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.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Photos of old Starcross

The Strand with Moore's the corner shop

Histories of the Unexpected

Mamhead obelisk

To whom it May Concern,
I'm helping to promote the Histories of the Unexpected show, which is coming to Mamhead Village Hall on 8 February 2020, and I thought that some of your members might be interested in attending.

The Histories of the Unexpected team is comprised of TV historian and adventurer Dr Sam Willis and University of Plymouth Professor of Early Modern History James Daybell, and their purpose is simple: to show that everything - even the most unexpected of subjects - has a history and that these histories link together in unexpected ways. Thus, they aim to bring great research and new approaches to history to audiences around the country and across the globe. They've been running a podcast for several years, covering topics as diverse as cricket and executions, and have published five books under the Histories name. These have been converted into a tour, which has been selling out at the likes of the BBC History Weekends. You can find out more about the show, the team, and their work, as well as listen to their podcasts at

If you are interested in the show, or would like more information, please let me know. If you are interested in the show, but are unable to get to Mamhead Village Hall, the team have a number of other performances planned for your area, the dates for which are listed here:

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Suzanne Jones: The Dawlish Brewery

Stone jar. Ferris. Dawlish Brewery

Starcross History will meet at 7.30pm in the Starcross Primary School on Wednesday, 18th March, 2020.

 the speaker will be

Suzanne Jones


The Dawlish Brewery

Beer is nutritious. Everyone, including the children, used to drink beer. Dawlish had 21 pubs. The Dawlish Brewery building is still there today; behind High Street.

There is neither a fee to join the group, nor admission charge to the meets, but we will have a raffle so please bring a raffle prize. We will have a collection pot and we invite voluntary contributions to cover the cost of the room hire, and to raise money for our projects.

Andrew Cadbury: Starcross Businesses

The Strand, Starcross in Victorian times when

Starcross History will meet at 7.30pm in the Starcross Primary School on Wednesday, 22nd January 2020.

After a very brief AGM, the speaker will be

Andrew Cadbury


Starcross Businesses

During the 2017 Unearth project, Andrew researched the businesses that used to be in the village. There were several shops, pubs and craftsmen such as blacksmiths in the old forge, bike repairs in Penny Farthing Cottage and basket weaving.

There is neither a fee to join the group, nor admission charge to the meets, but we will have a raffle so please bring your unwanted Christmas presents. We will have a collection pot and we invite voluntary contributions to cover the cost of the room hire, and to raise money for our projects.

The Starcross History enamel badge. £5

Friday, 3 January 2020

Gray or Grey family

I am researching a family from Starcross. Particularly three brothers Grey of Gray who tragically drowned in the Isles of Scilly in their vessel called Plenty in December 1840. The vessel was owned by Thomas Parker of Topsham. The captain was Robert Gray (sometimes spelt with an E). This must hopefully have been recorded since it was a significant tragedy. I am trying to find a professional researcher who could help me. I believe the wreck site may have been discovered. If you can lead me to someone it would be very much appreciated
Ed Cumming

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Volunteer at the Castle

Volunteers needed! 

If you’re looking to get involved in an enthusiastic team, to meet new people or to improve your historical knowledge, why not get involved with Powderham Castle’s first ever volunteer team? We have lots of opportunities available in multiple areas of the business, all working towards providing our visitors with the best experience possible and to keep this iconic family home available to all. Whether one area takes your fancy or you’d like to lend a hand in multiple areas, we can find something to fit you!

