Movers and Shakers

Notables and noteworthies - tales on those making waves.
by - Pam Parke


- Select a specific Mover and Shakers to read about.
Scottish business man & sugar refiner
The real oldest daughter of Baron Georg von Trapp
Exmoor Photographer
The Teenager who gave future Kaiser Wilhelm a Bloody Nose!
Former actress, hotelier, fly fishing expert & conservationist campaigner
Film maker, theatre owner, & builder of Burgh island Hotel, South Devon
Co-Founder of Banbury's Department Store & Furnishings
Founder of Guinness Porter
Founder of Chas. N. Pedlar 27 High Street, Ilfracombe
Iron founder, "Mayor, alderman, guardian, county councillor, in fact everything"
19th century dish - & still popular
Canadian Journalist & Co-inventor of Trivial Pursuit
Past owner of the ancient fishing village of Clovelly
Victorian solicitor who tried to turn Woody Bay into an exclusive holiday resort
Retired Photoprinter. Printer of our Newsletter
Co-founder of B&Q DIY Stores
Founder of St John's Garden Centre, Barnstaple
Market Gardener, Nurseryman & Pioneer of British Blueberries
Purveyor of fine Tea
Former Anaesthetist & GP & creator of Marwood Hill Gardens
The Postman Poet
British Nurse & Ambulance Driver in World War I
Combined their talents to give the world Stille Nacht
Gentleman of Leisure - Founder of the Pack o'Cards' Inn, Combe Martin
Founder of Quince Honey Farm, South Molton
Inventor & Developer of H P Sauce
Designer of the London Underground Tube Map
Founder of the Company to become Shapland & Petter
Author, Artist & individualist
Inventor of the vacuum cleaner
2nd Earl of Tyrone
Founder of Singer Sewing Machines & builder of Oldway Mansion, Paignton
Military Careerist & briefly Secretary/Archivist for the British Embassy in Warsaw
Remedial & Rehabilitation TherapistCertified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation
Champagne Businesswoman
Sir Jack Cohen's first employee
Businessman & Inventor of Automated Teller Machines
Founder of Tasmania, Lieutenant, Royal Navy
Whig MP for Armagh & benefactor of the Rhenish Tower, Lynmouth
Chairman, Philip Dennis Foodservice
Lord of the Manor & Steward of Royal Coldridge Deer Park
Chairman, John Fowler Holiday Parks
Founder of the Calvert Trust
Poet & Dramatist
West Country Explorer & reputed discoverer of the source of the Nile
Bishop of Salisbury Cathedral 1560-1571, A leading Protestant Reformer
Woollen Cloth Merchant & Mayor of Barnstaple
The first Civil Engineer
Triple Jump World Champion since 1995
Inventor & Promoter of the Pilates method of exercise
Specialists in Dioramas & occupiers of The Cabin in Bucks Mills, Bideford
Exceptional Mover & Shaker!
Past Chatelaine of Castle Hill, Filleigh & Fearless Huntswoman
Tapeley Park, Instow
Developer of Collingwood Hotel, Ilfracombe
Owner of Discovery Music, 7 Litchdon Street, Barnstaple
"The Boy in the Tent"
Traditional Devon Butcher
Lady of the Manor, & restorer of St Peter's Church, Bittadon
Linen Draper, Inventor of the doyley, or dish paper
Chief Executive Officer of Camelot, Operators of the UK National Lottery
Chambercombe Manor
Social Reformer & Co-founder of National Trust
Head of the Norman Family's Greengrocery Business in Ilfracombe
Partners, Stapleton Yogurts & Ice Cream
German Wife of George III, introducer of the Christmas Tree to England
Builder of the McDonald's Hamburger Chain
Inventor of the 'piratical screwmaker' or corkscrew
Founder of Hartigruten
Furniture Designer
The Last Owner of Arlington Court
Creator of the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno
Poet, Literary Critic & Philosopher
Elizabethan Engineer & Speculator
Composer. Teacher & Music Historian
Aviator, Sailor & Businessman
Publisher & Philanthropist
Architect of: Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral & ... the G.P.O's Red Telephone Box
Surgeon, chemist, pianist, lecturer, consultant, architect, builder, scientist, inventor
Inventor, first Director of the V & A Museum & father of the Christmas Card
Founder of the Plunkett Foundation
First Baronet, Businessman, Liberal Politician & Commissioner of Knightshayes Court, Tiverton
10th Baronet of Mount Wolseley, County Carlow, IrelandFormer 'Lift Boy'!
Founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Patron Saint of children, students, sailors & voyagers, innocent prisoners, cities
Pope, Martyr andthe name given to West Down Parish Church
To whose memory the family donated South Lodge, now Susan Day Residential Home
Businessman, philanthropist & co-founder of The Burton at Bideford
Founder of the travel agency Thomas Cook & Son
Inventor of the Christmas Cracker
Politician & Newsagent
Owner of Watermouth Castle & Designer/Engineer of the Riesenrad Prater Park, Vienna
Celebrated "Good King Wenceslas"
Stationer, Rag merchant & Inventor of the Toothbrush
London Print Publisher & "Barum's greatest Benefactor"
Designer of the Russell Hobbs electric kettle
Founder (with Arthur Davidson) of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle


[12th December 1938 -]

Exceptional Mover and Shaker!

I've now highlighted one hundred Movers and Shakers - but have left the best 'til last! Certainly since 1989, when she started our popular Newsletter, Judie has moved and shaken many of us in and around the village into contributing to it!

Now it is drawing to a close and will be sadly missed. For Judie, however, other than helping with completion of the website, her massive workload of urging, editing, compiling and getting the newsletter to the printers in time - and then making sure people get their copy - will be a distant memory!

Over the years though, there has been a lot more happening in Judie's life than the Newsletter.

She was born in Northwood, Middlesex - a pre-war baby [just!] to parents Barbara and Tom Pickup. Her father, a Manufacturers' Agent, liaised between the Lancashire cotton mills and notable outlets in London such as Heals. His London office pre-dated the Great Fire, so in Judie's words, "the floor was a bit wonky!" Barbara, who had always been interested in Fine Arts, gained a diploma in the History of Art from the University of London at the age of 61 no less! In latter years she ran an art appreciation group for the U3A from her home in Barton Lane, Berrynarbor, which some of you may remember. Judie has an older sister, Caroline, who has lived in the United States since 1969, has 4 children.

But back to Judie. She was educated from kindergarten to sixth form at the independent private St Helen's School in Northwood as a day pupil although the school also took boarders. On its present website it states "preparing students to be the leaders of tomorrow". Nothing changes! On leaving, she completed a year's residential Secretarial course in Eastbourne before working as a secretary at Milton Antiseptic [sterilisers of babies' bottles etc]. This was then followed by the post of Secretary to the Company Secretary of Universal Asbestos. She soon learned that her new boss had had 3 secretaries in the past six months! He immediately tested her by demanding a change of perhaps one word in the script she'd just typed meaning the whole item had to be re-done. So, one day she confronted him with drafts of all he'd previously dictated, asking if any changes were necessary before she typed them. He'd met his match! After this, she stayed for 5 years, and they became friends for life.

Judie and Ken married in Northwood in 1962, so this year on March 22nd they celebrated their Diamond Wedding, acknowledged by the Queen. This isn't the only time that Judie has made the acquaintance of Her Majesty. In 2013 she was invited by an unknown nominator [perhaps for her stalwart work on our newsletter?] to the prestigious Garden Party at Buckingham Palace which she very much enjoyed.

Ken worked for Coutant Electronics [now TDK-Lambda], makers of electronic equipment, for many years. He was first employed in Reading - which meant a move from their first home in Bletchley, buying a bungalow near Pangbourne. Here, both their children, Helen and James were born. Helen followed her mum in enjoying dance and music, studying for a degree in Performance Arts at Middlesex University, majoring in dance, and also attaining Grade VIII French Horn with distinction. For some years she taught 'A' Level Dance at both schools and colleges, but now works for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She has 3 boys. James when young took up racing 1/8th off-road radio-controlled cars and, backed by his father, entered events all over the country and abroad, twice becoming British Champion in this class! He studied Software Engineering at Birmingham University and was responsible for getting our Newsletter on the web in 2004. His interest has passed to his teenage son, Harry, who has designed the programme for updating the website for all of our newsletters, on which James is currently working. If you've not looked at the site yet [usual address:] have a go. It's well worth it! For details see October 2021.

Ken was moved by Coutant to Ilfracombe in 1969 where he became Manufacturing Manager and subsequently Managing Director. The move to Devon meant the Weedons had to decide where to live. They contacted Brighton Gay [remember them?] and liked Berrynarbor, particularly the Sterridge Valley. "Well", said the estate agent, "Today I've received planning permission for a site for a 3-bedroomed bungalow, just there." And so 'Chicane' was born!

Over the years, Judie has been involved in many projects. Ken joined Round Table, and then Rotary where he became President in 1984. Judie joined Ladies Circle, becoming Ilfracombe Chairman in 1975/6 and Area Chairman for Devon in 1976/77. [There were 22 Circles in Devon then, now there are just 2!].

For 24 years, she worked as PA/Secretary at Ilfracombe College [now The Ilfracombe Academy] to 3 Headmasters: John Gale, Alan Bacon and David Humphries. Having retired, she volunteered for the National Trust at Arlington Court where she stayed for 23 years until 2020, completing during her time the first on-line inventories of both the House and Carriage Collection. For 10 of those years, she also volunteered at Marwood Hill Gardens.

During the past 33 years Judie has edited and produced 199 [this being 200] editions of our Newsletter, giving a 'unique in-depth view of the social history of Berrynarbor'. Initially for a brief period there was a small committee, but it soon became a one-person job. Over the years, she arranged various fund-raising events. The first was 'A Country Collection', a 5-day event showing the work of the newsletter artists; then were two 'Take it Home' craft days where folk could try stained glass work, paint pebbles, flower arrange, make cake decorations etc. and take home their results; and finally a 'Pamper Day' appropriately on Valentine's Day, with massages, haircuts, a manicure or pedicure and all things to beautify!. This added quite a lot of extra work to an already busy schedule but welcome Newsletter funds.

Over the years, people from around the UK and beyond have got in touch with Judie having read the newsletter. One recent contact was Nancy Wilson who lives in California [coincidentally just 3 miles from Judie's niece] asking if she knew anything about the Boltons as she was researching Hilda Bolton's sister Kathleen [details: June 2022]. Judie remembered a piece written by Tony Beauclerk for April 2019 about the Biltons and put two and two together. She even visited Mortehoe Cemetery and found the Boltons' unmarked grave. Nancy was delighted, and the newsletter [and Judie!] was a winner!

Following all this activity, does Judie have time for hobbies? Well, she started the weekly Monday Craft Group [leadership recently passed to Annie Smith], and then the twice monthly art group. Results produced in both these groups feature largely in the beautiful art and beadwork on display in her home.

She has also been a supporter of Berry in Bloom and the village litter picks, plays skittles in Combe Martin, still has an interest in dancing - and has been to a live performance of 'Strictly' - yet somehow has found time for all her family.

I don't know how you've managed to fit it all in, Judie, but what a Mover and Shaker - par excellence! We shall miss our Newsletter, but are grateful for your huge input over the years. Thank you from all your readers - and may you now have even more time for your many crafts and hobbies!

PP of DC



[8th October 1937 -]

Retired Photoprinter. Printer of our Newsletter
[and former resident of Brookside and June Cottage, Berrynarbor]

Our popular Newsletter, so sadly to close shortly unless some good soul will take the reins from Judie, [a difficult act to follow!] has for exactly eleven years been printed by David Beagley. He has moved and shaken a fair few in that time!

His name doesn't derive from ancestors who bred beagle hounds. He tells me that the origin of Beagley goes back to before there were surnames in England. It originated in County Kerry in Ireland as O'Beaglaigh. One of them went to France as a mercenary in the French army that came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror.

O' Beaglaigh must have done quite well as he was awarded a shield for valour with the motto 'Jusque au Sang', meaning 'Until Blood'. The name was later anglicised to Beagley. Beat that!

The story of our printer goes back a fair way, too. He was born in 1937 [a very good year and I should know - it's my year too!] in Newbury Park, Ilford, Essex. His parents, Albert and Dorothy, lived near what was to become a Battle of Britain Airfield during World War ll. At that time, his father had two jobs: a buyer for a furniture department and War Reserve Policeman on permanent night duty. In their home, their air raid shelter served as the dining table. [I'm reminded that as a small child I played 'house' with my cousin under our great aunt's 'dining table' in Birmingham, too.]

Like many of his generation, he has vivid memories of some wartime events. For instance, David remembers watching a thousand bombers roaring overhead on their way to bomb a German city.

For safety, he went to live with his grandparents in Henham near Bishops Stortford, and went to school there for a couple of years. After the war he did so well in his 11 plus exam that Essex sent him to board at the prestigious Bancroft's School in Woodford Green, Essex, and then he went to South West Technical College to study Chemistry, Physics and Maths. He left college aged 16.

For the next forty-six years, he was employed by various well known photo printing companies. His first job was as an analytical chemist at the photographic company Ilford Ltd., who gave him a one-day release to complete his studies. Here he earned the princely sum of £3 a week. As he remembers, this was enough to live on: £1 to his mother for keep, £1 to his father to repay the loan for his motorcycle and £1 to spend - beer 6d, fish and chips 9d and a trip to the cinema 6d! Those were the days!

Around this time, David met his wife-to-be, Anne. He was in the church choir and obviously made eyes at Anne, a guide, who was sitting in the front row. They married in 1960 and moved to Woodford Green.

By this time, David was working as a research chemist for Ozalid, a company I don't know. It is registered in the US and in the late 1920's developed a type of paper to print images from patterns on film or other translucent materials. They chose their name as an anagram of 'DIAZOL', the substance used in the fabrication of this type of paper. Here his speciality was working on materials for large scale printing, including a polyester film, and necessitated his visiting customers with reps to explain the use of the film and its dyeline process. During this time he was awarded an extra qualification: Associate of the British Association of Chemists.

Then he was poached by Polaroid with a higher salary, and a vast area to oversee: south of a line between The Wash and River Severn including the Channel Islands. This job entailed demonstrating specialised cameras to hospitals and medical facilities, and lasted for several years, during which they moved to Camberley in Surrey.

One year David and Anne came to Ilfracombe for a holiday, and like a number of folk, fell in love with it. But they did more. They changed their lifestyle. Anne worked in various perfumery and essences laboratories in North London including Boake Roberts., but they both resigned their jobs and bought Sunnyholme Hotel in Torrs Park, half of a large house. They acquired the other half, renamed it the Beaufort Hotel, added 21 en suite bedrooms, a swimming pool and large car park, and ran it successfully as a family hotel for 13 years. They then retired and bought a large house, again in Ilfracombe, for themselves and Anne's mother. David twice became President of Ilfracombe Rotary Club, and Assistant District Governor and editor and printer of the District Newsletter.

They have two children, Clare and Michael. Clare is a professional chef, who had her own restaurant in Ilfracombe, but now works for a large food company in Barnstaple. Her husband, Kelvin, is building themselves a home in Kerscott near Swimbridge. They have 3 children. If our Newsletter is continuing, their son, Michael, will qualify as another Mover and Shaker! He runs The Falcon Gymnastic Association in Barnstaple, travelling around the world with his competing gymnasts. He is married to Debbie and they have two children.

So, David has led an interesting life. Because of his involvement with the photoprinting industry, he's always kept his hand in printing, even during his time managing the hotel. He and Anne now live in South Molton to be nearer their family, particularly their new great granddaughter.

Apart from printing our Newsletter, he also prints South Molton's Britain in Bloom publications, the support of which is their main hobby. Over the years, David also printed several church magazines, which have now gone on line, and as you will see from his advert in the Newsletter, if you want any printing of posters, booklets, tickets or pictures, he's your man!

And finally, are you an avid completer of David's Crossword Corner? The Telegraph has recently announced that its 30,000th crossword has just been printed and I doubt if he has reached that number - yet - but he compiled them for many years for the Rotary and District newsletter. That finished in the 1970's. And then he took on our Newsletter. What dedication!

So, David, thank you for printing our Newsletter for so many years, and for giving me information about your life and family. May we wish both you and Anne many more active days in South Molton - and to remember happy times associated with the Berrynarbor Newsletter.

PP of DC



[April 13th 1819 - March 18th 1890]

Champagne Businesswoman

In the platinum reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the very month that we shall all be celebrating, there will no doubt be a lot of corks popping and fizzy drinking. This might be Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or our own British sparkling wine including one from Cornwall's Camel Valley.

Prices are going to vary of course from around £10 per bottle to [depending on the size of your pocket!] nearly £6,000! Mind you, for that you get a large 6 litre bottle instead of the usual 750 cl!

So where does Madame Pommery fit in? Well, she was the first person to recognise that the English preferred drier wines. Before 1874 champagne was very sweet [up to 300gms of sugar per litre - favoured by the Russian market - compared with now up to 12 gms per litre]. She instructed her Cellar man "What we need is a wine that is dry as possible but is not harsh . . . has to be mellow, velvety and well blended. Make sure that it is subtle more than anything else." This was very bold, but the first brut champagne, the Pommery Nature became available in 1874, and was launched by a businesswoman! In France as in most other countries, a woman couldn't run a business unless she was a widow - so how dare she?

Let's start at the beginning. Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Melin was born on April 13th 1819 in Annelles in the Ardenne. She married Alexandre Pommery in 1839. By 1856, in fragile health and with their only child, Louis, a late teenager, M. Pommery decided to retire and enjoy the fortune he'd made in the wool trade. But 'sod's law' stepped in! Seventeen years after the birth of Louis, at the age of 38,

Mme Pommery became pregnant again. This changed the situation and M. Pommery decided to resume work to ensure that his family were financially secure. Just two years later, and before Louise's first birthday, he died, leaving behind a young widow with a son and baby girl, and a business to run.

As the wool trade was in decline, Mme Pommery decided to drop it and concentrate on making champagne. She bought 120 limestone and chalk pits [crayeres], that had been carved under12 miles [19km] of the city of Reims by Roman soldiers during their occupation of Gaul. A well-known sculptor was commissioned to carve a 13ft [4 metres] long bas relief of Bacchus celebrating wine, and busts were added for further decoration. In these cellars she could store thousands of bottles in a controlled temperature of 10°C. This idea was later copied by many other Champagne houses. Above the cellars, and as a tribute to her most loyal British customers, were offices and other buildings built in the style of English country houses, including a Tudor manor house.

For comparison, the Pommery estate measures around 136 acres [55 hectares] in total, which is equivalent to the Louvre Museum, the Tuileries Garden and the Place de la Concorde combined!

During her 'reign' she became one of the famous Veuves [widows] who were not only risk takers, but leaders who excelled in their trade. She was a compassionate woman who looked after her workers, setting up the first ever pension fund and social security for them. In Reims she started the orphanage and nursery fund and supported local artists, inventing what became corporate sponsorship.

It is commonly thought that her Cuvee Louise champagne [the Pommery cuvee de Prestige, priced between £92.32 for 2004 up to £500.27 for 1988] was named after herself, but it is most probably named after her little daughter, Louise, who after Mme. Pommery's death in 1890, took over the Estate with her husband Prince Guy de Polignac. This family continued to run the business until 1979, when it was taken over by a Belgian entrepreneur, Paul-Francois Vranken.

The cellars now hold more than 20 million bottles, and over 120,000 people from all over the world visit the Estate annually [except during pandemics!]. The brand still continues the Pommery ethos and continues its support for artists.

Incidentally, Mme Pommery died in Chigny, near Reims. She was the first woman to receive a French state funeral with 20,000 people lining the streets of Reims to honour her great contribution to the city and Champagne industry. Shortly afterwards, the President issued a decree changing the name of Chigny to Chigny-les-Roses as a tribute to her love of roses.

Mme Pommery was a true Mover and Shaker. She described her champagne in two words: 'Joyful and Lightness'. Isn't this something to celebrate?

And on that note, whilst visiting Majestic wines in Barnstaple recently, I tentatively asked if they had any Pommery champagne. "Oh yes," said the manager, "And it is on offer until the end of May." It was reduced from a hefty £39.99 to a still well-priced £27.99 [mixed case]. But we fell for a bottle and to honour Her Majesty on THE day, we shall celebrate by opening the aptly named Pommery Brut Royal.


PP of DC



Chicken Kiev
[or, in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, CHICKEN KYIV]

19th century dish - and still popular

This month I wanted to write about a Devon man who in 1919 hauled coal from the station to the local wool factory with a horse and cart. Nine months later the horse died and was replaced by a Model T motor lorry. This was the start of a company that now operates 1000 vehicles and 1900 trailers with over 2,000 employees at 30 sites throughout the UK. He sounded a good Mover and Shaker, but sadly, that's all I know about the founder and in spite of telephone messages and e-mails, I've had no response from the company. This left me in a quandary, with no time left to do research on other folk.

Then this wretched invasion of Ukraine started, and a frenzy of anti-Russian outpouring has led most supermarkets to remove Russian vodka and other goods from their shelves, and to rename one of our popular chicken dishes Chicken Kyiv - the Ukrainian version of the Russian Kiev [the pronunciation now widely known thanks to brave UK reporters on the frontline]. And that gave me an idea. Instead of a person, a dish could be a Mover and Shaker. This one has managed to be one for over two centuries!

So, is the dish from Kyiv? There are so many stories: the Russians claimed that it was theirs from the Muscovy region, but refined by a Ukrainian chef in the 19th century who was from Kiev. They even renamed it according to a 2019 report in the Economist as Chicken Crimea! Other stories are that it comes from a 19th century hotel in Moscow whose restaurant was named Kiev, and another suggestion is that it was developed in the Continental Hotel in Kiev.

Wherever you think it comes from, I was introduced to it a few years before M&S produced it in 1979 as one of their first ready meals.

It was mid '70's and we were living in Ireland. I'd been lecturing at a College of Food and was now unemployed. So I decided to run a cookery course in my kitchen. One local 'Grande Dame' phoned me and said, "I'll come if you show me how to make Chicken Kiev". What on earth was that? I rushed to the hotel opposite our cottage, one of the best in Ireland, and put the question to the owner. "God knows!" was his reply as he reached for an ancient cookery tome. There we found the recipe and the lady was satisfied. Incidentally, the course was so popular that I had to duplicate each session next day!

In case there is a rare person who doesn't know of it, a chicken breast is sliced horizontally, given a bit of bashing and then filled with a 'sausage' of chilled butter generously laced with garlic and parsley. The chicken is then coated in egg wash and breadcrumbs and either roasted or fried. Delicious!

So you see, I now knew all about it and a few months later I was working in Belfast and staying in a hotel with a very superior Maitre d', an Alfred Hitchcock look-alike, who obviously thought that women on their own were up to no good! He tried to seat me at a table in the dining room facing a blank wall. When I protested, he said it was "The only one available, Madam". I walked out saying that if I waited, I was sure a more suitable one would come up. It did, but by then we weren't on the best of terms. On the menu was Chicken Kiev. Now I could find out how true chefs made it. When it came, it was a chicken shoulder portion dressed with a greyish sauce. 'Alfred' steamed back. "Is everything all right, Madam?"

I replied, "It's delicious but it's not Chicken Kiev". I feared he might upend the dish over my head as he thundered, "Madam, I watched chef put the vodka in the sauce myself!" I do hope that later he bought a M&S ready meal of the dish - and remembered me. That d....d woman was right!

But back to my choice of Mover and Shaker for this newsletter. Today, Ukraine needs us for support. It is really its people, and particularly their leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, who need to be substituted for a chicken dish. They have moved and shaken the world with their bravery and loyalty to their country. One hopes that they will eventually win this aggression without too many more losing their lives. As for their favourite national dish, may it soon be known by its Ukrainian name: Chicken Kyiv.

PP of DC



[1470 - 1511, approximately]

Lord of the Manor and Steward of Royal Coldridge Deer Park

The period between Christmas and New Year is always a 'silly news' season, so unless you read the Telegraph on 29th December last, you may not have heard of John Evans, who occupied the whole of Page 3.

Here was the story of a strong possibility that Richard lll [whose bones were found by Philippa Langley under a car park in Leicester in 2012] did not murder his young nephews, the 'Princes in the Tower', more than 5 centuries ago.

The fate of 12-year-old Edward of York, [King Edward V of England for 2 1/2 months in 1483] and his 9-year-old brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, is historically well-known.


Images above courtesy of:
Pam Parke



Images above courtesy of:
St. Mathew's Church

But now, the village of Coldridge, just off the A377 and roughly half way between Barnstaple and Exeter, has suddenly acquired fame, and a story to rival a mystery found in a Dan Brown novel. It seems that instead of murdering these young boys, claiming they were illegitimate, Richard lll might be innocent. There is growing evidence that instead of killing Edward, a deal was struck with the boy's mother to send him under an assumed name to the estate of his half-brother, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset.

At that time, Coldridge would only have been accessed by cart track, and being in the heart of rural Devon would keep the young prince in isolation. Interestingly, the boys' mother, Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters travelled there in 1484 having left the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.

So how does this link with John Evans? Well, the village church of St Matthew is the clue, and John Dike, a 79-year-old retired electrical engineer and Coldridge resident for 22 years, seems to have become the project's leader.

As a keen historian he was writing a history of the village about five years ago when he noticed unusual features about the church. Having started research, he was soon contacted by Philippa Langley who had formed a Missing Princes Project.

In the 1920's, Beatrix Creswell, a notable church historian, had puzzled why such an isolated village should have such a significant church, containing a stained-glass portrait of Edward V. There are only two other glass portraits of Edward: one in Little Malvern Priory, Worcestershire and another in Canterbury Cathedral. Trying to establish the true identity of John Evans is at the heart of the new theory.

We couldn't resist a visit to this ancient church. Sadly, we missed the opportunity of a guide, so we tried to find the various 'pointers' ourselves.

The church has spectacular medieval wood carvings in abundance. The unrestored rood screen is what is claimed to be one of the best in the country. The pulpit has fine carvings, too. The main attraction of course was the stained-glass portrait of a crowned Edward V which was installed by John Evans. It centres a plain glass window in the Evans Chapel. Above its head floats a huge crown featuring the 'Falcon and Fetterlock' motif of Edward V. [The latter is a sort of shackle, resembling a padlock.] The crown is lined with ermine, flecked with 41 deer as ermine spots, unusual, because they are usually stoats' tails. John Dike commented,

"This was made in 1511. Take 41 off that and it takes you back to 1470, which is the birth of Edward V." The window is above the tomb of John Evans [now empty] and on top, his effigy. He dictated where he wanted his tomb to be built. He appears to be looking up at the window. His name on the stone shield reads 'Evas' with the 'n' definitely missing. This could be the engraver's mistake, or it could represent 'EV' [Edward V] and the Latin 'ASA' meaning 'in sanctuary'. Below this inscription is the word 'KING' etched backwards, possibly medieval graffiti. Underneath are nine lines which could symbolise1509 the year that Henry Vll died and Edward might regain the throne.

In the church is another stained-glass portrait of a man holding a crown, very similar to the one above Edward's portrait. At the bottom of the figure is a fleur-de-lis and barely discernible he is wearing an ermine collar - only worn by the nobility. Could this be Edward V? If it is, it is a coincidence that he could have been the same age as John when he died.

So what else is there to connect St Matthew's Church with the House of York? Well, the White Rose of York features widely in wood carvings and on the Barnstaple floor tiles throughout the church. We found a tiny Yorkist 'Sunne in Splendour' in the window to the right of the door, but couldn't find the one in the ceiling. We were pleased to find one of the three carvings of a Tudor woman with a snake-like tongue, possibly a slur against Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Vll, who figured largely in putting Henry on the throne.

As for his brother, there was another rebellion in 1497 when the leader claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury. He was later named Perkin Warbeck. It is possible that Warbeck/Richard may have sought hospitality at Coldridge on his ways through Crediton to Exeter. The attack failed - but perhaps this leads to another line of investigation!

Coldridge is still fairly isolated with no main roads running through it, just a myriad of minor roads. So, we were pleased that the sun was shining at midday for us to find north and the way home!

All the above facts seem very Dan Brown-ish. They sound quite convincing, and maybe we shall hear more from John Dike and Philippa Langley as the plot unfolds. Coldridge may become a homage centre for Edward V or maybe slide back into its comfortable country village anonymity. Either way it's because a man called John Evans, with no known history, suddenly appeared in their village over 5 centuries ago. Watch this space!

PP of DC




Combined their talents to give the world Stille Nacht [Silent Night]

[25/11/1787 - 07/06/1863]

Primary schoolteacher, church organist and composer

[11/11/1792 - 10/12/1848]

Priest and writer

For as long as I can remember, Silent Night has always stood out as my favourite Christmas Carol, and as I grew older, sung in German, it was even more beautiful.

As a wartime small child, on Christmas Eve I tried desperately to keep awake until the Salvation Army came to our street, and once they sang this carol, I could fall asleep, even forgetting the puzzle of how Father Christmas could possibly get down the bedroom's small chimney, particularly as on that special night, a fire was always lit!

Nearly eighty years later, I've discovered that it was compiled by two Austrian Catholics, one a teacher and the other a priest.

Franz Gruber was the fifth of six children born to Josef and Maria Gruber, linen weavers, in the village of Hochburg, Upper Austria. He was expected to learn his father's trade, but early on had set his heart on music. The local schoolteacher, Andreas Peterlechner, recognised his talents and gave him music lessons. Franz worked as a weaver until his 18th birthday, when his father allowed him to train to become a schoolteacher. This often included becoming church organist. Towards this, he completed his music education with Georg Hartdobler, church organist of Burghausen.

In 1807 he was appointed teacher in Arnsdorf and also took on the role of caretaker and organist at the local church.

Joseph [sometimes spelt Josef] Mohr was born in Salzburg on the 11th December to an unmarried embroiderer, Anna Schoiberin, and Franz Mohr, a mercenary soldier and deserter who abandoned the mother before Josef's birth.

Although Anna could use the father's name for her child, children born out of wedlock were stigmatized from birth. He grew up with his mother, grandmother and step-sister in a cold, damp house, such miserable accommodation not helping his health. His intelligence and talents however, became apparent to Johann Hiernle, vicar and leader of music at Salzburg Cathedral, who helped Joseph's education and encouraged him in music.

As a boy he was both singer and violinist in the choirs of the University Church and a local Benedictine Monastery. From 1808 to 1810 he studied at a Benedictine Monastery in Upper Austria and then returned to Salzburg Lyceum. In 1811 he entered the seminary, needing special permission as he was illegitimate. Three years later he was ordained as a priest - again with special permission as at the age of only 23 he was two years younger than the required age of 25.

So how did these two talented folk meet? Well, in 1816, whilst serving as an assistant priest, Mohr wrote a poem: Stille Nacht. Poor health then made him return to Salzburg, but after a short recuperation, he began serving as an assistant priest at St Nicholas Church in Oberndorf. There he got to know Franz Gruber, the schoolteacher in neighbouring Arnsdorf.

On a cold Christmas Eve in 1818, Mohr walked the three kilometres from his home to visit Gruber in his village. There he showed Gruber his poem, saying he needed a carol for that evening's Midnight Mass. Could his friend set this to music?

The church organ had broken down, so Gruber composed the melody with a guitar arrangement. A few hours later, the two men sang Stille Nacht at Midnight Mass, with Joseph Mohr playing the guitar and the choir repeating the last two lines of each of the six verses.

Over the years, many legends have sprung up over the origins of Silent Night, but the most likely explanation is simply that Mohr wanted an original song that he could play on his favourite instrument, the guitar. Within a few years, this carol appeared in churches around Salzburg and folk singers took it on tours around Europe. It was once sung before an audience that included Emperor Franz Joseph 1 of Austria [also King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia!] and Tsar Alexander 1. By 1839 it had reached New York.

In spite of Gruber claiming that he'd written the melody, even into the 20th Century, many thought the melody had been written by Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven! Gruber was finally proved right in 2016 when a long-lost version of Stille Nacht was authenticated as being in Mohr's writing and in the corner he had written 'Melodie von Fr Xav Gruber'. Later, Gruber composed arrangements of the carol for organ and orchestra, and then added scores for other carols and masses, many of which are still sung in Austrian churches.

Joseph stayed in Oberndorf only until 1819. He then moved from place to place. A generous man, he gave most of his salary to charity. By 1837 he was in the alpine village of Wagrain, where he set up a fund to help the children of poor families get an education, and another fund to care for the elderly. He died of a respiratory disease on 4th December 1848 at only 55 years of age, and is buried in Wagrain, now a ski resort. His memorial, just a few yards from his grave, is the Joseph Mohr School, paid for by the local townsfolk.

In 1808, a year after Franz Gruber became schoolteacher in Arnsford, he married a widow, Maria Engelsberger. They had two children, both of whom died young. Maria died in 1825 and Gruber married a former student, Maria Beitfuss. They had ten children, four of whom survived into adulthood. Maria died in childbirth in 1841 and so did her eleventh child, by which time they had moved to Hallein where Gruber was made choir director and organist. A year later he married Katherine Wimmer, the widow of a master shoemaker, and friend of Maria. Franz died of natural causes on 7th June 1863 at the age of 76 and is buried in Hallein, the site of the Franz Xaver Gruber Museum. Every December his grave is decorated with a Christmas tree.

And so, this famous and beautiful Christmas Carol was written by a humble curate, the melody added by an unknown musician, with a very modest premiere and yet it is now sung by millions of people, in hundreds of languages and anywhere from small chapels to great cathedrals. At one time it was classed as a Tyrolean Folk Song.

Now Austria regards Stille Nacht as a national treasure, and traditionally it may not be played publicly before Christmas Eve.

What a legacy from Franz Gruber, a village schoolteacher and Joseph Mohr, a modest priest.

Happy Christmas, everyone, and enjoy the carols, particularly Silent Night!

PP of DC



[Aged 11]

"The Boy in the Tent"

Just a few miles away in Braunton, a young lad prepares for another night sleeping in his tent in the family garden. Hopefully there won't be a thunderstorm, a high wind won't unhitch his tent and it's unlikely to be either a hot sticky night or freezing. Yet since 20th March 2020, more than 500 nights, he's weathered all that - and not given in. Even when he caught Covid, he insisted on staying out and his supportive mum valiantly slept alongside. Latterly he's been joined by the family labradoodle, Digby, who's inclined to lick Max's face at all hours!


So why does he do it? Well, his parents were helping to care for a family friend, Rick Abbott, who was dying of cancer.They were all impressed by the care Rick had from the North Devon Hospice that enabled him to stay in his home. Sadly, he died on Valentine's Day 2020, but beforehand, having been a keen adventurer, camper and outdoor sports enthusiast, he gave his tent to Max, telling him to have an adventure. Little did he know that Max's adventure would lead to the vast sum of over £600,000 - and still rising - being raised for that Hospice.

Max had only one camping expedition on Exmoor with his dad when lockdown hit the country, but the camping bug had hit and he badgered his parents to let him put his tent up in the garden. "That's what Rick would have wanted," he persisted.

The original idea was that he would sleep out for just a few days, and maybe raise £100 for the Hospice, but as lockdown dragged on, and donations poured in to his JustGiving page, he continued his adventure. He found freedom too.No one could tell him to put the light out and go to sleep! He doesn't know when he will stop, perhaps if it's no longer fun, but reckons that even if he gets very rich, he won't want posh hotels. "A tent will do me!" he declares.

Max's 'Adventure' has taken him to some unexpected places. Coming up to his 500th night out, he was invited to pitch his tent on the lawn of 10 Downing Street where he met Boris Johnson, who had already sent messages of support. Dilyn the dog gave him an equally enthusiastic welcome, resulting in Max having to chase him around the garden to retrieve two of his cuddly toys: Spike the lemur and Heidi the lioness. "That was bizarre," said Max.

Talking of lions, he was also invited by the charity 'Action for Children' to pitch his tent next to the lions at London Zoo on July 9th this year. Dr Tim O'Neill, the charity's Managing Director of children's services, felt that such an adventurer would inspire other children to sleep out and raise money. This they did, about a thousand from all over the world. He was even interviewed on NBC's breakfast show in the USA in the run up to the event, called 'The Big Camp Out'. As a result, children from the United States joined in. In total, over £1/2 million was raised.

When Max's own fund-raising reached half a million pounds, he was delighted to get messages of support from Bear Grylls and Johnny Wilkinson, and a video message from Exeter Chiefs' Jack Nowell, together with a shirt signed by the whole team.He loved the latter for when he is older, he either wants to be an adventurer or a rugby player!

He has now gone through 10 tents and other camping gear, much of it offered by businesses. He couldn't have managed it without the support of his dad, Mark, a Royal Marine, and his mum Rachel, an accountant. Says his mum, "We are all so proud of Max . . . We've received messages from people from far and wide, including local people who are so grateful for the fantastic care our Hospice provides".

Since the start of the pandemic, Max has contributed enormously to North Devon Hospice through his 'stickability'. For how long is his decision. His mum has told him numerous times that he doesn't have to stay outside any more, and that he's already achieved something special, but to date he always says "No". If you want to contribute, you don't have to pitch your tent! Just go onto his page on I think this brave lad deserves our support - and Rick Abbott would have been justly proud of his achievement.

PP of DC



[1 March 1870 - 29 November 1944]

Film maker, theatre owner, and builder of Burgh island Hotel, South Devon

If you are an enthusiast of Michael Portillo's Great British Railway Journeys, you may have watched in June the series covering the South West from St Ives to Salisbury via Tiverton Parkway. On one programme, he visited tidal Burgh Island overlooking Bigbury on Sea beach and mentioned that Archibald Nettlefold built the Island's hotel. "He sounds interesting," I thought, so here goes.

Archie was born in Marylebone, London on 1st March 1870 into a family of successful industrialists [think Guest, Keen and Nettlefold]. His parents were Frederick Nettlefold and Mary Catherine [nee Warren]. It appears that Archie was studying agriculture in1891 and farming in 1901, but later he indulged in financing plays, films and even expeditions to Mount Everest.

He was one of 6 children, hut sadly it is difficult to get information about his early life. Even the Hotel website states "He is a man of mystery, with few images remaining and less still known about his private life." These were the days before active paparazzi! We do know, however, that he married Winifred Ramsden from Leeds in 1899, but no record that I could find of any children.

In 1926 he bought Hepworth Studios in Walton on Thames and renamed it Nettlefold Studios. Here he produced comedy silent films until in the early 1930's when, with the advent of sound film, he upgraded to sound production. His films were mainly known as 'Quota Quickies' -films trying to protect the British film industry from the commercial threat of Hollywood productions.

In the 1890's, a music hall star called George Chirgwin built a wooden house on Burgh [don't forget - the 'g' is silent!] Island to entertain weekend guests. The island was sold to Archibald in 1927 who built a more substantial house in the then popular Art Deco style. He also used it to entertain his friends. The only problem was their reluctance to leave, so he started charging them, and a hotel was born.


By the 1930's, Burgh Island Hotel was one of the most popular hotels in the country, attracting amongst its famous clients, Lord Mountbatten, Winston Churchill, Josephine Baker, Malcolm Campbell and of course Agatha Christie, who wrote two novels whilst staying there, Evil Under the Sun and And Then There Were None. A special writer's retreat built into the rock face with superb sea views was created for her, now listed as the sexiest room in the hotel! In the late 1920's, Noel Coward was invited by Archie for the weekend and loved it so much that he stayed for 3 weeks. Who knows, perhaps Room with a View was written here! Many of his guests came because they knew Archibald personally, through his theatre connections.

Improvements to the hotel were made during the 1930's, including adding the Captain's Cabin, the complete structure being transferred from HMS Ganges, that was built in 1821.

During World War ll the hotel was used as a recovery base for wounded RAF personnel. It suffered bomb damage to the top two floors and in spite of repairs being carried out, went into decline after the war. I remember in the late '80's we walked across in our wellies and asked to see the rooms for a future visit. We did take our boots off, but I was not impressed by the shabbiness of furniture that would have been thrown out by our parents years before! However, in the first decade of this century the hotel has been restored to its former glory and continues to thrive. Indeed, if you fancy a short break, it is fully booked until November!

Hotel guests have never had to brave the causeway in their wellies. At low tide a vehicle collects them and at high tide the Sea Tractor is available. This is the third one and the only one in the world.

It was designed in 1969 by Robert Jackson [a pioneer of nuclear power in the 1950's] in exchange for a case of champagne, and cost £9,000 to build. Now recently renovated, she is a stylish way to arrive through the surf, although in bad weather she may not be operating! Non-guests can take a ride for £2 each way.

The island boasts the Pilchard Inn, built in 1336, so it's been reviving Devonian throats - whether local fishermen or later smugglers and wreckers - for nearly700 years! A cafe is open daily, and the inn is open Wednesday to Sunday for drinks and dinner.

The island covers 26 acres. On its south east side, a natural sea water bathing pool, The Mermaid Pool, secured in World War ll by a sluice gate, is available for guests. Surrounding rocks give it privacy. Guests are reminded to check with the Duty Manager before taking a dip and for those not inclined to take the plunge, a rowing boat is on hand to explore the lagoon.

Archibald's Nettlefold Studio closed within three years of his death in London on November 29th 1944, but almost 100 years after it was built, Burgh Island Hotel is still doing very well. Archie would be proud of its continuing success. So, too, are its many returning visitors!

PP of DC


P.S. This month I've wandered a bit out of my normal area, but as this is an extraordinary year, I thought that anywhere in Devon might be of interest!



[10 December 1815 - 27 November 1852]

Known as Ada Lovelace

Only legitimate child of Lord George Gordon Byron, mathematician and considered the first computer programmer [also with a local connection]. Read on!

Today we rely on computers, but in the middle of the twentieth century they were only just beginning to have an effect on our lives. In 1953, a century after her death, Ada Lovelace, an English aristocrat, finally gained fame for writing a programme for a computer that didn't yet exist!

At the age of 17, she had met Charles Babbage, a Cambridge Professor of Mathematics, and promising scientist and inventor, who designed an enormous calculating machine, his 'analytical engine'. He believed that this machine could only be used for numerical calculations. But Ada surmised that any concept - music, words, sounds, pictures - could be translated into numbers and operated by a machine. She felt that she was specially gifted, once saying "I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature".

So how did she reach this achievement? She had had a rough start in life. Her mother, Anne Isabella Milbanke [known as Annabella] met Lord Byron and after he wooed her for over a year they got married in January 1815. By the end of the year she gave birth to Ada, Byron's only legitimate child. [All the rest were results of his many love affairs]. He called her Augusta after his half-sister [with whom he'd had an incestuous affair resulting in the birth of Medora Leigh - Ada's half-sister!] Lady Byron was apparently humourless and unimaginative and their relationship was very unhappy and short lived. After less than a year of marriage, his first words to his newborn daughter were "Oh! What an implement of torture have I acquired in you!" He was expecting a 'glorious boy'.

Less than a month later he told his wife that he was continuing an affair with an actress and 3 days later wrote to her telling her to find a convenient day to leave their home adding. "The child will of course accompany you". Soon after, he left England for good and never saw his daughter again. He died of a fever at the age of 36 when she was eight.

Ada's mother, a mathematical expert, determined that rigorous and logical studies for her daughter would remove the romantic ideals and moodiness of her father, so from the age of four, Ada was tutored in science and mathematics - unheard of in this age, let alone for women in the 19th century! By the age of 12, by studying birds and their flight, she came up with plans to produce a winged flying machine. She wrote to her mother that she had a scheme to make a 'horse with wings with a steam engine in the move an immense pair of wings fixed on the carry it up into the air while a person sits on its back.' Even Leonardo da Vinci hadn't got that far at that age!

Anabella's relationship with her daughter wasn't good. Ada was largely brought up by her grandmother, Judith, who doted on her. In those days, in a split marriage, English law gave fathers full custody of children. Byron wasn't interested, but in case he changed his mind, Anabella would write anxious letters to her mother asking after Ada, but with a side note telling Judith to hang onto the letters in case they were needed legally, and referring to Ada in one letter "I talk to it for your satisfaction not my own...". Poor child!

Ada was often ill, starting from the age of eight when she experienced violent headaches that obstructed her vision. When she was fourteen, she had a bout of measles that paralysed her and for nearly a year was confined to bedrest - which may have made her disability even worse. By 1831 she was able to walk without crutches. But despite - or maybe because of - these illnesses, she became skilled in mathematics and technology.

And finally, we come to why she is my choice of Mover and Shaker this month!

You may have seen Kate Humble's Coastal Britain whose first episode on the 19th February this year was walking on Exmoor from Porlock Weir to the Valley of the Rocks. [If you missed it, it's worth watching on youtube]. Here she introduced me to our 'star', and some considerable research! I have to admit that with neither a scientific nor mathematical mind, I'd never heard the name Ada Lovelace.

On the 8th July 1835 Ada married Lord William King [8th Baron], who had inherited his title two years earlier from his father, Peter. Ada was a descendant of the Barons Lovelace of Hurley. The title had become extinct in 1736 and when in 1838 William inherited a further title, she persuaded him to take up that name and they became Lord and Lady Lovelace. She was known as Ada Lovelace for the rest of her life.

They had 3 homes [Surrey, Ross-shire and London,] but they honeymooned at Ashley Combe near Porlock Weir. It later became their summer residence. Peter King had built it in 1799 as a hunting lodge for the princely sum of £1,300. William wanted to improve it for his new bride and undertook major renovations, possibly helped by the considerable wealth that Ada brought to the marriage.

The house was tucked into woods overlooking the Bristol Channel and built in the style of an Italian castle. William extended the house, adding an impressive clock tower in 1837.

He also created the Italian gardens. A number of terraces topped with walkways were built behind the house, accessed by spiral staircases and supported by alcoves.

The family referred to these walkways as the 'Philosophers' Walk' as it was here that Ada and Charles Babbage would discuss mathematical principles. Many trees were planted including, just before the wedding, a cedar of Lebanon. There followed 45 apple trees, cypresses, bay, Luccombe oak, and cork amongst others.

Ashley Combe had no bathrooms, [possibly because of poor water supply] and as Ada had been advised to take baths for her health, William had a bath house built for her into the cliffs on the beach where she could bathe in private. The remains of the stairs to the beach and also a small fireplace in an upper room are still visible.

If you walk from Porlock Weir towards Culbone, you come to Worthy Combe Toll Lodge [Ashley Combe was in grounds behind it] and soon pass through two tunnels. These, together with several others within the grounds, were built by Swiss engineers at the special request of Ada so that tradesmen and their vehicles were not visible to people in the house. Some had elaborate towers added, one of which is still partly visible.

Ada and William had three children: Byron, Anne Isabella and Ralph Gordon, both boys being named after their grandfather. Byron left the family home and died unmarried in 1862. After William's death in 1893, Ralph became the 2nd Lord Lovelace and with his wife, Mary, an architect, redesigned the house and gardens, with the help of fellow architect and friend, Charles Voysey.

The house stayed in the family for several generations, but was used as a children's home by Dr Barnardo's during World War ll. In 1950 it became a country club for a short time but developed a dubious reputation and was closed down after a few years. It then fell into disrepair and its owner, the 4th Earl of Lytton [still part of the family], decided to pull it down. It was demolished in 1974. A few of the terraces are still visible and an attempt is being made to renovate the remains, although the land is privately owned and used as a pheasant shoot.

Because of her fame as Byron's daughter, scandal followed Ada from birth. She enjoyed flirting and had a very relaxed attitude towards men! But her real passion, other than horses and numbers, was gambling. Starting in the 1840's the habit badly affected her finances and forced her to pawn the family diamonds. She formed a syndicate with male friends and in 1851 tried an ambitious attempt to create a mathematical formula for making huge bets. This went disastrously wrong and she once lost £3,200 betting on the wrong horse at Epsom.! She ended up thousands of pounds in debt and being blackmailed by one of the syndicates so had to confess her debts to her husband.

Ada became ill with uterine cancer and was in serious pain for many months - probably not helped by constant blood-letting. During this time, her mother who had now taken charge of who could visit her, allowed Ada's friend Charles Dickens to read part of Dombey and Son to her. Sadly, on the 30th August she confessed something to her husband that isn't known but was serious enough for him not see her again. She died on the 27th November 1852 at the age of 36, the same age as her father. At her request she was buried next to him in the Byron family vault inside the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham.

So, what is her legacy? Well, after Babbage was invited to a seminar in Turin to talk on his Analytical Engine, he asked Ada to translate the notes taken in French by an Italian military engineer. This she did, adding extra elaborate notes of her own which she called 'Notes'. These are important in the history of computers and are considered by many to be the first computer programme. In 1953, her notes were republished and their importance realised.

Since1998, the British Computer Society has awarded a medal in her name and in 2008 started an annual competition for women students of computer science. There is an annual conference for women undergraduates named after her and Ada Lovelace Day is an annual event in October to raise women's profile in her subjects. Even the computer centre in Porlock is named the Lovelace Centre!

In 1980, the US named their computer language ADA which was created for their Department of Defense [sic]. And Google celebrated the 197th anniversary of her birth with a doodle showing her working on a formula surrounded by images of the evolution of computers.

All this happened to the offspring of a licentious and romantic father and unimaginative and humourless mother!

PP of DC



[2 August 1893 - 26 March 1983]

Creator of the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

If you watch BBC's lunchtime Spotlight, you get a fleeting glimpse of the Minack Theatre, carved into the granite cliffs at Porthcurno near Land's End. If you've ever visited it, whether during a performance or - as I have - just to see it, it is mind-boggling, and even more so, when you learn that it was devised and built by one lady, Rowena Cade, with the help of her gardener, Billy Rawlings.

Rowena was already 38 when she started on this ambitious project. Born in Spondon, near Derby, she was the older sister of Katherine Burdekin, a well-known 20th century writer of fiction based on social and spiritual matters. Rowena also had two brothers.

The family moved to Cheltenham in 1906 when Rowena's father retired, and after World War l, her widowed mother sold that house and rented one at Lamorna. Here, Rowena made a discovery: the Minack headland. She bought it for £100 and subsequently had a house built on it using granite from St Levan. You will see this house on the cliff top as you near the theatre. Incidentally, the word 'minack' comes from the Cornish 'meynek', meaning 'rocky place'. Well named!

Throughout the twenties, Minack House and its gardens accommodated various dramatic performances. Rowena was good at designing sets and costume making, and after a successful outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1929, repeated in 1930, the next performance would be of The Tempest. It was decided that the setting should be the granite cliffs rather than the garden, but for this Rowena, with the help of Billy Rawlings and a lad named Charles Angove, set about constructing a simple stage and some seating in the gully above Minack Rock.

