Thursday, 22 April 2021

STARCROSS HOSPITAL what the voices tell us

STARCROSS HOSPITAL what the voices tell us

This is a link to the 160 page oral history project on the history of The Royal Western Counties Hospital in Starcross.

On your mobile phone: you can open in incognito tab, or use your Google account, or share on Facebook. Tap and hold the link to view the drop-down menu of all the options of how you can view this booklet.

If you are using a computer to here view the web version of The Starcross History Society's weblog: just click on the link to view the booklet. 

Did this revive memories for you? Was there something that stuck you as particularly poignant or interesting? Would you please leave  some feedback by commenting below, or by contacting


Many thanks to Caroline Hill for allowing The Starcross History Society to publish this remarkable book.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Lustleigh Society - all welcome to attend talk by Dr Todd Gray

Devon Wool Trade

Dr Todd Gray will be giving a Zoom talk, entitled ‘Devon’s Greatest Export: Woollen Cloth’, for the Lustleigh Society on Tuesday 30th March 2021 at 7:30pm. 
Woollen cloth was Devon’s most significant export for hundreds of years. It was largely finished and then funnelled through Exeter until 1800 to markets principally in Spain, Portugal, and the Low Countries, Italy and France. The recent discovery of a cloth book of the 1760s has revealed the vibrancy and range of this cloth. This illustrated talk uses 2,475 samples to bring alive an industry which was once the heart of Devon’s economy. 
If you would like to join this talk you can log in using this link anytime after 7pm on the day: 
You have the option whether to be visible (join with video) or invisible (join without video). It’s best to keep yourself on mute during the lecture. There will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end. 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Please make Mermaids' Braids

The Starcross Mermaid is the Starcross History Society's entry on this year's Teignmouth Recycled Art in the Landscape sculpture trail


Use net bags from supermarket vegetables etc. Incorporate tatty nylon scarves and funky shoe laces.TRAIL are mindful of microplastics on the seafront; so although sparkly is lovely, please do not use glitter or any material that will shed. Fruit bags photodegenerate slower than plastic bags, but they must be tightly secured to each other. Thankyou ❤️

Friday, 9 April 2021

The Starcross Mermaid on TRAIL

 This year's entry on the Teignmouth Recycled Art in the Landscape sculpture trail is The Starcross Mermaid

Monica found her head on the shores of the Exe Estuary today.

The Starcross Mermaid's head amongst the bladderwrack and rocks

Teignbridge District Council has kindly donated one of her magnificent breasts. It's an orange plastic buoy, with a broken fixing. This is just one of the many thousands of such buoys which come adrift in the oceans and add to the massive rafts of rubbish in the centre of the 5 gyres

Our mermaid needs one more, but if a matching buoy can't be found for her second breast, it might be a good thing... because this larger than life mermaid will promote Breast Cancer Awareness, with or without both of her breasts.

Here's a photo of the first throwdown of The Starcross Mermaid. 

Her body will be fashioned from trawlernet. Thankyou again Teignbridge. Her long fishtail will be covered in shiny silver scales (CDs) so she will need to sit on something fairly high; so that her fishtail can be displayed to maximum effect.

Her Mermaids' Braids  will be made from the plastic net bags that often encase shopbought vegetables. These bags are super-colourful, but they will need decorating with jewellery. 

So it's time to start saving all the net bags and jewellery you can PLEASE.

Each plait needs to be very secure, and 8 feet long please. Demo plaits will be displayed at Myrtle Cottage... 

If you would help with this project, please get in touch

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Our next FREE ZOOM


Everyone is welcome to our next FREE ZOOM. This is the link

Any problems, please email Thankyou.

Jon Nichol will present The Voices of Starcross on Wednesday, 16th June, from 7.30pm until 9.00pm. This is about the value of recording people speaking about their experiences. You will hear some invaluable commentary from local voices.

We make no charge to attend, because we believe that local history should be free for everyone, but we ask for donation via Paypal  to cover our costs.  Please visit our Donate page.  


