Saturday 30 May 2015

Cockle woman

Image on Flickr under the Creative Commons

Thankyou to Royal Museums Greenwich for this image of  (Starcross in the background)

Cockle woman, Exmouth, Devon

Reproduction ID: G3128

Maker: Francis Frith & Co

Date: About 1906

Materials: silver halide: gelatine

Sunday 24 May 2015

The Royal Western Counties Hospital badge

Many thanks to Peter Maleczek for permission to post this photo from  his wonderful collection of      'Nursing Badges' on Flickr

Monday 18 May 2015

The Starcross History Trail

There are so many hidden gems of history around Starcross; enough for a walking tour or 3.

To organise The Starcross History Trail, we first of all need a list of the interesting places and buildings in and around Starcross. If the owners of the buildings consent to being part of our trail, then we can gather information, photographs and documents for each location, with permission for publication in a booklet titled The Starcross History Trail.  The amount of text&images for each entry could be limited to, say, a single sheet of A4. The booklets will go on sale, and there will be an online version here; for those of you who prefer using your mobile phone to find your way around.

  • Researchers neeeded please

Guided walks could be arranged - Starcross History could host people from other local history groups.

  • Volunteers wanted please

Another aspect of  The Starcross History Trail will be a Dartmoor letterbox-type container at some of the locations.  We will request property owners to provide a rubber stamp depicting their building. They could make it freely available by placing it somewhere easily accessible, or make it available at times convenient to themselves. Also, a logbook for enthusiasts to sign/ stamp with their personal stamp would be excellent.

  • Here's a few ideas we could work on. Some of the buildings have been demolished. Please comment below to add more ideas.

Please send information with permission to publish to

  • Starcross Primary School
  • St Paul's Church.
  • Starcross Royal British Legion
  • Staplake House 
  • The Brunel Tower
  • The old police house
  • Regents House
  • The Red House
  • Fishermen's cottages in Staplake Lane
  • Fishermen's cottages on The Strand
  • Kenbrook
  • The Assembly Rooms
  • The Royal Western Counties Hospital
  • Southbrook House
  • Starcross Pier
  • Starcross Railway Station
  • The Alexandra Arms
  • The Atmospheric Railway
  • The Galleon
  • The Ship
  • The Anchor
  • Grove Cottage
  •   Harpridge
  • Northbrook
  • The Vicarage
  • Langdale
  • Ilex House
  • Exeleigh
  • The Bell House
  • Cofford Farm
  • Exe Nurseries
  • Venn Bridge Farm
  • Style Farm
  • Tiverlands
  • Rose Cottage
  • Staplake Farm
  • Well St - where were the wells?
  • The Forge
  • Northbrook
  • The site of the market
  • The slaughterhouse
  • The WW11 Home Guard lookout post on Easter Hill
  • Ashes Quay
  • Woolcomb's Island
  • Bronze Age ring ditches at Powderham
  • Iron Age hut circles at Powderham
  • Powderham Castle
  • Mowlish Manor

Sunday 17 May 2015

Deb'n Tales

Stories about Starcross history are everywhere. They need writing down or recording, and then we'd be delighted to be allowed to publish them on here. Stories are great fun. They are often backed up with documents and/or photographs. Sometimes, they aren't completely factual; but they can often set the record straight.

A personal narrative brings history to life. So that you can appreciate what can be achieved, please listen to the 4 anecdotes about quarries in Devon  HERE

Thankyou for this picture to
At least one old house in Starcross was built using stone quarried in Heavitree, Exeter. The stone is Red Sandstone, from the Heavitree breccia. Stonework which uses Heavitree breccia is quite distinctive, because the red is infilled with darker stone, which gives a typical, toned pattern. This pattern can be seen in

what remains of St Catherine's almshouses, in Exeter.  There was a Red Sandstone quarry nearer to Starcross than Heavitree; at Exminster.

