Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Garments for the Games

With several important anniversaries and national events taking place this year Fairlynch's volunteer helpers have had their work cut out choosing appropriate items among the many thousands of items in store at the Museum for its 2012 exhibitions.

Inspired by the London Olympics, the costumes team at Fairlynch have come up with a selection of garments from the past which offer an amusing contrast with today's sports clothing, as designed for example for the 2012 Games by Stella McCartney.

Some of the costumes on display recall the long history of Budleigh Salterton's many sporting groups. The Croquet Club, for example, one of the oldest of its kind in Britain, is well represented at Fairlynch.

And a golfing figure in the exhibition should remind us that the East Devon Golf Club was founded way back in 1902, visited over the years by many celebrities including the future Edward VIII in 1921. 

The model of a lady archer is a reminder that archery was very popular in Victorian times. Practised by Queen Victoria herself the sport was considered a graceful exercise which taught dexterity. Just a few miles west of Budleigh is the ground used by Exmouth Archers whose origins go back to a club first formed in Exmouth in 1885 by Major Bridges.

Horseriding has always been popular in the local area and an equestrian figure was only to be expected in the exhibition. The author R.F. Delderfield was introduced to it while living in Budleigh by the town's GP 'Doctor Tom', who told him that "every day spent out of the saddle is a day wasted."  Delderfield himself, writing in 1950, was struck by the "terrifying" aspect of some of the lady-riders when he first went hunting. "Two or three of them rode side-saddle and one looked exactly like Queen Elizabeth reviewing the Home Guard at Tilbury."

While the models in the main exhibition room at Fairlynch are all female an insight into male sporting attire of the past is provided with a showcase into what the active Victorian or Edwardian gentleman might have worn.  

 Items include a Cambridge Blue's tennis jacket and a 19th century hunting pink jacket, with a top hat and a pair of boots. There's even an attaché's blazer from the 1964 Olympics along with a cricketer's blazer, with cap, flannels and shoes, all from the 1920s.  

Talking of cricket it's worth mentioning that Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club is one of the longest established in the county with the first match reports dating back to 1858. Many great players have visited it, including Richie Benaud and Sir Donald Bradman who convalesced in Budleigh for three months whilst recovering from illness.

Along with its sports clubs, Budleigh Salterton can boast a number of sporting legends associated with the town.  The Fairlynch exhibition features in Kay Ray a local resident who represented Great Britain in cycling and was much involved with the sport from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Elsewhere on this site, you'll find a piece about Audrey Levick (1890-1980), wife of the naval surgeon on Scott's last Antarctic expedition, who, as Audrey Beeton, pictured above, represented her country in lacrosse and settled in retirement with her husband just outside the town.  Click on http://budleighbrewsterunited.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/audrey-levick-1890-1980.html

 Then there's the badminton and tennis champion and Budleigh resident Ethel Thomson Larcombe (1879-1965), seen here above right,  whose success as Wimbledon tennis champion exactly a century ago will no doubt be celebrated this year by the tennis players at the town's Games Club.  

And the Olympic rower Jack Wilson (1914-97) who lived at Elvestone in Budleigh, seen on the right in the above photo.   My US readers will be pleased to know that he was born in Bristol, Rhode Island and apparently has the distinction of being the only Olympic gold medallist ever born in that state, Americans included.  After school in Texas, he attended Shrewsbury School in England and then entered Pembroke College, Cambridge University, where he met his Olympic partner and life-long friend 'Ran' Laurie, father of the actor Hugh Laurie. He was President of the Cambridge University Boat Club in 1936. A comprehensive account of his life is given at http://www.ovapedia.org.uk/index.php?page=some-families-that-lived-at-elvestone-reade-ravenscroft-schirmacher-ikin-osgood-the-wilsons-budleigh-salterton-c19-20 

Both the fashion-conscious and the sports enthusiast will find much to entertain and interest them in the Museum's 2012 exhibition, which opens from Friday 6 April 2012.