The work took over six months. Diggers and heavy machinery were out of the question. They used hand tools and the occasional stick of dynamite to shape the theatre in its present form. Here's her description of its start:

" my gardener, Billy Rawlings, [and] another Cornishman cut up [huge boulders] by hand, much as the English cut up butter. A few slices fell into the [sea] as they split, followed by some good dialect expressions of regret; most were handled into position inch by inch with bars, on the slippery slope where a careless step would have meant a ninety-foot fall into the churning sea. I filled in behind them with earth and small stones"

The Minack Theatre was born!

Illustration by : Paul Swailes

The first performance was in 1932. Without formal lighting, the stage was lit by batteries and car headlights. During the next seven years there were many extensions and improvements, but then came World War ll and it was feared that the theatre would be lost, but it was not to be.

It was given over to the Army who used it as a lookout post.

Even during the war, the set was used and in 1944 the film Love Story with Margaret Lockwood and Stewart Granger was filmed there. After the war, the gun post was converted into a new box office.

Over the years, Rowena became a dab hand at working with cement and creating techniques for adding lettering and Celtic designs with the tip of a screwdriver before the cement hardened. Although in later years she looked frail, she continued working all through the winter on her beloved theatre, well into her eighties. After she died, sketches were found as to how the theatre could be covered on rainy days. These so far have not been acted upon. Only extreme conditions stop a performance - rain does not stop play! And umbrellas are not allowed.

In 1976, Rowena gave the theatre to a Charitable Trust, but continued to be involved with it together with the rest of her family and indeed, by 2015 the General Manager was married to her great niece.

In a construction of concrete and cement, there is only one granite seat in the whole theatre, and that is dedicated to Billy Rawlings, who died in 1966.

Rowena Cade died on 26th March 1983, just a few months before her 90th birthday. She left behind a lasting reminder of her effort - and sheer strength - in creating this unique theatre.

In normal years, over a quarter million visitors enjoy ocean views and over 200 magical performances between Easter and September, be it opera, musicals, plays, music or children's events.

Last year, the programme was limited to a few summer months because of lockdown, and this year the Minack Theatre states on its website: We are currently closed to visitors. Further updates will be posted as soon as we have information.

So, if you are interested, you will need to check their website later. With all the talk of 'staycations' for 2021, and hopefully the success of vaccinations, you may just find time to visit The Minack Theatre. It should be a very worthwhile visit.

PP of DC



[1839 - June 22 1907]

Victorian solicitor who tried to turn Woody Bay into an exclusive holiday resort

This is a sad tale, but for those of us living with Woody Bay nearby, it has a happy ending! Here was an ambitious man who misused funds, ended up bankrupt and was imprisoned for his sins. Thankfully because of his financial problems, we can today still enjoy the tranquility of Woody Bay.

Benjamin Greene Lake was born in Orpington, Kent in 1839, just two years into the reign of Queen Victoria. The following years were exciting times for Britain: slavery had been abolished in 1838, steam trains and iron clad paddle steamers opened up land and sea, and social and political reforms were underway.

Other happenings during his lifetime were:

Possibly, because of unrest overseas, [the Crimean War, mutinies in India and then the Boer War], Benjamin volunteered for Her Majesty's Auxiliary Forces where he rose to the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Later he let it be known that he was Colonel Benjamin Lake. [Shades of 'Dad's Army'?]

The Swimming Pool

As a teenager, a visit to the 1851 Exhibition in Crystal Palace could have inspired him with thoughts of making his own mark on society, and what better place than a quiet spot in North Devon?

So, 4 years later [1885] at the age of 46 he bought the Martinhoe Manor Estate from Sir Nicholas Throckmorton of Coughton Court in Warwickshire. Lake had ambitious plans to develop Wooda Bay, as it was known then, into an exclusive holiday resort, with well-healed guests arriving by steamer at his planned jetty.

He had joined the family firm of successful solicitors at Lincolns Inn, London, firstly with his father, and after his father died, with his cousin, George Edward Lake. It should have sounded alarm bells when he immediately mortgaged the estate for £25,000 having lost £28,000 speculating in Kent Coal shares in 1878. This was the first of his financial problems that would plague him for the next umpteen years.

Hunters Inn

In spite of this, he went ahead with road building, including what is now the wide footpath from Hunters Inn to Woody Bay across Heddon Valley, and the road connecting the two places across the Moor. He converted the manor house into the Wooda Bay Hotel [now back to Martinhoe Manor - and up for sale at around £2 million], built eight houses including the Glen Hotel and Stables [now Woody Bay Hotel and The Coach House] and opened a golf course on the common.

In 1895, Lady Newnes 'cut the first sod' of the new Lynton to Barnstaple Railway. Lake allowed a station on his land at Martinhoe Cross to be built at no cost in return for siting a junction at Woody Bay Station for his branch line planned to access the beach. He even planned for a cliff railway similar to that at Lynmouth/Lynton to get down to his pier. This pier was hopefully going to attract steamers away from Lynmouth [not popular with local people]. It was completed in 1897, but guess what? He had financial difficulties, so it was only 80 yards long instead of the planned 100 yards with a dog-legged extension and landing stage! A teashop and swimming pool were also constructed. A storm whilst building the pier washed ashore the vessel fitting the piles, and the contractor lost not only his pile-driver but also the steam engine and went bankrupt. And because of bad planning, the pier wasn't long enough for ships to dock at low tide.

ThePier on a cold January day 2021!

In 1899, the pier was severely damaged by a storm, followed by another a year later. It is rumoured that locals helped the damage! It was never repaired and in 1902 was demolished for scrap. It is said that the good pitch pine from the pier is to be found in renovations of several local houses.

Last week we decided to try to find the remains of the pier. We drove down the precarious and tortuous lane as far as possible and walked the last bit past Wooda Cottage, even steeper than Hagginton Hill! At a small terrace was an unassuming gap in the wall. By following the narrow track down beyond it, we were rewarded with the sight of the remains of the pier: a sad - but solid looking - wall of stone. All it is used for these days is by fishermen at low tide.

Colonel Lake continued pouring money into the area to fulfil his dreams, but was an adventurous schemer and careless with other folk's money. He would mortgage one property to finance another, and offset losses by borrowing further cash. He also took money from trust funds dishonestly - in spite of being a trustee.

On Tuesday 22nd January 1901, Lake appeared at the Old Bailey in the Bankruptcy Court. In his defence, he blamed cousin George for any wrongdoing: his faulty book-keeping and consequent mounting debts which he failed to disclose. This was after George had died, so he couldn't deny it! An indictment listed 17 charges, but the jury only had to give verdicts on 4 of these. He was found guilty and made bankrupt with debts of over £170,000 - in today's money about £6 million. He was sentenced to 12 years for using clients' money. And this was a man who had been President of the Law Society, Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee which investigated charges of solicitors' corrupt behaviour, and a Devon Justice of the Peace!

Colonel Lake was released after eight years on health grounds and died 3 years later on the 22nd June 1909 at his son's home, suffering from influenza and a stroke aged 70.

So, what of his dreams? Any plans for further development died with him, and the 1,930 acres including Hunter's Inn, Woody Bay Station, and other plots of land were auctioned in 1900 to various folk including owners of a local brewery and a well-to-do squire.

And generations since have enjoyed the peace and quiet of Woody Bay.

PP of DC



[30 January 1928 - January 2005]

Military Careerist and briefly Secretary/Archivist for the British Embassy in Warsaw

Usually for the December Newsletter I try to write something Christmassy: St Nicholas, Tom Smith [crackers], Mr. Doyley, Queen Charlotte, who introduced Christmas trees, Sir Henry Cole who sent the first Christmas card, various saints and so on. But this is an extraordinary year and in late September I learnt of an extraordinary name co-incidence - a tale stranger than fiction!

"My name's Bond, James Bond". Does it sound familiar? He is described as 'debonair, talkative, cautious - and with a penchant for women'. But no, that's not describing Ian Fleming's spy hero, but a man born in Bideford on January 30th 1928.

He was sent by Sir Richard White, Head of the Secret Intelligence Service [SIS] to Warsaw, ostensibly as a secretary/archivist to the Military Attache at the British Embassy, in February 1964. Needless to say, with that name he was automatically put under surveillance by the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs Counter Intelligence Department, with a case code-name of Samek, Polish for same. Ian Fleming's books had been around for a decade [Casino Royal was the first] and even the communists would have possibly read the books, or at least seen the films.

This James Bond's details emerged on September 23rd this year through the Polish Institute of National Remembrance [IPN], which chronicles its communist past. It briefly made news in the UK's main newspapers and the devonlive website.

James Bond was the son of a farm labourer and rabbit trapper. He married Janette Tachi in Taunton in June 1954. They had one son the following year, also called James. When he was 36, he was sent to Warsaw. Both his wife and nine-year old son moved with him.

Widowed in 2005, Mrs. Bond, recently approached by one newspaper, confirmed that her husband had been a spy. She didn't know exactly what he was doing, but "I knew it was dodgy and he was doing things he shouldn't have been doing." she reported. He would write her notes when he wanted to say something important because he suspected the apartment of being bugged. When in their car they were followed everywhere, because little James looked out of the rear window and reported on the cars tracking them.

During his stay, he accompanied senior staff from the local SIS to north east Poland several times. It is said that the reason for their visit was to gain information on the areas' military facilities. There is some doubt about this. A decade earlier, this would have been most likely as Western Intelligence was on high alert following the threat of communist forces sweeping through Western Europe.

At that time, the SIS took regular trips into the countryside, taking photos, mapping areas and checking on army units. They were also interested in railway lines. A 1955 memo stated that only nuclear bombing of 55 points in Poland could stop the advance of Red Army insurgence. By the time of James' appointment, however, the prospect of communist invasion had calmed down and was no longer considered a threat.

In the event, after only 11 months, James was recalled to Britain. He took a commission of Captain in the British Army and continued his military career until he retired in his late 60's.

So, was he a spy? We shall probably never know. It could be that the SIS recruited him to fool spy catchers. It could be an uneventful episode in the life of a career spy, or Sir Richard White planning for the communists to waste their time putting him under careful surveillance.

The report's final words on the incident of 007's file in the IPN's archive says, 'The only thing that appears fairly certain is that since Ian Fleming had put so much espionage into fiction, British Intelligence reasoned they could put a bit of fiction into espionage as well. That almost says it all! This James Bond may not have been an ideal Mover and Shaker, but the Poles have been stirred and definitely shaken!


P.S. No time to Die! No, we can't see it before Christmas! We've heard about the latest James Bond film so many times recently on TV, in our newspapers, even being partially responsible for closing indefinitely a large group of cinemas. Why? Because the promoters, who have already delayed it from last Easter when the virus hit, then the coming November, have rescheduled it for next April. They feel that there won't be enough 'bums on seats' to justify the expense at present.

Oh, but the Royal Mint has gone along with launching its three coins commemorating the 25th James Bond film, which when combined, a micro text engraved on each coin spells out 'No time to Die!' You can buy the latest one for your loved one for £4,760, or if that's too much then buy her/him a gold and silver bullion bar weighing 1ounce or 10 ounces, that display the names of all twenty-five 007 titles. The smaller one is a snip at £1,600!

Happy Christmas

PP of DC

P.P.S. What a coincidence, the death of Sean Connery! I rarely send in my contribution until almost the deadline, but our James Bond was submitted on October 12th whilst still fresh in my mind after the Poles announced in late September his 1960's presence, together with the photo of Sean Connery as the Bond. Still, it is accepted that Sean gave his Bond character a style for all subsequent Bonds to live up to. May he rest in peace



[28th March 1942 - ]

Head of the Norman Family's Greengrocery Business in Ilfracombe

For as long as I have known Ilfracombe [over 45 years!], Norman's have been selling greengrocery in the town. Way back in the '60's, they were on the right-hand side of the Candar Arcade, Number 3, until it was burnt down 37 years ago. Now Ilfracombe's library, housing and offices have taken up that space, and Normans have moved along the High Street to Number 40. But how did this business start, and who was involved?

The Norman Family
Brian, Trevor, Lisa, Paula and Pam [2004]

For many years, Pam's in-laws, Alf and Kath Norman, were market gardeners at Brookside Nurseries in Combe Martin, helped by their son, Brian. They sold their produce to hotels, restaurants, cafes, residential homes and boarding houses. On Saturday mornings they had a stall in the market at the Alexandra Theatre [now due to become a Premier Inn], which was at the top of Market Street, just before the archway to the High Street. This was a lively event, with lots of local growers selling their produce. On Saturday afternoons, they sold from their van to private houses where customers left baskets on their doorsteps with a list of the fruit and vegetables they needed.

So how did Pam become involved? Well, she met and fell for Brian. They married in Arlington Church in 1963, and once Pam was part of the family, she became part of the business! Brian worked hard in the nursery and became well-known for 'Brian's tomatoes', Combe Martin potatoes, and runner beans. But that wasn't all! In the evenings Alf, Kath and Pam helped Brian pick strawberries, pack lettuces and harvest anything ready for sale.

This was a far cry for the girl born in Arlington in March 1942 to Sidney and Loveday Bowden, who on leaving Combe Martin Secondary Modern School had a sedate job in Leonard Sanders Ladieswear shop in Combe Martin. But she took it all in her stride!

A year after her marriage, Alf and Kath opened the shop in the Candar Arcade, helped by Pam, of course. Brian continued his work in the nursery, growing lots of produce to sell in their shop. By then, Pam and Brian had produced their first born, Paula Ann. During the winter months, Kath and Pam worked alternate days so that one of them could look after baby Paula. At the weekends when the family all had to work, Paula was looked after by Pam's Mum and Dad. During the summer months, Kath 'granny-sat' whilst also running a bed and breakfast business. The shop employed summer staff.

They were lucky with wholesalers. Fyffes [bananas] and Tom Huxtable [general stock] both had depots in Barnstaple. Then there were local suppliers: Pickwell Manor for tomatoes and Pickwell Barton for sprouts, Georgeham for mushrooms, flowers from Lee, laver from Ilfracombe, clotted cream straight from the farm in Combe Martin and a host of vegetables from Braunton! In later years, wholesalers called at the shop to supply their needs.

Today, although local suppliers are still used where available, their main wholesaler travels from Bristol 5 days a week.

Pam and Paula [2009]

In 1970, Trevor was born. He was soon part of the business! He started working in the gardens at about the age of 12, picking strawberries, lettuce and runner beans. His happiest memory of that time was driving the tractor back home when work was done! On leaving school he went straight into working in the shop in the mornings and the gardens in the afternoons. He past his driving test just one month after his 17th birthday and from then on helped his Dad driving to the fruit market in Bristol.

Three times a week during the summer months, they would leave home at 3.00 a.m. and on their return, there was a days' work ahead! As the shop became busier, they needed a bigger lorry. Trevor passed his HGV test at the age of 21.

"Dad wouldn't take his test so it always seemed funny putting 'L' plates on for my him and sitting next to him so he could be legal to drive," noted Trevor.

When he married Sarah Willis in 2005, she was immediately roped in to serving customers. As she enjoyed book-keeping, she looked after the monthly accounts, running the payroll and paying bills. They have two sons, Zak and Aaron, and already Zac, only 14, is helping out.

In 1970, Pam and Brian took over the shop. Kath died four years later after a short illness and Alf died ten years later.

Paula married Derek Hobman when she was 19. She has always worked in the shop. Her daughter Lisa has followed, after training at Bicton Agricultural College. This enabled floristry to be added to the business.

The shop in Candar Arcade continued until August 31st 1983, Paula's 20th birthday. Pam and Brian were 'phoned in the middle of the night by the police to tell them about a massive fire there. As they neared Ilfracombe, the sky was lit up with flames and smoke. The shop, together with the whole Arcade, was completely burnt down and they lost everything including monthly account books. Fortunately, as it was a lock-up shop, any spare stock was kept at their nursery. So, a day later, they set up a stall in Paula's in-laws' garage, sending out orders from there. A week later they moved temporarily to an available shop in Portland Street. In late November 1983 they bought 40 High Street and have stayed there ever since.

The High Street Shop

Sadly, Brian died on 1st October 2009. This seriously affected the whole family, and a year later, Pam handed over the business to her two children, Paula and Trevor. Trevor, who had spent his whole adult life working daily with his father, found it hard to manage the shop and garden without him and instead maintains the vehicles. Paula is now a grandmother. Hopefully the family role of providing lfracombe and surroundings with green-grocery will be taken up by her daughter Lisa and then by her grand-children.

During the pandemic, you may have noticed that the shop has remained closed. Safe social distancing isn't possible in a small shop. But no one is idle. Normally Paula would employ up to eight staff, but even in this pandemic, three are still needed, two of whom have been part of the work family for over thirty years. Even Pam has been called back to help with many orders from old and new customers from Ilfracombe, Combe Martin and Berrynarbor, who receive orders with no charge for delivery.

What a dedicated family, spanning four generations! They've had their problems, but have managed to overcome them. Over the years they have supported many charities, but Pathfield School in Barnstaple has benefited most. Pam admits that she's not had much time for hobbies, the shop has taken it all!

And final words from Paula, "We are now living with Covid. The shop front door is closed. We offer a free delivery service which has been very successful, thanks again to all who support us".

Thanks, too, to the Norman Family for consistently providing us with fruit, vegetables and flowers for more than 60 years, as well as contributing material for this article! Without you all, there would be a massive hole in the High Street!

PP of DC



[30.6.30 - 20.6.18]

Founder of St John's Garden Centre, Barnstaple [with his wife Patricia]

In the troublesome days of Lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis, there has been a blossoming of interest in our gardens, partly through fear of shortages of vegetables, but mainly that it has been a healthy and rewarding activity at a time when we were confined to our homes. Gardens have never looked more cared for - even if no one else can see and appreciate them! But now, thankfully, garden centres are back in business. North Devon's leading Garden Centre, St John's, and its offshoot at Ashford, are both seeing increasing sales. But how did St John's Garden Centre come about?

Well, we need to go back to 1958, when David Oliver and his wife Patricia, already having two baby sons, Nicholas and Simon, started a nursery as a smallholding, growing and harvesting flowers and vegetables for sale in the area.

David was used to the horticultural side of this business. He moved to North Devon in 1942 when he was 12. His father, Colonel John Oliver was in the British Army, stationed at Chivenor at that time. He was based at the Imperial Hotel and the rest of his family lived in Hele. He was de-mobbed in 1945 and looking for a settled home for all of them. His brother lived at Pickwell Manor, Georgeham, and offered one of his cottages to the family, and a bit of his land to grow vegetables and flowers. Colonel Oliver jumped at the idea. He had a large family to feed: four boys and two girls. So, he started a market garden, producing mainly tomatoes and cucumbers as well as flowers. The business was a great success, particularly the flowers.

Nick, David's oldest son, remembers his grandma picking bunches of polyanthus, anemones and other flowers which were sent by train from Braunton to Covent Garden. Their salad produce and other vegetables were popular locally.

After National Service, David went to Bicton Agricultural College to pursue his interest in horticulture. There he met Patsy and they married in 1956.

All four sons continued the market gardening, but by 1958 David decided to splash out on his own. He and Patsy set up a smallholding, growing harvesting and selling vegetables and flowers, on a site that had been his potato field. This is now home to the Rose Lane Tesco supermarket.

Not many years later, they acquired the piece of land adjoining them. This came about due to the upheaval caused by Dr Beeching in 1963, closing the railway between Barnstaple and Taunton which ran through what is now the site of the garden centre. When the land along the line came up for sale, a consortium of Adjacent Landowners was set up between Barnstaple and East Anstey, each tendering for his piece of land. Nick recalls that his father paid £100 for his bit - and £130 to his solicitors to complete the job!

By 1971, the enterprising couple expanded their business calling it St. John's Nurseries, where they grew mainly salad produce. Nick recalls that the family lived at one end of the packing shed and the fruit was housed at the other! He also remembers that he had a childhood diet of split tomatoes and odd-shaped cucumbers!

David with Nick and Simon

St John's Garden Centre opened in 1981 at its present site in Newport. Initially it was fairly small but has been added to over the years to become the thriving business that we all love.

David's ambition didn't stop there. In 1989 he opened a branch in Taunton which ran for 11 years. During that time, however, it was hard to run, mainly because of the difficulty in finding the right staff. The Hydrological Centre and a national bank mopped up the good folk. When a Pensions Company approached him asking if he was willing to sell, he agreed!

By 2007, David and Patsy made a nominal handover of directorships to their three sons, Nick, Simon and Tom. This gave David more time to enjoy his hobby of sailing - his special interest. In 1971 he had helped found the Watermouth Yacht Club. It is still open to local members and visitors. Watermouth harbour, as we all know, dries out at low tide, resulting in yachtsmen having to stay at sea or not sail at their convenience, so eventually David moved his boat to Plymouth. Here he became interested in the RNLI and ended up as President of the Barnstaple and District branch.

All his activities didn't stop him from keeping a friendly eye on the Garden Centre and he visited most days when available.

Expansion is still continuing. In 2018 the former Wyevale Garden Centre at Ashford became another branch of St John's. It is going well, and doesn't detract from the main Barnstaple branch whose sales are still increasing. St John's now employs a sizeable 120 staff.

Most of the forthcoming events have been cancelled due to the virus, but it is hoped that by the end of October, the annual Pumpkin Carving Festival [open to all ages] will still be held at Ashford.

All is positive news at St John's Garden Centre. It has now been trading for 62 years. This, says Nick, is largely due to its founder's philosophy. He says, "David was an inspiration to his family and to his business. He wanted people to enjoy their visit to his Garden Centre. Then they would always come back". He also instilled in his staff an ethic of enjoying work, meeting and talking to people.

David Oliver died on 20th June 2018 after a short illness, but Patsy, now in her 90's is still enjoying life and is visited most days by one of her sons. Thanks to this enterprising couple starting the business, we can all keep our gardens, patios and homes well supplied with vegetables, fruit and flowers, buy the necessary gardening products and furniture to relax in afterwards, treat our pets, watch the happy faces of the young ones as they explore Jungleland, enjoy a coffee and homemade scone or more substantial meal in the Conservatory Cafe, or even buy a wooden mousetrap. It's all there!

Thank you, David and Patsy.

* Special thanks to Nick Oliver for information and use of family photographs

PP of DC




Partners, Stapleton Yogurts and Ice Cream

Many years ago, I had a yogurt-making machine. It consisted of a smallish round insulated pot with lid. The yogurt tasted all right but was a bit fiddly to make and always had a rim of clear liquid on top. Nowadays, thanks to Peter and Carol Duncan, we enjoy delicious yogurt on our breakfast muesli every day. Usually it's the low-fat version, but sometimes the Greek one takes over, and occasionally we enjoy one of the many delicious varieties of fruit yogurts.

Peter in the Dairy

The Duncan's making of yogurts goes back to 1975, although Peter's interest in processing milk was when he was just seven years old. He comes from a dairy farming family originating in the Midlands and in the 1950's he remembers that porridge started the family's day, topped with a good dollop of cream. This cream was made by his mother in the method of that time: leaving a bowl of milk in the larder overnight for the cream to rise to the top. His father happened to mention that there was a machine called a cream separator that extracted cream instantly. What an inspiration for a young boy. You didn't have to wait 12 hours for your porridge cream! Still, he was 25 before he got his first cream separator and by then he had progressed to learning about fermenting milk into other products. That was the start of Stapleton Yogurts.

Peter was born in Stafford on 25th March 1950. His parents, Keith and Margaret Duncan, were dairy farmers in Staffordshire. In 1966, they left their farm and sought pastures new in North Devon, bringing with them their 100 Jersey cows. Here, they figured, was a wet and warm climate which would produce quality grass for their animals and in turn produce even better milk.

Carol was also born in 1950 on 1st February, but in Ilfracombe.

Her parents, Frank and Doris Lewis, used to own a hotel in the town. The family history, tracing back to the Armada [if not before!], shows needy visitors to Ilfracombe being offered Devon's best food and drink from various inns and hotels. The Lewis's also grew fruit, vegetables and flowers, including providing ocean going liners such as the Queen Mary with carnations. As a small child, Carol remembers walking through the greenhouse with her father who remarked that "something" was eating all the peas but leaving the pods on the plants. That "something" was Carol!

The Duncan's have now been married for 46 years. They have two daughters: Beth who joined them in their business in 2013, and Lucy who keeps up family tradition by offering 'Devon's Best Food' at the Cream Tea Cafe in Church Walk, Barnstaple, which she runs with her husband.

Coming back to Beth, it was thanks to her initiative that when two of their major outlets, pubs and restaurants, were closed due to the ongoing pandemic, she reasoned that some of their lost trade could be offset by offering home deliveries. She quickly set up a system on their website giving clear instructions for ordering Doorstep Deliveries of Yogurt, Ice Cream and Milk for Devonians, or Mix 'n Match Yogurt Boxes for most of the UK. You can also order yogurt by post

Both Peter's and Carol's upbringings taught them a respect for food. They started their business using the best products and a determination that only good basic or natural ingredients would be used in their fruit compotes and purees. These are still made by hand in the dairy kitchen, using raw materials whenever possible. For instance, if they are making gooseberry yogurt, the gooseberries used will have been harvested and immediately frozen to retain the flavour. They are then poached lightly with raw sugar and no extra flavourings or colourings are added. No wonder they all taste so good! It makes them very different from many other producers, who buy their fruit already processed.

All Stapleton products are approved by the Vegetarian Society and are also kosher approved.

When they started in 1975, they wanted to use milk from the family's Jersey herd and were determined to use authentic production methods. They no longer keep cows, but their lush Devon Jersey milk comes from local farms that maintain the highest level of animal welfare. At Stapleton, only Jersey milk is used because they feel that with its high levels of protein and calcium it makes the finest products. There are just 12 employees and only small batches of yogurts and ice cream are made at a time which avoids the need for artificial stabilisers.

Ice cream was added to the range in 2000, but only sold to Sainsbury's for their Taste the Difference range. This lasted until recently after 20 years production. In 2018 ice cream was made under the Stapleton name and is now well established.

Stapleton products are sold through some supermarkets and to small shops such as our own one in Berrynarbor. They are also available in many farm shops including Orchard Farm shops at both St Johns Garden Centre sites. Or you can have it delivered by contacting the company on .

Even with their busy lifestyle, Peter and Carol find time to help others. For many years they have been involved with Clic Sargent, the charity helping children and their parents with cancer. They give talks to community groups such as the WI and any contributions made are donated to the charity.

For a company with such high standards of ingredients and methods, Peter and Carol deserve their success, and with Beth, who has been learning about the business since she was tiny, devoting her energies for the challenges ahead, it looks in safe hands. We wish them continuing success.

PP of DC



[11.10.52 - ]

Traditional Devon Butcher

I've known Mike for almost as many years as he's been running his shop in Ilfracombe High Street, and am always cheered by his welcoming, "Good morning Mrs. P. - it's a lovely day", or similar. At a time when Ilfracombe is losing so many shops - and seemingly gaining a coffee culture! - it is good that a traditional shop is continuing.

So how did he become a butcher? Well, it runs in the family. His father and grandfather were in the same line!

Mike was born in Beckenham, Kent to Lesley and Victoria Turton. He was the second child. Elisabeth was the oldest and later came Lawrence and Caroline.

After a secondary education, Mike left school at 16 and worked at Trust House Forte as an apprentice chef. The family lived above his father's shop in Beckenham, and from a very early age, Mike was in the shop at every opportunity.

In 1969, however, his parents decided on a change of lifestyle and moved to Ilfracombe. They bought a guest house in Oxford Grove and the family moved with them. It wasn't too long before they realised that this wasn't really the life they wanted: the butcher's business was too deeply ingrained. They sold up and bought Mr. C.H. Chapple's Butchery shop at 146 High Street in the town. Some of you may remember the former owner. They had a ready-made member of staff, Mike!

Mr. and Mrs. Turton senior ran the shop for 20 years until 1989 when they retired. Early on, they introduced the sale of cooked meats and cheese which really spurred on their business, and that Mike has continued to this day.

In 1974 Mike married Sylvia Gear and they had two sons, Daniel and Aarron, and a daughter Stacey. Aarron became an Environmental Health Officer and when we opened our shop, he came to give it the hygiene all clear. Daniel is a Chartered Accountant and Ilfracombe Councillor. One of his children, Evie, helps Granddad in the shop on Saturdays during school holidays. Stacey lives and works in Cheltenham for a Government Apprenticeship Company. Sadly, Sylvia died in 2005, aged just 50, having been incapacitated for some time.

Luckily, Mike later found happiness with Julie, his second wife, who has been a great help. If you've tasted any of the pasties, scones, pies or pastries temptingly spread out in the shop, they are made by Julie with occasional help from her mum.

"And a great job she does of it, too", adds Mike. They have a daughter, Courtney, now aged 13.

Local suppliers also benefit from his business. He buys everything from the West Country. His Devon Ruby Red Beef and lambs are from just up the road in Combe Martin, but bacon, poultry, game, venison, cheeses and sea food don't use up many miles to get here. His cooked meats are all made on the premises. When I showed him the August 2012 write-up about John Dennis, it reminded him of how well he'd got on with John's father, Philip, who when he owned a turkey farm, used to supply Turton's with Christmas turkeys.

Mike doesn't have too much time to relax, but when I asked him about hobbies, he replied, "Family first, then walking, gardening, D.I.Y, cycling, fishing, dancing". Oh! And he'd just returned from a week's skiing! So, it can't be all work, but after the hours he puts in over Bank Holidays, particularly Christmas, he must need some activities to unwind.

The butchery and farming professions have been hit hard by vegetarianism and veganism, and I dared to ask him how he felt about this. He replied diplomatically, "The public must make their own choice".

Apart from his business, he is always ready to help local charities with their fund-raising and community work. I remember him being particularly helpful when I did a fund-raising dinner some years ago. He has also given professional talks and demonstrations to local women's organisations.

When you walk the length of Ilfracombe's High Street, it is disconcerting to see how many premises stand empty. It's striking that three of the few long-standing shops are family owned - Pam Norman and Nick Pedlar, as well as Mike. They have survived not only for several generations but also the opening of local supermarkets. Mike wants to emphasise how much he appreciates his customers, old and new.

Many of us will dash into the supermarket because of easy parking and getting most of the shopping under one roof, but particularly in the present hard times, all our High Street shops will appreciate more support from all of us.

So, Mike may not be a national 'Mover and Shaker', but locally he would be greatly missed. It is good that he supports nearby suppliers and that he can tell you exactly from which farm his products come. As we move through the seasons, he adapts his fare, be it flavours of sausages, meat for barbecues, provision of laver, etc., all to enhance our taste buds! He says that he has now been in the butchery business for nearly 50 years. Long may he continue!

PP of DC



[1911[?] - 1976]

Sir Jack Cohen's first employee

Sir Jack Cohen
[1898-1979], Knighted 1969

To some folk in the area, Tesco might be a dirty word, but on my visits there, I often find a number of residents stocking up their trolleys with items not available in our superb community shop, so I am daring to write about the company's modest beginnings, 100 years ago last year.

The founder, Jack Cohen, born in 1898, was the son of Polish immigrants. His father, Avroam Kohen was a tailor. After Jack left school aged 14, he began working as an apprentice tailor to his father. In 1917 he joined the Royal Flying Corps, using his tailoring skills to make canvas balloons. [The RFC ran for 6 years and initially consisted of 1 observation balloon squadron and 4 aeroplane squadrons, so there was plenty of work.] He served in France, Egypt and Palestine during the First World War. Having survived a mine disaster on a troopship [thanks to a nurse who helped him stay afloat in the water - 209 crew and soldiers lost their lives], he contracted malaria and returned to England. He was de-mobbed in 1919.




Cohen didn't fancy returning to tailoring after the war, and instead bought up surplus NAAFI stock with his £30 de-mob money. He then sold it on a market stall in Hackney in London's East End. On his first trading day he made a profit of £1 from sales of £4. Each market day, traders gathered and given a signal would race to their favourite pitch. Cohen wasn't a fast runner, but learnt to throw his cap at the spot and claim it. Rapidly, he became the owner of several stalls which were run initially by members of his family.

In 1924, Jim Harrow, a lad of 14, was selling second-hand clothes with his mother in Croydon market. In the words of his son, Colin, "He was so good at grabbing the best space in the market to set up his pitch that he was noticed by Jack Cohen, who asked him to nab a pitch on his behalf." Jim did just that, and before long Cohen offered him the chance to run his stall selling non-labelled tins of fruit and vegetables.

In that year, Jack married Sarah [Cissie] Fox, the daughter of an immigrant Russian-Jewish tailor, who was very supportive of his business interests in that money they were given for their marriage was invested in a wholesale enterprise. He then needed a brand name which came from the initials of a tea supplier, T. E. Stockwell and the first two letters of his own name, thus TESCO emerged. By 1929, Cohen had opened up a flagship Tesco store in Burnt Oak, North London. Eighty nine years and over 3,000 stores later, Tesco launched a cut-price range of 10 experimental stores throughout the country, named after its founder, Jack's. This was to try to reclaim sales lost to Lidl and Aldi. Several of them were converts from existing stores and some built in Tesco car parks. It hasn't been entirely successful and at least one was re-converted to a standard Tesco store in September last year.

But I digress from Jim Harrow! As the company grew, and Jim could drive, he was offered the job of transport and warehouse manager.

Here he met the office girl, Peggy, who became his wife. There was a strong bond between him and Cohen, in spite of one time, during a row between them, Cohen hitting Harrow with a broom!

Still, Harrow was a loyal employee, working with Jack for most of his life, and only ever buying his groceries from Tesco. Jim's two sons followed in father's footsteps and their sister was named after Cohen's daughter, Lady Shirley Porter. In return, Jack Cohen looked after Jim and his wife. Jim became the Manager of the Enfield store, which caused the family to move. Because of his generous salary, he was able to buy a house for £3,000 and was given a company car.

Jim Harrow died of cancer in 1976, but his ability to run fast as a youth and his loyalty to Jack Cohen over many years must have made his employer very satisfied with his very first employee.

As a footnote, Jim's son Colin, now 76, is an artist and sells his paintings in Tiverton Pannier Market. In his words, "In some ways it's as if I've turned a full family circle. Every time I set up my stall I can't help wondering if my father's looking down and smiling at the coincidence".

PP of DC



[24 May 1522 - 23 September 1571]

Bishop of Salisbury Cathedral 1560-1571, A leading Protestant Reformer

Standing at our Post Office counter were two visitors clutching a slim booklet and asking Karen to stamp it. Karen looked bemused, and not surprisingly! When Alan Rowlands was consulted; he'd never seen a stamp either. The booklet was entitled Passport to North Devon, and underneath Alphabet of Parishes and was published in 1995! [If you want to see more, put Alphabet of Parishes into Google and then The Sheepwash Chronicle. It tells you about this fascinating scheme devised by Danny Hughes, an employee of Devon County Council and an environmental charity. A famous local potter, called Harry Juniper, designed the different wall plaques for each of the 26 villages represented.

How did I find this out? Well, the visitors gave me the name of the publisher, who went out of business in 2002, and told me that the reason for coming to Berrynarbor was to find the 'J' reference to Bishop Jewel which they said they had discovered in the porch of our church. I went straight to the church and on walking through the lychgate, my husband said "There it is!" and sure enough, high on the left side as you walk through the gate you will see it. Perhaps you already have, perhaps you even remember it being fixed there, but I've not spoken to anyone since then who has seen it.

After a number of 'phone calls, I latched on to the Beaford Centre, now in South Molton, who found a reference copy of the book and kindly let me take photographs. Unless you are very keen, don't try to get a copy. Initially it cost £1.99. One went recently for over £10.

It has some interesting facts though. Combe Martin is represented as 'K' for kiln and Ilfracombe as 'Q' for quay. Presumably their plaques are somewhere in their respective places.

But that brings me to Bishop Jewel. He was born at Bowden Farm, here in the Sterridge Valley on May 24th 1522, the younger son of John Jewel and his wife Alice Bellamye. He was educated by his uncle, a rector, and by other private tutors until being accepted at Oxford's Merton College at the tender age of 13. By 1540 he graduated with a BA and five years later with an MA. He worked so hard throughout his studies that he fell ill with rheumatism and became ill for life as a result.

John Jewel lived in tumultuous religious times. Henry Vlll had declared the English Reformation - breaking away from the catholic faith. His son, Edward Vl had succeeded his father at the age of nine in 1547. Six years later he became mortally ill and Mary, his older sister and only child of Henry Vlll and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, succeeded him in July 1553. She was determined to reverse the Protestant reforms. By the time of Queen Mary's accession, John Jewel was Public Orator of the university and had to write an address of loyalty to her. Eventually he was forced to flee for his life when his strong Protestant views became known. Otherwise he might have become one of over 280 dissenters burnt at the stake during the Queen's five-year reign. He fled to Frankfurt and later publicly repented for signing the address of loyalty.

After Queen Elizabeth became queen in 1558, Jewel returned to England and in 1560 was appointed Bishop of Salisbury. In this role, he restored the cathedral spire and improved the standard of preaching, introducing a preaching rota for the clergy. Many of his fellow bishops were still reluctant to change to Protestantism. Elizabeth soon saw in Jewel a scholar who could establish the type of church she wanted.

After just two years in office, he published a book, the Apologia pro Ecclesia Anglicana [Apology for the Church of England] which was the first defence of the Church of England against Roman Catholic claims. His argument was that the English Church Reformers were not setting up a new church, but going back to the primitive one. He also defended the Church of England against Puritans who rejected the Book of Common Prayer and wanted to replace bishops with another type of Church government. Interestingly, he wrote it in Latin because it wasn't meant just for England but to be read by scholars across Europe. Lady Ann Bacon, mother of Francis Bacon, translated it into English in 1564.

Bishop Jewel was forty years old when he wrote the Apology, which became his most important work. Queen Elizabeth was so impressed that she demanded that copies of it be chained beside Bibles on the lecterns all over the country. The old volume is still found in some churches, still chained to its post.

John Jewel continued with his other commitments: building the cathedral library and opening a cathedral school for underprivileged youngsters amongst other things, working incessantly and limiting himself to four hours' sleep daily between midnight and four in the morning. He never married and after preaching a sermon in Laycock, Wiltshire, he collapsed and was taken to the manor house in nearby Monkton Fairleigh, where he died on 21st September 1571, at the age of 49. He is buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

And so, the small village of Berrynarbor produced a 16th century learned English reformer who 'did much to start to define what was unique and different about the English church'. A number of books have been written about his life and even though he died so young, Bishop Jewel made a lasting impression on the accepted religion of England.

[Grateful thanks to Keith and Margaret for giving me the idea and notes and to the Beaford Centre for photographs]

PP of DC



[1839 - JULY 26 1923]

To whose memory the family donated South Lodge, now Susan Day Residential Home

When walking along Wilder Road in Ilfracombe, I used to wonder how the Susan Day Residential Home got its name. Who was Susan Day?

Then in our February 2017 newsletter, Mary Clements, Chairman of the Trustees of the Home, wrote an article about it, opening with its first name, South Lodge. If you remember the article, it said that this was the family home for 50 years of the Day Family. In 1947 it was given to the Ilfracombe Old People's Welfare Committee [founded in 1945 to promote the welfare of the town's old people] by Mr. Thomas Fairchild Day, J.P., in memory of his mother - yes, Susan Day - 'whose dearest interest was the care and comfort of old people in Ilfracombe'.

So, with the help of Ilfracombe Museum and Mary Clements, I was on my way.

Susan was born in 1839, daughter of Susan and Captain Moses Cole, an Ilfracombe draper. There is little known of her childhood, but she married Samuel Day in the Congregational Church [now The Lantern] in the High Street on March 23rd 1870 .

Over the next 13 years, they produced 4 sons and 2 daughters, the last being Thomas, born in 1883, who became the donor of the family home.

If you look hard at the Home, you can still pick out the original South Lodge [even to the triangular oriel windows on the first and second floors] although over the years there have been massive extensions. According to a lithograph of 1840, scaffolding of the building is shown. The design was of a villa, not a country cottage, with attics and basements, fairly modest but showing that the new owner wanted servants. The site he chose stood on its own, well away from the only other properties: the Tunnel's Bath House [1836] and Runnymede House [c. 1840]. At that time, most of the development of Ilfracombe was on the south side of Wilder Brooks, so this was a rural setting in meadows on the north - and seaward - side of the town.

Susan's husband, Samuel Day was a prominent businessman in Ilfracombe and chairman of the old Local Board which covered all aspect s of local health and welfare before it gave place under the Local Government Act of 1894, to the Urban District Council. He was largely responsible for the Hospital Saturday Fund starting in Ilfracombe. This was a charity founded in 1873 when there was little co-ordination of health services. Existing hospitals were voluntary [except for workhouse infirmaries] and had poor facilities to deal with current problems of lack of nutrition, over-crowding, poverty and general ill health. An appeal was made for all employed people to pay a regular weekly amount to help the cost of hospital maintenance. Its name came from the fact that in those days, pay-day was on Saturday. Samuel Day became Chairman until his death on 6th February 1900. Family tradition carried on when his son William succeeded him. The Fund is still going today and offers a health plan complementing the NHS.

Although Susan Day was not active in public life in her latter years, she took a lot of interest in her husband's work. She had joined the Congregational Church at the age of 18 and throughout her life was very interested in religious, social and philanthropic work. She was in constant touch with North Devon's Congregational Churches, and was much in demand for opening bazaars and other social functions.

South Lodge was always a centre of hospitality for the church and many Congregational ministers were made welcome there. Twice she entertained General Booth of the Salvation Army, who thought a lot of her and had a photograph in his bedroom of himself coming out of the door of South Lodge. When he died, his relatives sent Susan the red army cuff that he had worn during his last illness.

Susan Day died on July 26th 1923 . It seems strange that a family so involved with the Congregational Church should be buried in Trinity Church graveyard, but as you see from the photo I took, it is the resting place of her and Samuel, and their two daughters: 10-year-old Mary in 1882 and Isabella [53] in 1932.

In October 2004, a family with ties going back more than 7 generations returned to Ilfracombe for a special memorial.Chris Flannery and his sons visited South Lodge, now Susan Day Residential Home. His great

grandmother, Kathleen Flannery was Susan Day's grand-daughter. She wanted her ashes put in South Lodge gardens where she had spent many happy hours as a child. This was done and a tree planted in her memory, no doubt adding to the already pretty - and flat - gardens.

Susan Day's portrait hangs in the hall of the Home, together with that of her son, Thomas Fairchild Day. And so her memory lives on.



The number of residents has expanded from originally 4-6 to today's 33, all boasting en-suite rooms. Initially the idea was 'of a thanksgiving Home where peace, quiet and dignity could be enjoyed as the reward of a long life and patient toil'. On their website, is added 'These days our residents still enjoy the tranquillity the Home offers but they also expect other forms of recreation and entertainment which we are pleased to arrange.' Long may it last!

PP of DC



[4th May 1829 - 26th May 1924]

First Baronet, Businessman, Liberal Politician and Commissioner of Knightshayes Court, Tiverton

"Why don't we take a day off and go somewhere interesting?" said my husband the other day. And that's how we revisited Knightshayes Court after a gap of far too long.

If you've not been, the house is tucked away up a narrow lane from the village of Bolham on the old A361 just outside Tiverton.

From one of the bedrooms you can glimpse in the distance the factory of Heathcoat's, started in the early 1800's by inventor John Heathcoat, making lace, suitable for wedding veils. It has produced most of the royal wedding veils since, but not including Queen Victoria, and that includes our present Queen. John's factory was originally based in Loughborough but it is said that it was sabotaged by Luddites and machinery destroyed. John declared that he had it on good authority that the Nottingham Lace Makers were responsible, seeking to preserve their own trade. He was offered £10,000 to restart, providing he remained in the area. John refused the compensation and in 1816 decided to move his business to Tiverton where he created the mechanised bobbin lace-making machine and by the late 19th century it was the largest lace-producing factory in the world.

Although no longer owned by the family, the factory is still there and now manufactures high specification materials such as textiles for NASA and products used in car fan belts as well as many knitted and woven fabrics including sailcloth.

But on to his grandson, John Heathcoat Amory. Born John Amory, his parents being Samuel Amory, a London lawyer and Anne Heathcoat, daughter of John, the factory owner. He assumed the additional surname of Heathcoat by Royal Licence. In 1863 he married Henrietta Mary Unwin. They had five sons and four daughters, 6 of whom reached adulthood.

On the death of his father in 1861 John inherited a large share of the business, but didn't show much interest in it. His aim was to be a country gentleman, and for this he needed a large mansion, so he set out to look for a suitable site.

Back in 1766, Knightshayes estate was advertised in the Exeter Flying Post as a '...very agreeable spot for a gentleman's seat'. It was a fairly small estate and bought in 1785 by the Dickinson family.

Benjamin Dickinson, a clothier and banker in Tiverton, who had built a modest white-painted house about 100 yards south of the present building, sold the estate to Heathcoat-Amory in 1868. By the late 19th century the family owned much of the manufacturing and land around Tiverton, and were able to enlarge the estate to 5,200 acres.

Even before contracts were signed in 1867, Heathcoat-Amory commissioned William Burges to build his dream country house. Although a renowned designer of the day, Burges was a particularly eccentric architect and many of his ideas and high costs didn't go down well with the family. In 1874, when the exterior was complete, and not to Burges' original design, he was fired. John Dibblee Crace, a much less flamboyant and famous decorator, was commissioned to complete the interiors in more modest style. This was another ill-fated choice. Over the years, the family covered up much of his work including ornate ceilings.

The National Trust took the house over in 1972, opening it to the public two years later, and are still in the process of restoring it when funds allow.

In 1868 at the age of 39, as well as purchasing the house, John became Liberal Member of Parliament for Tiverton, a position he kept until 1885. He was created a baronet of Knightshayes Court in 1874 and later appointed a JP and then Deputy Lieutenant of Devon. He died in May 1914 aged 85 and his second but eldest surviving son, Ian, succeeded him. Their firstborn, John Murray Heathcoat-Amory sadly lived only 3 days.

Ian was much more interested in the family business than his father and he and his brother ran it successfully. Lady Heathcoat-Amory died in November 1923. The last person to live at Knightshayes was Joyce Wethered, wife of Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, 3rd Baronet. She was a respected gardener and world champion golfer, winning the English Championship four times.


Not many people know that in 1944, Knightshayes like other large mansions, became a rest and recovery venue for American officers. There was room for 40 men. It was also the headquarters of the

1st Bomber Division and had an airfield with two small military spotter planes which were attached to the army artillery unit. Once the men recovered it was customary to fly over the estate, dipping their wings to salute the remaining officers. One day, tragedy struck. On 1st May 1945, just a few days before the end of the war in Europe, Lieutenant Albin Zychowski set out in his P47 Thunderbolt in a formation of 18 planes for the flight. Sadly, his plane clipped the top of a pine tree in the grounds, causing the fully armed plane to crash, exploding on the edge of the estate and Albin couldn't be saved despite the help of bystanders.

If you visit Knightshayes, it's worth visiting the Woodland Garden, although the roses sent by Albin's parents to be planted at the base of the tree he hit are long gone. But you will see a huge range of rare shrubs and trees. One year we spotted a splendid handkerchief tree there, which is in full bloom in May.

The Heathcoat-Amory name is still well known. Over the years, Sir John's progeny have become amongst others: military men including a brigadier, sadly a number of casualties in both world wars, a viscount, a Chancellor of the Exchequer and political news editor of the Daily Mail.

And the 6th Baronet, Sir Ian Heathcoat-Amory, born in 1942 and a director of many companies, is hopefully continuing the family name by producing four sons.

But the long-lasting memorial to Sir John will surely be Knightshayes Court, now in the safe hands of the National Trust. During the season there are lots of events and there's still time to enjoy the Terrific Tomato Day on September 7th and a free Heritage Open Day for non-members on September 14th.

The house is closed in November and December except for Christmas festivities. It's worth checking events on the internet. Happy visiting!

PP of DC



[3rd November 1970 - ]

Owner of Discovery Music, 7 Litchdon Street, Barnstaple

"I don't own a computer! I don't deal with the internet! I don't possess a smartphone! What I do have is an ability to communicate with folk face to face. By the time we've shared a cup of tea and put the world to rights, we've made friends and I can get down to business."

So says this month's Mover and Shaker who has been in the record business for nearly 30 years.

Over the years, when in Barnstaple, I have sometimes seen a man dressed in formal black, from top hat to black boots, strolling along the High Street. He looked a bit scary and I couldn't possibly imagine chatting to him about his life. Later I realised that he owned Discovery Music, a small shop set behind the Imperial Hotel.

Then, recently on BBC Spotlight, there he was chatting to Jim and Julian about a record they wanted him to sell: Weight off My Mind. He looked a really nice guy and I wondered if he would agree to being another Mover and Shaker. So, I took the plunge, walked into his den, packed from ceiling to floorboards with vinyl records old and new, and yes, he was a fascinating chap with a fund of stories and a sound philosophy on life.

Matt was born in North Devon and has lived all his life in the county. His mother was from Selsey near Croydon, Surrey, and his dad from Oxted, but they moved to North Devon in the 1960's and brought up two of their younger sons here. Matt is five years younger than Michael, and Andrew, the oldest, is ten years Matt's senior.

Their parents brought the boys up to believe in common sense, common decency and courtesy. Neither was particularly interested in making money, although father had a good financial head. He was an antiques dealer, later specialising in jewellery. They were all encouraged to talk about their problems and life in general and grew up with love and respect for their parents. The family motto was to 'know thyself'.

At college, Matt, in the first year, chose the wrong 'A' levels: chemistry, physics and pure and applied mathematics. He didn't do too well. In the second year he did much better with sociology!

After leaving college he did various jobs but during a session of unemployment, a friend of his was trying to run a book/record shop in Bideford part-time to coincide with his teaching job. Matt said that he could run the shop and look after the records - he'd always been interested in these and learnt a lot during his teens, and he'd always loved books. That job lasted from the age of 21 for the next ten years. However, he'd always wanted his own business. Then the opportunity arose.

One thing that Matt and his brother Michael shared was that on completing their education they would 'flee the nest'. This they both did. Their father had bought 7 Litchdon Street, which has a cottage with garden behind. The cottage was renovated and let, and the upper of two flats was also let - to Matt. When he talked of his own business, what was better than to convert downstairs into his shop? And so began Discovery Music.

His shop is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and after that [and another reason why he's not interested in modern technology], his time is his own. Matt will value people's own records, walk miles of our lovely countryside ["What better way is there to enjoy scenery slowly", he says], take myriads of excellent photographs, some of which he makes into greetings cards for friends and generally enjoy life away from the digital scene.