Here's a case where personal narrative has set the record straight. Was The Swan of the Exe 
destroyed by fire sometime between the 2 World Wars? That's what we understood, but, NO. She definitely was not. Several local residents have been quick to explain that she was kept in the grounds of Regent House right up until the 1960s, where she was used as a summerhouse. Photographs exist...

And here's an evocative story - you can just picture the scene:
When the Cookson family, who owned  The Cygnet, 
Thankyou for this photo to
 Les Gibbings, via

(the tender to The Swan of the Exe) wanted to launch her, men would push her through Starcross with her head and neck lying inside the boat, because the railway arches over the slipways weren't high enough to allow her through into the river.
You can see the story is true, because in this photo, there's a line clearly visible just above the rope on the bow. This line must be the point where the head and neck were detached.

Another family of note in the history of Starcross was the Drew family. Descendants of the Drew family live in nearby Exeter. They are not related to the Drewes of Drewsteignton . John Drew lived at Kenbrook on The Strand in 1930, according to Kelly's Directory
When you go to that link, there's a picture of  "the old "Stair" crossing to Exmouth which gave its name to Starcross".
images/StarcrossOldStairCrossing.jpg for this photo

Which brings us to another story. In line with what is written on the link to Kelly's Directory (above), some local residents dispute that there ever was a stone cross at the ferry landing. 'Stairs Cross' simply meant the stairs where the crossing was. So, they say, it's no good us -  Starcross History - asking folk to keep a lookout for what's left of a (probably-wrecked-under-the-orders-of-Henry V111), 12th century stone cross, which might still lurk in the estuary silt; because there never was one. Well, that 'story' is in opposition to Captain George Peacock's account in Volume 15 (pub. 1888 by W Brendon and Son, 26, George St Plymouth) ) of The Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art. This clearly states that a stone cross was set up, by the Bishop of Sherborne, near the stone stairs, and that is how Stairs Cross was named.To check this, we might have to consult the archives of Sherborne Priory

Do you dispute anything written on this weblog? Or do you have any new stories to share about old Starcross? We would love to hear from you.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Chumleigh. June 6th.

The Devon History Society welcomes us to their June meet in Chumleigh. Until we can afford the £15 to affiliate to Devon History Society, the cost will be £10 each. You must book by 29th May. If you don't want to go to the lectures or hear the choir, entry to the exhibitions at the Town Hall, the library and St Mary's Church, is FREE. Buffet lunch and refreshments is £12. Refreshments only is £2.50

Eileen Dolling, Chulmleigh Town Crier, will welcome delegates to the Summer Meeting of the Devon History Society on Saturday 6th June in Chulmleigh Pavilion.  Chulmleigh Local History Society are thrilled to be hosting this event in the Town – described by W.G. Hoskins as “an ancient Market Town” with the original Charter granted in 1253 by Henry III.
This is an exciting opportunity to hear three lectures by local speakers, explore exhibitions of local villages in the Town Hall, and walk a Town Trail led by members of the Local History Society.  Notable buildings open to visit are the Old Court House and the town churches, with presentations in St Mary’s during the afternoon.  You may purchase tickets to attend the morning lectures and Town Trail from or telephone 01647-433402 no later than 26th May.  Tickets include lunch and refreshments with payment made direct to Devon History Society.
The Town Hall will be open to all, and as well as village exhibitions, the History Society library and archive will be open for browsing, and in addition local artists will have the opportunity to display their work.  Profits from this part of the day will be divided between North Devon Hospice and North Devon Children’s Hospice.  Further information from Elizabeth Andrew on 01769-580363 or email It promises to be a fantastic day!  All ages are catered for.  PLEASE COME AND ENJOY!

The Policeman's Field Allotment and Grazing Pitch in The Strand

This photo from the Powderham archives is on the  Policing Past Community Present Facebook page.

" This photograph, probably dating from the 1860s, showing Starcross Police House (far right of image). Provided by the Earl of Devon, the area in front of the cottage (now a park/car park on the sea front at Starcross) is/was known as 'Policeman's Field'. This was used by the inhabitant of the Police House as an allotment and grazing pitch.

