Friday, 19 June 2020

North Devon Creative Industries: online talk

Horse sculpture

With apologies for the late notice and to those who have heard about this through other channels, we will be staging our first online talk at 2 pm next Tuesday, 23rd June.

This will be of particular interest to anyone interested in North Devon’s creative industries, but any and all are welcome.

Brian Carpenter

Community Learning Officer

Devon Archives and Local Studies Service

Devon Heritage Centre

Great Moor House

Bittern Road





01392 888712

07939 106549

South West Heritage Trust is supported by Somerset and Devon County Councils

South West Heritage is a charity and a company limited by guarantee registered in England. Registered office: Somerset Heritage Centre, Brunel Way, Norton Fitzwarren, Taunton, Somerset TA2 6SF. Company number: 09053532 Charity Number: 1158791 VAT Registration Number: 197221592

COVID-19: Devon Archives and Local Studies is closed until further notice. We will continue to do our utmost to assist enquirers but please note that our ability to answer enquiries, as well as process research/copying orders and permission to publish requests, may be significantly curtailed during this period.  In some cases we may ask researchers to re-submit their enquiries at a later date when we are in a better position to help.  We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Please note that we cannot accept any payments by cheque while we are closed.  All payments must be by Paypal or BACS.

On 18 March 2020 all Trust sites closed to the public until further notice.  Sites include the Museum of Somerset, Somerset Rural Life Museum, Somerset Brick and Tile Museum, Somerset Heritage Centre, Devon Heritage Centre and North Devon Record Office.

We don’t yet know when we’ll reopen and we will be updating our website regularly.  Visit

Thank you for your understanding.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Starcross History Society news: Todd Gray, Devon & Cornwall Record Society, History of Starcross

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The following items might be of interest: 

1. Todd Gray broadcasts on Devon history on Radio Devon
2. Devon & Cornwall Record Society daily blogs
3. David Force's Dawlish Through The Ages, published in 2017, has a most valuable section containing brief yet detailed histories of places adjacent to Dawlish including:  Starcross, ps. 147-55, Kenton and Powderham, ps. 156-60, Dawlish Warren, 167-73
David's book is a model of its kind, written in an easy to read, concise, lively, descriptive yet analytical style based upon extensive scholarship and research. It is a cornucopia of information about Dawlish and its surrounds, bringing to life the town and environs from prehistoric times to the present day. And, delightfully,  a series of mini local histories.

1. Dr Todd Gray is currently broadcasting 15 minute pieces on aspects of Devon history every weekday on BBC Radio Devon at 1.10pm.  These will run through June, and possibly July, and while all of our societies have stopped meeting for lectures these are meant to help alleviate the sense of isolation some of us are feeling.

2. The Devon & Cornwall Record Society is sponsoring a series of daily blogs by our leading heritage specialists (historians, archivists, archaeologists, librarians, writers and curators) in Devon and Cornwall on how life in quarantine has made them reevaluate history.  These are running through June and July and can be found on the society’s Facebook page.  The society exists to publish original documentary material and this year’s volume is a facsimile reproduction of Devon’s only woollen cloth collection - from the 1760s.  It comes free with this year’s membership (at £16.50) or on publication later

3. David Force, Dawlish Through the Ages
The Starcross History Society website has the following entry concerning David's splendid book:

Dawlish through the ages by David Force

"My illustrated book on the history of Dawlish is now available to buy. Over 200 pages charting the story of the town from the time of the Saxons to the present day. Pick up from my office in Queen Street, the Dawlish Gazette or Presents. It will be available from Dawlish Museum when it opens in April. Also available on Ebay if you live away from the area. Only £9.95. All profits to Dawlish Museum..."

advert for Dawlish through the ages
Here's the ebay link
Dawlish Through the Ages - The Story of a Seaside Town. An illustrated history. 

David has just dyed his hair... ummmm... lavendarblue-ish... to raise money for the Teignbridge Voluntary and Community Services
David Force 

The similarity to a Mrs Slocombe is uncanny 
Mrs Slocombe is unanimous
David Force

Here's the link to David's Virgin Money Giving page:

Best wishes,

Jon Nichol & Monica Lang

Friday, 29 May 2020

Haydon of Staplake

Coronation Terrace, Starcross
I grew up in Starcross in the mid 50’s & 60’s, living in the little terrace opposite St. Paul’s Church (known in my day as both Church Rd. & Coronation Tce.). Fond memories of happy times!
On my mother’s side, there was a long association with the village. Her maiden name was Haydon - ending with my great-grandfather, generation after generation of Haydons farmed at Staplake. I am keen to trace this line and would love to hear from anyone who thinks they have a link, too. Recently, there was a piece by a lady called Jenny Bell, also interested in tracing her family line. Of the three surnames mentioned, I think Haydon was one of them!! Maybe we have a connection, Jenny? 
Jane Bheemah (nee Willis)

