Saturday, 23 January 2021

Next FREE ZOOM from The Starcross History Society


Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

 19.30 to 21.00
Jon Nichol
Now & Then: Covid19 & Spanish Flu
Please email to enable us to send you the link to this online ZOOM meeting

Monday, 11 January 2021

Dartmoor Mardon Down FREE ZOOM

Harberton & Harbertonford History Society

Zoom talk by Andy Crabb, Dartmoor Archeologist
‘From The Neolithic to Normandy: A Deep History of Mardon Down’

Tuesday 19th January at 7.30pm, via Zoom
Dear Jill,

Firstly, a warm welcome to 2021 - and indeed we are in much need of warmth!
I am writing  with details of the first talk of the year when we will welcome back, Andy Crabb, Dartmoor Archaeologist, who will give an online talk via Zoom on Tuesday 19th January at 7.30pm, via Zoom.

The title of the talk is :

‘From The Neolithic to Normandy: A Deep History of Mardon Down’
Mardon Down, near Moretonhampstead, hosts an interesting collection of ancient monuments, including the largest stone circle on Dartmoor and the ‘Giant’s Grave’. Andy’s new talk will cover recent surveys of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Medieval and WWII structures. He’ll also include discoveries at the nearby Wooston Castle Iron-Age hillfort."

If you are interested in joining this free Zoom meeting please email us by clicking on the link below.
Register interest in Andy's talk
As mentioned in our last email, we are asking you to consider making a small donation to the cost of the talk - which amounts to approximately £70 each time.

The vast majority of people who attended our first Zoom talk said that they were happy to contribute. Please click on the link below to give a voluntary contribution. If you are not certain that you will attend, the opportunity to donate will be repeated when we send out the meeting joining instructions next week.

Thank you very much in advance .  
Donate towards the cost of the talk
Andy Crabb works with Historic England and Dartmoor National Park Authority. Those who have been on our Dartmoor summer picnics will have enjoyed his archaeological walks.

He has been working as an archaeologist for over 20 years and mainly works within the Dartmoor National park, but his role with Historic England also covers West Devon, Mid Devon and Exeter.
In his Dartmoor work he covers all aspects of the park's rich historic environment from Neolithic enclosures to second world war airfields - 20,000+ known sites. For Historic England he works as part of the regional ‘heritage at risk’ team. This is a group tasked with trying to reduce the numerous threats faced by the region’s scheduled monuments, listed buildings and registered parklands.

In addition we have arranged two further online  talks this year:

Tuesday March 2nd - 7.30pm - Colin Vosper: The Old Saltway - From  Coombe Cellars to Totnes 
Tuesday October 5th - 7.30pm - Dr Todd Gray: Uncle Tom Cobley and Widdicombe Fair and Harberton
We are planning talks for May and November and will let you have the details of all these meetings as soon as these have been confirmed.

We very much hope you will join us for this, our second online talk, and look forward to seeing you on the 19th January.

With All Good Wishes,

Jill Powell
Harberton and Harbertonford History Society
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Redesigning Peacock event

Because we can't meet face-to-face with Joe Hancock from Burn the Curtain 
Joe Hancock from Burn the Curtain

we are unable to plan exactly how we could weave the history of our Victorian polymath with  reenactment, empathetic problem solving and other dramatic activities. Joe Hancock is keen for people to be involved rather than to just be an audience.

 Our ZOOM presentation is now postponed indefinitely. We may ask Burn the Curtain  to propose some of their theatrical ways for our community to celebrate Captain George Peacock. That would be a separate event and video footage of it would be part of our ZOOM.

Many thanks to Judith Greenhough, for her  extensive research about Captain Peacock,  which will add to the  Starcross History Society's ZOOM presentation.

The internet continues to reveal gems, such as this Pin of a diagram of Captain Peacock's Refuge Buoy, from the Bibliotheca Caminos. The Liverpool Maritime Museum has a model of his apparatus to desalinate seawater so that sailors could have a reliable supply of freshwater. HERE'S the link to the information from The Liverpool Maritime Museum, and here's a picture, courtesy of

Saturday, 9 January 2021

The Starcross Mermaid; three fishy tails

We have three reports of different reliability on local mermaids. The first is from August 1812. A group was on a sailing trip a mile off Exmouth when it heard a wild, tinkling harpsichord melody. The trippers then spotted  a human-like sea creature, almost six feet long, with a fish tail, ‘diving and twisting in the water’. Excitedly, they threw boiled fish into the sea -  the creature drew nearer and seemed to be cavorting playfully near the vessel. After three quick plunges, ‘she’ swam rapidly away and was lost to sight. A mermaid!, with a long, oval face, seal-like, but more agreeable. Hair seemed to crown her upper and back head. Not beautiful, she was more like an animal, whose upper arms were covered with a soft fawn or pinkish down. Her two arms ended in four webbed fingers on each hand. The waist tapered gradually to form a tail apparently covered with shiny scales, while on her back was something like feathers. 