He lives above the shop, paying rent to his mother who owns the premises. His girlfriend of 17 years, a seamstress, is independent and keeps her own property - a sensible arrangement for both of them. He says, "I may look like a punk but I'm not!" The bullets on the belt around his middle are not live, and the seven deadly sins tattoo-ed on his right arm correspond to the seven golden virtues on his left. Now I've Googled them, I can quote them! He still usually wears black, and always the top hat. He never got around to drink and drugs in his early years, partly through not having the best of health and partly from the emotional aspect.

Matt does a lot of work on the telephone, too. Not suffering from cyber psychosis means that he has time, again, to talk to folk whether they are customers or friends.

Back to the record Weight off my Mind. Jim and Julian are old friends of Matt's, brought closer together after the death of another friend, a saxophonist, who died far too young of a mental illness. The men wrote this song as a help to others in need and who better to sell the record than Matt. Backing up his interest is a small leaflet in his window: Positive Steps for Mental Health.

He also sells CD's and offered advice on what to choose. CD's he says are not built to last, 20-30 years at most before chemicals start breaking down, silver covering goes sepia, glue loses its strength and so on. Records, if looked after, will last a lifetime. And how much does one pay for these? "Well," he says, "In my sale area out the back, you can pick one up for 75pence. Over there is a Beatles original of Let it Be priced at £500. But most of my trade is between £5 and £20."

And what is his favourite? The Who, he answers immediately, but then goes on to say that he likes classical music, although he doesn't sell these as they are in a specialist class of their own, jazz and a whole host of others. I reckon he knows an awful lot about his trade!

Meeting Matt passed a very pleasant hour. Here is a man who goes against 'tech madness'. When even old souls like me can send e-mails, and order from the internet, as he says for convenience, comfort and escapism, he doesn't feel left out of what he sees as a negative cyber virus, bombarding people with quick information which can become addictive. All that information is available offline - if we only have time to search for it and the proof? If you want to know about latest recordings, pop groups and so on, he's your man.

It was a refreshing change to meet him. I doubt if his shop will ever make him a fortune, but his lifestyle says a lot about reducing stress. Long may it last!

PP of DC



[27th February 1848 - 7th October 1918]

Composer. Teacher and Music Historian

A regular contributor to our newsletter suggested that Hubert Parry might be a suitable Mover and Shaker. Having looked into his life and career, even though he wasn't a West Country man, he certainly moved and shook the musical scene!

Hubert was born into a wealthy family. His parents were Thomas Gambier Parry and his first wife, Isabella [nëe Fynes -Clinton]. Thomas, the youngest of six children, had been orphaned at the age of five and was brought up by his maternal family adopting their name, Gambier, as part of his surname. His grandfather had acquired enormous wealth as director of the East India Company, much of which was passed on to Thomas, who with his riches was able to buy a country seat, 17th century Highnam Court near the River Severn, just two miles west of Gloucester.

Thomas was also a collector of fine arts, and music too, having studied piano and French horn whilst at Eton. His wife, Isabella, died of consumption aged just 32, only twelve days after giving birth to Hubert.

He, and his second wife, Ethelinda, produced another six children, giving her little time for the older ones.

Hubert's nearest sibling was Clinton, who was at boarding school, and his sister Lucy was seven years his senior. His three other siblings had all died in infancy. With his father away much of the time, Hubert's main support was his governess.

Much of his education was at Eton. He received a setback at the age of 13 when his sister Lucy died of consumption and in the same year, Clinton was sent down from Oxford for womanising, drinking and taking opium, so homelife was not good! His father was against Hubert having a career in music and wanted him to have a conventional one in commerce. Thus, at Oxford, he read law and modern history, his musical interests taking second place.

Highnam Court, home to Hubert Parry during his life time

From 1870 to 1877, Hubert was an underwriter at Lloyds of London. He found the work uncongenial but stuck to it to please his father and in-laws. In 1872 he married Elizabeth Maude Herbert, daughter of the politician Sidney Herbert and his wife Elizabeth, who all also felt that a career in music was not suitable. Hubert and Elizabeth had two daughters, Dorothea and Gwendolen [named after George Eliot characters]. During his time in insurance, he continued with his musical studies at which he was far more successful so that by 1880 his first major work was premiered: a piano concerto. This was followed by the first of a series of choral works: scenes from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. In 1883 he was appointed Festival Conductor of Oxford University and then Professor of Composition and Musical History at the Royal School of Music under the then Head, George Grove who had used him as a contributor to his own massive Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Twelve years later, Hubert became the Head himself when Grove retired, a position he held for the rest of his life. In 1900 he became Professor of Music at Oxford. Just to add to his accomplishments, he received a Knighthood in 1898 and a Baronetcy five years later. Because he had no sons, this baronetcy died with him.

Parry's Memorial at St. Paul's

Many of his contemporaries rated his talents as exceptional. However, Frederic Delius did not. Neither did Bernard Shaw, at the time a music critic in London, who mocked Hubert's lack of sympathy with his oratorios based on the Bible.

Many of Hubert's pupils, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frank Bridge and John Ireland, all rated him highly, both as a composer and teacher. Praise indeed! Edward Elgar was also greatly influenced by him.

Although his academic work took up much of his time, over the years he composed a wide variety of music, including 5 symphonies, organ recitals, music to accompany various plays and incidental music for West End productions. His works have had revivals in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and as recently as May 2015, seventy unpublished works by him were found in a family archive and recently auctioned.

But to most of us, what is probably his most famous claim to fame is as the composer for setting the poem Jerusalem to music. Written by William Blake and printed in 1808, Blake called it 'And did those feet in ancient times', as a preface to his epic 'Milton: A poem in Two Books'.

As all Women's Institute members past and present will know, this became their anthem in the mid 1920's.

It had earlier beginnings, though. Hubert Parry composed the music in 1916, to 'brace the spirit of the nation' during the dark days of the First World War. When Millicent Fawcett [see the article about her in the June 2018 newsletter] asked him if it could be used by the suffrage movement saying, "Your Jerusalem ought to be made the women voters' hymn", he agreed, for both he and his wife were keen supporters of women's rights.

Millicent felt it was more in keeping for the suffragettes than the dreary 'Shoulder to Shoulder', and infinitely less strident than Ethel Smythe's 'March of Women'. It was first sung by a mass of women at the Royal Albert Hall at a suffrage rally to celebrate their right to vote in 1918.

One suffragist and also a founder and Vice-chairman of the W.I was Grace Hadow. She organised a nationwide competition for a W.I. anthem in the 1920's and was so depressed by the results that she had a brainwave: why not transfer Jerusalem from the suffrage group to the W.I? After all, both sides were concerned with giving more power to women; both sides were bracing and inspirational.

Parry's Memorial to Parry in Gloucester Cathedral

From the 8th Annual General Meeting held in the Queen's Hall, London on the 20th and 21st May 1924, and filled with delegates and visitors from all around the country, Jerusalem was sung lustily, after the National Anthem.

It wasn't adopted then. It was after Millicent Fawcett wrote to Hubert Parry that it became their official anthem. All members pledged to learn the words and tune by heart, and be 'ready to sing whether she thinks she can sing or whether she thinks she can't'.

Not only the W.I. but famous singers including Harry Secombe, Charlotte Church and Lesley Garrett have all featured it. It appears at the Last Night of the Proms and has even been hinted as a replacement of God Save the Queen - in England at least!

Sir Hubert resigned his Oxford Professorship in 1908 on medical advice and over his last ten years wrote some of his best-known works, including of course Jerusalem.

In the autumn of 1918, he contracted the worldwide pandemic of Spanish flu and died on October 7th. He is buried in the OBE Chapel in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.

But what a legacy! Without him, his students might not have developed so prolifically, the world would have been denied his great musical works and the Women's Institute would not still be lustily singing Jerusalem at their meetings, whether or not they think they can sing!

Thank you, Sir Hubert Parry.

PP of DC

P.S. An article in the Telegraph on 12th March caught my eye, "Call us dinosaurs but film of fossil hero didn't need same-sex affair". This was reporting the start of filming Ammonite, the day before in Lyme Regis. The comments from various relatives around the world were that there was no evidence to prove that Mary Anning was a lesbian, and that she should be remembered only for her lifetime success. What did I say in my article in February?

One comment was, "Too few have even heard of her name, let alone her remarkable achievements . . . At least this way Mary Anning's name will get more recognition even it it's because of a daft Hollywood blockbuster!"

That says it all!



[21 May 1799 - 9 March 1847]


Some weeks ago, a heading in the Telegraph caught my eye, 'Winslet to portray fossil pioneer's lesbian affair'. The film, Ammonite, will tell the story of Mary Anning acting as nursemaid to a wealthy London woman who visited Lyme Regis for convalescence and the relationship that presumably developed.

This is an amazing lady who became known throughout the world as the greatest fossil hunter of all time, and one hopes that the film will give her due credit!

Mary Anning was born in Lyme Regis in 1799 to a poor cabinet maker/carpenter, Richard Anning, and his wife Mary [known as Molly] Moore. They had 10 children, but only Mary and her older brother Joseph survived to adulthood - not unusual in the 19th century when almost half the children born in Britain died before their 5th birthday.

At the time of her birth, 'Mad' King George lll was on the throne, small children of poor parents were sent off to work with little schooling and girls weren't worth educating!

Mary's parents were Dissenters, that is not members of the Church of England. Later, Dissenters were known as Congregationalists and as such, they were not allowed into universities, or the army, and were excluded legally from joining many professions.

The Congregational doctrine, unlike the established church, dwelt on the importance of educating the poor, and through Sunday School, Mary was taught to read and write, but otherwise had a very limited education when young.

The coast around Lyme was part of a rocky formation known as the Blue Lias [layers of limestone and shale] and rich in fossils. As a small child, she and Joseph were taken by their father to look for these, which they brought home, cleaned and polished, and sold as curios to visitors to earn a bit of money. Sadly her father died when Mary was just 11 years old, leaving the family destitute. They were forced to burn furniture to keep warm and were in constant threat of the workhouse.

The next year, however, was a turning point. Joseph dug up a four-foot skull with large sharp teeth. This was later named ichthyosaur [meaning fish lizard]. A few months later, Mary dug up the rest of the skeleton and sold it for a large sum in those days of about £23 to a local estate owner who lived at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He then sold it to a well-known collector who exhibited it in London where it created a lot of interest.

At this time, the general belief was that the world hadn't changed since it was created in Genesis, so this fossilised creature and others went against the grain with Mr. and Mrs. Average and Mary's discoveries became very controversial. But it made scientific folk look at different explanations for changes in the natural world!


Mary went on to make many other discoveries. I'm not a palaeontologist, so shall have to watch carefully my spelling, but it's impressive to read that she found the first complete long-necked Plesiosaurus [sea-dragon] at the age of 23. This is still quite rare. Five years later it was followed by a Pterodactylus [flying dragon]. But as a woman and of low social class, she wasn't allowed to join any major scientific institutions.

The family set up a fossil-selling business in their home, although Joseph didn't have much spare time, being apprenticed to an upholsterer. Mary's mother ran it initially, but by 1825 Mary was running the business.

In the early days, they remained very poor, and after a year of finding no significant fossils they were at the point of selling their furniture to pay rent. One of their wealthy customers made an act of kindness. He was Lieutenant -Colonel Thomas James Birch who decided to auction fossils he'd bought from them to raise funds, giving the family the credit for having found "almost all the fine things which have been submitted to scientific investigation". The auction took place in London on May 15 1820 and raised £400 [about £26,000 in today's money]. It's not known how much he passed on to the Annings, but it made them more financially secure. They started getting customers from Paris and Vienna and the auction made geologists aware of them. Mary became known throughout Europe and America as well as Britain, not only for her skills in fossil hunting but also in anatomy. Yet the only academic piece published during her lifetime appeared in the Magazine of Natural History in 1839 in the form of a letter that she had written to the editor, disputing one of its claims!

During her comparatively short life [she died of breast cancer at the age of 47], Mary had two near escapes from death, the first when she was only 15 months old. During a thunderstorm she was being held by a neighbour standing under an elm tree with two other ladies. Lightening struck and killed all three women, but not Mary who was rushed home and revived in a bath of hot water. Her family declared that after this episode she became much more curious and intelligent! On the second occasion, in 1833, she was searching for fossils during the winter with her dog, Tray, when a landslide fell just in front of them. The dog was killed. Her comment afterwards was "...the death of my old faithful dog has quite upset me, the cliff that fell upon him and killed him in a moment before my eyes, and close to my was but a moment between me and the same fate."

For someone with such a disadvantaged early life, Mary gained much respect from both scientists and the public. Her death in 1847 was recorded by the Geological Society, even though they didn't admit women until 1904. A stained-glass window was erected in her honour in St Michael's Parish Church in the town and in 2010, 163 years after her death, the Royal Society included Mary Anning in a list of the ten British women who have influenced the history of science. Had it not been for her, Charles Darwin might have found his theories more difficult to formulate! As an author wrote in 1865 in 'All Year Round' edited by Charles Dickens "the carpenter's daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it". The producer of Ammonite, think on!

It's not too far for a day trip to Lyme Regis, particularly in summer. Its museum is built on the site of Mary's house and has a separate section devoted to her. She holds a special place in the town. The Museum is even open in the winter from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m., Wednesday - Sunday. Why not give it a go?

PP of DC



[15th July 1808 - 18th April 1882]

Inventor, first Director of the V & A Museum and father of the Christmas Card

Just to read of the accomplishments of this man's long career is tiring! Sir Henry Cole was born in Bath, the son of an army officer, Captain Henry Robert Cole, and his wife, Laetitia. Henry junior was educated in London and started work at the age of fifteen in the public records office where he wrote pamphlets that led to establishing the General Records Office. From then on, he emerged as a man of many talents. By 1837, as assistant to Rowland Hill, he played a key role in developing the Penny Post and is sometimes credited with designing the Penny Black, the first self-adhesive postage stamp. Always interested in art and industrial design, he was involved amongst other things in developing the railway system and the building of the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall. Under the presidency of Prince Albert, the success of the 1851 Great Exhibition was partially due to his astute management. Thus, he gained the confidence of the Prince, who when he wanted a backing for one of his pet projects was heard to say, "We must have steam - get Cole!"

In 1857 Henry founded the South Kensington Museum and became its Director. By 1899 it was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum. In his spare time, and fancying himself as a writer, he edited and published various newspapers on art and design.

As if that wasn't enough, on a personal note, and under the pseudonym of Felix Summerly, he wrote children's books, handbooks for the National Gallery, Hampton Court and other art exhibitions and articles on a wide range of subjects. He even found time to design the Felix Summerly Tea Service which was produced by Henry Minton Potteries and sold through his Felix Summerly Art Shop in Bond Street.

In 1833 Henry had found time to marry Marian Fairman Bond, and together they produced 9 children: 4 girls and 5 boys. He was a very busy man!

Suffice to say, he found that he didn't have time to write Christmas letters to his friends, so in 1843 asked his friend, John Callcott Horsley, an artist, to design a card for him instead. At this time of year, it is this part of his life I'm concentrating on.

Together he and John produced a card with three panels. The outer two show people feeding the poor and clothing the homeless. The main centre panel shows a family celebrating Christmas with wine glasses in their hands and the message, A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU.

Some people criticised the design because it showed a child being given a glass of wine. John Horsley made 1,000 lithographic copies measuring 5⅛ inches by 31/4 inches, and hand-coloured each one himself. Those cards that Henry didn't need were sold in his Bond Street shop for a shilling [12d or 5p], which at that time, wasn't cheap. But these were the very first commercial cards. Maybe he was far thinker and encouraging people to buy and send cards would help his Penny Black post!

In the following years, cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene. In late Victorian times, robins and snow scenes became popular. Even the postmen had the nickname, Robin Postmen, because they wore red uniforms and snow scenes were a reflection of the very hard winter of 1836. By the late 1840's, Christmas cards appeared in the USA but were very expensive and it wasn't until 1875 that a German, Louis Prang, who had worked on cards in the UK, produced more reasonably priced cards. By 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers, created Hallmark Cards, still in production today.

King Cole
James Tissot [1836-1902]

By the early 1860's, printing methods had improved and Christmas Cards in the UK were becoming popular and produced in large numbers. Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, was working in Glasgow in 1891 and sent the first ever personalised card back to the USA. It had a photo of her on the front, dressed in tartan to emphasise where she was! She designed the card herself and the cards were printed locally.

By the 1910's and 20's, homemade cards became popular, often so delicate that they had to be delivered by hand. We all know the range of cards today, many of which are sold by charities as a way of increasing their funds.

Little did Sir Henry know what he was starting, and how much money would be generated for the postal service. There are very few of his original card still around and if you want to buy one, it will cost a lot of money. In 2001, Sir Henry's original card sent to his grandmother in 1843 sold at auction for £22,500! I think I'll continue to make my own!

As a footnote, Sir Henry never slowed down even with old age. After retirement in 1873, he channeled his experience in education to establish the National Training School for Music and the National Training School for Cookery. He developed heart problems, but at the end of 1881 and with the help of his daughter, he started writing his memoirs. On April 17th 1882, he sat for a portrait by Whistler, the well-known painter but died the following day. His wife died the same year.

He was caricatured in Vanity Fair dated 19th August 1871 as King Cole, a fitting title for a man who contributed so much to the arts and industry of his age. But one of his lasting achievements was to encourage all of us to spend much time and energy sending Christmas cards to friends and family [but cutting down a bit by using our Newsletter. Thanks, Judie!].

PP of DC




Specialists in Dioramas and occupiers of The Cabin in Bucks Mills, Bideford

[1892 - 1972]
Artist and Model-maker

[1898 -1989]
Poet and Artist

Firstly, we should visit The Cabin, in the picturesque village of Bucks Mills, about 8 miles beyond Bideford, off the A39. A long narrow woody lane leads steeply to the car park from where it is a pleasant stroll past pretty cottages to the small square, and a tarmac path leading down to the beach. If you stop at the first corner of this path, you will see Clovelly to the right, Peppercombe to your left and Lundy Island standing proudly in the distance. But look down the path and you will see, tucked into the cliffside, a very small stone building, once a fisherman's store, and for many years the two-roomed summer residence and art studio of Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards. They lived and worked together as artists for sixty years.

Judith was born at Stowford House in Bideford in 1892, the daughter of Doctor Charles Kingsley Acland. She had three sisters, two of whom died young of consumption. Her third sister became an accomplished cellist.

Judith was a water-colour artist, and held her first exhibition in Bideford, but went on to exhibit in many well-known art galleries including the Royal Academy.

She went to Bideford Art School for several years before moving to London to continue her studies at the Regent Street Polytechnic [now part of the University of Westminster]. Here she met fellow student Mary Edwards and from then on, their partnership lasted until the sudden death of Judith in1972.

Mary Stella Edwards was born 6 years later in 1898, in Hampstead, the daughter of Richard Cromwell Edwards. He was an architect, and soon moved the family to Staines in Middlesex. Mary also worked with water-colours, although she regarded herself more as a poetess, and over the years produced five books of poetry. Nevertheless, her artwork was so good that it joins Judith's in several major art collections around the country.

Much of the two women's work was produced in and around Bideford, although they travelled all around Britain, producing a wide range of paintings from the Lake District, Yorkshire, Wales and London. Some of their work is now exhibited as major collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Museum of Wales and the Abbot Art Gallery in Kendal.

In 1945 Judith patented 'Jackanda', a form of model-making, using wire and compressed cotton wool as the base materials. She carved figures so cleverly and lifelike that in photographs they are often mistaken for real people! Her models needed backgrounds so she and Mary set them in dioramas, three-dimensional backgrounds, illustrated here in Mary Stella Edwards by Judith Ackland.

Latterly, they spent much of their time making dioramas, usually based on an historical theme. Five of these are now on permanent exhibition at the Windsor Guildhall.

But they always returned to their Cabin in the summer. It had been part of the Wallace Carey Estate and in 1913, Judith's mother took over the tenancy. In 1938, Judith inherited the tenancy and when, ten years later, it became available to buy, paid six hundred and twenty-five pounds for it.

Known earlier as Look-Out Cottage, she and Mary renamed it The Cabin. It was a very basic property with just two rooms: living area with kitchen on upper level and bedroom below. It had no electricity. Surrounded by rugged natural scenery, shingle beaches and towering cliffs it was, in Mary's own words, an ideal spot "for the spring light on the high land". The furnishings were very Spartan, only a dresser with pretty patterned china giving colour in the living area, together with a wood burning stove and an old cupboard stuffed with natural and man-made odds and ends. Downstairs was a single bed with pull out bed underneath, a few sticks of furniture and a rail with coat hangers in a corner.

And how do we know all this? Well, Judith and Mary locked up the cabin in 1971, intending to return shortly. Unfortunately, Judith died suddenly and Mary, devastated by this, never again returned to their seaside studio. Later, she set up the Ackland and Edwards Trust to look after the property, who occasionally organised art classes there. In 2008, The Cabin was gifted to the National Trust on condition that it was still used as a retreat and now it is sometimes open to the public and short art courses are held during the summer. The interior is just as it was left in 1971, plus a few cobwebs!

Mary then donated a large collection of drawings, water-colours and dioramas to the Burton Art Gallery, which hopes to arrange an exhibition of some of these next year. Details will be on Entry to the gallery is free.

Judith and Mary could not have been written about separately. They were like-minded, dedicated to their artistic achievements and frugal in personal comforts. They left us all with some very beautiful works of art in remembrance.

Special thanks to The Burton at Bideford for their information.

PP of DC



SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE[21 October 1772 - 25 June 1874]

Poet, Literary Critic and Philosopher

We were looking for a lunchtime pub on the A38 between Highbridge and Bridgwater - and missed it. [Later we found it was between Bridgwater and Taunton and we must have driven past it!] When we found ourselves in Nether Stowey, on the edge of the Quantock Hills, we couldn't wait for sustenance any longer. Food was 'off' at the recommended pub, but opposite was Coleridge Cottage, that served lunch.

Having satisfied our stomachs, we then toured this tiny cottage, home to Samuel Taylor Coleridge from 1796 - 1799. Here, we learnt, he was at his most prolific poetic creativity, writing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, and Frost at Midnight amongst others. With his friend William Wordsworth, who lived nearby, he published a joint volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads, which turned out to be the start of the English romantic age. Although Wordsworth contributed more poems, Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was the real star.

This article is not going to be about Samuel Taylor Coleridge's academic achievements, [I always have to be careful to get his name in the right order, not Samuel Coleridge-Taylor who was a renowned composer and conductor in the early 1900's] but largely about his years in Nether Stowey.

So, who was he, and what was he doing in this small village?

Coleridge was born on 21st October 1772 in Ottery St Mary. His father was Rev. John Coleridge, Vicar of St Mary's Church in that town and Headmaster of King's School, a free grammar school set up by Henry VIII. Previously he had been the Master of Hugh Squier's school in South Molton and a lecturer in nearby Molland, which brings the family even closer to Berrynarbor. John Coleridge had 3 children by his first wife, and Samuel was the youngest of 10 children by his second wife, Anne Bowden, who is reputed to be the daughter of a one-time mayor of South Molton.

Young Samuel was a bit of a loner. He 'took no pleasure in boyish sports' and instead read incessantly, and played on his own. His father died when he was only eight and he was sent to Greyfriars in London for the rest of his education. Here he studied and wrote poetry, becoming friends with Charles Lamb, a schoolmate.

His father was pious and innocent according to Samuel, but his relationship with his mother was more of a problem. He was rarely allowed home during term time; as a child he was always seeking attention and in later life was a dependent person, which proved damaging, and whilst in Nether Stowey, wrote of his loneliness at school in the poem Frost at Midnight:

With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, . . .

As a child, he had crippling bouts of depression and anxiety and physically was unhealthy - probably stemming from a bout of rheumatic fever. For this he was treated with laudanum which gave him a lifelong addiction to opium.

In 1791 he attended Jesus College, Cambridge, but left in 1793 and joined the 15th Light Dragoons. Here he suffered severe bouts of depression and after a few months his brothers arranged for him to be discharged as 'insane'. He returned to Jesus College but never received a degree.

Whilst at the college, he met the radically thinking poet, Robert Southey. They had a brief plan to found a utopian commune society, and later that year, 1795, the two friends married sisters, Sara and Edith Fricker. For Samuel, it was a bad choice and he grew to detest his wife, Sara, who was a well-educated woman, brought up in the genteel social life of Bristol.

When, on the last day of 1796, he, Sara and their baby son Hartley arrived at Coleridge Cottage [then named Gilbards], it was dirty, draughty and overrun with mice. Water for all uses had to be drawn from a well in the yard and heated over an open fire. There was no range or oven so Sara had to cook stews and boiled puddings over an open fire. Pies and meat for roasting had to be carried to the baker's and cooked there.

In spite of all this, initially Coleridge at least was happy. He took great delight in his little son. His plan was to be self-sufficient, growing vegetables, and he kept two pigs, three ducks and three geese. His other activities, such as writing, meeting friends and walking on the Quantock Hills, became much more appealing and the garden soon reverted to weeds!

One of his new friends was Tom Poole, a local tanner and farmer with little education, but no country bumpkin! He was a radical thinker, and Samuel looked forward to, and had, many years of support. A gate was made between Coleridge's orchard and Poole's garden for easy access, and Sara was loved by both Poole and his mother. Nowadays, Poole's house offers bed and breakfast.

When Hartley was three, he caught scabies and the cure was to be painted all over with brimstone. Sara had to fumigate the house whilst Coleridge, no help at all, retired to a corner 'undisturbed as a Toad in a Rock'.

Poor Sara, trying to deal with domestic problems, was unable to build up any relationship with the Wordsworths, who frequently enjoyed long walks with her husband. Dorothy sometimes borrowed Sara's clothes - although calling them out of date - and even returned them muddy at the hem from her walks!

By 1798, things were bad for the Coleridges. Samuel had gone to Germany with the Wordsworth's. It was planned that Sara should go with them, but her second baby, Berkeley, was born in May of that year, which prevented her travelling. Once in Germany, Samuel left the Wordsworth's and enrolled as a student at Gӧttingen University.

Whilst there, the baby, Berkeley, became very ill following a smallpox vaccine. His lungs were affected and after staying up with Berkeley many nights, Sara too became ill. She was also running short of money and moved back to Bristol where there was better medical help. Her illness caused her hair to lose its gloss and fall out and she took to wearing a wig. In spite of her constant care, Berkeley died in his mother's arms in February 1799. When Samuel eventually heard of his baby's death, he didn't hurry home. It was July before he returned, and even then, because of his guilty neglect, only after a stay in London. Sara felt utterly abandoned.

In the souvenir guide to Coleridge Cottage, there is a copy of a very moving letter she wrote to her husband desperately asking for him to come home. It was the beginning of the end of their relationship and of their happiness in Nether Stowey.

The Wordsworth's tenancy had expired and they moved back to their beloved Lake District. Coleridge became a successful journalist with London's Morning Post. On the pretext of wanting to save his marriage, but more so because he wanted to be near Wordsworth, he and Sara moved to Keswick. By this time, however, William was now achieving poetic success and was becoming tired of Samuel turning up at his home, depressed and ill.

In 1804 Coleridge accepted the post of secretary to the Governor of Malta and on his return two years later returned to the Lake District. He finally separated from Sara in1808 after a long infatuation with the sister of Wordsworth's wife, Mary. He became increasingly dependent on opium and by 1816 was accepted as a patient into the home of London surgeon, James Gillman, who partially controlled his addiction. Samuel lived with the Gillman's in Highgate until his death in 1834. Sara, two years older than Samuel, lived until 1845. During his lifetime, he added greatly to the English language.

As examples, I give two quotes from The Ancient Mariner:

    "Water, water everywhere
    Nor any drop to drink"


    "He prayeth best who loveth best
    All things both great and small;.
    For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all."

In spite of a successful London career, writing for newspapers, lecturing, compiling tomes on his literary thoughts and even writing the occasional poem, Coleridge never regained the magical touch of his three years in Coleridge Cottage.

The cottage is now owned by the National Trust and is just a pleasant day's outing for Berrynarbor folk. Why not give it a go? We found it by accident - but it was well worth the visit.

PP of DC



LSSM dip [Hons], LCSP [Phys], BRCP, IAS

Remedial and Rehabilitation Therapist
Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation

What turns a competent professional dancer into a renowned and well-loved Pilates Practitioner? Well, having been a client of hers for more than 11 years, who's guided me through the aftermath of a minor stroke and two knee operations, I wanted to find out.

Jane-Elizabeth, nearer sixty than forty, has been practising in Ilfracombe for over 18 years and is highly respected, not only by her many clients, but also by the medical profession to whom she gives workshops in London and Devon.

Born in Amersham to The Rev, Francis Roberts and his wife Gwenda, Jane started life with a big 'footicap' - she shared her mother's womb with a growth which would have risked her life had it been removed during pregnancy. The result was that when she was born her feet were severely twisted. It seems astonishing that at 2 years of age she started ballet when she was unable to walk properly until she was 11. During those years, she learnt body movement - but initially totally on her backside! Her brother, Christopher, was born 18 months later with no problem. The family lived in Little Missenden, where her father was Parish Priest for 40 years.

Whilst still a child, she became friends with Tessa Dahl, one of Roald Dahl's children, who lived in Great Missenden. At that time, Roald wasn't very well known, it was his wife, the Academy Award winning American actress Patricia Neal, who claimed fame. Roald used to retire to his garden shed and write children's stories, which he would then read out to them. In hindsight, what a privilege!

When she was 11, Jane won a 3-year I.S.T.D. [Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing] scholarship to study on a Saturday morning in London. During her time there, she was taught by many famous names: Beryl Grey, Moira Shearer and Ninette de Valois, to name a few. As she was so young, Jane won a fourth year scholarship. She had to be persuaded to take this up, but afterwards of course was pleased that she did so. At the age of 15 Jane won a scholarship to study at the Ballet Rambert School but as she was still of school age, had to complete her education, on top of her ballet work, at a Ladies' Finishing School in Chorley Wood.

Jane then won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School, but when offered a second year, declined and returned to the Ballet Rambert. One day at the school, Dame Marie Rambert herself, then 75 years old, came in to watch the class.

"I want that girl in the black T-shirt in my Company". And so Jane started 15 years as a professional dancer.

She then decided to form her own company: Dance Spectrum. which she ran for 10 years, working with Wendy Hiller, Dulcie Gray, Michael Dennison, Judie Dench and others, mainly in Buckinghamshire.

All went well until she fractured her spine meaning that she was out of action for 6 months; firstly in traction, then in a wheelchair and finally a rigid corset followed by a Velcro one that she could remove at night. When she spoke to her consultant about rehab, he suggested she went out for a jog! She didn't feel that that was right after so much inactivity and that was when she learnt about Pilates.

Shortly afterwards, she became pregnant, another shock as she'd been told she couldn't have children. Not to be inactive, she took up interior design, making curtains, swags, doing upholstery, etc., very often with materials costing over £50 a yard. One day, she had this very expensive material spread out on the floor. It was the potty training period and her toddler, Emma, came in holding her potty to show mummy what a good girl she'd been. Mummy flung herself at the pot as it hit the floor, drenching herself but not a drop went on the precious material. Whew!

Jane became a Registered Pilates Teacher and taught at Tring Ballet School, before returning to Ballet Rambert to teach. She also qualified as a Therapist.

In 2001, the time came when the family, who had always loved North Devon, decided to move to Ilfracombe. For the first 7 months, Jane returned to Milton Keynes for 10 days a month but then decided to move her work here. 10 posters were made and she took them to local businesses and shops, asking for them back if they weren't going to use them as she only had 10!

Since then her work has grown significantly. Starting in the Lantern, then Studio 20, before she had her own studio and shop, Arabesque Dance Boutique, also taking on a studio opposite until sadly she got breast cancer. Ironically, she was due to go to Phoenix, Arizona, to study anatomy. This had to be cancelled, but with Jane's determination, she completed this the following year.

Partly as her own re-hab, she trained to work on fascia, the body's connective tissue. All the time I've known Jane she has always been updating her knowledge and recently spent a week working on fascial anatomy.

Her latest Body Aware Pilates Studio and Clinic is at the junction of Fore Street and Portland Street, 155 High Street, Ilfracombe. It is a lovely environment in which to work and she has just completed renovating the first floor, as she needed extra spaces. In a second clinic, she has osteopathy, reflexology, hypnotherapy and other treatments.

I've not detailed her many impressive qualifications - they would fill half a page! - but if you would like details, her website will tell you all. Suffice to say that her real love is helping people with severe problems: recovering from operations, strokes, or those with Parkinson's, MS, sports injuries or any other problems. She also has sessions for pre and post-natal care, sessions for men only and before anyone becomes a client, he or she has a one-to-one session so that Jane knows exactly how to help them with their problem.

She also fits dancers with their pointe shoes with a full biomechanical assessment of their pelvis and legs before fitting. If your child needs ballet shoes, she can also provide these. Just send her an e-mail.

Finally, I must not forget Millie. She is an endearing little black dog, and Jane's constant companion, who welcomes everyone to the studio before obediently retiring to her small kennel. She must be a delight to the people she visits wearing her Pets as Therapy collar.

We are very lucky in North Devon that Jane-Elizabeth decided to choose Ilfracombe to set up her stall. In spite of or because of her many difficulties she has the willpower to help her many clients.

She may be a mere 5'2" in height and wear size 6 in clothing, but she is a giant in the world of Pilates and justly earns her title of a Mover and Shaker. Long may she continue her valuable work.

PP of DC



[10th May 1966 - ]

Triple Jump World Champion since 1995

Gold Medallist at 2000 Olympics in Sydney and winner of other notable championships

As I stood watching dogs and their humans gambolling over Ilfracombe Beach, Alex went missing. He had been checking out the cairn and mosaic just behind me, commemorating Jonathan Edwards' great achievement at the World Championships in Gothenburg in 1995.

Many folk have been engrossed in watching the recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, so it seems appropriate to remind ourselves of the prowess of this athlete, who lived with his family in Ilfracombe from 1976 to 1987. Little did I know when I hit upon the idea of writing about Jonathan, that he would be commentating at those same Olympics in his new role with Eurosport.

But let's start at the beginning. Jonathan was born in Westminster, London. on 10th May 1966, the son of a Church of England vicar, Andy, and his wife, Jill.

The family moved to Ilfracombe in1976 and made their home in The Old Rectory - then known as St James Vicarage - and Jonathan was educated at West Buckland School. Here, even at an early age, he was spotted as an exceptional triple jumper [hop, skip and jump to non- participants!], but was a strong all-rounder and on leaving West Buckland, received the top accolade for sporting and academic excellence. If you are familiar with the school, you probably know Jonathan's name, as the Sports Hall is named after him.

He had strong Christian beliefs, which initially made him refuse to compete in athletic events on Sundays. This lost him the chance of taking part in the 1991 World Championships, although he had already won the World Cup in 1989 and a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 1990.

After much discussion with his father, by 1993 he changed his mind, feeling that God had given him talent to enable him to compete in athletics. This was a timely decision as in that year the qualifying round for the World Championships took place on a Sunday. He entered and won a Bronze Medal.

1995 was an exceptional year. At the European Cup in France, he produced the longest leap in history [18.43m/60' 5.5"], but because it was wind-assisted, it couldn't count as a record, but it was a sign of things to come.

The Triple Jump had an 18-metre barrier - until Jonathan broke it twice in the 1995 World Championships on August 7! In his first jump, he became the first man to legally pass the barrier with a jump of 18.16m [59' 7"]. That record lasted for 20 minutes because his second jump of 18.29m made him the first to jump 60 feet! He said later, when commentating for the BBC for the 2008 Olympics, that he had "felt he could jump as far as he needed to" on that date.

If you've not spotted Ilfracombe's tribute to this magnificent achievement, do go and see just how far 60 feet is and imagine having a go! This record still stands.


As World Champion, Jonathan was the hot favourite for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. It was not to be. He was beaten by an American, Kenny Harrison, who managed 18.09m. Jonathan got silver, with a jump of 17.88m - the longest jump ever not to win gold. Undeterred, he went on to win a silver and bronze at two World Championships and was European Champion in 1998.

Jonathan Edwards bearing the Olympic Torch through Ilfracombe, from his old home on Hillsborough Road to Brimlands, 21st May 2012

By the Sydney Olympics in 2000 he was already 34 years old, but although not achieving the record jumps, he was still a clear winner of the event, and won gold.

The next year he won gold at the Commonwealth Championships, but in 2002 he only came third in the 2002 European Championships. It was expected that he would enter the 2004 Olympics, but after a disappointing performance in the 2003 World Championships he decided to retire. With 14 medals for Great Britain to his credit, he was its most successful medal-winning athlete.

After his retirement, Jonathan took up a career in the media, working as a sports commentator and presenter for the BBC, and fronting some of its religious programmers, including Songs of Praise. He gave up the latter programme after losing his faith in 2007.

Jonathan also became a keen cyclist, and from 2012 covered the BBC cycle racing, and also the 2014 Winter Olympics. He went on to cover the Winter Paralympics for Channel 4 and in February 2016, after 13 years with the BBC, he let it be known that as from 2017 he would be the lead presenter with Eurosport.

Jonathan Edwards now lives with his wife, Alison, in Newcastle upon Tyne. They have two sons, Nathan and Sam.

As part of his mosaic memorial are Jonathan's words 'If you don't take off you never know where you will land'. He certainly landed in a spot that pleased everyone.

Ilfracombe - and West Buckland School - can be justly proud of this great athlete and media presenter.

PP of DC




[1780 - 20 October 1827]

Founder of Tasmania, Lieutenant, Royal Navy

"Tassie?You'll love it.It's just like england," remarked a friend. Why then, were we travelling half way round the world to visit it I thought? In fact, although the scenery looks familiar, the trees are not deciduous, so no autumn colours, no skeleton winter trees, or lush spring foliage.And we do not have to spray our socks and boots to stop leeches climbing up, nor do we suffer those vicious creatures: white tailed spiders and the Tassie Devils!

Still, it's a great country and, having been there, I was interested some time ago by an article in the North Devon Journal by Francesca Taffs.She wrote a tale of a Tasmanian historian who was trying to keep alive the memory of a 18th century Ilfracombe lieutenant who led the first expedition to his island.

It appears that Reg Watson, the historian, had written a book - one of many - entitled Lt. John Bowen and the Founding of Tasmania.In 2013 he was decrying the defacing of a memorial to John Bowen, erected in 1904 in Risdon, just north of Hobart, to celebrate 100 years since he led the first settlers to this Australian island.

Sydney had been settled in 1788. The French were sniffing around in the Pacific, but by 1803 Napoleon was dictator and we were at war with France. It was important that we had a base in what was then known as Van Diemen's Land.

Into the story comes John Bowen.Born early in 1780 in Ilfracombe, he was the son of James Bowen, a master in the Navy and later Rear Admiral, and his wife elizabeth.He was just 14 when he began his naval career and by 1798 had served on several ships before graduating from Dartmouth, joining his father on the Argo as a midshipman.He served mainly on that ship until1802 when as a Lieutenant he joined another ship, the Lancaster, then the Glatton, carrying convicts to New South Wales. Here he volunteered to the Governor, Philip Gidley King, to sail for Risdon Cove to form a settlement.

The site was chosen by the Governor and ultimately it wasn't a good one. Although good for defence, the soil was poor and water scarce. John, aged just 23, had with him 49 folk:21 male and 3 female convicts, a few members of the New South Wales Corps, plus free settlers and their families.Most of them were reluctant and several of the convicts stole a boat and escaped.He also had a major problem with some of the free settlers, particularly with Lt. William Moore who was in charge of the military.He referred to John Bowen as a 'mutinous rascal', and sent him under arrest to Philip King in Sydney, who dismissed the charge and sent him back to Tasmania.Back there, John worked enthusiastically, discovering a large amount of coal in the surrounding area and even naming a river after it.

Word again reached the Governor, this time about John's 'private affairs'.He was living with Martha Hayes, the daughter of one of the female convicts, who by this time had a daughter by him, Henrietta, who died young.Later Martha had another daughter, Martha Charlotte.

Bowen again visited Sydney with the intention of resigning, but the Governor ordered his return, knowing that he had family responsibilities. When John returned, to his frustration and annoyance, a Royal Marine, David Collins, had arrived, also to settle the colony.Collins decided to abandon Risdon and move the group to Sullivan's Cove, now the capital, Hobart.

During this period, there was an ugly confrontation with the aborigines, several of whom were killed.According to historian Reg Watson, Bowen was away exploring, leaving Lt. Moore in charge, but Bowen was blamed and had to return to Sydney for the last time.Before leaving, he arranged for Martha to become a settler, meaning that she could get land grants and have access to government stores.For the record, she continued to live in Hobart, later marrying Andrew Whitehead with whom she had another daughter.After his death she married a police clerk, and according to Tasmania University, her life was 'closely interwoven with many colourful characters in Hobart during its first few decades'!

Bowen left Hobart after less than two years at his post and in January 1805 sailed for england.He refused money for his work at Risdon, but was given the promotion he wanted.In May1804 he had been promoted to Commander and in January 1806 he became Captain.

Five years later he applied to succeed Collins as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, but he was rejected because it was said that as a naval officer he couldn't command the troops.He applied twice more without success, saying that he had long felt a lively interest in the colony and had shared in the difficulties of starting it.

He eventually returned to england and on 13 May 1825 he married elizabeth Lindley Clowes, a niece of the countess of Newburgh.It was a short-lived marriage though, because after a long and painful illness he died back in Ilfracombe on 20th October 1827 aged 47.

And so we return to Reg Watson and his ambition to renovate the memorial. From photographs of it on the internet it looks miserable - daubed with red paint and surrounded by slogan boards. In his words "What should be a site of national historic and cultural significance and a place to celebrate dual heritage [Tasmanian Aboriginal and white] has become instead a site of confrontation, neglect and vandalism."By 2016 there had been no improvement.

If you are off to Tasmania in the near future, do try and look up this memorial near Hobart, and report back!The address is: east Derwent Highway, Bowen Park, Risdon.So, a town did eventually arise on John Bowen's original landing site.

PP of DC



[907 - 28 September 935]

Celebrated "Good King Wenceslas"

Christmastide again! How quickly it comes around - and ever more quickly the older one gets.As a friend said recently, "It doesn't seem worth putting the decorations back up in the loft"!

But who should I write about this year with a Christmas theme? I thought of St Stephen of 'Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen' fame. That, also known as St. Stephen's Day in most of the west. is to those who don't know, December 26th.. This is of course our Boxing Day, so named in the mid-19th century because tradesmen would go around their various employers of that year with a special Christmas box into which said employers would give a gift of money. Nowadays, folk come home with their boxes from the sales on that day!

Having spent some considerable time researching and writing about St Stephen however, I became so depressed by such a sad tale that he didn't seem the right subject for such a joyous occasion. So, I turned to Wenceslaus, who turns out to be a real 'mover and shaker' even though on this earth for only 28 years.

The name Wenceslaus is the Latinised name of the Czech Vaclav, where he was known as Vaclav the Good.

The popular carol Good King Wenceslas was written by John Mason Neale and published in1853. The tune he selected dates back to 1582 when a spring hymn thought to originate in Scandinavia was published. The carol's popularity is in spite of there being no reference whatsoever to the Nativity!

Mr. Neale referred to him as Wenceslas, I will add the extra 'u' to conform with Wenceslaus Square in Prague Centre.

Wenceslaus was born in Prague, the son of Vratislaus l, Duke of Bohemia [a Christian], and Drahomira, [daughter of a pagan chief]. In 921, when Wenceslaus was 13, his father died and his paternal grandmother, Ludmila, who had been responsible for his education, became regent. His mother became jealous of grandma's influence over her son and later that year, on September 15th, arranged for assassins to kill her.It's said that she was strangled with her veil. She was buried in Tetin, one of the oldest villages in Bohemia, but later Wenceslaus arranged for her remains to be removed to the church of St. George in Prague, which had been built by his father.

Drahomira, in her new role of regent, took measures against the Christians, but when Wenceslaus came of age, he took control of the government and by 924 or 5 had exiled his mother. To avoid family disputes, he divided the country between himself and his younger brother, Boleslaus - later known as Boleslaus the Cruel, for reasons you will read about.

Over the years, apart from fighting numerous wars, he founded a rotunda dedicated to St Vitus within Prague Castle which is still there today as St Vitus Cathedral. Within the castle are displayed his armour and helmet.

He was on the whole a kindly and pious ruler. This is borne out in 1119, by Cosmas, a Prague chronicler, who states that:

"...rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only
one chamberlain, he [Wenceslaus] went around to God's
churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those
in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was
considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched."

This, no doubt, gave rise to our popular carol, which could be based on facts, although no-one knows why Mr. Neale gives Wenceslaus the job of taking pine logs to a man who lives by the 'forest fence' nor how in the last but one verse can one understand how 'Heat was in the very sod which the Saint had printed'. He must have been very hot-footed! But I still love the carol, and like his last message:

"Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing."

These days, it will apply to women, too!

Several centuries later, this story was said to be true by none other than Pope Pius ll, although one wonders how much more he knew of Wenceslaus's life.

But this makes his ending even sadder. On 28th September 935, his wicked brother Boleslaus and a group of nobles arranged to kill him. He was invited to a feast where three of Boleslaus's companions pounced on him and stabbed him to death. As he fell, Wenceslaus was run through with a lance from his brother. September 28th is now his Saint's Day.

Shortly after his death, Wenceslaus was declared a martyr and saint, and a cult of Wenceslaus grew up in both Bohemia and England. Within a few decades, several popular biographies added to his reputation for heroic goodness by declaring that he was a monarch whose power came from "piety and princely vigour".

Although only a duke during his lifetime, he was posthumously declared a king by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto l and hence Good King Wenceslas emerged. [This man is not to be confused with King Wenceslaus l of Bohemia who lived three centuries later.]

Wenceslaus's influence wasn't yet finished. In Wenceslaus Square a communal meeting place in the centre of Prague, you can see a statue of him on horseback.He has a chapel dedicated to him in St Vitus Cathedral, where his remains lie; in the same place is a statue of him. Although the head looks far too big, it is apparently the same size as his skull.And a 12th century Czech popular religious song,

Saint Wenceslaus Chorale, was in1918 considered a possibility for the Czechoslovak National Anthem. During the Nazi occupation it was often played with the official anthem.

In 2000 Wenceslaus was declared Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. After so many centuries, what a legacy - and a justifiable mover and shaker.

With the hopes of none of us suffering 'the rude wind's wild lament', Happy Christmas everyone!

PP of DC



[1875 - December 1959]

Businessman, philanthropist and co-founder of The Burton at Bideford
[formerly The Burton Art Gallery and Museum]

Thomas Burton adapted from a sketch by his daughter, Mary

This month, I had in mind to write about the two lifelong friends, Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, who used as their art studio The Cabin at Bucks Mills. As I knew there was a connection with The Burton Art Gallery, Warren Collum, the Collections and Exhibitions Officer, agreed to see me and offer help. My 'better half' came with me and towards the end of the meeting, casually asked, "How did the Burton Art Gallery get its name?" [It's difficult to use the new name of The Burton at Bideford after so many years, but it changed in April 2016 at the recommendation of the Charities Commission when it became a registered charity.]

The rest of the meeting was centred on Thomas Burton, and it became clear to me that logically, he should come first - but I shan't forget those two ladies!

In partnership with his friend Hubert Coop, a successful artist, he built the Burton Art Gallery as a memorial to his only daughter Mary, another established artist, who died of cancer at the age of only 44.

Born in Sussex in 1875, Thomas Burton moved with his family to Warminster in Wiltshire, where at the age of 19 he joined the Wesleyan Methodist Church and just three years later became a lay preacher. Shortly afterwards he moved to South Molton to work in a grocer's shop Yeovil, to manage a tea company. Still only 23, he moved to Bideford where he met and married Bertha Bishop, the daughter of a local antiques dealer. Their one daughter, Mary, was born in 1904.

Over the next few years, Thomas built up a chain of grocery shops in the West Country. Fired with success, he then moved to the London area where he did the same over the next nine years. The shops were such a success that Lord Leverhulme bought the West Country group, and Mac Fisheries his London stores.

Appledore Quay by Hubert Coop

Returning to Bideford at the age of 44, this successful businessman rapidly re-entered in to the life of the town. He became a director of several local companies, and there were few groups and interests that didn't benefit from his leadership. He was a School Governor, Councillor, Mayor, Alderman and eventually in 1950, an Honorary Freeman of the Borough. He took special interest in the poor, widows, the sick and unemployed, and many who benefitted from his generosity, didn't know who had helped them. He also campaigned for the sale of British goods in Bideford shops,"...they are the finest in the world...especially local products".

After his daughter's death in 1949, Thomas and his wife decided that in view of her artistic talents, Mary's memorial should be an Art Gallery in Bideford. His friend Hubert Coop wrote to the Bideford Gazette in October of that year,"It's a happy chance that two old townsmen have come together to make a last effort to leave the town richer than they found it..." He then helped Thomas to build the Burton Art Gallery, which was officially opened on 31st October, 1951.

The Burton at Bideford [rear view from Victoria Park] & French-style Bistro

In 1994 the Gallery was extended and refurbished, making it four times larger than its original size.There are now three exhibition areas, a museum, a craft gallery and French-style bistro. It is planned to extend The Burton at Bideford considerably and include a library once the money is raised, but meanwhile there is much to see. Other than paintings, you may find Napoleonic Model Ships, Silverware [some of it from Devon], a Bideford fresco and the attractive craft gallery. Mary Stella Edwards also donated water colours, drawings, dioramas and Jackanda figures, but more of these in a later newsletter.

It is worth keeping an eye on the Gallery's website [] for news of special exhibitions and events. After all, it's only 22 miles away - and a pretty ride.

Thomas's friend, Hubert Coop, was born in 1893 in Olney, Buckinghamshire, the son of the Rev Thomas Coop. Educated in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists at the young age of 22. He came to Bideford in the late 1920's, and stayed there! During his lifetime, he amassed a fine collection of paintings [both his own work and those of others], porcelain and antiques and because he felt that Bideford would appreciate his collection, he left it to the town on condition that it would be 'properly housed'. It became part of the permanent collection of the new Burton Art Gallery. He died in 1953 at the age of 80.

In December 1959, Thomas Burton died aged 84, but over the past 66 years, he and Hubert Coop brought to Bideford not only a community venue, but also a place to celebrate, nurture and exhibit all kinds of artists. That is quite a legacy, and a very moving tribute not only to Thomas's daughter, but also to this generous philanthropist and his artist friend!

PP of DC



[22 November 1808 - 18 July 1892]

Founder of the travel agency Thomas Cook and Son

Thomas Cook was not a local man, but I suspect he has had an influence on at least some North Devon folk who may be part of the 20 million customers who have taken a holiday or flight with the company.