What you’ll be doing as a Welcome Assistant:
  • Assisting members of the Visitor Welcome and Guiding team in giving a warm welcome to all visitors
  • Being familiar with Powderham and keen to learn about the castle’s history and visitor attraction
  • Assisting in the selling of tickets and guidebooks
  • Providing visitors with relevant castle information, i.e. tour times, maps, events etc.
  • Welcoming visitors to Open House during school holidays

What you’ll be doing as a Room Guide/ Courtenay Gallery Steward:
  • Taking an active role in the welcoming, enjoyment and safety of all visitors
  • Helping visitors learn about the castle, engaging and answering queries 
  • Assisting our team of Tour Guides in protecting the interior of the castle from damage during Open House
  • Being responsible for the safe evacuation of visitors in an emergency

What you’ll be doing as a Conservation/Housekeeping Assistant:
  • Assisting the Housekeeping team in preserving the Castle and its artifacts. 
  • Working within a small team on a variety of projects such as preserving and cataloguing our books, cleaning and repairing antiques and treating our wood and furniture
  • Engaging with members of the public and answering questions about the work you’re doing

The things we are looking for in you:
  • A warm and friendly attitude
  • Excellent communication skills
  • An enthusiasm and passion for history/historical buildings
  • A willingness to learn and develop new skills

What we can offer you:
  • An opportunity to meet new people and become part of a dedicated team
  • A supportive and encouraging environment to grow your skills and knowledge
  • A place to learn and experience new things 
  • Tickets to events at the Castle after a certain number of hours have been accrued 

A full induction and till training will be provided where necessary. All ages from 16 years and over are welcome.

If you’d like to apply, please send an enquiry to Naomi Hunt at

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The Starcross History enamel badge. £5

Starcross History will meet at 7.30pm in the Starcross Primary School on Wednesday, 22nd January 2020.

After a very brief AGM, the speaker will be

Andrew Cadbury


Starcross Businesses

During the 2017 Unearth project, Andrew researched the businesses that used to be in the village. There were several shops, over 20 pubs and craftsmen such as blacksmiths in the old forge, bike repairs in Penny Farthing Cottage and basket weaving.

There is neither a fee to join the group, nor admission charge to the meets, but we will have a raffle so please bring your unwanted Christmas presents. We will have a collection pot and we invite voluntary contributions to cover the cost of the room hire, and to raise money for our projects.

Friday, 18 October 2019

A to Z of Westcountry Houses

Laurence Hunt will address the Exmouth Historical and Archaeological Society at 7.30pm on Monday 4th November, in Glenorchy Church Hall, Exeter Road, Exmouth EX8 2SS

Visitors are welcome – entrance £3.00.
Mike Tracey
01395 260442
Programme for 2020

Jan. 6 Wartime Dalditch Camp, and finds on Woodbury Common

Speaker: Simon Fogg

Feb. 3 AGM, followed by The humble milk bottle and doorstep
Speaker: Peter Haywood

Visitors are welcome at all evening meetings, at a cost of £3 per meeting, but

Please Note

Because of limited space, non-members will be admitted

only after 7.15pm.

Thursday, 17 October 2019


A meeting of interested parties discussed:

  • The need to start recording oral histories. The Dawlish talking newspaper, based in the community centre in The Strand Church, Dawlish, offered use of their recording studio. We need a volunteer to expedite this ASAP or the precious memories will be lost
  • Perhaps Starcross Primary School hall would be the ideal place to meet
  • There was no follow up to the successful Unearth project
  • Monica has a project to recreate the Galloper carousel which used to visit Starcross
  • Another project is to reproduce the eel trap which was on the end of Starcross pier during World War 2.
  • Malcolm Fairweather is kindly making a child's rocker in the form of The Swan of the Exe, and designing a one twelfth scale model of The Swan of the Exe
  • It has not yet been possible to get cheques signed to Starcross Primary School and Starcross preschool for £50 each, this being last year's prize money for Kattanga the War Horse on the 2018 Teignmouth Recycled Art in the Landscape sculpture trail. The school and preschool have merged so one cheque for £100 is now required. It could perhaps be stipulated that the preschool could choose how to spend £50.
  • Monica has 3 people who have agreed to speak at a meeting.
  • The next meeting should be the AGM so that a new committee can be elected. The main part of that meeting will be a speaker. The committee election need not take up much time. Quorum for this is 6

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