Monday, 14 October 2013

Angels come to St Peter’s

Christine Lee is one of Britain’s outstanding figurative sculptors.  She’s also a Friend of Fairlynch and it was her friendship with the Museum’s late President that prompted the exhibition of her most recent work in Budleigh.

Her best known creation is the extraordinary fountain, over five metres high, which stands in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. The work was inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip on 8 November 1996.  Sculpted in stainless steel and brass it depicts two swans, wings outstretched, rising in flight.

“Grounded yet soaring” is how Christine’s work has been described, and that’s certainly how you’d see her sculpture of two angels entitled ‘Compassion’ currently on view in St Peter’s Church. 

Winged like her Stratford swans, this latest piece is very different. At just over two metres it’s an approachable piece for the viewer. There’s a warmth and a humanity about it thanks to the use of beautifully grained black American walnut rather than harsher stainless steel. The wood even gives a suggestion of angelic drapery folds.


The idea of a special relationship is conveyed in the closeness and the posture of the two angels: one is smaller and more vulnerable, seeking consolation, the other offering comfort and support.  At the same time the sculptor cleverly portrays the taller figure looking skywards.   

The key to interpreting ‘Compassion’ is in Christine’s relationship with her sister Jennifer Worth, the nurse, musician and author noted for her best-selling trilogy of memoirs about her work as a midwife practising in the poverty-stricken East End of London in the 1950s. In her fourth volume of memoirs, In the Midst of Life, published in 2010, Jennifer Worth reflected on her later experiences caring for the terminally ill. Call the Midwife, based on the first volume of memoirs, was broadcast as a BBC television series in January 2012. 

This was six months after the author’s death on 31 May 2011 from cancer of the oesophagus aged 75.  Christine Lee was deeply affected by the event. “Since my sister died she has been with me in spirit,” she wrote.  “After making many pieces about our relationship and childhood, I have turned my hand to making angels. My final angels are loving angels, close yet separately relating to each other. This was how our relationship developed over the years - close genetically with a family background, both strong and creative, yet separate. This last piece of sculpture was made in memory of my sister. It is called ‘Compassion’.”

The work will be on view in St Peter’s Church, Budleigh Salterton, for a limited period before being transferred to a church in Herefordshire.  “Priscilla Hull always wanted to see one of my sculptures in Budleigh,” said Christine at the dedication ceremony in St Peter’s on Saturday 12 October 2013. “I think she’d be very happy to see these angels here today.”

Christine Lee’s website is at


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fairlynch Friend went for the burn

Image credit: Trudie Burne

You may have wondered why Fairlynch publicity bears the logo of Bradleys Estate Agents.  It’s simply that manager Robin Burne very generously agreed back in February 2011, without the slightest hesitation, that his firm would provide the photocopying for our beautiful posters.

So in recognition of his support I felt it was the least I could do to repay his generous gesture by sponsoring him in today’s Great West Run, especially as he was running for Cancer Research UK.

Exeter’s Great West Run is now 28 years old. It offers what it describes as the energy of a city centre road race, combined with pretty country lanes and stunning views across Exeter. But when all’s said and done it was still a hard 13-mile slog that Robin and fellow-runners faced today and I wouldn’t like to try and beat his time of 01:58:26. And he managed to get back to Budleigh in time to help with the Food and Drink Festival.

Congratulations Robin. His Just Giving site is still open, so I hope that some of my readers, especially those with a Fairlynch connection, will click here and support your very good cause.



Friday, 11 October 2013

Kimmo Evans ‘Fifty Years of the AONB’

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an area of high scenic quality which has statutory protection in order to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of its landscape.

There are only just over 30 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, and here in East Devon we are lucky to be living in one of them.

Fairlynch Museum and the Otter Valley Association have teamed up to present a talk by Kimmo Evans, Community Development Officer at East Devon AONB.  

With a degree in Marine Biology, Kimmo Evans has gained most of his experience in the conservation sector - both marine and land-based. He has worked on traditional aspects of protected landscape work such as events planning, conservation tasks and media work. But he has also been involved in more innovative interpretation work linked to mobile phone technology, working with local businesses and community based renewable energy projects. He is now also Board Director on the Heart of Devon Area Tourism Partnership.

The talk will give an insight into the challenges of conserving and enhancing areas such as our corner of East Devon, faced with the pressures of 21st century urban expansion.

