William Adams was born in 1612 of mean and obscure parentage. (The Births Register at Paignton records: "William, son of William Adams [christened] December 26th 1612". At the age of 27 he sailed from Gravesend in company of several others for the West Indies. When they had been at sea for only a short time, they were taken captive by a "Turko man-of-war" and put ashore in Algiers. They were held captive there for five years. Finally, they decided they could stand it no longer and set up a plan to escape. They first made a model of a boat which could be put together quickly from interlocking pieces. [This is not adequately described by John Prince from whom the original story comes]. The group obtained a log of wood 12 feet long to serve as a keel, which they cut in two (so as not to attract attention) but which could be joined again in the middle. They fitted ribs to shape the hull and covered the whole structure with canvas. Two staves from a barrel were formed into oars and in his frail craft, with bread and two leather bottles of water as provisions, Adams and his four companions, John Jeffs, John Anthony, John, the carpenter and William Oakley, set sail. Four of them, rowed by the fifth, baled out the water. Salt water spoilt the bread and in three days they were near starvation. Two days later they abandoned all hope and stopped rowing, although they did continue to bale out the water. By chance they reached the island of Majorca. When they had recovered from their ordeal, they were sent to Alicante in one of the King of Spain's galleys. From there they returned to England, arriving in September 1644. Adams became a Master Mariner and served at sea for many years. He died in 1687 and, according to the story, "was buried in Paignton Churchyard".

Belfield family. The Belfield family had its origins at Belfield, near Rochdale - Johannes de Belefield was Abbot of Whalley in the 14th century. (The Abbot's ghost appears from time to time and is mentioned by name in the Harrison Ainsworth novel The Lancashire Witches). At the time of the 1567 Bedford Survey the family seem to have been yeomen farmers, John Belfield, (1669-1751) acquiring Primley upon his marriage.

Among his numerous progeny was Samuel - the vicar of Paignton for 60 years from 1732-92 (the longest in its recorded history). Jacquete, his granddaughter, married Admiral Thomas Louis (who saved Nelson's life at the Battle of the Nile) in the Parish Church. Louis later became Governor of Rome, the only Englishman ever to do so. Margaret Belfield was born in Exeter and was christened in the Cathedral in about 1711.

She is the "Madame Gould" of Lew Trenchard, a formidable lady in life and an equally formidable ghost after death. A great folklore has been built up around her. Her son committed a murder but his lawyer saved him. Her great great grandson was Sabine Baring-Gould, the author and divine. The Revd. Finney Belfield (1758-1845) became involved with the development of South Devon (he was a member of Dartmouth and Torquay Turnpike Trust).

A descendent, John Finney Belfield, lived at Primley in the 1860s. He owned most of Roundham (an indenture at Messrs. Eastley's concerns land at "Little Roundham" there. It is the subject of an agreement, dated 1849, between John Pillar, builder of Tormoham, and John Havilland [and others] and Trustees of the West of England Benefit Building Society.

In 1885 Belfield was alleged to be obstructing a public footway at Roundham and was "preventing the fishermen from exercising their calling there". He lost an action in the High Court). John was interested in transport too, as his name also appears on the prospectus of the Dartmouth Railway Company (formed in 1853). He was also a director of the Paignton Pier Company. Another relative, Allan Belfield, founded "Belfield's Endowed School" in Winner Street, leaving £1,000 in 3% Consols in 1800 for its upkeep.

Revd. Henry Bellair lived in Paignton and was Nelson's trumpeter at Trafalgar.

George Soudon Bridgman (b.1839) was descended from some of the earliest inhabitants of Torquay, the Bridgmans of "Cokington" and the Soudens of Edginswell (first recorded there in 1728). He left his home at Torquay in 1849, returning in 1854 to take articles with John T. Harvey, the manor of Tormoham architect. After a spell in London, he returned to his home town where he practised on his own behalf. Bridgman subsequently designed buildings all over South Devon. These included: four Masonic lodges; the Torquay Town Hall (now the "old Town Hall"); St. Marychurch Public Hall; the "Public Hall and Market Hall" and large Board Schools at Brixham; the Public Hall, Drill Shed and Hospital at Paignton. He was also responsible for banking premises in Torquay, Paignton (and elsewhere) and chapels, halls and other restorations around the district. At Paignton he built the sea-wall and, because of the other work he did, he was given the title "the Father of Paignton". His work at the Victoria [and Albert] Hotel brought him to the notice of Isaac Singer which resulted in his design of the "Wigwam" at Oldway for that gentleman.

Samuel Chapin. Known to posterity as Deacon Chapin. Baptised in October 1598 in the Parish Church of Poignton, Devonshire (according to records in the USA), he married in either 1623 or 1624 and probably went to New England with his father and family in 1635. With John Punchon of Springfield near Chelmsford they "founded" Springfield, Massachusetts. Records show Chapin to have been one of the principal citizens after grants of land were made to both residents and incomers. The reredos at the Church was given as a memorial to the founder of the family in America by the Chapin Family Association, which by the 1920s had 7,500 families descended from the original immigrants.

