Frances “Fanny” Nelson, Viscountess Nelson (1758 – 4 May 1831), married Lord Nelson in 1787. The couple became estranged after Lord Nelson’s affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton and they effectively separated around 1800. After spending time in Bath and Paris Lady Nelson eventually settled in Exmouth. She died in 1831 and is buried in Littleham Churchyard.
Exmouth’s Rolle College had its origins in Southlands School, which moved to Fairfield, a large house on the Douglas Avenue site, around 1902. The school grew over time and took over the former residences of Brockhurst and Eldin. Dame Elisabeth Frink, the sculptor, was one of Southland’s most famous alumnae. Southlands closed in 1942 and was commandeered for the war effort in 1943.
Rolle College opened as an emergency teacher training college for women only in February 1946. Men were first admitted as students in September 1966. In 1988 Rolle College became part of Plymouth Polytechnic which became Plymouth University in 1992. The Exmouth site closed in 2008 when the courses, students and staff relocated to the University of Plymouth’s main campus.
Rolle College Buildings
In 1946 the College started out with three main buildings: Fairfield (1988-1964), Brockhurst (1912-1957) and Eldin (listed building, 1920-).
The two year training courses started in 1948 and Brockhurst, Coonoor Lodge (sold 1962), Ryll Court (sold 1962 and then demolished) and St Hilarian (demolished 2000) were used as hostels. Later hostels included Seacroft and Seacroft Lodge (both demolished in 2011), Dunsinane (demolished 2013) and Hasledene (demolished 2009). Langstone Hall of Residence on the main site opened in 1953. The playing fields were acquired in 1955.
The Daw Building opened in 1959 and Carlton Hall burnt down in 1960. Work started on the new byuildings in 1961. The Deputy Principles House, Tamar, was purchased in 1965 and sold in 2011. Kempstone Hall (demolished 1987) and Kempstone Lodge (sold 2009) were first used in 1978. In 1979 the Spicer and Stork Buildings came into use. The Owen Building was opened in 2002.
Locations away from the main Douglas Avenue site included:
Kingsthorpe – 4 Douglas Avenue
Study Block – Douglas Avenue
Seacroft – 8 Douglas Avenue
Ferniehurst – 19 Douglas Avenue
Kempstone Hall – 17 Portland Avenue
St Hilarian – 21 Portland Avenue
Carlton Hall – 1 Salterton Road
Coonoor Lodge – 47 Salterton Road
Ryll Court – Albion Hill
St. Olan’s – 14 Cyprus Road
Haseledene Hall and Cottage – 19/21 Cyprus Road
Dunsinane – Maer Road
Midway – Fairfield Road
Recent developments on the Rolle College Site
Following the closure of the site in 2008 a Community Benefit Company (Rolle Exmouth Limited, or REL) was set up in 2010 to find new uses for the site that would benefit the community. Negotiations took place between REL and Plymouth University, however in 2016 it was announced that the entire site would be taken over by the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education. In preparation a large proportion of the existing buildings were demolished over the winter of 2017 – 2018.
The Historic Exmouth Plaque erected by the Exmouth Society states:
“This was the location of Pratteshide (Pratt’s landing place) from where the ancient ferry to Starcross, with royal concession, operated for many centuries. Nearby stood Douste’s House, built by Roger Douste prior to 1240 AD, where all shipping dues and ferry rents were paid. In the late 19th century, the area became known as Mona Island, named after one of the cottages on the site”.
Mona Island was originally on the shore of the Exe Estuary, but is now quite a distance away following the land reclamation in the early 19th century which evetually created the area occupied by the Colonies.
THere have been three distinct Railway Stations serving Exmouth.
The first station was some distance South of the present building, based on two residential buildings fronting onto Imperial Road. It opened in 1861.
The second station opened in 1924 to handle increased demand. This station included two new platforms, bringing the total to four. The goods shed closed in December 1967, becoming a skating rink and later part of the Exmouth Sports Centre.
The third and present station was built to the west of the second station to make way for an urban relief road (Marine Way). This station has just one platform. It opened in May 1976.