‘Fifty Years of the AONB’ will run from 2.00 to 4.00 pm in the Peter Hall, Budleigh Salterton on Monday 4 November 2013.

Click on  to learn more about the East Devon AONB.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

‘Survival!’ to live on in cyberspace

Above: The 2011 poster advertising Fairlynch exhibition 'Survival!'
With the ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ exhibition at Fairlynch Museum about to close in early November I am now thinking of how to dispose of all the display material. Obviously many of the artefacts will be returrned to the owners who kindly lent them. But what of all the display boards which told the stories of heroic Budleigh characters like Murray Levick and Henry Carter, the subjects of our exhibitions of the last few years?  Does the recycling centre have to be their only destination just because of lack of storage space in the Museum?


Canadian connections: The book Public School Explorers in Newfoundland by Dennis Clarke, published in 1935,  focused on Murray Levick's expeditions

Just as I was asking myself such questions a ‘Greetings from Canada’ email arrives. Appropriate really as many of Murray Levick’s early expeditions with the Public Schools Exploring Society that he founded in 1932 were to Newfoundland.

The email was from Jacqueline BĂ©lisle who works for the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and who turns out to be a passionate admirer of the hero of Fairlynch’s ‘Survival!’ exhibition. “I am writing to say how happy I was to read about Antarctic explorer George Murray Levick on your Budleigh & Brewster United blog,” she began. “I’m also delighted to find the Fairlynch Museum page on Facebook. I’m sorry to have missed the “Survival” exhibit as I am two years late, but your informative blogs on Levick’s life and what looked like rare pictures are very much appreciated.”

Jacqueline’s interest stems from her fascination with Scott’s Northern Party.

“I have read Ms. Hooper and Ms. Lambert’s books, not to mention Lt. Campbell, Raymond Priestley, Dr. Levick and Harry Dickason’s diaries,” she says. “Out of all six men from the Northern Party, I found Murray Levick to be a genuinely captivating character. Although there is information circulating on the Web, it is somewhat limited, so your blog was a real gem in that it was so thorough. Thank you for all your efforts.”

 Well, Jacqueline’s email has inspired me to try and archive all Fairlynch’s exhibitions going back to the Museum’s foundation in 1967. I’ve made a start but there’s clearly an imbalance, with relatively little material from the early days compared with the modern age of information overload thanks to the internet.

But the last two exhibitions are well covered and can even be commented on and added to by anyone prepared to venture into cyberspace.  You can even contribute as visitors, in the same way that people have written about Fairlynch on Tripadvisor at

I’d welcome contributions from any Friends of Fairlynch or indeed of Budleigh Salterton who would like to look at my efforts simply by clicking here and who would like to tell me how much more material needs to be added.


Costumes bringing us closer


Above: The Sewall-Scripture House, built in 1832, at 40 King Street in Rockport , Massachusetts. It is one of two museums in Rockport administered by the Sandy Bay Historical Society

Google the little coastal town of Rockport to see where it lies exactly in the state of Massachusetts and you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re looking at a very odd map of England.

There’s admittedly no Rockport here on our side of the Pond but as for the names of towns in the surrounding area of this part of the NW United States  they’re all vivid reminders of how that part of Massachusetts was settled by refugees from religious persecution back in England, mainly in the 17th century. 

Ipswich, Gloucester, Manchester, Reading, Malden, Wakefield, Woburn, Haverhill, Newbury... the list goes on and on.

So I’m always pleased to receive any friendly or enquiring emails from the USA keen to revive those centuries-old connections.

Rockport native the Rev. Sarah Clark is a Unitarian Universalist minister who has an extensive background in theatre arts and is an enthusiastic reader of Joyce Dennys’ ‘Henriette’ books as well as being a keen reader of bulletins from the Budleigh-Brewster blogger. 

“I particularly enjoyed Dennys’ connection with Budleigh Salterton because, as you know I'm sure, Budleigh Salterton is in the dialogue of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, a play dear to my heart,” she told me. “Brewster is lovely. I preached in the UU church there when precandidating for Plymouth. It's a beautiful old New England church.”


