Blue plaques to go up on two houses in Fortfield Terrace, Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 September 2018

Plaques will honour important residents of Sidmouth who lived in Fortfield Terrace during 19th century

Two houses in Sidmouth’s elegant Fortfield Terrace are to get blue plaques commemorating illustrious former residents.

The row of white stucco-faced houses, overlooking the cricket field, was built between 1792 and 1800 and they have been listed buildings since 1951.

Now, as part of the Sid Vale Association’s initiative to place more blue plaques on local buildings, it has applied for plaques on numbers 9 and 10 of the terrace, and East Devon District Council has granted permission.

Number 9 was, from 1819-1821, the home of the Reverend Edmund Butcher, whose guidebooks on Sidmouth played an important part in promoting the town as a fashionable resort for the nobility and gentry. The guides were published in 1803 and 1810, before he moved to Fortfield Terrace; he had been appointed as minister in 1798. His family’s association with the house continued until 1872.

Number 10 was occupied during the 1850s by a marine artist who also designed and built sailing boats. Robert Charles Leslie’s yacht, Rip Van Winkle, was the forerunner of modern family cruising yachts. Leslie left Sidmouth after 12 years and recorded his time there in his book, ‘A Waterbiography’. The house later became the premises of the Sidmouth Club, founded in 1890.

Fortfield Terrace is an attractive part of Sidmouth’s seafront area, but it was never completed in the way its architect and builder had envisaged. The architect, Michael Novosielski, died in April 1795 when the westward part of the Terrace was just completed. Builder and owner, Thomas Jenkins, was living in Rome at the time and delegated the job of overseeing the construction to his nephew William Jenkins, then the Vicar of Sidmouth. William Jenkins let number 10 to a tenant while workmen were still finishing it, but after that the building work came to an end.

As a result the terrace has eight houses on one side of the central block but only two on the other. However it has played host to some important visitors; in 1831 the Grand Duchess Heleneof of Russia stayed at number 8, and George IV as Prince of Wales is said to have visited Lord Gwydir at number 1 in 1815.

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