For those who would like to take a look at how the house looks today, follow this Google Street View link to journey along The Strand, starting at the old Police House:

The house is listed on English Heritage as Northend Cottage 
 English Heritage give 1871 as the date when it was a police house

Friday 15 May 2015

Our poster for the Official Opening of the Starcross Pavilion tomorrow

Starcross History
FREE membership  AND No admission charge to the bi-monthly meetings in this pavilion.
Wednesday   July 8th 2015              at 7:30pm

Wednesday  September 9th 2015   at 7:30pm
Wednesday  November11th 2015  at 7:30pm
Wednesday  January 13th 2016     at 7:30pm
Wednesday  March 9th 2016         at 7:30pm
Speakers will be arranged
To cover the £20 charge to hire this brand new pavilion,
 we ask everyone to please bring a raffle prize, and we charge £1 for teas&coffees


Ø  We are recreating Captain George Peacock’s The Swan of the Exe for  Trail RecycledArt in the Landscape.Our ‘wackin burd’ will be installed on Teignmouth seafront during the week July 11th - July 18th. After the summer season, she’ll go On Tour.
Please cut out feathers from milk bottles
Ø  How did Starcross look in the past? Information please, about buildings, wells, and roads etc; to help us with  a series of illustrated, historic maps.
Ø  A Twelfth Century stone cross stood at the top of a flight of stone stairs; and gave Stairs Cross its name. Does it still lie in the estuary silt, where it was thrown by order of Henry V111? Was it made from Portland Stone, Buckfastleigh Limestone, Dartmoor Granite, or  Red Sandstone from the Heavitree breccias? Can it be recreated?
Ø  Should there be a memorial to commemorate the achievements of Captain George Peacock? Did he invent the screw propeller?
Ø  Oral History. Do you have stories to tell? We will record them; on paper, or on audio tape, or on video; whichever you prefer.


Visit to Dingles Heritage Fairground Museum on a Saturday in September. Coach fare £8 for adults and £4 for children. Babies and toddlers must have their own baby/child seat. We have arranged a 15% reduction for the entry fee to the museum.


Vintage Games at the Starcross Summer Fete on the Sportsfield on July 25th
Hard enamel club badges for sale;depicting The Swan of the Exe £10. £15 for 2. £20 for 4
Contact : Monica Lang 01626890650

PS We welcome LOTS of help with everything J

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Thankyou for coming to the May meeting

Thankyou everyone who came to the May meeting.

Especial thanks to our speakers:

Janet Cutler gave a wickedly humorous illustrated talk on Brunel in the West Country. The slides she showed demonstrated the great determination she had to get some of  the wonderful shots. The one of the SS Great Britain's last time afloat - as she lumbered up the Avon into Bristol, showed how decrepit the old boat was, after her sojourn in The Falklands as a warehouse and then being scuttled and left to rot. The cartoon on THIS LINK gives an idea of the frenzied crowds as they jostled for a position to see the fragile wreck go under the suspension bridge 127 years after she left Bristol. Janet Cutler stayed put, and got the shot she wanted, which showed the ravages of an 8,000 mile journey on an already dangerously deteriorated hulk.
There were shots of the broadgauge loco, The North Star, and stories of the chaos when broad gauge met narrow gauge... or any gauge met a gauge of a different size

Many shots focussed on the beauty of Brunel's structures - he was an architect of some skill, as well as an engineer. Brunel's famous suspension bridge wasn't actually built by Brunel. It was built after he died, as a memorial to the great man. 

Luci Coles explained the passions, for both sculpture and the environment, behind Trail Recycled Art in the Landscape. Starcross History will recreate Captain George Peacock's The Swan of the Exe for this year's sculpture trail in Teignmouth. Luci talked about the involvement of schools and community groups, and businesses in the project. She spoke of the ability which art has to get a message across to everyone... but not everyone will go into an art gallery, so TrailArt has a universal impact. The message is about pollution, especially plastic pollution. The Waitrose sculpture will use materials that are not currently recycled, such as polystyrene.

