Resort in southern England, 41 km/25 mi south of Exeter; from April 1998, administrative headquarters of Torbay unitary authority; population (2001) 62,950. It is a sailing centre and has an annual regatta in August. Tourism is very important. Torquay lies in the area known as the English Riviera on account of its mild climate and exotic plants, including palm trees.
The Domesday survey identifies part of the site of Torquay with the Norman period, recording that William I gave the manor of Cockintone (now Cockington) to a follower, Hostiarius. But by far the earliest link with the past is Kent's Cavern, in the Ilsham valley. A large and fine collection of the remains of extinct animals and Old Stone Age implements forms part of the exhibits at the Museum of the Torquay Natural History Society. In 1196 the Premonstratensians (a Roman Catholic monastic order) founded Torre Abbey, the ruins of which, together with the restored Monastic Barn and the Mansion House (dating in some parts from about the 15th century), are a conspicuous feature today on the seafront. The development of Torquay as a modern seaside resort dates back to the end of the 18th century when ‘Tor Kay’ or ‘Tor Key’ was no more than a cluster of fishermen's huts on the shore, with the village of Tor (or Torre) a short way inland. To deal with the threat of invasion by Napoleon, ships of the fleet constantly used Torbay as an anchorage, and houses were built on the shores of the bay for the accommodation of officers' families. Terracotta clay and marble are found near the town.
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