Captain Thomas Hastings, 1778-1854
Sidmouth, Devon from Salcombe Hill looking west across the Town with Peak Hill in the Distance
Sidmouth, Devon from Salcombe Hill looking West
4th November 1805

"from Mt C........../Sidmouth / Nov 4th 1805"

pencil pen and ink and watercolour
21 x 31.50 cm (8.1/4 x 12.3/4 in.)


This view is taken from Salcombe Hill  looking West across the Town with the Church  visible with High Peak and Peak Hill in the distance  and  the Signal mast visible.  We thank Nigel Hyman with his help in identifying the view in this watercolour.


“Farewell, seductive Sidmouth by the sea older and more exclusive than Torquay : you’re the town for me!” so says Sir John Betjeman in "Bejtemans England".

Sidmouth is a town situated on the English Channel coast in Devon, South West England, 14 miles (23 km) east 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. 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.

Emmanuel Lousada, who founded the resort. The Jewish businessman recognised the physical beauty and potential of what was then a small port nestling on the mouth of the River Sid. He bought up as much land as he could in the late 1700s and set about developing a genteel, yet exotic holiday venue. He built the first cottage orné - a large house dressed up as a cottage and often thatched with pretty bargeboards, which appealed to the holidaying aristocracy of the day. Lousada was a brilliant publicist and attracted an ever- widening circle of grandees to build their own holiday houses a little above and away from the sea. They now form the best collection of cottages ornés in the country.
When the Duke and Duchess of Kent, with their baby daughter Victoria, the future Queen, took Woolbrook Cottage for their holiday, it sealed Sidmouth's status in social and architectural terms.Sidmouth remained a village until the fashion for coastal resorts grew in the Georgian and Victorian periods of the 18th and 19th centuries. The numerous fine Georgian and Regency villas and mansions are now mostly hotels. 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. Most of the route can still be traced and the Sidmouth railway station can still be found now although this is now a private property.

In 2008, Canadian millionaire, Keith Owen, who had vacationed 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 is to be 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. Erosion remains a serious concern east of the mouth of the Sid. The cliffs have been heavily eroded, threatening homes and the coastal footpath. 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.

The parish church is dedicated to St Giles & St Nicholas; it was rebuilt in 1860. Of the medieval structure only the 15th century tower was retained; the architect was William White. Oddments of Norman and later stonework were included in the rebuilding. Features of interest include the reredos by S. S. 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 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 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 The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, are both based on the town. The poet Elizabeth Barrett lived in the town from 1832 until 1835.Sidmouth has been the setting for television shows, most recently an ITV adaptation of Agatha Christie's Marple in Summer 2005. 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. Sidmouth, specifically the area of rock pools around Jacobs' Ladder, is also used as the location for H. G. Wells' The Sea Raiders.


Artist biography

Thomas Hastings was a collector of customs in Liverpool and was known as Captain Hastings. Born Thomas Barnett, he changed his surname to Hastings in 1812. Officer in the British Army 1795-1811, he was made Captain from 1799. He was an amateur painter, draughtsman, watercolour artist and etcher of landscapes, topographical views, marine subjects and coast scenes. As an etcher, he was good enough to become an Associate of the Liverpool Academy. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1813 and 1821 and at the British Institution in 1823.

Between 1820 and 1824, Hastings made 40 etchings of paintings by Wilson (two owned by himself and 38 either in or previously in the celebrated collection formed by Benjamin Booth, and inherited by Lady Ford). These were published by subscription as Etchings from the Works of Ric. Wilson, with some Memoirs of his Life &c. in 1825 (see Hastings 1825). Drawings connected with the project are in Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, which also formerly held an oil copy made by Hastings of Wilson's The Tiber: Rome in the Distance when owned by Lady Ford. Some of his surviving paintings, in particular Woodbury Tower, Devon (signed and dated 1813) and One of the Great Ponds between Hampstead and Highgate (signed and dated 1831), were influenced by Wilson.

Yale Center for British Art owns an oil by Hastings - Landscape with Figures of c.1822 (B1981.25.323).

For the latest research on Hastings including a checklist of his works, see Marianne A. Yule, 'Captain Thomas Hastings (1778-1854): His full Identity revealed', British Art Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, Autumn 2015, pp. 56-69