Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Fishing into the past


Budleigh Salterton resident Nick Loman has been using his local knowledge to piece together the history of fishing in his home town.

Having been a fish merchant in Budleigh for the best part of his working life, Nick is in an ideal position to gather information from the residents of the town about their memories and the legacy of Budleigh's fishing families.

Above: Sketch of Budleigh beach in 1837

"The change in Budleigh over time has been quite dramatic", Nick explains.

"Now that I'm semi-retired, I felt it was important to start making a record of our history, before it disappears."

In the 19th century, Budleigh was a thriving fishing town, with over a hundred boats registered to fish from there.

It was small clinker-type boats that were used off Budleigh, which had a low draught so they could be dragged up the beach.

Crabs were often the most popular catch and the fishing families also made their own crab pots from willow.

The women helped to sell the fish, and cooked and sold the crabmeat, although until the arrival of the railways the market was quite limited.

Once trains did get to East Devon in the 1840s, there was a growth in the industry as the Budleigh catch could get much further afield.
Above: Sketch of Budleigh from around 1830

Despite this growth, the geography of the area still made it very challenging to make a living from the sea, so the family unit working together was particularly vital to the Budleigh community.

"Fishing off the beach made it very hard work", describes Nick, "And it took the whole family to keep the business going."

Fishing families
One of the longest standing Budleigh families that Nick has been looking into is the Rogers family.

They have been in Budleigh for the past 300 years, but can trace their roots in Devon back to the 14th century.

The main families in Budleigh each had their own section of the beach to fish from, with the Rogers at one end, the Mears at the other, the Sedgemoors and individual boats in between.

Although there was obviously some degree of rivalry as they were all competing in the same market, when it came to trouble at sea then the community would come together.

"If there was any help needed at sea, the families would help each other out, no problem", according to Nick.

"It was the same with the fisherman from Beer, up the coast. If the weather was too rough for them to get back, then they could always sleep on someone's floor in Budleigh until the storm passed - and vice versa."
Above: Nick looking through his collection of photos


Decline
In the 20th century, there were five boys born into the Rogers family which helped keep the family fishing tradition going for a bit longer.

They were the last real generation to make their living from the sea.

A decline in industry after the World Wars made making a living out of fishing even harder work.

"Tom, Dick, Digger, Lion and Perk Rogers had to take over the family business when their father became ill, but it was still extremely hard work fishing out from the beach."

A storm that damaged two of the family boats didn't help much either.

"It was in the late 1950s it happened - they used to anchor boats three or four hundred yards off the beach, but when there was a storm forecast they would take the boats round to Exmouth docks.

"One night they got the forecasts completely wrong and the next morning their boats were washed up on shore.

"The local Budleigh council came down to the beach and they managed to haul the boats up the beach, but one was quite badly damaged."

Nick worked as a fish merchant from the 1960s onwards, transporting fish from all over the county and the South West.

However it was the bigger boats making most of the hauls, rather then the smaller individual family boats.

One of the Rogers boys had sons to continue fishing in the family name, one of whom now fishes out of Brixham.

However the changes in the fishing industry in the late 20th century has ended the tradition of fishing families making their living from the beach at Budleigh Salterton.

Above: Budleigh beach today - not a fishing boat in sight
Importance of remembering
Nick has had a great response since he started collecting information about the fishing history of Budleigh.

"A hundred and seventy people attended my last talk about the history of fishing, which shows the huge interest there is in this area.

"Visitors to Budleigh today wouldn't necessarily realise how much history there is in the town, as there is no real sign of how much fishing went on here.

"That's why I started to put together this information, and doing talks about it, so more people know and the history of this town doesn't get forgotten.

"I am hoping to write a book about it too - as soon as I have enough time!"

Sketches reproduced with the permission of Devon Libraries Local Studies Service - you can look at their website by clicking on http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies
Text credit: Emily Wood and http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/
Mr Loman is keen to contact people who have old photos of Budleigh which they would be willing to let him see. His contact details: Tel: 01395 445630 Mobile: 07968075108

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