Monday, 30 December 2013
Every Christmas Day spectators and swimmers gather on Budleigh beach just before 10.00 am. Or should that be sadists and masochists...?
Even the odd dog is welcome to join.
The weather had been stormy in the run-up to Christmas Day and I'd heard rumours that the event might have to be cancelled.
But who would decide? The coastguards in the photo were looking as if they thought everyone was mad.
They told me that the event is spontaneous with no organiser. People just turn up.
Here are some people putting on brave faces as 10.00 am approaches.
And they're off!
Clearly some people are having second thoughts. Those waves look quite big.
Yes indeed. This could have been a big mistake.
Some people just enjoy showing off.
The crowds break into applause...
... for the RNLI boats who are always out there on Christmas Day. Off they go to the Exmouth Christmas Day swim.
Funded by charitable donations, the lifeboat crews and lifeguards of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution have saved at least 140000 lives at sea since 1824. Click on
rnli.org to read more.
Tuesday, 24 December 2013
The madness of war: A Swiss shepherd watches a battle on the frontier during World War I from the 1915 edition of Some ‘Frightful’ War Pictures by the celebrated illustrator William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)
Museums up and down the country - indeed throughout the world - will have been bringing their resources to bear on exhibitions marking the centenary of World War I. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron announced last October that more than £50m has been allocated for a historic commemoration of the centenary of the start of the conflict.
Less dramatic perhaps but absorbing in their way are the diaries kept by non-combatants such as John Coleman Binder, a grocer, baker and corn-dealer from Oundle in Northamptonshire. Recently published by the town’s Museum Trust they cover in detail a wide range of aspects of World War I.
It’s a long way from Devon to Northamptonshire but I’m in the habit of spotting curious connections from the past. Like the fact that General Simcoe, a one-time resident of Budleigh Salterton, about whom I’ve written at length on this blog, was born at Cotterstock, near Oundle before moving with his family to Exeter.
I’ve often thought about the stupidity and sadness of human conflict, whether finding pacifist elements in the work of 16th century authors like the humanist scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam or the French comic writer Francois Rabelais...
This depiction of the battlefield of Waterloo by the artist John Heaviside Clarke (1771-1863) was dedicated to the Marquess of Anglesea, Wellington's cavalry commander
... or being struck by the absence of jingoism in this 1816 painting of the aftermath of Waterloo
... or writing about World War Two’s impact on the Oundle community between 1939 and 1945.
Above: A 1915 World War I poster appealing for volunteers
“The burden laid upon this empire is already stupendous, and cannot be added to without the gravest reasons,” he writes on page 95. “We are helping clear the seas. We have an army of 3 millions of men fighting on two fronts. We are keeping our trade going (under conditions which are intolerable) in order to finance ourselves and our Allies, and have practically turned all our steel and iron works of every description into munition factories in order to supply their wants and our own. If we withdraw our men compulsorily from these labours it seems to me the result will be collapse. I am neither an Optimist nor a Pessimist but simply a plain citizen who tries to look at these events in the light of reason. We are told the Voluntary System has proved a failure, that we are ‘a nation of slackers’ etc., etc. This is mere rubbish. No nation that supplies and equips an army of 3 millions in a year ought to be condemned in this way.”
Yet Mr Binder is no pacifist. “We cannot wage war in kid gloves with an enemy like Germany,” he concludes on page 214 having described a terrible air raid on London which took place on 13 June 1917, when 104 people - “a good part women and children” he notes - were killed, and 243 wounded. “One cannot understand their mentality at all, and Englishmen have long ceased to try to do so, and most of us now look upon them as real savages, but unfortunately they have been able to bring science to aid their savage and bloody ways.”
As I turn the pages of the Oundle shopkeeper’s diary I wonder how many volumes of diaries and letters still lie undisturbed in East Devon homes, and how many of them might perhaps have been composed a century ago during what Mr Binder describes so rightly as “this grim and bloody war.” Well, we have four years ahead of us to contemplate its horrors. And perhaps during that time Fairlynch Museum’s 2014 tribute to the victims of the Great War may help to yield more testimonies which deserve to be better known.
Oundle Museum's website is at http://www.oundlemuseum.org.uk/
Thursday, 19 December 2013
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Shown left to right getting the tree ready for the Late Night Shopping event on 6 December are Rob Merkel, Roger Sherriff, Andrew Jamieson and Trevor Waddington.
The Museum welcomed a steady flow of visitors to match the mulled wine on offer. Mince pies were served of course
Saturday, 14 December 2013
But why is there no mention of Sir Walter’s birthplace in East Budleigh, only a 30 minute drive from Exeter?
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Martin Watts: no run-of the-mill speaker
Living as we do on the coast, it’s all too easy to think that Devon’s all about seaside holiday resorts, smugglers’ coves, sea shanties and swashbuckling nautical heroes of the past. So the subject of a talk on 26 November in Knowle Village Hall was well chosen by the Otter Valley Association, given the importance of mill power over the centuries in our corner of the West Country.
And they couldn’t have chosen a better speaker than Martin Watts from Cullompton. One of only thirteen practising millwrights listed in the Mills section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, he was able to draw on his many years’ experience as a miller and student of mills since the 1960s. With an impressive range of slides and a seemingly endless supply of facts about rivers, leats, millstones, gearing, overshot and undershot wheels he kept his 60-strong audience fascinated by his story of how the ancient industry of milling had developed since the Middle Ages, with a special emphasis on
There had been, we learnt, about 2,000 mill sites in
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
With ‘Buy Local’ as the theme, BiB is planning its second Food & Drink Festival which is returning in 2014 from 24 to 26 October following the success of this year’s gastro-extravaganza.