This post links to an item at http://www.devonmuseums.net/Garments-for-the-Games/Latest-News/Fairlynch-Museum/Museum-News/

For information about the various sports clubs and activities in the Budleigh area click on the following:
Badminton  Email: andkath@gmail.com  or doreen@zfec.eclipse.co.uk
Croquet  http://www.budleighcroquet.co.uk/  (under construction)
Equestrianism  www.devonriding.co.uk

Club Secretaries of other locally based sports organisations who would like their details listed here are welcome to contact me at mr.downes@gmail.com

Costumes and curios in Fairlynch's Jubilee display

Budleigh Salterton is not generally spoken of as having been officially honoured by many royal visitors who stayed in the town, although HRH The Prince of Wales - later to become Edward VIII -  is recorded as having visited the town in 1914 and some years later, in May 1921, he played on the East Devon Golf Club's course.


However, judging by what the author R.F. Delderfield wrote in his essay 'Budleigh Salterton and Mrs.Simpson', published in his Overture for Beginners (1970) it's likely that after 1936 the town would not have wanted to remember that particular visitor.  

And the romantic but furtive walks made by the late Diana, Princess of Wales along Budleigh beach, as described in Anna Pasternak's book Princess in Love, were never publicised by local residents.

Nearby Sidmouth on the other hand boasts of its past glories associated with Queen Victoria's during her stay as a baby in the town, in names such as the Royal Glen Hotel and Connaught Gardens.

But among the thousands of items stored in Fairlynch Museum's costume collection there are many precious garments associated with royalty and the Queen's Jubilee this year has provided the perfect opportunity for them to be displayed to the public in the Museum's 2012 exhibition which opens from Friday 6 April.

Most of these garments were owned by Ellen Roberts, who was appointed dresser to Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925) on the latter's marriage in 1863 to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the heir-apparent of Queen Victoria.

Seen here, above right, as Princess of Wales from 1863 to 1901 she became generally popular; her style of dress and bearing were copied by fashion-conscious women. Her husband became King as Edward VII on the death of Queen Victoria.

Ellen Roberts kept her appointment as dresser to the Princess of Wales until her own marriage in 1875. Her father was in charge of the household at Windsor Castle and her aunt was head nurse in Queen Victoria's nursery.  

Shown left is a bonnet of the Prince of Wales, later King George V, and Princess Victoria's shoes 


Right: The Prince of Wales's sash and Princess Victoria's glove

The various garments which would have been worn by princes and princesses of Queen Victoria's day were donated to Fairlynch by Ellen Roberts' great-niece, Miss Joy Lennox.  

Above: Princess Victoria's doll's dress 

While such clothing with its royal associations is displayed in the Costumes Room, the Local History Room, also on the first floor of the Museum has a showcase devoted to various royal memorabilia including some splendid commemorative mugs, pictured above.

All in all, you could say that the Museum has certainly done its duty to mark Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. All it needs now is a royal visitor to come and congratulate it.

This post links to an item at http://www.devonmuseums.net/Costumes-and-curios-in-Museum-Jubilee-display/Latest-News/Fairlynch-Museum/Museum-News/

Antarctic artefacts on display at Fairlynch and Bonhams

The photo above of Scott's Northern Party is one of the items being auctioned in London on 30 March 2012 by Bonhams. Seen left to right are: Harry Dickason, Victor Campbell, George Abbott, Raymond Priestley, Murray Levick and Frank Browning.  The six men are standing outside the entrance to the ice cave in which they have just spent the 1911-1912 Antarctic Winter in darkness. The photo was taken on 24 September 1912. Photo credit: Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

The tragic death of Scott of the Antarctic and his four companions a century ago has stirred massive interest in the 1910 – 1913 'Terra Nova' expedition. Both the personalities of those early polar explorers and the equipment that they used - primitive by today's standards - have raised questions ranging from the nature of their heroism to the value of the scientific observations that they recorded.

Keen interest from visitors and high commendation from polar experts at Fairlynch's exhibition 'Survival!' last year were among some of the reasons which prompted the Museum to extend it for a second year in 2012.