Here's some sculptures from bygone TrailArt from The Trail Recycled Art in the Landscape website

Julia Vella
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Michelle Greenwood-Brown
Love Your Planet
Fiona Campbell
Spiked 1
Birthday cake - Karen Lockyear

Meeting TONIGHT. Speakers on TrailArt and Brunel

Monday 11 May 2015

Got something that will keep?

Do you have a Devon-related precious piece of paper, or book or photograph, or lots of them? Maybe they are yours, or you've inherited them, or found them in a house clearance, or bought them in a sale? The Devon Heritage Centre will be delighted if you would lend or donate them to their comprehensive archive. If you'd rather keep your memories by your side, but worry about what might happen to these treasures after you die, you could file a Devon Document Donor Card with them... well, it can feel like you are donating a part of yourself, so 'Donor Card' is very appropriate. A Friends of Devon Archives' Document Donor Card will ensure that they are preserved.

HERE'S a link to download a copy of the Document Donor Card.

"The Devon Document Donor Card is intended to save original papers relating to Devon such as diaries, letters, recipe books, manuscript maps, accounts, surveys, school records, deeds and leases. We are also interested in old photographs and unusual or rare printed papers... Staff at the.. Devon record offices will be able to advise whether particular material is of interest."
Please note that some information on this link is out-of-date. - The Westcountry Studies Library has relocated to the Devon Heritage Centre.

The Devon Heritage Centre in Sowton
used to belong to British Telecom - obviously! Long corridors at the Devon Heritage Centre still have miles of wires from the days of  British Telecom.

Now, the vast rooms and corridors, at Great Moor House, hold  a splendid archive of anything on paper which has to do with Devon. There are photographs which exist nowhere else. Some of the photographs are on glass negatives. Here's the only known photograph of  the Exeter church of St Mary Major as it was around 1850. Sorry, but the top of this photo, of the photo, is chopped off, but the actual photo shows the curved roof of the tower. The church was originally 12th or 13th century. It was rebuilt in 1865, but the Victorian church was finally demolished in 1971. All that remains of St Mary Major today is an iron cross on a concrete plinth, inbetween Exeter Cathedral and Tinley's cafe. The site of St Mary Major could be the oldest Christian site in Exeter. Read all about the sad demise of St Mary Major HERE

A small, dedicated staff of around 20, together with a handful of volunteers, work constantly to keep up with the influx of material to the Devon Heritage Centre.
 New arrivals come in all sorts of containers.

These documents are lucky. They will no longer deteriorate; forgotten and neglected. They will be given an initial catalogue number, examined with great care, and the deterioration process will be halted. If they are damp, they will be put into the document drying rooms and left to gently lose their excess moisture.
When they are dried, they will be cleaned with care and affection... everyone at the Devon Heritage Centre is passionate about the documents that are entrusted to them.

In the cavernous map room, experts take what are sometimes crumpled, torn and motheaten maps, and restore them. Here's an old machine which still does an excellent job. It can iron the maps and documents to enable state-of-the-art technology to finish the restoration.

As well as documents, the Devon Heritage Centre is guardian of many valuable and unique books. Here's a selection:
Boyd's Marriage Index Devon

Shillingford St George Parish Register 1565 - 1837

Starcross Parish Register 1815 - 1837

Kenn Parish Registers

East Teignmouth Parish Register: Baptisms 1665-1834. Marriages&Burials 1666-1857

Teigngrace Parish Register 1689 - 19..

