Regency-style terrace was leased to the rich and famous

Torbay Weekly

Torbay's blue plaques by Ian Handford, chairman of Torbay Civic Society. This week: Hesketh Crescent and Lord Haldon

This early Torbay Civic Society plaque was put up to honour a building Hesketh Crescent and not a person, even though we included the builders' name J T & W Harvey.

They had built this terrace in 1848 and, although it would be called Hesketh Crescent, today we know it simply as The Osborne Hotel, Hesketh Road.

It was originally built as a home for the first Lord Haldon, being a quite magnificent regency-style building copying the style of John Nash, famed in London and Bath.

The Harveys created this attractive property for what was a growing and fashionable town to attract our royals, the crowned heads of Europe, aristocrats, the nobility and new rich, being just a part of the amazing homes and villas built around the seven hills of Torquay.

The Harveys established hundreds of Italianate-style properties and many churches and public buildings around Torquay, which included four magnificent terraces.

The first was Higher Terrace, behind the Strand, then Vaughan and Lisburne Square Terraces before, finally, Hesketh Terrace.

It was the son of Sir Lawrence Palk that named the building Hesketh after his wife Maria Hesketh, before eventually claiming the title as the first Lord Haldon while still residing at the family mansion on Haldon Hill, Kenn near Exeter.

In fact, the Sir Lawrence (second later Lord Haldon) was witness to the family fortune - created in India - ebbing away as his father had chosen a life of wine, women and song while remaining an absentee landlord to his huge estate in Torquay, left under the control of solicitor William Kitson.

Today, the family mansion at Haldon Hill was where his father would retired to, when terminally ill and it was fortuitous indeed that the second Sir Lawrence had already married into the wealthy Hesketh family long before he became Lord Haldon during the 1880s.

The Hesketh family estates were near Southport, Lancashire, and yet Lady Hesketh would now become a frequent visitor to Torbay and would always reside at the prestigious Hesketh Crescent house.

Hesketh Crescent, built in 1848, had originally been Osborne House - today Osborne Hotel - and with many town houses alongside, each could be leased during the winter months to the rich and famous.

Being large homes, they could cater for large families with their numerous servants.

Leased generally for periods of six months between October to April/ May over the decades, many famous came to to Torquay to stay including Charles Darwen - now also honoured by a blue plaque, Henry James, Baroness Burdett Coutts, John Galsworthy and, for a time, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and family.

According to a period Torquay Directory, during the early 1900s the properties were also leased to musicians drawn here, who were to be part of the annual music festivals arranged by the Torquay Municipal Orchestra, in those 'heady days' when the Pavilion Theatre was centre stage in establishing our town as the 'Queen of the English Riviera'.

With our newly laid out Princess Gardens, Rock Walk and Bath Saloons - later the Marine Spa - plus the Palm Court, Torquay had style and sophistication and was seen as elegant.

In 1988, the directors of the Osborne Hotel Company sponsored a plaque to honour the property and the Harvey family.

With a biography published by Torbay Council using text written by librarian John Pike, and now out of print, it included a very good picture of Sir Lawrence V Palk and the Hesketh Cresent as it was in 1848, both of which are included in the feature by society chairman Ian Handford.

The plaque unveiled on the west-facing entrance wall during 1998 was sadly within the following 16 years fading badly and so, in 2014, with the help of the company, the civic society had it restoved, repainted and refitted at its original place.

A feature entitled 'Sir Lawrence Vaughan lived too well - and gave too much away' can be obtained by sending two second class stamps plus a stamped addressed envelope to Torbay Civic Society, 4 Palace Avenue, Paignton TQ3 3HA.