Torrington, Connecticut was first settled in 1735 and given permission to organise a government and incorporate as a town in 1740. The fast moving waters of the Naugatuck River were used as water power for early 19th century industries – a woollen mill and two brass mills – and in 1849 the railway connected Torrington with other population centres which stimulated further industrial growth. Between 1880 and 1920 the population exploded from 3,000 to 22,000 and Torrington was chartered as a city in 1923. In 1955 a huge flood destroyed much of the downtown area when two hurricanes caused local rivers to overflow. John Brown, the abolitionist, was born in Torrington in 1805. The population in 2010 was 36,383.
The earliest contact between Torrington, Connecticut and Great Torrington appears to be in 1883 when a local newspaper editor wrote to our mayor, William Ashplant, requesting details about the Devonshire town. These were supplied and our borough arms were adopted as a trademark at the head of the American newspaper.
In 1897 town clerk, George Doe, received a request from the rector of Trinity Church in Torrington, Connecticut for a stone from our parish church to incorporate into their new church. This was duly done with the consent of the vicar of Great Torrington, the Rev. Frank Emlyn-Jones. This project was paid for by a parishioner, John Davey, a Devonshire man who had been confirmed in our parish church by the Bishop of Exeter. In 1899 he came to England and visited Great Torrington after an absence of 50 years.
In September 1920 a deputation from Torrington, Connecticut bringing greetings from the warden and burgesses of the town to the ‘mother’ town in Devon was welcomed at the town hall by the mayor, William Luxton, and other townspeople. In 1933 courtesies were exchanged again when Mrs Bayntun Starky, wife of the Great Torrington mayor, visited the American town.
If Torrington, Connecticut can be called the ‘daughter’ town, Torrington, Wyoming is the ‘grand-daughter’ town founded by William G. Curtis in 1889 and named by him after his home town in Connecticut. He was the first postmaster, running the post office from his homestead, and served twice as mayor after the incorporation of the town. By 1908 Torrington had a national bank, three general stores, two hotels and a pharmacy. The town is situated in the fertile valley of the North Platte River and was originally a watering and coaling station for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Agriculture was the major occupation – sugar beet, beans, potatoes, cattle and sheep – and the Holly Sugar Company which opened in 1926 has remained the major employer in Torrington ever since. Again, a stone from our ancient parish church was sent to Wyoming to be built into the new All Saints’ Church there.
I visited Torrington, Wyoming with my family in 1994 and found the town to be of a similar size to ours but located on a plain surrounded by mountains. The streets were laid out on a grid system and the main street was very ‘wild west’. Torrington is on the Oregon Trail.
Torrington, New South Wales in Australia was named after its English counterpart in Devon. It is on the Northern Tablelands of the New England district of NSW at an altitude of 1,200 metres surrounded by a landscape of spectacular granite rock formations, streams and waterfalls. Although there is often snow in winter, the summers are delightfully cool in comparison to the surrounding lower areas. The inhabitants feel more Queensland oriented as they are only 30 miles from the border and 4 hours’ drive from the state capital, Brisbane, while Sydney, NSW’s capital, is a good 9 hours’ drive south.
The discovery of the very rich Torrington tin lode in 1881 created much excitement but in a very short time the small prospectors had lost control to overseas mining companies. In the 1920s 500 men were employed at the mines but the industry virtually shut down after the Second World War. Tin mining continued in a small way in the area until the early 1980s and there are still remains of about 360 old mines. Many gem ‘fossickers’ continue to visit to hunt for topaz, beryl, emerald, quartz and other minerals. Like our town, Torrington NSW is surrounded by common land on which the residents run cattle to keep the roadside verges eaten down to reduce fire hazard. At the end of the 20th century employment centred around shearing, apiary (producing NSW’s ‘top honey’),the operation of earth-moving machinery and rural employment on the surrounding sheep grazing properties. The population in 1999 was 112.
In 2001 I went to Australia with my husband and we visited Torrington. We turned off the main road just before Deepwater and drove, partly along a dirt road, to the village which was a collection of rather run-down homesteads. We were made very welcome by the proprietors of the Tablelands Bar and Grill where we stayed the night. Their son, Steve, took us for a drive into the bush and showed us old mining places, fossicking holes, a rock called ‘The Mystery Face’ and we climbed up to ‘Thunderbolt’s Lookout’ with its wonderful 360 degree view. When we got back, a group of local people had come to the hotel to meet us. At that time Torrington had 72 inhabitants.
Torrington NSW has had a struggle to survive. The sawmill closed in the 1960s. The post office and general store closed in 1997 so the nearest shops are in Emmaville, 15 miles to the west, or Deepwater, 15 miles to the east on the New England Highway. The village school has been closed for some years so children have to go to Emmaville where the vicar, doctor and cottage hospital are also based. The Tablelands Bar and Grill closed in October 2003. In 2011 there were about 85 inhabitants leading isolated lives.
One of the main characters in Sebastian Faulks’s novel, ‘Human Traces’, comes from Torrington in Lincolnshire. Looking at a present-day map, there are two small hamlets on the edge of Gleasby Moor north of Wragby just off the A157 called East and West Torrington. As far as I am aware, our town has had no contact with these places.