This white summer dress dates from the early 1900s. It was pointed out that the dress would have been worn with a slip but for exhibition purposes showed off the crochet better without
Sarah’s connection with Fairlynch Museum gets even closer, as she explained.  She wrote to tell us of the exciting finds that she and her colleagues made at her own museum, including the dresses pictured here.
“I am docent and head of collections at our local Sandy Bay Historical Society and Museum so see lots of parallels in our activities,” she wrote. [For English readers a ‘docent’ is an American term for a guide in places like museums].

“This summer we held a special off-site exhibit of some of the vintage clothes (1780-2000) we found smashed away in our closets. A lot of work but also fun and well received.”  [I think she means ‘stashed’ but maybe not.]


An 1859 blue wedding dress 
Anyway the costume finds caused some excitement over there. You can read all about it at

And you can find out about Sarah’s Museum at

Sharing Science with Sidmouth


For one day on Wednesday 16 October Fairlynch will be open to visitors from 10.00 am - 1.00 pm in association with the what looks like a highly interesting Sidmouth Science Festival, now in its second year.

Friends of Fairlynch and others who may like to display or simply admire the above poster may want to know the identity of the people who decorate it.

They’re all Fellows of the Royal Society associated with the town of Sidmouth and commemorated with displays in Sidmouth Museum. Apart from our own Henry John Carter of course.

Starting with the newly designed Fairlynch Museum logo in the bottom left corner and going clockwise we have:

1. A glass sponge known as Venus’ flower basket Euplectella aspergillum side by side with London’s Swiss Re Tower so as to compare the amazing structure of one of Nature’s wonders with a modern architectural marvel.  Carter was one of the first writers to describe how the sponge grows; there are examples on display in Fairlynch.

2. Frederick Lindemann FRS, 1st Viscount Cherwell (1886-1957), an influential scientific adviser to the British government in the early 1940s and 1950s.

3. Production of ‘sticky bombs’ during World War Two, a project with which Lindemann was associated.

4. Sir Norman Lockyer FRS (1836-1920) the celebrated astronomer and astrophysicist.

5. The Norman Lockyer Observatory on Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth.

6. Sir John Ambrose Fleming FRS (1849-1945), engineer and physicist, inventor of the thermionic valve.

7. Examples of thermionic valves.

8. Sidney George Brown FRS (1873-1948) electrical engineer, noted for his work in developing gyro compasses, radio equipment and loudspeakers.

9. A modern gyro compasss.

10. Henry John Carter FRS (1813-95).

11. The sponge Coelocarteria singaporensis, named after Carter, who first described it in 1883.

12. The blue plaque erected by the Otter Valley Association on Carter’s home, Umbrella Cottage, on Fore Street Hill, Budleigh Salterton.

13. A magnificent example of a ship’s surgeon’s medical equipment, on display at Fairlynch, kindly loaned by the Devon and Exeter Medical Society.

Relatively little is known of Henry Carter’s life in Budleigh Salterton, but Sidmothians may like to know that he was acquainted with at least one well known resident of their town.


Here is an entry from the Journal of the Sidmouth diarist, artist and polymath Peter Orlando Hutchinson (1810-97), pictured. It’s dated Tuesday 24 June 1884:

Tu. 24. – Went over in a 4-wheel to “The Cottage,” Budleigh Salterton, to confer with Mr. Henry Carter, F.R.S. about the Labyrinthodon Lavisi, discovered in the cliff of High Peak Hill 1½m. west of Sidmouth, by Mr. Lavis, and some fragments of which, and probably of the same individual, were afterwards procured by Mr. Carter. Also about the Hyperodapedon, and also about my fossil stems in the Exeter Museum, which Professor Williamson of Owen’s College, Manchester, thinks may be an Equisetum and not a Calamite as supposed. To avoid Peak Hill I turned inland, via Bulverton, Bowd, Newtonpoppleford Hill, Newtonpoppleford, Colyton Rawley, Bicton, and I took my servant Ann Newton, and left her with her sister at Budleigh, and went on two miles further. By this route it was 9m. instead of six. Examined some portions of the Labyrinthodon through his microscope. The bone structure was plain. The Hyperodapedon was discovered by Mr. Whitaker in the cliff by the river Otter near its mouth, but I could not learn the exact spot without going there. I have long wished to know the exact horizon of this below the Labyrinthodon in High Peak, and I have been intending for some years to take a boat some calm summer day, and explore the strata of the cliff minutely – the sum of the accumulated dip, distortions, faults, &c, if any, with sketchbook and colour box, from Ladram Bay to the Otter, but now I fear I shall never be able to carry it out. Whatever is worth while doing in this life, ought to be done immediately. He asked me for one or two more copies of my paper, on the fossil stems, as he had given his former away. I had an early tea with him and Mrs. Carter, and left at 6 P.M. – stopped half an hour at Budleigh – picked up my servant – returned through Otterton and over Peak Hill – and reached the Old Chancel by eight.

