Preston Sea Front

There was little development behind Preston Sands until the railway embankment was built between 1858 and 1859 although "Redcliffe Tower" had been completed in 1856 at its south end. The sea wall dates from 1876/7 when it was built by the Singer Trustees. As a result, a special meeting of Paignton Local Board was called to protest about "the destruction of the footpath across the meadow... between Redcliffe Tower and Chanter's Meadow". However, the resolution finally passed merely thanked Mr Singer for improving the Sands. This caused Mr. Dendy to resign from the Board in protest. By 1900 Paris Singer was owner of Preston Green and in 1904 proposed to lay out the Redcliffe Estate, producing a plan which envisaged seven houses in the grounds of the house (the present hotel) and 14 other houses, with large gardens, on the seaward side of a new drive he intended to build. These were to be "excellent marine residences" - the brochure he produced explaining that "the road with houses both sides of the main road... provides a capital marine drive". During 1911 and 1912 he completed his Marine Drive and started building residences on the west side but, instead of building any on the seaward side, offered the rough land to the town as an open space for £600 an acre (the six acres would thus cost only £3,600). Loan sanction was obtained for these in February 1913 and, in addition, another 18 acres of fore-shore. The purchase did not include the aeroplane hangar which Mr Singer had built earlier.

During World War 1 the undeveloped land was used for military training and trench digging. The time, however, did not pass without incident because, in February 1915, part of the sea-wall opposite Manor Road was washed away in a storm. Starting in May 1919 from the Sands, and using Mr Singer's hangar to house the plane, Captain R. L. Truelove, late of the RAF, offered flights around the Bay in his Avro sea-plane. The cost was £1.5s and there were just two passengers carried on each flight.

That War over, the Council considered developing Preston, first buying the hangar in 1919 for £650. Work really started in 1920 when levelling of the area started; by 1924 the promenade was built, shelters, tennis courts and some huts being completed. The hangar remained for some years after this and was, for a time, leased to an air mapping firm. More improvements were made in 1931. The growth in motor car ownership led to the Colin Road Car park being opened in 1936. Until that time, cars had been allowed to park on the Green. The last major improvement to be completed before World War 2 was the new café which was ready for the 1939 season.

© copyright John Pike

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