Galmpton Warborough, often simply referred to as ‘The Common’, is quite simply Torbay’s greatest remaining open area of historical antiquity.
Its name ‘Warborough’ is defined from its Saxon origins. Strategically situated between the sea and the Dart estuary, it both provided an excellent lookout and also controlled access to the Saxon farmsteads and communities on the Brixham and Kingswear peninsula. The word ‘burgh’ identifies a Saxon defensive position where they would gather to challenge any potential Viking raid.
During July 1588 the Warborough became the focal point of the area in order to offset any possible landing from the Spanish Armada. Sir John Gilbert of Greenway, Deputy-Lieutenant of the County of Devon, gathered together a militia force of over 1000 men here, in readiness to repel a Spanish landing.
On into the 20th century and once more war was to see the area fulfilling a military purpose. During the build up to D Day the Warborough became a military depot for the American army. With its proximity to Brixham, materials were stockpiled here before embarkation and the destination of Utah Beach, Normandy. Because of its strategic position geographically, the track, then road network, joining the Port of Dartmouth, Kingswear, Brixham, Churston and Galmpton, to the rest of the country pass over the Warborough. During the late 18th century this included the construction of both the Dartmouth and Brixham turnpikes.
For many generations the Warborough, as Common land, fell under the jurisdiction of the Squires of Galmpton, resident at Greenway. During the 1930’s the Williams family finally gave the Warborough to the local community under the trusteeship of Totnes Rural District Council, later transferred to Torbay Council. Commoners’ rights included grazing and mowing the grass for hay. In addition, the Warborough was utilised as part of a 9 hole golf course, the origin of Churston Golf Course in 1890. During the inter war years the Gooseberry Pie Fair was held here. Areas of the Common have been used as a football pitch and the present car parking area.
Over the changing centuries the Warborough has identified with the needs of the community. Today the symbol of the War Memorial reminds us of the ever-continuing human relationship that we have inherited in safeguarding our links with the past through this jewel in the landscape.
Galmpton & Churston District Local History Group
LEGAL BATTLE ON THE COMMON
The following information is courtesy of Dr T Sutton Coulson
Kay Sutton Coulson fought a seven or eight year long successful legal battle to keep the Galmpton Warborough as an open common for the enjoyment and recreation of all.
In the 1930s Mrs Charles Williams, a member of the Bolitho family founders of Barclays Bank, and wife of the Torquay MP gave the Warborough to the residents of Churston under very strict conditions, endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture, to keep it open and uncluttered. The local authority - then Totnes Rural District- were to administer as trustees. When boundary changes brought the common into the Trusteeship of Torbay Council they ignored the conditions and acted as if they were owners of the Warborough - at peak times, in the 1970s there were more than 400 cars parked on the Bascombe Road side and ice cream vans paying the council to trade there.
The Council took no notice of Kay Sutton Coulson's repeated protests. In 1977 she discovered that Mrs Williams was still alive and living in the family home, Caerhays Castle, in Cornwall. She wrote to her and Mrs Williams was disturbed to hear what was happening and sent her land agent up to see her to help. Kay was then in a position to threaten court action. She heard later that the council law officers told them they had no defence but the councillors felt that if they did nothing she would give up. She didn't. She took the case to the High Court and won. Meantime the only living commoner exercised his right to graze animals.
BELOW: Painting by George Bedford (1850 - 1920)
Sheep grazing on the common and the River Dart can be seen in the distance!
Courtesy of Torre Abbey Museum, Torquay
He put sheep onto the Warborough which is unfenced and divided by the Dartmouth Road. The sheep wandering on the road and into surrounding gardens caused a couple of days excitement and drew attention to her case.
The council were now obliged to abide by Mrs Williams’ terms. She conceded them the right to have a small car park at the north end of Bascombe Road by the toilets provided it was closed from October to May. The commoner, giving up his grazing rights, retains his right to crop hay.
The result as all can see is a beautiful open common free of all obstruction for all to use for recreation, play, picnics and looking at the wonderful views across Torbay. Back <<