The second report was about 100 years later. A group of eight fisherman caught a similar mermaid off Topsham bar. The group used sticks brutally to knock it down after it leapt out of the fishing net and tried to ‘run away with great swiftness’. The four foot long mermaid had legs, webbed feet, human eyes, a mouth, and a salmon-like tail.  Dying ‘it groan’d like a human creature’. The mermaid subsequently went on public display in Topsham and then London.

The anonymous contemporary third tale reached us recently and triggered off Monica Lang’s memories of the first two accounts in The Exmouth Journal. 

It was a cold and windy night; a gale was blowing up the Exe.  The ghostly moon peeped wanly through the scudding cloud.  On the end of the Starcross pier sat a sad, love-lorn, lonely and hunched figure, playing a lament on his harmonica. The young man looked up, startled, as he fleetingly saw a beautiful young woman's head emerge from the waves, her long blond tresses streaked with seaweed and kelp. The young man's heart pounded frantically, it was love at first sight, who was this gorgeous phantom, as she slipped below the waves without apparently so much as a glance in his direction.  Had she noticed him? Was it an hallucination? Perhaps one glass too many in The Galleon on his way to Starcross pier....’

Are there any other stories of the River Exe mermaid? Our Loch Ness Monster!

If so, please send to


Jon Nichol

Friday, 18 December 2020

Who do you think you are? FREE ZOOM

Devon Family History Society logo

We welcome everyone to this FREE ZOOM. To ensure your place, please email ASAP. It's also very helpful to have your email in plenty of time.


Wednesday:     20th January, 7.30-9.00 p.m.

Topic:     Who Do You Think You Are?  Family History Night 

Speaker:     Sue Bond, Devon Family History Society

Who do you think you are? Central to your identity and sense of belonging are the stories, narratives, memories and recollections that make up your personal history and that of your family. As a family historian through questioning and investigation you can discover and learn about your ancestors and their lives, often exciting, mysterious and fascinating.  You can deepen, widen and extend knowledge of your family’s history to bring to life the roots and branches of your family tree.

The Devon Family History Society [DFHS] helps you to become a family historian from the most tentative of starts. Whether you’re just starting out in family history or you’ve hit a brick wall and don’t know how to break through it, the DFHS will support you at every point in your enquiry. The DFHS empowers you to investigate as history detectives all aspects of your family history wherever you live and whatever your personal circumstances. 

Sue’s talk will introduce you to the delights and pleasure of being your own family historian.

Most kindly, Sue has said she is happy for people to send her questions beforehand as long as you say it is for the 20th January presentation. Please send your queries to:

For more information about the Devon Family History Society and the  comprehensive support it provides, see 


  1. Please email asking to join the 20th January meeting.

n.b. There's a guide on how to use ZOOM at

  1. On the evening  of  Tues 19th January we will send everyone who has asked to attend Wednesday evening’s  talk a ZOOM invitation link to join it.

  • The meeting When you reply accepting the invitation to join the ZOOM meeting from 7.15 we will let you into it: the talk starts at 7.30 p.m.

  • When the meeting begins please mute your microphones and switch off your videos.

This means we can all hear the speaker and see the full screen. Unmuted microphones result in a cacophony of noise that means the presentation is inaudible.

  • After the presentation the speaker will be  happy to answer questions and discuss points you raise. To do this, please use the ZOOM raised hand icon to speak. 

  • Unmuting microphones If selected, we can then unmute your microphone for you to ask questions and take part in the discussion 

  • You can also type questions for the speaker into the Chat Box

  1. Any problems – please email


We make no charge for the meeting because we believe that history should be FREE... but we have costs to cover, including the professional version of ZOOM, the speakers’ expenses and an honorarium for each speaker.

So, if you can, please give a donation via the PayPal button on the Starcross History Website.

Thank you very much.

Jon Nichol, SCHS chair and Monica Lang, SCHS Treasurer and Projects Manager

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Planet tractor

Dear Sir/Madam,


I would greatly appreciate any help that you may be able to provide to my research project.


I recently acquired a historic vehicle manufactured in 1948 and supplied to Western Counties Hospital Group in Starcross where it spent the years up to 1965. The hospital becoming part of the NHS in 1948 was I suspect the trigger to purchase the vehicle.


