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Torre Abbey

Address : The King's Drive
Town/City : Torquay
County : Devon
Country : England
Post code : TQ2 5JE
Phone : 01803 293593
Web Site :

Where the present meets the past.

Welcome to the heart of Torquay – past, present and future. Imagine the silent prayers of the Abbey's medieval "White Canons". Picture the opulent lifestyle of the Cary family who transformed the Abbey into a fine country home. Today you can experience the many lives of Torre Abbey and experience its place, still at the heart of the English Riviera. Enjoy our impressive permanent art collection and lively programme of contemporary arts events. Visit our picturesque gardens, with exotic and exciting plants and even some mysteries to be solved.



The grand doors of Torre Abbey closed in 2005 for an extensive £6.5 million restoration.
The restoration was enabled by a substantial grant of £4.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as contributions from Torbay Council, English Heritage, the Friends of Torre Abbey, the Wolfson Foundation, Museum, Libraries and Archives Commission, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Renaissance South West.

Torre Abbey is Torquay’s oldest building and is sited in a very prominent position overlooking Torre Abbey meadows and the seafront promenades beyond. It is a large building with a floor area of nearly 600 square metres, divided into 122 rooms, on twenty levels with 256 individual steps. It consists of two Grade I listed buildings, four Grade II listed buildings, an historic garden and is a scheduled ancient monument of national importance.

The fabric of the building had been in a poor and deteriorating condition since the 1840s. Experts all agreed that unless a comprehensive programme of repairs and alterations could take place that the future of this historic resource could be in jeopardy. For example, the roughcast renders added in the early 20th century were cement-based and were preventing the walls from breathing, causing structural timbers to rot.

The first and most important phase of the Torre Abbey Project is now complete. It has not only protected the oldest parts of the building, it has vastly improved visitor access and is enabling visitors to see parts of the Abbey that had previously been inaccessible.

  • The west range of the building has been fully restored. This is the oldest part of the Abbey and is archaeologically and architecturally extremely important.
  • A new visitor entrance has been opened under the Abbot’s Tower and a new visitor route developed that will highlight the stunningly restored cloister garden and the atmospheric medieval undercrofts.
  • Visitor facilities throughout the building have been improved with new shop, café, toilets and car parking.
  • The attraction has a new lease of artistic life with a the launch of contemporary exhibitions, workshops and arts events in the Abbey’s galleries.

A complex team of architects, structural engineers archaeologists, designers and surveyors have worked together to successfully achieve the first phase of the Torre Abbey Project. Future phases will redevelop the Abbey’s galleries and restore the historic gardens.

We hope that, as you explore the Abbey, we can reveal the depths of this building’s history through the fascinating story of its restoration.



Flying Aubergine are bringing the original Torre Abbey kitchen back to life as a stylish new Cafe. With a cast iron cooking range filling one whole wall, the roots of the kitchen are clear and Flying Aubergine’s commitment to fresh, organic and local food brings you a menu that reflects the kitchen’s original purpose and values while satisfying today’s lifestyle dining. That means you are always welcome and the menu will appeal to both your appetite and your pocket, so refresh with a cappuccino, recharge with a panini or relish our chef’s local specialities.

Situated at the front of the Abbey the Café is open all day and has its own entrance so you don’t have to enter the Abbey to keep enjoying the experience.



It would be impossible to find a more appropriate showcase for Torbay’s art collection than historic Torre Abbey, the home of some of Torbay’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.

Most of the original contents of Torre Abbey were sold by the family at auction in 1858 and 1916. 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 has paintings from most periods, but 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 Abbey aims to collect 18th, 19th and 20th century landscape, 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 have assisted with a number of recent purchases as well as making a substantial contribution to the restoration fund.

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