Friday, 30 April 2010

The real Budleigh

As most local people know, the village that we know today as East Budleigh was a thriving and relatively wealthy community long before Budleigh Salterton became popular as a seaside resort. Not until the end of the 19th century did Salterton become a parish in its own right, with its own church of St Peter's, consecrated in 1893.

By contrast there is evidence that the origins of All Saints Church in East Budleigh go back to Saxon times. You certainly feel that you're in an important historic place as soon as you enter the village with its winding main street lined with picturesque thatched cottages. In fact visitors from our sister-town of Brewster should probably start in East Budleigh if they want to explore the area, if only because of the village's centuries-old links with America.

For a start East Budleigh is the birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh, the Elizabethan courtier, poet, soldier, and explorer who was responsible for pioneering some of the earliest European settlements in what would become the United States. And then, remarkably for what seems such a quiet and hidden-away village today it was also from where Roger Conant set out with a company of fishermen to found the city of Salem, Massachusetts in 1626. Even when Budleigh Salterton had long eclipsed its more ancient original settlement a few miles inland, East Budleigh should be a place to visit for historians of modern America; one of the church's most attractive stained glass windows commemorates Admiral Preedy, commander of HMS Agamemnon, which laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable between Europe and America in 1858. The Admiral is buried in All Saints churchyard. There are more details about him at

All this remarkable history and more is contained in a recently published booklet about the village of East Budleigh and its church, commissioned by the Friends of All Saints. Hanneke Coates, who has lived near East Budleigh for many years, was responsible for the research and writing the text. A talented artist she also created many of the etchings and colour illustrations in the booklet. Her drawings of the church bench ends show particularly well the amazing detail of medieval craftmen's work. The example pictured above, showing the Seafarers' Seat, appears on the booklet's back cover.

I almost gave up on my search for Admiral Preedy's grave because the churchyard was so overgrown, feeling just a bit surprised that a national hero's last resting-place should be so neglected. But Hanneke Coates points out in her booklet that ancient churchyards are effectively miniature nature reserves, noting that 100 species of wild flowers have been identified. All Saints really is a place where you could quietly compose an Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

The booklet is most informative without being too 'heavy' about many other aspects of East Budleigh and some of the surrounding places of interest such as the Salem Chapel, even including Bicton St Mary's and the mausoleum a few miles away. It's an attractive publication which is certain to find its place on both residents' and visitors' bookshelves. All Saints Church and the Village of East Budleigh is on sale at the Church, East Budleigh Village Shop and The Card Shop Too in Budleigh Salterton High Street.
All illustrations above are from the booklet.

For more information about East Budleigh click on

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