Wednesday, 16 October 2019

More about the smugglers' tunnel

Many thanks to John Williams for this newspaper cutting.

The Mamhead Estate has a documented history dating back to the Domesday Book.
There are even stories that an ancient village of Mamhead once existed in the present grounds at Mamhead Park but concrete evidence has not been established.
Rumours also exist of an underground passage running from Mamhead House to the old estate kitchen gardens at Brinshill. These may indeed have some substance since smugglers are said to have been active in the area a lot landing contraband at Hele's Dock near Dawlish Warren and taking it via Port Road to various hiding places round the Mamhead estate.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Disastrous fire at the Red House, 1933


On the Saturday night, Mr Richards made his customary bedtime inspection of the house. He checked the locks on the doors and the window-latches. He raked the ashes from the sitting room fire, then ascertained that his mother, and his daughter Evelyn, were in their beds asleep; before he retired to bed with his wife.

At around 5 on Sunday morning, Miss Evelyn Richards was awoken by the smell of smoke. She aroused her father, who followed the smoke down into the basement. He discovered that 4 joists were alight. Smoke began to fill Red House. Mr Richards ensured that his daughter and his wife made their immediate escape; even though they were clad only in their night attire. Mr Richards wet a towel and put it over his head. Surrounded by dense smoke, he was just able to breathe through the towel. He groped along in dense smoke to his mother’s bedroom. Mr Richards wet another towel, draped it over his elderly mother’s head, and carried her downstairs and out into the street. The women were comforted in a neighbouring property which belonged to Mr Richards’ father; Mr Rowe.

Mr Richards immediately aroused Dr JH Iles, who lived next door on the North side in Swan House. Dr Iles telephoned the exchange who called the Exeter Fire Brigade. The Peacock family in the next door South side; Regent House; were away. Mr Campion was the caretaker of Regent House. He lived in a nearby cottage and was one of the first Starcross villagers on the scene, with Horace Daw and his father. The intense heat prevented the many villagers from effectively fighting the fire, so they concentrated on salvaging the furniture from Swan House. Very little of the furniture from Regent House was able to be saved.

When the Dawlish Brigade arrived,” It was just like a raging furnace.” “We could not go near it.” Flames shot up 30 foot. The whole village was lit up. Under Captain Holman, the Dawlish Brigade concentrated on Regent House and Swan House. Water came from a street hydrant, and a 30,000 gallon storage tank at the Western Counties Institution. Staff from the institution who came to help included: Mr EG Magrow (engineer and clerk of works) and Mr R Millman (attendant). Firefighting equipment from the institution was used. Dawlish Brigade ran their engine under the railway through Bishop’s Arch. Although it was low tide, they obtained sufficient water to pump up a powerful jet.

The Exeter Brigade also attended. The strong south-easterly wind hampered the efforts of both brigades to contain the fire. Red House became an inferno. The flames eat through to Swan House but the two brigades managed to prevent the fire from reaching its staircase. It took over 5 hours to subdue the fire. All that remained of the seven-bedroom Red House were its exterior walls. Both adjoining houses suffered considerable fire damage.

Those who assisted the two brigades were: Constable Ball (Starcross), Sgt West, Constables A & S Stephens (Dawlish), AA & RAC Scouts FH Pike, H Daw, S Hart, W Pike, B&W Badcock, J Skinner, J Selley and B Guest.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Starcross Smugglers?

Here's a picture of the entrance to a tunnel which goes for around 2 miles and exits in Starcross...and also goes up to the Mamhead obelisk. Read about it on the Devon Sculpture Park's website.
The Devon Sculpture Park

The entrance is disguised, not very well, as an ice house.

Ice houses were usually placed near to the kitchens, but this ice house is a long way away from any house. It sits incongruously in the middle of a field. Surely, the customs men would have twigged it?
Experienced cavers say that this tunnel is not safe to explore. After all it might be a couple of hundred years old.

Does anybody have any stories to tell about this tunnel: where it comes out and what it was used for?

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Men in Sheds at St Paul's Church

Many thanks to the team at St Paul's Church Starcross. On Saturday 28th September, £200 was raised on the Men in Sheds stall,  and everyone enjoyed the tea and cakes. Sorry the event  didn't go on til 4pm as advertised, but next time it will be from 10am until around 1. Thankyou to everyone who came and bought tools and bird-boxes etc,  and also brought in broken or simply unwanted tools etc.
The wonderful flamingos will be sanded down and repainted. The windmill will be welded. Tines on garden forks will be straightened. Strimmers will be made safe and working again.
One of the items on sale was identified as a valuable shipbuilders' adze. Retired shipbuilder Malcolm Fairweather demonstrated how it's used. You must stand with your feet well apart when swinging it to carve out the beams of a ship - otherwise you could cut off your toes!
Retired shipbuilder Malcolm Fairweather demonstrated the adze

We hope to get a Men in Sheds project up and running in the village - if we could find some premises and some more volunteers. Please get in touch if you can help. Men in Sheds could provide start-up equipment. Workbenches could be built. 

