1. History of Connaught Gardens
The formal use of this land dates back to around 1820 when Emmanuel Lousada, owner of nearby Peak House, started the construction of a detached marina villa called Cliff Cottage. The cottage, which was on the headland at the western end of the Esplanade was renamed 'Sea View' in the late 19th century, was occupied by private owners until 1930 when the owner placed it on the market. The owner, a Mr Jemmett, was considered an eccentric recluse.
There was much controversy when Sidmouth Urban District Council decided to buy the gardens for £3,500. The council decided at the outset that the gardens needed different treatment to other local authority parks of their day - which consisted of wide paths with massed flower beds and a children's playground. The council therefore contacted the gardens department of Dartington Hall Ltd, based at Dartington Hall, Totnes, to design a scheme and carry out construction works.
The house was demolished because it was in such poor condition and served no useful purpose to the proposed layout. Some of the walls of the house were retained and incorporated into the overall design. The main lawn was modified slightly and remains the focus today of activities in the gardens. The high walls were considered essential to provide shelter and the old entrance drive was also retained. It is these features that still survive today and provide the main backbone to the structure of the garden and areas such as the jungle remain much as they were then.
The gardens now contain a fine range of plants that thrive in the temperate climate including a new herbaceous bed by the main lawn.