Cornish Parish Registers
Whatever documents/photographs/maps/books you have, be assured that giving or loaning them to the Devon Heritage Centre will ensure their preservation.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Captain George Peacock 1805 - 1883

This is the only known picture of Captain George Peacock; inventor and mariner; who lived at Regents House on The Strand in Starcross. One of the medals he wears is a decoration from the President of the Republic of Columbia, for his skilled services surveying for the Panama Canal, and another is for his being a Chevalier of  the Royal Order of the Saviour following his work surveying for the Corinth Canal.
 from Introducing Captain Peacock by Wayland Wordsmith

Here is an excerpt from the Western Times for Friday June 23rd 1882:

“It was not long ago that we had the pleasure of recording the fact that the President of the Republic of Columbia had presented a decoration to Capt. George Peacock of Starcross, in acknowledgement of his services to the State of Columbia as the first modern surveyor of the Isthmus of Panama. It will be recollected that, last year, in the month of June, in a public meeting at Liverpool, Count Ferdinand de Lesseps declared that he was grateful to Captain Peacock for showing how to make the Canal which is in due time to cut through the neck that separates the two oceans. This scientific navigator of Devon has now, we learn with pleasure, received another mark of distinction, which reaches him from the classic shores of Greece. The cutting of the isthmuses seems to have much occupied the gallant Captain’s mind. Among other tasks of his busy life he undertook to survey the Bay of Salamis and explored the Isthmus of Corinth with the view of joining the Gulfs of Aegina and Lepanto. This was done in the time of King Otho, some thirty years ago. Captain Peacock presented his chart and plans to his Majesty, who, in return, presented him with a richly-embossed gold snuff-box which is to be a family heirloom. A quarter of a century or more having passed since these incidents occurred , we now see the work of the cutting of the Corinth isthmus actually taken in hand, and the opportunity has been embraced by his Majesty King George to give further marks of the esteem in which Captain Peacock’s scientific plans are held in testimony whereof the King has created him a Chevalier of the Royal Order of the Saviour. Intimation of this fact was conveyed to the worthy Captain at his residence, Starcross, by a letter from the Greek Minister in London who encloses therewith the diploma bearing the royal signature and countersigned by the Foreign Minister of Greece and also a letter from the Foreign Minister felicitating Captain Peacock on the honour which the King had conferred upon him. It is needless to say how great a source of gratification to him is this well deserved honour so graciously bestowed on the veteran and much respected officer. With the official document was transmitted the golden crown, cross and ribbon of the Order. The cross has in its centre the head of Our Saviour.”

Benjamin Donn's map of Starcross 1765

This is from Donn's 1765 map of Devonshire. Scale: 1 inch to a mile.

History and the future united

The Teignmouth group Trail Recycled Art in the Landscape have accepted the proposal from Starcross History for our replica of The Swan of the Exe,

So we're on board for 2015. The Swan of the Exe will rise again to Protest Pollution of the Planet.

Luci, from TrailArt, is coming to our meeting on Wednesday May 13th at 7:30pm in Starcross Pavilion. Luci will give a short presentation before the main one from Janet Cutler on Brunel in the West Country.

Many feathers were cut out this weekend at the St Paul's Church Celebration of Country Life. Thankyou everyone.

More milk bottles have been promised. 

The proposal is that The Swan of the Exe is re-created, using an old dinghy, and wire-netting, covered with white plastic feathers, made from plastic milk bottles. There will be a trail of flotsam and jetsam behind The Swan of the Exe. Graphic photographs of entangled creatures will be attached to relevant pieces of rubbish. This is to bring attention to the monstrous rafts of rubbish in our oceans: There are millions of pieces of plastic within the 5 subtropical gyres, but recent research by the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis has demonstrated that the amount of visible plastic within the vast, visible rafts is far from representative of the enormous quantities that have entered the oceans since plastic was invented at the start of the 20th century. In fact, 8 billion tons must have entered the oceans, but only a quarter of a billion tons are visible. What has happened to the rest? Is it lying in the deep ocean? Has it been broken into micropieces? What will be the terrible consequences?

We haven't sourced the right wrecked dinghy yet, so if anyone can help with this, please get in touch. The dinghy needs to be a wreck, otherwise it might be a temptation for someone to steal it. The broken dinghy also needs to be very small - around 8 foot, so that it can fit into the back of a Discovery.