He was born to John and Elizabeth Cook in Melbourne, Derbyshire. His father died when Thomas was just 3 years old, and his mother remarried the same year.

When he was 10, he worked as an assistant gardener for 6 1/2p per week and 4 years later started an apprenticeship with a cabinet maker where he stayed for 5 years.

Brought up as a strict Baptist, by the age of 19 he was a missionary for them, working as an unpaid village evangelist. As the need arose for cash, he would return to his cabinet-making to earn money.

On New Year's Day 1833 he took the Temperance Oath and, 2 months later, married Marianne Mason. Their only son, John Mason Cook, was born a year later.

Thomas's idea of offering excursions came to him on 5th July 1841, when walking from his home in Market Harborough to Leicester for a temperance meeting. As a former Baptist preacher, he believed that most Victorian social problems related to alcohol and its misuse, so why not take a group of temperance supporters from Leicester by train to a meeting in Loughborough.

Four weeks later, he had organised a trip for 500 people to go to the teetotal rally and back - a distance of 12 miles, at the cost of one shilling [5p]. In Cook's words, "The thought suddenly flashed across my mind as to the practicability of employing the great powers of railways and locomotion for the furtherance of social reform." Michael Portillo, if you've not included him yet in your Great Railway Journeys, there's another subject!

For the next three summers, he arranged trips between Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham for temperance societies and Sunday School children. As a result, thousands of folk experienced rail travel for the first time. It also enabled Thomas to lay down the foundations of his future business, and at little cost to himself other than printing handbills and posters.

On the 1st August 1845, he achieved his first commercial venture by offering a trip to Liverpool, offering not only low-priced tickets [15 shillings [75p] for First Class or 10 shillings [50p] for Second Class, but produced a 60-page booklet of the route: his first 'travel brochure'.

The following year he took 350 people on a tour of Scotland, and by the end of 1850 was thinking of tours to Europe, the Holy Land and the USA. However, his plans were put on hold when in 1851 Sir Joseph Paxton, the architect of the Crystal Palace, persuaded him to bring workers from Yorkshire and the Midlands for the Great Exhibition in London. This he did with great enthusiasm, even producing a newspaper, Cook's Exhibition Herald and Excursion Advertiser, to promote his tours. Between June and October that year, he took 150,000 people to the exhibition, rarely spending a night at home.

Over the next four years, he continued to develop his tours of Great Britain. In 1855, an International Exhibition was held in Paris, and he tried to get cross channel ferries to allow concessions. This they refused. A good turn for him, he devised a route from Harwich to Antwerp, and then decided on a Grand Europe tour through Belgium, Germany and France, ending at the Exhibition and returning via either Dieppe or Le Havre. This was the jump-start for his escorted tours to Europe.

Thomas Cook Statue, Leicester

By 1863, Thomas was organising and escorting trips to Switzerland, and following their success, he decided to extend his tours across the Alps, so that the next year they included Italy: one to Florence and central Italy and the other to Rome and Naples.

He moved fast. 1865 saw him developing tours covering 4,000miles of railways in North America, and four years later, he hired two steamers and escorted his first group up the Nile.

Thomas's great moment came when in 1872, at the age of 63, he fulfilled a long ambition to visit Egypt via China! This became possible by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and completion of railways linking east and west coasts of America. He and his party were away from home for almost eight months, starting by steamship to the US, then rail across America, on by steamer to Japan and then China. They took in Singapore, Ceylon and India and finally returned via the Red Sea to Egypt, Palestine and Turkey and back through Europe. And we think we are travellers!

Meanwhile, his son John, who was a much better business man than his father, was running the business, now called Thomas Cook and Son. In 1878, father and son clashed and John persuaded him to retire. After all, he was now 70. He returned to Leicester where he lived quietly until his death in 1892, suffering from blindness in his later years.

John and his three sons grew the business internationally, and as well as tourism, became heavily involved with military transport and postal services for Britain and Egypt during the 1880's. John promoted and even led tours to the Middle East, but sadly he contracted dysentery and died in 1899 aged 65.

But his sons inherited the business and they and their successors continued to develop the business until, in the present day, it is a package holidays giant.

Oddly enough, the wheel has almost completed its circle from Thomas's ambition to go to China. I read in the newspaper recently that Thomas Cook have gone into partnership with a Chinese company in Shanghai called Thomas Cook China, encouraging the Chinese to visit Europe, the Americas and South East Asia as well as holidaying in their homeland. This will hopefully offset the problems of European holidays from Britain where the travel market has been upset by recent terrorist attacks.

What a long way this Company has come since Thomas Cook, 'the Father of Modern Tourism', had his entrepreneurial moment whilst walking to a temperance meeting 176 years ago. Today, Thomas Cook Group plc is one of the world's greatest travel groups, with around 27,000 employees operating in 17 countries. That's quite an inheritance!

PP of DC



[1861 - 19 November 1935]

Tapeley Park, Instow

A year ago, Judith Adam arranged a visit to Tapeley Park gardens, and a special visit to the house.

Here, we were entertained by Hector Christie, who in his own words sees himself as 'caretaker', not owner of this stately home with its Italianate gardens, and splendid views across the North Devon coast to Lundy.

During his talk, he told us how he'd acquired Tapeley. A builder, Captain William Clevland, who spotted the site through his binoculars whilst sailing up the Torridge estuary, built the original house in 1702. In 1855 it passed to the Christie family by marriage and eventually Hector's aunt, Rosamund Christie, whose father founded the famous opera at Glyndebourne, inherited and ran it frugally until her death in 1988.

She was known fondly by locals for conducting tours with her parrot perched on her head, but as Hector insists, the Christies have always had an unconventional strain. After her death, Hector, aged24, and his younger brother, Gus, inherited between them both Glyndebourne and Tapeley Park.From an early age, Hector showed a passion for farming and football, leaving his more responsible brother, Gus, to run the opera house. Gus still runs Glyndebourne very successfully.ector showedAs Hector said later, he never regretted his choice as the idea of catering for some of the world's most famous singers would bring him out in spots!

He also mentioned an earlier Lady Rosamund Christie, his Great Grandmother, for whom he had great admiration. I hope I have her year of birth right as several sites said it was unknown and one even gave it as between 1839 and 1881!

Lady Rosamund was the daughter of Isaac Newton Wallop, 5th Earl of Portsmouth, and his wife Eveline, a Fortescue of Castle Hill, Filleigh. Lady Rosamund first saw Tapeley in 1881. Her home was the splendid stately Eggesford House [which became a ruin, but has sincebeen part restored] so she was not impressed, writing in her diary:

"When I first saw Tapeley it was the winter of 1881 before my marriage to Augustus Langham Christie.It was a Georgian stucco house, very plain and dreary in appearance, for many of the front windows had been blocked [to avoid the window tax presumably] and the sunk apertures painted black with half drawn paint blinds, cord and tassels, looked very dull. The terrace walk and garden did not exist and the drive pproached between iron railings".

Augustus and Rosamund were married in 1882, but after only 3 months of marriage, she banished him to one of his other properties, Saunton Court, because, according to Hector, "He used to kick the furniture with his hobnailed boots" - presumably if something had upset him.

She began to transform Tapeley, hiring a well-known architect, John Belcher to advise her on re-modelling the house in Queen Anne style. He had designed many London projects, including the Mappin and Webb building. The white stucco was removed to reveal the red brick exterior, and the porticos and pediment added. The Dairy was restored and the beautiful Italian Garden dug out. Because work was paid for out of her housekeeping, the project lasted from1894 to 1916, but the professional relationship between Lady Rosamund and John Belcher remained a good one, and after his death she hada plaque put on the wall in his memory.

To the interior was added a grand staircase, whilst several good fireplaces and plaster ceilings were retained. As an admirer of William Morris, she spent her life bargain hunting at auctions with the result that Tapeley housed the second largest collection of William Morris furniture in the country and her searches led her to become especially friendly with Morris's chief craftsman, George Jack.

Her husband Augustus died in 1930 and as an act of revenge against his wife he bequeathed his estates to a distant cousin in Canada, cutting out their son John. Rosamund overturned the will in court on the grounds of his unsound mind when he made the will.

She died on 19th November 1935, having achieved a remarkable success of Tapeley house and gardens.

The gardens are open now until October 30th, and are well worth a visit to see the formal and informal terraces, the walled kitchen garden and the permaculture garden planted with companion plants for vegetables and fruit and using no chemical fertiliser, herbicides or pesticides. Dogs on leads are welcome.

The house is open only for 20 or more visitors and has to be booked at least three weeks in advance, but is a good chance to find out more of the history and see some of the remarkable pieces of William Morris furniture. All information is available on the Tapeley website, including outdoor performances of Pride and Prejudice in June and Peter Pan in August. Enjoy!

PP of DC



[23rd January 1819 - 4th June 1894]

The Postman Poet

Several Movers and Shakers were drifting in and out of my mind, with none chosen, when on 27th February, Edward Capern, the Postman Poet was mentioned on BBC Spotlight. His great-great-granddaughter,

Lady Ilfra Goldberg, [a retired doctor, spoke of him, and young musicians, Nick Wyke and Bocci Driscoll, from Buckland Brewer, sang songs written by him. Now he sounded an interesting fellow - and I'd never heard of him!

Google came to the rescue once more, with articles, most of them complimentary, in abundance.

Although born into a poor family in Tiverton [his father, Edward, was a baker], he achieved national acclaim, and made many noteworthy friends during his lifetime.

At the age of two, his family moved to Barnstaple and by the age of nine Edward was working more than 12 hours a day in a lace factory. The close work affected his eyesight, the cause of giving up this work in 1847 at the age of 29. In the same year he married a 27-year old Bideford dressmaker, Jane Trick. He was desperate for work. He had had only 4 months' education in his whole life, but a kindly schoolmistress had taught him to read and spell, and he then worked hard to teach himself to write. This secured him a job in 1848 with the Post Office as a letter carrier based in Bideford. [It's interesting to note how new the postal service was. Just eight years earlier, Rowland Hill devised the four-penny post in December 1839 and reduced it to one penny in January 1840. Four months later, the Penny Black - the first adhesive stamp in the world - became available.]

Edward worked seven days a week for a wage of 10s 6d - 52.5 pence in today's money. By the time he reached Bideford to Buckland Brewer, his third route and a return journey of 13 miles, it took him until midday to deliver to farms and cottages along the way, and then he had to wait

3 hours for the returning post for Bideford. This was the time that he wrote his poems, sitting in a cottage whilst the owners went about their regular work. He grew quite portly and after a few years, acquired a pony and trap for the daily slog. The sound of his bell and post-horn as he wended his way along the lanes summoned local folk to hand over their letters.

His verses were initially mainly about nature and he sent some of them to the North Devon Journal's Poet's Corner, where they became popular, particularly at county gatherings. William Frederick Rock, a well-known Barnstaple philanthropist and stationer, got together a number of subscribers, including the Duke of Wellington, Lord Palmerston, the then Prime Minister, Charles Dickens, Charles Kingsley and Rowland Hill to publish a book of his poems. The first 1,000 copies of the first issue made a profit of £150 for Edward and 2nd and 3rd editions followed.

At some point, the Post Office recognised the popularity of his poems, raised his wage to 13s per week - 65p - and gave him Sundays off!

He retired in 1866 at the age of 47 after 15 years' service due to ill health, varicose veins and the loss of sight in one eye, and was awarded a pension of £8.9s.5d. a year.

Edward became known nationally when he wrote The Lion Flag of England, about the Crimean War. Lord Palmerston was so impressed that not only did he have a broadsheet sent for distribution to the soldiers, but sent for Capern and awarded him a pension of £60 per year from the Civil List.

I read constantly that there is nothing particularly striking about Capern's verse, but it appealed in ways more challenging poetry did not. You could have judged for yourselves if I'd included the whole of The Lion Flag of England, but as there are 9 verses of 12 lines, it would have taken up too much space! You can read the whole poem on Google, Edward Capern Poems, then turn to pages 165-170.

A question in the opening lines:

    The Lion Flag of England
    Say, Britons shall it wave
    The scorn of every base-born serf,
    And jest of every slave ...

There follow verses devoted to how England will conquer yet, and those who refuse:

    . . . The creature who would dare refuse
    To take his country's part,
    Is coward-slave-an ingrate vile,
    A traitor at the heart!

Then a verse to tug at the heart:

    "God bless our dear Old England,"
    I heard my father pray:
    "The brightest gem in Christendom,"
    I heard my mother say.
    And then they took me on their knee,
    And pressed my little hand ...

And comfort for the dying soldiers:

    And while they breathe the last fond thoughts
    For those they can't forget,
    The accents die upon their lips-


    Fight on, keep heart, look up, be firm;
    And never once forget
    That Heaven proclaims this God-stamped truth,
    "The Right shall conquer yet."


At heart Edward Capern was a family man and had been devastated when his only daughter, Milly, died in childhood, leaving him with just one son, Charles. In 1868.

Edward and his wife left Devon to live in Harborne, a village outside Birmingham where his son was now living, and where he became known as its local poet. Here he continued to write, publish and lecture. He also taught himself to play the flute and whilst in Harborne, published 'Ballads and Songs', then 'Devonshire Melodist' - his songs, some of them to his own music - and followed this with 'Wayside Warbles'.

His final and sixth book, 'Sungleams and Shadows' came out in 1881.

A hundred years later, a road in Harborne was named Capern Grove after him.

After 16 years in the Midlands, Jane's health deteriorated and in 1884 they returned to Devon, buying a pretty cottage in Braunton, where they lived for their final 10 years. After her death in February 1894, Edward was so devastated that he died four months later on the 4th June. He was buried in St Augustine's Church in Heanton Punchardon, the funeral expenses met by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, to whom he had dedicated his second book of poems. Having inspired the Crimean troops, it seems appropriate that near his grave are now 92 war graves of airmen in World War II from the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, cared for by the

War Graves Commission. Incidentally, Bideford Museum, in the Burton Art Gallery, features his post-horn and several paintings of himself. Sadly, I didn't get there, but next time I'm in Bideford . . . !

When we arrived in the churchyard to take a photograph of the grave, the sun was shining, the views over Chivenor stunning and the primroses blossoming; enough material for another poem perhaps? His headstone is unusual in that in an alcove near the top is his bell. Surprisingly the wooden handle has lasted, and the clapper still works. [I tried it!] There are two verses inscribed on the headstone, one from the Poet Laureate,

Alfred Austin, and below it, a verse by Capern with which I shall close:

"For some word I said, some thought immortal,
Winged with passing breath,
But more for one, true tender-hearted deed,
Since such sweet things the world doth sorely need."

PP of DC



[23rd January 1930 -11th May 2011]

Founder of The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth

Last year, the Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth was voted by the Daily Telegraph as one of the best ten family days out in Devon. Here you can see, fondle or cuddle up to some of up to 500 of these lovely animals, all who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Worldwide there are 6,500 donkeys being cared for in linked sanctuaries in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

A donkey hospital with emergency room was founded in Ethiopia where the lifespan of a donkey is just nine years compared with 25 in Britain, and clinics have been opened in Mexico, Kenya and India.

All this has happened because of the life of one woman:

Elisabeth Svendsen, who during her lifetime cared for more than 14,500 donkeys. But it wasn't only donkeys she helped. She also founded the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys in Ivybridge during the 1970's [now called the Donkey Assisted Therapy work], a charity giving children with disabilities the chance to meet and ride donkeys. Add to this, writing over 40 books including two autobiographies and a series of children's stories, and bringing up 4 children - Clive, Lise, Sarah and Paul, one can see that she didn't have much spare time!

Elisabeth Doreen Knowles was born in Elland, West Yorkshire on the 23rd January 1930, the daughter of a businessman. She fell in love with donkeys when she was eight, on a drive with her father through the Calder Valley. Here she spotted two of them and every weekend on trips to Lancashire, her father had to drive 'Little Betty' eight extra miles so that she could, in her words

" . . . climb up on the post and rail fencing and shout
'Donkeys!' They would always come right across to
me . . . they had such soft warm muzzles, such beautiful
trusting eyes, and they seemed to look at me as if
perhaps they knew what was going to happen in
the future".

Her early career was as a primary school teacher and then company secretary to her father's pipeworks company. In March 1954, her car caught fire and she met Niels Svendsen who put out the fire with an extinguisher. they married later that year. Together they achieved many business accolades, including inventing a dryer for children's nappies. They sold the latter to a manufacturer and with the proceeds, in 1966, bought the Salston Hotel in Ottery St Mary, a large old run-down country house with 8 acres of grounds - ideal for keeping donkeys as well as guests! The first donkey purchased was called Naughty Face. At this time, Elisabeth was area representative for the Donkey Breed Society and on a visit to Exeter market saw seven donkeys cramped in a lice-infested pen. Having unsuccessfully failed to buy the worst of them, she resolved, in 1969, to help donkeys.

She started to collect neglected donkeys but by 1973 when she had 38, the cost of their upkeep as well as running the hotel was overwhelming. The next year, after a late evening celebration, she and her husband returned home to her son waiting up for her saying that she must 'phone Barclays Bank immediately as it was very urgent. When she got through, the voice said that she'd been left a legacy. Dreaming of cash, she asked, "How much?"

"Two hundred and four donkeys and you're to take as many as you can and those you're unable to take will be shot" replied the voice.

This was a bequest from a small donkey sanctuary near Reading. So Elisabeth and her husband decided to sell the hotel and go into donkey protection full-time.

Since that day, the Donkey Sanctuary has taken in over 15,500 needy donkeys and mules, in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe. The Sanctuary employs more than 500 people around the world [60 of them in Britain] investigating complaints of abuse and checking on the 1,000 donkeys hired out at holiday beaches. Injured donkeys are treated in the modern veterinary hospital and once back to full fitness each one is given its own jacket.

In 1976, the same year that she launched her Trust for Children and Donkeys, Elisabeth Svendsen launched the International Donkey Trust to take care of the millions of donkeys and mules worldwide and by last year it had rescued more than 400,000 donkeys in 29 countries.

Over the years she attained many awards. She was appointed MBE in 1980.

When asked by the Queen, "And what is your work, my dear?" she replied, "Donkeys Your Majesty".

'A look of amazement crossed her face and then I explained I also worked with donkeys and handicapped children, at which she smiled and said, "Well done." '

In 1992 she received an honorary doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery from Glasgow University; in 2001 an award from the RSPCA for her contribution to donkey rescue and in 2009 an award from Edinburgh University, again for her pioneering work with donkeys, but also for founding one of the most successful charities in the world.

Elisabeth and her husband were divorced in 1982 and she died peacefully on 11th May 2011, at the age of 81, after a stroke, with her family by her bedside. Despite having retired in 2007, she stayed involved with her charity right up to her death.

For some people, the charity has been too successful. 200,000 visitors a year arrive at the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, which is open 365 days a year and there is no charge for entry or car parking but donations are welcome. As far back as 2009 it had an income of £22 million, and regularly receives more donations than Age Concern, Mencap and The Samaritans. It is sometimes cited by the Charities Aid Foundation as 'the eccentric nature of British Philanthropy.'

Dr. Svendsen admitted, "We have many critics, those who feel the money we spend on donkeys could be better spent on old people, young people, battered babies, the list is endless. All worthy causes, but my love is the donkey and it is to them I wish my efforts to go".

To a neglected donkey at least, what a mover and shaker! And in the words of the Donkey Sanctuary website, " Dr. Svendsen's impact on the lives of thousands of children assisted by riding therapy, as well as millions of donkeys and the communities that rely on them for their own survival, cannot be measured."

PP of DC


When Helen, our daughter, was born in 1965, I invested in a wooden dryer to help dry nappies - yes, we used terry toweling and muslin nappies in those days!

Some 50 years later, this dryer, always known as the Nippy Nappy Dryer, is still doing its duty, not for nappies but for drying other items of washing when the weather dictates a lack of washing line use.

Looking up Nippy Nappy Dryer on the internet, I was surprised and delighted to find that this was one and the same dryer, mentioned in PP of DC's article, invented by Elizabeth and Niels Svendsen!





[19th May 1744 - 17th November 1818]

German Wife of George III, introducer of the Christmas Tree to England

In December 2012 I ventured away from local 'movers' to write about Tom Smith, inventor of the Christmas cracker; in December 2014 it was the turn of Mr. Doyley and his eponymous doilies. So, in 2016, I don't hesitate to write about the lady who first introduced the beloved Christmas tree into our country: Queen Charlotte.

I'd always associated Prince Albert with its introduction, but as you will see, when he imported several spruce firs from his native Coburg, in Germany, they were already well-known to our aristocracy. It was only when periodicals such as the Illustrated London News and The Graphic highlighted the royal Christmas trees from 1845, and for the next 14 or so years, that the custom was established in ordinary homes throughout England.

An old story bases another German, Martin Luther, the religious reformer, on inventing the Christmas tree. He is said to have been walking through a pine forest near his home in Wittenburg one winter's night in 1536, when he chanced to look up and could see thousands of stars twinkling through the foliage. This inspired him to set up a candlelit fir tree in his home that Christmas to remind his children of the starry heavens and God's presence.

But the first English Christmas tree was brought in - and decorated by Queen Charlotte and her ladies-in-waiting - to Windsor Castle for Christmas 1800.

In 1761 and at the age of only 17, she became the bride of George lll, having known him for only a few hours on the day she arrived in England. Apparently he chose her because her upbringing had been in a small north German state, with no knowledge of royalty, and he quickly told her 'not to meddle' with the affairs of state, to which she gladly agreed. She spoke no English, so had to learn quickly.

From her home in Mecklenburg-Strelitz, she brought many of the customs of her childhood, including bringing in a yew branch for decoration at Christmas. Once at the Royal Court, the young Queen abandoned the idea of a private ceremony and made it a public celebration to be enjoyed by family, friends and the Royal Court.

She decorated it with the help of her ladies-in-waiting. When all the candles were alight, the whole court gathered round and sang carols. Then it was present-giving time from the bough: clothes, jewellery, toys and sweets.

In 1800, however, she created an enormous sensation. That year she planned to give a party for all the well-to-do Windsor families. She decided to bring the whole tree instead of just a bough in to Windsor Castle - and so started a habit that has lasted until today: our English Christmas tree.

She stood it in the middle of the drawing room floor and Dr. John Watkins, one of Queen Charlotte's biographers, who was present on this occasion, gives an 'on the spot' account of the tree:

He then adds that:

Immediately Christmas trees became a popular status symbol with the wealthy, where they were the 'stars' of childrens' parties. Any evergreen tree could be used: pines, firs, yews or box trees, and all would be lit with wax candles. [I still remember this dangerous practice as a child!] There would be baubles, trinkets and piles of presents. Some folk would set the tree on a table and surround it with a Noah's Ark or with brightly coloured animals set amongst the presents for extra amusement. It is known from family archives that by Christmas 1802, George, 2nd Lord Kenyon, bought candles for the tree that he had set up in his drawing room at Lincoln Inn Fields and in 1804, Frederick, Fifth Earl of Bristol, set up a tree for his children at his home in Suffolk. Yet it is doubtful if any of these trees created such pleasure as the first one thoughtfully presented for the children of Windsor in 1800.


And you can see why Prince Albert was only following the aristocrats' habits of the previous 45 years.

Of course, Queen Charlotte did much more than introduce Christmas trees to England during her years on the throne. For one thing, she was a Super Mum, raising 15 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood. And she believed in women being well educated and gave her daughters a good education. She was a patroness of the arts and an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She started many orphanages and also funded the General Lying-in Hospital in London to stop it closing. This is now known as the Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital and is renowned as a centre of excellence in maternity hospitals.

Her husband was the first of the George's to be born in England and to speak English. Sadly by 1765, he had a bout of insanity which the Queen's mother-in-law kept from her.

In 1788 she realised how sick he was and was terrified and much distressed. His illness changed her personality. Her temper was violent; she had fits of depression, and no longer wanted to appear in public. In 1810 George had a final relapse causing their oldest son to become Prince Regent [later George IV] and although she continued to care for the King and was his official guardian, for the last 8 years of her life she became quite scared of him. She died on the 17th November 1818, the second longest serving consort at 51 years and 70 days [Prince Philip holds the number one spot]. Her husband. who by now was blind, deaf, lame and insane died 14 months later aged 81, not realising that she was already dead.

There is no doubt that after Prince Albert publicised Christmas trees, they reached the 'common people', but we shouldn't forget that it was Queen Charlotte who introduced them and gave so much pleasure to children and adults alike.

A Happy Christmas to you all - but please don't decorate your tree with wax candles this - or any other - year!

PP of DC



[Late 1600's - early 1700's]

Chambercombe Manor

[Otherwise Kate Oatway]

It was a pleasant, sunny day [yes, we had one or two this summer!] when we decided to take a visitor to Chambercombe Manor. It was some years since our last visit, yet the Manor had lost none of its charm.

In parts dating back to the 11th century - it is mentioned in the Domesday Book - this dwelling is reputed to be the most haunted house in the United Kingdom! A host of phenomena have been noted over the years: the swinging pendulum of a clock without its weights, spinning of curtain poles, unexplained rocking of a baby's crib, and many other things.

The Champernon family owned it from around 1160 until the early 16th century when Henry, Duke of Suffolk and father of Lady Jane Grey, became the owner. There passed many years during which it lost its prowess as a Manor House and became a farm - and here begins the story of Kate Oatway.

"It was a warm sunny afternoon in the 'sixties of the last century . . . even the fowls were quiet and the farm dogs lay basking in the sun" starts the official guide book's opening of the legend of The Haunted Room - later detailed as 1865 - that tells the story of a mysterious discovery.

On that day the tenant farmer, Jan, was carrying out repairs to the thatched roof when he noticed for the first time the outline of a window to a room he didn't know about. Mystified, he searched inside the house and realised that there must be a secret room between what is now called 'Lady Jane Grey's' room and the next room. He and his wife managed to break through the wall. The air was musty, but lighting a candle they could see in the dimly lit chamber, the remains of a magnificent tapestry on the walls, ashes from a wood fire in the grate and in the centre a four-poster bed made of black oak and enveloped in dusty curtains. Somewhat hesitatingly, they pulled these aside to find laid out on the bedspread and yellow with age, a skeleton, its bony fingers clutching the coverlet!

It was sometime before the authorities decided that the skeleton was that of a young woman, but who she was and how she died was not discovered. However, rumour had it that the ghost who subsequently haunted Chambercombe Manor was that of Kate Oatway, whose father William Oatway, took tenancy of the Manor in 1695. Her grandfather, Alexander, was a rich landowner who was a notorious wrecker of ships. He would go out at night with a band of villains waving lanterns from the shore in the hopes of luring ships onto this treacherous coastline. They would then murder the crew and any passengers, and plunder the wreck. The booty could then be taken through the secret smugglers passage from Hele Beach back to the Manor.

William, however, was much more law abiding. He married a beautiful Spanish lady whom he had saved from one of his father's wrecking expeditions. He would have loved to buy Chambercombe Manor, but didn't have the money, so leased the property. In time, they produced a daughter whom they christened Katherine, who inherited her mother's good looks and grew into a vivacious young woman.

Kate met and fell for an Irishman, Captain Wallace, and after their marriage they decided to live in Dublin. A tearful Kate said goodbye to her parents, vowing to return one day to visit them.

One night, sometime later, during a ferocious storm, William went down to the beach to help out with a wrecked ship. Suddenly, during a lull in the howling gale, he heard a moan from nearby rocks and discovered a young woman, badly beaten and bloodied from being dashed against the rocks. He carried her back to the Manor where he and his wife did their best to save her, but her injuries were so many that she died that night. They searched her body hoping to find out her identity and came upon a money purse strapped around her waist. On opening it, there was so much gold and jewellery that with shaking hands, William realised that he could buy his beloved manor - and so took the purse off the body.

Next day, a shipping agent called at the Manor, asking if they had seen a lady passenger missing from the ship. William, scared that he would be robbed of his new wealth if he said anything, denied having seen her. He was then asked to keep an eye on the coastline in case the body, that of a lady called Mrs Katherine Wallace, should be washed up.

William was horrified. He had robbed his own daughter! He promptly walled up her body in what was to become the secret chamber and he and his wife left Chambercombe Manor, never to return.


And so, if you visit Chambercombe Manor on a dull day, and hear ghostly footsteps along the corridors, or hear a low moaning from the secret chamber, or pass through a cold spot within the house, don't be alarmed, they may have nothing to do with Kate! There have also been sightings of two little girls in an upstairs window, a ghostly figure dressed in white by the pond outside the cafe, and a friendly male ghost who tries to proposition the ladies.

But it's a shame to spoil a good legend!

By the way, you still have time to go to Chambercombe this year until October 28th. I'd recommend you take a guided tour [Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays] as it's worth the extra £4. You are allowed to take photographs inside the house and who knows what you may find on your camera?

PP of DC



[1550 - 20 July 1616],

2nd Earl of Tyrone [The Great Earl]

Once again, the poor Earl of Rone has been captured in Lady's Wood by the Grenadiers, dragged down Combe Martin Street backwards on a donkey and drowned at sea. This August I thought it time to put the record straight on a much disparaged earl. Having read at length Tom Brown's The Hunting of the Earl of Rone, Combe Martin [very informative], Wikipedia's Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone [very confusing], The Wild Man of the Wood and the Hunting of the Earl of Rone: Tyrone in English folk tradition by Hiram Morgan, lecturer in history at University College, Cork, [good on folklore] Imeacht na nIarlai Gaelic for Flight of the Earls ["by his countrymen hewas held in the most profound reverence and respect"], etc., I was grabbed by a cutting from Tyrone's bed -Mysterious Ireland and Britain: The dark and romantic history of the Earl of Tyrone would of itself occupy a larger space than these volumes afford!

So, I gave up!

But during my research, I found that Combe Martin isn't the only place to celebrate the Earl of Tyrone's capture. By 1602 he was in a desperate situation. The English forces were on a 'slash and burn' policy against O'Neill, so he, having burnt his own headquarters in Dungannon, Ulster, retreated into dense forests known as Glenconkeyne Woods, south of Londonderry. He hid here until he'd made peace once more with the English. [He was such a two-timer that Queen Elizabeth, even on her deathbed, was still grieving that she'd been too generous with her forgiveness.]

So where does 'Tyrone's bed' come from?By 1603, 'The Wild Man of the Woods' - alias the unfortunate Earl of Tyrone - was hiding according to legend - not in Ulster or Combe Martin, but in a romantic dell just outside Rochdale in Lancashire. How did he get there? Don't ask! The story goes that a mysterious stranger had been lurking for three months in the woods near Grislehurst Hall, home of the Holt family. One day, he saved Constance Holt, the 19-year old daughter of the house from drowning and revived her on the river bank with a potion. She then saved him twice from capture. He returned to find her on her deathbed. Not so lucky this time! There is a detailed description on the internet, just key in

Finally we come to the Flight of the Earls. I gave details in the newsletter of August 2014.For those of you who don't remember the earlier [sorry!] article, I will just repeat that the legend is based on the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell fleeing on 14 September 1607 from the village of Rathmullan in County Donegal, where we lived for 6 years during the late '70's-early '80's. The story goes that he was shipwrecked and landed on a small beach in Ilfracombe, now called Rapparee Cove. [A Rapparee, according to my Concise Oxford English dictionary is a 17th century Irish irregular soldier based on Gaelic rapaire - a short spike.]

The real story is that having once again been pardoned this time by James I [VI of Scotland] - Queen Elizabeth having died - Hugh O'Neill was waiting in Rathmullan with Sir Arthur Chichester, to return to England to confirm details of his pardon. Here we come to a local connection. Sir Arthur was the second son of John Chichester, of Raleigh, Pilton, who was well-connected: a naval officer, sheriff of Devon and MP for Barnstaple. Sir Arthur's mother, Gertrude Courtenay was a member of the aristocracy, from Powderham Castle. During his career, Sir Arthur became an English administrator in Ireland and eventually Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Whilst waiting with Chichester, Hugh was warned that he would be arrested on arrival in England, and a French warship was already waiting for him and Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell to take them to safety. Their flight was hurried and unprepared and they had to leave behind some of their closest family members. O'Neill left without his son, Conn, and O'Donnell embarked without his pregnant young wife. Neither would return to Ireland again.Of the ninety-nine who travelled that night, less than half were Gaelic nobility.By their departure they left Ulster open to confiscation of land and Plantation legislation.

They were heading for Coruna in Spain but severe storms drove them off course and after twenty-one days they drifted into French waters, arriving at Quilleboeuf in Normandy - and there wasn't a donkey or Grenadier in sight! O'Neill was brought up an Anglican, but never gave much thought to religion. For convenience, however, he now supported the Catholics. Because of change on much of their journey to Rome they were treated as heroes. They were welcomed by Pope Paul IV in his Cavallo Palace, Rome, on 4 May 1608.

Although their flight marked the end of Gaelic rule in Ireland, it created a new phenomenon on the continent. Irish exiles were integrated into the legal and medical professions, and the military. Also devout Irish Catholics could be educated in the many new Irish Colleges for entry into the priesthood.

Coming back to the Earl of Tyrone, you may have heard of 'The Red Hand of Ulster'. I was interested to read:

So who was Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Rone, 'The Great Earl' as he was also known? To get that title, he had what to the English would have been a ropey start. His grandfather, Conn O'Neill, was granted his earldom of Tyrone by Henry VIII. He had an illegitimate son, Matthew O'Neill. Illegitimacy wasn't important in the Irish legal system, so as long as Conn accepted Matthew and there were 5 rees of the same blood through the male line [how did they check that, I wonder?], thus Hugh O'Neill was as entitled to the earldom as Conn's legitimate son, Shane. These two men were in conflict over the title during which Matthew was killed. Nevertheless, by this time he had two sons: Hugh and his older brother, Brian, who in these dangerous times was assassinated by Shane's deputy.

So in September 1595, Hugh was elected the 2nd - and last - Earl of Tyrone, becoming the most powerful lord in Ulster.

On a personal note, he married four times, had a large number both of legitimate and illegitimate children including 4 legitimate daughters, 4 legitimate sons and two more who were illegitimate. Now I haven't time or space to follow the lineage, but his descendants include Arthur Wellesley, 1stt Duke of Wellington and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll.

Is it an act of treason, therefore, to mount Hugh O'Neill's effigy back to front on a donkey and parade him through the street of Combe Martin before drowning him in the sea? The warders from the Tower may be on their way!

I rest my case.

PP of DC



[1575 - 3rd July 1624]

Woollen Cloth Merchant and Mayor of Barnstaple [1620]

As I awaited my chiropody appointment in Litchdon Street, Barnstaple, I flicked through a 2015 Devon magazine and hey presto! From the pages leapt a photograph of the Almshouses just across the road from where I was sitting. They were, I read, the result of a legacy left by John Penrose, completed three years after his death at the age of 49 and supervised in part by his father-in-law, Robert Beaple. John and his wife, Anne, had no children.

But here was definitely a 'mover and shaker'!

The twenty Almshouses built around a cobbled courtyard, each accommodated two people of the same sex and all had a small allotment to the rear.

The site included a chapel and board room - and woe betide anyone not attending chapel "for a form of Morning and Evening prayer [except such as from age or infirmity]", and again at three o'clock on Sunday afternoons. At the next Monthly Meeting, the Acting Trustees "shall deduct One Penny from their pay for each time of such absence and that the sums so retained shall be distributed among the other people of the house."That is a shortened form of Rule 2 of 6, and no doubt if you couldn't read they would all be explained in detail to you. In White's Devonshire Directory of 1850, each resident also received "six shillings per lunar month".

No doubt John Penrose accomplished many other deeds during his short life, but none would benefit the 'poor and needy' as much as these

homes.They were allocated, to "poor people INHABITANTS within the Borough and parish of Barnstaple and none of any other place"and mostly to women. Each new mayor could choose the first incumbent of his reign.



John Penrose was born in Fremington in 1575.He made his money as a successful cloth merchant and exporter. In 1620, the year that the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from Plymouth to New England, he became Mayor of Barnstaple or put more quaintly by the stone carving over the entrance porch:


Yes, 1627, three years after his death, was the year that John Penrose's will was honoured. His executors were to buy 'some convenient place' fit to erect an Almshouse.On the door supports at the entrance are carved his coat of arms and initials, and underneath, an 'A' denoting that Anne, his widow helped complete his bequest.

Only fifteen years later, the Civil War broke out and by 1643 Barnstaple surrendered to the Royalists.The town changed hands 4 times over the next three years and by 1646 the Roundheads successfully recovered it. If you step into the colonnade beyond the granite pillars and look left, you will see in the black door of the Board room, the bullet holes made in the attack - and if you are lucky, the caretaker [who was very helpful] will show you the bullets and small cannon balls. [Apparently some years ago a kindly volunteer painting the door, filled up all these venerable holes, which then had to be opened up again!]



The Almshouses are now operated by Barnstaple Municipal Charities, and the inhabitants are all tenants. In the 20th century the properties were re-planned and some converted into flats. Some of the

houses at the rear have been extended, and the 'two persons of the same sex' no longer applies!They are mainly occupied by couples and widows, two of whom we met - attractive, friendly and helpful and certainly not looking as if they were over the 'age-barrier'. It made us feel it was a good place to live - if only we were Barnstaple folk!If residents can't or don't want to use their allotments, they are let out to outsiders.The Almshouses are now Grade 1 listed and being nearly 400 years old, demand a lot of upkeep.The granite pillars overlooking the street need attention and so do the roof and cobbled courtyard.Funds are always needed and if you wish, you can help by joining Friends of Penrose.

John Penrose is buried in Fremington Churchyard.On his tomb is the following inscription:

It would be a sad day if John Penrose's generous gift to Barnstaple was to fall into such disrepair that it was lost to the town.

PP of DC



[1837 - 3rd December 1919]

Lady of the Manor, and restorer of St Peter's Church, Bittadon

"Have you been to Bittadon Church?" asked our friend David. Next day, a visitor from Bideford came into our shop where I was working. "Have you been to Bittadon Church?" she asked. This was such a coincidence that the following day, I did visit the church and understood their enthusiasm.  

'Here we have a little parish of some thousand acres, with a population of little more than fifty persons and a small church nestled among trees that closely embower it that it is possible to pass it by unobserved' says the charming opening on a set of leaflets inside the church.

If you've not been there, take the B3230 road from Ilfracombe towards Muddiford. After passing On-a-Hill [OHG] garage, then Centery Farm take the next sharp left turn. Set between the parishes of West Down and East Down it is thought that it was originally called Petit Down.

Access is a bit tricky - up a roughish cart track, but once there, all is peace and quiet and the church remains open to visitors.

Whilst looking at the information leaflets, I noticed 'Narbor is the nearest money order and telegraph office, 4 miles distant', [well done, Debbie and Karen for keeping it going!] and just below it, a brief description of Bittadon, its 51 inhabitants and ivy-mantled 12th century church, 'perhaps one of the smallest in the county' and its Lady of the Manor, Miss Arundell Yeo, who, it later states, 'thoroughly restored [it] in 1881.' So here, I thought, was a definite Mover and Shaker and what is more, a woman!

Google wasn't much help to start with, although it led me to her parents: William Arundell Yeo and his wife Eliza [nee Fogg Bernard], both from Clifton, Bristol. He had distinguished ancestors, amongst them Lord Clifton of Heanton Satchville near Petrockstowe and Richard Coffin of Portledge. Thanks to Barnstaple Records Office I was able to find that by the 1851 census William had moved his family to Fremington House, Fremington, where he was listed as a 'Landlord Proprietor'. By then, he and his wife had spawned 4 children: Mary Arundell [1831], William Arundell [1836], Eliza Bernard Arundell [1837] and Barbara [1840]. So which was Miss Arundell Yeo? And what had happened to their son and heir, William?

I found no mention of Barbara until searching a gravestones site, where I found she died in 1898. The Records Office said could Miss Yeo have been Mary? They had information about her. She married William Bartlett in 1854. A 'Petition for divorce' [not carried through] was made in 1864; by the 1871 census she was staying with friends in St Minver; 1881 she was a boarder still in St Minver; 1891 with husband at St Minver and in 1911 when she was 80, they were still together, living in Tywardreath, Cornwall. She died in France in 1919. Yet I had followed Miss Arundell Yeo's Fremington household and estate/plantation expenses from 1880 to 1885 with interest, where she had spent large sums on timber from RGB [yes, they were already in production!], quarry stones and so on. It must be her!

Then Google came to the rescue. I hit upon and was at last rewarded! Here I found that William senior was made High Sherriff of Devon in 1860 [official figures give it as 1850]. He died on 4th April 1862 and is buried in St Peter's Church, Fremington. He inherited Bittadon and other estates in Devon and Cornwall from the Barbor family, who were preceded by a long line of local families: the de Bittadons way back in the 12th century, then the Loverings, Luttrells, and Chichesters. His son William is described as a Barrister-at-Law and inherited Lord of the Manor on the death of his father in 1862. He died unmarried in 1880 in Ostend, Belgium, although for many years had a mistress, Clementine Frantzen with whom he had at least 4 children. His estates then passed to his sister, Miss E B Arundell Yeo.  I'd finally found her: Miss Eliza Bernard Arundell Yeo!

Earlier I had e-mailed the Rector listed in the church. He'd been posted to South Devon but kindly passed on my e-mail to the churchwarden who told me to look at the reredo in the church. So a second visit was made. Here was confirmation. I found in the gathering twilight an inconspicuous carved memorial to Miss Eliza Arundell Yeo from her niece, and the date of her death, 3rd December 1919.

Sadly, W. G. Hoskins in his 1954 book on Devon referring to Bittadon and its church says: '[St Peter's] was hideously rebuilt and ruined in1883-7' with no mention of its benefactor. The refurbishment must have cost a lot of money, and once she was in charge, Eliza sold much of her property to tenants and cottagers.

Incidentally, the Barnstaple Records Office gave me access to the 1910 Domesday Book equivalent - that I didn't know existed - inaugurated by the Liberals which enlarges on the census, giving rateable value of houses as well as of their inhabitants. Cottages in Bittadon were, if I remember rightly, around £2. Bittadon Manor and its 500 acres was listed as £65.

As a postscript on Bittadon Church, a visitor from Worcester in 2014 has written in the visitor's book, 'Our great grandmother played the organ in this church and eloped with the farm hand from the Manor House window...' but that is another story!

PP of DC



[30 June 1685 - 4 December 1732]

Poet and Dramatist

I'm starting the New Year with a tribute to a celebrated son of Barnstaple who made his mark with well-known writers of the day and the British aristocracy - John Gay.

He was born in Barnstaple, in a property on the corner of Joy Street and High Street, one of five children of William and Katherine [nee Hanmer]. The Gay family had been in the area for several centuries, but his father's occupation isn't known. Apparently he had only a modest income. He died on John's 10th birthday, and as his wife had died the previous year, the five orphans were taken into care by two uncles. John attended Barnstaple Grammar School, housed in the stone built 14th century St. Anne's Chapel, where he was taught firstly by a classical scholar and then by an arts-loving cleric. He didn't have the opportunity to go on to university, but instead his uncles decided he should learn a trade, so he was apprenticed to a silk merchant in London. Here after a short time, "being weary" according to Dr Johnson, "of either the restraint or the servility of his occupation" he persuaded his master to release him. He then returned to his uncle, Rev John Hanmer, the Nonconformist minister of Barnstaple, depressed and claiming ill health. A year later, his uncle died and John set off again for London.

This time he linked up with a former school friend, another orphan, who had gone later to Westminster School and had now started a journal, the British Apollo. This was 1708, the first year John had a poem, Wine, published which started him on a lifetime friendship with Alexander Pope, three years his junior, and later with Jonathan Swift.

Little is known of the following few years except that he studied music with George Frideric Handel and his love of music was included in some of his plays. Then in Rural Sport published in 1713 he bemoans the years wasted in attending courtiers who were profuse in their promises which were never kept. For a brief time he became secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth and throughout he continued writing drama and poetry.

In 1714 he was appointed secretary to the British Ambassador in Hanover through the influence of Jonathan Swift. Three months later Queen Ann died and the Elector of Hanover became our George l. Gay was then recalled, with no hope of future official employment.

Luckily he made friends with some members of high society, who helped support him. Two of these were the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury, whom he had met when working for the Duchess of Monmouth. The

Duchess became his most important patron until his death. He continued to write numerous poems, plays and ballad operas and had numerous other patrons. Most of his works were well received, but a comedy Three Hours after Marriage was declared grossly indecent without being amusing and was a complete failure.

In 1720 he made a bad financial decision to invest his all in South Sea stock. Pope and other friends advised against it, and he lost a lot of money when it crashed [the South Sea Bubble]. It is said that he was always spoilt, but again his friends and patrons supported him.

His most famous work was The Beggar's Opera, a lyrical drama set to the tunes of popular songs, dances and ballads, and still performed to this day. You can even find it on YouTube - and in Barnstaple Heritage Centre*. It caricatured Sir Robert Walpole and was disguised as a satire on society, John Gay making it clear that his characters' moral codes were a reflection on the corruption of the governing class. Many scholars believe that it led to the successful operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Certainly, Gay made a lot of money from this opera, the plot of which, if you don't know it, follows the love life of Macheath, a highwayman, and Polly Peachum. Her father, a criminal and receiver of stolen goods, tries to rescue his daughter by betraying Macheath. In jail, Macheath finds himself torn between Polly and Lucy, the jailer's daughter, both of whom feel they have a claim on him . . . and so on. It was a great success and was said to have made "Rich gay and Gay rich". [Rich was the manager of the Theatre Royal in Lincoln's Inn where the Beggar's Opera was first performed on 28th January 1728.] Even in the 18th century, the consequent merchandising raised further cash; Gay's songs were reproduced on snuffboxes and fans and scenes were painted on screens. Hogarth also painted six versions of one scene in Act lll.

Gay tried very hard to gain favour at court, but was only offered a post of gentleman-usher to Princess Louisa who was still a child. He refused saying that he was too old.

A sequel to the Beggar's Opera was Polly but this was regarded as too salacious by the Lord Chamberlain. This proved an excellent advertisement, for Polly was then published by subscription and brought Gay more than £1,000. [Later, his two sisters inherited over £6,000 from two posthumous pieces, The Distressed Wife [1743] a comedy and The Rehearsal at Goatham [1754] a farce.

Over his later years, John Gay became very obese. To accommodate his size, there is a replica of a mahogany and leather chair said to be his [the original is in the V & A] on the first floor of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. I was privileged to be shown its workings. Sitting on it in reverse, one can swing outside pieces from under the arms for pens etc. and lift up the back as a writing desk. There is a drawer under the seat for books or papers and a concealed drawer behind. Also, on the museum's ground floor, is a piece of wood from the parish church on which John Gay scratched his signature.

He died on 4th December 1732 at the age of 47 in Burlington House, the town house of the Duke of Queensbury. His doctor diagnosed an inflammation and 'mortification of the bowels'.

He never married, and although he had several women friends, none of them were serious. He was buried in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey with bearers including an Earl, a General and the ever-faithful Alexander Pope as pallbearers. As Lois Lamplugh writes in her Barnstaple Heritage Booklet on John Gay, it was "an impressive funeral for the Barnstaple boy who had been a mercer's apprentice". On his tomb is his mocking inscription from The Beggar's Opera "Life is a Jest and all Things show it: I thought so once and now I know it". His friends the Queensberry's commissioned an elaborate monument with a tribute by Pope that was installed in Poet's Corner. You won't find it there now. In 1939 medieval wall paintings were discovered behind the monument, so it was moved to the obscurity of the triforium**.


John Gay


* The Heritage Centre has an interesting display about Gay and the Beggars' Opera, but you will need to be quick to see it. Sadly the Centre is closing for good at the end of March. Until then, you can see the exhibition for free instead of the usual fee of £4.

** I had to check on the triforium with Google! It is a medieval level within Westminster Abbey, 70 feet above the nave floor and built during the reign of Henry lll in the 13th century. It houses an Aladdin's Cave of Abbey treasures and plans are afoot to open it up to the public for galleries and exhibitions. It will also provide splendid views of the Abbey and outside vistas of the Houses of Parliament and surrounding London. It sounds an interesting addition for a visit to the Abbey.

My thanks for help from Sue Howson at The Barnstaple Heritage Centre and Robert Brain at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

PP of DC

If you are visiting the Queen's Theatre in Barnstaple, look out for the bust of John Gay currently on show.



[June 2 1899 - December 14 1980]


I know, I know! He's not a local man, yet without his moving and shaking, where would we all be - particularly at Christmas? In 1930 Richard Gurley invented 'sticky tape', or Scotch Tape as it became known, that has become our key component for wrapping presents, sending parcels, securing envelopes, hanging Christmas cards, repairing torn paper and so on. Yet 85 years ago, it was unknown.

Dick - as he was known -Drew was born to Edward and Maud [nee Shumway] Drew in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 2nd 1899. After a year of Mechanical Engineering at university, he dropped out and joined the Athletic Orchestra as a banjo player. He then applied for a job as a lab technician at a local manufacturer of sandpaper, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, later to become the successful 3M. In his letter of application, he mentioned his banjo playing, his year at university, a correspondence course he was taking in machine design and his experience at driving a tractor. He got the job!

A few years later, whilst testing the sandpaper in auto shops, the 23-year old heard complaints from the workers painting the borders between the two-toned cars which were all the rage at that time. In response, by 1922 Richard Drew was developing a two-inch wide masking tape that would create a seal that paint could not penetrate, but would remove to not mark the finished paintwork. Initially, to save on glue, 3M coated only the edges, making the users joke that the company was being overly Scotch or mean, a slang term for someone or something cheap and stingy. One version how Scotch got its name was a painter who said, 'Take this back to your Scotch bosses and tell them to put some more adhesive on it!' 3M obviously learnt its lesson, but the name stuck and by 1925 was in general use. It was used by Goodyear to prevent corrosion on airships. It patched turkey eggs to help chicks survive during hatching and repaired fingernails, lampshades and dollar bills!

Its success allowed Drew to rise to technical director. He had little time for workplace strictures and by 1929 had another idea, against the wishes of his bosses. Bakers and grocers had recently started using cellophane as a neat way of packaging, but it couldn't be sealed with existing tape because the glue appeared amber and ruined the clear cellophane. He had to fiddle expenses to buy equipment for his work, but his team invented a clear adhesive for the tape and hence the new Scotch Tape or Scotch Brand Cellulose Tape by its original name, was born. Unfortunately they didn't win with the grocers and bakers as Du Pont had introduced a cellophane that could be sealed with heat. But nevertheless, the new tape thrived for home use, particularly as it was released at the start of the Great Depression when people were repairing and mending household items rather than buying new ones.

