This site is a sort of museum in cyberspace full of odds and ends about life in Budleigh Salterton.
It celebrates among other things the connection between our corner of East Devon - birthplace of both Sir Walter Raleigh and Roger Conant, founder of Salem, Massachusetts - and the United States of America.
The site was inspired by the friendship link established in 2001 with the Cape Cod community of Brewster.
Red Man or Green Man?
I enjoyed visiting the current exhibition at Exeter’s
Royal Albert Memorial
Museum a few days ago.
It’s called ‘West Country to World’s End - The South West in the Tudor Age’ and
I’ll write more about it in due course.
A well produced book of the same title accompanies the exhibition,
which I enjoyed so much that I bought a copy.
Budleigh people will admire the impressively life-size portrait by
an unknown artist of the area’s great Elizabethan hero Sir Walter Raleigh and
his eight-year-old son Walter. On loan from the National Portrait Gallery the
work was painted in 1602 when he was enjoying Queen Elizabeth’s favour, and
shows in great detail, as the printed commentary explains, the expensive
clothes worn by father and son: Sir Walter is wearing a jacket embroidered with
seed pearls while the boy’s blue suit is silver-braided. This link on the excellent and useful Wikipedia will take you to see it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WalterRaleighandson.jpg
But why is there no mention of Sir Walter’s birthplace in East
Budleigh, only a 30 minute drive from Exeter?
The 2010 guide to All Saints, one of Devon's most celebrated churches
And while much of the exhibition gives rightful prominence to the magnificence
and sophistication of arts and crafts enjoyed by rich and powerful patrons in
16th century South West England there is surprisingly not one image or mention of
one of the glories of East Budleigh in All Saints Church where Sir Walter Raleigh
and his family worshipped.
“It is not Raleigh that makes this church a ‘must-visit’, nor even
the very beautiful gilded bosses, but the wonderful 16th-century carved bench
ends,” writes Hilary Bradt in her 2010 book Slow
Devon and Exmoor. “These are quite extraordinary, and deserve as much time
as you can give them.”
Nearer home, another admirer of the bench ends is Fairlynch Museum volunteer steward Hanneke Coates
whose illustrations in the 2010 booklet All
Saints Church and the Village of East Budleigh show some of the carvings in
as a ‘wodewose’
or ‘wildman of the woods’, a figure often known as a Green Man with ancient
links to natural vegetative deities in cultures from earliest times in places
around the world. That view seems to be shared by David Jenkinson, writing
about the East Budleigh bench ends for the
Otter Valley Association’s Ovapedia in 2010 where he describes the
carvers as influenced by the threatening mythical creatures of the Dark Ages,
including such examples as the wodewose and boggarts or malevolent spirits of
the fields.Click on http://www.ova.org.uk/index.php?page=The-Carved-Bench-ends-of-All-Saints-Church-East-Budleigh-C16
to read more.
Harris or Sheepdog Rex as he calls himself, also acknowledges that the bench
end is “often referred to as a Red
Indian because of (the) Raleigh
was the view taken by Budleigh Salterton’s Dr Brushfield in his 1892 study of
the Church of All Saints. “A large bearded head in
profile, facing left, situated in the concavity of an arabesque ornament, and
terminating in a scroll-like decoration,” he wrote. “It bears some resemblance
to, and has been called, the decorated head of an Indian.”
“It’s hard not
to think ‘Red Indian!” writes in a similar vein the Devon-based founder of the
Bradt Travel Guides, having described the figure on the bench end wearing what
seems to be a feathered headdress. “A sailor returning from the New World
would have remembered the more flamboyant aspects and perhaps described them to
local craftsmen,” suggests Hilary Bradt. “But the ‘feathers’ could also be
foliage,” she admits in deference to the Green Man’s followers.
It’s a view shared by
Hanneke in her 2010 church guide. In fact she is passionate in what she
describes as the belief held by locals - and she counts herself as such - that
the bench end depicts a North American Indian.“That of course is completely different from what the historians write,”
she says. “But I’ve spent a long time studying and drawing the bench ends and I
know them intimately.”
