Looking east along Sidmouth Beach
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Devon and Cornwall|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Sidmouth is a town situated on the English Channel coast in Devon, South West England, 14 miles (23 km) east-southeast of Exeter. In 2004, it had a population of about 15,000, of whom 40% were aged 65 or over. By the time of the 2011 census the population was 12,569. It is a tourist resort and a gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. A large part of the town has been designated a conservation area.
Sidmouth appeared in the Domesday Book as Sedemuda, meaning "mouth of the Sid". Like many such settlements, it was originally a fishing village. Although attempts have been made to construct a harbour, none has succeeded. A lack of shelter in the bay prevented growth as a port.
Sidmouth remained a village until the fashion for coastal resorts grew in the Georgian and Victorian periods of the 18th and 19th centuries. A number of Georgian and Regency buildings still remain. In 1819, George III's son Edward, Duke of Kent, his wife, and baby daughter (the future Queen Victoria) came to stay at Woolbrook Glen for a few weeks. In less than a month he had died from an illness. The house later became the Royal Glen Hotel; a plaque on an exterior wall records the visit. In 1874, Sidmouth was connected to the railway network by a branch line from Sidmouth Junction, which called at Ottery St Mary and Tipton St John. This was dismantled in 1967 as a result of the Beeching Axe.
In 2008, a Canadian millionaire, Keith Owen, who had been on holiday in the town and planned to retire there, bequeathed the community's civic society, the Sid Vale Association, about £2.3 million upon learning that he had only weeks to live due to lung cancer. The bequest was used as a capital fund to generate an annual interest dividend of around £120,000 for community projects.
Sidmouth lies at the mouth of the River Sid in a valley between Peak Hill to the west and Salcombe Hill to the east. It is surrounded by the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is on the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site and the South West Coast Path. The red-coloured rock indicates the arid conditions of the Triassic geological period.
The wide esplanade has been a prominent feature since Regency times. A series of southwesterly storms in the early 1990s washed away much of the shingle beach protecting the masonry. A series of artificial rock islands was constructed to protect the sea front, and tons of pebbles were trucked in to replace the beach.
Sidmouth is 12 miles from the M5 at Exeter from Junction 30, Sidmouth is then accessed by the coast road A3052. A regular bus service is run to the town from Exeter up to every half-hour by Stagecoach, the bus then carries on to Honiton or Seaton on an hourly basis.  Since the closure of the Sidmouth Railway in 1967, the nearest railway stations are Feniton, Honiton or Whimple, all on the West of England line. Feniton is the closest of these stations, being eight miles away.
Sidmouth has its own town council, presided over by a chairman elected from councillors. There are eight wards, with 19 councillors in all. The town clerk is the senior paid officer with a team of full-time and part-time staff. The town is responsible for many of the locally run services including the information centre. Sidmouth lies within the areas of East Devon District Council and Devon County Council. The electorate of the Sidmouth ward at the 2011 census was 13,737.
The parish church is dedicated to St Giles and St Nicholas. It was rebuilt in 1860; the architect was William White. Of the medieval structure, only the 15th century tower has been retained. Oddments of Norman and later stonework were included in the rebuilding. Features of interest include the reredos by Samuel Sanders Teulon and the Duke of Kent Memorial Window which Queen Victoria gave in 1867. Parts of the original fabric, such as the windows, were reused by the historian Peter Orlando Hutchinson in building a folly adjoining his house. He was also responsible for saving the stained glass in the vestry. The folly is the Old Chancel in Coburg Terrace which was started by Hutchinson in 1859, in protest over the destruction of the original church fabric during rebuilding.
The museum, next to the church, has local memorabilia, historical artefacts, and geological samples.
The church of All Saints, also Anglican (Taylor, architect, 1837), is in the Early English style with lancet windows and "oddly clumsy" pinnacles. There were also Unitarian, Wesleyan (later Methodist) and Congregational chapels; the Unitarian chapel was founded in the 17th century by Presbyterians and the Wesleyan and Congregational ones in 1837 and 1846 respectively.
Sidmouth is home to the Norman Lockyer Observatory and Planetarium, located on Salcombe Hill. The facility, completed in 1912, fell into disuse but was saved from demolition by the appeals of enthusiasts to East Devon District Council. The observatory now operates as a science education project and is open to the public.