Thursday, 7 May 2020

NOW & THEN: COVID-19 and VICTORY IN EUROPE [VE] WEEK – STARCROSS, 7th to 12th May 1945

L.S. Lowry V.E. Day celebrations
Now we are at war with a deadly enemy – Coronavirus aka Covid-19.  When it is beaten celebrations will be on a monumental scale.  
Twice in Starcross’s history there have been two such celebrations: The end of World War 1, 11th November 1918 [news arrived in Starcross on the 15th] and the end of World War II from 7th-12th May 1945. How did Starcross celebrate in 1945 Victory in Europe over the Nazi alliance? What stories can we tell about the Starcross celebrations? Who was involved?

Monday 7th May. The B.B.C. 8 o’clock evening news announced Germany had surrendered – the war in Europe was over. Ten minutes later the Union Jack was flying from the Atmospheric Pumping Station tower in Starcross. The wonderful news spread like wildfire through the village – almost immediately flags were displayed in most houses. 

Tuesday 8th May – VE Day School opened as usual; it was to close for two days following Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech later in the day. At 9 o’clock the school pupils and staff assembled:  the Union Jack was broken out and all sang the national anthem. The morning was spent decorating the school with flags and buntings, probably stored since Queen Victoria’s jubilee and the victory in World War I celebrations.

At lunchtime there was a celebratory school lunch for all children in the locality. The meal included specially bought buns and the emergency meat ration.  20 extra meals also arrived from Dawlish to feed additional children from the local area who came to the school, although presumably not Starcross pupils who were already provided for.

By 3 o’clock in the afternoon the children, staff and many villagers had assembled on the School House lawn to hear Churchill’s speech celebrating Victory in Europe – the school may well have had the only publicly available radio in Starcross.  

The children spent the rest of the day collecting all kinds of combustibles for a giant bonfire that that evening. On it the villagers burned two effigies of Hitler – one of him on the gallows, the other with him in a chair. There was also a well-attended evening thanks giving service in St. Paul’s. Church

Wednesday, 9th May VE Day Plus One [first of two days of public holiday] 

In the afternoon about 30 children under 14 had a grand tea at Courtenay terrace. Coloured table clothes and vases of flowers contributed to the gay scene. They played all sorts of games of all sorts.  Later, baskets of surplus food were taken to the almshouse for the old folk there.

The day’s main event was a parade through the streets with a striking tableau on a horse drawn wagon of Britannia, America, Russia and Sailor Boys. At the parade’s head was the British Legion Banner and individual representatives of the police, the Home Guard, the Women’s Voluntary Service and the band of the Royal Western Counties. Following behind the tableau were members of the army, navy and airforce, including a repatriated prisoner of war who had arrived in Starcross the day before, a nurse, housewives, the Starcross Girl Guides and Brownies, the Youth Club, Red Cross, Home Guard and Civil Defence.

The parade stopped outside the railway station with almost the whole village present. The procession marched to St. Paul’s Church for a thanksgiving service. A street party began that lasted until midnight. That evening there was also a well-attended whist drive and dance in the Recreation Hall, Royal Western Counties Institution and a second celebratory bonfire.

Thursday, 10th May

Festivities continued on the 10th May.  The village gave all children under 16 another tea, see L.S. Lowry painting – page 2. The Vicar said that in singing the blessing they not only giving thanks to God for the food they were to receive but also for the blessing of peace in Europe.  Games took place with piano accompaniment. 

A high tea for the over 65s followed. Vera Raven, from Exeter, gave a recitation ‘entitled “Comfort”, her impression of a ‘Cockney girl at the cinema” and “A tribute to the National Fire Service,” written by herself.’

Saturday, 12th `May

A “Those were the Days” dance took place in the Reading Room Starcross in aid of the “Welcome Home Fund” ‘and it being Victory Week there was a record crowd.


Starcross Primary School log books, 1945
Oral testimony from those who remember VE day celebrations in Starcross
Local newspapers – accessed via British Newspaper Archive
L.S. Lowry V.E. Day celebrations

Jon Nichol

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Margaret Ellen Pye

Hi there 

I wonder if you can help please? 