The difference in
interpretation of the carvings by locals as opposed to historians is for
Hanneke a fascinating aspect of the East Budleigh
bench ends. “I’d love to write a booklet on that subject,” she told me.
It’s easy to
embrace the notion that the whole of Tudor Devon was abuzz with stories told in
towns and villages by sailors returning from voyages to the ‘World’s End’ led
by Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh. Dr Michael Tisdall has devoted many years to
studying the significance of the
carvings of plants and leaves in medieval churches. His book God’s Flowers: an iconography for foliage
decoration was published last year.
Many visitors to
East Budleigh will have learnt that this bench
end depicts a tongue-sticker. It may have been a carver’s depiction of a
tale-bearer punished for his sin by being given an enormous deformed tongue. Or
simply a fairground-type freakshow.
Dr Tisdall, quoted
by Hilary Bradt, has a rather different view. “It is my idea that it is a
banana. Bananas would have been known to Raleigh’s
crew. They sailed via the Azores where bananas were in production and some were
taken across to these new West Indies and
planted there. So either a banana or a drawing or other memory of a banana
would be very likely in East Budleigh.”
Well, I don’t know. But it’s fun to let the imagination range
across the seas and the centuries.
And the RAMM exhibition can only help.Do go, and don’t miss the exhibit described
as a 17th century tile depicting a Native American, found in the little North
Devon village of Monkleigh.
I mean of course, the tile. Now that would be a story wouldn’t it,
to discover that the All Saints bench end craftman’s work had been carved from
With the centenary of Scott of the Antarctic's ill-fated polar expedition very much in mind, a play with close links to Fairlynch Museum's 2011 exhibition 'Survival!' is coming to Budleigh Salterton's Public Hall on Wednesday 25 May.
I spoke to Jenny Coverack, the actress who will be performing it.
If you're a BBC Radio 4 listener you may well have heard her reading the Book at Bedtime 'Flush' by Virginia Woolf in February this year. More recently she was the midwife in 'The Archers.' Other BBC productions including 'Poetry Please' and 'The Afternoon Play' have also employed her acting talents.
Actress Jenny Coverack: "passionate" about playing the character of Kathleen Scott. She is pictured here performing part of her play 'A Father for my Son' in Scott's hut at Cape Evans, on Ross Island, Antarctica
Trained at the Bristol Old Vic, Jenny Coverack has a voice familiar to millions of radio listeners. She grew up…
Reginald Alfred 'Reg' Varney was an English actor, most notable for his role as a cheerful Cockney bus driver in the 1970s TV sitcom On the Buses.
For ten years he lived at Dark Lane House on picturesque Dark Lane in Budleigh Salterton, seen above. Millions of television viewers remember him with affection. He has been described as belonging to the old school of comedians, with his dislike of much contemporary television and his pride in never using swear words to get a laugh.
Varney was born on 11 July 1916 in Canning Town, which was then part of Essex but is now part of East London. His father worked in a rubber factory in Silvertown and he was one of five children who grew up in Addington Road, Canning Town. He was educated at the nearby Star Lane Primary School in West Ham and after leaving school at 14, he worked as a messenger boy at the Regent Palace Hotel, pictured above.
Above right: A Windmill
Theatre poster. The first 'Revudeville' act opened in 1932. The show…
with bridge, with two figures on a path, a red brick wall and two cattle
grazing. Oil on canvas, framed, signed by the artist.490mm
W x 400mm H (approx.) From today,
you have the extremely rare opportunity of owning an original painting by Reg
Varney and supporting a wonderful local charity.
The star of
The Rag Trade and On the Buses was a talented artist as well as a successful
actor and gifted musician. In his
autobiography he reveals that his dream as a boy was to go to art school, but
he failed the maths test. The above sketch of two dogs was done by Reg at the age of 13.
As part of
Fairlynch Museum’s exhibition ‘Our Little Clown’ his paintings are being
offered for sale by his family to raise money for The Children’s Hospice South
West. http://www.chsw.org.uk/ To buy a
painting, choose one you like. Make a note of its number. The one featured here is Number 1. Seven paintings are being sold and the best way to see them is to visit Fairlynch Museum where they are all…