Miles Coverdale. There is no substance to the story that Coverdale translated the Bible in the tower of the Bishop's Palace - it was printed in Zürich and has the date 4th October 1534. It is doubtful if Coverdale ever visited Paignton.

Arthur Hyde Dendy. Dendy was a wealthy young barrister who came to Paignton from Birmingham. He owned Parkfield for a time, being resident there in 1878-9. [Miss Cooper lived there until her death. She became a tenant for life when it was bought by Torbay Council in December 1981 for £200,000. The Borough moved its nursery there and, about the same time, renovated the exterior]. Dendy erected the Gerston Hotel in 1870 and also owned the Esplanade Hotel and several other properties as well. He also built the "Royal Bijou Theatre" attached to the former, which he developed in his role of patron of the arts.

He started the Bathing Machine Company in 1871, an omnibus company to Torquay in 1872, the Pier Company (1878) and constructed the cycling track (1883). His major contribution to the prosperity of Paignton was the building of the Pier which opened in 1879. Dendy also ran a local newspaper, a service of steam launches from his Pier to Torquay and, in 1879, was host to the Doyley-Carte Co. for that first performance of Pirates of Penzance. Dendy held land behind Steartfield as "Tenant on Court Roll... freehold and for ever discharged from all fines, heriots [etc.]".

Other conveyances show the land passed from William Froude and Henry Studdy to him in 1873, and, two years later, Dendy and the South Devon Railway (against whose land his abutted) were signatories on another. It was Dendy who coined the phrase about Torquay "that it was built for Paignton to look at". Arthur Dendy died at Paignton on 13th August 1886 and his estate was distributed under a will made in 1882. His name is today preserved in "Dendy Road" and "Hyde Road". His wife died a year later, on 10th August 1887.

Walter Gee (the son of the Revd. W Gee, vicar of Paignton from 1832-61) was born in the town and was the founder of the "Church Lads Brigade" which he started in 1891 when at St. Andrew's Church in Fulham.

The Goodridge family was a long-established family in Paignton. The very first page of the Marriages Register lists in 1559: "William Goodridge and Mary Waller [?] 21 January".

Much later in 1793 the Court Baron for Collaton Kirkham records: "Alan Goodridge is leased of Labmore Meadow and a messuage called Prators, the lease being granted in 1788. A lease dated 1745 refers to a cottage known as Goodridges".

The Overseers and Churchwardens' Books showing supplies etc. to the poor and to the Workhouse in about 1800 include:

Twenty years later accounts were still being paid:

(Clearly Henry was then resident at the Crown & Anchor Inn. This inn figures prominently as a meeting place for the Turnpike Trust and as a stopping point for the early coaches and omnibuses. All that remains today is the arched roadway called Crown & Anchor Way).

There is also an entry in the Church Rate book:

Charles (Baring-Gould incorrectly called him George) Medyett Goodridge was born on 22nd May 1796 to the second wife of John Goodridge who kept the Crown & Anchor Commercial Inn at least until 1841. At the age of 13 he became the cabin boy on the armed brig Lord Cochrane stationed off Torbay to protect fishing boats from the French cruisers. In May 1820 he joined the cutter Prince of Wales which was bound for the South Seas "after oil, fins, seal-skins and ambergris". Captain Veale was master, - Mazora the mate; there were ten sailors and three boys. Shares allocated were: "for every 90 skins, each seaman should have one, the officers more, the boys less". On Whit Sunday 21st May they called into Torbay and, "with a breeze from the Northward, we weighed anchor and proceeded on our voyage".

By 2nd November they were in the Crozets, a group of islands in the Pacific. There was no harbour for shelter so some of the crew went ashore whilst the remainder stayed on board keeping the ship away from danger during storms and salting the skins which had been brought back by the shore party. The hardships and privations were alarming. There were no trees or shrubs; there were severe rainstorms and often snow lay on the ground. The boat was therefore hauled ashore and "used as a dwelling house by day and lodging house at night." Provisions were "salt pork, bread, coffee and molasses" and this had to sustain them for up to a fortnight at a time. On 5th February 1821 eight men went ashore and the other seven stayed on board. This included the captain, his brother and the young Goodridge.

The shore party was visited every seven days until the 17th March when a great storm blew up. At midnight the vessel struck but the men on board managed to get the boat out, throw on board a kettle, frying pan and a fire-bag [a tinder box supplied with cotton matches and kept free from damp in a tarpaulin bag] and climbed aboard themselves. For the next four hours they struggled against sea and wind until they reached shore, only to have the small boat swamped as they landed. However, they eventually managed to pull it on to the beach and prop her bottom-up as a shelter from the rain. They caught a sea-elephant, using the blubber to fuel a fire and with their frying-pan, cook the heart and tongue and other edible parts.