My mum Margaret was brought up at “Starcross Hospital “ she was born in 1930 and herself and her siblings for some reason were taken there as their mother was unable to raise them . My mum lives in a residential home in Dawlish now , my mum talks about the nuns and living at number 2 , I’m not sure if that was a room or house on the grounds . Mum says she was schooled there as well . We have never had any photos of my mum Margaret as a child and wondered if there would be any records still that may contain some . Eventually her siblings were moved to other homes . Mum was called Margaret Ellen Pye 04/07/1930. 

I’d be so grateful if you could help please . 

Many thanks 

Heather Atkins 

Ghost in The Galleon

Many thanks to Steve Nosworthy for this photograph of The Ship Inn.
The Ship Inn  and the cottages next door are now all together and are The Galleon Inn.

Sarah Smith remembers when the buildings were The Galleon and Galleon Cottage.  It  was her Grandad who knocked into one, the several cottages down the alleyway to make Galleon Cottage, where she lived as a child.

Sarah and her brother David would cartwheel down the long,  upstairs corridor. There was a bathroom at the end. It was in the end bedroom that the 2 children would often see "a man dressed all in black, with a long coat and tall black hat, sitting in a rocking chair just rocking away."

'It really was scary, as none of the adults could see him."

Sarah saw Steve Nosworthy's photograph (above) of The Ship Inn when it was recently published on the Starcross News Facebook page. There's a man standing in front of the cottage window. Sarah realised that "He looks exactly like the ghost we saw."

The present landlord of The Galleon is aware of several stories about deaths in The Galleon, but he hasn't seen any ghosts, doesn't believe in ghosts and would rather not have his name associated with ghost stories.

This  isn't the only Starcross ghost story. There's more to come...

Thursday, 30 April 2020


50 pence coin issued in 2018 to celebrate 100 years of British women gaining the right to vote in parliamentary elections

In the war on Covid-19 women have been fighting in the front line as equals alongside male colleagues. A tidal wave of national gratitude is reflected in the weekly applause we give for all National Health Service [NHS] members. The Covid-19 crisis is causing a major review and appreciation of  NHS women’s status and role. In the First World War [1914-18] by 1918 a similar feeling had developed because of the role women played on the Home Front and in hospitals at home and abroad in the war with Germany and her allies. In November 1918 Devon’s main newspaper The Western Times published in its weekly roundup of news from the town and villages of Devon a poem that reflects this change in women’s role and status: 


You may travel about by land or sea,
You may hire a motor or cob*,
Whatever the work or place may be,
There’s  a woman on the job.
You think you’ll call on your tailor now,
And surprise at once is expressed,
When Phyllis appears with smile and bow,
And passes the tape round your chest.
You require a shave, drop in a chair,
And wait for the man to begin
When a sweet little flapper**, wondrous fair,
Pops out to lather your chin.
You stop in the  street to speak to John,
And your heart gives a mighty throb,
When a musical voice says, “Please move on,”
Ugh! ‘tis woman on Bobby’s*** job.
*     A horse  ** A lively female jazz dancer  *** Bobby – slang for policeman
(The author, Vigilo, a suffragette, lived in Washford Pyne some seven miles from Exeter)

Largely as a result of women’s key role in for four years in The First World War, in 1918 they won the right to vote in parliamentary elections, something they had been fighting for for over 50 years. In 2018 a 50p coin commemorated their victory.  And what might women in future celebrate in recognition of their crucial role in the battle against Coronavirus aka Covid-19?

Jon Nichol

NOW & THEN: Starcross in Danger - Covid-19 and Cholera

Pavel Fedotov's painting shows
a death from cholera in the
mid-19th century.

Wikipedia 30th April 2020
Today: Starcross is locked down to keep Covid-19 at bay – something that echoes reaction to the Cholera pandemic of 1849. Today we are de-facto self-imprisoned to keep the invisible enemy at arms, or two arm’s length. Covid-19 is a great fear we all share, echoed among the people of Starcross’s great fear some 170 years ago.

Then: 1849 In 1849 cholera was another existential threat to Starcross and all other British villages and towns. Cholera was the plague of early Victorian England, bringing fear and death wherever it struck. As an often fatal disease it had already ravaged Exeter. And, in 1849 a new cholera epidemic, the third in 25 years, was sweeping across Britain.

