Friday, 12 July 2013

More on East Budleigh’s ‘smuggling vicar’

Above: East Budleigh’s All Saints Church where Ambrose Stapleton was the vicar for 58 years until 1852

Mention of Budleigh’s smuggling past in a previous post at  reminded one of my readers of further stories about Ambrose Stapleton.

Former resident of the town Meg Peacocke wrote to tell me of how East Budleigh’s celebrated ‘smuggling vicar’ featured in a local amateur dramatics production during World War Two.  In around 1940 her father the children’s author Rodney Bennett started or took over a drama society in East Budleigh. Participants were keen, she writes, but he soon discovered that their performances based on a written script were wooden.  He therefore experimented with improvisation based on local material, so that actors might speak more freely and in their own idiom - “an early Mike Leigh?” wonders Meg.

One story which the group developed concerned Ambrose Stapleton and his smuggling activities that they performed with much success at a drama competition in Exeter, as well as locally.

Meg believes that there may well have been other stories used by the drama group. She remembers that one of the most talented actors in the troupe was the wife of a Bicton head gardener - a Mrs Kentisbeare, she thinks - who was also a renowned lacemaker.

Fairlynch Museum would love to know more about this and indeed about Ambrose Stapleton, this colourful character distinguished by his long tenure as vicar of East Budleigh.  If you can help please get in touch via



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