Friday, 2 April 2010

The changing face of Budleigh,1: Steamer Steps

My friend Annie who tends to collect anything connected with Budleigh's history recently bought this watercolour painting of the beach and cliffs near Steamer Steps. It's dated 1868 on the back, and we tracked down the artist from the scribbled name next to it as Arthur Wyatt Edgell (1837-1911).

Colonel Edgell, as he turned out to be, was not only a keen painter but also a Justice of the Peace for Devon. He was sent to Eton in 1849 before studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He then entered the Army, joining the Prince of Wales' Hussars in 1860, ending up as Lieutenant-Colonel in the Devon Artillery Volunteers. He was also a keen geologist, becoming a Fellow of the Geological Society. He lived at Cowley Place in Exeter, and visited Budleigh to paint the cliffs because of his interest in the fossils, notably the Lamellibranchs or molluscs found within the pebblebeds of the town's beach.

An article that he wrote on the subject was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 1874, volume 30, issue 1-4, p. 45-49. "This task would not have been attempted had there been any chance of a more competent person's undertaking it", he modestly writes.
The source for this information is at

Colonel Edgell's study of the cliffs is a charming little work and I'm posting it here in case it's of interest to any local historians, along with a photo of the same scenery as it appears today.
The pebblebed cliffs at Budleigh Salterton, showing the Steamer Steps beach café on the right

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