Teignmouth's 1st Claim to Fame
One of Teignmouth’s many claims to fame is that it was the last place in England to be invaded by a foreign power.
During the Nine Year War, while William of Orange was successfully fighting James II at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, the French were gathering a large fleet in the Channel. Led by Admiral de Tourville, they engaged the combined smaller force of English and Dutch ships at the Battle of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. The French were soon victorious, and the allied fleet was forced to flee to the shelter of the Thames estuary. However, the French failed to take advantage of the situation and instead of following them east, chose instead to head west and anchored in Torbay. Some of the fleet travelled the short distance up the coast and attacked Teignmouth. This was seen to be a huge error and despite being victorious at the Battle of Beachy Head, Admiral de Tourville was relieved of his command.
The inhabitants of Teignmouth soon sent a petition to the Lord Lieutenant. This is how they described the incident:
… on the 26th day of this instant July 1690 by Foure of the clocke in the morning, your poor petitioners were invaded (by the French) to the number of 1,000 or thereabouts, who in the space of three hours tyme, burnt down to the ground the dwelling houses of 240 persons of our parish and upwards, plundered and carried away all our goods, defaced our churches, burnt ten of our ships in the harbour, besides fishing boats, netts and other fishing craft …
After examining ‘creditable persons’ the Justices of the Peace concluded that:
by the late horrid invasion there were within the space of 12 houres burnt downe and consumed 116 dwelling houses … and also 172 dwelling houses were rifled and plundered and two parish churches much ruined, plundred and defaced, besides the burning of ten saile of shipps with the furniture thereof, and the goods and merchandise therein …
As a result of this statement The Crown issued a church brief that authorised the collection of £11,000 for the aid of the town. Churches from as far afield as Yorkshire contributed, and the collections enabled the further development of the port.
French Street in the town is named in memory of the occasion.