A July 1849 letter linked the cholera threat to Starcross to Brunel’s recently built railway embankment. The letter illuminates the universal fear of cholera as it paints a vivid picture of sewage and rubbish disposal in Starcross and the cholera danger they posed. It also throws light on life in Starcross, particularly the excremental and putrid state of its harbour and shoreline:

At this time of danger, when a dreadful visitation [cholera] is fast spreading over the country, when we see towns and villages are being fast added to those that were affected with cholera, it is the duty of every person and all the public bodies to use all means of prevention. At Starcross great nuisance exists of the  most dangerous kind. The travelling population that stop at the station is immense; persons arriving from a healthy district, and stopping here, have to inhale an atmosphere most destructive to health, the accumulation of putridity at this place is beyond belief, acres of most offensive matter being allowed to remain on the shore! Is it wonder that the village and the inns are now avoided, and the poor suffering ? The causes are :
1st. The whole of the drainage of the village empties itself upon the shore without a ditch or sewer to convey it into the Channel. 
2nd. A hard ridge, or bank, from the quay, opposite the principal inn, to the channel for the convenience of boats landing passengers, &c, but which is now unnecessary, as there is now a pier built, upon which passengers could, with the aid of steps, land at low water. 
3rd. In building this pier the piles are driven so close together as to cause the accumulation of sea weed, above and below, without means of escape, and an
immense quantity is thus detained on the mud in a state of putrescence. 

All these interruptions to the ebb and flow of the tide is a great injury; there are also several enclosures made by the South Devon Railway Company with apertures to admit the sea weed and mud, which cannot afterwards escape. 

The 1849 cholera threat to Starcross failed to materialise, but a July 1849 poster gives details of what the disease involved, being universally thought of as  being caused by inhaling air infected through putrefaction like that at Starcross.

Jon Nichol

307 Squadron Live!

Dear Sirs,

On behalf of 307 Squadron Project we are pleased to invite you for the time ever to join us for a unique video event - 307 Squadron Live! It starts on Sunday 3rd of May at 4pm British Summer time.
The story of the Polish 307 Squadron which was based at Exeter from 1941-1943, will be presented in English and starts on Sunday 3rd of May at 4pm British time and includes interviews with veterans. You can watch this event, a first for our organisation, on our Facebook page  You will still be able to watch us even if you do not have a Facebook account - just visit our Facebook page and scroll down to the live video.
307 Squadron Live! is part of Polish Heritage Day 2020 with the support of the Polish Cultural Institute.
#PLHeritageDays  #PolesinUK Please find attached our poster for the event. Any assistance in helping us publicise 307 Squadron Live would be greatly appreciated.
We hope that you can join us on 3rd May for this live broadcast.

Stay safe and well. Best wishes,

Michael Parrott, Andrzej Michalski, Marcin Piórkowski 

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Programme from September 2020

A programme of events is planned to start in September 2020 and will run for the academic year.
Here's the  plan so far:
Rather than have a raffle to cover expenses, we will charge £4 for a yearly membership, £6 for a Family yearly membership. Members will have free admission to  meetings. Non-members will be welcome, for an admission charge of £2.
To invite speakers to our meetings
To visit places.

In the summer of 2021, we propose The Starcross Antiques Roadshow. We will ask valuers from local auction houses to come along to estimate how much the antiques you bring might be worth. We will also invite anyone to bring a stall to sell antiques. Existing members may bring a stall for no charge. Otherwise, the charge will be £10 for a stall. 
Since we will be renting the Starcross Sportsfield, we might as well have some other Vintage Happenings... maybe some Vintage Fairground Games, An Old Fashion Fancy Dress Show, a Pet Show and/or some silly races (egg&spoon, 3-legged, wheelbarrow etc).

We'll need help. Please get in touch
Monica Lang 01626 890650

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Devon Rural Archive closed due to coronavirus

Important information from the Archive

Important Information

The DRA Response to Coronavirus COVID-19

Following yesterday's announcement by the Prime Minister, concerning self-isolation and avoiding non-essential contact and travel, we have taken the decision to close the Archive for the remainder of March and all of April 2020. As a result all events planned for this period will be cancelled or postponed.

During our closed period there will be a skeleton staff in the office each day to respond to enquiries, carry out essential maintenance and general housekeeping tasks.

We will review the situation in early April, and will keep you updated on developments at the Archive.


Cancelled Events
Thursday 2nd April 2020 - Plymouth in 1620.

Monday 20th April 2020 - Unlock the secrets of your home

Tuesday 21st April 2020 - Tour of Shilstone House and Garden

Tuesday 28th April 2020 - Picture Scanning Day

It is our intention to reschedule as many of these events as possible, once normal service has been resumed.


Ticket holders
Please note that if you have purchased a ticket for any of the events listed above, we will happily transfer your booking to a future event of equal value or give you a credit towards an alternative booking.

If you have any queries please feel free to contact us on 01548 830832 or email


Things to do whilst in self-isolation

If you are looking for something to occupy your time whilst you self-isolate, why not sort through your own archives and see what items you might like to donate to the DRA!

Archive Opening Times

The Archive is now closed until further notice.

