men under his command called him Major Vivian.

From Woodfield, he was a regular observer of weather patterns and for years his observations were included in the Torquay Directory which he edited, until ultimately it turned into a local newspaper.

Edward also served as a Justice of the Peace, was involved with Torquay Natural History Society and helped William Pengelly on many 'digs' at Kents Cavern before a joint paper was read to the London Geographical Society concerning the unique work carried out at Kents Cavern.

Edward also became involved with the Turnpike Trust was chairman of the Baths Corporation and president of Devonshire Association and even founded the Temperance Society, as he was concerned about cheap drink being sold.

One contemporary writing of him said: "This gentleman has at all times and frequently at great inconvenience to himself, been ever ready to lend his assistance to anything and everything that has a tendency to elevate the moral and intellectual condition of the working classes" - while another penned the words: " He was not intolerant and always respected the views of others."

Our second plaque to honour this outstanding citizen of Torquay of the Victorian era, was formally unveiled at the front wall of Woodfield by Torbay's deputy mayor Mrs Heather Buckputt and Torbay Civic Society then chairman Mrs Ena Hocking during the afternoon of November 19, 2001.

Following the unveiling - to which 40 people attended - all were invited to view the gardens facing towards Torquay Museum in the far distance and then various ground floor rooms of the house when refreshments were served.

Today, Major Edward Vivian is rarely recalled and yet here was a man of his time that left his mark on Torbay, albeit mainly out of sight, except now for our two plaques and our biography plus his written work.

The original 'Vivian Institute' plaque and literature, now out of print, was sponsored by  the owners of Piazza restaurant, Colin and Paul Matthews.

The Torbay Civic Society pamphlet Edward Vivian (1808-1893) and Woodfield can be obtained by sending postage stamps to the value of 50p - plus a stamped addressed envelope to Torbay Civic Society, 1 Palace Avenue Business Centre, 4 Palace Avenue, Paignton TQ1 1DE.rds 652