Torre Abbey Historic House, Gallery, Garden and Cafe

Exceptional Art

It would be impossible to find a more appropriate showcase for Torbay’s art collection than historic Torre Abbey, home to some of theTorbay's leading citizens for over 800 years. The present appearance of the Galleries at Torre Abbey is largely due to the Cary family who, during the 18th century, refashioned the Abbey as a magnificent country house. Like all country houses, one of the Abbey’s functions was to provide an appropriate setting for its owners’ pictures and portraits, which as well as being intrinsically beautiful served to underline the family’s social standing by demonstrating their wealth, taste, patronage of the arts, and venerable family pedigree.

The present art collection is largely the result of donations or bequests made by local people since 1930, when the Council purchased Torre Abbey from the Cary family and turned it into an art gallery.

The Abbey's permanent collection is particularly rich in 19th century works. These generally reflect the taste of the genteel families, many from London, who bought villas in Torquay during the 19th century, in the days when it served as a fashionable winter resort. The collections include landscapes, marine and genre paintings by British artists, concentrating in particular on views of South Devon and its coastal waters, and works by local artists. The Friends of Torre Abbey was formed in 1992 to raise funds for the benefit of the collections, and has assisted with a number of recent purchases as well as making a substantial contribution to the restoration fund.

Torquay's Oldest Building

During a massive three-year restoration project some stunning finds have been unearthed including a 14th Century stone grave coverstone, featuring a tree-of-life carving in near-perfect condition. The slab was excavated from under the cloister walk and covered the grave of one of the Abbey's Saristan. Explore the ancient undercrofts of the Abbey, built in 1196 for the “White Canons”, named for their distinctive white habits.

The canons who lived here over 800 years ago, when Torquay did not exist and there was only a collections villages and small hamlets, followed a strict regime of silence and prayer. Their austere lives contrasted with their great wealth, gained from taxes or ‘tithes’ of grain and other produce from the Abbey’s vast lands. The Tithe Barn, built to store the grain, became known as the Spanish Barn after it served as a prison for 397 sailors captured from the Spanish Armada. This is now a popular and unique venue for exhibitions, weddings and special events.

Throughout the ages Torre Abbey has welcomed many thousands of visitors: weary travellers cared for by the canons, aristocrats and naval officers hosted by the Carys and Olympic hopefuls attending the 1947 sailing events in the bay. Visitors are now once again welcome to explore Torquay’s oldest and most fascinating building.

Torre Abbey
The King's Drive
tel: 01803 293 593

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Torre Abbey needs your Vote for Museums at NIght! / <span itemprop="startDate" content="2016-05-03T00:00:00Z">Tue 03 May 2016</span>Torre Abbey needs your Vote for Museums at NIght! / Tue 03 May 2016

Torre Abbey Historic House and Gardens has been shortlisted to go to a public vote in order to secure a spectacular event as part of Connect! and the Museums at Night festival taking place from Thursday 27 to Saturday 29...

Collections Spotlight: Girl in a Pink Veil / <span itemprop="startDate" content="2015-11-24T00:00:00Z">Tue 24 Nov 2015</span>Collections Spotlight: Girl in a Pink Veil / Tue 24 Nov 2015

On display at Torre Abbey is this intimate portrait 'Girl in a Pink Veil', oil on canvas, painted by Jules Bastien-Lepage. Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) was a French artist, best-known for his small portraits, which wer...

Collections Spotlight: Pietro Calvi, Othello / <span itemprop="startDate" content="2015-11-04T00:00:00Z">Wed 04 Nov 2015</span>Collections Spotlight: Pietro Calvi, Othello / Wed 04 Nov 2015

Pietro Calvi was an eminent sculptor whose work reflected a fascination with the Orient. Othello was amongst his early groundbraking models and was one of the first in which he combined bronze and marble. Othello was his...

My Events

Torbay Family Orchestra / <span itemprop="startDate" content="2017-02-18T00:00:00Z">Sat 18 Feb</span> to <span  itemprop="endDate" content="2017-04-01T00:00:00Z">Sat 01 Apr 2017</span> <span>(1 month)</span>Torbay Family Orchestra / Sat 18 Feb to Sat 01 Apr 2017 (1 month)

Come and Join the new Torbay Family Orchestra run by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BS0) Only £2 per person per session...... Once a month at Torre Abbey (Learning Lab) - starting on Saturday February 18th...

Christmas Fun - 3 days of lantern &amp; wreath-making / <span itemprop="startDate" content="2016-12-17T00:00:00Z">Sat 17</span> to <span  itemprop="endDate" content="2016-12-22T00:00:00Z">Thu 22 Dec 2016</span> <span>(6 days)</span>Christmas Fun - 3 days of lantern & wreath-making / Sat 17 to Thu 22 Dec 2016 (6 days)

Light up Christmas... make a lantern and join our Lantern Parade! Or... if you prefer, make your own natural wreath to grace your front door this Yuletide. We are running a series of 6 family lantern and wreath-makin...

Create your own scintillating glass baubles / <span itemprop="startDate" content="2016-12-21T00:00:00Z">Wed 21 Dec 2016</span>Create your own scintillating glass baubles / Wed 21 Dec 2016

Give your tree that added personal sparkle this Christmas! Decorate your very own glass baubles with artist Jackie Bufton at Torre Abbey. This is a family workshop for both adults and children. The adults will work ...

My Opportunities

Volunteer Tour Guides: Heritage & Collections / Mon 12 Oct 2015

We are seeking to recruit 5 volunteers as Tour Guides for Torre Abbey’s Historic House and Collections. Through training new volunteer guides, we hope to raise awareness of Torre Abbey’s stunning collections of Fine and ...

Digital Spotlight Volunteers / Mon 12 Oct 2015

We are seeking 2 Digital Volunteers for Torre Abbey’s new Spotlight Project. Spotlight aims to raise awareness of Torre Abbey’s stunning collections of Fine and Applied Art, Social History and Archaeology. Who are we ...

My Audio

Judi Spiers on BBC Radio Devon interviews Rodney Peppé

‘It's marvellous stuff… it's one of those things you look at and you see something new every time…’ Listen to Rodney Peppé talking about his latest exhibition, The Wonderful World of Rodney Peppé at Torre Abbey. Full de...

Jo Loosemore on BBC Radio Devon interviewing Rodney Peppé

‘Prepare you‘re about to travel in a pirate kettle ship, possibly even a flying basket, a travel machine, a clockwork bus, in a lunar module egg box…. This is the wonderful world (…) of Rodney Peppé.’ Listen to Rodney P...