Please click the photo to donate to St Paul's Church Bells

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Talk about John Marsh; composer and diarist

At our October meet, Starcross History group was taken back to the 18th and 19th centuries, as Kenton’s Ian Graham-Jones presented an illustrated account, with music, of John Marsh’s visits to Devon. Starcross’s Jon Nichol read extracts from the diaries in the voice of the curmudgeonly John Marsh; (1752 - 1828) diarist, composer, writer and father of 6. 
…[St Nicholas Church] Sidmouth… 2 psalms and an anthem sung by a coarse sett of singers accompanied] as coarsely by some noisy and untenable clarinets etc. ”
“St Sidwell’s in the suburbs, [of Exeter] a handsome church lately rebuilt with a good organ badly played. ”
An expedition to Mamhead, Oxton and Powderham describes the Reverend Swete’s Oxton House as  a pleasant cottage”. The return journey was through Starcross to Dawlish.
Ian Graham-Jones has some John Marsh scores for sale, and the deciphered diary extracts which refer to Devon, in a bound cover.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Volunteers please: Exeter Cathedral Archives and other projects

Exeter Cathedral in 1830 from wiki
Exeter Cathedral in 1830 from wiki

Volunteers are required to assist with various projects taking place in the Devon Heritage Centre’s Conservation Studio in Exeter.

The first is a conservation and preservation project which involves both the Devon Archives and Local Studies Service and the Exeter Cathedral Archives. 

The aim of the project is to replace the existing brown envelopes and acidic boxes in which many of the Cathedral Archives’ early deeds are stored.  Some cleaning and survey work may be involved, and people who can dedicate one day per week (preferably Tuesday) to the project will be ideal. 

The project is likely to last for several years, but any contribution which anyone is able to make will be extremely valuable.

The project will be managed by Deborah Phillips, Senior Archive Conservator for the Devon Archives and Local Studies Service, and Ellie Jones, Exeter Cathedral archivist.

There are also a number of opportunities to assist with the repackaging of photographic material which is part of the Westcountry Studies Library collection here at the Heritage Centre, as well as a wide range of other work, as summarized below.  All training and equipment will be provided.

Cleaning, packaging and surveying 

Necessary skills: Dexterity, an eye for detail and patience.

Packaging involving sewing with an over-locker

Necessary skills: Familiarity with sewing machines and simple dressmaking.
Rolled document bagging/Bags for Plans in Strongrooms
Protective bags for seals.

Document cleaning using Bassaire hoover unit, brushes & Chem sponge

Necessary skills: Manual dexterity, an eye for detail and patience.
Cleaning of new accessions

Data inputting

Necessary skills: Ability to use Microsoft Excel

Making manila dust jackets

Necessary skills: Manual dexterity, an eye for detail, clear handwriting

Packaging photographic materials

Necessary skills: Understanding of a simple machine, patience

Bookbinding and book restoration

Necessary skills:  Bookbinding experience

If you are interested, please contact Brian Carpenter at the Southwest Heritage Trust

Brian Carpenter
Community Learning Officer
Devon Archives and Local Studies Service
Devon Heritage Centre
Great Moor House
Bittern Road
01392 888712
07939 106549

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

Monday, 11 December 2017

Iconic Railway Carriages to open all year round

Not only have the historic Great Western Railway holiday carriages been saved, but, reports Devon Live,  planning permission has just been granted for the facility to open all year round


Iconic Dawlish Warren railway carriages holiday park to open all year round

The holiday park consists of eight chalets in converted rail carriages

Plans for a railway themed holiday park to open all year round as a holiday destination have been approved.
The Brunel Camping Carriages site in Dawlish Warren – which features eight chalets in converted rail carriages – was sold at auction for £261,000 last year.
The holiday park consists of eight chalets in converted rail carriages, all of which are named individually after UK cities.
 Earlier this year, plans were approved to allow use of the site as holiday accommodation for eight train carriages and land for camping to be used between period of March 1 and October 31.
The iconic Brunel Camping Carriages Site at Dawlish Warren

The iconic Brunel Camping Carriages Site at Dawlish Warren
 The applicants had asked planners for approval for the change of use of Brunel Camp Site in order to operate the whole park as a year-round holiday destination – which has now been approved.
Work has already begun on converting and improving the carriages.
Approving the application, planning officers said: “It is assessed that extending the available holiday season at this existing holiday park will improve the tourist accommodation provision in this area without having an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding area.
“The proposal offers clear socio-economic benefits to the local economy and tourism accommodation and can be provided in this location without harm being caused to residential amenity and as no additional facilities are proposed by this application or additional holiday units the proposal to expand the operating hours will have no adverse impact on the character and appearance of the area and therefore should be encouraged.”
Site Manager Josh Webster with one of the carriages being renovated at the Brunel Holiday Park

Site Manager Josh Webster with one of the carriages being renovated at the Brunel Holiday Park

 Outlining the plans, the applicants said: “The coaches have been a unique tourist attraction in Dawlish Warren since opening and have accommodated hundreds of families over the past 50 years.