As I’ve already mentioned elsewhere on this blog American readers may be interested in the fact that POH as he is known was a great-grandson of Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson (1711-80), unhappily accused by the 18th century British Prime Minister Lord North of contributing to the tensions that led to the American War of Independence. So I suppose you could say that he helped create the USA.

Just like another Budleigh connected character from the past if you believe the story that I refer to in an earlier post at  still readable at

POH helped to organise his great-grandfather’s papers published in 1884 by Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., Boston, as The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, edited by Peter Orlando Hutchinson.


Just mossin*, really

Orchis mascula, the early purple orchid

Well, what a summer! A real summer at last, which left most things in the garden gasping for rain, which finally came, only to be followed by another long drought.

The one part of the garden which seemed not to care too much what kind of weather we were having was the lawn. The back lawn anyway. And that’s because it consists of inches of moss.

Conditioned as I was to expect a traditional English greensward when we bought our house in Devon six years ago I’d lost no time in calling out the experts to see how they would tackle the problem. They nodded wisely when I showed them our green expanse - which actually looks quite convincing especially with the stripes left after mowing.

But those footprints that we left in the deep pile of what was supposed to be a lawn was clear evidence, they told me, that there was probably not a single blade of grass in the whole thing. The only solution would be to have it all re-turfed, followed by a regular dosing of special chemicals that only their firm could supply as they were officially  licensed to stock weed- and moss-killing products that were unavailable in garden centres.


That was their story anyway.


Moss lawns are still a rarity in England. Moss killing rather than moss growing is what British gardeners do. You can smell the iron sulphate as you walk past gardens in the spring when most lawns get their annual sprinkling of moss-killer.


Annie Martin, aka Mossin' Annie with some of her good friends
Image credit:

But in other parts of the world they are prized. Japan for example. And among moss enthusiasts in the USA, thanks to Google and the amazing internet, I ended up taking a visual stroll through Mossin' Annie's moss garden in Pisgah Forest, NC via

NC? A Budleigh connection there surely, what with Sir Walter Raleigh’s attempted late 16th century colony on Roanoke Island in the state of North Carolina?  The American state has even named its capital after him. 
The capital even has an upmarket district called Hayes Barton which surely must have been named after Raleigh’s birthplace in East Budleigh just a few miles north of us, pictured below.


So the omens for keeping my moss lawn were good. 

Over the years I followed Mossin’ Annie’s progress. She gave me good advice. Don’t despair if your moss turns yellow: think of it as daffodils making a spring appearance. And above all don’t use weedkiller.

In 2008 I told her that we’d had the wettest August for 60+ years “and the moss loves it.”

The stuff even flourishes around East Budleigh and was used as a wartime dressing for wounds during the Great War of 1914-18 as I discovered from  the excellent Ovapedia website devoted to life in our little corner of Devon known as the Lower Otter Valley. 

“As the war continued East Budleigh became involved in a little known part of the war effort,” writes Vivienne Brenan in her absorbing history of East Budleigh.  “The Army Medical Services needed a great quantity of sphagnum moss, whose softness and absorbency made it excellent for wound dressings.  This moss was collected on Woodbury Common by the men and boys, dried in the baker's oven and then taken up to Oakhill House.  There in a room which became known as the Moss Room, the women sorted the moss and sewed it into little square bags to make the dressings.



HRH Prince Charles
Image credit: Dan Marsh
Six years on and the vogue for moss lawns continues to grow, albeit slowly in Britain.  One day we might even see one at Buckingham Palace. The heir to the throne, pictured above, was inspired to grow one at Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home, thanks to green-thinking people like Dame Miriam Rothschild. I’ve written about her elsewhere on this blog.

