Budleigh in Books: Part 2
[Click http://budleighbrewsterunited.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/budleigh-in-books-part-i.html to read Budleigh in Books Part 1 ]
One of Grainger’s many books, The Solutions of Radford Shone was published by Ward Lock in 1908 Image credit: http://www.batteredbox.com
Francis Edward Grainger thought so anyway. The son of a clergyman, he had an army career before finding his vocation as an author and journalist. He lived at various addresses in Budleigh Salterton, including ‘Almora’ at 33 Station Road, at Sherbrook Lodge and on Marine Parade.
He died in Budleigh in 1927 at the age of 70 after writing more than 60 detective stories and romances using the pen name Headon Hill. They had titles like Clues From a Detective's Camera (1893) and Zambra the Detective (1894). His character Sebastian Zambra was a consulting detective similar to Sherlock Holmes who appeared in a number of short stories and novels. One of his books was The Cliff Path Mystery (1922) based on a suspicious fall from the cliff path just behind the house 'Broomleas' at the top of Victoria Place.
He was born on 30 May 1900 into a well-connected family possibly descended from General Sir Henry Clinton (1730-95) who served for a time as Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence.
After reading History at Cambridge University, he made his debut as an author at the age of 25 with a book entitled simply Devon. The publishers, A. & C. Black Ltd, judged it fine enough to be illustrated by Sutton Palmer (1854-1933), a noted watercolour artist who specialised in idyllic rustic landscapes. A second edition appeared three years later in 1928. The book reveals the author's fascination with the region's history and landscape, including observations on witchcraft and local superstitions.
This photo from a 1937 edition of the Radio Times shows Clinton-Baddeley outside a studio where he had just finished giving a television reading from A.A. Milne. Unluckily for him the BBC fireman was patrolling the studio corridors just at that moment, enforcing the 'No-Smoking' rule Image credit: Radio Times
The book that he was apparently most proud of was The Burlesque Tradition in the English Theatre after 1660, published in 1952. This was a study of what the author called the “friendly humour” of theatrical burlesque as distinct from the “zeal of satire and the malice of satire.” Writers quoted included Shakespeare, John Gay, Henry Fielding, Bernard Shaw, Max Beerbohm and Stephen Leacock.
No case for the Police was published in 1970. By coincidence, two years earlier, the reviewer, Maurice Richardson, had written about his prep school and childhood memories of Budleigh Salterton in a book entitled Little Victims. Like Clinton-Baddeley he also lived for a time in Budleigh Salterton
Towards the end of his life Clinton-Baddeley took to composing crime fiction. It’s his detective novel No Case for the Police that really uses local colour to portray what we know to be Budleigh Salterton in a fictional setting. Clinton Baddeley’s detective hero is called Dr Davie, an Oxford academic who enjoys solving puzzles. In No Case for the Police he goes back to the village of his youth to attend the funeral of one of his oldest friends.
There are various name changes: Budleigh Salterton becomes Tidwell St Peter’s; The Rolle Arms - once one of the area’s grandest hotels but now sadly demolished and transformed into a block of flats - becomes The Ottery Arms.
The Stone Garden today in Bicton Park, composed, according to Clinton-Baddeley, of rocks removed from an East Devon neolithic circle.
Across the road in the novel stood "the rival hall, the Gospel Hall, red brick, unadorned, not a slate out of place, not a laurel leaf missing," exactly as the Evangelical Church stands today in Budleigh. Only in the last few years has its name been changed to 'The Church on the Green.'
Other little local touches include the chiming of the clock on the Methodist church, “Fore Street, where the brook so delightfully emerges from beneath the houses, and babbles along beside the street to the sea”, the footpath to West Down beacon past the Chine and what is now Jubilee Field, stones from the beach used as door stops - though Davie frowns on the practice; even the naturist beach gets a mention.
Sir John Everett Millais painted 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' during his stay in The Octagon, on Budleigh Salterton's sea-front in 1870
There’s an obvious reference to Millais’ painting 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' - famously set on the sea-front in Budleigh - but the Victorian artist is renamed by Clinton-Baddeley as Ambrose Faddle. A detail in Millais’ painting is seized on by the author to portray the drug-smuggling character Walter Ford in No Case for the Police.
“In the manner of an earlier age, he actually wore little gold earrings in his ears," the narrator tells us. "If he had claimed to be the original sailor in Ambrose Faddle’s masterpiece the visitors would hardly have disbelieved him: and in fact his great-grandfather had been the very man.”
Clinton-Baddeley’s use of local colour is truly intense in No Case for the Police. This Budleigh-born author may poke gentle fun at the town of his birth - much in the manner of his artist friend Joyce Dennys - but the intimacy of his brush strokes may owe much to nostalgia.
It’s ironic that this novel in which Clinton-Baddeley's hero Dr Davie comes back home appeared in the year of the author’s death, in 1970.
It’s almost as if he knew that his own return was imminent.
And indeed he’s buried in the family vault in the picturesque setting of East Budleigh churchyard.
To read Part 3 of Budleigh in Books, click here