Richard Drew is acknowledged as the father of sticky tape but in 1937 the British equivalent was developed by Colin Kinninmouth and George Gray in Acton, West London. This was called Sellotape, the S replacing the C to get away with patents, and again was useful during World War ll, particularly for sealing ammunition boxes and taping up windows to minimise any bomb damage.

Incidentally, another 3M employee, John A Border, came up with the dispenser and cutting edge for tape in 1932. By 1957, 3M had sold 2 billion rolls of tape.

Over the next decade, Richard Drew's abilities were appreciated by his bosses and he was promoted in 1943 to direct the Products Fabrication Laboratory - known as the Pro-Fab Lab. Here he assembled a team of misfits - people who wouldn't fly in formation - and dubbed by senior management as the 'funny farm'. Because he gave creative people elbow room and an opportunity to pursue ideas, they devised a host of new products - reflective sheeting to improve visibility of road signs, breathable surgical tapes, face masks and respirators and so on. His team are also credited with the groundwork of Post-it notes. He also devised the 15% rule adopted by 3M whereby employees are encouraged to spend up to 15% of their paid work time on their own projects.

By the time he retired, after nearly 40 years with the company, he had 30 patents as inventor or co-inventor, and continued as consultant on new product development. He goes down in history as a creative engineer, remembered by colleagues as a generous fosterer of other folks' inventive spirit, particularly underdogs and their oddball ideas. They also note his words, 'What I really want is a creative person. You can always hire a PhD to take care of the details!'

Richard Gurley Drew died in Santa Barbara, California nearly 35 years ago on December 14th 1980. In spite of searching the internet, I could find no reference to his personal life other than in his obituary in the Cedar Falls, Iowa, Gazette when mention was made that when he was on a project but was unable to find a baby sitter, he brought his two children into work and kept them out of mischief by improvising playpens from galvanised trash bins. Always he was an inventor!

With changing use, 3M now make dozens of Scotch tapes - double coated tape to electrical tape, freezer tape to hair set tape. We can rest assured, therefore, that sticky tape is not about to become unstuck!

PP of DC




Elizabethan Engineer and Speculator

In the North Devon Journal's copy of August 20th this year, you may have noticed a small entry with a photograph of three teenagers and the heading "Chance to explore a silver mine". We took the chance - and maybe you did, too, in which case you would have had a very agreeable and enlightening experience of Combe Martin's silver mine that closed commercially in 1880.

The open day was made available mainly because of the year-long work put into a Young Roots project by Sam and Hannah Boyce and James Found who created an exhibition on the history of the mine and produced a film about it, on sale for £5 that can now be bought from Combe Martin Museum. The project was supported by the Lottery Fund, North Devon AONB and Exmoor National Park and is now on permanent display at the site.

From this, one of the things we learnt was that miners as well as sailors measure depth in fathoms: one fathom is 6 feet - or the length of a man's outstretched arms. Combe Martin's St Peter's Church, whose ornate design was paid for by the wealth of the mine, is about 16 fathoms high. Even the shortest mineshaft is 20 fathoms - or 8 double decker buses piled high. The deepest shaft is 120 fathoms - 40 flights of stairs deep! And the tunnels run under the main street. By this summer, excavation of existing shafts by volunteers has reached 28 fathoms [10.5 double deckers!].

Following our visit, we watched Penelope Keith on Channel 4 visiting Combe Martin and the mine as part of her Hidden Villages series. During the show we saw a delightful Ellis brooch, dating from 1837 and privately owned. Other pieces not shown are treasures of St Peter's church.

The exhibition and television programme made me think of the many people, since the first records in 1292, who have had dealings with the mine.

One of the earliest, in 1294, was William Wymondham who in the twenty-second year of the reign of Edward l " accounted for 270lbs weight of silver forged for Lady Eleanor, daughter of Edward l" and two years later brought to London 704lbs.

But standing out was Sir Bevis Bulmer. Born in 1536, he was the son of Sir John Bulmer and his wife Margaret Stafford who was said to be the illegitimate daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. Unfortunately both parents became involved in a rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace and were executed the year after their son's birth, their land transferring back to the Crown.

Bevis's interest in mining started as a youth when he visited the iron smelter at Rievaulx Abbey and he began his career at some of the former Bulmer properties at Wilton in North Yorkshire. He then founded lead and calamine mines in the Mendip Hills in Somerset and in 1581 visited the silver mines and smelters in County Wexford.

In 1583, Dr John Dee had entered into a lease to work the silver and lead mines at Combe Martin and Knap Down, but a year later fled the country because of bad debts. The lease was taken over by his former pupil, Adrian Gilbert [brother of Humphrey Gilbert the celebrated Elizabethan navigator] and John Popplar, a London lapidarist. In their first year they made a rich strike at Fayes Mine in Combe Martin, but had great difficulty in smelting the ore.

The fame of the strike and smelting problems became well known and Sir Bevis brought 2lbs of ore to his refiner, Stephen Atkinson, who smelted it successfully. Bevis then approached the partners for a deal: he would bear the cost of raising the ore and smelting it for a half share in the profits. With their agreement and under his direction, the mine reached 32 fathoms and an equal length along the vein. In the first two years, each partner gained £10,000 [more than £1.5 million today], which went down to £1,000 by 1592 when the vein was almost exhausted.

A smelt mill and silver refinery was built in the 1520's by Joachim Hochstetter [doesn't sound a local chappie!] but had been idle for many years. This was probably refurbished by Bulmer for his own use. From the last smelt he had two silver drinking tankards made: one for William Bourchier, Earl of Bath in 1593 on which was inscribed

In Martin's Combe long lay I hid,
Obscured, deprest, with grosser soyle,
Debased much with mixed load,
Till Bulmer came, whose skill and toyle,
Refined me pure and Cleene,
As richer no where els is seene,
And adding yet a farder grace
By fashion he did inable,
The worthy for to take a place,
To serve at any Prince's table,
Combe Martin gave the use alone,
Bulmer fining and fashion.

His engineering skills had produced a patent for his lighthouse, followed by a patent for a machine to cut iron for nail making which brought him approval by the Queen in May 1588. Further expansion of his skills came when the Corporation of London gave him a lease to build a 'water works' powered by a 'newly erected engine' for supplying drinking water to Cheapside. To mark his success, the second tankard, weighing 131ozs was presented to Sir Richard Martin, Lord Mayor of London and Master of the Mint in 1594. On it was an engraving of Sir Bevis and another poem about his achievements. Over the years, this has been melted down into 3 tankards and spouts were added in 1731. These are now at the Mansion House marked 'The gift of Bevis Bulmer'. One tankard is still used today at the Lord Mayor's banquet.

Bulmer continued his mining activities under James l. He spent several years in Lanarkshire mining gold, but as Atkinson, his constant companion throughout his mining career, wrote, Bulmer 'wasted much himself' and 'gave liberally to many' in order to be 'praised and magnified' and always had 'too many irons in the fire'.

In 1611/12 both men worked in mining at Kilmore in Tipperary, Ireland, but according to Atkinson, Sir Bevis Bulmer died in 1613 in Yorkshire 'penniless', owing Atkinson £340 as well as leaving debts in Ireland.

Nothing is known of his marriage, but he had a son, John, and three daughters, Elizabeth, Prudence and Elizabeth [again].

After he left Combe Martin, the mines fell into disuse and since 1648, repeated attempts to work them have failed. Yet many eminent geologists regard the area as a highly valuable but neglected district.

To get back to the present day mine, visits can be arranged by appointment, preferably on Sunday mornings. You will need to e-mail Max Boyce the underground Mine Captain on . It is well worth a visit to see and support a long associated piece of Combe Martin's history.

Grateful thanks for all the help provided by the Boyce family and Marie Boudier.

PP of DC



[1882 - 1964]

Exmoor Photographer

If you are a regular watcher of BBC Countryfile, you may remember way back in January 2013, Julia Bradbury visited Exmoor, where she discovered Alfred Vowles, a renowned Exmoor photographer of the 1900's.

During his travels, he recorded the people, buildings and working life of Exmoor, in fact any rural event that could make him a shilling! Much of his work was put onto postcards.

Alfred Vowles [commonly known as AV] was born in the hamlet of Stone Alperton, not far from Cheddar, to a farming family, and was one of eleven children. Sadly, his father died when he was only three years old which left the family in dire circumstances. Nevertheless, in later life he wrote of having a happy and loving childhood.

In the early 1900's a family friend found him a job with Eastman Kodak in London. This was a great experience and he travelled to Berlin, Moscow and St Petersburg, taking photos of all his travels. When he returned to England, he resumed his country life, but needing an income he gave lectures and lantern slide shows. He then got a job as an assistant photographer, travelling around Somerset and Devon, firstly by bike and later on his Bradbury motor bike. It wasn't an easy life, and his dark room was anything available - stable or chicken shed.

Later he settled in a horse-drawn caravan on Exmoor and so produced his record of Exmoor life from 1910 to 1947.

In 1945, well timed at 3.00 p.m. on May 8th, as Churchill declared to the nation "This is your Day...", AV raised the Union Jack to celebrate Victory in Europe on Dunkery Beacon - probably the highest flown flag on that momentous day.

In 1947 he became the third husband of Dorothy Una Ratcliffe. She was a Yorkshire poet and playwright and had an interesting life. In 1909 she married Charles Ratcliffe, heir and nephew of chemical magnate Edward Allen Brotherton [later Lord Brotherton of Wakefield]. It was not a happy marriage. He played her false and had many mistresses, eventually passing on to her a sexually transmitted disease, the cure for which meant that she couldn't have any children. She returned home to her parents who sent her back, saying that marriage was forever, good or bad. She then left her husband and whilst on holiday in the hills above Ripon during the 1920's she met Alfred, then a young, successful photographer. They became friends - more than friends according to her then secretary - but she ended their brief relationship, mindful of Uncle Edward's political career, marking its passing with a poem:

Una Ratcliffe

On a cruise in the late 1920's, she met the real love of her life, Noel McGregor-Phillips. When Uncle died in 1930 she felt free to sue for divorce from her errant husband, but gallantly let Charles sue her for adultery. She was madly in love with Noel and they spent a few weekends away together to give her husband every opportunity to sue. When Charles sent in a detective to catch them, they were such a lovely couple that the chambermaids "lied though their teeth" to save them! They were finally divorced and she married Noel, a happy time that lasted only 11 years before he died.

Before Dorothy would marry her old friend in1947, she curiously made him change his name to Phillips in honour of her great love, and kept that name for the Acorn Bank in Cumbria and then retired with him to a Georgian house in Edinburgh.

Alfred Vowles died in 1964. His name might not be familiar in British photographic history, yet it is said that his work influenced the direction of photography as an art form in its own right. He is also said to have portrayed Exmoor in photography as well as R. D. Blackmore [Lorna Doone] did in literature. That's quite a recommendation.

And a hundred years on, he is very much remembered by the Exmoor Society. Every other year they mount the Alfred Vowles Photographic Competition. The next one is in 2016 and covers the categories of:

The closing date for entry is 31st December 2015. There is a small financial prize for the winner of each category and the Alfred Vowles Trophy is awarded to the overall winner to hold for a period of two years. So, why not get snapping this summer? All details are on their website: then look for awards and competition. Good luck!

As a footnote, the Countryfile team have to film much of their work well in advance. As part of the Alfred Vowles item, Julia Bradbury was filmed in December 2012 at Tarr Steps, a favourite spot for AV. Three days later the Steps were washed away during massive floods so that when the production was filmed in January 2013 . . . oh dear there was little to see! Fortunately, the Steps are now back to their former glory, and some of AV's images were used in that re-building.

PP of DC



[6 October 1837 - 16 October 1889]

Iron founder, "Mayor, alderman, guardian, county councillor, in fact everything"
[according to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph]

"What can you tell me about Charles Sweet Willshire?" my husband asked the Barnstaple Museum assistant on my behalf.

"Who's he?" was the reply.

"Well", said my man, a bit discomfited, "His bust is just outside in The Square".

Had I not been looking for another Mover and Shaker, I should probably not have noticed him either. But there his bronze bust stands, on its red and grey granite column, with his name and 1837 - 1889 on the upper red bit and on the pedestal is carved:

Erected by friends and fellow townsmen in recognition of his eminent and unselfish services as a liberal politician and municipal representative

The internet yielded little other than census or ancestry notes, and it was difficult to get away from Charles Sweet: a convicted felon on the run!

Still, I persevered, and after a call to the Journal who advised me to contact the Athenaeum, I finally got useful help.

Charles Sweet Willshire [usually known as Charley] was the son of Thomas Lamb Willshire, owner of Barnstaple Foundry in Newport. He was born on 6th October, 1837.

In 1852, when Charley 'was about 14 years of age, he was missed from Barnstaple. Search was made and enquiries instituted among his schoolfellows, but they all proved abortive. The family were in great distress, but within a week he was found in the Liberal Committee room at Bath. An election was soon. And there he was discovered rendering youthful but even then valuable services on behalf of Liberalism.'

By 1861, at the age of 23, he was married to Mary, aged 21 who came from Filleigh. I could find no record of their having any children. In that year, his father handed over the foundry to Charles.

In the census of 1871 he was an Alderman and iron founder and by 1881, he was a JP and his Iron Foundry employed 30 men and boys.

In 1876 and again in 1877 he was Mayor of Barnstaple.

Sadly, at only 53, Mr Willshire became ill with gout and swollen legs. Shortly afterwards, on 16th October 1889, he died. There was such an outpouring of grief.

His In Memoriam in the North Devon Journal of October 31 1889 covered a whole page and a bit. In the reams of praise one reads that he was a fine fellow 'ever ready with quip and crank and wreathed smile'.

During his time as a political organiser, he had transformed his constituency from Tory to Liberal and ''he was Mr Gladstone's most trusted councillor.'' The Western Express states among loads of praise that 'He was a political giant, standing head and shoulders above all his compeers in the North Devon divisions.' Further on, 'Neither wind nor weather had daunted the ardour of this sturdy Liberal'.

Another quote was that he was 'Cool, shrewd, with abundant dash, a perfect master of political strategy'.

Finally there is a poem of 11 verses from which I will quote three:

Fallen like a faithful soldier
Fighting in his country's cause
Not for lust of gold or silver
Or his fellow man's applause;
But impelled by sense of duty.
Ever ready at the call,
Deaf alike to praise or censure,
At his post to stand or fall.
Orphans had in him a father
And the destitute relief
Wailing widows ever found him
Ready to assuage their grief

As I write this just two days before our election, can any of the above be said of any of our present day leaders?

And yet, after all these outpourings, how many notice his statue in The Square? As Denise Holton writes in Barnstaple Through Time, this 'councillor and magistrate, . . was once called 'the most famous man in North Devon' but is now forgotten'.

I find this quite sad.

PP of DC



[31st January 1873 - 6th July 1933]

10th Baronet of Mount Wolseley, County Carlow, Ireland
Former 'Lift Boy'!

I wasn't too sure of Sir Reginald's Mover and Shaker title, until, tongue in cheek, I considered that his job as an elevator operator [in American-speak] in a large US office certainly made him a mover, and he shook America and other parts of the world in 1930 when it was discovered that he'd inherited his baronetcy - but still preferred to keep his day job!

This is the extraordinary tale of a man born on 31st January 1872, the son of physician and surgeon Dr Cadwallader Brooke Wolseley of Dublin and Katie Maria Beatty. He was a cousin of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty. Yet, in 1897 at the age of 25, he left England for the United States and after wandering for many years, ended up as a lift boy at a hotel in Waterloo, Iowa. He stayed there for 14 years. Half way through his time there, in 1923, he inherited his title on the death of his cousin, Sir Capel Charles Wolseley, but kept it secret because he so enjoyed his work in Iowa, where he preferred just to be known as 'Dick'.

Asked why he never found a better-paid job, he replied, "Fallen arches! I might have been a go-getter, but my poor feet wouldn't stand any rushing about."

Dick's secret came out in 1930. Miss Marion Elizabeth Baker, a Devon nurse, visited him in Iowa, as a messenger from his mother who had just died. Mother's deathbed wish was that her son should marry Miss Baker and return to England to claim his inheritance. A few days after Miss Baker arrived, they married. He was 58, she was 40.

The next day, she left for England on the understanding that he would follow as soon as he'd sorted out his job affairs. It wasn't so easy. He stayed put! What's more, he sued for divorce on the grounds that his wife harassed him with telegrams trying to persuade him to return to England and had deserted him. She was obviously a determined woman. Returning to Iowa in December 1931, she finally won. The divorce was set aside and they sailed for England on the steamship Baltic in January 1932.

When asked why he had changed his mind about the baronetcy, he replied, "I took the title for my wife on marrying her out of gratitude for what she did for my mother. The title will be of advantage to her in English society. A lady is a lady over there." Later he added, "A title in itself is all right, but without something to back it up it's sort of empty." Maybe here he was alluding to the fact that there was no money, no land, no chattels.

Sadly only 18 months after their return, he died, here in Berrynarbor, at their home, Capel Cottage. It was 6th July 1933 and he was only 61.

The news, firstly in 1930 of his baronetcy and continuation of working as an 'elevator operative' and then his death in 1933 in "Berry Harbor, Devon" swept the billboards in the United States, Canada, Singapore and Australia. The Montreal Gazette of July 11th 1933 stated that "Only a few villagers attended the funeral service at which his widow, the former Marion Baker, dressed entirely in white. Twelve farmers acted as bearers." The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser goes further, describing Marion's clothes in detail and ending that "a flower covered mound separated only by a low hedge from the garden of his best friend Mr R Lincey marks his grave."

When he had arrived in Berrynarbor, a local person [could this be Mr.Lincey?] who knew him well said, "When he first came amongst us,

Sir Reginald's strong American accent made him a little misunderstood but he soon won his way into everyone's heart. He would say sometimes "I am a democrat. Titles mean nothing to me. I do not care two pence for them.""

After the funeral, Lady Wolseley never used her title, preferring to be called Mrs Marion Wolseley. She didn't have much time for this, however, only 11 months later, on 20th June 1934 she fell from her bedroom window, again dressed in white, and according to local legend, thinking she could fly. She died later of multiple spinal injuries.

Sir Reginald Beatty Wolseley former Iowa elevator operator, has gone to England to assume the baronetcy left him by his brother, who died in 1923. After inheriting the title, Sir Reginald discarded and kept his elevator job at Waterloo until his wife persuaded him to assume the title and estate.

[Apologies for the poor reproduction from this newspaper cutting.]

I was curious to find their grave, and thanks to Judie and Marlene, who had surveyed the graves and their epitaphs in the old churchyard, I did. If you come down the path through the top gate from Barton Lane, you will find it first on the right. It looks very sad and weather-beaten, but it is now over 80 years old. I could just identify ". . .Beloved . . .Reginald Beatty. . . 10th Baronet. . .." and on the length of the grave "Marion Elizabeth. . .", but Marlene gave me the whole epitaph:

AGED 61.


I think his grave deserves a tidy up! Many thanks to JC for giving me much of this information.

PP of DC

In April 2013 I wrote about Charles Nicholas Pedlar, his son Charles Glanville who joined the business in 1946 and then about Nick and his daughter, Helen. The years roll on: Charles Glanville sadly died on 4th February this year, just 150 days short of his 100th birthday. He had an illustrious career, not only at the helm of Pedlar's, but also working for the community, including acting as Secretary of the United Reform Church for 25 years and as a local Magistrate for 30.

We send our sympathy and condolences to Nick and his family.




[c160's - 222 or 223 AD]

Pope, Martyr and
the name given to West Down Parish Church

In April 2012 I mentioned St Callixtus when looking unsuccessfully for the grave of Mary Challacombe on a cold wet miserable January cold and miserable January day. Sadly, we returned to St Calixtus Church on a similar day this year - but looking for news of the Saint himself.

Here we found a short history, but not of why the church was named after him. A kind volunteer in West Down Community Shop [opened in 2012] was very helpful, saying that the name had been changed, but not the reason. Does anyone else know?

Most of the story we know of St. Callixtus is from someone who hated him, Saint Hippolytus, who rivalled him in his bid for the Pope and was enraged by Callixtus's mercy to sinners - 'adulterers, murderers and fornicators' - and his desire for equality among church members.

As a young slave, Callixtus, a Roman from the Trastevere district, was made by his master, Carpophorus, manager of a bank in the Publica Piscina in Rome where his responsibilities were to collect alms donated by other Christians for the care of widows and orphans. Somehow, the bank failed and he lost the funds. [That sounds familiar!] Hippolytus declared that it was Callixtus's loose living that used up the money. It seems unlikely, however, that Carpophorus would risk his reputation and fellow Christians' savings on such an unlikely candidate.

Whatever the reason, Callixtus fled by boat but was soon caught and jumped into the sea - to commit suicide according to Hippolytus. He was taken back to his master, put on trial and sentenced to forced labour on a treadmill.

He won his release by convincing Carpophorus that he could get some of the money back for creditors.

He was then arrested for fighting in a synagogue whilst trying to borrow money or collect debts from some Jews. This time he couldn't escape punishment and was sentenced to work in mines in Sardinia. He was released with other Christians at the request of Marcia, favourite mistress of Emperor Commodus. By this time his health had deteriorated and his fellow Christians sent him to Antium to recuperate. At the same time he was given a pension and an unnamed job by Pope Victor I.

About ten years later he became archdeacon to Pope Zephyrinus and in this post was entrusted with the burial chambers on the Appian Way. Callixtus made them available to any Christians, rich, poor or slaves. In the 3rd century it became the burial place of 9 Popes and eight Bishops.

These catacombs were rediscovered by the archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1849 and have become among the greatest and most important of Rome. Should you wish to find them, they are on the right of the Appian Way, after the church of Quo Vadis. Be prepared to spend some time there. It is a huge complex. A network of galleries 12 miles long, on four levels, 20 metres deep and covering about 90 acres.

When Zephyrinus died in 219, Callixtus was proclaimed Pope despite protests from his rival, Hippolytus. It was interesting times for the new Church. Callixtus started to open it up to sinners and Hippolytus found this shockingly lax, feeling that in time it would downgrade the Church. Consequently, he was elected as a rival Bishop of Rome, the first antipope.

Callixtus didn't have long in his new role. He was martyred in either 222 or 223. Legend has it that he was thrown down a well and his church in Trastevere certainly has a well. The legend continues that a priest of Rome, Asterius, recovered his body and buried it at night. They all lived in hard times. Asterius was arrested for his action, killed and thrown off a bridge into the River Tiber!

So ended the life of this colourful man - slave, banker, bishop, Pope and martyr. In the Catholic Church he was designated as patron of cemetery workers and his feast day is October 14th.

Now you know my interest in why West Down Church is named after Saint Calixtus [sic]. Please help!

PP of DC

P.S. From information picked up in the church, I recognised the name of one of the churchwardens. Having just 'phoned him, I learn that the previous name was Holy Trinity. This was changed to St Calixtus in the 1920's or 30's because there was confusion over the mail delivery with Ilfracombe's Holy Trinity Church. The powers that be certainly wanted to avoid future problems!

For their help, my thanks to Pauline from the shop and David from the church.



[1600's - 1700's]

Linen Draper, Inventor of the doyley, or dish paper

"A change is as good as a rest" it is said, so here goes, with a name and very little information, yet someone who over the last 4 centuries has been a worthy mover and shaker! And just in case you may use a doyley over the Christmas period, it might be interesting to know something of its history.

Firstly, its name as an 'ornamental mat', typically made of fabric or paper, can also be spelt doily, doiley, doilie or doyly, depending on which researcher you come across. But its origin can be traced back to Mr. Doyley.

Mr Doyley [sorry, even his Christian name isn't known] was a linen draper and member of the trade guild founded in medieval times and still flourishing. He 'kept a Linnen Drapers Shoppe in the Strand, a little West of Catherine Street' in London. He was obviously inventive. In the late 17th century Doyley founded his business on producing and selling cheaper alternatives to the fine silks and laces of that era. It is recorded in The Spectator No. 238 of 1712, [The Times of its day] that 'the famous Doily raised a fortune by finding materials for such stuffs as might be at once cheap and genteel'. This referred to 'a woollen stuff' that he introduced for use during the summer months.

So for the first time, the word doily came into use as 'doily stuff' or 'doily suits'.

Later, he added to his range 'a small ornamental napkin used at dessert' which was known as a doily-napkin. It soon became an essential part of fashionable dinner table settings, particularly when serving desserts. In Jonathan Swift's journals of 1711, he refers to 'coarse Doily napkins, fringed at one end upon the table to drink with after dinner'.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the fashion had spread throughout Europe. By this time, the Industrial Revolution was underway, and those great engineering inventors produced ingenious machines to convert the simplest material - paper - into the delicate lacy patterns of today. Australia's doyley heyday was between the 1890's and 1914, by which time there were many different uses; elongated sandwich doyleys, scone cloths that folded over at each corner to keep scones warm, doyleys for tea, milk and sugar and even large rectangular ones called antimacassars for placing on the back of chairs so that the men's macassar hair oil wouldn't stain the furniture!

I still use a selection of doyleys, but thought that there weren't many of us about, confirmed by Wikipedia who say: 'Disposable paper doilies "were designed as a cheaper but respectable alternative to crocheted linen doilies" and are commonly used to decorate plates, placed under food for ornamentation. In the UK "sales rocketed in the 1950's as a reaction to post-war austerity and the doyley quickly became a symbol of upward social mobility." However the UK is currently experiencing a decline prompting a "Save our Doilies" campaign. Once a "symbol of suburban gentility" they are now perceived as outdated.'

So that's that! Or is it? I remember using them as a stencil and sieving icing sugar on top of a chocolate sponge as a quick decoration, but they are undergoing a new lease of life according to the internet. One video shows using them as a theme for weddings: decorating the cake boards, making place names, forming into necklaces - I think these must be linen ones! - even for candle holders. Another wedding site shows how to dye them to match the colour scheme, for envelopes

for special guests or to use them as cupcake wrappers. There must be more to life than this!

Still, it only goes to show what Mr Doyley achieved. His inspiration has certainly come down through the ages - and looks likely not to disappear too soon.

Oh, and if you come across any D'Oyleys, either Sir Robley, a follower of William the Conqueror, or Richard D'Oyly Carte, don't be fooled. They are just pretenders!

So as you use your doyley at Christmas, think of that fine linen draper - and have a Happy Time.

PP of DC



[November 29 1855 - November 12 1936]

Past owner of the ancient fishing village of Clovelly

It was a hot, sunny day. As we stood at the top of Clovelly's Down-a-long cobbled street, two ladies were finishing loading their week's shopping onto a sled before starting the precipitous descent to their home, one holding ropes at the rear, the other guiding and braking the sledge.

"How long have you been doing this?" I asked the older lady.

"Oh, about 40 years" she declared very matter-of-factly.

This set the scene for a pleasant - if energetic - descent to The Red Lion, 400 feet below. On several cottages, I noticed the initials CH and a date, not as I'd originally thought, the date of construction, but the date of renovation by Christine Hamlyn, a member of one of only three families who have owned Clovelly since the middle of the 13th century.

At the time of the Domesday Book it was owned by the King. This continued until 1242 when the Giffard family acquired it. By 1370, it was owned by William Cary, of one of the great Devon families. The Cary's lived in Clovelly for the next eleven generations. The successors died out when in the final generation of the seven children, the sons didn't marry and the daughters were childless.

In 1738 Robert Barber, widower of Elizabeth Cary, sold Clovelly to Zachary Hamlyn for the princely sum of £9,438 and to this day it is still in the same family. What a record!

Christine Louisa Hamlyn-Fane was born at Fulbeck, Lincolnshire on the 29th November, 1855, the younger daughter of Henry Edward Fane and Susan Hester. Her maternal grandmother had been a Hamlyn and the family adopted the name of Hamlyn-Fane.

Her brother, Neville died in 1884 aged 26 and her sister Constance inherited land at Ringwood. Christine was given the Clovelly Estate. She loved it, and before her marriage in 1889 to Frederick Gosling, she asked him firstly to change his name to Hamlyn and secondly to donate part of his considerable fortune to restoring properties on the estate.

She became known as the 'Queen of Clovelly' and cared for it enthusiastically until her death in 1936. Early in her 'reign' she realised that as the herring shoals were diminishing, tourism was going to be more important than fishing. She was tiny in stature but very strong in fighting any commercialisation or modernisation other than to improve the cottages. Almost all the farms and cottages were renovated by her, hence the initials and dates on many of them. She installed drainage and water into the village, would allow no cars [as if they could drive through!] and the only transport was by donkey or sled. Tourists hated to see donkeys dragging Up-along with a large person astride - horses were all right but not donkeys - so these were put to rest in a sanctuary and now only appear for photographs or for small children to ride. Souvenir shops were restricted and washing put out discreetly only on certain days. An important point was [and still is] that all cottages must be leased as primary homes. Today, about 70% of the residents go out of the village to work, but come back home to roost! She also restored cliff paths and Hobby Drive which was built between 1811 and 1829. These days, one can walk the lower part of this Drive, but you may remember that in former years it was a very pretty drive to the village for a small fee - a lovely start to one's visit.

Apart from all the renovations, Mrs Hamlyn made several additions over the years. At the top end on the left is Mount Pleasant, a picnic area known locally as the Peace Park. Here she placed a memorial to residents killed in World War I. The Queen Victoria Fountain, let into the whitewashed walls not far below on the right and designed by a cousin of Queen Victoria, was given by her to honour the Golden Jubilee. In 1910, Christine visited Oberammergau. This is the home of the Passion Play and beautiful wood carvings. She returned with some of these carvings and you may still see them on Oberammergau Cottage, as the road turns right just below the Post Office. For her 80th birthday in 1935, the Wilderness Summerhouse, built in 1820, was restored. From there are magnificent views of Bideford Bay and Lundy Island. It was restored again in 2008 and has become a popular venue for outdoor weddings. You can get there by Land Rover. For a romantic wedding Clovelly is a perfect setting. If you don't fancy the Wilderness Summerhouse, then you could book the Hamlyn Room in the New Inn where hangs the beautiful portrait of Christine Hamlyn Fane on her wedding day.

Mrs Hamlyn and her husband had no children and in 1936 the estate was passed to her niece Betty Asquith, then to Betty's oldest daughter, Mary, in 1962. By 1983 Mary's son, the Hon. John Rous inherited it.

The work of keeping Clovelly beautiful and attractive to visitors worldwide continues. John quit his work in finance in London in 1987 and since then has lived with his wife at Clovelly Court, and has built on Christine Hamlyn's good work.

If you've been recently, you will know that access to the village is through the award-winning Visitor Centre, where a fee is charged, stopping if you wish to watch a 20-minute video of Clovelly's history. These fees, together with modest cottage rentals and souvenir shops help to raise funds for the village upkeep. Besides this, John arranges events throughout the year - gig regattas, excursions to Lundy's puffin and seal colonies and a popular autumn herring festival. The latest project is major renovation work at Clovelly Court Gardens. It's well worth calling in here after your visit to the village, and maybe buying organically grown vegetables and fruit, or perhaps cut flowers or a pot plant.

Christine Hamlyn died on 12th November 1936, a few days short of her 81st birthday. Inscribed on her tomb are the words 'I dwell among my people'.

During her 54 years of ownership, she achieved so much conservation and gave the village so much love that she rightly earned her name 'Queen of Clovelly'. In John Rous's words:

"She was a remarkable character, without whom it is unlikely that Clovelly would have survived in its present form."

PP of DC

With grateful thanks to The Hon. John Rous for his advice in compiling this article.



[1864-31st August 1923]

The Teenager who gave future Kaiser Wilhelm a Bloody Nose!

This month we must congratulate Judie on achieving 25 years of editing our popular newsletter, but my Mover and Shaker goes back even further - exactly one hundred years since Alfie Price became famous!

Those of you born and bred in these 'ere parts no doubt know all about Alfie, but we incomers hadn't heard of him [in my case] until an article appeared in The Times on 20th April this year "How a Devon beach boy went to war with young Kaiser". I found another article from a day earlier in the Mirror "Did a British Boy who gave Kaiser Bill a bloody nose inadvertently start World War One?" The Journal on 8th May followed with: "The lad who gave the Kaiser a bloody nose".

Intrigued, I had to find more and Ilfracombe Museum was the obvious place to get information. They were so helpful and gave me access to private letters and newspaper cuttings, so in brief, here is what happened.

Alfie was born at 4 Hillsborough Terrace in 1864. His father, Philip Simpton Price was a local carpenter, and he and his wife Ann later moved to Portsmouth.

In 1878, the future Kaiser Wilhelm came to Ilfracombe on holiday, staying at the Ilfracombe Hotel. One day, perhaps out of boredom, he started aiming stones at bathing machines on Rapparee beach. These were leased by Philip Price, and Alfie, in charge of them at the time, saw the youth and shouted at him to stop. The youth squared up to him and shouted,

"Do you know who I am?" Alfie later admitted that he did, but wasn't going to let on.

"I don't care a dash who you are - stop chucking stones or it will be the worse for you".

Prince Wilhelm was renowned to have a vicious temper and was so enraged, he called Alfie a peasant and knocked him down with a rabbit punch. Alfie, although only 15 and smaller than the 19-year old Prince, got up and hit him back. A real punch-up started, won in the end by Alfie who floored the youth, bloodying his nose.

At this point, the Prince's tutor stopped the fight and is reported to have given Alfie thirty shillings [about £150 in today's money] to keep his mouth shut about this humiliating scrap. Prince Wilhelm was not pleased. In spite of the hush money, the story soon circulated around the town, but was then forgotten until 1914.

By 1916, a poem written by W.H. Coates [a distant relative, and Ilfracombe ironmonger] entitled "Why the Kaiser Hates England - or What Happened at Rapparee" confirmed the story.

It must be true. Some years later the author handwrote on the back of a copy of his poem "In conversation with a lady a few years ago - since writing the doggerel - she informed me that in her young days she was bookkeeper at Ilfracombe Hotel and that she remembered the Prince K.B. coming in to the hotel on the memorable morning holding his poor nose."

The poem was printed in large quantities, sold for charity and sent to the troops to cheer them up. It's a great spoof and you may read it all on Google by putting in "Why the Kaiser Hates England", but here's a bit of it:

"Mine friend! You'll rue this day
For what you've done t'mine poor nose
Mine word I'll make you pay,
I'll build big ships and gurt big guns,
Then one day I will come
And blow this place t' smithereens
And you.......t'kingdom come"

After the excitement of his teenage years, Alfie settled down to married life. He firstly married Mary Jane Trentham who was 6 years older than he was and together they ran the Capstone Restaurant. In winter Alfie loved to play 'Don', a card game I've never heard of. He became quite agitated when other players didn't concentrate. This must have caused a few marital upsets. Mary was quite fond of the bottle [whereas Alfie was a strict T.T.] and sometimes fell asleep in the middle of the hand. Alfie was not well pleased! His other great love was at Christmas singing carols [or curls as he called them].

Mary died in 1913. He then married Susan Ley and together they ran a boarding house in Hillsborough Terrace.

One letter written by Alf's second cousin remembers visiting Alf at Christmas 1921 with his mother. Alf's first request was for a curl.

Alfie died on 31st August 1923 and it is said that on his deathbed he boasted to his friends that his greatest achievement was inflicting a bloody nose on the Kaiser.

As for Kaiser Bill, in 1918 he was stripped of his titles and fled to Holland in exile. He failed to persuade Hitler to reinstate the monarchy and died in 1941 aged 82.

With hindsight, there may have been another reason why the Kaiser had a grudge against England. Before his birth, his mother, Victoria [but known as Vicky to avoid confusion with her mother, Queen Victoria] was having a difficult time. Queen Victoria sent her own doctor to officiate. During the birth the doctor dislocated the baby's left arm. This wasn't noticed for three days by which time damage had been done and the arm grew 3 inches shorter than the right one, with a hand that was partly paralysed. This was thought to be the reason that the Kaiser always hated the English but perhaps they didn't know about the fracas on Rapparee!

Oh and if you want to know more about Alf Price, he will feature in the exhibition at the Museum commemorating the centenary of the start of 'the war to end all wars' coming in August.

PP of DC

Grateful thanks to Sara Hodson and her team at Ilfracombe Museum



[7th December 1914 - 24th May 2002]

Former Anaesthetist and GP and creator of Marwood Hill Gardens

In 1949, had it not been for a houseful of rhododendrons, North Devon might have missed out on one of its glorious gardens: Marwood Hill, created by Dr Smart over the next half century.

During the six years of World War II, he had served as a ship's doctor, seeing three of his ships mined, torpedoed and bombed. When HMS Hermes was sunk, with the loss of two thirds of its crew, he had swum between rafts, treating survivors for which he was later awarded the MBE.

After the war, Dr Smart settled in North Devon as an anaesthetist and Barnstaple GP. In 1949 he bought Georgian Marwood Hill which was sadly neglected, with no mains water, drainage or electricity and included a lawned garden in front of the house, and across the road a broken down walled garden with a few fruit trees, surrounded by less than 2 acres.

The rhododendron nobleanum alone, filling the house for his first viewing, almost persuaded him to buy it. Sadly this, the only plant of merit in the garden, died the following year from an acute attack of Honey Fungus!

With the help of his first one-day-a-week gardener, he set to on his front lawn and the walled garden. One of his early jobs was to grub out the fruit trees which were largely not keeping varieties and he started again. Although his day job occupied most of his time, he managed to protect the herbaceous borders from rabbits with wire netting and soon got the garden respectable enough to open it for the National Garden Scheme on one Sunday a year.

In the early 1960's, he bought rough pasture to the south and east of his land, including a small stream flowing through the valley. Here he planted an ornamental range of trees: birch, maple, eucalyptus and eucryphia, and by 1969, the stream was dammed to form two lakes. On the island created in the top lake is one of my favourite features, the delightful sculpture by Australian born John Robinson of a mother and her two children. The damp surroundings were planted with moisture-loving plants such as Primulas, Astilbes and Iris.

That same year, he built the first greenhouse in the walled garden for his large collection of camellias - now the largest number in the country - that flower best throughout March. If you miss those, then go in April to see the outdoor specimens. You won't be disappointed. There are now over 800 cultivars, some of which can be purchased from the Plant Sales Centre in the Walled Garden.

In April, too, the spectacular Magnolia 'Marwood Spring' with masses of deep red flowers and pale pink centres will be in bloom, just one of many different varieties and colours.

Where did he get all his plants and shrubs? Well, over the years he brought them from Australia, New Zealand, United States as well as scouring venues in Europe and the UK. Once, whilst being interviewed by a journalist from The Independent, he introduced her to a pair of Turkish rhododendrons and remembered driving them home 30 years previously.

"What, all the way from Turkey?" she exclaimed. "No" he grinned "From Exbury!"

He introduced several new plants into Britain, such as Prostanthera Cuneata from Tasmania, smothered in pretty white flowers throughout the summer, and Paradisea Lusitanica [Paradise Lily], also summer flowering.

By 1972, Dr Smart had built his new home overlooking his beloved garden. This he called Marwood Hill, changing the name of his former home to Marwood House. His living room now forms the Tea Room where we may enjoy locally sourced cakes, soups, hot dish specials, sandwiches and home-made scones for very special cream teas. Gluten-free food is also available and dogs on leads are welcome.

Also that year, he invited Malcolm Pharoah to join him as Head Gardener. They worked well together, and having come from Wisley RHS, Malcolm brought many new ideas. Over forty years later, he is still Head Gardener.

Dr Smart retired in 1975 and had the chance to buy 12 more acres, which were developed as and when they could be coped with. Firstly came the Bog Garden, which in his 1999 notes he wrote "has to have large masses of any individual plant to be effective and we are fortunate to have the space to do this". True to his words, it is in colour from May when the Primulas start, and carries on through to October with Astilbes, now the National Collection, and Iris Ensata, then Lobelia, Lythrum etc.

By 1982, further land had been bought downstream, making a third lake possible. Four years later, an arbour scented with honeysuckle, Spanish broom and a highly perfumed shrub rose hedge was in place, together with a folly complete with cherub. And still wanting more land, he acquired 2 more adjoining acres. The original 2 acre gardens have now expanded to over 22 acres.

In his 80's and still very fit, Dr Smart declared "I couldn't bear to have a level garden" [Berrynarbor folk please note!] "A sloping garden has one can select the situation of a plant so that you can look up into the bloom of pendulous flowers from below and conversely down into the bloom of an upright flower".

On November 1st 1994, Dr Smart was presented with the Victoria Medal of Honour [VMH], established by Queen Victoria to honour British horticulturists. There are only 63 recipients at any one time, reflecting the years of Her Majesty's 'Glorious Reign'. The opening words at his presentation were, Jimmy Smart is a doctor and I feel that his patients must have been made to flourish with the same strength and good health as his plants so that he could spend as much time in his garden as in the surgery.


Sadly Dr Smart died in May 2002 at the age of 88, but Marwood Hill still remains privately owned under the care of his nephew, John Snowdon. He, with guidance and help from Patricia Stout and Malcolm Pharoah, is determined to continue to develop the Gardens for all of us to enjoy - this, our special and wonderful haven of peace, Marwood Hill Gardens.

And you may still feel Dr Smart's presence with the delightful bronze statue of him in working gear, overlooking the lower lake.

Grateful thanks to Patricia Stout, Property Manager, and to John Snowdon

PP of DC


PS Last year, Folksy Theatre's production of 'Romeo and Juliet' was set outdoors near the Tea Room. This year they are returning on Wednesday 30th July at 6.30 p.m. to perform The Taming of the Shrew, which sounds great fun, so why not treat yourselves?


PPS You have until September 30th to visit the Gardens. Nearer the date, check when it will be open in October.



[July 29 1884 - April 26 1978]

British Nurse and Ambulance Driver in World War I

[later Baroness de T'Serclaes]

You may have seen items recently by Justin Leigh on BBC Spotlight about the part played by the West Country during the First World War. One of these was about Elsie Knocker, who won, amongst others, the Military Medal for her bravery and self-sacrifice, and on this basis deserves recognition in this 100th year of the outbreak of the war. I wanted to know more . . .

Born in Exeter, the youngest of the five children of Dr Thomas Lewis Shapter and his wife Charlotte, she was orphaned at an early age. Her mother died when she was four and father died from tuberculosis only two years later. She picked up the nickname Elsie as a small child, which lasted for life. Elsie was adopted by a teacher from Marlborough College who gave her a good education at St Nicholas's Folkestone and then at an exclusive school in Switzerland. Before her marriage to Leslie Knocker in 1906, she trained as a nurse at a children's hospital.

The marriage didn't last very long, and soon after her divorce she further trained as a midwife. Edwardian England frowned upon divorce, so she made up the story that her husband had died in Java. Her passion at this time was motor cycles and when riding she wore a leather skirt and a long leather coat buttoned all the way down 'to keep it all together'.

At 31 years of age, married, divorced and with a 6-year old son, war broke out, so she and her 18-year old friend, Mairi Chisholm - feisty, upper-class and a good mechanic - became volunteers with the Women's Emergency Corps as dispatch riders. They caused 'shock horror' with their garb of masculine breeches and leather boots!

They then joined the Flying Ambulance Corps and were sent to Belgium to help the hard-pressed Belgian soldiers. Here, frustrated by the number of men dying in the back of their ambulance, they resigned and set up their own First Aid post and soup kitchen, just a few hundred yards from the front line in a town called Pervyse, north of Ypres. Under a ruined house they found a vacant cellar, with a ceiling under 6' high [shown by Justin Leigh] and with donations had it reinforced with concrete and a steel door fitted, supplied by Harrods.

Here they made soup for the troops and nursed the wounded.

Mairi picked up some nursing experience, but was mainly the ambulance driver, taking the severely wounded to a hospital 15 miles away, and often under fire. Elsie tended the sick. They worked here for 3 1/2 years until being almost killed by arsenic gas in March 1918. Over that time, and not being attached to any medical organisation, when there was a lull in fighting, they would return to England on motorbike and sidecar to raise their own funds.

Their work became known and they were dubbed by the press as 'The Madonnas of Pervyse'. Although some events were gruesome and they witnessed many massacres, life wasn't all bad. They had good friendships with the troops, love affairs and in 1916, Elsie married a dashing aristocratic Belgian pilot, Baron de T'Serclaes. The new Baroness wrote: "It was pleasant to imagine all would turn out well, and after 15 months risking my life at the Front, marriage seemed a comparatively small risk to take . . . after a lightning honeymoon we hardly saw one another again. I was too busy at Pervyse, and my husband had to return to his squadron. In 1919, the Baron and Catholic Church discovered the truth about her previous marriage and thus this marriage came to an abrupt end. Mairi hadn't known the truth either and this also ended their friendship. They barely spoke again. As part of the marriage settlement, Elsie was allowed to keep the title of Baroness - in name only.

During World War II, she once again saw service, this time as a WAAF senior officer, working with RAF Fighter Command. Sadly, on the 3rd July 1942, her son Kenneth, by now a Wing Commander, was killed when his 'plane was shot down. Baroness T'Serclaes moved into an Earl Haig home in 1927 and remained there until her death in 1978. Life must have seemed very tame: she bred Chihuahuas and became concerned about animal welfare and could often be seen walking 3 or 4 of her dogs on the nearby common, noticeably flamboyantly dressed with large earrings and a voluminous cloak.

But her work in Belgium during World War I wouldn't be forgotten by the troops she helped save and their many families.

If you'd like to know more about this amazing woman, get a copy of Elsie and Mairi go to war: Two extraordinary Women on the Western Front by Diane Atkinson. My copy should arrive any day!

PP of DC


I wonder if anyone notices when some of the 50 Movers and Shakers, chewed over since February 2006, starting with WH Smith, make the news?

But to all 50 Movers and Shakers I owe a large amount of fun, interest and fact-finding - and I've met and talked to some very interesting people on the way. I hope you've enjoyed reading about them too.



[1802 - 9th February 1890]

London Print Publisher and "Barum's greatest Benefactor"

Last Christmas we had an unexpected and pleasant surprise from Tom - a copy of Barnstaple and Around Part II, the fourth in his Postcards of North Devon series. I'd only reached page 9 when a photo of a white-bearded man caught my eye: 'W. F. Rock Esq.', read the caption, 'Barnstaple's benefactor'. Who was he? I had to find out! This gentleman turned out to be a great 'Mover', both locally and in his adopted home.

William Frederick Rock was baptised on January 29th 1802 in Barnstaple's Parish Church of St Peter [hence the question mark over his actual birthday]. He was the oldest child of seven children born to Henry and Prudence Rock, although a boy and girl died as babies. Henry was a respected shoemaker, living above the shop at 46 High Street [demolished many years ago]. Money was tight, but the parents worked hard bringing up their family. Rock later wrote of his childhood:

Look on the canvas, happiness is the theme,
Content in humble life, and not a dream,
A youthful couple ply their lowly trade
Around the boots and shoes but lately made,
The well-formed mother rocks her cradled boy,
While piles of work her busy hands employ.

As a tradesman's son, William would normally have had only a basic education before being apprenticed. It is thought that he attended his grandmother's school in Newport. His father, however, became a freeman of the borough and therefore one of the few Barnstaple people entitled to vote. Consequently, he met William Busk, a parliamentary contestant who stayed briefly with the family and took an interest in nine-year old William, getting him a place at Christ's Hospital Bluecoat School in London in 1811.

He left school in January 1817. His first job, at Mr Ley's Bank in Bideford, came about through his bravery. A neighbour who worked in Barnstaple Bank had a son, a friend of William's, who fell into the River Taw and was pulled out, half drowned. The doctor asked for a volunteer to climb into the lad's bed to try to warm and revive him. William offered and although the boy died, his father never forgot his bravery and recommended him for the bank job. Rock's poetry was, however, his undoing as he was several times caught writing not working, So he left and returned to London, where another parliamentary candidate, Alderman Atkins, gave him a job at his bank.

He then worked for the printer and inventor Thomas de la Rue. Here he made enough money to set up his own business in London. Always a man devoted to his family, in 1833 his parents and sisters, Ann and Prudence, joined him. The sisters set up an Ornamental and Stationers shop in Greenwich.

His brother Henry became a partner in the new company, and in 1838, his youngest brother, Richard, also became a partner. They were joined by a trusted friend, John Payne and formed Rock Brothers and Payne. John later married Prudence, and their married life was spent living with William.

The company specialised in steel engraved views for cards, stationery, books and booklets became very successful and created a lot of wealth for the family.

William never married, and so with neither wife nor children to support, he decided to help both the place of his birth, and his adopted home.

In Greenwich, he was greatly respected and played an active role in public service. His long-term legacy was to found the Miller Hospital, named after Canon Miller for whom he had great respect. He and Prudence gave money towards founding the Hospital, and then gave annual subscriptions to finance it.

William Rock never returned to Barnstaple to live, although he kept in touch through J.R. Chanter, his 'man on the ground' and through letters to the North Devon Journal. His public benevolence, however, began in 1845 with the foundation of the Literary and Scientific Institute. In 1887, he bought the house on The Square, built for William Thorne15 years earlier [who it is said never lived there]. The following year he opened it to house a free library and museum: the North Devon Athenaeum. Here there were no separate reading rooms for men and women as he felt that it would only encourage the women to gossip! [As if they would..] It inherited the collections of the Literary and Scientific Institution and also became an unofficial collector of records.

Incidentally, in 1956 the Athenaeum shared the building with the local branch of the County Library Service and in 1988 North Devon District Council bought the building and re-housed both the Library and the Athenaeum in new premises in Tuly Street, where they remain to date. Rock's building is now the site for the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, and Tourist Information.

In 1873 William bought up land next to Chanter's Green, a marshy area at the end of Litchdon Street and in 1879, just a year before his death it became Rock Park and Sports Ground. A granite obelisk at its entrance commemorates this gift, with an inscription that ends "It is hoped the public will protect what is intended for public enjoyment".

A letter in the North Devon Journal wrote in praise of his 'munificent gift' and called for another park the other side of Barnstaple, suggesting Lord Rolle might donate the land. As Peter Christie says in his fascinating book Sir - Letters to the Editor of the North Devon Journal 1824-1874 [available at the museum] 'It never happened, but wouldn't it have been marvellous to have had Rock and Rolle parks in the town?' Mortehoe also benefitted from his generosity when he founded the Convalescent Home.

Although his parents died in1846, the family stayed together. All 3 brothers had houses in Greenwich. Henry Rock died in 1868, Richard in 1870 and Prudence's husband, John in 1882. William and Prudence continued living together until his death on February 9th 1890 at the age of 88. Prudence died just a month later. They had shared a home for 64 years.

William was, by all accounts, a modest man and J.R. Chanter said of him that many people did not realise the full extent of his beneficences, but only a few knew the enormous sum he had spent on private benevolence.

William Rock let it be known that he preferred to be his own executor, distributing funds in his lifetime so that he could see the results of his work and this he surely did.