Data Protection
The DRA operates an 'opt-in' service for its mailing list, and you can unsubscribe at any time. To stop receiving information from the DRA, please click the link at the bottom of this email. If you have any queries about the data we hold, or how it is being used or stored, please contact the office.

Copyright © 2020 Devon Rural Archive.
All rights reserved.
Devon Rural Archive, Shilstone, Modbury, Devon PL21 0TW.
01548 830832
Part of The Fenwick Charitable Trust, Registered Charity Number 1007957

Devon Rural Archive . Devon Rural Archive . Shilstone . Modbury, Devon PL21 0TW . 

Monday, 16 March 2020

Postponed meet

POSTPONEMENT Weds, 18th March Meeting - Starcross History - 7.30 p.m. Starcross School

Dear Friends,

Alas, the rapid development of the corona virus epidemic and the possible dangers involved in its spread at meetings means that we are most reluctantly forced to postpone our meeting on Wednesday, 18th March in Starcross School.  This is a great disappointment, as we were not only looking forward to Suzanne Jone's talk on Dawlish Brewery but but also planning to introduce a number of developments for the future of Starcross History, as indicated in the evening's programme, below, upon which we would have appreciated your comments / feedback. 

Your reluctantly,

Jon and Monica

POSTPONED - Starcross History: Weds 18th March meeting, 7.30 p.m. Starcross School

Arrangements for the postponed meeting:

o   Date – to be arranged in September
o   The meeting will begin at 7.30 p.m in Starcross School and end by 9.00
This meet will be the first in our program for the academic year which starts in September 2020.
We propose a membership fee of £4per year, or £6per year for a family.
Members will not be charged admission, but there will be an admission charge of £2 for non-members
o   The PTFA will provide refreshments, something for which we are most grateful.

Agenda – Starcross History Meeting, 7.30-9.00

1.     Welcome – Monica Lang and Jon Nichol
2.     Suzanne Jones will give a talk upon  The Dawlish Brewery.
3.     Research news:  Spanish Flu, Starcross and Coronavirus
4.     Starcross History Overall planning and possibilities
·       The Starcross History website
·       the Starcross programme for the 2020/21 Academic Year [September 20 – July 21]
·       Starcross History research programmea question of belonging, identity and contemporary relevance: history for life….
5.     Any Other Business

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Getting started with oral history

The Oral History Society offers practical advice about how to record stories about the past.

The first step is to have a focus, such as Memories from Starcross. This gives us a broad scope; without cutting out memories of those who live here now, but have important personal memories about other places.

We can have sub-themes; such as The Royal Western Counties Hospital, Farming Tales, or At Work. Oral history adds to documented history, "All memories are a mixture of facts and opinions, and both are important. The way in which people make sense of their lives is valuable historical evidence in itself. "


Chair Jane Lee stepped down.
Pauline Allen proposed and Ann Hallett seconded Jon Nichol for the new chair and he was elected.
The other committee members are:
Pauline Allen: School liaison
Tom Reeves: Archivist
Monica Lang: Projects
Refreshments were kindly provided by the PTFA
Everyone brought in a raffle prize, and £25 was raised.
This website was projected onto the wall. Many thanks to James Lee for doing this.

Andrew Cadbury presented his research into the Starcross Businesses. The details will be published on this weblog.

Retired Traditional Boatbuilder,  Malcolm Fairweather, brought in the one-twelfth scale model of The Swan of the Exe which will take him a few more months to complete. Malcolm explained that he had been unable to locate the plans. The Swan of the Exe was built in Dixon's Yard, Exmouth. Malcolm only has a few drawings from which to work, so he has built this replica the way he believes that the original boat was built: as a Dory, which was a type of flat-bottomed, barge-like, working boat.
The group was delighted to be able to see the birth of such a beautifully crafted artecfact which will be a tangible reminder of a remarkable piece of Starcross History.

Jon Nichol asked everyone to discuss with their neighbours what they would like the history group to do, and what areas interested  them. Suggestions included:

  •  a history trail which will be part of The Dawlish Walking Festival in 2021
  • Oral History. 
  • visits to other places 
  • more visits to the Devon Heritage Centre in Sowton, which is accessible via the railway
  •  to invite Peter Halmkin from  The Dawlish Stamp Club to talk about the Starcross postmarks
 Further  research into:
  •  Devon violets, 
  •  Starcross school, 
  •  the docks and quayside,
  • Buses
  •  the railway
To follow up the Villages in Action Unearth project with work in the Devon Film Archive.

Many thanks to the Starcross Primary School for giving Starcross History such a warm welcome.