Topsham Characters

Tryphena Sparks was born in Dorset and was the cousin and sweetheart of the young Thomas Hardy. After attending Stockwell Training College she became headmistress of Plymouth Day School. She married Charles Frederick Gale, a Topsham publican, in 1877. They lived at the South Western Tavern (now the Co-op) and owned other Topsham businesses. Charles and Tryphena had four children but she sadly died in childbirth in 1890. Tryphena was known for her charitable work on behalf of local fishermen, who asked to carry her coffin at her funeral. Thomas Hardy visited her grave in Topsham Cemetery, leaving a note “In loving memory – Tom Hardy.” Tryphena was the inspiration for several of Hardy’s works.
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