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THE town of Exmouth, as its name imports, is situated at the mouth of the Ex,
one of the largest rivers in Devonshire, which, rising in Exmoor, in Somersetshire,
flows past Tiverton, Exeter, and Topsham, and after a course of about seventy miles
discharges itself into the sea. It lies on the left bank of the river, and is about eleven
miles to the south-eastward of Exeter, and one hundred and sixty-eight from London. It
is sheltered from the north-east and south-east winds; and the temperature of the air is
mild and highly favourable to invalids. As the bathing-machines are placed within the
bar, which breaks the violence of the sea, visitors are thus enabled to bathe in safety at
all times. There are also excellent warm sea- water baths in the town for such as require
them. There is a convenient market-place at Exmouth; and a new church was erected
by Lord Rolle in 1825. Exmouth and Littleham constitute a united parish, the population
of which is about 3,400. In 1814, the late Admiral Sir Edward Pellew was created a
peer, with the title of Baron Exmouth; and in 1816, after his expedition to Algiers; he
was further advanced to the rank of Viscount.

In the reign of lung John, Exmouth appears to have been a port of some
consequence; and in 1347 it furnished ten ships and one hundred and ninety- three
mariners to the grand fleet assembled by Edward III or his expedition against France. In
the reign of Henry VIII., Leland calls it “a fisschar tounlet,” in which state it appears to
have continued till about the middle of the last century, when it began to increase, in
consequence of the number of persons visiting it for the sake of sea-bathing. It is said
that Exmouth first came into repute as a watering-place from one of the judges of assize
going there to bathe, and returning -with his health very much improved. The following
account of the place, and of the manner in which the visitors passed their time about
sixty years ago, is from a letter published in Polwhele’s History of Devon: — “The village
is a very pretty one, and composed, for the most part, of cot houses, neat and clean,
and consisting of four or five rooms, which are generally let at a guinea a week. We
have from some of the houses, when the tide is in, a beautiful view of the river, which,
united with the sea, forms a fine sheet of water before cur doors of large extent. Lord
Courtenay’s and Lord Lisburne’s grounds, rising in inequalities on the other shore,
complete the perspective. This is the gayest part of the village; but then its brilliancy is
only temporary— for, the tide returned, instead of a line sheet of water, we are
presented with a bed of mud, whose perfumes are not equal to those of a bud of
roses…… Exmouth boasts no public rooms or assemblies, save one card assembly, in
an inconvenient apartment at one of the inns, on Monday evenings. The company

meets at half after five, and break up at ten; they play at shilling whist, or two penny
quadrille. We have very few young people here, and no diversions; no belles dames
amusing to the unmarried, but some beldames unamusing to the married. Walking on a
hill which commands a view of the ocean, and bathing, with a visit or two, serve to pass
away the morning and tea-drinking in the evening.”

From the preceding account it would appear that Exmouth, “sixty years since,”
was but a dull place, even at the height of the season, and more likely to induce
lowness of spirits than to prove a remedy for care, “the busy man’s disease;” for what
temperament, however mercurial, could bear up against the daily round of tea-parties
— where silence was only broken by the “beldame’s” scandal — diversified once a
week with shilling whist or two penny quadrille? Since the period when the above-
quoted letter was written, Exmouth has been greatly improved, and many large houses
have been built for the accommodation of visitors. But since the cot-houses have been
elevated to handsome three-storied dwellings, it is only fair to add that the rate of
lodgings has also been raised in the same proportion ; ” five or six rooms, neat and
clean,” are no longer to be obtained at a guinea a week. There is now a commodious
assembly-room in the town, where the young and the fair — who are not so scarce
at Exmouth as they appear to have been sixty years ago — occasionally meet to
enjoy the amusement of dancing ; while the more elderly have still the opportunity of
cheating time at “shilling whist or two penny quadrille.” There are also several billiard
and reading-rooms, which are places pleasant enough to while away an hour or two
in when it rains; and the monotony of the morning walk on the hill, and the dullness
of the evening tea-drinking, are now frequently diversified with excursions by water to
Powderham Castle, Dawlish, Topsham, and places adjacent.

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