Kingsbridge. Report from the Buildings Section

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Author(s): Wilson. Helen; Year published: 2013; Origin: Section Conference Reports; Pages: 
Topic(s): buildings; Location(s): Kingsbridge

The buildings in the centre of Kingsbridge largely reflect the town’s 18th and 19th century history and many fine examples remain. The main streets radiate out from the old quay around the estuary. Set back from the quay on the west side, behind the waterfront cafes, lies Quay House (Grade II), now used as council offices. This square three storey stone house, dating from 1789, is rather hemmed in by 20th century development, some of which Pevsner describes as “thoughtlessly scrappy”. On the other side of the estuary, lies The Promenade, where Leighton House, Harbour House (both 18th century), 1 to 4 South Place (mid 19th), Pindar Lodge (rebuilt c. 1800) and 1 to 8 Victoria Place (1830-40) form an important group.

By far the greatest concentration of listed buildings (mostly Grade II) is to be found in Fore Street. Here are slate- and red tile- hung upper storeys, Victorian shop fronts, narrow passageways and a wide variety of period windows and doors, interspersed with modern alterations. Half way up the hill is Baptist Lane, leading to 1 to 3 Phoenix Place (mid 19th century) and a Baptist Chapel (1865) with a panelled gallery on wooden clustered columns. Further up the hill is the Town Hall of 1850, a two storey stone building with three arched entrances and a clock turret of 1875. Beside it is the Shambles (Grade II*) rebuilt in 1796 with the first floor extending over the pavement on granite piers, five of which date from 1586. The Church of St Edmund (Grade I) sits behind with its octagonal stone spire. It was rebuilt in 1414, although the base of the central tower is earlier and the font may be 13th century.

Further on in Fore Street is the Old Grammar School (Grade II*), built in 1670 and now a museum devoted to Thomas Cookworthy. It has a two-storey, three-window front and an original entrance arch; the adjoining Tudor style house was built in 1840. The most northerly listed building in Fore Street is Knowle House (Grade II*) at number 137, thought to be late 17th or early 18th century, with a later 18th century doorway and interior. Naturalist George Montagu died here in 1815.

Although Fore Street provides a wealth of interesting buildings, it is worthwhile diverting along Duncombe Street to explore further afield. Duncombe House is an 18th or early 19th century three storey dwelling with slate hung front, standing above the road on a stone plinth, while on the other side of the road 20 to 26 (evens) and 1 to 3 Eastern Backway form a group of cottages of similar age. Further on, Waterloo Place is a smart terrace of four early 19th century houses, forming a group with 7, 8, and 9 Belle Vue Road. Continuing along Waterloo Road one comes to Church Street, in which lies the church of St Thomas of Canterbury (Grade I) that once represented the separate parish of Dodbrooke. The nave and south aisle date from 1450 and the font is Norman. The medieval screen was restored and extended by Harry Hems of Exeter in 1897.

Continuing down Church Street one passes Church House at number 148 and Inglenook at 146, both 18th century. Further down, Rose Terrace and Rose Cottage form an attractive group, while 62 to 44 (evens) present an 18th century row, standing high above the road behind a terraced pavement. At 39 an unlisted former commercial building bears a sign for Ernest Steer & Sons, Agricultural Engineers. In 1891, Ernest Steer, the son of a general smith, was an agricultural implement maker living in Waterloo Place. The lower section of Church Street is decidedly more modern, until one reaches the very end, where 4 Ebrington Street and the King of Prussia Inn present a pleasingly asymmetrical pair of curved slate-hung buildings, dating from the 18th century, before one emerges once more on the waterfront.

Helen Wilson

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