Meanwhile, we need feathers. Please. Or just milk bottles so that we can make them.

Some money from sales of our hard enamel badges 
will provide any extra materials we might need. 

Donations needed of:  white paint, nails, wire and some long wooden poles/staves for the wings.

OSPREY chick has died entangled in metal parcel tape

Death by Plastic

Death by Plastic

Balloon menace

Epitaph of the turtles: we thought these were delicious jellyfish

Slow death by plastic

This hedgehog was saved. Others aren't so lucky when they tangle with the MENACE of  plastic can packaging rings

Friday 1 May 2015

FREE archives workshop. May 11th.

Political Research and Archives Workshop

Monday, 11 May 2015, 10:00-13:00

Devon Heritage Centre, Bittern Rd, Exeter, EX2 7NL.

As part of the From the Grassroots project, the Devon Heritage Centre will be running a free workshop in archival research. This event will be of interest to people considering a career in the archives sector, as well as those who just enjoy researching local/political history.

In this workshop you will learn more about the cataloguing processes that archives use, including CALM for Archives, which is a Windows-based collection management system for archives.

With a focus upon political archives, professional archivists will demonstrate how to make the most effective use of archives, enabling you to maximise the efficiency of future visits to both record offices and online resources.

During the workshop you will also have the opportunity to take a tour of the Devon Heritage Centre. This is a rare opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes view of how a professional archive is managed in the areas that are not accessible to the general public.

The search room

Spaces are very limited.

Please contact Kayleigh Milden by Wednesday, 6 May to book a place:        

Tel: (01392) 384838

Thankyou Devon History Society for this information

Visit to Shobrooke Park. Tuesday 5th May

Thankyou to for this photograph 

The Devon History Society and the Devon Gardens Trust have  jointly organised a visit to Shobrooke Park next Tuesday.
It costs £5 per person, and includes a talk by one of the landscape conservationists, and a guided tour of the grounds.

The 50-room Shobrooke House was burnt down in 1945, when it was being used as a prep school. 3 boys and a nurse died
 Fire destroys Shobrooke House in 1945

Bookings have to be made by today. 
Please enquire | 07769 335506

HERE'S a link to the Devon History Society's booking form. 

Understanding an historic landscape

Tuesday 5th May 2015

Shobrooke Park, Crediton, EX17 1DG

Shobrooke Park Gardens were first laid out in about 1845 by Henry Hippisley Tuckfield (the current owner, Jack Shelley’s, Great Great Grandmother’s cousin)
 as the garden for his new house and to complement the Park. The house was destroyed by fire in 1945. The garden was neglected until 1968 when John and Dorothy Shelley (Jack’s parents) moved back to Devon and started the clearance work. In 1981 Dorothy Shelley built the modern bungalow and continued to reclaim the garden. Jack and Clare Shelley moved into the bungalow in 1992 and set about replanting the garden. 

John Phibbs of Debois Landscape Group did a historical survey of the park and garden in 1994, and Simon Bonvoisin of Nicholas of Nicholas Pearson Partnership produced a new Parkland Plan in 2012 and the restoration work has been based on their recommendations.
We are delighted that Simon Bonvoisin has agreed to talk and lead a walk of the landscape for this event. 

Until 1939 the garden was looked after by a team of six men and a boy, using a garden pony and hand tools. All the restoration work has been a compromise between recreating the original garden and creating a garden that can be maintained with modern machinery.

11.30 ~ Guided walk to the Folly and ponds.

1.00 ~ Lunch – please bring a picnic lunch. Tea/coffee will be provided.

After lunch, visitors will be welcome to wander the gardens and visit the grass 

Please reserve____ places for the DGT-DHS visit to Shobrooke Park @ £5 each.




Please send cheques made out to Devon Gardens Trust to: Dr Ian Varndell, Devon Gardens 

Trust, Exeter Community Centre, St Davids Hill, Exeter, EX4 3RG.

Enquiries: to above address | | 07769 335506