Sunday, 31 March 2013

Budleigh’s local historians

The Feathers Hotel on Budleigh Salterton's High Street

Fairlynch Museum’s Local History Room is a favourite with our many visitors to Budleigh because of the enormous amount of information carefully gathered over the years by the Museum’s researchers.  Details about local families, planning applications, the history of Budleigh’s schools, the railway... you can spend hours absorbed in learning fascinating facts about the town’s sewerage systems or the local gasworks.

There are of course plenty of local historians working outside the Museum. The Otter Valley Association reports that its OVApedia History section continues to grow, with 150 articles now published online.  At you can find out about the Newton Poppleford man with two wives. Or, less sensationally in the OVApedia files, about the beekeeping former resident of Lee Ford in Knowle, just a mile or so west of Budleigh Salterton.

The Long Room at The Feathers. Photo courtesy of Tony Jones

One article of interest to the town’s drinkers is a study compiled by Gerald Millington and Roger Lendon of some of the licensees of The Feathers Hotel going back over the years to 1832. No story of bigamists here, though I did note that one of the Feathers’ landlords was illegally married. Find out more at


An 1890 photo of The Feathers, courtesy of Tony Jones. A record of 1856 notes that the inn had a yard and coach house, stabling for seven horses, a large club room, cellars and a plot of garden ground used as a skittle alley  


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Fairlynch Museum's 2013 Exhibitions

Fairlynch Museum's 2013 exhibitions. Lots to see but ADMISSION IS FREE!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Jack Rattenbury lives!

Above: Jack Rattenbury seen in East Budleigh's The Rolle Arms with, left, Fairlynch Museum Chairman Roger Sherriff

Several local people have reported that Jack Rattenbury was seen recently at the Rolle Arms in East Budleigh. Following investigations Fairlynch Museum Chairman Roger Sherriff has admitted that the infamous smuggler had been allowed a quiet last pint before transferring to his new home at the Museum to receive visitors in the Smugglers' Cellar.

For many years Rattenbury was the bane of Customs and Excise men. Although not a Budleigh man - he was actually born in Beer, East Devon, in 1778 - many of his illegal activities took place in this area. The above painting in the Smugglers’ Cellar at Fairlynch Museum records the moment on 29 January 1821 when he narrowly escaped being arrested a mile or so off Budleigh beach on his way back from France, having as he later admitted in his memoirs “a cargo of goods, consisting of one hundred kegs of spirits, and a bale of tea.”  

Along with another smuggling vessel which was bound for Exmouth harbour he and his fellow crew members, both British and French, were challenged by a Customs boat commanded by a Captain Stocker who demanded to inspect Rattenbury’s cargo.  “The captain attempted to come on board, but we told him to keep-off,” recalled Rattenbury. “They again attempted to board us, but we shoved her off with a boat-hook; upon which she dropped astern of our vessel, and began to fire at us. The first shot carried away our main halliards, and down came the sails.”  

Rattenbury describes how the Customs men continued to fire till their ammunition was quite exhausted, at which point Captain Stocker, who had recognised the notorious smuggler by his voice called out "Master Rattenbury, you had better let me come alongside quietly." Keeping his cool, Rattenbury allowed the Captain aboard and even offered him refreshments after a search which revealed nothing. The smugglers had loaded their illegal goods into a smaller boat which they had then shoved off with a boat-hook.


Above: A contemporary print of Jack Rattenbury, known as 'The Rob Roy of the West'
“Captain Stocker remained till three o'clock in the morning, and having no plea for detaining the vessel, he then left,” wrote Rattenbury. “But when he had got about twenty yards distance, he called out to me and said, ‘Mind, Mr. Rattenbury, I do not find you here in the morning with the vessel; if you are, I'll detain you.’

“A fine breeze springing up we cruised about in search of our boat, but we could not find her. The next morning at day-break, we saw Captain Stocker with two Salterton boats a long way off, and they had our boat in tow, containing the goods, with them. We then made the best of our way to Beer, and returned to France the same day, for fear of being apprehended; and remained there a fortnight, and then came home with a cargo. I then went on shore, and sent a crew off to the vessel to secure the goods.”

Rattenbury had many other hair-raising adventures during his smuggling career which lasted, so he says, for another 15 years. At that point, reflecting that he had made little money from his illegal trading trips, he accepted a pension from local landowner Lord Rolle of a shilling a week.  He died in 1844 and is buried in Seaton churchyard.  