People were very interested in the   Starcross History archives. If you have any old photos or documents, they can be added. We could do with someone to go through it all and get it into order.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Bell, Haydon and Ash families


I am in Starcross following the trail of my great grandfather (William Henry Bell) who was born here in 1856, and his father John Bell who was born here in 1824. 

John's parents were Richard Bell (master mariner) and Sarah Haydon Ash.  Richard was born in Durham but seems to have settled here in Starcross when he married Sarah, whose family were local shipowners.  Richard, John and Sarah all died here in Starcross.  John’s son William Henry Bell migrated to Australia in the 1880s and there are many descendants, of whom I am one.

I have found a gravestone for Richard and John in the churchyard, and will look more systematically tomorrow to see if there are other family stones.  I am interested in anything that is known of these families, and I wonder whether there are descendants of the Haydons, the Ash family or the Bells still in the area.

I would be very happy to share what I have learned about the families, and have lots of information about the descendants in Australia if that is of interest to anyone.

Many thanks
Jenny Bell

Friday, 20 September 2019

Starcross Drill Hall

Was there a drill hall in Starcross? Whereabouts?

19/01060/FUL – Land Rear of Old Post Office, Bonhay Road, Starcross - Dwelling with associated parking, landscaping and associated works. Planning Inspectorate Reference: 3235779

Teignbridge District Council have decided to refuse permission to build this house which would interfere with the privacy of other houses because of its close proximity to them. Although Teignbridge District Council have refused permission, there's  a further appeal to the Planning Inspectorate
The thrust of the argument will be the former existence of a Drill Hall, which would make this site brownfield and therefore it would be encouraged to build on it. The idea of unlocking brownfield sites for development is for communities to identify brownfield sites for themselves; to encourage development on them for the good of the community. Here's the link which explains the thinking 

The Department for Communities and Local Government is no more.
It has morphed into the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Governments.
here's the link to what they do  which is to support communities with the provision of housing. Could they help to determine this decision?

Meanwhile, it would be interesting to find out about this Drill Hall. Did it exist or? Was it a hut used by our Home Guard? or was it a more substantial building?
The planning appeal document talks about a map of the 1880s which shows The Assembly Rooms which later became known as The Drill Hall.
The Starcross building which was The Assembly Rooms is the former Newclay factory, on Courtenay Corner. Newclay Products have moved to Heathfield.

Ordnance Survey maps of Starcross are held in the Devon Rural Archive at Shilstone  They  have complete Ordnance Survey coverage for 1887 and 1905.

The Devon Archives and Local Studies Centre at Sowton can be visited by catching an Exmouth train from Starcross.
They hold documents and maps about Starcross too. 

Perhaps someone with local knowledge can help with information about The Starcross Drill Hall please?

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Show and Tell in the Westbank Charity Shop

Everyone agreed that the carrot cake served in the Westbank Charity Shop was delicious.

The group viewed some photographs of Starcross' yesteryear. These included :

  • the demolition of the Royal Western Counties Hospital
  • a helter-skelter and a roundabout on Starcross Sportsfield
  • flooding outside The Anchor at Cockwood
  •  when It's a Knockout came to Starcross
  • Starcross snowscenes
  • the colourful flowerbeds in the grounds of the RWCH
If you didn't go, you missed some hilarious Starcross reminiscences  and anecdotes, none of which can be published. 

Bobbo the Carousel Horse met Dobbin at the Forge. 
6 carousel horses would be good - so lots more black coathangers are needed. Please.

It's planned to have a speaker at the next Show and Tell event in the Westbank Charity Shop, which will again be from 4pm until 6pm, sometime in November.

Monday, 2 September 2019

The Starcross Gallopers

The plan to follow up on our first prize
for Kattanga the War Horse 

with some carousel horses needed some more research to verify that carousel gallopers featured on the carousel which used to visit Starcross.

There was a fair in Starcross on Whit Wednesday, at least from the nineteenth century; according to Vision of Britain.
Whit Wednesday would be the Wednesday after Whitsuntide, which is the 7th Sunday after Easter (Wiki)

Perhaps its location was where the Starcross Cattle Market took place? Here's a Bernard Chapman postcard of the Starcross Cattle Market.

Many thanks Janet Bowdler for publishing an appeal for information in The Starcross Newsletter  and to Marlene Parr for this response. (more details to follow)
The visiting fair was opposite the school. It was run by Alfred Whitelegg. Alfred's brother Tommy ran the Dawlish Fair, which visited every August Bank holiday. This fair continues, run by the Rowlands.