At the time of his funeral in London, shops and businesses in Barnstaple closed and a civic parade led hundreds of mourners to the Parish Church to remember 'Barum's greatest benefactor'. He was quite a man!

My grateful thanks to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon for their help.

PP of DC



[August 9 1950 - May 31 2010]

Canadian Journalist and Co-inventor of Trivial Pursuit

Had it not been for a chance game of Scrabble, with a few letters missing, the world may have been deprived of a game that gripped the nations - Trivial Pursuit. You may well have been given it for Christmas in the 1980's, it even outstripped Monopoly in popularity.

The original game, introduced in 1981, was referred to by Time magazine as 'the biggest phenomenon in games history'. Part of its achievement was in its unique design and carefully chosen 6,000 questions [many of them devised by Haney on a prolonged holiday in Spain], based on everything from popular culture to science, sport and history, displayed on 1,000 cards. Since then the questions have been modified and updated, and up to 40 variations of the original game have been introduced, including Walt Disney, Star Wars and the Beatles. Many devotees, however, neglected these versions, sticking to the original game in its regal blue box.

Christopher Haney was born in Welland, Ontario. He dropped out of High School aged 17, a decision he later regretted, saying he should have dropped out at 12! His father worked for the Canadian Press Agency and helped him get a job as a copy boy with the company. He then moved to the Montreal Gazette, eventually becoming photo editor, where he met Scott Abbott, a sportswriter for the Canadian Press.

On December 15th 1979 he and Scott were at Chris's home enjoying a game of Scrabble - until they realised that some letters were missing. At a loss, they mulled over creating a new game. Chris came up with the idea of one based on trivial facts. By the time he went to the refrigerator for the second beer, they had mapped out the game with its six-spoked circular board and filled out a few sheets of paper listing various categories.

By the time of his death in 2010, global sales had reached 100 million in 26 countries and 17 languages and overall revenue from sales was in excess of $1 billion.

So how did they become so successful? Well, after that initial inspiration in 1979, they needed to check that their idea was good, and then they needed capital. Firstly, they posed as reporters and went to a toy fair in Montreal, quizzing game experts with questions, and came back with what Haney described as '$10,000 worth of information'. They brought in Chris's brother John and a friend of his, Ed Werner, a lawyer and fellow hockey enthusiast, and formed a company Horn Abbot Ltd., based on Chris's nickname 'The Horn' and a slightly shortened version of Scott's surname.

The four managed to raise $42,000 from 32 family members and friends. However, Chris would not let his mother contribute. He didn't want her to lose her life-savings!

Trivial Pursuit was trademarked on November 10th 1981 and 1,100 games were marketed by their company, selling at a loss at $15. They cost $75 to manufacture. Initially, buyers at toy fairs in Montreal and New York were cool about the design, but then word of mouth exploded sales and in 1984 they sold 20 million copies.

By 2008 Hasbro bought the rights to the game for $80 million. Haney, who had known real financial hardship, could now invest in golf courses, vineyards and racehorses - and could travel to Europe and around the world by ship. He was afraid of air travel.

Sadly, Chris Haney died of kidney and circulatory problems in Toronto aged 59 on 31st May 2010. His first marriage to Sarah with whom he had two sons, John and Thomas and a daughter, Shelagh, had ended in divorce. His second wife Hiam survives him.

Chris Haney fought and won a 13 year old battle against a man who said that when Mr Haney picked him up as a hitchhiker, he'd given him the idea of Trivial Pursuit. He also won a suit against an author who claimed that some questions had been taken from the author's book, not denied by Chris. Why did he win? The judge reasoned, "You can't steal trivia!"

Happy Christmas - and enjoy your party games!

PP of DC



[25th May 1915 - 9th November 2010]

Furniture Designer

"Now firstly I will tell you how we came to have a vineyard," said Hilary. All 40 of us settled into our chairs for the talk at Eastcott Vineyard near Hatherleigh [a well organised outing by Judith for Berrynarbor Wine Circle]. As we had entered the room, I was diverted by the chairs: plastic ones identical to those older chairs in our Manor Hall.

Enter Robin Day - no, not the journalist and TV presenter, but a furniture designer who transformed British design after World War ll by experimenting with new materials to make inexpensive furniture. He became famous during the 1951 Festival of Britain where his steel and plywood furniture was displayed in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion. At the same time he designed the furniture for the Festival Hall.

But his most celebrated piece was in 1963: the moulded thermoplastic polypropylene chair, of which it is estimated that there are now 50 million still in circulation. When in Botswana's remote Okavango Delta on one occasion, he spied several examples bolted to a dug-out canoe! By his death in 2010, over 40 years later, there were still half a million being made annually, and the design had realised such fame that in January 2009 it appeared on a 1st Class postage stamp in the British Design Classics series. [Others included Concorde and the Mini].

Why did he decide on thermoplastic material for his design? Well, it was low in cost, flexible, scratchproof, heat resistant, lightweight and was tough when chairs were stacked - an ideal all-rounder!

Robin Day, the son of a police constable, was born on May 25th 1915 in the furniture-making town of High Wycombe. Recognising his drawing skills, his parents enrolled him at High Wycombe Technical Institute and later he won a scholarship to High Wycombe College of Art. During this time, he was approached by Lucian Ercolani, the founder of Ercol furniture, offering him a job at £1,000 a year - quite a sum pre-war. He didn't take it up [although much later, in 2003 he designed a chair for Ercol]. Instead, he won a scholarship to London's Royal College of Art - a disappointment to him as he found it 'all painting and sculpture' rather than teaching industrial design. He graduated in 1938 and even if only for its table tennis facilities, kept in touch with the college. It also led to a meeting in 1940 with Lucienne Conradi at a college dance, resulting in their marrying in 1942. She became a famous textile designer and although they worked side by side in their studio at Cheyne Walk in London for nearly 50 years, they rarely worked together. Nevertheless they shaped each other's work by suggestions and discussion.

Asthma ruled out active war service for Robin Day. Instead he taught at Beckenham School of Art where he met a fellow teacher, Clive Latimer. Together they won the International Competition for low-cost Furniture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and this gave his career a great boost.

He was already in his mid-thirties at the time of the Festival of Britain, when his furniture and Lucienne's textiles and wallpapers were displayed together. This gave impetus to their astonishing output throughout the 1950's.

A British furniture manufacturer, Hille, who specialised in period furniture, decided to modernise and knowing of Robin's success engaged him to design functional chairs, tables, desks and storage units. Many of these were low-cost. Pre-war furniture had been heavy and solid. Robin's designs were simple and low-cost. Of his 1952 reclining chairs he later told reporters: "What one needs in today's small rooms is to see over and under one's furniture".

Over the 44 years he worked for Hille's, he was not only responsible for many furniture designs, but also for their artwork, brochures, showroom design, exhibitions and logo.

At the same time, he designed television and radio sets for Pye, aircraft interiors for BOAC and carpet designs for Woodward Grosvenor.

Robin and Lucienne not only became Britain's most famous design couple, but also added a dose of glamour to post-war Britain. They featured in many magazine articles and in 1954 shone as a debonair couple in Smirnoff vodka advertising, surrounded by their furniture and textile designs.

For 25 years [1962-1987] they were consultants to John Lewis and introduced a new house style. Robin also designed the interiors for several Waitrose supermarkets and in the late 1990's, Habitat re-issued some of his earlier designs. As late as 2008, in the 7th decade of his career, he designed the RD wooden chair. He was still working early in 2010, sketching himself with his polyprop chair for the design store Twentytwentyone which they printed onto a tote bag.

Apart from his work, he was a great outdoor sports enthusiast, saying that it made him relax. He was quite a late starter: rock climbing took him from the Alps and Himalayas to the Atlas Mountains and Anatolia. Aged 61 he skied 2,500 miles across Lapland, Finland, Sweden and Norway over 12 weeks, shooting wild animals for food and sleeping in snow holes. At 76 he became one of the oldest climbers of Mount Kenya.

Throughout his career, he wasn't interested in the lure of fashion, but concentrated on functional and technically fitting designs. His experience of wartime austerity, made him sparing in use of materials and conscious of manufacturing time.

Lucienne aged 93 died in January 2010, and Robin, 95 died at home on 9th November the same year.

But when next you sit in the Manor Hall, and not on a blue upholstered seat, just think that you are sitting on an icon of British design - and that there have been around 49,999,999 other chairs seating countless other bums around the world on the same design! All because of the inventiveness of one man: Robin Day.

PP of DC



[13th December 1923 - 25th May 2013]

Past Chatelaine of Castle Hill, Filleigh and Fearless Huntswoman

I had in mind another August 'Mover and Shaker', that is until I read the obituary of this feisty 'Grande Dame' who died this year aged 89.

Described as a tiny, birdlike figure, Lady Margaret was an accomplished horsewoman who preferred to ride side-saddle and enjoyed fast hunting and perilous jumping. Needless to say, this led to bruising falls, although after talking to her doctor and taking a few painkillers washed down with wine, she usually carried on! One exception was when her horse fell with her from a bridge into the river and according to a friend 'half an ankle came away with her boot'. Only quick action by an orthopaedic surgeon saved her foot. She also loved yellow Labradors, which endears her to me.

Lady Margaret was born at Ebrington Manor, near Chipping Campden in 1923, the third of four children born to Viscount and Viscountess Ebrington [later to accede to the title of Earl and Countess Fortescue and move to Castle Hill in 1932 on the death of his father.]

Lady Margaret's ancestors can be traced back to William the Conqueror. In the words of her daughter, Lady Arran, "Legend has it that our ancestor Sir Richard Fort saved William's life by shielding him from his enemies." Thus the family motto became: Forte scutum salus ducum - A strong shield saves the Kingdom." [Does Forte scutum give the family name, I wonder?]

The first Baron Fortescue was created in 1749 and the third Baron became Earl Fortescue 40 years later. Since then, various Earls have become Lord Lieutenants of Ireland or Devon, have had distinguished careers in the army or politics, and have developed their various estates. Lady Margaret's father became a Knight of the Garter, and at Queen Elizabeth's coronation, helped hold the canopy over her. When royalty came to Devon on public duties, they almost invariably stayed and were entertained at Castle Hill, and when the family went up-country, it was usually by private train.

Lady Margaret's grandfather acquired a further 20,000 acres - largely for stag-hunting - from the Knight Brothers, those folk from the industrial midlands who created Pinkworthy Pond as part of an aborted plan to remove iron ore from Exmoor, and wanted to turn rough moorland into arable farmland.

In 1934 Castle Hill suffered a severe fire, sadly resulting in the death of the housekeeper and a housemaid. Over the years, its Palladian proportions had been altered by the addition of another floor to cope with enlarged families. After the fire, Lady Margaret's parents decided to re-build it to its original design and that remains to this day. During the rebuilding, the family and staff moved to their house in Simonsbath - now the Simonsbath House Hotel. This had panelled rooms downstairs, primitive bedrooms with only one bathroom between them, lino on the floors and with only smoky peat fires, was quite cold. But the children loved it! Her uncle rented Emmett's Grange, so her cousins and friends were nearby. They had a tutor in the mornings and went riding most afternoons, enjoying a lovely happy childhood.

When they returned to Castle Hill, her parents kept in touch with events at Simonsbath. They were always responsible landlords.

In 1938 Lady Margaret was sent to school in Switzerland, but at the start of WW2, she was sent to an English school and was evacuated from London to Newbury.

During the war, life changed. Lady Margaret's father went back to the Army and her mother was head of Devon's Land Army, Red Cross, and WVS. There were 4 Land Army girls at Castle Hill. Her brother, Peter, was posted first to Palestine and then Egypt but was sadly killed at Alamein in 1942 aged 22. As he was unmarried, the title of Earl Fortescue moved to her father's brother and his son is the present Earl. A boys' prep. school was evacuated to Castle Hill and there were evacuees from London in the cottages.

During the 1940's, Lady Margaret's father was approached by the Forestry Commission to plant conifers on part of his land - the Chains. He thought this was good use of the land, but because of strong local opposition [resulting in the formation of the Exmoor Society], he dropped the idea. She agreed with his non-action.

In 1948 Lady Margaret married Bernard van Cutsem, a Newmarket racehorse trainer, and went to live in Newmarket, but visited her parents frequently. They had two children: Miss Eleanor [1949] and Miss Rosamund [1952]. They divorced in 1968.

1958 was a sad year for Lady Margaret. Her father died on June 14, his 70th birthday and her mother died 4 days before him. Thus, as the 13th generation, she inherited one of Britain's largest landholdings, 30,000 acres of Exmoor. This covered land, manor houses and tenanted farms at Filleigh, Simonsbath and Challacombe. Faced with enormous death duties, Lady Margaret sold large parts of Exmoor although later she admitted that she wished she had borrowed money rather than sell land and tenanted farms.

As a memorial to her parents, she rebuilt the Triumphal Arch leading to the main house, and constructed the Ebrington Tower in memory of her brother. If you visited Light Quest, some years ago, you would have seen both of these.

She also ensured that the new North Devon Link Road was re-routed behind the house rather than through the 18th century Park in front of it.

In 1989 she handed over the house to Eleanor, now The Countess of Arran, and retired to The Garden House, a Palladian-style bungalow in the walled garden, known as The Bungy.

Latterly, she gave up hunting but rode most mornings and enjoyed having friends to stay. She took her dog to pick up at shoots during the winter and remained a Governor then Vice Chairman of West Buckland School [originally founded and endowed by her family]. She was also a Governor at Filleigh School.

Lady Arran now runs the estate and does an enormous amount of charitable work. As well as traditional activities on the Estate, she has opened the gardens to visitors, will host weddings and corporate events and enables, as she puts it, "You, our visitors, to enjoy this small corner of paradise".

What a history! What a future!

PP of DC



[October 7 1928 - November 28 2012]

Former actress, hotelier, fly fishing expert and conservationist campaigner

Are you a fly-fishing expert? If so, you will have heard of Anne Voss Bark. Do you enjoy spoiling yourself in a 200 year-old coaching inn famous for its comfort and fine food reputation? Then you might well have heard of her.

Mrs Voss Bark was the proprietor for nearly fifty years of one of Britain's best-known fishing hotels: The Arundell Arms in Lifton, West Devon, less than 55 miles from Berrynarbor.

Starting her career as an actress, Ann Voss Bark then became an advertising account executive in London where she met her first husband, Gerald Fox-Edwards. Because of ill health, he was advised that the countryside would be better for him, so in 1961 they bought the Arundell Arms, a run-down fishing inn with 17 bedrooms [only one with a private bathroom] and a coke boiler that filled the dining room with smoke. Gerald loved fly-fishing so he took charge of that. Ann knew nothing of fishing and not much more of running a hotel, but ran it on a shoestring together with bringing up two small children and working as a Marriage Guidance Counsellor.

Sadly Gerald died in 1973. Now with fishing an extra responsibility, she decided she needed to know more about it. She took a few lessons from her river keeper and soon work became a hindrance. All she wanted to do was fish!

Her particular interest was night fishing for sea trout. "There's a magic about it", she remarked during an interview. "All is quiet, you cast, suddenly a fish comes up, takes your fly and then all hell breaks loose." Enthusiastic words from someone not born a fisherwoman.

Her father was a barrister, Sir Wilfred Bennett, 2nd Baronet, who just before the start of WWII moved the family to an estate in Lincolnshire. This was requisitioned by the RAF in 1940 and Anne and her brother Ronnie went to school in London and Wimborne St Giles. Sir Wilfred joined his regiment in Palestine and wasn't home again until after the war ended. Although Anne was offered a place at London University, she had set her heart on the stage. After training with 'an elderly actress of the emotive school', she was taken on by Donald Wolfit, actor and impresario, and toured Shakespeare in England and America. When she returned to Britain, it was difficult to get parts. When her father died in 1952 leaving the family short of money, Anne decided to get a more permanent and reliable job. Working for Crawford's, the advertising agency, she became interested in Commercial TV, rose to an account executive and met Gerald Fox-Edwards.

Her second husband, Conrad Voss Bark, former parliamentary correspondent for BBC television, met Anne during a visit to the Arundell Arms to write a book on fly fishing - his real interest. They married in 1975 and were together for 25 years until his death in 2000.

Conrad gave witty lectures on fishing at the hotel, but Anne, with her charm and efficiency gave the hotel its increasingly good reputation. She was once described as 'svelte and dynamic' - a description she loved.

She became an expert on fly-fishing and was the first woman to give a talk to the Fishflyers Club of New York. Her book of essays by experts such as Ted Hughes and of course Conrad Voss Bark, West Country Fly Fishing, has become a classic. In 2001 she received a Lifetime Achievement award for services to angling. She also championed river conservation and co-founded the West Country Rivers Trust that was concerned about farm fertilisers leaching into rivers. This foundation has become a model for similar bodies in Britain and overseas. And she was heavily involved in discussions on the construction of Roadford Reservoir.

Yet her role as hotelier did not get overlooked. In 1994 she received an MBE for services to tourism and in 2006 she was awarded the prestigious accolade of Sporting Hotel of the Year by the Good Hotel Guide.

In 2008 Anne handed over the running of the Arundell Arms to her son, Adam Fox- Edwards. Five years earlier, he had suggested to his mother that she 'slowed down'. She responded by trading in her Porsche 928 for a three-litre Jaguar!

So what is Anne Voss Bark's legacy at the hotel?

Well it is now a leading fishing hotel in the country with 20 miles of private fly fishing on the River Tamar, its tributaries and the lake.

It employs two outstanding fishermen, who have taught men and women, boys and girls, the joys of fishing. Today, women often outnumber men and former students bring their children. Sometimes there are three generations staying in the hotel.

As a true country sporting hotel, it also offers shooting and stalking, hunting and riding - all for the experienced or for anyone wanting to try out something new.

Then there is the delicious food served in two dining rooms, supplied under the guidance of Master Chef of Great Britain Steve Pidgeon with his enthusiastic young team. I can vouch for the quality having stayed overnight on a couple of occasions and had lunch when in the area. Food in season and local produce are very much in evidence and the presentation is superb. The Restaurants have received many awards including AA2 rosettes.

The hotel has been continually updated. All rooms are of course en suite and very comfortable. If you want a massage or various therapies, they are on offer.

It is a beautiful wedding venue, set in lovely landscaped gardens, with staff intent on giving everyone a very special day. There are two self-catering cottages: Church Cottage [3 bedrooms] and Fisherman's Cottage [2 bedrooms] for those who prefer a little more privacy. And it has been voted the Best Conference Venue in Devon, winning gold and silver awards in the last two years.

This is not a bad legacy from someone who declared that she knew 'nothing about fishing and not a lot more about hotels'!

Why not spoil yourself and give it a try? Web address:

PP of DC




Founder of Chas. N. Pedlar 27 High Street, Ilfracombe

In mid-November, 2012, you may have read in either the North Devon Journal or Gazette that Ilfracombe's favourite 'department store', Pedlars, was celebrating its 90th birthday.

Today Nick and his daughter Helen are the 3rd and 4th generation of this remarkable family that have served so many households - and generations - with supplies. I promptly 'beetled off' to ask Nick for more details about the founder, his grandfather, Charles Nicholas Pedlar which he kindly passed on.

Nick and Helen

"There are still people", he says, "Who come into the shop and remember being served by my grandfather". He puts this loyalty down to customer service from his staff, many of whom are long-serving. Margery Turner was the longest: 65 years, leaving only in 2005 and still enjoying a well-deserved retirement. But others have served for 55 years, three for 40 years and three for 20 years - a credit, too, to good management over the years, and a store where you can buy supplies and get advice and product knowledge, not available elsewhere in the town.

But back to Charles Pedlar. He was born in Swimbridge in 1881, where his mother ran the village shop. She sent him as an apprentice to his uncle, William Pugsley, who ran a furniture and drapery store, Pugsley and Son, at 26 High Street, Ilfracombe [now McColl's]. William then bought next door, Number 27 [today's Pedlar's] that was a china and hardware store and combined them.

Having learnt about the trade over a number of years, on 1st January 1922, Charles bought the store from his uncle and changed the name to Chas.N.Pedlar, a name we are all familiar with to this day.

Charles Glanville Pedlar

Nick mentioned a wartime family story about Charles. He was unloading a batch of chamber pots from a delivery van when a passer-by shouted that he should be fighting in the war - at 60 years of age?! Quick as a flash, Charles retorted, "I'll bet I've seen more 'jerries' in this war than you have my man!". The man slunk away!

Shop-keeping is obviously in the family blood. Nick's father, Charles Glanville, joined Charles in 1946, and then it was Nick's turn.

Before joining the family business in 1967, he trained at Dingles in Plymouth, then Simpsons of Piccadilly. From the age of 12 he knew what he wanted to do, but neither he, nor his brothers John and Richard, were ever pressurised into joining the business.

In the year Nick joined, Pedlars became one of six founding members of the Home Hardware cooperative of independent retailers. Now with 400 members, its combined buying power enables these stores to compete on price and quality with big High Street names and DIY superstores. Professional buyers source the globe looking for quality up-to-the-minute goods at excellent prices, to pass on to their members, which has to be good for everyone.

Nick and his wife Vicky have two daughters, Helen and Sarah. Helen has returned to the business after maternity leave and hopefully her son will want eventually to continue in the business. As Helen says, "I am passionate about Ilfracombe and its High Street and as a business I really do enjoy it, from buying products through to watching them go out of the store." Her great-grandfather would be proud of her!

Over the years, the departments have changed slightly. No longer does it sell carpets and furniture, but it still sells quality china and glassware, kitchenware and cleaning materials, menswear and has added the popular gardening products to its range. It's also sold commemorative china and memorabilia for every royal occasion since 1935. Said Nick last November, "We still have a 1935 jubilee flag and last week we even sold an Andrew and Fergie goblet!"

What a good thing that Charles Pedlar chose to open his department store in Ilfracombe in 1922. Through his enterprise, Ilfracombe has continued to benefit from a first class store over the generations. It has done so much to keep alive the spirit of the High Street.

Long may it continue!

PP of DC



[18th September 1846 - 9th February 1930]

Founder of Hartigruten

I read recently that this is the best year to see the Northern Lights - those scintillating swirls of luminous colour - the greatest show in the heavens - painting the skies. One of the best places to see them is in Norway, and one of the tour operators is Hurtigruten, the freight and passenger shipping company. We travelled from Bergen to Kirkenes, a 5-day cruise north above the Arctic circle to within 14km of the Russian border, on Hurtigruten's MS Richard With in April 2010.

We arrived back in Bergen just as Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull [there's a name that just trips off the tongue!] volcanic ash closed all European airports, necessitating an unexpected 5-day extension in that grand old seaside town. But I digress. I'd never heard of Richard With [pronounced 'Vith'], but after some enquiries discovered that he was none other than the founder of Hurtigruten.

Richard With was born in Tromso in 1846. His parents were shipmaster Sivert Regnor With, of Dutch descent, and his wife Anne Bergitte Dahl. With junior followed in father's footsteps, he took his mate's exam in 1864 and then went to sea for 8 years. He married Oline Sophie Wennburg in 1873, they had a daughter, Nanna in 1874 but sadly Sophie died at the end of 1878. The next year he married her sister Augusta, who outlived him by 8 years.

The coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes is over 2,400 km long, and in the19th century maritime maps were poor and lighthouses very infrequent. This was a coastline rich in herring fishing, and a safe trade route was needed to link north and south Norway. So With took on the challenge, starting by making accurate sea maps of the area. On 2nd July1893, his ship the DS Vesterlaan came into regular service along the coast from Hammerfest to Trondheim and then from Bergen to Kirkenes, taking just 7 days. He called this important link 'Hurtigruten' [the fast route] - and so the passenger and freight company was born, with government backing to fund the route. Over the next few years the routes - and number of ships - expanded, taking in some of the islands and always carrying goods as well as guests.

By 1908 With got involved with creating the Norwegian America line and two years later he became deputy chairman of the board. He also took an interest in politics and from 1910-1912 served as an MP for the Liberal left in the Norwegian Parliament.

During his spell as MP he lived in Christiana [reverting to its original name, Oslo, after 1925] and stayed there unit his death at the age of 83 in February 1930.

Hurtigruten has named two of her ships after him: SS Richard With [1909] and 'our' ship MS Richard With [1993]. It now sails 11 ships on this route.

This year marks the 120th anniversary of Richard With sailing his first ship for the Company. If you have 5 or 6 days to spare this early spring or autumn and want to see the Northern Lights, you can find details on their website: . You might have a very exciting holiday, but if you like wine with your dinner, that cost might also be memorable!

PP of DC




Inventor of the Christmas Cracker

At Christmas, we all enjoy pulling crackers, laugh at those corny jokes, put on the paper hats, and ponder whether we'll ever use the small gift - it's all part of the fun! But it was Tom Smith who made it possible.

Now we all know how crackers work: a cardboard tube, covered in a brightly coloured paper twist, and when pulled by two people, the friction of a strip of chemically impregnated paper gives the 'pop' and the lucky one gets the goodies! But how did it start?

Tom Smith began work as a small boy in a bakery in London early in 1830. The shop also sold confectionary - fondants, pastilles and pralines. Tom enjoyed his work and particularly the wedding cake decorations. It didn't take him many years to leave and start his own business in Clerkenwell, East London. Often he travelled to Europe for ideas and in 1840 on a trip to Paris, he discovered the 'bon bon', a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. He brought some back to London which sold well at Christmas but then died in January. To stimulate sales, he added a love motto and persuaded his regular customers to buy these. Sales rapidly increased. He knew he had a good idea, but still continued with his wedding cake ornaments and confectionary business.

Wanting to increase his 'bon bon' sales, it was casually throwing a log on the fire which crackled that gave him the idea that produced today's cracker. He worked hard and experimented, and eventually came up with a cracking mechanism that went 'pop' when the [by now larger] 'bon bon' wrapping was broken.

By 1847 he had moved to larger premises and his ideas had evolved into crackers. He had dropped the 'bon bon' in favour of a small gift, increased the size and called his new product 'Cosaques' - Cossacks. That name was quickly replaced by the eponymous 'cracker'. He had overnight success with this one design, decided to export it and it was only marred when he discovered that an Eastern manufacturer copied his idea and sent crackers to Britain just before Christmas.

Not to be outdone, Tom designed 8 different types of cracker, worked his staff day and night and delivered stocks all around the country in time for Christmas. From then on he never looked back.

When he died he left his business to his 3 sons, Tom, Henry and Walter. Walter took up the challenge of continuing improvements changing the love mottoes to those of topicality, employing special writers to compose snappy references to every important event of the day. Eventually these were replaced with puzzles, riddles and paper hats - not the thin tissue of today's hats, but elaborate ones good enough to exhibit on proper hat makers' stands. He went to Europe to find surprise gifts such as Bohemian bracelets, scarf pins from Saxony and tiny pill boxes filled with rouge and a powder puff.

Tom Smith crackers expanded into special orders for companies and private people. In the records is an order for a six foot cracker to decorate Euston Station One order in 1927 was from a gentleman who wrote enclosing a diamond engagement ring and a ten shilling note for a special cracker for his fiancee. The only problem was he forgot to include his address and never contacted the company again. The ring, letter and ten shilling note are, I am told, still in the company safe today - and no doubt the marriage didn't take place!

In the early days, Tom Smith made specialist boxes of Wedgwood crackers, Japanese menagerie crackers and crackers relating to current affairs, War Heroes, Charlie Chaplin, Wireless, Motoring, and the Coronation etc. Exclusive crackers were made also for the Royal Family - and still are to this day, although it is a secret what designs and contents are used. Since 1906 when they were granted their first Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales and this they have retained.

And so today, crackers are found in many countries. In Russia, where they are called хлоиүшқ - from my 3 session Russian Language Survival Course on a recent holiday, I think that is pronounced 'Helonyooshka'. In some countries of the former USSR, crackers are a tradition of New Year celebrations, but are more like our fireworks. One person activates them, they are used outdoors, and produce a large bang and lots of smoke. In Southern Germany they are practically unheard of.

Over the years, several mergers have taken place and today, the Tom Smith group is a subsidiary of Napier Industries, the largest manufacturer of crackers in the world. A few years after Tom Smith's death, Walter erected a drinking fountain in Finsbury Square in memory of his mother, Mary, also commemorating the life of his father.

So as you sit down to your Christmas lunch, give a thought to Mr. Thomas Smith, the man who invented the great British Cracker - and don't forget the hat. Happy Christmas!

PP of DC



[31 December 1950 - ]

Chief Executive Officer of Camelot, Operators of the UK National Lottery

As you probably know, you may now buy Lottery tickets at our shop. Personally I've never bought one: it would be just my luck to win millions! Many folk look at their weekly purchase not as a form of gambling, but as a 'regular charitable contribution'. Whatever the reason, good luck to everyone.

The UK National Lottery is run by Camelot, started in1994 and now in its third term, with a licence until 2019, which in March this year was upgraded to 2023, giving it a 30-year run.

Originally it was set up by five companies: the Royal Mail, Thales, De La Rue, Cadbury Schweppes and Fujitsu, but was bought up by the Ontario Teachers Pensions Plan in 2010 for £400million.

Dianne Thompson, who joined Camelot in 1997 as Commercial Operations Director and took over as Chief Executive in December 2000, has a formidable CV ranging from Product Manager with the Cooperative Wholesale Society, a seven year Lectureship at Manchester Polytechnic, Director of Marketing for Woolworths, Signet Group [formerly Ratners], ICI and Wyevale, amongst others and has won various business awards including Veuve Cliquot Business Woman of the Year.

In appearance, Dianne is tiny. Until a back accident in France in 2009 she was 5'01/2", now she is just 4'11". In her words she "shrunk a bit, but I'm fine now!" She is also at 61 a workaholic. Even after her accident, when advised by Stoke Mandeville to lie on her back for 3 months, every Wednesday for 6 weeks she worked all day, standing upright at her kitchen table. Two nights a week she gets home at midnight, and is on call every weekend. Even on holiday, although she turns off her Blackberry, she checks it once a day in case of emergencies. No wonder she describes herself as 'a woman with balls - balls of steel', yet the Daily Mail interviewer wrote after meeting her that she was 'surprisingly warm and twinkly'.

But then she is a Yorkshire lass from Batley with a strong work ethic, ingrained into her by her parents. They were poor though loving: her father was a butcher and mother worked in a shoe shop. Their home had an outside lavatory and the sink doubled as a bath, but they taught her that "Nothing comes to people from my background on a silver plate. If you think you can, then you can, but you've got to work hard for it." And so she did. After winning a place at the local grammar school, she went to Manchester to do an honours degree in English and French and then began her marketing career.

Nine years ago, long hours at work cost her her 29-year marriage to Roger, her teenage sweetheart and father of her only child Jo, and she now lives alone in Buckinghamshire.

Since she became CEO she has built up 28,000 retailers [28,001 with Berrynarbor!]. Anyone who wins £50,000 or more is allocated a special Winners' Adviser, who does everything from mopping up tears to reminding you to take your medication. There is also a panel of advisers on tax, finances and law who stress, as Dianne says, to "make no decisions, go abroad, sit in the sun and try to get your head round it all". Perhaps I should try just ONE ticket!

Oddly enough, her interest in prize-winning millionaires runs second place to her interest in the Good Causes that the lottery helps - around £30 million weekly. Camelot has no say in choosing causes to receive funding but raising funds for the Olympics was high on her agenda. In 1994 when John Major launched the lottery, he said that sport was one of the 'good causes' to benefit. By 1997, British athletes began to get funding and their standards have improved ever since, leading to this year's achievements, beating all previous records. For these Olympics and Paralympics, the National Lottery has contributed £183.5 million investment in sports out of a total of £313.5 million, and £2.2 billion towards construction of the Olympic Stadium, Velodrome and the Aquatics Centre - and all because people buy lottery tickets!

Amongst various trials and tribulations during her time with Camelot, Dianne has had two major battles. Back in 2000, she fought Richard Branson in a David and Goliath contest when he tried to grasp the Lottery from Camelot. She won, and averted her worst nightmare: telling her 850 staff that they no longer had a job. Later at a TV interview, Branson met Dianne and his most memorable comment was "God, you're short!" After her surprise win, he was very congratulatory.

This August, she has done battle with Richard Desmond, whose parent companies are Channel 5 and The Daily Express. "It is my fortune in life to be haunted by Richards," she joked. Desmond has set up a Health Lottery which Dianne said was unlawful and contravenes the 2005 Gambling Act. If it continued it could jeopardize the thriving National Lottery - and its Good Causes. The High Court ruled against Camelot, so she is now taking on the Government to close the loophole in the 2005 Act before other commercial ventures trade in.

Her best achievement she reckons was launching Euromillions in February 2004 in partnership with lotteries in France and Spain. Today taking part are 9 countries, with 3 currencies, in 2 time zones. billions have been paid out in Europe, the UK alone gaining over £1.1 billion.

So, at 61, when does she think she will retire? Initially she planned it this year, after the Olympics. "I had this romantic vision of stepping down as the flame was being extinguished at the closing ceremony". That dream failed when her new bosses asked her to stay on until 2015. "I will retire after that," she says - but who knows? Even if she does admit to enjoying slobbing around in her pyjamas and watching the Eastenders Omnibus, when she retires from Camelot it's a safe bet that she does more than that with her retirement!

PP of DC



[July 1952 - ]

Chairman, Philip Dennis Foodservice

After a pleasant walk to Baggy Point, we called for lunch at the Sandleigh Tearooms by the car park. It was a lovely day and everyone wanted to sit outside. There were no vacant tables, but at one sat a lone man, reading. Asking if we might join him [and promising not to interrupt the reading!] we got into conversation. He turned out to be John Dennis, Chairman of Philip Dennis Foodservice. And from this 'brief encounter' comes the story of one of Ilfracombe's most successful 'Movers and Shakers'!

John is the third generation of the Dennis Family providing meat and other food products to North Devon and beyond. In the last 35 years he has developed the business into a multi-million pound turnover with 200 employees, 58 of whom are in Ilfracombe, and delivery vans have grown from just two to sixty five. So how has all this happened?

Well, his grandfather, Archie, the youngest of 13 children, was one of 4 brothers who were butchers. Many years before the First World War, he opened a butcher's shop in The Square at Braunton and specialised in sausages, He was so proud of the quality of his meat that he would buy beasts before they were due to be slaughtered and graze them for a few weeks to ensure his high standards.

His son, Philip, helped in the shop as a young man. After the second World War, he started his own farming business and in time, sold pork, chickens, ducks, turkeys [a rarity in the UK at that time] and eggs to hotel owners in Woolacombe. He also sold frozen poultry. Customers were delighted, and the secret of his success was that they could rely on top quality products, from a local supplier, operating a fast and regular delivery system.

As a teenager, John, Philip's son, helped out, plucking turkeys and poultry in the busy Christmas period and with deliveries. He took a degree at Leeds University in mining engineering, preparing to work abroad. Fate intervened, however, for there he met his wife-to-be. He and Elizabeth married in 1975. Returning to Ilfracombe in 1977, he joined his father. He enjoyed the idea of self-employment and brought new ideas to the business. Spotting a need for frozen food, a new concept at the time, he decided to supply it.

Dennis Family - Christmas 1961

You may remember that Youngs Seafood had a base at Bideford in the '70's. They decided to relocate to Newton Abbott where the trade was not so seasonal and John struck a deal with them. He would sell their range, for a generous discount. The deal was accepted. Just before this, Bernard Maskell had changed the Thatched Barn at Croyde from a tea room into an inn and licensed restaurant. His wife Barbara was not happy that Youngs would only deliver twice a week and suggested to John that if he could supply prawns, peas etc. on a more frequent basis, she would buy from him. By mid-1979, Philip Dennis Foodservice was on its way!

Two years later, the Company had outgrown the premises in Wrafton Road, Braunton. Devonia Supply Ltd [remember them?] had moved to Mullacott Industrial Estate and In November 1981 Philip Dennis bought them out. All of Devonia's staff were employed.

As the Company developed, John felt the need for a new distribution centre. Ilfracombe is a great place to live, but so many directions from it point out to sea! If he could find a base with all-year-round trade it would help the Company. Cornwall had to be rejected as it was no different from Devon, so he moved east. He knew of a company selling ice cream in Brize Norton, who initially weren't interested in selling, but gradually realised that this man from Ilfracombe meant business - and sold! From this Oxfordshire base they now distribute to a much larger area including parts of the Midlands. Plans are already afoot to develop other distribution centres on the eastern side of the Midlands and in the London area.

John's wife has always had a role in the Company, as well as bringing up three sons. She is particularly interested in marketing, and is largely responsible for the new brochure: Dennis Family Butchers and Dennis Family Fishmongers. I haven't mentioned it before, but John is very aware that more and more folk want local foods, which is why he is promoting sale of fresh meats, often delivering within 24 hours of the order being placed. And from past experience he is well qualified to ensure high quality produce. He no longer buys in animals to graze before slaughter, but his brochure states, 'Much of our meat is fully traceable to the farm gate'. For Dennis Family Fishmongers, he has joined forces with Scott Wharton, an Ilfracombe fisherman and his brother-in-law, Lee Burdis, to provide fish 'as firm as a Frisbee because they are so fresh'. The meat and fish businesses are at Roundswell, Barnstaple, where, together with tele-sales, 70 people are employed.

At the moment, the Company only sells to catering suppliers: hotels, teashops, schools, hospitals, garden centres and so on, but plans are afoot to include ordinary households - and this is how.

Recently, you may have noticed a solitary wind turbine at Mullacott. No it's not 'escaped' from the forest of turbines at Fullabrook, but has been installed to cut down the massive energy costs at Philip Dennis [£180,000 per year!] and hopefully to sell surplus electricity back to the National Grid. It has now been running since April this year and so far is paying its way. Its German manufacturers who can make any necessary adjustments from Germany control the mechanism.

The whole project has been paid for by the Company and makes it the first food supplier in the UK to be self-sufficient in energy. And who played a key role in achieving this? Christopher Dennis, John's middle son, a fully trained architect and fourth generation, who has now joined the family firm.

The money saved in energy will be used to upgrade IT including a new website. Then the Dennis Family will sell meat and fish nationally to all. Good news for everyone!

This month, John Dennis celebrates a special '0' year and we wish him well. It's worth noting that the high standards set by Archie and Philip Dennis are still motivating the present owner over 100 years later. Hopefully this will continue into the fourth generation. We'll look forward to further developments in this innovative - and local - Dennis Family Company.

With thanks to John Dennis for giving me the facts and photographs!

PP of DC



[1734 - 1808]

Stationer, Rag merchant and Inventor of the Toothbrush

I wanted to link the Queen's Jubilee with Movers and Shakers, yet I'd decided to write about the man who invented toothbrushes . . . not an easy connection! Yet Her Majesty must have a Royal Appointment on toothbrushes, mustn't she?

Putting Royal Warrants into Google came up with a huge list of over 850 from Abels Moving Services [removals and storage services] to Yardley [toiletries and personal products] via bagpipes, champagne, hairbrushes, foster mares for orphan foals - and yes, GlaxoSmithKline [toothpaste]!

It could be that they also supply Dr Best toothbrushes [very big in Germany], but I guess I'll never know!

To get down to William Addis who started all this, around 1770. In Newgate Prison for inciting a riot, he had little to do except eat, sleep and think - thinking involved what he would do on his release from prison. After washing his face one morning, he cleaned his teeth as usual by rubbing them with a rag [possibly dipped in salt or soot] - a system used since the days of Aristotle advising Alexander the Great - and had an idea. There must be another way! Next day, he saved a bone from his meat dinner, bored tiny holes in it, begged some horsehair from the guards, cut these down, tied them into tufts, glued them and carefully pushed them into the holes. And it worked!

On his release from prison he went into production in Whitechapel, East London and was a success.

Over the years, the business grew with his son, also William, taking on the business after his death in 1808. By 1841, there were 60 staff, the brushes were hand produced from bone and ivory with hair or bristle filaments and the average retail price was 6d [21/2p]. The bones used to make the handles were ox thigh and buttock bones. Just the centres of the bones were used, the ends being sold to button manufacturers. Largely women in their own homes did the securing of the hair or bristles. Badger hair was used for the more expensive brushes, but bristle from hog, pig or boar was more commonplace.

In 1869, the first Addis toothbrush handles were made by machine.

By World War I Addis were supplying toothbrushes all over the world, and issued them to troops, thus creating a national teeth-cleaning habit.

In 1938 nylon was invented. The Addis family immediately contacted the UK licensee, ICI for permission to use it in toothbrushes. And in 1940 Addis created Wisdom toothbrushes, the first to have nylon bristles. These sold for two shillings [10p]. The Addis family bowed out in 1996, but what a success story it has been.

In Britain, we now spend nearly £250million pounds a year on toothbrushes. But what is interesting is that although new designs and materials have emerged over the years, the toothbrush has not changed all that much from the original one produced by William Addis over 200 years ago.

And at the end of the day, who cares what toothbrush Her Majesty uses - as long as she continues to keep up that smile. God Bless Her!

PP of DC



[Baptised 3 March 1844 - 11 July 1915]

Developer of Collingwood Hotel, Ilfracombe

With deep regret we announce the death of Miss Mary Jane Challacombe, of Lyncott, St Brannocks Road, Ilfracombe who passed away quite suddenly on Sunday."

That report was the Ilfracombe Chronicles farewell announcement of 17th July 1915 of a conspicuous figure in the business life of Ilfracombe.

It was with some sadness that I read of the demolition of the Collingwood Hotel in Januarys North Devon Journal, not because Id ever been in there, but it had a certain gracious style when I first knew it. Then Mary Jane Challacombes name emerged as the original owner, and I wanted to know more about this lady.

A phone call to Michael Challacombe, her great-great-nephew yielded not a lot! As he remarked, he never thought as a child to ask his grandfather about her.He knew that her parents had owned several farms at West Down during the Napoleonic Wars, and thought she might be buried in West Down Church graveyard. No such luck!On a cold wet miserable January day Alex and I scoured all graves in the church of St Calixtus [No Id not heard of him either, but he was Pope from AD 212 - 217 and then was martyred.]Anyway, our search was in vain and then Ilfracombe Museum came up trumps.Her grave was in Ilfracombes Parish Church and yes, I found it.She is buried with two of her aunts, Elizabeth and Mary Ann, as detailed on the now-weathered headstone.

But back to the beginning.Mary Jane Challacombe, second daughter of John and Ann Challacombe, was baptised in Holy Trinity Church on 3rd March 1844,Her father was listed as a Master Saddler, her mother a dairy woman.With the inheritance after her fathers death, she decided to go into property.Over the years she acquired what is now the Cider House in St Brannocks Road and built the properties on the other side of that road including Lyncott, home to the Challacombe family for many years.She had apartments at 2 Market Street, and then opened a boarding house at No 10.Around 1875, in an area called Mill Meadow [the remains of that mill has just been demolished with the hotel], a man from Newport, Monmouthshire built four terraced villas and called them

Collingwood Terrace, apparently after Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood who was Nelsons heroic second in command at the battle of Trafalgar.Three years later, Mary Jane leased the two central houses and opened them as boarding houses.Eventually she leased all four and bought numbers 2, 3 and 4.In 1889 she added a large rear extension for kitchen, dining and coffee room and more bedrooms.

The following year a new facade and extra floor were added and the Collingwood Hotel emerged as one of the best hotels in Ilfracombe. On the photo of the terrace you will see on the right bay windows at ground level and basement. Look at the photo of the hotel and ignoring the extension on the right you will see the same two bay windows, a rare part of the buildings remaining origins. The hotels main entrance was the surviving doorway of one of the original villas.Way ahead of her time, she owned the first motor car in Ilfracombe and had a garage built at the hotel for it.Having completed her project, three years later, Miss Challacombe retired. She was not interested in town affairs, but according to her obituary was an enthusiastic Liberal. She took a keen interest in the founding of the Liberal Club and was a diligent worker on the Womens Liberal Association.

She never married, it is said, because her husband would get all her money, but she had a live in male friend for many years. Could this be Dr. John Cornbill, who in the 1881 census was listed as Boarder, at 2 and 3 Collingwood Terrace, Surgeon not practising, and in the report of her death as an immediate mourner?He left a message, after a friendship of 40 years on her wreath.

It is thought this photograph is of Mary Jane Challacombe, but can anyone please confirm this?

By 1920 the Collingwood had grown to a first class hotel, boasting 120 bedrooms - only the Ilfracombe Holiday Hotel was larger with 250.Its iron fretwork was painted white not Victorian green or black - and successful years lay ahead.

Five generations later, Michael Challacombe with his wife Wilma, a much loved proprietor, ran the hotel for its last 40 years. They sold the hotel to Wetherspoons in 2007, a year before Wilma died. After surveys, Wetherspoons decided that the hotel must be pulled own as interior load-bearing walls had been knocked through over the years and the building was unsafe for reconstructing the interior.

Now after 5 years of haggling over what the replacement will contain, the grand old lady has been reduced to rubble, with many locals [including me!] photographing its demise. An Art-Deco building is planned, costing £4million. It will have 54 bedrooms and a restaurant and will be raised up to avoid flooding problems. Car parking will be to the rear. Perhaps, as the Collingwood was in its day, it will become one of the finest places to stay in Ilfracombe.

It would be good to think that Mary Jane Challacombe would approve, but at the least, she reserved a large plot that might otherwise have been built on, for a brand new 21st century hotel that according to District and Town Councillor Paul Crabb is a very important step forward in Ilfracombes on-going regeneration.

Thanks to Michael Challacombe and the Ilfracombe Museum for their information

PP of DC




[1823 - 1909]

Founder of the Company to become Shapland and Petter

[Baptised 1826 - 1907]

Joint owner of Shapland and Petter, manufacturers of Arts and Crafts style furniture

These two names are so much part of Barnstaple's history that I didn't think they should be separated.

As a comparative newcomer to North Devon [mid-1970's] I thought only of the large yellow brick building the far end of Barnstaple Bridge as Leaderflush Shapland, door makers and fitters. But what a mistake I made!

On a chance visit to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon to view photographs of Exmoor, I spotted a small display of fine furniture by this notable company, and wanted to know more about its founders.

HENRY SHAPLAND, born in 1823, was the son of William Shapland, bread baker of Queen Street, Barnstaple. Attending the Bluecoat School until he was 10 years old, he was later apprenticed to John Crook, a local cabinetmaker. After working for some time with Crook, he went to London where his older brother Richard worked as a printer, 'travelling by stage coach to Exeter, and then by train, as the railway did not reach Barnstaple until 1854.'*

In 1847 he married Betsy Sarah Narracott Life in London didn't work out and they moved back to Barnstaple. The next year he decided to try his luck in America where he found that modern machinery was being invented that cut out much of the preliminary work of sawing and planning. Here was born his philosophy of accepting innovations when they helped his trade, leaving more time for his specialist tradesmen to complete intricate work. He shared a room with an immigrant German engineer who had invented a 'wavey' moulding machine: it could produce finely carved mouldings on curved surfaces, thus saving a lot of time for the craftsman. But he was allowed to see it only if he left the country immediately! He made some hasty notes and returned home to Barnstaple.

In 1854, a married man with two children, he built a moulding machine and went into production in one room at the Raleigh Woollen Mill at Pilton. He described himself as an 'ornamental moulding maker employing one man'.* Before long he moved to Bear Street and visited London looking for custom from cabinetmakers.

About this time, HENRY PETTER joined him, bringing skills of accountancy and salesmanship. I have not been able to find his date of birth but he was baptised in August 1826. Another Barnstaple man, he moved to London as a partner in a publishing company, and then became part owner of the North Devon Journal before joining Henry Shapland.

In 1856, Shapland and Petter opened a shop in the High Street, selling pianofortes and other musical instruments - but this only lasted for two years. In 1864, they returned to the original woollen mill at Pilton, eventually using the whole site. Sadly, on 5th March 1888 the company suffered a catastrophe: the factory was completely destroyed by fire. All records, finished furniture, timber and workmen's tools were destroyed. A relief fund was quickly set up to support the employees who otherwise would have had to move to the workhouse for the destitute. Fortunately, the two Henrys had bought a new site: a shipbuilding yard at the end of the bridge known as Bridge Wharf. . Soon plans were underway for a new factory, using modern machinery from America - and the craftsmen got their jobs back. Every precaution was taken to ensure that never again would their factory be destroyed by fire. Concrete floors were laid, fire hydrants fitted and buckets of water sited on every floor. Iron bridges connected buildings. Even the staircases were built on the outside of walls.

The business continued to thrive during the 1890's - the factory was well sited for supplies of raw timber by sea and train. Shapland's son William and Petter's son Charles both entered the business and travelled the world buying materials and selling products.

During this time, the range of furniture had grown enormously. Chairs and tables of all sizes and shapes, bedroom furniture, bookcases, church altarpieces and carvings and shop fronts were all part of their skills. After the Great Exhibition of 1851 [the year Shapland started his wave mouldings], there followed the William Morris, Burn-Jones and Rosetti eras. The Arts and Crafts style became fashionable, and Shapland and Petter entered with enthusiasm, producing beautiful furniture of quality.

They opened a showroom in London near Liberty of London. A design team was established, led by a young Scotsman and ledger records show his annual salary as £321.13.4. This was well above the wage of most skilled cabinetmakers and as a comparison, the office boy got £15.8.0!

The two Henrys died within a couple of years of each other - Petter in 1907, Shapland in 1909. About this time, the Barnstaple Cabinet Company was formed and in 1924 was amalgamated with Shapland and Petter.

During World War I, the skilled craftsmen were occupied with turning out wooden propellers for the Royal Flying Corps. After the war, tastes in furniture changed and carved hand-made pieces were not the vogue. Nevertheless, even through the depression, the company continued working, producing made to order woodwork for banks [see the old Lloyds Bank, now Chamber's Brasserie], Tapeley Park, hotels and shop fronts and church fitments [see two chairs and a reading desk in Barnstaple Parish Church]. They also equipped British liners, Pullman carriages and The Guildhall.

During the Second World War, the factory produced shell cases, ammunition boxes and aircraft propellers for the Air Ministry and after the war, radio cabinets and contract furniture. Then doors and fitments became stock in trade and by 1978, 25% of its multi-million pound business was exported. In 1998, Shapland and Petter merged with Leaderflush, door manufacturers, and due to the recession, the factory closed in 2009.

For more than 150 years, 'Shappies' as the locals knew it, was the mainstay of Barnstaple's workforce. And it all happened because one Henry was a man of enterprise who early on recognised the importance of up-to-date machinery, and another Henry who provided the finance and commerce to the business.

* Quotes from Margaret Reed's 'Shapland and Petter of Barnstaple celebrating 150 years' booklet available from the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon Price £2

Grateful thanks also to Alison Mills, Museum Development Manager and Julian Vayne, Education Officer who kindly provided background information and photographs.

