Topsham is an attractive town on the Exe estuary, Devon, in England's Westcountry. Now part of Exeter, it nevertheless maintains a distinctive identity. Loved by its locals, and savoured by those who visit, Topsham offers river walks; wildlife; a Saturday morning market; many characterful shops, restaurants and inns; and quiet space to sit and watch the sailing boats go by. But while present-day Topsham is undoubtedly picturesque and has a rich historical heritage, it always has been a working town. Despite no longer being one of the great trading ports of Britain, it continues to have a very strong business and commercial life, with traditional maritime trades continuing alongside the modern and computerised. The site aims to support and encourage the current and future community, so that the history which awaits us may be just as interesting and rewarding.

Topsham - looking north from Quay

James Woodrow Matthews

In answer to a number of enquiries about the builder and donor of Topsham's Matthews Hall, here's a brief biography.

James Woodrow Matthews, J.P., started his career in Topsham as a clerk in the office of one of the old sailing ship insuring clubs in the building [Grove House, then residence and business premises of John Holman] in which, having bought the property, he spent the last few years of his life. He was for many years with Messrs. W Lamplough & Co., Insurance Brokers, and was manager for them until, in 1901, he founded Matthews, Wrightson & Co. in conjunction with Mr Harry Wrightson and his brother Mr R.G. Wrightson. The firm became a private limited company in 1911, when Mr Matthews was appointed as chairman, and he held that position until his retirement in 1924. He was an annual subscriber to Lloyd's from 1901 to 1916, when he became an underwriting member. He underwrote marine in the syndicate of Mr Eustace R. Pulbrook [Sir Eustace Pulbrook, 1881-1953, Chairman of Lloyds] and non-marine, motor and employers' liability under the agency of Messrs. Matthews, Wrightson & Co. Ltd. He was one of the founders of the Corporation of Insurance Brokers, and was later its treasurer and a member of the council, finally being elected a vice-president. He was a prominent Freemason, a member of its Grand Lodge. He died at Grove House on July 30 1934 aged 83.
- from Times obituary, July 31, 1934 (thanks to Michael G Matthews for the enquiry that led to filling in the details).



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