Tommy Whitelegg's daughter ran amusements in Dawlish, in the old cinema building, which is now Dawlish Library.

Marlene clearly remembers the carousel which came to Starcross. It featured gallopers, which were horses with both sets of legs extended - like the olde paintings of horse-racing. Here' one from wiki.
Dimensions for carousel horses are online, by a firm who still make them

Dingles  Fairground Heritage Centre near Launceston have a carousel gallopers ride. Its history is on this link:
 Edwards' Golden Gallopers

Friday, 23 August 2019

Men in Sheds

MEN IN SHEDS. St Paul's Church. Saturday, 28th September, 10.00am until 4pm
Refreshments on sale
Men in Sheds is associated with Age UK. They ask you to please donate your unwanted and broken, or just unwanted, tools. eg. Lawnmowers, electric drills, spades and forks and rakes and hoes, screwdrivers, scrapers, ride-on children's toys. They refurbish and sell the stuff, so you could walk in with some broken, useless things and, for a reasonable price, walk out with some replacements that actually work. Or just come along to find out more about this brilliant organisation. Maybe you'd like to join them? Or help out at their future visits to St Paul's?
We'll display some of the village history archive which is kept in St Paul's. Please bring along anything you have of interest about the history of our village and its folk.

Contact Monica Lang. 01626 890650

Show and Tell

SHOW AND TELL. Westbank Charity Shop. Tuesday, 17th September, 4pm until 6pm
Meet “Dobbin at the Forge”, who is installed in the patio garden. We'll have a laptop displaying our Starcross History website, and some items of interest. Have you any stories to tell? Have you anything to show from our village past?
There will be plenty of the shop's posh coffee and cake on sale, so it will be a great opportunity for a natter. We hope to plan some more events and projects. It's going to be difficult to top last year's win on the Teignmouth TRAIL with Kattanga, our War Horse, but we have a design for some gallopers; reminiscent of the carousel that used to visit the village every year. Who knows anything about the fairs they used to have here?
Did our Captain Peacock (designer of the Swan of the Exe) invent the screw propeller? If that's true, then wouldn't it be great if we could get a screw propeller from somewhere and install it as a memorial to the great man?
And how about this idea to reproduce our Stairs Cross? Was it made from red sandstone? It might have been... like the one at Clyst St George. Red sandstone would be a relatively easy stone to work with. Where can we find a big enough piece of it? Who would like to carve it?
Who would like to help with a mosaic of the Cockwood Lime Kilns & sailing barge? Can you suggest more mosaic ideas?
Everyone's invited to all our meets, but usually we get around 20 max... There's access for wheelchairs via the back entrance. No admission or membership charge. Donations accepted

Thursday, 27 June 2019

information please: Chant family

The Royal Western Counties Hospital, Starcross


My Lovely Auntie (who  passed away in 1978) Was at the southern counties Hospital when she was a child. She was born in 1929 and in 1931 suffered from Empyema which resulted in an operation where oxygen supply to her brain was cut off for several minutes, When she started to recover it was found she was ‘mentally challenged’ as the doctors called it then. She was sent to Southern counties hospital until she was 15 years old. My Grandmother had remarried after the death of my grandfather and my Aunt was ‘collected’ by grandmother and her new husband.
I understand that any medical records for her would not be available now but, admission dates and discharge dates may still survive. I wondered if you would be able to clarify these dates for me if I give you her name and the name of my grandmother? All relatives now who may have remembered this are now passed over so, I have no-one else to ask.
My Aunt was  Greta Doreen Violet Chant  born 3 January 1929   I believe that a Mrs Sinnick had recommended that she attend the hospital.
My Grandmother was Jessie I M Chant later to become Dunford, Her ‘new’ husband was James Dunford. Married in 1940. I believe that Greta was ‘collected’ around 1942/2.
I would be most grateful if you could look at your records and confirm the duration of her stay. I cannot find any other way of obtaining any records for her. If you should have any photographs of that period that you could email to me, again I would be most grateful.
I know nothing about her stay at Southern Counties not what the conditions would have been like and I sadly was never able to ask her. My Grandmother was also not someone I could ask those questions to and my late father was too young to know.
I would just like to fill in my family tree a little more so that when the tie comes, I will be writing it all in a book to be published just for the family. (my own children).

Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you soon.

Kind regards


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Information please: The Lime Kilns and FH

Information is sought, please, about The Lime Kilns on the A379, Cockwood
and the families:

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Powderham Estates archive exhibition

1787 maps of  the Powderham estates will be on display late in April in All Saints Church Kenton.

