Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Topsham Quay, Topsham, Devon

An ancient port used by the Romans, and possibly before then, it was once one of the busiest ports in Britain extending up to the city of Exeter. That was put paid to by two people; the Countess Isabella de Fortibus, who had a weir built across the river in 1284, at what is now known as Countess Wear above Topsham in Exeter, in order to run her mills on either side of the river, and Hugh de Courtenay who blocked the river in 1311 to prevent boats sailing up to the city. The latter stopped the tidal movement and meant that boat owners had to unload at Topsham.

Many foreign imports came from Holland during the 18th century, some examples of which can be seen in Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Ballast from their ships included bricks and tiles, which were used in old buildings in Exeter as well as Topsham. Some of the Dutch captains retired here and their buildings were built in the Dutch style during 1700 to 1730.

On a personal note, my visit in 2009 was a very unhappy one. Thinking it would be easy to get off the bus from Seaton to Exeter at Countess Wear and walk to Topsham, I missed a couple of stops and had to walk back to the roundabout...but that was the least of my problems! A very busy three-lane roundabout meant walking over a pedestrian bridge. I'm horrendously acrophobic, and although I manage to climb and walk steep cliff paths, this one really put the willies up me. By the time I shakily got to the other side I was in a full-blown panic attack. Never had one before and didn't realise how ill you feel. Then I walked the two miles to Topsham feeling worse by the minute as traffic rushed by...all I wanted to do was curl up in a hedge and hope that someone would just transport me home.

It took me two or three days to get over it and unfortunately it's now really difficult for me to walk across any bridge at all. But at least I got there! 

Getting to the quay was pure bliss after my ordeal; enjoying the quiet and taking photos of the boats and riverside. I'd actually gone to Topsham to look for something else - a military building - which is no longer there as it happens, but I was in no state to care about that.

This was a nice find...the Ros-Ailither berthed at the quay.

Some of my photos came out dreadful, and I thought it was because I wasn't feeling well. However, some time after I bought a negative scanner and discovered that the printer had made a total hash of developing my films. The prints were garish, due to over-compensating at the printing stage. Some of them came out okay, but once I'd scanned the negs on those that were awful I found that they were totally blue! A happy chance that they fit nicely with the location.

I caught a bus back to Exeter, and whilst waiting for my connection back to Seaton I met a lady from the Netherlands. We talked about Topsham and the architecture, and she told me that the Dutch-style houses aren't actually very Dutch at all!

A trying day...but glad I went, and will go back again in hopefully better circumstances. And next time I'll make sure I go by bus all the way!

More photos to see in the Photo Gallery album along with these.

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