They later found their vessel lying among the rocks, the sea breaking over her and her chances of survival nil. Before she finally broke up they recovered the Captain's chest together with one belonging to the mate - and a Bible. They set about building a "home" using stones and wood saved from the wreck for the walls: sea-elephants skins were used for the roof and the long grass (called tussock) provided warm bedding. Seal-skins served as sheets, blankets and counterpanes. Some Americans had been there 16 years earlier and while searching for eggs they found an axe. They also found a pitch-pot which was adapted as a frying-pan, the original, by then, having been almost worn through.

The original shore party determined to visit the eastern island and on 13th December made the water-crossing. There they found their comrades whom they had believed drowned. The full crew now surveyed their situation and, realising another visit by a vessel to the Crozets was unlikely, set about building a boat. Although lacking tools, pitch or oakum, they built it with timber found on the island, rigged it with ropes from the sealing operation, made sails of seal-skin and provisioned it with salted tongues, eggs and water containers made from the skins of young sea-elephants. This task took nearly two years and just before they were due to sail a violent storm blew up and destroyed their ship. On 21st January 1823 a vessel was sighted and John Soper hastily lighted a fire fuelled with the remains of a sea-elephant. The rescuing vessel sent a boat ashore. She proved to be the American schooner Philo and was herself on a sealing and trading voyage. The British men must have been an awesome sight. Dressed in shaggy fur skins, with caps of the same material and with nearly two years growth of beard they must have looked like the fictional Robinson Crusoe.

So one year, ten months and five days after their shipwreck they left the islands. They finally reached Van Daemon's Land [Tasmania], landing at Hobart Town on the 7th July. Even then Goodridge's adventures were not over; he was arrested, thrown into prison as a suspected deserter and later attacked and nearly murdered by bush-rangers. He set off home in 1831 and "on Sunday morning we came off Torbay, and now I anxiously looked out for some conveyance to land - I was in sight of my native village - my heart beat high. The venerable tower ... was full in view, and with my glass I could trace well-remembered objects, even the very dwelling of my childhood and the home of my parents".

On 18th November 1832, a few months after his father's death, he married Ann Moyle, the eldest daughter of William Richardson of the Newfoundland Inn at Newton Bushell. Even after all his adventures he would still have returned to Tasmania but his aged mother kept him at home.

In 1837 he wrote A Narrative of a Voyage to the South Seas and a shipwreck of the Prince of Wales Cutter... This went through various editions. Among the "Ladies and Gentlemen who patronised and subscribed to the First Edition" were: in Paignton, six Browses, Mrs Bunker, four Goodridges, the Revd Gee, the Revd Mr Kitson and Mr Samuel Rossiter: in Brixham, Revd H F Lyte and the Revd Twisden. In the preface to the 4th edition he added: "I have been unfortunate in my speculations, first in an inn, at Dartmouth, and afterwards in a shop, at Brixham; and my entire support now rests on the patronage I obtain in the disposal of this narrative of my chequered life". [At this time he was then still only 45]

Oliver Heaviside resided in Palace Avenue from 1889-97. He devoted his life to the study of electromagnetic theory and produced pamphlets and a four-volume book on the subject. Many of his theories were worked in the rooms above his brother Charles's music shop opposite Dellers (now Rossiters). He later moved to Torquay but, after his death in 1925, was buried, with his parents, in their grave in Paignton Cemetery.

The Kirkham family. With the Denys family, they held the sub-manor of Collaton with Blagdon for more than 400 years. Nicholas Kirkham, 1434-1516, built the "Kirkham Chantry" in Paignton Parish Church.

Robert Smith, 1787-1873. A field Engineer in the Bengal Division of the Indian Army, he spent much of his life there and came to Paignton to retire with "plenty of money and eccentricities". He built Redcliffe Towers in 1856, known at the time as 'Smith's Folly'. He also built what has been described as an "eccentric" house, similar to the Redcliffe, on the French Riviera which influenced design there for a decade. One was near Nice and was known then as Chateau Smith and later as Chateau Anglais. The family originated in Bideford in North Devon and his sister lived on Waldon Hill, Torquay and may have influenced him in his decision to build at Paignton. Soon after his death the house was sold. During his lifetime he had a large picture gallery on the south side which contained his own paintings - mostly scenes of India. His Pictorial journal of travels in Hindustan is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and shows him as an outstanding artist, of whom Lady Nugent said: "His sketches are all so correct, I know the place immediately".

Herbert Whitley. He leased Primley House from the Belfield family and soon after bought the freehold of the Estate, thus ending the Belfield's long connection with Paignton. A document at Eastley's the solicitors shows what appears to be "restrictive covenants" on many properties in the town, which were introduced by Whitley after his purchase. Whitley opened Paignton Zoo (usually known as Primley Zoo) in 1923. After his death the Zoo passed to the Herbert Whitley Trust. The ground rents of his land were sold on 10th and 11th January 1956, selected lots going to Estates Developments (Torquay) Ltd for £14,514.

© copyright John Pike

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