Aleister Crowley

This incident started Crowley on his journey to become ‘the Great Beast 666’ and ‘the wickedest man in the world’.

This incident started Crowley on his journey to become ‘the Great Beast 666’ and ‘the wickedest man in the world’.

In August 1964 the Rolling Stones performed concerts every day across the South West, using the Grand Hotel as a base. Originally, they were going to stay at the Queens Hotel but, on police advice, this was changed to the Grand. The idea was that a hotel further from the town centre could be kept secret from fans. This objective failed: “As soon as word was passed around crowds of eager fans – mostly girls, needless to say – began to gather outside the Grand hoping for a glimpse of their idols. Some of the more eager fans, however, were not content with a waiting and watching role and began to try to climb to the Stones suite on the first floor and were met by a stream of water from hosepipes directed by hotel staff.”

Incidentally, the Corbyn Head Hotel used to be the Phyllis Court Hotel, the hotel’s name being painted in great letters on the wall in front of the building. Late at night local wags used to paint the letters ‘SY’ at the beginning…

For a few years after the Great War it was hoped that Torquay would be the British Hollywood. We had the natural light and a range of scenery that could be utilised by inventive directors.

The first production was the full length 90-minute film ‘Nelson’, filmed in 1918. In the movie Torquay stands in for Naples and the peasants in the battle scenes are played by locals who storm the Royal Palace (the Grand). In 1919 ‘The Rocks of Valpre’ was set in a ‘Magic Cave’ on a ‘rocky coast’ and Corbyn Head was an ideal location.

Next to the Grand is the Recreation Ground where the BBC comedy Goodies episode ‘2001 and a Bit’ was filmed. Broadcast on October 26, 1976 at 9pm the story is set in the permissive future world of 2001 where all is tolerated, including a violent spectator sport clearly based on that of the just-released James Caan movie ‘Rollerball’.

One of the more recent movies to be filmed in Torquay, this time at the bowling green, was ‘Blackball’ (2003). Cliff Starkey (played by Paul Kaye) is a rebellious young bowls player whose behaviour gets him banned from the bowls club. Picked up by a sports agent (Vince Vaughn), Starkey is re-branded as the ‘bad boy of bowls’, turning bowls into a glitzy competition. Although the plot is fictional, the central character is based on real-life local bowls player Griff Sanders.

About the author

Kevin Dixon

Kevin Dixon lives in Torquay and went to Audley Park Secondary Modern (before it became Torquay Academy) and South Devon College (when it was still based in Torre).

His interests and work are in social policy, community development and history.

Years of experiencing the Bay’s tourist-friendly fixation on Agatha Christie finally caused a reaction – the idea of looking at the history of Torquay’s ordinary, and not-so-ordinary, residents and visitors.




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