Movers and Shakers
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 96
FRANZ XAVIER GRUBER
Primary schoolteacher, church organist and composer
25 November 1787 - 7 June 1863
JOSEPH FRANCISCUS MOHR
Priest and writer
11 December 1792 - 4 December 1848
combined their talents to give the world Stille Nacht [Silent Night]
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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 95
"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 www.justgiving.com. 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!
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 93
AUGUSTA ADA KING, COUNTESS OF LOVELACE
[Known as Ada Lovelace]
10 December 1815 - 27 November 1852
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 inside...to move an immense pair of wings fixed on the outside...to 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.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 91
COLONEL BENJAMIN GREENE LAKE
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:
1840: Introduction of the Penny Post, forming of Province of Canada and convicts no longer sent to Australia
1851: Darwin published 'The origin of Species'
1859-69: The Suez Canal was built [to the consternation of the UK Government]
1881: Street-lighting by electricity was first used
1901: Marconi sent his first message across the Atlantic by radio waves
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'?]
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  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.
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.
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
The Swimming Pool
The Pier on a cold January day 2021!
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 90
JAMES ALBERT BOND
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!
PP of DC
PPS 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.
MOVERS & SHAKERS NO. 89
PAMELA RUTH NORMAN
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?
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.
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.
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!
The Norman Family
Brian, Trevor, Lisa, Paula and Pam 
Pam and Paula 
The High Street Shop
MOVERS & SHAKERS NO. 88
DAVID LEWIS OLIVER
30.6.30 - 20.6.18
Founder [with his wife Patricia] St John's Garden Centre, Barnstaple
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!
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
David with Nick and Simon
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 87
PETER and CAROL DUNCAN
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.
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.
Peter in the Dairy
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 www.stapletonfarm.co.uk .
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
PP of DC
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 86
MICHAEL CHARLES ROBERT TURTON
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!
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 85
Sir Jack Cohen's first employee
1911[?] - 1976
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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 84
Bishop of Salisbury Cathedral 1560-1571, A leading Protestant Reformer
24 May 1522 - 23 September 1571
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
MOVERS & SHAKERS NO. 83
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  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  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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 82
SIR JOHN HEATHCOAT-AMORY,
First Baronet, Businessman, Liberal Politician and
Commissioner of Knightshayes Court, Tiverton
4th May 1829 - 26th May 1924
"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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 81
Owner of Discovery Music, 7 Litchdon Street, Barnstaple
3rd November 1970 -
"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.
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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 80
SIR CHARLES HUBERT HASTINGS PARRY Bt.
Composer. Teacher and Music Historian
27th February 1848 - 7th October 1918
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.
Highnam Court, home to Hubert Parry during his life time
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.
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.
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.
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
Parry's Memorial at St. Paul's and the memorial to Parry in Gloucester Cathedral
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!
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 79
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 feet...it 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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 78
SIR HENRY COLE
Inventor, first Director of the V & A Museum
and father of the Christmas Card
15th July 1808 - 18th April 1882
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.
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
James Tissot [1836-1902]
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 77
Artist and Model-maker
1892 - 1972
Mary Stella Edwards
Poet and Artist
Specialists in Dioramas and
occupiers of The Cabin in Bucks Mills, Bideford
A year ago, I was going to write about these two ladies, but instead was diverted to Thomas Burton, founder of The Burton at Bideford. Now it's time to concentrate on Judith Ackland and her lifelong friend, Mary Stella Edwards.
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 www.theburton.org. 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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 76
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
Poet, Literary Critic and Philosopher
21 October 1772 - 25 June 1874
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 everywhere and "He
prayeth best who loveth best
Nor any drop to drink"
All things both great and small;.
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."
prayeth best who loveth best
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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 75
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 www.bodyawarepilates.co.uk 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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 74
Born 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 10rh 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.
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
Jonathan Edwards bearing the Olympic Torch through Ilfracombe, from his old home on
Hillsborough Road to Brimlands, 21st May 2012
MOVERS & SHAKERS NO. 73
Founder of Tasmania, Lieutenant, Royal Navy
1780 - 20 October 1827
"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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO 72
WENCESLAUS I, DUKE OF BOHEMIA
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:
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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 71
Businessman, philanthropist and co-founder of The Burton at Bideford
[formerly The Burton Art Gallery and Museum]
1875 - December 1959
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
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.
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.
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 [www.burtongallery.co.uk] 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.
Appledore Quay by Hubert Coop
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
The Burton at Bideford [rear view from Victoria Park] & French-style Bistro
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 70
Founder of the travel agency Thomas Cook and Son
22 November 1808 - 18 July 1892
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.
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
Thomas Cook Statue, Leicester
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 69
Lady Rosamund Christie
Tapeley Park, Instow
1861 - 19 November 1935
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. As 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.
Lady Rosamund Christie
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!
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 68
The Postman Poet
23rd January 1819 - 4th June 1894
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.
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
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 67
DR ELISABETH DOREEN SVENDSEN MBE
Founder of The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth
23rd January 1930 -11th May 2011
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
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!
MOVERS AND SHAKERS NO. 66
German Wife of George III, introducer of the Christmas Tree to England
19th May 1744 - 17th November 1818
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
'from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged; the whole illuminated by small waxed candles'.
He then adds that
'after the company had walked round and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets it bore, together with a toy, and then all returned home quite delighted'.
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
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