Extracts from the Powderham Estates Map Book of 1787 will be the main part of the exhibition which is to be staged by the Kenton Past & Present  history group. There will be more local historical maps, with current maps for comparison. More information from the Powderham archives will include details of past tenants, dwellings, land holdings and usage.

All Saints Church, Kenton.
Saturday, 27th April, from 10.00am to 4.00pm refreshments available from 10am until 1pm
Sunday, 28th April, from 12.00 noon to 4pm


Sunday, 2 December 2018

World War 1 puzzles

Bob Vickery from the Dawlish World War 1 project asks if anyone can help with information about a house called 'Faleide' at Southbrook.
and when did Edward Woollacott, a retired fur merchant, retire to Starcross?
Does anyone know when Edward Wollacott  retired to Starcross? Here is a photo of him out driving with his wife (?) and another of him sitting in his garden on a strange garden seat that may have been made from tusks or whale bones.
Mr Wollacott was a retired fur merchant and may have had access to exotic animal remains.
Does anyone know of his house, 'Faleide' at Southbrook ? Is it an existing building since renamed?
His gardener, shown standing behind the garden seat, was William Stephens who had two sons, William Edwin and Leonard Reggie Stephens, who appear in a school photo of Starcross School ca 1903.
Edward Wollocott (seated) in grounds of Faleide
Edward Wollocott (seated) in grounds of Faleide

Mr & Mrs Edward Wolllacott in their dogcart
Mr & Mrs Edward Wolllacott

 Starcross School ca 1903
Starcross School ca 1903
 The South West Heritage Trust hold a catalogue of the sale at Faleide, Southbrook, Starcross. "Furniture and effects, including carpets, escritoire, musical instruments, paintings, china, books etc. Sale by direction of the executors of Mrs E Langford, deceased. Auction by W Brock & Co on the premises on May 27th, 28th and 29th 1924. "

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Starcross Remembers

The centenary of the signing of The Armistice at the end of the First World War was celebrated in Starcross.
The Remembrance Day Service took place in St Paul's Church at 10:00am.The congregation processed to Starcross War Memorial on The Strand, where they were joined by many more from the village for a Remembrance Service, and wreath-laying which started at 10:45am.
Many thanks to Hugh Scudder, from Kenton, for the photographs
Click this link to see them all
A few images from Sundays Remembrance Service at St Paul’s and Parade to the Memorial

Friday, 26 October 2018

Restoration of St Paul's Church Bells

The 2 bells were taken down today. They'll probably be restored in good time for Christmas, but not quite in time for the Armistice Day centenary.
The smaller bell was cast in 1766, so it's older than St Paul's Church. Churchwarden Alison Miles will do some research about this.
The smaller bell is older than the Church
The smaller bell is older than the Church

Rust on the big bell
Rust on the big bell

The big bell
Add caption

The clapper on the smaller bell
The clapper on the smaller bell

Small bell cast in 1766
Small bell cast in 1766

scaffolded Church tower

Large bell cast by T Mears of London
Large bell cast by T Mears of London

Large bell cast by T Mears of London
Large bell cast by T Mears of London

rusted iron  bits

large bell

large bell

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Mosaic is ready for display

Monica Lang's mosaic: Dobbin at the Forge is almost ready to put on the wall at the Westbank charity shop in Starcross.
The materials have mainly been donated or recycled: the tiles, the glass and plastic nuggets, the board it's mounted on, the tile adhesive and the large horseshoe. The bike reflectors were kindly donated from the Exeter Ride-on cycling charity. Cofton Motors supplied plastic from vehicle rear-lights.
Dobbin's forge glows in the dark
The photo shows how Dobbin's forge glows in the dark
The mosaic will be installed in November.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Royal Artillery in Starcross

I’m wondering of you or anyone in Starcross would be able to help me with a research matters I’ve hit a brick wall with, please?
My wife’s great x4 grandfather was married in Kenton 31 Oct 1816 and his temporary residence is given as Starcross. He was in a gunner and driver in The Royal Artillery but I can find no reference to any artillery regiment presence in the area? Could they have been connected to Powderham?
Many thanks
Colin Jenner

Friday, 7 September 2018

Events planned

A program of events planned includes a visit to St Clement's Church at Powderham, and some talks on different aspects of Starcross history

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Edward Wollacott

Robery Vickery; researcher at the Dawlish World War 1 project,  would like information please, about Edward Wollacott who lived at Faleide, Southbrook, Starcross in 1911. Here's a photograph of him. He employed the widowed Emily Stephens as housekeeper. Emily was the mother of Leonard Reggie Stephens
Where was Faleide? 

Many thanks to Robert for this photograph of Edward Wollacott
Edward Wollacott, Faleide, Southbrook

in a Dawlish Gazette article,
Edward Wollacott is listed as a retired fur merchant