Starcross Hospital: What the Voices Tell Us. Installment 1.

Why can't I live in a house?



A case study about moving to Care in the Community, written by David King, was published by the Nuffield Trust in 1991. [1] 


It sought to describe how and why the institutions around Exeter, in Devon, were closed in the 1980s, and to inspire and enable other health areas to follow suit. 


It was written from the perspective of overseeing the push from hospital to community care, as David was at the helm of the Exeter Health Authority throughout this period, before moving to New Zealand where he would lead similar change. 


Before the first of the institutional hospitals in the Exeter area closed – the Royal Western Counties Hospital at Starcross – David set in train a project to create an oral archive. 


Now, the opportunity has come to publish extracts from the interviews alongside a commentary drawn from David’s words – from then (1988 and 1989), from 1991, and with fresh eyes from 2020. 


I hope this will be a useful companion to the 1991 publication but also a tribute to those who lived and worked at Starcross Hospital as well as a window on an important part of the social history of the village of Starcross. 

Caroline Hill 



Sunday, 21 March 2021

Friends of St Paul's Church

St Paul's Church Starcross needs a Friends of St Paul's Church group.  As well as immediate repair to its roof, the church and churchyard need some TLC. The Starcross History Society considers that Captain George Peacock's tomb is an important part of the village identity.
What is needed is someone to come forward as the organiser of Friends of St Paul's Church Starcross. The Starcross History Society will be pleased to dedicate a page on this weblog, so that the activities of 
 Friends of St Paul's Church Starcross are recorded and communicated.
Please get in touch if you would organise this. Help is on offer. It just needs a coordinator.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Starcross Hospital: What the Voices Tell Us

Caroline Hill

Caroline Hill is to present, on this weblog, a remarkable project about The Royal Western Counties Hospital. An oral record was made about the hospital shortly after it closed in 1986.

Caroline has  collected together the interview transcripts and reproduced extracts in an easy-to-read compilation, bringing what was said back to life.

"After more than 30 years, most of the contributors will no longer be with us, but their families and people who knew them may value being able to read what they had put on tape back in the late 1980s."

Caroline hopes that this project will be of interest to anyone seeking to know more about the history of the village of Starcross because of the memories it contains of life inside and  outside the hospital, going back to the 1930s.

 The full interview transcripts will be lodged with other Starcross documentation at the Devon archives in the Devon  Heritage Centre.


Friday, 12 March 2021


The Cow Pock from Wikimedia

This cartoon, from Wikimedia, relates to the smallpox pandemic, which will be mentioned briefly. image The Cow pock from Wikimedia

Wednesday:       17th March, 7.30-9.00 p.m.

Topic:                 War, Spanish Flu & Covid19: A Local History Perspective

Speaker:             Jon Nichol, Starcross History Society


Jon Nichol will talk about the impact of the 1918/19 Spanish Flu pandemic on Devon, how Devonians reacted to it and points of comparison between it and the Covid-19 2020/21 pandemic. The talk will focus upon the second, major wave of  Spanish Flu from October-December 1918 that coincided with the closing phase of the First World War [1914-18].  Spanish Flu is known as the ‘forgotten pandemic’ despite apparently having killed twice as many people as died in the First World War. A long term consequence of Spanish Flu amnesia was the failure to be better prepared for and how to cope with Covid-19. 


To join the talk, its ZOOM linkMeeting-ID and Password are:

Meeting-ID: 894 0569 0055
Password: Heirnet


If there are any problems, please email


There's a guide on how to use ZOOM at





a)    The ZOOM meeting From 7.15 we will let you into the meeting. Jon’s talk starts at 7.30 p.m., i.e. we will hopefully avoid the problem of admitting late comers.

b)    When the meeting starts please mute your microphones and switch off your videos.

c)     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.

d)    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.

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

f)     You can also type questions for the speaker in the Chat Box




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, and an honorarium for our  speakers.


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

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
Visit our website
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