As the naval surgeon and zoologist on Scott's expedition, Murray Levick found himself as second-in-command of the six-man Northern Party. The group found itself marooned on pack ice on what they called Inexpressible Island from February to September 1912. In freezing hurricane conditions they were forced to abandon their tents and take shelter in a cramped ice-cave that they constructed. The model pictured above is one of the exhibits featured in the Fairlynch display.

There they spent the seven months of an Antarctic winter in pitch darkness before being able to make their 230-mile trek back to base over 37 days of gruelling terrain. 

Important Scott exhibitions take place this year in Plymouth, Cardiff, Cambridge and London but it's believed that ‘Survival!’ is the first concerned primarily with the achievements of the Northern Party. The Fairlynch exhibition has aroused special interest in East Devon because Levick settled in Budleigh in retirement. Many of the items owned by him and shortly to go on display have never been seen by the public.

The Northern Party's survival owed much to Levick's care and medical knowledge. On one occasion the men were nearly asphyxiated when they were overcome by fumes from the stove in their ice-cave. It was Levick who saved them in the nick of time.

The world was largely unaware of this feat of endurance until recently, but publicity highlighting the Scott centenary, including the recent publication of two books about the Northern Party, has focused attention on Levick and his companions.

 Fairlynch's model 'George' is kitted out in Antarctic explorer's gear as Levick and his companions would have been. To the left are Levick's ski-poles. His skis are also on display in the Museum

Their heroism in withstanding that horrific Antarctic experience a century ago will receive further recognition this month with the auction in London of a collection consisting of some of Levick's personal belongings, including striking photographs, documents and drawings which give an insight into how the Northern Party survived.

The collection, which is held by a private owner is due to be sold at Bonhams in London for an estimate in excess of £40,000 on 30 March 2012.

Click on http://www.bonhams.com/to see details of the collection.

Fairlynch's 'Survival!' exhibition opens a week later on Friday 6 April at 2.00 pm.

So if your bid for one of those rare items at the London auction fails you can still come to the Museum and gaze in wonder and at leisure on how those early polar explorers succeeded in battling against such nearly impossible odds. 

The Museum will remain open until the end of September. For full details please see the website's home page.  The Longest Winter – Scott's Other Heroes, the acclaimed book by Meredith Hooper about Levick and the Northern Party, is on sale at Fairlynch Museum.  The author has accepted an invitation to speak at this year's Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival http://www.budlitfest.org.uk/

This post links to one at http://www.devonmuseums.net/Antarctic-artefacts-on-display-at-Fairlynch-and-Bonhams/Latest-News/Fairlynch-Museum/Museum-News/

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Delderfield's dwelling-places OR how the Yanks brought democracy to Budleigh Salterton

Following the Fairlynch Winter Talk about R.F. Delderfield by his biographer Marion Lindsey-Noble on 12 March comes a colourful and informative display at the Museum about the East Devon writer, part of the centenary celebrations to mark his birth on 12 February 1912. Some of the novels by this prolific author are shown above.

 Delderfield loved this area. Many of his novels such as A Horseman Riding By are set in East Devon. In later life he was a prominent defender of  Woodbury Common, pictured above, when it was threatened by development. He was an early supporter of 'the right to roam.'

"The people of East Devon have, for generations, considered themselves to possess this right and I for one have walked and ridden over it, without challenge, since I was a boy back in 1924," he is quoted in Margaret Wilson's book A Woodbury Triumph (2004).

The proposal to develop its 500 acres for use as a golf course, was not, he stated, the provision of an amenity, but "an exercise in despotism reminiscent of the Land Enclosure Acts of the early nineteenth century."

It's well known that he lived in Exmouth where his father had bought a printing press along with the local newspaper, The Exmouth Chronicle. And Sidmouth, where he moved later in life, has a memorial stone overlooking Jacob's Ladder beach, commemorating his achievements.

It's also known that that he lived at Knowle House and then at Shortwood House in this area.  Less well documented is his time in Budleigh Salterton itself.  The assertion that he ran an antiques shop in the town is without foundation.  As Marion Lindsey-Noble mentions in her biography, the business was based at Newton Poppleford.