There’s nothing insular about the group. Most of its members are based in the Budleigh area - the chorizo casserole for example comes courtesy of Rosehill Rooms and Cookery, based on Budleigh’s West Hill. But the mulled cider is from the Ashcombe Estate near Dawlish, where Budleigh resident Bill Roper is helping to revive the centuries-old tradition of cider-making. While on the subject of food there’s a delicious-looking recipe on the Ashcombe Cider web page at http://www.ashcombecider.co.uk/moules.html
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Two Friends of Fairlynch will shortly be leading walks organised by the Otter Valley Association but open to all.
On Saturday 7 December Brian Turnbull will lead a five-mile moderate walk starting at 10.00 am at
East Budleigh's Sir Walter Raleigh inn. Could Queen Elizabeth I's favourite have tasted the odd pint here? http://www.sirwalterraleighinn.co.uk
Monday, 25 November 2013
A corner of the Carter Library at Fairlynch Museum
At the tenth Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Fairlynch on 22 March 1979, Priscilla Hull, as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Museum, reported that the Library, under the care of Mrs Van Meter, was “now available on certain days each week, or by special appointment.”
The Manchester Street Library owed its origins to an initiative taken in 1939 by two members of Lexington’s Kentucky Junior League, an organisation of women committed to improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Their efforts began with providing library facilities at the
Image credit: The Goodman Paxton Photographic Collection, Special Collections,
In the pre-WW2 years Irishtown was well known as a deprived area notable as the home of poor white residents, most of whom were working-class Irish who had fled the potato famine in their homeland. As recently as 1980 it was described as "the worst pocket of poverty in
By spring 1940 the women volunteers had become deeply involved in improving library facilities at the school, repairing old or worn-out books, cataloguing and accessioning new ones and of course encouraging children to read. It was clear that such a facility was badly needed at times when the school library was closed. By 1 June of that year, the volunteers, now 15 in number, were running what became known as the Manchester Street Library in an old store-room near the
The volunteers themselves took it in turns to do a stint in the library, helping approximately 25 children to select books, and, as librarian Amelia King Buckley put it, “holding story hour, keeping peace and always remembering that the library must not acquire a schoolroom atmosphere.” Their aim was to build up a feeling among the children that it could be fun to come to the library and borrow a book, and that all the books belonged to all of them and they must care for them accordingly.
The actress Colleen Moore in 1921
The Library itself was evolving, organising visits to a printing shop, a dairy and a farm and encouraging the children to produce plays. Books for all ages were added to its stock. It gained a new dimension when it developed a sewing club where a group of mothers could learn to make new garments out of leftover clothes from jumble sales. The club disbanded each year in late winter and early spring when the women took jobs in local tobacco factories.
Further outside help and recognition of the Manchester Street Library’s worth came when the Kentucky branch of the National Society Daughters of Colonial Wars decided to make a regular contribution to help with the purchase of attractive patriotic books, the first ones that had been bought new.
In 1938, work had been started on a low-cost public housing complex known as
The Library, by now with a collection of approximately 3,000 books also benefited from community funds generated by a government initiative during World War Two. It was able to move from the old storeroom to a nearby four-room house at
Autumn 1943 saw the formation of a men’s club and a women’s club thanks to the interest of the YWCA and the YMCA in the project. A toy lending library was started with the help of the Council of Jewish Women.
But by 1951 the importance of the Manchester Street Library as a book centre had diminished thanks to the mobile library set up by Lexington Public Library. The following year the name was changed to the
The view from Ting Tong on a misty autumnal day, looking east towards Peak Hill and Sidmouth: the sea is somewhere out there
For Frances Van Meter the distinction was important: in 1978 she became involved in a six-month battle with the Television Records Office over her address, officials having decreed that Clover Cottage was on
“‘Ting Tong’”, she wrote, “is probably a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Thyngton’, meaning ‘meeting place.’ Its location would have provided an ideal look-out point for ancient tribesmen holding ‘council meetings’ since its hilltop even now gives an excellent view of the Exe estuary, the Channel as far as Portland Bill in one direction and Berry Head in the other on a clear day, as well as a panorama of inland countryside. The Isle of Man still has its Tynwald (parliament),
Clover Cottage, Ting Tong, in about 1986
The newspapers had a field day. Frances Van Meter had approached her friend East Devon Councillor Anne de Winton, a Budleigh Salterton resident and published author. Council officials joined the fight to try and arrive at a solution, though the Sidmouth Herald commented that this may have added to the confusion.
There was naturally insufficient space in the newspapers for all that erudition displayed by the lady from
Fairlynch co-founder Joy Gawne remembers her as “statuesque” and an excellent Librarian. "'Van Meter... like the gas meter', she would say to introduce herself. She would be typing away in the Library and visitors at the Museum would apologise thinking that they had gone into an office by mistake, but she would welcome them and insist on showing them what was on the shelves.”
A postcard showing Knowle Village in about 1900
Image credit: Fairlynch Museum
The results of her research into Ting Tong were published in a folder dated 14 May 1986. A further project concerned the history of
In 2010 the Manchester Center Board of Directors made the difficult decision to close the Center in
With much acknowledgement to Jonathan Jeffrey’s ‘Looking Back: A History of the