Do visit the Smugglers’ Cellar at Fairlynch Museum, say hello to our life-size version version of Jack Rattenbury created by talented Budleigh artist and designer Neil Rogers and learn about the history of the age-old tradition of smuggling in East Devon. And if you feel like raising a glass in his memory he’d be pleased if it was a pint of Lyme Bay Winery’s award-winning Jack Ratt scrumpy cider named after this great East Devon character. 









Sunday, 24 March 2013

On loan from Exmouth’s most unusual gift shop

There’s a whole range of stuff on show in Fairlynch’s 2013 exhibition ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges.’ Microscopes, fossils, antique pens, crystals, paintings and some weird Victorian medical equipment including a leech jar. Crystals? Yes, not just the Arabian frankincense crystals which intrigued the 19th century Budleigh scientist Henry Carter but some really beautiful mineral crystals which he mentions in his writings on the geology of India.  Like this intriguing  piece of scolecite from the hills of Poona.

 Or this fine example of chalcedony.

Most of the items have been lent by kind friends of Fairlynch, but the crystals have come from an unusual shop not too far away. Prajna in Sanskrit means ‘wisdom’ and that’s the name of the business founded by Kevin Palmer 20 years ago.  The shop on The Parade in Exmouth offers a full range of crystals and fossils including the weird and wonderful. From angels, buddhas, books and incense to jewellery, fairies, tarot and wicca. You’re as likely to hear Gregorian chant in Prajna as you are Tibetan mantras.


Kevin’s interest in crystals began with the amethyst geodes often seen in jewellery shop window displays. He started the business with £100’s worth of crystals and now has customers worldwide with a website at   He is seen above holding an impressively large specimen of Cavansite, a beautiful and rare mineral which was discovered only in the last 30 years and is found in only a few localities, notably from quarries in Poona, India 


Exmouth-born and bred, Kevin also has a keen interest in local history, having had articles in magazines published and is the author of two books Exmouth of Yesteryear (2000) and Littleham of Yesteryear (2003).  He’s also an artist, pursuing spiritual themes in his paintings.

You might think that a New Age shop like Prajna is unusual for the down-to-earth sort of place that is Exmouth with its traditions of fishing and sunny holidays by the sea. But here we are mid-way between Totnes and Glastonbury noted nationwide for the esoteric preoccupations of many of their residents. And go just a few miles north of Exmouth and Budleigh and you’ll find yourselves in the magical secret landscape of Woodbury Common where beneath the gorse and heather lie the Bronze Age sites that so inspired Budleigh archaeologist George Carter - born in Exmouth of course.

Like Henry Carter some 70 years before, he had spent time in Sindh province, in modern-day Pakistan. Find out more about the secrets of the pebblebed heath and the special meaning of Budleigh pebbles at 

So you could say that the Prajna crystals are feeling very much at home in Budleigh Salterton’s Fairlynch Museum.   

For more information about Prajna click on

Fairlynch Museum’s 2013 exhibitions are open from 29 March through to 30 September, 2.00-4.30 pm, daily except Saturdays. The Museum is open on Easter Saturday. Admission is free.  


Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Art of War



With the approaching centenary of World War One many museums, including Fairlynch,  will be dusting down their 1914-18 memorabilia and even thinking of acquiring items for exhibitions.

For those planning to mark the centenary whose budgets are limited there are plenty of replica packs such as the ones currently being marketed by the National Museums of Scotland. Its World War One memorabilia pack consists of replica documents including a Joining the Ranks booklet, a Patriotic Pledge card, a Kitchener postcard, an I.D. card, an Invasion leaflet, a Help to win the War leaflet and recruitment cards. 

Genuine material can still be picked up locally however. One of the items on offer at the Bicton Street Auction Rooms in Exmouth is a 1915 first edition of Some ‘Frightful’ War Pictures by the celebrated illustrator William Heath Robinson (1872-1944).

At this early stage in the war when the book was published and perhaps before the full horror of the trenches became apparent the illustrations are remarkable for their light-hearted humour, almost in the style of a Comic History.

Auctioneer Piers Motley-Nash, shown above,  who took over the Exmouth business in July 2012 estimates a price of between £50 and £80 at the Auction Rooms’ General and Collectors sale on Monday 11 March.