PP of DC



[Born 260/280; died 6 December 343]

Patron Saint of children, students, sailors and voyagers, innocent prisoners, cities [including Liverpool and Aberdeen] Russia and several European countries

If you have visited Turkey's southern shores, you may have been to Demre [formerly Myra] in Anatolia. This used to be part of Greece, was home to St Nicholas and where he became bishop of the church, without first practising as deacon or priest . . but more of that later.

People sometimes think that ancient saints are the stuff of legends and imagination, but St Nicholas was very much a real person.

He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents who lived under Greek rule in Asia Minor. Born towards the end of the 3rd Century in Patara, a village just 40 miles west of Demre, he had a good education and from his parents learnt to be kind to all people. Sadly they died from an epidemic whilst he was still young, and his uncle, an abbot, continued to bring him up.

How he became bishop of the Myra church may be a legend, but it is said that when the old bishop died, the church dignitaries met for several days to decide who should succeed him. Whilst praying, they heard a voice saying, "Elect as your bishop the first person to enter the church tomorrow". The elders stayed there all night and their prayers were answered, St Nicholas was that first person and in some bewilderment he became bishop. It may be that his uncle 'fast tracked' him through deaconry and priesthood, but certainly he never practised in either profession.

He was already much loved because of his kindness and generosity. When he was quite young, on the anniversary of Jesus's birth, he would don a brown hooded cassock and distribute golden apples, toys and food to children and the poor. For years no one knew who the giver was, until one night the village watchman caught a man in a brown cassock with a sack over his shoulder wandering stealthily around the streets. He was unmasked and St Nicholas, their bishop, was revealed. And so the tradition of Santa Claus began. He would have been startled to know what he had started.

The English of course still use Jesus's birthday to give gifts, although in certain parts of the country - Canterbury in particular - festivals are held on 6th December. This is the day that St Nicholas died and in many countries around the world it is the day of gift giving - leaving Christmas free to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

If you look up and then Around the World it is fascinating to read of different celebrations. I shall just pick on four:

In Belgium it is a season for children. In Flanders, St Nicholas [Sinterklaas] arrives in the evening of 5th December, in a sleigh pulled by a horse, so children put their shoes or a small basket by the hearth [he may come down the chimney!] or by the door together with hay, water, carrots or turnips and a sugar lump for the horse and a glass of wine for the saint. In the morning they will find saint-shaped biscuits, oranges, marzipan and toys. Treats are for sharing not hoarding. A naughty child [none in Belgium!] would receive twigs.

In Holland, that same evening is a celebration for the whole family. Here the fun is not the gift, but the surprise way of giving it. It may be hidden in a potato or sock, or be small in a huge parcel. The children wait with bated breath for a knock on the door. A black-gloved hand appears and tosses in candies, resulting in a scramble to gather up the treats. There is also a bag of gifts.

In Croatia, St Nicholas [Sveti Nikola] comes on 6th December. The night before children polish their shoes until they gleam then leave them on the windowsill. Good children's shoes are filled with sweets, fruit and presents; bad children get gold twigs - the naughtier they are the bigger the twig! Every child gets a twig as a warning!

Italy not only celebrates the 6th December when San Nikola piles plates with sweets and chocolates, but also celebrates the 1087 arrival of the remains of San Nikola in Bari. When the Turks conquered Asia Minor, Christians feared that they would no longer be able to go to Myra on pilgrimage to the tomb of San Nikola, so Italian sailors spirited away most of the relics. A huge church was built to house them in Bari, Puglia. They did not take all the bones, some are now displayed in Antalya Museum. The Turkish Government has been asking for many years for their return and although Italy has agreed, they are still in Bari.

Over the years, many stories and legends have been told about St Nicholas and his good deeds and miracles. One of these concerns the poor man with three daughters who needed dowries to marry. In no way could he afford this, yet on three separate occasions, a bag of gold was thrown through the open window and landed on shoes or stockings left to dry in front of the fire - hence the Christmas stockings! Other stories relate to his calming seas and blessing ships, providing food during famine in Myra, saving innocent children and many more good deeds.

If you go on holiday on this lovely coastline, it is well worth diverting to Demre. There is a beautiful bronze statue of St Nicholas with a bag of 'goodies' over his shoulder and children clustered around his legs.

When we saw the church some years ago, it was being excavated yet again. Built in the 6th Century, it was destroyed in the 7th and 9th, restored in the 11th until buried by sand and silt as the riverbed shifted. Russian Tsar Nikola sponsored its restoration in the mid-1800's but it was buried again by 1903. In the mid 1950's, Turkey realised that it had the beginnings of 'Santa Claus' fame and once again the church has been unearthed. It is now in a vulnerable position because it is several feet underground level. For many years in this Muslim country, a Christian service was allowed on 6th December. It was cancelled in 2002-2006, granted again in 2007 but in January 2008 the church was renamed the Father Christmas Museum [Noel Baba Mozes]. All is not lost, however. In December 2009 permission was granted to hold a service conducted by Russian Orthodox priests and this year on 22nd May a service was held to mark the movement of the relics to Bari.

It is interesting that in mainly Muslim Turkey the western idea of giving gifts has grown. St Nicholas still exerts an influence so many years after his death. One wonders how he would have reacted to giving a boost to Turkish tourism and the economy!

PP of DC




[17th September 1901 - 26th August 1972]

Aviator, Sailor and Businessman

Whilst writing about Rosalie Chichester last June, I mentioned Francis Chichester, a distant cousin and by her mother's second marriage, her step-nephew. To enable Rosalie and her widowed mother to run the estate at Arlington, her mother married [a Victorian marriage of convenience] a distant cousin of her late husband, Sir Arthur Chichester. Francis was his grandson. Got that?

Born in Shirwell, son of Rev. Charles Chichester - by some accounts an unloving father - he was sent to a residential boarding school at the tender age of six and finished his education at Marlborough College. When he was eighteen he emigrated to New Zealand where over ten hard-working years he built up a thriving business in real estate, forestry and air transport.

During this time he married Muriel Blakiston and they had a son, George in 1926. Muriel died 3 years later, and George died at the age of 41.

Hit by the global recession, Francis returned to England in 1929 and learnt to fly. He bought his first plane, Gypsy Moth, for apparently £650 and by the end of that year flew from Croydon to Sydney - only the second person to fly solo to Australia.

Two years later he converted Gypsy Moth into a seaplane by fitting her with floats and flew the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia. For this epic flight, he was awarded the first holder of the Johnson Memorial Trophy, which pleased him greatly. During this time, he devised a Navigational System that became standard procedure for Coastal Command during World War II.

From Australia he flew on to Japan, where he had an accident so serious that he nearly died. With careful nursing he recovered and in 1936 he flew back across Asia to England, carrying a passenger.

The following year he married Sheila Mary Craven and their son, Giles, was born in 1947. During the War he wrote instruction manuals for the Air Ministry and became Chief Navigation Instructor of the Empire Flying School. One of his skills was teaching pilots and navigators low flying without the use of maps.

At the end of the War, the day after he was demobbed from the Royal Air Force, he set up a map and guide publishing business, Francis Chichester Ltd. His first commercial project was turning 15,000 wartime Air Ministry maps into jigsaws and selling them to large shops. But he didn't lose touch with his navigational skills. Between 1953 and 1957 he took part in 16 ocean races in Gipsy Moth II [note the different spelling from his 'Gypsy' plane].

In 1958, however, he developed lung cancer, was advised to have a lung removed and given six months to live. His wife defied the medics and nursed him back to health, helped by prayer and nature's cure.

The next year, in Gipsy Moth III, he entered the Transatlantic Race 'to complete my cure', and in the following year won the first single-handed race Plymouth to New York.

His sailing expertise culminated in 1967 with his greatest glory: sailing solo around the world in 226 sailing days, stopping only in Sydney for a month. The day before he began his return journey, 28th January 1967, he was awarded a knighthood, later dubbed by the Queen who used the same sword as Queen Elizabeth I had used for Sir Francis Drake.

On his return to Plymouth [28th May 1967], thousands of small boats escorted him into Plymouth Sound. Hooters sounded, fire boats sprayed red, white and blue water, the Royal Artillery gave a 10-gun salute, his wife Sheila and son Giles joined him on board with two bottles of champagne, the Lord Mayor welcomed him home and a quarter of a million people cheered. That was quite a welcome! He was driven to the Guildhall and when at the press conference he was asked what he would most like to do now, he replied, "What I would like after 4 months of my own cooking is the best dinner from the best chef in the best surroundings and in the best company!"

On July 24th that year, the GPO issued a special Gipsy Moth IV postage stamp to commemorate his journey and on the 12th October, he was given the freedom of Barnstaple. Add to this his best sellers 'Gipsy Moth Circles the World' and 'The Lonely Sea and the Sky' as well as a host of awards, it added up to quite a year!

By 1971 he was again suffering from cancer, this time at the base of his spine. His spirit was such that he didn't give in and although needing frequent blood transfusions, he entered the 4th single-handed Atlantic yacht race but after a few days, however, had to admit defeat. His son, Giles and 3 volunteers from HMS Ark Royal were helicoptered out to him and sailed the yacht back to Plymouth. Sadly, a few weeks later, he died in Plymouth and is buried at Shirwell.

Over the last 40 years, his record of solo round the world voyages has been broken: Ellen MacArthur managed it in 2001 in 94 days, and in 2007 Francis Joyon, in his state of the art multi hulled vessel, got round in 571/2 days. These people deserve our respect, but it should be remembered that Francis Chichester did it first, without any of today's technology to help him, and when asked why he did it, he replied, "Because it intensifies life!" He was a true pioneer.

PP of DC

With grateful thanks to Giles Chichester for his CV of Sir Francis.



[August 26 1918* - 22 August 2010]

Author, Artist and individualist

* Hope Bourne claimed to have lost her birth certificate. The Exmoor Society guessed that she was born in 1920. Her obituary gives the above date.

It must take a lot of 'Moving and Shaking' to have one's obituary in the Daily Telegraph, yet a year ago, Hope Bourne achieved this accolade.

No doubt you have heard of her and may have read her four books about her beloved Exmoor: Living on Exmoor [1963], A Little History of Exmoor [1968], Wild Harvest [1978] and My Moorland Year [1993]. You may have followed, in the early 1970's, her 1,000 word weekly articles in the West Somerset Free Press. To fulfil this, every Friday she walked 31/2 miles into Withypool to collect her newspaper, bread and post, and to mail the next week's article. Then again, you may have read her contributions to The Exmoor Review! All her writings were in pencil, many of them illustrated by her own pen and ink drawings. She was also the subject of two TV documentaries: About Britain: Hope Bourne Alone on Exmoor [1978] and Hope Bourne - Woman of Exmoor [1981.

How did she find the time to achieve all this, bearing in mind that for over twenty years in the 1970's - 90's she was being self-sufficient in a leaky caravan on a derelict farm at Ferny Ball, about 4 miles from Withypool? As she put it: "It's a good life, but it's a tough life. You've got to be 100% physically fit to live as I do."

Can you imagine being marooned in this caravan during a 48-hour blizzard in the 1970's with flakes of snow drifting through the leaks? As she later recalled, 'At intervals I ventured out to clear snow away from the area around my door . . or I would be trapped. I did not go to sleep until I was sure the snow would not drift too high against the door before I woke again'. She also dug waist deep into snow to save 76 pregnant ewes and 20 head of cattle.

Hope lived a simple life. Her home was only 14' x 6'. It had 3 bunks, two of which she filled with books and slept on the third. The caravan was festooned with the skins, hooves and antlers of animals she had shot, gutted and eaten. She possessed an American .22 rifle and a 12-bore shotgun and with these she shot wood pigeons, deer, rabbit or hare. She also fished, gathered her own fuel, grew vegetables and kept bantams, but no dog, saying, "My meat supply is so irregular that it couldn't feed a dog. I can pull in my belt and live on potatoes when things get bad, but I couldn't expect that of a dog, and I couldn't afford to pay for pet food."

When times were good, she reckoned to eat about a pound of meat daily, some of which was none too fresh! Household chores were simple. A huge breakfast of meat and vegetables was cooked in, and eaten from, a frying pan. She had 3 mugs: one for tea, one for coffee and one for lemonade or water - so there was no washing up! Drinking water was from a nearby stream. I remember reading some years ago that she never washed vegetables - just cooked them straight from the ground, soil and all.

So apart from her writings, how did she support herself? Well, she helped farming friends in busy times, with lambing and winter feeding. In the 1950's-60's, her income was about £100 per year. She reckoned to save half of this, living on £5 a month, which was mainly spent on cartridges. Nevertheless, she had many friends and claimed to send out about 100 Christmas cards each year. Whilst wandering Exmoor, she would call in on friends and they would return her call. Also if she was in difficulties, she could always rely on some of them to help.

She did not spend her whole life on Exmoor. In the 1950's she enjoyed a year on a sheep farm in Australia and in the '70's stayed for three months with friends in Canada.

Hope Bourne was born in Oxford, but whilst young moved to Hartland where her widowed mother became the headmistress of Elmscott village school. She left school aged 14. An asthma sufferer, she lived with her mother, first in Devon and then from 1939 in the Cotswolds. Here she worked on the land, but missed Devon. When her mother died when Hope was in her 30's, she had to sell off the house to pay off debts and was left no home, few assets and no qualifications for working normally. So she returned to her first love - Exmoor.

Here she decided to become self-sufficient. She would get up at 5.00 a.m., write up her diary and then walk up to 20 miles a day, sketching or hunting for food. She never carried a map, trusting her 'homing instinct' if she got lost.

By the late '80's, friends persuaded her to have a telephone for emergencies, and then, as her asthma worsened, to move into a house in a community scheme in Withypool. Here she made little use of modern conveniences: she rarely used the electricity, never the central heating, slept on the floor of the living room in front of the open fire, and let her bantams use the rest of the house! She sold her guns and so had to buy meat from the local butcher and felt she had moved to a city where as she described them, 'Everyone looks so miserable!'

She loved Exmoor and felt that National Trust and National Parks hadn't always done the best for it - mainly by putting footpath signs everywhere and taking the responsibility away from people to think for themselves.

She once said, "I'm bloody-minded. My independence is the most important thing in the world to me: freedom and a vigorous outdoor life".

She was a remarkable lady who lived up to her beliefs. I'm afraid she wouldn't have approved of me - when on Exmoor, I like those footpath signs - and a map!

PP of DC




The Last Owner of Arlington Court

Don't despair, gentlemen, your time will come again! But after writing about Octavia Hill [Movers and Shakers 32] it seems appropriate to follow up with Miss Rosalie Chichester, the last owner of Arlington Court: a friend of Canon Rawnsley, one of the three founders of the National Trust.

If you have visited this house recently you will no doubt know that Miss Chichester was an avid collector: seashells, pewter, china, stamps, jade, model ships, stuffed animals [a picture hanging in the hall shows a stuffed kangaroo!] to mention a few. Indeed her last collection, which hadn't all arrived at her death, was a collection of models of the Dunkirk boats. But it is her many other skills that are also noteworthy.

Born in 1865, she was the only child of Sir Alexander Palmer Bruce, known as Sir Bruce, and Lady Rosalie Amelia Chichester. He had inherited the estate at the age of nine and died of brucellosis just short of his 39th birthday, having lived an extravagant life and leaving great debts.

Rosalie was just 16 when she became his heiress. At that time it was unheard of for two women to manage finances so two years later, her mother married for convenience a distant relative of her late husband,Sir Arthur Chichester of Youlston in Shirwell. They never lived together, but it gave mother and daughter credibility to run the estate.

Incidentally, one of the frequent questions asked at Arlington is: "Was Sir Francis Chichester, the round-the-world-yachtsman, a relative?" Yes, distantly and by that marriage - he was the grandson of Sir Arthur, but more of that in a later story!

The estate covered many acres of tenanted farmland plus large areas around Woolacombe where, in this small community, Rosalie and her mother ran a clothing club to provide clothing for the underprivileged. After her mother's death in 1908, and being friendly with Canon Rawnsley, one of the three founders of the National Trust, she passed over some of the Woolacombe land to them, keeping Parade House as a retreat. This was a favourite house and where she spent her final days. For those interested, the house is for sale at the moment! The family had also owned other parts of North Devon and land in Wales and London.

Miss Chichester looked after her staff very well and when she had paid off the last of the mortgages on the estate in 1928, according to a trusted and loyal member of staff: "We were given a great treat and sent to one of the shows at Barnstaple which were put on each year by the Operatic Company". Her tenant farmers and their families, the source of much of her income, were also well treated.

She was perhaps no beauty, but tall and very striking in appearance. Perhaps it is no surprise she never married as at a suitable age she was no catch, having serious financial difficulties, but she made up for this with her many interests and hobbies.

After her mother died she advertised in The Lady for a paid companion, and Clara Elizabeth Peters [ known as Chrissie] was engaged. They were compatible and shared the next 30 years together. Both enjoyed painting and many of their works are on display at the Court.

This talent was there from an early age: The current Explorer Room - a 'touchy feely' area - has sketches by her as a young girl. She also kept a diary and an excerpt in the latest guidebook tells in detail of a violent storm whilst cruising with her father at the age of 12. In later years, although writing a host of unpublished romantic novels, she contributed regularly to the Daily Sketch.

The two ladies enjoyed travelling and in 1921 went around the world by courtesy of Thomas Cook, calling at Australia and New Zealand, no mean thing for two women travelling alone! From this venture, she came back with the idea of a Wildlife Park for Arlington. There are still Jacob's sheep and Shetland ponies from the original stock.

No doubt Miss Chichester could enjoy a further skill on her travels: photography. She developed and printed her work in a basement darkroom at Arlington, and won awards including several from The Practical Photographer.

The one thing she and Chrissie didn't agree on, however, was choice of music. To Miss Chichester, brass bands were true music. Chrissie was an accomplished pianist - but her boss did not tolerate this! So when Miss Chichester went out, Chrissie would tinkle the ivories to the delight of the staff who would gather round to listen! She was on the local Conscription Panel for World War I and gave away her political stance by being a member of the Primrose League for over 40 years. The latter was founded when she was 18 and was dedicated to spreading Conservative principles throughout Britain.

Sadly no longer there, an observatory was built in the garden where she spent many happy hours following her interest in astronomy. Thepeacocks were allowed in the house and Polly, her parrot, now buried in the grounds at the front of the house, flew freely there for 40 years.

There are also two inventions she had patented: "A new or improved Device for Stitching or securing together pieces of flexible and other Material" and "An Improved Fastener for Windows" - both quite detailed engineering ideas. Then there was her woodcarving - a bookstand and photograph frame are still on view.

In the 1930's she decided to gift the house, contents and some 3,500 acre of land to the National Trust. It had been her family's home for many centuries and she didn't want the house or grounds developed or broken up.

For the final ten years of her life after Chrissie's death in 1939, her life became very lonely. Chrissie is buried in the church under her true name: Clara Elizabeth Peters; Miss Chichester's ashes lie in a memorial urn overlooking the lake, one of her favourite spots.

It is difficult to give all the details of this remarkable lady, a woman ahead of her time, in a small space, but if it has encouraged you to pay your first or another visit to her lovely home, it will have achieved something.

* My grateful thanks to Dave Gibbons [House Steward at Arlington Court] for checking facts, and to our Ed for giving many of them in the first place!

PP of DC



[3rd December 1838 - 13th August 1912]

Social Reformer and Co-founder of National Trust

The women Movers and Shakers are taking over . . . here is a Victorian philanthropist who, amongst other works, helped found the National Trust in 1895. The other founders were Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, but this is Octavia Hill's story.

She was born in Wisbech Cambridgeshire, the eighth daughter [hence her name] of James Hill, a corn merchant and banker, and his third wife Caroline. He had been widowed twice and had 5 daughters and a son by these marriages. Impressed by Caroline's writings on education, in 1832 he engaged her as governess to his children [shades of Baron von Trapp!] and married her in 1835. Both were committed to helping people in poverty. Octavia knew about that, as two years after her birth, the family's comfortable life ended with James being made bankrupt and then suffering mental problems.

Octavia had no formal education, her mother teaching her at home, and at the age of 13, a cooperative guild offering employment to 'distressed gentlewomen' accepted her for training as a glass-painter. The guild then expanded to offer toy-making for poor children. Octavia must have been very bright because a year later, at the age of 14, she was invited to take charge of the workroom. Through her work, she discovered the dreadful living standards of her poor students. A year later, in her spare time, she helped John Ruskin in Dulwich Art Gallery and the National Gallery and shortly afterwards, began her charity work.

One of her ideas, backed by John Ruskin, was affordable housing for the working classes. She didn't agree with council housing, feeling that it was too impersonal. Octavia was determined to find better homes for her students and through Ruskin, became the landlord of 3 cottages in Marylebone, each with 6 rooms. These needed a lot of work, but when finished they were rented to poor tenants. Ruskin wanted a fair return for his money, which she successfully achieved. She was put in charge of 5 more. With careful management, by 1874 she and her staff had 15 housing schemes and 3000 tenants to look after. She was a firm believer in self-reliance and she and her staff knew all their tenants, encouraging them to try to improve their lot. As a basis of her successful operation, only women were employed to collect rents weekly, when a detailed check was made of the premises. The collectors acted as early social workers. An American admirer put it that she was 'ruling over a little kingdom of three thousand loving subjects with an iron sceptre twined with roses'.

In appearance she was, as her friend wrote 'small in stature with long body and short legs. She did not dress, she only wore clothes, which were often unnecessarily unbecoming; she had soft and abundant hair and regular features, but the beauty of her face lay in brown and very luminous eyes . . . her mouth was large and mobile but not improved by laughter . . . Miss Octavia was nicest when she was made passionate by her earnestness.'

One thing that Octavia felt very strongly about was that her tenants should have access to open spaces. She believed in 'the life-enhancing virtues of pure earth, clean air and blue sky'. She was instrumental in saving Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields from being built upon, and the first person to use the words 'Green Belt'. In 1883 she helped fight a campaign to stop the building of railway tracks from quarries overlooking Buttermere in the Lake District [High Speed Train objectors please note!]. The leader of this campaign was Canon Hardwick Rawnsley, an Anglican clergyman in the Lake District, who was not only a conservationist, but also the most prolific writer of sonnets and composer of hymns. He recruited Octavia and Sir Robert Hunter, solicitor to the Commons Preservation Society and Octavia's legal adviser in her work protecting open spaces in London. All were concerned about the lack of control over development and industry around the country and in 1885 they founded the National Trust. This was to ' . . act as a guardian for the nation in acquisition and protection of threatened coastline, countryside and buildings'.

In 1907, Parliament passed its first National Trust act, giving the trust powers to protect properties for the benefit 'for ever, for everyone' - now its motto. Since their first acquisition of Dinas Oleu coastline in Wales in 1895, the Trust to date now cares for approximately 612,000 acres of beautiful countryside in Britain, plus 709 miles of coastline, 215 houses and gardens, 40 castles, 12 lighthouses and 43 pubs and inns! All this is completely independent of the government. Their finances rely solely on the generosity of its over 3.5 million subscribers and other supporters. So when next at Arlington Court, Dunster Castle, Killerton, Knightshayes Court, Castle Drogo or further afield remember that our annual subscription really counts!

Although living through the beginning part of the 20th century, Octavia Hill made it clear that she was against Female Suffrage, saying, 'Men and women help one another because they are different, have different gifts and different spheres'. She never married, although she had a short-lived romance with Sir Edward Bond, a famous English librarian.

She died of cancer at her home in Marylebone on the 13th August 1912 aged 73, and although famous in her day, has been largely forgotten until recently. For the National Trust's centenary celebration, a beautiful pink rose was named after her.

To highlight all her work would need several volumes, but hopefully this has given some idea of a very remarkable lady.

Oh! If you find yourself in Wisbech, it would be worth spending some time at her Birthplace House, a handsome Georgian house overlooking the River Nene. Part of it was bought in 1994 and opened as a museum. In 2007, National Trust bought the rest of the house, expanding the museum, and adding an education centre and tearoom. This opened for the first time on 16th March this year.

PP of DC



[12th March 1913 - 28th December 2010]

The real oldest daughter of Baron Georg von Trapp

I had in mind to write about yet another male 'Mover and Shaker' when it was whispered to me, "What about the Wimmin?" What justified criticism! I had notes in my file of three noteworthy females - and then I read the obituary of Agathe von Trapp - just after the annual Christmas showing of 'The Sound of Music' [first seen in 1965]. So she's the one for this newsletter.

Better known as Liesl [played by Charmian Carr] in the film, she was born on 12th March 1913 in Pola, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her mother, also Agathe, bore seven of the Baron's children, but died in 1922 of scarlet fever caught from Agathe. The family was so devastated by her death that they sold up in Pola and moved to an estate in Salzburg.

The Sound of Music was based loosely on the first part of a book written by Agathe's step-mother, Maria, published in 1949, and entitled The Story of the Family von Trapp Singers.

Maria Augusta Kutschera joined the family in 1926 from nearby Nonnberg Abbey as tutor to one of Baron von Trapp's sick children, who had been too ill to go to school. Her contract was for ten months. She and the children got on so well, that she was asked to stay as governess to them all. Georg then fell in love with her, asked her to marry him and be a mother to his children. She hesitated because she liked him but didn't love him and was also reluctant to give up her religious calling. However, she loved the children and the nuns advised her to do God's will and marry him. Later, in her autobiography, she confessed that having married him for the children, she 'learned to love him more than [I have] ever loved before or after'. They married in1927 and had three children.





Maria was not the pretty and kind mother portrayed by Julie Andrews. She had a very forceful personality, although caring and loving, she could fly into rages, throw things and slam doors - very unsettling for her family, particularly her husband. Fortunately, as her eldest step-daughter said: "She had a terrible temper . . . we were not used to this. But we took it like a thunderstorm that would pass, because the next minute she could be very nice."

In case you think that her husband was like Christopher Plummer, when the film was first seen by Agathe, she burst into tears because of the way he had been portrayed as a strict and distant disciplinarian, although she admitted that if the film had been about another family, she would have enjoyed it. In an attempt to put things right, she dedicated a book to her father, called 'Memories before and after the Sound of Music', which was published in 2004. He was shown as a gentle, warm-hearted parent who enjoyed musical activities with his children. Born in1880 in Zadar [now Croatia], he was a hero in the Austrian Navy during World War I, commanding submarines with great bravado. He gained the title 'Ritter' [equal to a baronetcy or Sir, but translated as Baron]. After the war, Austria lost all its seaports and he retired. Zadar became part of Italy, so he and his family became Italian citizens.

During the mid '30's, they lost most of their money following the world depression when their bank failed. To cope, Maria dismissed most of their servants and took in lodgers. The family had always sung as a hobby and now considered singing as a profession. The Baron was dubious, feeling it was below their dignity. However, they did sing and they did win the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936, achieving fame singing Renaissance and Baroque music, madrigals and folk songs around Europe. Max, their pushy manager in the film, didn't exist. Their priest, Rev Franz Wasner was their musical conductor for more than 20 years. In 1938, the Nazis annexed Austria, which Georg hated, and he could foresee trouble. Refusing to fly the Nazi flag on his house, he declined a revival of his naval career, greater fame with the family's singing group, a medical post for his son Rupert, and a request to sing at Hitler's birthday party. It was time to leave! They left behind all their possessions, friends and the estate. But they didn't go as the film showed, over the mountains to Switzerland carrying their musical instruments and cases. Instead they left with no secrecy by train to Italy. Having been offered a contract to sing in the United States, they contacted the authorities for their fares, arriving in London in summer 1938 and New York in September for a concert tour of Pennsylvania.

Georg and Maria's last child, Johannes, was born the next year. After their 6-month visa expired, they did a tour in Scandinavia, returning to New York in October 1939. They were held in immigration on Ellis Island, because when asked how long they were staying, Maria exclaimed, "Oh I am so glad to be here - I never want to leave again!" They were released after a few days.

In the early 1940's they bought a farm in Stowe, Vermont. When not touring, they held music camps. In 1944, Maria, Agathe and four other step-daughters applied for US citizenship. Georg never did. They achieved it in 1948. Baron von Trapp died in 1947. His two sons from his first marriage were naturalised whilst serving during World War II and the two girls derived citizenship from their mother. The last boy, Johannes, was born in the US.

Enough of the family. What of Agathe? The singing troupe continued until1956 by which time Agathe was 43. Later she declared that until then she had never been independent, had never made a 'phone call nor written a cheque. So how did she cope?

According to her brother Johannes, "She was a very private person and also a talented sketch artist." She established a kindergarten near the family home, but in 1958 moved to Baltimore with a friend, Mary Louise Kane, with whom she lived for the rest of her life. Here they opened a Catholic Kindergarten where Agathe taught music, art and German. The two of them ran it until 1993. In 1980 she began researching her family history, travelling to Europe and collecting a vast amount of maps, illustrations and photographs. The genealogy was completed in 2000 and this information was used in her book mentioned earlier, Memories Before and After the Sound of Music.

She died at the end of last month at the age of 97 and will be buried in the spring at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. One of her siblings and her half-siblings, Eleanore, Rosemarie and Johannes survive her.

After they left the Salzburg family home in 1938, it was occupied by Hein rich Himmler, head of Nazi security, until1945 and was then bought by a missionary order. They agreed to sell it for use as a hotel. There was much dissent from the locals, who thought it would ruin this elite part of Salzburg and originally planners rejected it.

Now, if you look up Villa Trapp on Google, you can 'sleep in the family's rooms' [even the Baron's suite] in this villa 'maintained in the style of the period' [1923- 38].

The family, incidentally, didn't gain much from the huge profits of the film. Maria sold the film rights to German producers who made two films, one in 1956, 'Die Trapp Familie' and two years later, 'Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika'. The German producers sold the rights to America and the family had very little say in either the play or film of The Sound of Music. So be it!

PP of DC



[23 June 1925 - 15 May 2010]

Businessman and Inventor of Automated Teller Machines [ATMs]

When, with Christmas breathing down our necks, you next push your plastic card into a 'hole-in-the-wall', try and spare a thought for the man who invented it.

His name was John Shepherd-Barron, a businessman with great entrepreneurial skills.

He was born of Scottish parents in India in 1925. He studied in Edinburgh and Cambridge before joining De La Rue, stationers and currency printers, as a management trainee. Some of the ideas he developed were:

However, his greatest invention, which totally changed the ways that banks work, was that of the Automated Teller Machines [ATM], popularly known as 'hole-in-the wall'.

In 1965 John Shepherd-Barron was lying in his bath on a Saturday, fuming that he had arrived at his bank one minute late and the doors had closed. He always drew money on a Saturday - except this one! And then an idea came into his head. He thought of chocolate vending machines: when money was put into a slot, a chocolate bar appeared. Why not the same for banknotes?

Later that year, he met by chance the chief general manager of Barclays Bank. Over a pink gin he asked for 90 seconds of the Manager's time.

"I told him I had an idea that if you put your standard Barclays cheque through a slot in the side of the bank, it would deliver a standard amount of money," he said. "Come and see me on Monday morning" the Manager replied.

As a result, Shepherd-Barron [then Managing Director of De La Rue], won a contract to build six cash dispensers. The first opened in Enfield on 27th June 1967. Reg Varney, star of 'On the Buses', was the first customer and a blue plaque marking the occasion is still there.

The original machines didn't use plastic cards, but slightly radioactive cheques, which the machines could read. Although Health and Safety would no doubt veto them today, Shepherd-Barron reckoned that someone would have to eat 136,000 cheques to come to any harm!

Initially, you could get no more than £10 from the machines, "Quite enough for a wild weekend," Shepherd-Barron remarked. [And this was the raging sixties?] They also used a six-digit code because he could remember his Army number. His wife Caroline persuaded him to reduce the identification numbers. "Over the kitchen table, she said she could only remember 4 figures, so because of her, 4 figures became the world standard," he said, and I for one am very grateful!

He never made any money out of his great invention. On the advice of his lawyers, it wasn't patented as to do so would involve giving out information on the coding system which could have enabled criminals to break into the system.

However, he did get an OBE in 2005 for services to banking - 40 years later.

Today it is estimated that there are 1.8million ATM's worldwide, from the island of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. They are used about 5,500 times per minute in the UK, dishing out £6,000 per second or £10 billion per month!

John Shepherd-Barron died in May this year at the age of 84, having spent much of his later years on his Scottish estate. He was always very modest about his invention and wasn't the only one to develop cash dispensers - but he was the very first.

By the way, I read in the newspaper whilst writing this that £5 notes are going to reappear in the cash machines by next April. Is this due to recession, I wonder?

PP of DC



'Twas the week before Christmas - seven days before, to be exact - eight years ago. The sun was bidding its late-afternoon farewell, knowing that in a few days' time it would once more begin its daylight increase upon the northern hemisphere, having passed the winter solstice.

Just before dipping out of sight, its red ball shot up a handful of stark burning rays which tinged the low crimson clouds sweeping across the sky at a menacing pace. The clouds in turn deflected the rays, transforming the fields a dusky pink. The biting wind whipped through the naked trees and hedgerows, its force increasing with each gust. Birds fluttered from branch to branch in a desperate attempt to seek refuge. The landscape looked eerie. Nature seemed angry. Moreover, the skies appeared ominous.

I was due to drive to South Molton later that evening. My instincts told me not to go. I wish I had followed them. To quote from Simon and Sue's Weather or Not report:

Between about 11.00am on the 18th [December] and 8.00am on the 19th we recorded 46mm [1 3/4"] of rain, of which 43mm [1 5/8"] fell after 7.00pm. This was the night that Braunton flooded.

Leaving South Molton around 10.30pm to head back home, I had no idea of the journey that lay ahead of me. It was as though Ilfracombe would remain beyond my reach. Already falling heavily when I turned onto the A361, the pelting rain grew stronger with every mile. By the time I reached Barnstaple my vision was down to yards and was the reason I failed to see the deep pool of water that had collected across the Braunton-bound dual carriageway at Ashford.

Relieved to have driven through it without coming to a standstill, I continued at a safe snail's pace - but then came to an abrupt halt at Chivenor roundabout when I met a string of barriers and a sign, reading 'ROAD AHEAD CLOSED'. I could only guess at who had placed them there. The area was deserted.

In fact the last sign of life I had seen had been a line of car lights winding their way up the lane to Ashford from the other side of the dual carriageway. Plan B was, therefore, to head back to Ashford and follow their diversion.

By the time I reached the lane, however, cars were reversing back down it. This route had obviously also become impassable. The Muddiford road seemed the next best option. So, leaving the lights of Barnstaple behind me I headed off into the blackness of the night.

The rain fell even harder. Waves of loneliness and insecurity swept across me. To counteract these feelings, I turned up the radio so that the presenter could be clearly heard above the thud of the rain upon my car's roof. At Muddiford my worst fears were met. The river had broken its banks, completely flooding the road. Would I ever get home? I sat for a moment and tried to think of another route. The A39 perhaps? It would be a long way round, but maybe, just maybe, it would enable me to get back to Ilfracombe.

As it happened, my journey along the A39 would lead me to regret, for a short while at least, ever having moved away from the city lights to the countryside. Until, that was, exactly one week later when a natural flood disaster on the other side of the planet would put into context the events of that night. But I will leave that until next time.

For now, I will wish you a peaceful Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Stephen McCarthy



[13th March 1851- 9th June 1910]

Publisher and Philanthropist

As I approached the Town Hall in Lynton on my way to Hollerday Hill, George Newnes was not on my mind - until I saw the previously unnoticed bust of him in an arch to the left. Looking closer I saw that it has been there since 2000.

Intrigued, I popped in to the Tourist Information Centre to see if there were any leaflets. There I met a very pleasant man, Colin Croxford who has published 'A Shortish Guide' for Lynton and Lynmouth that is on sale there.

"What do you want to know about him?", he asked. With no notepaper, but an attentive husband, I listened intently for at least 15 minutes whilst he talked about the life of this great man, who gave to Lynton its magnificent Town Hall, the nearby Congregational Church, the cricket pavilion and much more. The gradient between Lynton and Lynmouth had always been a 'put-off' for visitors and difficult for locals, so he used the recently patented invention by a local engineer to build the water powered cliff railway, which cost £8,000 and was opened in 1890. Largely due to his efforts, the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway was opened in 1898, but if you've read the delightful 'Lynton and Barnstaple Railway - an Anthology' by David Hudson, you will find that the 19 mile journey took '1hour 32 minutes' and went so slowly that up hills, some passengers alighted, picked flowers and re-boarded at the hilltop! It had a narrow 1' 11 1/2" gauge [the same as the Ffestiniog line] as against the standard 4' 8 1/2" of standard rails. George Newnes was thought to be very altruistic with this railway, but when he linked it not to Minehead but to Barnstaple and cut it short 700 feet above sea level, it avoided a viaduct across the valley that would have spoilt the views. Perhaps he wanted to keep 'Little Switzerland' for the wealthier visitors!

But his philanthropy also gave his hometown an electric tramway, finance for an Antarctic expedition and generous donations to the Salvation Army.

George Newnes was born in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire in 1851, the son of a Congregational Minister, who hoped that George would follow him into his profession. Not so! After a good education, in 1867 he worked as a Manchester haberdasher, selling 'fancie goods'. Always a man with ideas, he launched Tit-Bits, a weekly penny magazine that contained snippets of information and advice, and short stories. This was a success because general education was improving and more people had leisure for reading and entertainment. Later he added competitions, which was a publishing novelty. To get the money for Tit-Bits, he opened up a cellar vegetarian restaurant [a bit before his time, and even more surprising in that he was not vegetarian!] and it was such a success that he had enough money after just six weeks of trading to start publishing.

Eight years later, he met and married Priscilla Hillyard and together they produced two sons, Frank and Arthur.

They moved to London, where he started The Strand Magazine, and gave Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a close friend, the chance to launch his Sherlock Holmes series. There followed Country Life and many other titles, each one adding to his success. By 1891, his business became a company, George Newnes Ltd. and by 1897 it had expanded with capital of a million pounds and had begun publishing books.

In 1885 Newnes became MP for Newmarket, and ten years later was awarded a baronetcy.

Over the years, he brought his family to North Devon for holidays, and fell in love with Lynton and Lynmouth. He bought Hollerday Hill and built a magnificent Manor House overlooking the sea. He landscaped the surrounds with many shrubs and trees, and created a tennis court behind the house. For his older son Frank's 21st birthday, the house was garlanded with 2,000 fairy lights.

Hollerday House c1907 - from the Tom Bartlett Postcard Collection

Sadly, his younger son, Arthur, died suddenly of a brain fever aged 6. The shock to George was so great that his fair hair went white - he was 40. The only way he survived was by working with even greater determination. However, by1908, his business was failing. He had fought diabetes for some years, and had taken to drink. He died two years later at Hollerday House, a broken man with heavy debts, aged 59.

After his death, the family were aghast at these debts and put Hollerday House on the market. It lay empty for 3 years and was then deliberately set on fire. Originally this was blamed on Suffragettes, but some locals believed that local folk did it in the hope that insurance money would pay off local debts. If so, they were wrong!

The ruins became a play area for local children but then during World War II, marines from Chivenor were allowed to use it for battle practice. No wonder that only a few foundation stones are left!

If you've not been, it's well worth the climb to see the site and views. To get there, from the front of the Town Hall, take the hill to the right and just before The Honey Pot, a narrow steep track on the right leads to it. The official, gentler approach [originally the main drive] is 200 yards further on to the right. On the site, you can read on information boards all about the house and the Daily Mirror report of the fire. It's also worth diverting to the tennis court - still grassed with not even a sapling to spoil it. One can almost hear the racquet thwacking the tennis ball.

So there is the story of a great man who died one hundred years ago, but whose memory lingers in these twin towns. With his philanthropic ideas, he helped Lynton and Lynmouth develop into one of the most popular and elegant resorts on the North Devon coast.

PP of DC

Grateful thanks to Colin Croxford and Lynton Tourist information Centre for their help, and Alex for remembering the bits I didn't! A useful book [see] was The Life of Sir George Newnes Bart, by Hulda Friederichs, published in 1911



[10th October 1909 - 22nd April 2000]

Market Gardener, Nurseryman and Pioneer of British Blueberries

Blueberry Pie according to our American cousins is THE ultimate pudding [think of mother's apple pie!]. We British never saw them before 1960 - and then only a few did! Now that has all changed, because of the enterprise of the Trehane family, and blueberries are now in every supermarket, let alone our own village shop. They are available all year round: May onwards is covered by Spain, Portugal and Italy; then France puts in an oar followed by Holland, Britain and Poland. Our English crop is available from July to September. From October to April, the southern hemisphere takes over: Argentina, Chile, and increasingly, Australia and South Africa.

Wild blueberries had been gathered by Native Americans for centuries: juice was used to relieve coughs - and as an excellent dye for cloth and baskets; dried blueberries were added to soups and stews and also crushed and rubbed into meat for flavour; tea made from the leaves was thought to be good for the blood. When the Pilgrims from Plymouth were finding it hard to survive, their neighbours, the Wampanoag Indians, taught them how to grow corn and how to gather native plants to supplement their food. One of these was blueberries!

Our year-round berries were originally cultivated from the wild in New Jersey by Elizabeth White, whose family owned a cranberry farm. She could see the commercial potential of the wild blueberries in the surrounding woods and also realised that those picked from different patches had variations in size, taste and shape. She didn't have the expertise to hybridise these but knew a man who did, Dr Frederick Colville, a United States Department of Agriculture botanist who had published papers on experiments with blueberries. And so, with a team of eight trusted workers who marked bushes with what they thought had the biggest and best-flavoured berries [and were paid $2 for each bush selected,] a new industry came into being.

So how did blueberries travel from America to Britain? Well, it's all down to David Trehane. Now, until a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, I confess I'd never heard of him, nor of The Dorset Blueberry Farm, but having spoken to his daughter Jennifer who wrote the article, and son Jeremy, who has added a successful PYO to the enterprise, I have not only bought two plants from them [Berrynarbor blueberries in our shop next year?!!] but can write with some confidence about this extraordinary entrepreneur and pioneer, who brought us not only blueberries, but also celeriac, aubergines and peppers. In the early 1960's he became increasingly interested in camellias. He collected them from America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan - but that's another story!

David Trehane was born at Charlton just outside Shaftsbury on 10th October 1908. His father was the first member of his family to become a farmer, the family business until then being wine importing. David got his degree in horticulture at a very early age, having gone to Reading University at just 16. There he met Joan Whitehouse, who he finally persuaded to marry him! He found a post in Berkshire, but when his father needed him to help with fruit and vegetables, he went and had to wait another 20 years to get back to his real love - shrubs.

By then, he was farming 120 acres as a market garden, selling to shops in the Bournemouth area, but was always looking for new ideas. In 1951, he saw an advert in a horticultural magazine, The Grower, placed by Dr Suckling of Lulu Island, British Columbia, offering 80 blueberry plants free as a "cheer-you-up-after-the-war" gift. He was one of only four to take up the idea, and the only one to continue to grow them commercially. All it cost was carriage of £1.2s.6d [now £1 12 1/2 p], or as the minister of Agriculture and Fisheries wrote "a few shillings either way"! These plants took well in the free-draining acidic soil of Dorset and a few years later, in 1957, a decision was made to grow them commercially. A thousand plants arrived on the Queen Mary and David and his daughter, Jennifer, planted this pioneer crop. The first harvest was in 1960 and a year later, the crop was sold to high-class grocers at very high prices. Each punnet had a little recipe book attached to show customers what to do with them.

In 1968 David Trehane retired to Cornwall, handing over management to Jeremy, his son, who expanded the blueberry-growing area to 8 acres. Now, David's grandson, supported by Jennifer, has taken over the mantle of responsibility, and expanded the plantation to 30 acres. The target over the next 5 years is for a harvest of 150 tonnes per year.

The family's entrepreneurial skills have also continued. In 2000, the estate suffered a vicious 3-minute hailstorm just before harvest, resulting in a reduction in quality of 60% of the crop. Some would have thrown the damaged fruit on the ground at harvest time, but not the Trehanes! They turned the fruit into pies, cookies, cakes, jams and juice, and used Farmers Markets to sell their "spoils", which they continue to do every weekend along the south coast.

David Trehane died on 22nd April 2000 aged 91. The results of his life's work continue for all of us to enjoy, and for his family to continue to develop.

I am grateful to Jennifer and Jeremy Trehane for all their helpful information. If you would like more advice or information on blueberries, go to Plants are available all year round.

PP of DC

PS. Why not pick up a leaflet in our shop on recipes for blueberries?



[19th August 1936 - 6th April 2010]

Co-founder of B&Q DIY Stores

Many a time I have stood in the queue at B&Q on a Wednesday, just one of the hoard of grey heads waiting for their 10% discount, and never thought of how the company got its name. So it came as a shock to read in David Quayle's obituary, that he was 'Q' - not to be confused with 007!

Nowadays, the idea of selling all home improvement materials under one huge roof is commonplace, but before 'Q', any amateur had to trail round builders' merchants and hardware stores - slowly - trying to find what he or she wanted. When Quayle was working for Marley Tiles in Belgium, he visited a hypermarket where there was a section of DIY goods. "This would work in the UK", he declared. He persuaded his brother-in-law, Richard Block, to join him - and he of course became 'B'.

Their first outlet was a 'minimarket' using the back of a Triumph Herald and a Mini Clubman. This was in 1968, and it worked. Later that year, they spotted a 3,000 sq foot former cinema in Southampton, borrowed money from the bank and started fitting it out themselves. It opened on 5th March1969. They named it Block and Quayle, but soon changed it to B&Q when suppliers abbreviated it on invoices.

They worked extremely hard. Their families operated the tills, whilst they filled shelves, unloaded stock and served customers. Working a 66-hour week they paid themselves only £90 per month but the result was that they had paid off their overdraft in 6 months. Within 5 years they had opened a second store and their turnover was over £1 million.

David Quayle was the son of a RAF wing commander, and his childhood was spent in RAF camps in UK and Germany. His entrepreneurial skills emerged at an early age, when he sold chewing gum and comics to his school friends. [How often one reads of a successful entrepreneur starting off young by supplying tuck to his mates!] An art course followed, which he didn't complete, during which he sold paints and brushes to his fellow students. During his National Service, he gained a reputation for undercutting NAAFI prices. I bet we could find Eskimos who bought freezers from B&Q!

The two partners had very different temperaments. Quayle had the ideas and was the real salesman, whilst Block was steady and ran the day-to-day operations. The men gradually drifted apart and in 1976, when there were 13 stores, Block severed his interest in B&Q and settled for a mere £400,000. He concentrated on disastrous experiments growing tomatoes in the Channel Islands and lost most of his money. Quayle on the other hand continued to develop his 'empire'. In four more years, his 37 stores sold to Woolworths for £16.8 million, and he made £4 million for himself.

He remained as a director until 1982, after which he became deputy chairman of Television South for 3 years. His next enterprise was investing in Cityvision. The chain grew to over 600 stores in the UK whilst he was chairman, and it became the second largest video rental business in the world. In 3 years, profits grew from £40,000 to £16 million. Later the company was bought by Blockbuster. He then became chairman of Granada Leisure, looking after theme parks, motorway service stations and other interests.

In the early 1990's he reverted to his first interest - love of painting - and embarked on a two-year art course in Chelsea. Whilst doing this, he realised that modern art was popular but had few marketplaces. Drawing on his experience with B&Q, he created from a disused church a huge gallery in Hampshire, with special offers to tempt visitors. He named it after his mother: Beatrice Royal Contemporary Art Gallery.

A well-known philanthropist, he set up the Tramman Trust from some of the profits from B&Q. This helped many small causes, including projects to improve the lives of needy children from inner cities. He also backed West End musicals including Starlight Express.

When Quayle and Block met in 1998 to pose for photographs for the opening of the 285th B&Q store, they confessed that although they each bought with their discount card from B&Q, neither of them were any good at DIY - which they reckoned had helped them understand the needs of their clients!

David Quayle loved to travel, particularly cruising, but sadly his trip on the Aurora in April this year was his last. He suffered a suspected heart attack and died. His first marriage, during which he had two sons and a daughter, was dissolved. From his second marriage he had a son and two stepdaughters, between them they have produced 12 grandchildren.

Watching 'Location, Location, Location' on TV last night, I caught a bit of the B&Q advert: '. . three little words: B&Q'. Maybe, but it came about through five large words: ONE BIG, BIG MAN'S ENTERPRISE!

PP of DC



[14th February 1793 - 28th February 1875]

Surgeon, chemist, pianist, lecturer, consultant, architect, builder, scientist, inventor

Going through my files a couple of days ago checking for whom I might write about next, I came across the Rev. Robert Stephen Hawker from Morwenstow, a slightly 'dotty'' vicar who dreamt up Harvest Festivals and wore eccentric clothing. But this rang a bell.

At the end of 2008 I had copious notes on Stephen Hawker, to which I added an article from last August's Travel Telegraph 'Tales from Cornwall's wild side'. I remembered receiving an e-mail from John Fryer Spedding thanking me for sending the article about him [December 2008]. In it he commented on being deputy chairman of the Tennyson Society and had studied Stephen Hawker and how nice it was to see such lovely photos of his Vicarage and Hut in that same newsletter. That's where I'd heard of him! Checking back there was a delightful article about Hawker in Walk 111 - and with the same photos I'd saved. [great minds, etc!]

About to throw away my notes, I realised that there was someone else in the Cornish Tales article: Sir Goldsworthy Gurney. Blessed with a name like that, he might be interesting - and so it proved.

Goldsworthy Gurney was born in the village of Treator near Padstow on St. Valentine's day 1793. His unusual Christian name came from his godmother who was a maid of honour to Queen Charlotte. The Gurney family's lineage could be traced back to arriving in Britain with William the Conqueror.

Goldsworthy attended Truro Grammar School before studying medicine, inheriting a medical practice in Wadebridge when he was twenty. They trained them quickly in those days! There he met Elizabeth Symons and married her in 1814. Their daughter Anna Kane was born the following year.

In 1820 he moved his family to London to 'seek his fortune'. Their son Goldsworthy John was born in 1822. Whilst still practising as a surgeon, he followed his interests in chemistry and mechanical science. His great skill was to put scientific thought on to paper and into lectures. So medicine gave way to lecturing in chemistry and natural philosophy at the Surrey Institution where he was appointed Lecturer in 1822.

Whilst there, he invented the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe, a system for producing a very hot flame from a jet of oxygen and hydrogen. After experimenting with various substances, he discovered that a brilliant light could be produced when the flame was played on to a piece of lime. This was limelight, which was so intense that it could be spotted many miles away.