The vehicle is a light industrial tractor (picture attached) manufactured by F C Hibberd & Co Ltd. and called a Planet, it appears to have been purchased as a plough or snowplough for the hospital. I am particularly interested to find any pictures that may exist of it at the time or any memories of how it appeared and worked in and around the hospital. Having road registration it may even have been spotted in the local area as it is quite a distinctive item.


In 1965 the tractor or tug as they can be described was sold off as scrap to a Mr R Gorman of Old Matford, Exeter. It clearly did not end up as scrap and at this time may or may not have stayed in the area before undergoing some restoration and likely colour change at a later date.


Thanks for your time.


Kind regards,

John Buckley

Thursday, 3 December 2020

The Dawlish Brewery ZOOM meeting

 Our program of free online ZOOM meetings continues this next Wednesday:

Wednesday, December 9th 2020

19.30 to 21.00
 Suzanne Jones
The Dawlish Brewery
Please email to enable us to send you the link to this online ZOOM meeting

If you're unfamiliar with the ZOOM technology, there's a How-to on this link:

An exciting aspect of Suzanne's talk is that she will actually be presenting it from the wonderful Old Dawlish Brewery building, which is now her home in the Dawlish Old Town.

Since we can't flog teas or raffle tickets, we please ask for voluntary contributions so that we can keep going with our free local history for everyone program, as well as carry on with our projects. These include mosaics, topiaried trees, research, and entry into the Teignmouth Recycled Art in the Landscape sculpture trail.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Your PoW stories please

German soldiers who were captured in Normandy disembarking from a LST at Southampton during June 1944

Official war photographer: Lt E.E. Allen

 I am a third-year undergraduate History student at the University of Plymouth and am undertaking oral history research as part of the requirements for my final-year dissertation. My project explores the memory and experience of German Prisoners of War who were held in Devon during and after the Second World War. I am particularly interested in British attitude towards the Prisoners of War, their employment whilst held in camps and after the end of the war as well as their socialisation with the Prisoners of War. I am hoping to carry out some informal interviews/discussions with people who would be willing, able, and happy to share their experiences. This could German prisoners themselves, their wives and family members, those who employed them during and after the war and/or their family members also, or anyone with an experience they would like to share.

Prisoner captivity was a large part of the Second World War and various experiences of British soldiers have been shared over the years. However, the experiences of the German Prisoners of War within Devon are lesser known but are a significant part of our history. Many prisoners were employed on local farms with some even staying after the war to continue their work. I believe it is important to illuminate these unique experiences to ensure we do not forget them as the years pass on.

I would look to use these interviews within my dissertation and will ensure that participants fully understand the project, what is required of them, what they can expect of me, and how their interviews will be used, to ensure the consent they give is fully informed. In return, I would give acknowledgment to those who are happy to participate or redact/change names and details for those who wish. 

I was wondering whether you would be able to publish an article calling for people across Devon who have a connection to this that would be willing to participate. Anybody who is interested to participate or who have questions can contact me via



Kind regards

Sarah Ferguson

Friday, 27 November 2020

Exeter Historic Buildings Trust


Exeter Historic Buildings Trust – Trustee Vacancies

Are you passionate about heritage and historic buildings? Would you like to work with a vibrant and forward-thinking organisation working to preserve Exeter’s historic fabric? Exeter Historic Buildings Trust is currently looking for trustees to join its board. 

Exeter Historic Building Trust (EHBT) was founded in 1996 to rescue the 11th century former refectory wing of St Nicholas Priory and now works to preserve for the benefit of the people of Exeter, and of the nation at large, the historical architectural heritage of the city. To find out more about the Trust’s work, please visit our website at

 In 2018, the Trust also acquired the west wing of the Priory, with the intention of returning it to community use.  The Trust’s regular activity is to maintain the Priory and open it to the public. We have a regular programme of tours and events, including cookery demonstrations, performances and historical re-enactments.  For a full review of our events, please visit Priory website at 

We welcome applications for this voluntary role from both those who have experience of being a trustee and those who are new to the role. Following the retirement of our treasurer, we particularly welcome applications from people with a background in finance or accounting to help manage the financial aspects of the Trust’s work, supported by our bookkeeper. 

To apply, please send your CV and a covering letter explaining your interest in the role to 

If you would like more information about Exeter Historic Buildings Trust or the role, please email,  or to organise an informal discussion regarding either, please email Katharine Chant at 

Closing dates:     For finance and treasurer role:  6th December 2020 

        For other trustee vacancies:       11th January 2021

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Devon History: online courses. Todd Gray


Drr. Todd Gray, FrHistS. MBE. is to present these online courses:

Each Zoom lecture is illustrated and will be followed by a question and answer session.  Each course has a featured book which could be read alongside the lectures.  Booking via




Devon’s travellers’ tales, 1600-1950 

An examination of the impressions made by visitors to Devon mostly from their personal manuscript journals.  These accounts reveal previously unknown details of the county’s villages, towns and countryside.