Sidmouth Folk Week is an annual folk festival in early August attracting musicians and visitors. It became less financially viable over the years and in 2005 the last of the commercial sponsors, essential for its existence, pulled out. To continue the tradition, individuals grouped together to form Sidmouth FolkWeek Productions, a limited company. Since the change of format, the event has been held on a smaller scale, with no arena at the Knowle, though marquees are still erected in the Blackmore Gardens and The Ham at the eastern end of the town. The popular late night extra feature is also run at Bulverton on the edge of Sidmouth next to the main campsite.
During the summer, Sidmouth Town Band, a brass band, play a series of concerts in the Connaught Gardens each Sunday at 8pm from late May until early September. The earliest record of the band is from a photograph of 1862.
In 2010, during competition, it was crowned West of England Champion in the third section. It went on to win third prize at the national finals of Great Britain. In 2011, it retained its West of England Champion title, becoming one of only a handful of bands to win back-to-back titles, and was promoted to the second section from 2012. From 2017 the band was promoted to the First Section.
Sidmouth has featured in various literary works, e.g. as "Stymouth" in Beatrix Potter's children's story The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930) in which the author included views of the beach and other parts of the Devon countryside. In Thomas Hardy's Wessex it is the inspiration for "Idmouth". "Baymouth" in William Makepeace Thackeray's Pendennis, and "Spudmouth" in The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, are both based on the town. In G. A. Henty's book "With Wolfe in Canada" the hero James Walsham is from Sidmouth and parts of the book take place there at the beginning and end. The poet Elizabeth Barrett lived in the town from 1832 until 1835.
It was a favourite spot for Sir John Betjeman. He chose it as the subject of the first programme of the television series John Betjeman in the West Country that he wrote and presented in 1962, The script takes the form of an extended poem and was republished in 2000 as a short book.
Also in 1962, R F Delderfield had a house built on Peak Hill in Sidmouth. The house still exists and is called the 'Gazebo'.
The Sidmouth Herald is the local newspaper.
Sidmouth has been a frequent winner of Britain in Bloom awards. Most recently it won the Small Town category in 2001 and the Coastal Resort category in 2005.
The Sid Vale Association, the first civic society in Britain, was founded in 1846 and is based in Sidmouth.
In 2016, a worldwide architectural competition was held in the town to provide ideas for the future redevelopment of Sidmouth's eastern town and seafront. The competition was initiated by Sidmouth Architect Henry Beech Mole.
Jacob's Ladder is a series of wooden steps leading up to Connaught Gardens from Jacob's Ladder beach and its red cliffs.
Connaught Gardens date from around 1820. They were named after the Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria and he officially opened the gardens in 1934, aged 84. The bandstand there is used by bands in many weeks of the summer season.
This grassy slope up and along Peak Hill follows the red cliffs above Jacob's Ladder Beach. It provides a wide view eastwards over the whole town towards Salcombe Hill beyond it.
The principal revenue is from tourism, with a wide range of hotels, guest houses as well self catering accommodation in the local area. Sidmouth is a retirement location, so pensioner spending is another source of income.
The largest employer is the East Devon District Council, whose headquarters are at the former Knowle Hotel. There is a large independent department store, Fields of Sidmouth, which has been on the same site for over 200 years. There are pubs, restaurants, coffee houses and tea rooms. Also an indoor swimming pool, a sports hall at the leisure centre and a golf course.
Sidmouth College is a comprehensive school which takes children aged between 11 and 18 from as far afield as Exmouth and Exeter. In February 2012, with 852 pupils on the roll, the college was deemed 'Good' by Ofsted, . The judgment of improvement in the college's provision followed the previous inspection (May 2009) when it was deemed 'satisfactory'. In the 2005 Ofsted report, when there were 869 students on the roll, it was also deemed 'satisfactory'.
Sidmouth College is situated in the Sid Valley. It admits students from East Devon.
There is one state junior school, which takes children from between the ages of 8 and 11. There are two state infant schools. There is, additionally, a private school : St John's International School (formerly known as the Convent of the Assumption) which takes children from two to 18, including overseas boarders. In 2007, it was taken over by International Education Systems (IES).
Sidmouth International School is an English language school for foreign pupils.