The Swashbuckling History of Torbay

The Swashbuckling History of Torbay

There was a time in history when Torbay wasn’t known for its beautiful coastal destinations or its fresh-from-the-ocean cuisine.

In the seventeenth century the coast of Torbay was being routinely ransacked by Barbary pirates, otherwise known as the Ottoman corsairs, were so famous that Samuel Pepys wrote about them in his diary. The pirates’ main objective was to capture slaves to sell in the North African markets.

One of the most famous Barbary pirates is Captain Jack Ward- the inspiration behind Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He was known as the “greatest scoundrel that ever sailed from England” and was previously a privateer in the English navy before turning to piracy. He was known to plunder the shores of Torbay along with his fleet of ships.

Although there was never any permanent occupation of Torbay, ships full of pirates would come and go from the coast, the shores brightened during the 1700s when early visitors remarked that the area was “a bit of sunny Italy” against the grey and fierce English coast.

Coincidentally the Barbary pirates were eventually stopped when the United States conducted the First and Second Barbary Wars, which ended in a payment of tribute. The peace treaty that was instated was broken by Algiers in 1807 until Britain compelled them to reinstate it.

Ranscombe House itself was once owned by a sea captain and the nautical history of the area surrounding Brixham makes for an interesting walk along the coastline. The Pirate Festival in May has live music and entertainment and is a favourite with many regular visitors.

For more information on the history of Ranscombe House, visit our about page.