At one time Exmouth had four cinemas. Only one survives today, the Savoy.
The Savoy Cinema on Rolle Street was previously the Public Hall.
The Forum Cinema on the Parade opened as the New Picture House in the 1920s on the site of the Little Theatre. It closed in the 1960s(?), becoming a bingo hall, the Elite Social Club and currently (2016) Fever & Boutique Night Club.
The Regal Cinema on St Andrews Road opened in the late 1920s as the Manor Theatre and closed in the early 1950s. It subsequently became a ballroom, bowling alley, night club (Samantha’s), bar and soft play area. When Samantha’s closed in 2008 plans were drawn up to convert the building into fourteen flats, however this was put on hold over concerns around parking.
The Royal Cinema, also known in the past as the Grand and King’s was previously the King’s Hall just off the Exeter Road by Mona Island. The building had been erected in 1889 as St Margaret’s Church. After the congregation moved to the newly built All Saint’s Church the building was sold at auction in 1909. The first real film to play in Exmouth, of the funeral of King Edward VII, was shown here in 1910. This cinema was also the first in Exmouth to show a “Talkie” in January 1930. This was “The Singing Fool” which starred Al Jolson.
After closure in 1979 the Royal Cinema was demolished and replaced by housing.
Before the Second World War Exmouth’s cinemas did not open on Sundays. During the war there were however shows on Sundays for the benefit of service men in the area. In 1946 a public meeting voted against Sunday cinema, however this was overturned by a subsequent local poll (2,357 votes to 1,106) so cinemas in Exmouth have been able to open on Sundays ever since.
The Exmouth Gas, Coke and Water Company (Limited) was formed in 1844 and became the Exmouth Gas and Coke Company in 1865. By 1880 it was carbonising 1000 tons of coal a year and in 1900 produced around 40 million cubic feet of gas.
To meet demand a new gas holder was erected in 1910 with a capacity of 300,000 cubic feet. This was eventually insuufficient, so in 1931 another gas holder with a capacity of 750,000 cubic feet was built on a new site in the grounds of what was formerly Llandovery on Albion Hill.
The output of gas in 1950 was approximately 240 million cubic feet which would have required some 13,000 tons of coal to be carbonised.
The Gas Company was nationalised in 1949.
Today little evidence remains of the gas industry in Exmouth. The gas holders have been removed, though the Albion Hill site remains fenced off and unused. The original town centre site has largely been taken over by Jewsons.
Exmouth’s Jubilee Clock Tower was erected to the design of architects Kerley and Ellis to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The Hon. Mark Rolle provided most of the £350 needed for construction and Lady Gertrude Rolle laid the foundation stone on the 15th of September 1897.
The clock was originally hand wound by a council employee, but is now electric. The original mechanism can be seen in Exmouth Museum.
The Tower became a grade II listed building in 1978.
Exmouth’s open air swimming pool opened in 1932 on the seafront site of what is now Ocean at the end of Carlton Hill. It originally used water pumped from the sea and was the scene of many galas and home to the Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society, who previously had had to use the Docks for their activities.
The sea water was replaced in the 1970’s with a fresh water system. In 1985 the council gave up running the pool and for a few years after that it was run privately before closing permnanently.
In 1889 building work started on a swimming pool at the end of Camperdown Terrace (now the site of the Buoy Store). However, while superintending the works, Thomas Redway (of brickworks fame), died suddenly and what was know as the “Saloon Pool” was never completed.
The Exmouth B & Q DIY store closed on the 7th of November 2015 with the loss of 50 jobs. The Liverton Business Park outlet closed as part of a national downsizing exercise by the Kingfisher Group, which owns B & Q, following news of a rent increase by the owners of the site, Clinton Devon Estates.
The building, after an extensive refurbishment, is now home to The Range.
Once one of Exmouth’s largest employers, Pankhurst Engineering, closed in September 2008.
The Littleham Industrial Estate factory at its height employed around 300 workers. Plans were submitted in 2013 to use the site for 50 residential units, which included 20 affordable homes.
The factory made farm equipment and special dies, tools and jigs related to injection moulding.