My own moss lawn is thicker and softer than ever. And this year on 27 June something rather magical happened. 
An unexpected dash of pale mauve suddenly made its appearance. It was Orchis mascula, the early purple orchid.  The absence of chemical weedkillers in the garden and my failure to mow regularly had obviously had something to do with it.  It now has a protective fence around it after I’d seen a similarly prized specimen at Knightshayes, the National Trust property


Annie Martin
Image credit: Sara Boggs
As for Mossin’ Annie, she’s busier than ever in her Mossery - over 4000 sq ft in production now. And she’s just submitted the first chapter of her moss gardening book to her publisher, the highly respected Timber Press

Now she’s looking for photos to illustrate it. I recommended the spectacular work of East Devon photographer Adrian Oakes, having been struck by his mossy scenes in for example Wistmans Wood on Dartmoor where, as he says, “the moss in this wood has to be seen to be believed.”

Annie is really seeking photos of gardens, but just imagine being inspired and able to create a scene like that in your own backyard.

My own moss lawn is not particularly photogenic and certainly can’t compare with the spectacular Wistmans Wood . Still too many of those pretty little yellow and even orange sort of dandelions. But I might just send Annie that photo of the wild orchid of which I’m so proud and which is proof of the kind of treasure you might find in a moss lawn.

And if anyone out there does have photos of a genuine moss garden that you think might interest Annie she’d be delighted to hear from you at

To be chilling, doing nothing, just like moss, the commonly known fungus that just chills out on rocks.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Uphams of Bicton

In search of the past:  Pictured  are George Martin and his wife Agnes in Fairlynch Museum's Local History Room

“Who do you think you are?” is a question that’s increasingly nagging many people curious to know about their ancestors.

The answer could well be hiding in museum archives, but a certain amount of skill and experience is usually needed to navigate one’s way through family trees with all those spelling variations and occasional errors.

Since  April 2007, when the 12th archive Service Point in Devon opened at Fairlynch the Museum has held microfiche copies of original parish registers and tithe maps and apportionments for Budleigh and the surrounding area.

Visitors from abroad often enquire at Fairlynch about their Budleigh ancestry. On 19 September, American George Martin, from Chicago, made a special journey to the Museum in search of information about his English family origins.

George’s ancestor John Upham was one of a group of about 15 members of the same family from Bicton, a few miles from Budleigh Salterton,  who sailed to New England in 1635.  For many years he was thought to have been a Somerset man, but has now been identified as having been born in Bicton around 1597.


            John Upham  was one of the founders of the town of Malden, MA, settled by Puritans in 1640 and is recognised as the progenitor of all the Uphams on the other side of the Atlantic. He died aged 84 in 1681. His grave, shown above, is still visible at the Old Burial Ground in Malden.

Image credit: Susan Brown



“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

So wrote the narrator of L.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between.

But Fairlynch Museum is one of many organisations in Budleigh Salterton which are hoping that the differences between customs and traditions will no longer stand as barriers between generations.

Fairlynch Chairman Roger Sherriff is in discussion with Mark McGlade, chief co-ordinator of the Budleigh Salterton Memory Book to see how the Museum can work with groups like St Peter’s C of E Primary School, Age Concern and Budleigh in Business in recording reminiscences of the past. The aim, say the Memory Book team, is to share the memories and fascinating stories of the people who live in and around the town with friends, neighbours, children, grandchildren and future generations to come.

With an ageing population, Budleigh Salterton is blessed with having a wealth of historical memories from a broad section of interesting people with first hand-hand knowledge and life experiences of those who have lived through the Second World War or life in the Raj and our colonial Empire. Budleigh Salterton and surrounding area is home to former fighter pilots, war heroes, prisoners of war, evacuees, acclaimed scientists and academics, explorers, authors, poets, farmers, fishermen, school teachers and retired TV and film personalities and every one of them has a story to tell and perhaps help inspire a new generation to see our history and older generation in a new light.

The project is still in its early stages of development and will be launched from Monday 11 Nov 2013, Remembrance Day with an event at St Peter's Primary School in Moor Lane.

For more information about the project, click on

The above photo shows well known fisherman of the past Ron Pearcey (standing) with mackerel caught with a seine net. The seine net is a long flat net used like a fence to encircle a school of fish was one of many from the Nick Loman Collection, used in Fairlynch’s ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ 2013 exhibition to illustrate the history of fishing in Budleigh Salterton.  Local resident Nick Loman was a fish merchant for most of his working life.  For many years he has been gathering information about the history of fishing in Budleigh from families involved in the industry, which was at its height in the 19th century.