TORCH is a novel time-of-flight detector that has been developed to provide charged-particle identification between 2 and 10 GeV/c momentum. TORCH combines arrival times from multiple Cherenkov photons produced within a 10 mm-thick quartz radiator plate, to achieve a 15 ps time-of-flight resolution per incident particle. A customised Micro-Channel Plate photomultiplier tube (MCP-PMT) and associated readout system utilises an innovative charge-sharing technique between adjacent pixels to obtain the necessary 70 ps time resolution of each Cherenkov photon. A five-year R&D programme has been undertaken, culminating in the construction of a small-scale prototype TORCH module. In testbeams at CERN, this prototype operated successfully with customised electronics and readout system. A full analysis chain has been developed to reconstruct the data and to calibrate the detector. Results are compared to those using a commercial Planacon MCP-PMT, and single photon resolutions approaching 80 ps have been achieved. The photon counting efficiency was found to be in reasonable agreement with a GEANT4 Monte Carlo simulation of the detector. The small-scale demonstrator is a precursor to a full-scale TORCH module (with a radiator plate of 660×1250×10mm3), which is currently under construction.