Illustrations from 'Some Frightful War Pictures' by W. Heath Robinson:  Nach Paris! First lessons in the Goose-step

Repelling an Assault of 'Flu Germs
The Germans use Button Magnets
A Swiss Shepherd watches a Battle on the Frontier
The German Periscoper: "Ah, Himmel! Dot most be ze der peautiful Ben Nevis of vich ve 'ave 'eard so mooch!"
Also of interest to WWI collectors will be these examples of ‘trench art’ made by soldiers out of brass shell casings. The range of such art is vast, varying from crudely produced designs made by amateurs to elaborate pieces created by skilled craftsmen on active service.  The subject even has its own website at

Piers, who was an auctioneer and valuer at Potburys of Sidmouth for eight years, is confident that the area will continue to be a fertile hunting-ground for such curios with historic or cultural value. Budleigh Salterton in particular, a traditional retirement place for former military or colonial personnel, is a regular source of material. Having spent his childhood in Nigeria Piers has a keen interest in ethnographic collections as well as the more usual items such as furniture and paintings that can still be picked up at bargain prices.

For more information on sales at the Bicton Street Auction Rooms click on



More Joyce Dennys paintings on display

Fairlynch Museum’s 2013 exhibitions include some paintings by local artist Joyce Dennys which have not been on display to visitors for some time.


Born in Simla, India, in 1893, Isobel Dorothy Joyce Dennys came from a military family. Her father was a professional soldier in the Indian Army and came to live in Budleigh Salterton when he retired. From the age of 11 Joyce was brought up in the town with which she would have a long association. An artist, book illustrator, playwright and amateur actress she has also been described as a feminist author.

Above: Joyce Dennys as a child

With her conventional family background and as the wife of a respectable family doctor with a passion for horse riding she might have been considered as a representative of the stuffy conservatism ridiculed in the autobiographical writings of R.F. Delderfield, himself a one-time resident of the town.

In fact she shared with Delderfield and with Victor Clinton-Baddeley, another local author and her lifelong friend, a gentle but keen sense of humour which is seen in many of her paintings and drawings. It characterises her portrayal of so many scenes which are recognisably of Budleigh. They range from tea-shops with gossipy ladies of a certain age to those awkward encounters between differing social types.
Above:  The Coffee Morning, ‘Markers’, reproduced by kind permission of Budleigh Salterton Town Council

After Exeter Art School and further art studies in London, interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914, Joyce Dennys served in the Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing scheme. Her experience in various hospitals at this time was the source of amusing caricatures collected in her albums. In 1915 she was commissioned to draw the pictures for Our Hospital ABC with verses by Hampden Gordon and M.C. Tindall, published in the following year. She also produced recruitment posters for the War Office.

Above: One of the many children's books by Rodney Bennett with whom Joyce Dennys collaborated as an illustrator
Following her marriage to Tom Evans the couple moved for a time to New South Wales where her illustrations, which she exhibited in numerous galleries, were much in demand. In 1922, now a mother, she returned to Britain where her husband became a GP in Budleigh Salterton. She took part in the town's amateur dramatics at this time as an actress, producer and playwright, but her drawing took second place to the social and domestic duties of a doctor's wife. However she continued to produce illustrations for magazines such as Punch and Sketch. Among the authors she worked with was Rodney Bennett, father of the composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. It was Joyce Dennys who invited him and his family to move to Budleigh when World War Two broke out.  

Much of Joyce Dennys’ work is a wry comment on the inferior position of women in society. This 1930 print with the ironic title of ‘Perfect Wives’ features a long-suffering spouse enduring the cold as she watches her husband ice-skating. 

The 1939 - 45 period inspired her pieces in Sketch. They were written as letters to her friend Robert and reflect the amusing and bitter-sweet aspects of wartime life in a small town. These include the frustrated feelings of women over a certain age who find that bandage rolling, knitting or committee attending are all they are permitted to do for the war effort.  The letters later appeared in book form as Henrietta's War (1985) and Henrietta Sees It Through (1986), with the latter title re-issued in 2010.

Joyce Dennys took up painting in oils at the age of 70 after the death of her husband Tom. Fairlynch Museum has some of her work from this period on loan, and an equal number of paintings are held in the Budleigh Salterton Town Council offices. Among these are the delightful ‘Eating Ice Creams on Budleigh seafront, Devon.’

Reproduced by kind permission of Budleigh Salterton Town Council


Following her death in London in 1991 Joyce Dennys was cremated and her ashes scattered off the coast of Budleigh Salterton. She is still remembered by many in the town for her artistry, her wit and her charm. In 2004 a display of her work was held at Fairlynch, where the mural in the Costume Room is a permanent reminder of her.

“Many of Joyce Dennys’ paintings are animated by a subtle but effective contradiction of style and content,” says Angie Harlock-Wilkinson, who has been cataloguing the Museum’s artwork. “Her use of subdued tones in a harmonious range of subtle, chalky colours, lends an understatedness to her style which makes the melodramatic poses and vivid personalities of her figures all the more surprising and enjoyable. This juxtaposition brings to life the deliciously wry but rather poignant irony at the heart of her work.”