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Cary Park: A Glimpse into Torquay's Rich History and Tranquil Beauty as Studied by Martin Dutton

Nestled just north of Torquay's bustling center, Cary Park stands as a reminder of an elegant and refined past that this seaside town found its origins in. The small but pleasant greenspace has witnessed remarkable events, from exhilarating horse races to grand agricultural shows, whilst its ancient history lies in simple farming. As the focal point of development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cary Park has evolved into a harmonious blend of landscaped vistas, elegant architecture, and peaceful open spaces.

In 1897, Cary Park was generously bestowed upon the public to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The land was donated by Robert S.S. Cary, hence the park's name, and the St. Marychurch Local Board oversaw its design and construction. A fountain, erected in 1903 by Robert Cary's widow, stands as a testament to the park's origins and the Cary family's benevolence, with a record of the dedication appearing on a block of Petitor Marble: “This Park, the generous gift of Robert S. S. Cary Esq., was dedicated to the public for ever, in the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria 1897.”

Cary Park itself was carefully planned and established in the 1890s as a public park, becoming the central point for the surrounding development that primarily took place between 1890 and 1915, with the layout of Cary Avenue and Cary Park aligning with an earlier tree-lined avenue, designed to create picturesque views towards the grand All Saints' Church. Standing as a prominent landmark within Cary Park, the majestic Parish Church was designed by the esteemed architect William Butterfield, an architectural gem constructed between 1868 and 1874 for the newly formed parish of Babbacombe.

The historical significance of Cary Park extends beyond its more recent developments with evidence of it having been inhabited since prehistoric times. Within close proximity to the conservation area lies the exceptionally preserved prehistoric field system of Walls Hills, dating back to the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (c. 1200-800 BC). A later estate map of the Cary family dated 1775, still shows the whole area of what is now Cary Park to have been a medieval field pattern.

Today the parks contemporary layout still reflects much of the original design and the wider development that followed showcases a well-executed example of late Victorian town planning. Although not as elaborate as some of Torquay's earlier villa developments, the conservation area's well-designed street patterns, generous open spaces, and harmonious integration of buildings all mark its unique appeal today. An interplay between its public open spaces and private gardens, lush greenery and mature trees form a captivating backdrop for the charming villas that grace the area, and promenaders can enjoy the peaceful ambience, with limited through traffic to cause disturbance and the presence of footpaths that wind through the parks.

With all this tranquillity, it is difficult to imagine the present-day Cary Park as having hosted some of the grander Torbay events of the Victorian era, even once, in 1854, as a venue for thrilling horse races which drew immense crowds to witness the daring riders in action. The location posed a unique challenge for these equestrian athletes, as a treacherous pond near the church often proved to be their undoing, resulting in unexpected plunges into the water.

Today Cary Park stands in understated beauty, a significant part of community life and the day-to-day comings and goings of residents and locals. Its rich and unlikely historical roots are probably little known to many, but its gentle elegance remains and is still enjoyed in much the same way as it has been for centuries.

Through the Seasons with Martin Dutton

In his studies of Torquay, Cary Park drew particular attention from artist Martin Dutton as he mapped the passing of days and seasons in careful contemplation of dog walkers, churchgoers and path roamers. As the seasons turned slowly, so too did the visitors, taking tranquil repose in these picturesque scenes.

You can discover Martin's work at Artizan Collective Gallery until June 25th. For more information, visit



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