The extent of Eastern Town has been specified here, it did not and does not include the Esplanade or those buildings fronting on to it; which are included in the Town Conservation Area.
The history of eastern town is that of a mainly industrial area. While the west had the tourists, the east had the industries.
Prior to the building of the York Hotel and York Terrace in 1810 the land was in use as a shipyard. It seems that the yard was working right up to the time the land was sold. The recorded memories of some old Sidmouthians stated that in their childhood, which must have been in the first decade of the 19th C, up to three ships at a time were being built there.
The last record of a ship being built and launched at Sidmouth is in 1859. It was a steamer and weather conditions prevented the first launch but it was successfully achieved a few days later. It used no specialist launching equipment but was just launched in traditional Sidmouth fashion over the shingle bank.
Although ship building ceased, cargo ships still called at Port Royal to load and unload cargo. Some of the cargoes were felled timber from inland around Sidford and Sidbury but I have not been able to track down what would have been in the rectangular packages visible on this c1875 Francis Frith photograph. We can be sure it is after 1875 as it shows the gas works.
The gas works moved to the Ham in 1875; and in 1883 a report, in the Western Times, of an accident during the unloading of coal supplies tells us that coal was arriving by sea at Port Royal .
In 1876 there was a slaughter-house in Russell Street which was contaminating the wells of the nearby houses, as reported in the Western Times.
1885 saw planning approval for a glove factory to be built, by Mr Colin Sleep of London, where Holmdale now stands. Mr Sleep bought many pieces of land in Eastern Town which suggests his glove business was successful. The gloves were high quality hand-made not machine-made, this is a marker of the prosperity of Sidmouth as well as of the usefulness of good train links to London and other parts of the country. We have a description of the factory from sales particulars in 1897.
Devon directories record many other industries to be found in Marsh.
Extracts of the Sidmouth sections from many Devon directories will eventually be shown on Historic Sidmouth.