Yet in a collection of autobiographical essays, published in 1951 as Nobody Shouted Author, Delderfield is quite specific about his move just after the end of World War Two to a house called Spion Kop in a village called Pebblecombe Regis, "a solid, red-brick structure, perched on the extreme edge of a sandstone cliff, with a sea view extending from Torbay to Chesil Beach."  In a piece entitled 'Migration to Valhalla' he goes into considerable detail about Spion Kop and its surroundings.

American commandos had occupied the house since 1942 and according to the new owner "seemed to have played baseball all over the house with cannon shot."  At one period during their occupation, writes Delderfield, they "appeared to have been pitifully short of firewood, for every shelf in the house had disappeared, together with most of the dining-room panelling and two-thirds of the banisters."

You'll search in vain for Pebblecombe Regis on Ordnance Survey maps. It sounds as if it could be near Salcombe Regis or even Lyme Regis but no village of that name exists.

Nobody Shouted Author is worth reading for the hilarious adventures that the Delderfield family enjoyed during their time at Spion Kop with their pigs Eggs and Bacon, hordes of chickens, two cats and a horse,  not forgetting their terrier bitch Punch and  Dixie the Dalmatian.

R.F. Delderfield in the 1950s

But it's through his portrayal of Pebblecombe Regis and its residents that Delderfield raises the most laughs.  As inventive as the name of the village is the story of how its popularity originated in the 19th century.

A "battle-scarred colonel", so Delderfield would have us believe, while sipping his whiskey-peg in a Bangalore club a year or two after the Indian Mutiny, is just about to give his attention to an article about a justifiable massacre of Sikhs in a month-old service periodical when his eye is caught by a letter from the preposterously named Major Bullington-Headrush CMB.

Written from the Major's home at "The Stockade, Pebblecombe Regis", the contents are worth quoting for their burlesque humour.

Firearms are making poltroons of us all, reads the Colonel, with what Delderfield describes as "a kindling eye." Let us accept the challenge of the hairy savage and trounce him with his own weapons! What has happened to the bowmen who cut up the French at Crecy and Agincourt!

And the Major ends with a question which fires his reader with the desire to meet and congratulate such a "dam' sensible feller."   Where are the yews that supplied our bowstaves and for so long were a compulsory adornment of all our churchyards?

Delighted by this "challenging appeal for the reintroduction of the longbow into our national armoury" the Colonel straightway writes a letter to Pebblecombe Regis enquiring about vacant houses in the immediate neighbourhood, having decided that such a good chap would make an excellent neighbour when he retired in two months' time.

"It wasn't so long after that one began to see masses of iron-bound trunks, together with bundles of rusty assegais, Afghan firelocks, snarling tigers' heads and tarnished Benares wares piled on the quays of Calcutta and Bombay, stuck all over with labels marked: 'Poona to Pebblecombe Regis', 'Quetta to Pebblecombe Regis', 'Cawnpore to Pebblecombe Regis', and so on, whilst Pebblecombe Regis itself began to take on the aspect it wore right up to the end of the Second World War."

And that aspect, Delderfield tells us, makes the village unique in the region.

"At any time between 1860 and 1945 the High Street of Pebblecombe Regis could easily be mistaken for a European quarter of a garrison town. Anglo-Indians, with hard, blue eyes, fierce moustaches, and mahogany faces, literally rubbed shoulders round the fishmonger's slab, whilst their womenfolk, with that total disregard for eavesdropping characteristic among the wives and daughters of professional soldiers, exchanged bits of gossip across the main street, at the tops of their voices."  Such characters often feature in amusing illustrations like the one above by the artist and writer Joyce Dennys.


Above: East Devon Golf Club in its magnificent setting overlooking Lyme Bay. The Golf House, according to Delderfield in Nobody Shouted Author, used to be Budleigh Salterton's seat of government

Unique also was the way in which Pebblecombe Regis was governed.

"The village expanded, of course, but not nearly as rapidly as one might imagine, for it was administered from the Golf House and each prospective newcomer had to undergo fierce scrutiny before he was encouraged to settle. Qualifications for residence were never actually set down on paper but they were there all right, as an impudent wholesale ironmonger discovered when he blew in from his factory at Middlesborough and moved out with a flea in his ear three months later."