He invented a high pressure steam-jet or blast-pipe. This increased the draw of air through pipes and could be used to improve mine and sewerage ventilation. It could also put out underground fires. In contrast to scientific workings and inventions, Gurney was an accomplished pianist and even constructed his own piano.

At an early age he had met his fellow Cornishman Richard Trevithick, the pioneer of steam railways. Inspired by this meeting, Gurney later went on to develop steam-power for, as his patent read 'propelling carriages on common roads or railways - without the aid of horses, with sufficient speed for the carriage of passengers and goods'. An 'embryo' carriage travelled from London to Bath and back in July 1829 at an average speed of 14 miles per hour, including refuelling and taking on water. It was not a commercial success, however, mainly because passengers were not happy to sit atop a dangerous steam boiler. So he developed an articulated carriage called the 'Gurney steam drag'. Here the passengers sat in a carriage pulled by the steam engine. Sir Charles Dance, using three of these articulated vehicles, started a regular service between Cheltenham and Gloucester but apparently the hope of a business was dashed by the interference of wealthy horse coach proprietors, narrow-minded county gentlemen and district magistrates. By means of parliamentary intrigue [nothing changes!] and fearing the loss of their livelihoods, these folk made sure that turnpike tolls on steam carriages were £2. A horse drawn carriage charge was two shillings. Added to this, these 'worthy squires and magistrates of the Cheltenham district', without any need for it, covered the road with a foot deep layer of loose gravel, which added further to difficulties and put a stop to the business. By 1832 he had run out of funds and had to auction his remaining assets, losing a lot of money in the process.

One of his many achievements was building Bude Castle. Having leased a plot of land overlooking Summerleaze Beach from his friend Thomas Acland in 1830, he determined to build on shifting sand, using a specially constructed concrete raft. It is still standing today nearly 180 years later.

At the Castle and licking his wounds after the failure of his carriage enterprise, he turned back to illumination developing the Bude light, patented in 1839. With one light, plus lenses and prisms, he distributed light into every room - and even into one room at the Falcon Hotel, 500 yards away across the canal. The Bude light also added to the improvement of theatre lighting.

Three Bude lights were used in the House of Commons, thus dispensing with 280 candles, and these remained for 60 years until the arrival of electricity. His innovations were also used in lighthouses. By using lenses and introducing on-off patterns of light, sailors were able to identify exactly where they were. The Gurney Stove, patented in 1856, used external ribs to increase the area for heat to be transferred. These are still in use in some cathedrals today.

In 1852, based on his experience with mine ventilation, Gurney was appointed as a consultant to improve the ventilation for the new Houses of Parliament. Two years later he was appointed 'Inspector of Ventilation'. He had success in moving air around the buildings, but getting rid of the foul smells from the Thames was beyond him!

Goldsworthy 's wife died in 1837 and he moved to Poughill on the outskirts of Bude with his daughter Anna Jane who became his constant companion. Perhaps because of this, when Gurney married Jane Betty, a farmer's daughter from Sheepwash, the marriage didn't succeed. He was 61; she was 24 and Anna Jane was 39. Jane Betty was removed from Gurney's will although they never divorced. However, it is probable that she didn't lose much! In 1863, Queen Victoria knighted him for his inventions and discoveries but later that year he had a stroke that left him partially paralysed. He died apparently penniless on 28th February 1875 and is buried in Launcells Church near Bude.

What an extraordinary man he was! There isn't space to tell more of his many inventions and activities, but if you are in Bude, the Castle is now a heritage centre, open daily, with galleries of his work - and a bistro to refresh yourselves afterwards!

And shame on Cornwall that in the whole of the county there is no memorial to this forgotten genius.

PP of DC




Inventor and Promoter of the Pilates method of exercise

What do Darcy Bussell, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a goodly number of 'celebrities' and a proportion of our village folk have in common? They are all keen students of Pilates! Darcy Bussell is so enamoured that she has brought out a DVD: 'Pilates for Life'. Many dancers and actors have followed the Pilates teachings and I have a newspaper cutting in front of me that opens with 'Gordon Brown has become a devotee of Pilates as he limbers up to take on any prospective challengers to his leadership' - and that was dated August 7th 2008! Is he still 'limbering up', I wonder? As for our village, if folk aren't going to the Wednesday class in the Manor Hall, then they bustle off to Ilfracombe on a Thursday for their 'feel good' hour. So it seemed a good idea to find out about the founder.

Joseph Pilates was born in Munchen Gladbach, Germany, to a gymnast father of Greek extraction and a German mother who trained as a naturopath. The family name was Greek 'Pilatu' but was changed to Pilates when Joseph was a child. He suffered taunting at school because other children nicknamed him 'Pontius Pilate.'

As a child he had poor health, suffering from asthma, rheumatic fever and rickets. To offset these, he took up bodybuilding, gymnastics, yoga, and Zen Buddhism. His health and stamina were so improved that by the age of 14 he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts.

When Pilates started work, it was as a gymnast, body-builder, skier and diver, but moving to England in 1912, he became a professional boxer, worked in a circus and then became a self-defence instructor at Scotland Yard. This didn't stop him, when World War I broke out, being interned on the Isle of 'Man as an 'enemy alien' along with other German nationals. During this enforced captivity , he refined his ideas of good posture and breathing being the key to good health and trained other internees in fitness and exercise. He used available items such as bedsprings and beer keg rings as resistance equipment - the basis of ideas in today's general training equipment. In 1918 there was a major 'flu epidemic. Not one of the inmates became ill, which was believed to be due to their fitness.

At the end of the war, he returned to Germany where he worked with experts in dance and physical exercises, and also trained police officers. When he was asked to do the same for the German Army, he decided to leave the country of his birth. In 1925 he emigrated to the United States of America. On the ship, he met his future wife, Clara, a nurse. Together they founded a 'Pilates' studio in New York and operated it until well into the 1960's. They named their method as 'Contrology', which encouraged the mind to control muscles, focussing on core muscles keeping the body balanced and aligning the spine.

Two of his students, Carola Trier, a dancer,and Bob Seed, a former hockey player, opened their own studios. Joseph helped Carola to open her studio in the late 1950's and he and his wife and Carola remained good friends for the rest of his life. Bob Seed was another story. He tried to take over some of Pilates's students by opening at 7.00 a.m. Apparently, one day Joseph visited Seed with a gun and warned him to get out of town. Seed went!

In his later years, Joseph Pilates is said to have been flamboyant and intimidating. He smoked cigars, liked to party, and wore his exercise shorts wherever he wanted - even on New York's streets.

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 aged 87 [and still working!] He left no will and no line of succession. Clara continued to operate the Pilates Studio on Eighth Avenue for another 17 years until around 1970.

Romana Kryzanowski, a former student, became director. 'Celebrities' began to see the sense of his exercise and breathing techniques, and where they are, there goes the media. By the late 1980's Pilates was in favour and today over 10 million Americans practise it. [Sorry, I couldn't find a number for UK- but in Berrynarbor and Ilfracombe I'd guess the number is getting on for 100].

"I'm 50 years ahead of my time", Joseph Pilates once declared. He may have been right, but even so, over 80 years later, many people are still benefiting from his life's work.

PP of DC



[1892 - 1973]

Co-Founder of Banbury's Department Store and Furnishings

Last week I received through the post my Banbury's Loyalty Voucher earned during the last six months. In the same envelope was an invitation to their Gala evening: 15% off for most purchases, a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie - a nice touch in these straightened times. Yet it didn't hold a candle to Arthur Banbury's days! Then, many of the farming customers paid their accounts once a year, normally during the Barnstaple Annual Stock Fair. In recognition of their loyalty, Arthur Banbury treated those that paid their accounts to lunch in his dining room, now named Arthur's Restaurant.

If you want to check this, take a look at the plaque in the restaurant whilst sipping your coffee. It also gives a brief history of the founding of this family department store, which has operated on the same site for 94 years, changing from a 'general drapery store' to a modern and well-run department store. And all because of Arthur Banbury.

Arthur Banbury was born in 1892 in Bedford. His father was from a large farming family in Launcells, Cornwall, but became a manufacturers' representative. When he was old enough, Arthur followed his father, becoming a successful jewellery representative [or traveller as they were then known] in Colchester.

There he met John B. Horwood, a draper, who recognised Arthur's business skills and selling potential and offered him the opportunity of a partnership for a drapery store, F. J. Oakley, in Barnstaple. To help finance the new business, Mr Brand, a local investor, also became a partner. Arthur readily agreed to the partnership.

Shortly afterwards, in 1925, he moved into the top two floors over the shop with his wife, Gwendoline, and baby son Peter. There is no record of staff living on this site, yet graffiti found on the top floor suggest that staff were living there in 1905.

Arthur became responsible for managing the business and the shop was renamed 'Banbury Ltd. Drapers and Furnishers'. The front of the shop was fitted with arcades of brass framed window displays, which were declared the largest and finest in the area, occupying almost a third of the ground floor retail space. Some of us may remember these arcades, as they remained largely unchanged until the seventies, when they were replaced to give extra selling space.

In the early days, mahogany counters ran the full length of the shop; the sales staff served behind them and most of the stock was kept in cabinets behind, and something after my own heart, bentwood chairs were placed at regular intervals for the comfort of customers. At the end of each day, young staff would sprinkle the lino floor with wet sawdust to keep down the dust, and then sweep it up ready for next day's trading.

Company headed paper of that time shows there were four main departments: Milliners, Haberdashers, Costumiers and Furnishers. Contrary to today's trends, Millinery, Haberdashery and Silks [dress fabrics] were all large and very busy departments. The linens' department was known as 'Manchester' and ladies' fashions or 'costumes' were found in the 'Gowns Room'. To telephone the store the number was easy to remember - Barnstaple 4!

Sales receipts from this period showed that a lady's hat could be bought for 4 shillings [20p], in the furniture department one could buy a '3-piece iron bedstead with spiral spring and wool mattress' for just £2 [for some people, a week's wage] and a settee suite was 14 guineas [£14.70p].

The business continued to develop and after the war, his son Peter, and John Horwood's son John Bentall Horwood, who had just finished his apprenticeship at Gamages in Oxford St, joined Arthur. After Arthur Banbury and John Horwood retired and the sad death of Arthur's son Peter at the age of 49, the young third generation - Robert, David and Richard - took over, carefully over-watched by Mrs Peter Banbury and charged with updating the business. David Banbury is still a director.

During the '60's and '70's, retailing changed a great deal. Draperies with arcade windows and long counters were out and replaced by boutiques and self-service shopping. Banbury's needed this new image.

And so the family company continues to keep up with the latest ideas and trends. Over the last 35 years, the company has expanded into a department store, adding a carpet store in Boutport Street [now enlarged for furniture and furnishings], moving into Joy Street, firstly into small shops and then with the closure of Courts adding a large fashion section. Added to this was the acquisition of Eastmond and Co Ltd in Tiverton in 1989, which they converted with their usual style to another excellent department store. This had a furniture removals and storage business too, which they developed. In 2000, Ashford Garden Centre became part of their 'empire', which was built up to become a finalist in the 'Garden Centre of the Year' award. This they sold in 2005 to concentrate on their core business of department stores and furniture removals and storage.

What would Arthur Banbury and John Horwood have thought of all this development? They would no doubt be delighted. So, too, are residents of North Devon - if not further afield. I was in the fashion department one day when I overheard a lady saying, "I'm from Exeter, but if I want something special, I always come to Banbury's and have not yet been disappointed." Quite a recommendation!

And their latest improvement? Peter Banbury, Arthur's great grandson, who took over the managing directorship about 18 months ago, has noted the growth in cosmetics. So the entrance area is now solely given over to such items. To celebrate this, there are double points for loyalty cardholders from December 1st to 26th, guess what some of my friends will be getting for Christmas!

PP of DC




Inventor of the 'piratical screwmaker' or corkscrew

On 21st October the Berrynarbor Wine Circle opens in its present form for its 16th year of 'convivial consumption' at the Manor Hall.

So it was with interest that the name Samuel Henshall cropped up today. He was the first man to be granted a patent on a corkscrew, and described his new invention to the Birmingham metal smith, Matthew Boulton, as 'a new mode of applying the screw, and a mode which every person who sees it will be surprised that he himself didn't find out.' Matthew Boulton, who is famed for his work on steam engines with James Watt, spent two weeks with Professor Henshall perfecting the design, and then made his corkscrew in one of his factories.

The son of a Cheshire grocer, born in 1765, he was educated at Manchester Grammar School and then went up to Brasenose in 1782, gaining his MA in 1789, shortly before his ordination. His academic career didn't live up to his expectations, which was to become Oxford's Professor of Anglo-Saxon. Instead, he became curate of Christ Church, Spitalfields, and then rector of St Mary's Church in Bow, where he remained until his death 7 years later in 1807.

So what was his invention? His design of a corkscrew included a concave cap fixed between the worm [screw to you and me!] and the shank, which prevented the screw going too far into the bottle and also gripped the cork, which broke the seal on the bottle.

Similar corks were available which led to attacks on his claim to have invented this one. In a writing of 1829, he was referred to as a 'piratical screwmaker', and the design was attributed to 'Miss O'Rourke' [really, first a vicar and then a miss!].

However, Henshall was not a good businessman. He was having legal problems and Boulton's legal adviser wrote in 1795: 'I doubt that I shall not easily extract £50 from the Parson, as he would Cork from a Bottle."

As recently as 24th August this year, 214 years to the day after Samuel Henshall's patent was granted, a carved stone plaque was unveiled in his honour at the 'Bow Church' where he was rector and is now buried. It was a scene of celebration as fifty corkscrew enthusiasts, members of the International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts [or ICCA - I kid you not!] from around the world gathered. The current Rector, Rev. Michael Peet, welcomed the visitors and talked of the importance of Henshall's work in the invention of corkscrew evolution. The service ended with a toast of wine from bottles opened with an original Henshall corkscrew. As Psalm 104:15 says, "Wine that maketh glad the Heart of Man".

Now, if you have a corkscrew lurking in a drawer, have a look for an inscription on the button. If it says "Obstando Promoves" on it, take it straight to Mark Parkhouse. Its value might surprise you. Incidentally, the Latin motto translates as "by standing firm one makes advancement", or so Google says!

If you think you might like to join ICCA, think again. Its first meeting was held in the Guinness Brewery in 1974. Membership is strictly limited to 50 and potential applicants must specify the 'size and nature of collection, number of years collecting, how addiction was developed and any research done' as well as supplying biographical details.

It's much easier to get in to Berrynarbor Wine Circle! All you need to do [apart from having an interest in wine] is 'phone Tony Summers, our Secretary, on 883600 and come along on October 21st.


PP of DC



[9th November 1880- 8th February 1960]

Architect of: Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and ... the G.P.O's Red Telephone Box

"In this day of mobile 'phones," I wondered, "Does anyone use telephone boxes?"

I was heading for the village telephone box to take a photograph for our Newsletter and was beaten to it by an elderly couple wanting to use it!

Thirty or so years ago, these boxes were so much in use that very often one had to queue to get in, whilst the occupier whispered to a loved one, rang for a doctor or chatted with a friend. Now mostly they stand unloved and if like the one at Berry Down Cross, very neglected. Fortunately, Nora looks after ours, voluntarily, as Royal Mail has apparently abandoned it!

Even so, it will be a long time before the kiosks are forgotten. People have bought redundant ones for their gardens, in Covent Garden there is a row of 5 of them preserved as a tourist attraction and at airport shops there are usually post cards or models of them. They have even crossed the channel as we found out on a boating holiday on the Canal du Nivernais. We arrived in Auxerre on a very rainy night and the first thing I saw was a red 'phone box, not to be used but as a memento to the townspeople from their twinning town of Redditch.

So why did I need a photograph? Well, nearly a year ago I saw in the press that the Norfolk village of Burnham Norton felt bound to protest when the Post Office was going to scrap its telephone kiosk. Living next door to it is Richard Gilbert Scott, the son of the designer, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was leading this protest. They won their case and it was interesting that a BT spokesman said, "It seemed only right that Gilbert Scott's son should have access to his father's famous design." How nice that someone in BT has a heart!

So who was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott? Born on 9th November 1880 in London, he came from a family of architects. His grandfather, Sir George Gilbert Scott designed, amongst other things, St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial. He even made it to Barnstaple where he renovated the Parish church of St Peter and St. Mary Magdalene - and you can see the reference to him [as Sir Gilbert Scott, as he was sometimes known] in the stone floor plaque outside the church.

Sir Giles' father was another George, commonly known as Scott Jnr. He was very gifted as a young man, designing a series of churches in London and Yorkshire, but sadly he succumbed to alcoholism and ended up in a mental asylum.

Sir Giles admired his grandfather as a brilliant architect, but loved his father's work and said that he was a true artist. In the early 20th century he himself had a reputation of combining modern and historical ideas in his designs. When commissioned as a consultant to make Battersea Power Station more attractive, he chose exterior bricks to give detail to the plain walls and designed the four corner chimneys to represent classical columns. It remains the largest brick building in Europe, completed in 1933 it became redundant in 1982 and its future is still under discussion.

Perhaps his best-known work is Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. In 1902, a competition was launched for a "Design for a 20th Century Cathedral." He worked on his ideas in his spare time and was surprised to be chosen as one of 5 architects to get through to the second round. He was even more surprised to win the following year at the age of 22 years. This project, interrupted by World War I was ongoing for the rest of his life. The cathedral was consecrated in1924, but not finished until 1980, 20 years after his death. He had a lot of other contracts of course, and between the wars worked on churches and other buildings around the country.

His design that everyone knows, however, is the red telephone box. In 1924 the Royal Fine Arts Commission invited him as one of 3 architects to design a 'friendly' rather than 'intimidating' public telephone kiosk. At that time he was a trustee of Sir John Soanes Museum.

He was a great admirer of this architect who had designed a Portland Stone mausoleum for his wife in St Pancras' Old Churchyard in London. It was topped by an elaborate domed structure. This inspired him for the top of his kiosk. It sported an ingenious ventilation system through that dome and small panes of glass easily replaceable if broken. He wanted it built in aluminium and therefore silver, but the post office insisted it be made of iron and painted red for emergency use. This was the K2. He was called back in 1930 to modify it in concrete for rural use [!] and in 1935 modified it again, the K6, with the now familiar-shaped glass panes, for King George V's Silver Wedding. 70,000 of this design were sited around the country. In 2002 public 'phone boxes reached their peak of 95,000. Since then this has been reduced by about 30,000 and another 9,000 are under threat.

Whilst working in Liverpool, Sir Giles met and married Louise Wallbank Hughes, a receptionist at the Adelphi Hotel. As a fervent catholic, his mother apparently was greatly displeased because Louise was a protestant!

Sir Giles was working on designs for the Catholic Church of Christ the King in Plymouth when he fell ill with lung cancer. He took his designs with him into hospital where he continued to revise them until his death on 8th February 1960 at the age of 79. He and his wife are buried outside the main entrance of Liverpool Cathedral.

PP of DC




Designer of the London Underground Tube Map

This man really was a 'Mover'! I was reminded of his name whilst listening to a DVD that had been lent me of Bill Bryson reading his own "Notes from a Small Island". Then recently my sister-in-law took Alex and me to London's Transport Museum in Covent Garden and there he was - photograph as well.

As some of us may be venturing into the big smoke in the next few months, we may well be grateful for his work. In the early 1900's, different companies controlled different undergrounds and no official map was produced until 1906. The maps were geographically correct but complicated, showing streets and other local features and often superimposed on road maps. This meant that centrally located stations were very close together and out of town ones had too much room. Also the colours of the lines were not consistent, so for example, the Central Line was blue in 1908, yellow in 1926 and orange by1932. A slight improvement was made in 1908 when a new type of 'map' appeared inside carriages: a simple straight horizontal line with equal spaces between the stations.

Then Henry Beck [always known as Harry Beck] came on the scene. He was a young engineering draughtsman employed on the Underground. He had the idea of creating a full map in colour believing that because the railway ran largely underground, passengers just wanted to know how to get from one station to another, and where to change. So, in his spare time, he redesigned the map as a simple diagram, consisting of stations, straight lines between them, and the River Thames. The lines were vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Ordinary stations were marked with a tick and interchanges with a diamond. The central area was enlarged and stations, whether central or out of town, were shown as equal distances apart.

On the whole, this worked extremely well, although there were a few anomalies. For instance, just in case I [as an 'up from the country' traveller] needed to travel between Bank and Mansion House stations, checking the map I would take the Central Line to Liverpool Street and change onto the Circle Line to Mansion House [about 6 stops and 1 change]. A more 'savvy' person would take the escalator connection to Monument and then the Circle or District line to Mansion House [2 stops and an escalator ride]. The really clued up Londoner would walk 164 feet between stations and be halfway through afternoon tea before I joined him. This could not be worked out from the map. Actually, the escalator between Bank and Monument is longer than the distance between Bank and Mansion House. As you may imagine, Bill Bryson had a field day with this anomaly in 'Notes from a Small Island!

Map of the Underground, by Henry C Beck, 1933

In 1931 Harry Beck presented his first version of his Tube map to the Underground managers. Initially they were sceptical of a non-commissioned spare-time project and rejected it. It took them two years to accept his ideas for a trial printing. To their great surprise it was a huge success. From then on he added new lines and stations where relevant, altering designs right up to 1960. His final map bears a strong resemblance to modern maps. Then he had a disagreement with Harold Hutchinson, the Publicity Officer. He had added the Victoria Line and other changes to Harry's map without his approval. After that date, various people had a hand in updating the maps and in 1986, Tube maps stopped bearing the designer's name.

After many years of failing to acknowledge Beck's importance as the original designer of the Tube map, he belatedly got his reward:

Today, his talent has been recognised with Underground maps bearing the legend 'This diagram is an evolution of the original design conceived in 1931 by Harry Beck' in the lower right hand corner. For the 70th anniversary of Mr Beck's Underground map, a limited collection of his original map was reproduced.

In March 2006, viewers of the BBC's Culture show and visitors to London's Design Museum voted his Tube Map as their 2nd favourite British design of the 20th Century. To put this in perspective, the winner was Concorde.

Although he produced two non-commissioned versions of a diagram for the Paris Metro, it wasn't used. Nevertheless, subway, bus and transit companies around the world have copied his ideas, and many metro and rail maps use his ideas.

In fact today we've returned from delivering our visitors to Tiverton Parkway and there on the station platform is a Route Map showing connections between the South West, Midlands and Home Counties of First Great Western's and other companies' train routes, plus bus links, airport connections and the London Underground interchanges - and all because of the foresight of Harry Beck.

For his painstaking and revolutionary design, he was paid just 5 guineas.

As a quick postscript, Frank Pick, Head of the London Underground in the 1910's and '20's and of London Transport in the '30's, commissioned in 1916 Edward Johnston, a calligrapher, to design the still familiar underground logo of a blue bar and red disc with suitable lettering. In 93 years, no changes have been made to it - that can't be bad!

PP of DC



[November 1928 - ]

Chairman, John Fowler Holiday Parks

It's difficult to catch Mr. Fowler at home. At 81, when most men are cultivating their gardens, then taking an afternoon nap, John is still working a 40-hour week. As Chairman of John Fowler Holiday Parks, 'the buck stops here' and some buck! But having been in the self-catering business for over 50 years, John knows how to manage his empire of 14 holiday parks [some of which have taken in other smaller parks], in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

But all this is far removed from the very humble beginnings . . .

In 1952, after serving in the Korean War, John left the Navy, with just £300 in savings. Although quite a sum 57 years ago, it was nowhere near enough to buy a business, such as a hotel or farm. Having given it some thought, he bought a pre-war caravan and renovated it. He then had to find a site for it. He had no 'phone, so went into a public 'phone box with a pile of coins and a list of possible contacts and made a whole host of calls.

Congratulations, Mr. John Fowler!

One farmer offered him a field with a gate. In it stood a 'sentry box' [the loo] and a standpipe for water supply. The caravan had gas lighting and cooking and so all was ready for the season - except for visitors. John put an ad. in several Birmingham papers and was inundated with replies. Amazed at the response, he realised that he had found a niche market. Self-catering accommodation was unknown in the early fifties, yet there was obviously a need for it.

After a successful first season, the next year he bought three more caravans, which again he renovated. Now with 4 caravans, he felt he had really 'made it'! Following on from this, he bought chalets and let them - always on other people's land. Some of these were in Westward Ho! and by the early 'sixties he had developed his first holiday park in that resort. So for more than 50 years, his vast and growing empire has consistently delivered great holidays, which are still based on the same high standards that have been operating for decades. The Parks are all in seaside locations, so the great beaches and our stunning countryside are never far away.

You have to go no further than Combe Martin to see two of them. Firstly there is Sandaway Beach Holiday Park, and then still this side of the village, Combe Martin Beach Holiday Park, but the 'flagship' Park is at Ilfracombe, currently halfway through a major new development. At present there are 337 units, which include 124 very modern and well-furnished apartments. When work is complete, there will be a total of 500 units. The project so far has meant an investment of £6-8 million and as part of the upgrading, a conference centre has been added. You may have noticed in a recent copy of the North Devon Journal, a photograph of Johnny Kingdom who was a speaker at the North Devon+ Conference on March 5th in the John Fowler Conference Centre in Ilfracombe. A two-liner stated, 'The venue has been donated free for the evening'. This was a generous act of Mr Fowler's who has long been a supporter of tourism agencies in the area.

So what is the secret of his success? Well, all the Parks have a price-watch policy - particularly important for families during the credit crunch. This means that prices are kept reasonable for accommodation, meals and drinks and there are no hidden extras on the booking price, so all fuel, bed linen and facilities are included. Children have meals at half price and most of the Parks have superb facilities such as cabaret and live music, a heated swimming pool and a 'Foxy Club' to keep the children entertained.

All these extras show how much organising needs to take place. It's no wonder that there is a staff of 1200 [including seasonal ones] to make it all happen. And doesn't it astonish that all this came about from one pre-war caravan?

PP of DC



[June 14th 1774 - January 5th 1847]

Founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Two things persuaded me to find out more about Sir William. Back in May last year, the Daily Telegraph's 'Weekend' featured an article on the RNLI - 'Come Hell or High Water' - that mentioned him. Just before Christmas, the Six O'clock News did a short piece on people who were giving up Christmas to serve others, and one evening featured the lifeboat men.

There are now some 4,800 lifeboat crew members, 300 of whom are women and 95% are volunteers. They man 230 lifeboat stations - our local ones are Ilfracombe, Appledore and Minehead. In 2007, around the country there were 8,141 launches that rescued 7,834 people and saved 306 lives. This is quite a feat, considering that 185 years ago, no one thought of rescuing ships; the wives and children just waited for the bodies of their loved ones to be washed ashore. So how did the transformation happen?

It was all due to one man: William Hillary. He was a Yorkshire Quaker who became a soldier, author and philanthropist - and also enjoyed adventure. He learnt his seamanship and navigational skills whilst serving as equerry to King George III's young son, Prince Augustus Frederick.

William eloped with an Essex heiress, Frances Elizabeth Disney Ffytche and married her on 21st February 1800. Later that year, their twins - Augustus William and Elisabeth Mary - were born. The bride's father did not approve of William's religion and it wouldn't have helped that William spent his wife's inheritance [about £20,000] on assembling England's largest private army, which he put at the disposal of George III for fighting against Napoleon. It is thought that this is how he achieved his baronetcy.

By 1808, the inheritance had gone and his marriage was in ruins. He fled to the Isle of Man, some saying that it was to put a few miles and a little water between him and his creditors. In 1813 he married Emma Tobin, a Manx woman, his first wife having died by then. From his coastal home in Douglas, he became very aware of the many ships in difficulties on the Irish Sea. In the early hours of October 6th 1822, the RN cutter 'Vigilant' foundered on rocks visible to Sir William's home. He rushed down to the shore and offered men payment if they would crew the nearby pleasure craft to help the ship. It was pulled to safety and for the next two days, as the storm continued, they saved 97 men . . . and the seeds of his idea of saving lives at sea were formed.

In February 1823 Hillary wrote a pamphlet to the British Navy on Saving Lives and Property from Shipwreck. The Admiralty was not interested, but on appealing to the more philanthropic members of London Society, his ideas were enthusiastically adopted. On 4th March 1824 the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was formed. Thirty Years later, the title was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

At the age of 60, Hillary commanded the lifeboat that rescued the packet St George, which had foundered on Conister Rock at the entrance to Douglas Harbour. He was washed overboard with several other members of the lifeboat crew, but in the end everyone was rescued safely. This incident prompted Hillary to build the Tower of Refuge on Conister Rock, which was completed in 1832. It still stands today at the entrance to Douglas Harbour.

The Tower of Refuge, Douglas Bary - Isle of Man.

Over the years, he helped to save 509 lives and was awarded the Institution's Gold Medal three times for Gallantry. Yet he never learnt to swim!

He died on January 5th 1847 and is buried at St George's Church, Douglas. Even in death it is said that his creditors pursued him. They dug up his body and sold it for dissection.

Sadly, by the time you read this we will almost have missed the RNLI's big fund raising effort: SOS Day. [30th January this year.] Schools, businesses, fund raisers and individuals think up an appropriate title - Sponsor Our Silence, Savour Our Spices and so on to raise funds. If you are interested for next year, go onto www.rnli/ or for any other information on the RNLI, should give it.

Don't forget, however, that there is still a chance to help the RNLI [and our shop!] by attending the evening 'Tales of Time and Tide' being put on by Beaford Arts on Saturday February 7th when Fenella has arranged for the RNLI to be there to sell their range of products and for just £10 you'll get a light supper too! Hope to see you there!

PP of DC



[23rd January 1937 - ]

Founder of the Calvert Trust

On our way home from a lovely walk at Wistlandpound, my husband commented, as we drove past The Calvert Trust, "I wonder who Mr Calvert is - or was?"

Dear old Google came to the rescue once more. On their website, the Calvert Trust's history section tells us that they came into being in 1978 by the inspiration of John Fryer-Spedding, whose vision it was to enrich the lives of people, all with disabilities, by taking part in outdoor activities in the countryside.

When the first National Park opened in 1951, Harold Macmillan declared: "The National Parks are for all people for all time."

John Fryer-Spedding realised that this was not quite true in that without accessible facilities, people with disabilities could neither enjoy our superb countryside, nor benefit from outdoor activities. He consulted Elinor, Viscountess Rochdale, and together they searched for people with the same vision as themselves. Soon they gathered a small group of people who decided to form a Trust.

The Fryer-Spedding family donated to this Trust, two farmsteads in the Lake District - Old Windebrowe and Little Crossthwaite. Conceived in 1974, Little Crossthwaite Adventure Centre was officially opened in 1978 with a warden, a secretary, an instructor, two horses and two dinghies. It was so popular that shortly after, the Calvert Trust Keswick came into being. Today this centre employs 24 permanent staff and with its many facilities, welcomes over 3,000 visitors a year.

Because of the success of Keswick's centre, the founders realised that another centre was needed, including accommodation for families. Kielder, with its man-made reservoir became the setting, and after much fund-raising, Kielder Calvert Trust was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra in 1984. Today it welcomes over 5,000 visitors at the Centre, and also in 10 superb log chalets that are set in the beautiful Kielder forest.

And so we come to our 'local' Calvert Trust. With two successful Centres in the north of England, there was scope for developing another one in the south, particularly as people didn't always want a long journey. What better area was there than Exmoor, with its beautiful countryside, beaches and good road access?

A farmhouse near Wistlandpound Reservoir came up for sale. Because of an anonymous donor and many other generous gifts, together with the enthusiastic support of local people, the Calvert Trust made the purchase and the Exmoor Centre opened in 1996. It offers rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, fishing, horse riding, carriage driving, archery, zip wire, orienteering, indoor and outdoor climbing walls, a swimming pool with Jacuzzi and a steam room. If you've not been to Wistlandpound recently, you could be in for a surprise. The Calvert Trust in conjunction with the Forestry Commission and South West Lakes Trust have developed the area into a £1 million natural and social heritage centre. There is a discovery trail suitable for wheelchairs around the lake, with beautiful woodcarvings to help visually impaired people, and a bird hide. There is also a 2 km Challenge trail with exercises for wheelchair users [the first in the UK]. You may meet horse riders, and once down at the lake there may be 'yachties' or canoeists, with various disabilities having a great time. Near the Calvert Trust Exmoor is a Discovery Centre [open 7 days a week] with toilets and two large car parks.

And all this has happened because of one man's vision and determination! John has now retired from being a trustee of Calvert Trust Exmoor so does not visit it as often as in the past, but his legacy will continue in all three Centres: friendship, support and the desire to help people with disabilities to further their potential.

So how about the name? Well, we have to go back over 200 years. Raisley Calvert had grown up with William Wordsworth, and the childhood friendship had lasted into adulthood. Sadly, at 21, Raisley developed tuberculosis. As he faced death, he wanted his friend to continue writing and a legacy was arranged allowing Wordswoth to write full time. The old Windebrowe Cottage was given to him and his sister rent-free. As we all know, Wordsworth went on to fulfil his literary potential thanks to his friend, even writing a poem dedicated to Raisley. When John Fryer-Spedding gave the same cottage to the Trust it seemed right that Raisley's name be used.

If you would like to help the Calvert Trust, you can find details on their website Calvert Trust Exmoor would be delighted if you wished to support them by joining its Friends. The fee for a year is £10 [single], £15 [couple] or £18 [family]. With this you may use the swimming pool for 1/2 price and get newsletters and details of forthcoming events. This might solve a Christmas present!

Contact 01598 763221 or e-mail them on

PP of DC

[Grateful thanks to John Fryer-Spedding for all his help and for providing a photograph. It was an honour to write about his work.]



[Mid 1600's - early 1700's]

Gentleman of Leisure - Founder of the Pack o'Cards' Inn, Combe Martin

If you walk from the Pack o' Cards Inn in Combe Martin, towards the bar, skirting the Smokers' Den, you will see a single storey building with the following large notice painted on its walls: The story of the Pack o' Cards Museum - Entrance. Go inside and you will find fascinating photographs and information about not only George Ley and his Combe Martin House [the original name], but of the history of Combe Martin.

In the museum he is quoted as a 'gentleman of leisure', yet he was fairly active in the village. The dates of his life are not recorded, but in 1677 he received a licence from the Bishop of Exeter to teach at a private school in Combe Martin. In 1688 he became overseer to the poor and joined the local council that ruled the village.

The Ley family owned a lot of land, not only in Combe Martin, but elsewhere. They were also well connected in court circles, one relative, Sir James Ley, becoming in 1625 the first Earl of Marlborough and Lord High Treasurer of England.

George Ley enjoyed a game of cards, and legend has it that after a large win in 1690 he had the idea of building a house in celebration, based on "a stack of cards such as a child might make".

We've all grown up knowing that the building has four floors [four suits], thirteen rooms [number of cards in a suit], 52 windows and stairs [cards in the pack] and was designed to look like a stack of cards. Added to this, it was built on an area of fifty-two square feet, and the Squire's Library window, over the front door, has thirteen panes of glass. There is another interesting window to the right of the first floor entrance on the road. The central circle in each pane was made by the glass blower's iron. Glass at this time was very expensive and after the main glass had been used the centre pieces were either thrown away or used on less important windows such as this. And now people pay quite a lot to get almost the same effect!

The basic structure is of stone, rubble and cob. The wrought iron balustrade at the top of the house is original as is the oak panelling, except for the arched door to the Oak Room, which is thought to be much older.

All thirteen rooms have fireplaces, yet there are only eight chimneys. This was Ley's way of avoiding some of the Hearth Tax, which began in 1662. The tax assessor counted the number of chimneys from the outside of buildings to assess the due tax. Ley had another problem, however. In 1696, a Window Tax came into force to replace the Hearth Tax that people had learnt to avoid. The basic tax was two shillings plus an extra shilling for each window. Having put in 52 windows, Squire Ley promptly had many of them blocked up and they became known as permanent 'Pitt's Pictures' . The Window Tax was stopped in 1851 and replaced by a House Duty.

The house remained in the Ley family for over a hundred years. Personal family touches were added, such as the sundial on the wall above the car park. The Squire's eldest son, also George, added it in 1752 with the inscription 'G1752L'.

In the late 1700's and early 1800's, the pressgangs were busy, not least in Combe Martin. By this time, George Ley's mansion had become a hostelry. And mine host had a trick to outwit the pressmen. He would smuggle two or three free men, in strict order of seniority, under 'an ancient relicke' - a cunningly disguised hinged lid of a surprisingly roomy kitchen table. This ingenious hiding place was never betrayed.

The first recorded mention of an inn was in 1822 when Jane Huxtable was the landlady. It was then called 'The King's Arms' - proof that a previous unlisted landlord had lost an arm fighting for the King. [Good job it wasn't The Kings Head!] The King's Arms became a centre of activity for the village. Combe Martin Petty sessions were held in a 'large but very low and close room', but the Ilfracombe Chronicle of May 11th 1878 then recorded that there was 'a new courtroom ... reached by a flight of stone steps ... 31 feet x 20 feet ... at a cost of £200'. It was used for other activities: in December local residents parted with their money at the Lime and Manure audits; in January the Rector collected his tithes; in October when tenants paid their rents. The first livestock sale was held on 12th April 1880 and after that every spring and autumn various auctions of property, hay and root crops took place. It was a popular watering hole for coaches and horses passing between Ilfracombe and Lynton and on August Bank Holiday 1899, 140 horses were watered there. By 1903 'Copp's char-a-banc' ran each day during the season from Ilfracombe, stopping an hour in Combe Martin for tea to be served at The King's Arms.

During the First World War, a bugler played the Last Post from its flat roof whenever news of the death of a local man was received.

It was obvious that the inn had been known for years as the Pack o' Cards but this became official on 1st June 1933 when the licensee was William Joseph Mills. Electricity was installed in 1940 but gaslights were kept 'in case there's a power cut'!

Some of you may remember that in 1987 Paul Daniel's Magic Show was recorded live from the Pack o' Cards. It was quite a night! The High Street was closed, and electricity supply for the whole village disrupted whilst the show was on. [Where were those gaslights?] Arthur Marshall picked the nine of spades from a pack of cards and when Paul threw the pack at the Squire's painting, that card appeared inside the frame. That painting is now in the museum, still with the card in place.

As a finale, a local man drew from the pack the five of diamonds. Everyone then went outside - and from a chimney at the top of the inn rose a huge five of diamonds. Quite a Magic Show!

The present licensees are Debbie and Chris Batchelor - and the Pack o' Cards is for sale. We wish them well in their retirement. If you have a large sum of money, it can be yours. Otherwise you can enjoy a pleasant time in summer enjoying tasty bar and restaurant food, or a beer in the riverside gardens and there is a terrific adventure playground to keep the children happy. In winter there are skittles, darts and pool, and quiz nights. Special events for Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year's Eve keep the 'locals' happy.

So, nearly 320 years after George Ley came up with his one off idea, we hope that this quirky Grade Two ancient monument will be giving pleasant times to patrons for many years to come.

PP of DC with grateful thanks to Debbie and Chris for their help



[19th November 1924 - 18th February 2006]

Founder of Quince Honey Farm, South Molton

Idly browsing through this weekend's Daily Telegraph, I spotted an article on honey. It gave sound advice on being suspicious of exotic sounding honeys [the honey could come from anywhere in the world], and made a point of shopping for local ones.

The reasons? It is important for the ecosystem, the pollination by bees of clover keeps the pasture and livestock healthy, and shopping locally helps as a defence against pollen allergies. It then gave details of 3 producers, one of which was our own Quince Honey Farm. "Quince Honey Farm" wrote Rose Prince, "is a family-run venture, which was established by George Wallace in 1949 ..." That really interested me. I picked up the 'phone and dialled Quince Honey Farm, where I was lucky to speak to Patrick [Paddy] Wallace, who kindly told me about his father.

During the war, George read a romantic book about commercial beekeeping called Golden Throng. When he was demobbed in 1947, having served in Palestine, he took a 6-month beekeeping course on a Yorkshire honey farm, came home and acquired 6 hives. Sugar was, of course, rationed but there was an allocation for the bees - and anyway, with a supply of honey, there was already a sweetener.

George taking a rare holiday in Scotland c1976

This was the start of Quince Honey Farm. The name came, not from quince nectar that the bees collected, but from his father's home - Little Quince Cottage in Bishop's Nympton.

To make ends meet, he worked as a farm labourer, part time postman and in a block-making shed, all the time building up his bees in the garden. In Patrick's words, he "had such determination to succeed, that he was blind to the red light", and by 1949 he was selling honey.

In 1951 George married Kate, a schoolteacher, and most of their money continued to flow into the honey farm. There were other calls on their earnings too: Patrick was born in 1953, his sister in 1954 and twins, a boy and girl, in 1956 giving Kate quite a young handful. At the time they were all living in a tied farm cottage with outside loo and a copper for heating water!

1959 was a very good season for honey and in 1960 the family moved to an old converted chapel. They moved to their present site in 1978 and opened as a tourist centre five years later. Their exhibition centre is one of North Devon's most popular attractions and well worth a visit. The unique design of the indoor apiary means that you can observe the honey bee colonies in complete safety, and can find out just how honey and beeswax get from hive to the finished product.

It is a truly family-run business. Patrick joined from school in 1970, helping his father in summer and doing odd jobs in winter for the first five years. His brother Jonathan also worked in the business from 1973 until 2001. Now Patrick's son, Ian, is interested in bees and will hopefully take over in due course.

Over the last 30 years, the farm [and range of products] has grown immensely. You can buy in our village shop their Exmoor Heather and Devon Flower honey, [in ceramic pots, too, for neighbours who feed the cat!], honey marmalade, chutney and mustard, and fudge. At Quince Honey Farm you can feast off 3 varieties of honey ice cream, or get a taste for honey toffee. There is a range of honey and beeswax skin care, ceramic pots filled with honey 'goodies', beeswax candles - and so much more. Their products are not confined to South Molton, they are available nationally, and are exported all over the world.

Quince Honey Farm, started nearly 60 years ago by George Wallace, has developed into Britain's largest honey farm. Sadly, George died on the 18th February 2006, but what a legacy he left! Long may the Farm continue as a family-run successful enterprise.


[I am indebted to Paddy Wallace for supplying me readily with so much information.]



[24th September 1725 - 23rd January 1803]

Founder of Guinness Porter [the black stuff!]

My 'bedside reading' at the moment is a fascinating account by Ian Marchant of his and his friend's month-long mapping of the British landscape in booze - from The Turk's Head on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, to the public bar of the Baltrasound Inn on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetlands. Called 'The Longest Crawl', he not only tells amusing anecdotes, but also gives lots of information about, for instance, Plymouth Gin [made unlicensed and duty-free by gin-drinking William III], Burton on Trent ales [very hard water to produce light bitters] and London Porter. Eighteenth century London porters and stevedores favoured a mix of 3 beers: strong London beer, light London beer and Burton pale ale. This drove the potboys to distraction and in 1722, Ralph Harwood came up with a brew that combined all three. He called it 'Entire', but so popular was it with the porters that by the 1740's it had been renamed. It was almost black and heavily hopped to increase the bitterness and soon was imported to Dublin.

And so we come to Arthur Guinness. His friends thought he was quite mad when on the last day of December 1759, at 34 years of age, he signed a 9,000-year lease for £45 a year rental on a near derelict brewery in Dublin's St James's Street. They would have been proud to know that next year, Arthur Guinness and Sons will celebrate 250 years at St James's Gate. It is no longer the largest brewery in the world [although the largest stout brewery] but it is certainly one of the most modern, and all brewing for Europe has been moved back there. It is also Ireland's most visited tourist attraction.

Arthur's father was land steward to Dr. Arthur Price, the Archbishop of Cashel. He brewed beer for the estate workers, although it was his wife's family who had the brewing expertise. When Price died in 1752, he left Arthur and his younger brother £100 each. It is thought that this encouraged Arthur to lease, four years later, a brewery on the upper reaches of the River Liffey in Co Kildare.

After three years, he left the brewery in his brother's care and took over the one at St James's Gate. His new brewery was no more than average, as with most of the 70-odd breweries in the capital. When import regulations favouring the London Porter breweries were extended, he took a gamble on public taste and produced his own version of porter. He produced a darker beer by adding roasted barley, and by 1769 his first export of 6 1/2 barrels of Guinness beer left for England. By 1799 he decided to stop producing ales and concentrate solely on porter.

Today, Guinness is brewed in 35 countries around the world, but all overseas breweries must contain a flavoured extract from St James's Gate, so that all of the 10 million glasses drunk daily still contain something of that special brew. Interestingly, when Arthur moved to his first brewery he took brewers' yeast from his father's brewery. This, unlike bakers' yeast, goes on growing. He then took it to Dublin, and it is quite likely that present day Guinness still contains some of the original yeast.

So what else is in it? Well, the specific recipe is closely guarded, but is made from roasted barley, malt, hops - and the yeast. Added to this is a unique mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide that separates the black liquid from the creamy 'head'. If you watch a good barman pouring Guinness, he will tilt the glass at 45 degrees, pour in 3/4 of a glass, leave it to stand to let the surge settle, and then top it up. The whole process ideally will take 119.5 seconds - but worth the wait! On the other hand, you can buy from our shop a can of draught Guinness with a 'widget' in the base. This gadget first appeared in 1998 and produces the creamy 'head'. Three years later the 'widget' won the Queen's Award for Technology Achievement.

In 1761, Arthur Guinness married Olivia Whitmore. Together they produced 21 babies, but sadly only 10 of them reached adulthood. When Arthur died in 1803, his three sons took over and continued his work. He and Olivia founded a dynasty, which has been eminent in Ireland for generations, as parliamentarians and benefactors.

PP of DC



[8th June 1724 - 28th October 1792]

The first Civil Engineer

The name John Smeaton leapt out of the Daily Telegraph last week, but it belonged to the heroic Glaswegian baggage handler who received a gallantry award from the Queen. Nevertheless, it reminded me of an earlier John Smeaton, who built, amongst many other notable things, the third Eddystone Lighthouse, 14 miles south west of Plymouth and which today sits on dry land on Plymouth Hoe - Smeaton's Tower.

John Smeaton first described himself as a CIVIL engineer in 1768, identifying a new profession distinct from MILITARY engineers, graduating from the Military Academy at Woolwich.

The son of a Yorkshire lawyer, he was born at Austhorpe Lodge, Whitkirk, 4 miles outside Leeds. Whilst still at Leeds Grammar School, in his mid-teens he showed great talent for engineering and use of mechanical tools, but was encouraged to go into a legal career and worked briefly in his father's practice before persuading his pa to let him follow a mechanical profession. With father's agreement, he became a mathematical instrument maker, producing several technical innovations including a novel pyrometer with which he studied the expansion of various materials.

He then became interested in large-scale engineering, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of only 29. In the mid 1750's he made a tour of the Low Countries where he studied canal hydraulics. In 1759 he won the Royal Society's Copley Medal for publishing a paper on water wheels and windmills.

In 1756 the Royal Society asked him to come up with a design for a third Eddystone lighthouse. The first, an octagonal wooden one built in 1698 lasted only 5 years and was washed away, together with its architect Henry Winstanley, during a violent storm. The second one, made of wood and iron, burnt down after 47 years when a fire broke out in the lantern. During the blaze, the cupola began to melt and as the duty keeper looked up, he swallowed 7 ounces of molten metal. No one believed him until doctors found it in his stomach after he died several days later. The metal is now on show in Edinburgh Museum.

Smeaton based the design for his lighthouse on an oak tree - a tall natural object that could withstand gales. His idea was revolutionary. He used 1, 493 blocks of granite and Portland stone, and built them up like the rings of a tree, dovetailed together with marble dowels and oak pins. He also pioneered the use of 'hydraulic lime', a type of mortar that will set under water, a starting point for the modern use of cement and clay. Just like a tree, the tower bent in high winds and it must have been terrifying on the rock when the waves crashed right over the 72 feet high tower. But it worked, and became the prototype for all future lighthouses built on rocks. Costing £43,000, it opened in October 1759. In 1810, oil lamps with reflectors replaced the candles, and 35 years later, lenses were fitted. It worked for 120 years and would no doubt still be there today, but the foundation rock started to erode.

When it was replaced in 1882 about two thirds of the structure was removed stone by stone and re-built on Plymouth Hoe where it opened in September 1884. From its refurbished lantern room, it offers superb views of the Sound and city. If you look out from the Hoe on a clear day, you can still see the hump where it stood on Eddystone rocks, next to the present Douglass' light.

Smeaton's Tower is open daily except Christmas and Good Friday and visitors pay £2, [£1 for seniors and children 6-16]. Various events take place throughout the year, and you can even get married there!

After Eddystone, John Smeaton went on to construct pumps, ports, mines and jetties as well as windmills, watermills, bridges, and canals. His best remembered project from these was constructing the Forth and Clyde canal which took 22 years and stretches across central Scotland.

Still, it is Eddystone lighthouse that forms part of the coat of arms of the Institution of Civil Engineers, features in the portrait of John Smeaton, and if you look at an old penny, you will find it tucked just behind Britannia's left hand!

John Smeaton died after a stroke on 28th October 1792 whilst walking in the garden of the house where he was born. His legacy is more than just his engineering projects, many of which are still around today. He fulfilled a wish that practising engineers should dine together and exchange ideas rather than becoming potentially hostile to each other in public dealings. This started the Society of Civil Engineers founded in1771, and is still a social society today although re-named in 1830 as the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers.

Many of his methods of construction, site management and supervision are still used but one of his important viewpoints was that managing people correctly was as important as his design and construction methods. He was a man before his time!

Stone, wood and iron are wrought and put together by mechanical methods,
the greatest work is to keep right the animal part of the machinery.

John Smeaton

PP of DC



[October 5th 1902 - January 14th 1984]

Builder of the McDonald's Hamburger Chain

Just before last Christmas, Alex and I "sloped off" to Prague for 3 days. The excuses? To have a rest before the onslaught of festivities, to see the Castle and Christmas Markets - and [what the hell!] for me to fulfil a long held dream.

Prague had all the answers! It also had a few surprises such as Tesco and MacDonald's.

I knew a bit about the starting of Tesco, but nothing of "Big Mac", other than the outlet on Barnstaple's "Tesco" road, so on our return, I checked "Google". McDonald's Corporation all started with a Mr. Kroc in the mid-1950's.

Ray Albert Kroc was a former piano player, who after ambulance driving and a few other jobs, became a salesman for the Lily Tulip Cup Company [selling paper mugs] for 17 years, ending up as Sales Manager for United States Middle West. But then, approaching 40 years of age, he felt it was time he was on his own. He mortgaged his home and invested his life savings to become the exclusive distributor of a machine that could prepare 5 milk shakes at a time: the Multimixer.

By 1954, now aged 52, Mr. Kroc heard about Ric