Thursday, 6 October 2016

Remaining Thoughts


Yes, Budleigh welcomes everyone!

Well, the nation finally voted for Brexit; for, in the words of a Hungarian academic who had once taught at the University of Exeter, ‘the comforting Englishness and timeless values of Budleigh Salterton’.

Stephen Pogány's article, Budleigh Salterton: Brexit And The Quest For A Mythic England, can be read at

Professor Stephen Pogány, pictured above, remembered the fine summer weekends that he had spent with his late wife on the pebbly beach of what he described as our ‘wonderfully retro’ town with its splendidly evocative name.  

The article that he published on the world wide web back in June, a few days after the Referendum result, was of course seized on by at least one local journalist, keen to show that Budleigh had made its voice heard in this most unexpected upheaval of the British political establishment.

Not all Budleigh residents voted to leave Europe of course. And those who did are far from rejecting the common heritage that we share with our neighbours from across the Channel.  From the historical perspective, a museum like Fairlynch is well-placed to show the foreign influences that have shaped our Englishness. 

An  aerial view of the salt marshes near the Mont Saint-Michel in Northern France 

Whether it was the monks from Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy who helped to create the salt industry which gave the town its name, or the fervour which led the young Walter Ralegh to spend part of his youth in France fighting for the Huguenots, or the religious persecution which gave 17th century East Budleigh a refugee Frenchman as its vicar, our links with Europe are obvious.  

Fairlynch Museum has its own version of Sir John Everitt Millais' 'Boyhood of Raleigh', created in 2015 by the Budleigh Salterton Venture Art Group

The grave of East Budleigh's French vicar, the Huguenot refugee Daniel Caunières, is at Filleigh, near Barnstaple. My bloggerel in his honour, sung to the tune of 'La Marseillaise' is at 

It was another refugee, the Austrian-born molecular biologist Max Perutz and friend of Budleigh archaeologist George Carter, whose work drew visitors to the museum with his 1939 study of the Budleigh cliffs’ curious radioactive pebbles.

This painting by Peter Goodhall, on display at Fairlynch Museum, depicts an episode in the life of Devon smuggler Jack Rattenbury, a regular visitor to France

In some cases, foreign links have yet to be explored at Fairlynch.  

A memorial tablet at East Budleigh's All Saints Church, pictured below, is a tribute to its 'smuggling vicar'. His home at Vicar's Mead was reputedly used for storage of contraband

Proper research has yet to be carried out into the cross-Channel smuggling trade associated with local figures like Jack Rattenbury and the Rev. Ambrose Stapleton.

Examples of England’s cultural exchange with Europe are everywhere. The recent Punch and Judy shows, billed on Fairlynch posters as ‘Great British Entertainment’, have their roots in the 16th century Italian theatrical tradition known as ‘commedia dell’arte’, with Mr Punch derived from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella.  

Yes, our museum celebrates East Devon’s Lower Otter Valley. But localism does not mean a comforting isolationism. 

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