Though Topsham lost its independent status when it was absorbed into the City of Exeter in 1966, this 700-year-old town undoubtedly retains its own distinctive identity, charm and character. Located in a hamlet formed by the confluence of the Exe estuary and the River Clyst, Topsham was once the second busiest port in England, as well as a centre for shipbuilding amongst numerous other activities. When Countess Isabella de Fortibus built a weir over the Exe in the 1290s, ships could no longer make their way upriver to Exeter, and Topsham’s port was able to expand, control trade, and benefit by collecting duty and taxes (Exeter eventually responded by having the first ship canal in the country built to bring shipping back to the capital city). Topsham continued to develop as a shipbuilding centre, with the construction of boats that plied the North Atlantic, importing salt cod from the Newfoundland banks. The town supplied three vessels to fight against the Spanish Armada, and, later, was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War. What a busy place Topsham must once have been, with allied businesses including sail making, rope making, chain and anchor forging, and nail making. Maritime trade contributed to the character of the town: ships that traded with Holland brought back Dutch bricks as ballast and these were used in the construction of the Dutch-inspired houses along Topsham’s Strand. Later, in the age of steam, steam ships made the journey from Topsham to London regularly (the journey took three days). The railway came to Topsham in 1861, with a spur reaching Topsham quay, enabling goods landed by sea to be transported elsewhere in the country. Today commercial ships rarely come to Topsham quay, and the main activity on the river is leisure craft. Topsham has an active sailing club, while the Trout’s Boatyard and marina, run by a family that has been here for no less than 500 years, continues to look after boat owners’ needs. Find out more about the history of Topsham by visiting Topsham Museum.
About this web site
This web site came out of the success of our bi-annual Topsham Food Festival and Nello’s Longest Table celebrations, and our determination to continue to spread the word about how special Topsham is, especially as a destination for lovers of food and drink. The site has been designed and created by Marc and Kim Millon who have been living, working, eating and drinking in Topsham for nearly 40 years (Marc is the writer, Kim the photographer and designer). Over this period of four decades, they have seen the town evolve without ever losing the essential character that makes it most special. Indeed, here there is a collective determination to ensure that we safeguard, support and celebrate the local businesses that make up our community.
We invite contributions to this site — contributions from the proprietors of the featured food and drink businesses, as well as articles, reviews, recipes from locals and visitors alike.
If you are interested in contributing to the site, please contact Marc.