Over four weeks

Tuesday mornings, 10.30 - 11.45am

24 November – 15 December 2020 

Fee: £24

Featured book: Todd Gray, Exeter: The Travellers’ Tale available to course members at a discount price of £8 through


History that Hurts

Four difficult topics will be discussed from a Devon viewpoint: looting in the second world war, the rise of fascism in the 1930s, black and white slavery from 1563 to 1834, and discrimination in Exeter from 1530 to 1945


Over four weeks

Thursday mornings, 10.30 - 11.45am

26 November – 16 December 2020 

Fee: £24

Featured book: Todd Gray, Not One of Us available to course members at a discount price of £14 through



Devon’s travellers’ tales, 1600-1950 Part Two

Further examples of the experiences of visitors in Devon – topography, food, buildings and people are just some of the aspects of life that were recorded. Many of the accounts have not been previously published.


Over four weeks

Tuesday mornings, 10.30 - 11.45am

12 January – 2 February 2021 

Fee: £24

Featured book: Todd Gray, East Devon: The Travellers’ Tale available to course members at a discount price of £8 through


Devon’s garden history, 1500-1900

Five different aspects of Devon’s garden history will be examined through printed and manuscript sources: exotic plants, garden nurseries, herb gardens and selected gardens such as Nutwell, Shute, Oxton and Cockwood.


Over five weeks

Thursday mornings, 10.30 – 11.45 am

14 January – 11 February 2021

Fee: £30

Featured book: Todd Gray, The Art of the Devon Garden available to course members at a discount price of £18 through


England’s carved bench ends, 1450-1700

An examination of the late medieval timber carvings found in churches in the South West (Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset) with those of East Anglia, Central England.  


Over five weeks

Thursday mornings, 10.30 – 11.45 am

18 February – 18 March 2021 

Fee: £30

Featured book: Todd Gray, Devon’s Ancient Bench Ends available to course members at a discount price of £16 through

Friday, 6 November 2020

Next ZOOM meeting is POSTPONED




Captain Peacock and the Swans of the River Exe

This month's  ZOOM meeting of Starcross History Society is on Wednesday, November 18th, from 7.30pm until 9.00pm. You can join anytime: no need to apologise for being late, and you can leave anytime BUT YOU WON'T WANT TO LEAVE this meeting with Joe Hancock from Burn the Curtain Interactive Promenade Theatre Company. Please wear a Victorian hat. or not 😅

This Covid19 summer, a massive project was planned around Starcross's Victorian polymath; Captain George Peacock:

  •  Swan pedalos were to be built on Exeter Quay. Ragtag characters from all over the world would retrieve parts of Captain Peacock's inventions and reconstruct them on Exeter Quay.

  • An exhibition about Captain Peacock would have displayed Malcolm Fairweather's scale model of The Swan of the Exe which he was making for Starcross History Society.

  • A graphic novel about Captain Peacock would have been commissioned

  • People dressed in Victorian costumes were to retrieve Captain Peacock inventions which would have been hidden around Exeter Quay. Did you know that his drinking water converter is still in use today? And he invented a screw propeller.

The wasn't to be this year, but don't miss this ZOOM meeting where you can find out about all the stuff Captain Peacock did; and share your own ideas about how to celebrate him.

There's a How to ZOOM guide on

To get the link for this November 18th Starcross History Society ZOOM meeting, please email

We make no charge because we believe that history should be FREE... but it's not,  because we like to offer our ZOOM presenters  a remuneration, and we have the Professional version of ZOOM. 

If you can afford it, please give a donation via the PayPal button. 

Thankyou very much.

We have never charged admittance to our meetings because we believe that History should be Free for All. Now that we have all our meetings online, we can't flog raffle tickets or teas& coffees, or have a voluntary collecting pot. 
We have ambitions to make cash from a YouTube channel, but this will be a long time project... We'll need over 30,000 followers and we'll need to register as a charity.
Meanwhile, if you have enjoyed one or more of our ZOOM meetings, perhaps you would kindly donate something. 
We would like to keep going. We also have more projects we'd like to see through.
See the EVENTS page for details of more projects, but currently we are working with the Starcross Action for Trees group to install a topiaried Yew tree or trees in Starcross, reminiscent of the conical Yew trees which were along The Strand.