With the special nature of Pebblecombe Regis came prosperity. "All through the last decades of the nineteenth century, and up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Pebblecombe Regis retained its air of exquisite aloofnesss towards the rest of the British Isles," Delderfield writes. "Its politics were, of course, militantly right-wing, and a Liberal agent who ventured to speak an apologetic word there on behalf of Asquith in 1911 narrowly escaped a lynching."

The rest of Britain did not take too kindly to such attitudes, we are told, and in the 1920s Pebblecombe Regis "became a music-hall joke."  But for people who depended for their livelihood on what had now become a popular and exclusive community it was no laughing matter.

"Those who lived within range of it, or had business in it, took its prejudices very seriously indeed. The High Street at noon terrified the boldest democrat. The tradespeople used the back streets and dared not send in their bills until they were demanded. Golf was played all day and bridge every evening, all other social activities, apart from the cultivation of giant vegetable marrows and white chrysanthemums, being prohibited as likely to attract visitors."  

Delderfield blames the Americans for bringing about "the first real change in more than seventy years" to Pebblecombe Regis, when "one morning in 1944" a column of GIs appeared in the town to the discomfiture of the town's Home Guard "which consisted almost entirely of men above the rank of lieutenant-colonel."

The author explains that the Americans didn't stay very long. "Their officer made a few friendly overtures in the district but he somehow got the impression that he had run headlong into the German General Staff and hastily withdrew further inland."

But the experience of meeting their transatlantic allies had unsettled the town, and the damage was done. "Soon after that, a spirit of sullen defeatism spread through the town and cracks began to appear in the principal bastions. To say Pebblecombe Regis became like other villages would be a gross misstatement of fact, but it certainly never recovered from the shock of that first American parade."

Daily evidence of rot was now noted by observers. Delderfield quotes the example of an ice-cream vendor who stopped in the High Street and openly sold his wares to the children of a newsagent. The last straw came when a major-general, denounced as a Quisling by residents, sold "a house called 'Travancore' to a manufacturer of blotting-paper from Stoke-on-Trent."

"The Old Guard fought a magnificent retiring action and dug in for a last stand on the western edge of the town," writes Delderfield.  But by the time that he and his wife May had moved in "at least a dozen families in the district were prepared to regard the writing of comedies as a  profession and not a trade."

Fact or fantasy?

Was Pebblecombe Regis a pure invention of the author, or did it have a basis in reality with its supposed origins in army officers returning from the Raj?

A view of Budleigh Salterton, looking east. Delderfield's house according to Nobody Shouted Author, was situated high up on the sandstone cliffs overlooking Lyme Bay

Delderfield's description of it as "the ante-room of Valhalla" should give us a clue when we think of the East Devon town known as 'God's Waiting Room.'  His frequent references in the book to his friend "Doctor Tom" are surely to Budleigh Salterton's GP, the husband of artist and fellow-writer Joyce Dennys.

And in 1970 the author confirmed the identity of Pebblecombe Regis when he described in another book, Overture for Beginners, how the road out of Exmouth climbs "east to the frontier of The Curry, otherwise known as Budleigh Salterton."

"There can be no doubt now that the column of G.I.s who slouched through the town in 1944 were instrumental in making Pebblecombe Regis safe for democracy," he concludes at the end of his light-hearted little chronicle of our town's history.

Could such a view be one of the many reasons why R.F. Delderfield is more popular in America than in Britain?  Many of the papers relating to his life and work are stored in Boston University Library, Massachusetts.

Marion Lindsey-Noble's biography of R.F. Delderfield, Butterfly Moments, is on sale at Fairlynch Museum.  There is additional material in two folders with material on Delderfield in the Museum's Local History Room. Fairlynch re-opens from Friday 6 April 2012. For details please see the website's home page.

This post relates to a shorter piece on Fairlynch Museum's website at http://www.devonmuseums.net/Delderfields-dwelling-places-OR-how-the-Yanks-brought-democracy-to-Budleigh-Salterton/Latest-News/Fairlynch-Museum/Museum-News/