History of Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens

Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens, at the bottom of Peak Hill, is a favourite Sidmouth spot for many of our hotel guests. The walled ornamental gardens enjoy an enviable location with views straight out across the sea and along the Jurassic coastline.

The gardens were created around 1820 when Emmanuel Lousada, owner of nearby Peak House, built a detached marina villa called Cliff Cottage. The cottage, which was on the headland at the western end of the Esplanade was renamed ‘Sea View’ in the late 19th century and occupied by private owners until 1930.

In the early 1930s, the gardens were bought by Sidmouth Urban District Council for £3,500. The council engaged the gardens department of Dartington Hall Ltd, based at Dartington Hall, Totnes, to design a new scheme and carry out construction works.

The work involved demolishing the house and modifying the gardens to include formal gardens, lawns, ornamental trees and shrubs, flower beds and seating areas.

His Grace, The Duke of Connaught (Queen Victoria’s third son), the gardens’ namesake, formally opened the gardens on 3 November 1934 aged 84. You can still see the plaque marking the grand opening present within the gardens overlooking the main lawn.

During World War II, the gardens were closed to the public and used to help defend the south coast. Two 138mm swivel guns, taken from the French battleship ‘Paris’ were mounted in the gardens looking out to sea, a searchlight was installed in the clock tower, and another gun was placed in the Sunken Garden for practice. The concrete emplacement built near the garden’s main entrance is still visible today.

Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens are now a popular location for music, theatre and art exhibitions. During the summer both the Sidmouth Town Band and the Ottery St Mary Silver Band perform regular free evening concerts in the gardens.

Just a short stroll from the Royal York and Faulkner Hotel along the Esplanade, we recommend paying a visit to these historic gardens.

Image credit: Jonathan Thacker. Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons 2.0