 “Residents of Dawlish and regular users of the accommodation support the fact that the holiday park has been a prominent fixture in the village and a well-known and popular feature.
“The coaches were originally donated over 50 years ago for the use of members of families of the Great Western Railway Association and were later opened to the general public for holiday use.

the Devon Live link for this, their story

Friday, 8 December 2017

Mary Berry visits Powderham Castle

The Earl of Devon, Charlie Courtenay, meets Mary Berry off Starcross Ferry
The Earl of Devon, Charlie Courtenay, meets Mary Berry off Starcross Ferry

Episode 3 of the first BBC series: Mary Berry's Country House Secrets is available on BBC i-player. Here's the link:
Mary Berry visits Powderham Castle

In this edition, Mary Berry visits Powderham Castle in Devon, to spend time with the Earl and Countess of Devon and their two young children. Known as Charlie and AJ, the newest generation of one of Britain's oldest families are taking up the challenge of running a great stately home, reinventing the castle and the Earldom for the 21st century.
Mary's time with the family reveals stories of romance and tragedy, as she discovers the attics and secret passages of this extraordinary home. In the historic kitchen she bakes a Devon cream tea and is shown a Powderham classic - curried cockles. She is also inspired to make a delicate peach posset for a Midsummer Eve woodland party the family are throwing to celebrate their two year anniversary at the castle, as well as to thank the local community.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Free online records: digital microfilm

Photo of the National Archives building (wiki)

Link to the guide of FREE online records held by The National Archives
...[which includes] the A -Z list of record series on digital microfilm [although in many cases] only part of the series is available online, not the whole series...

Why use this guide?

This guide lists and provides access to all the record series at The National Archives which are available to view and download for free. These are all digital microfilm records.

What are digital microfilm records?

Our digital microfilm records cover a wide and varied set of subjects, from military and naval records to Foreign Office and Home Office correspondence. They are all listed in the table in this guide.
Many of these records are indexes to other records which may not themselves be viewable online. They are all records which were previously available on microfilm in the reading rooms at The National Archives at Kew.
These documents are free of charge to download and are delivered as large PDF files.

How to search and use digital microfilm records

You can use digital microfilm records in much the same way that you would normal microfilm records, but instead of needing a microfilm reader, you can simply download them from our website and scroll through them on your computer.
You cannot search these records in the same way that you can other kinds of online records. There is no way to locate any of the information contained within them, including names of individuals, other than by scrolling through the PDFs.
Using the links in the table below, find records on digital microfilm as follows:
Step 1: Click on the record series title in the table to view the series description in our catalogue (for example, click on ‘Records of service of the Coastguard 1816-1947’ to view this record series, which has the catalogue reference ADM 175)
Step 2: Find the piece number covering the date and subject of interest. Piece numbers always contain a forward slash (for example, ADM 175/4). If you cannot see the piece numbers displayed to the right of the series description, click on ‘Details’ and then ‘Browse by reference’
Step 3: Having chosen a piece number, click on Details
Step 4: Click on ‘Add to basket’ and download.

Downloading, saving and printing digital microfilm

Digital microfilm files are much larger in size than the rest of our digital content (files contain up to 800 pages) and so is only available to online users with a broadband connection. Computers with limited memory may struggle to open them and it will almost certainly take your computer some time to download each file. They are on average 400MB in size
We recommend that you save the document to your computer’s hard drive before attempting to open it. How you do this will depend on the web browser you are using and whether you are using a PC or Mac. See the table below for instructions.
Mozilla Firefox Google Chrome Internet Explorer Mac users
Right click and select ‘Save link as’ Right click and select ‘Save link as’ Right click and select ‘Save target as’ Click the mouse while pressing the control button on the keyboard simultaneously – a pop-up box should appear, allowing you to save the files
To view the PDFs you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer, which can be downloaded free of charge.
When printing from these files specify which page numbers you would like to print, as many are up to 800 pages long in total.
If you experience problems saving or downloading, contact our helpdesk team.

Devon Deciphered book signing and talk DATE CHANGED TO DECEMBER 4TH

 The Friends of Devon’s Archives have recently published a book called Devon Deciphered, by John Booker, a retired archivist and palaeography lecturer who has volunteered at the Devon Heritage Centre since 2011 and regularly teaches palaeography here.

Devon Deciphered approaches the art of reading old handwriting from a specifically Devonian perspective, using documents created and held in the county.

Between 2 and 4 pm on Monday 4th December at the Devon Heritage Centre, John Booker will be talking about the process of writing the book, with reference to many of the documents, which will be on display. 

Copies of the book will be on sale, and John will be happy to sign them.

Please pass this message on to anyone who may be interested.

There’s no charge for attending, and it isn’t obligatory to tell me in advance that you’ll be coming, but, if you can do so, it will be helpful.

Brian Carpenter
Community Learning Officer
Devon Archives and Local Studies Service
Devon Heritage Centre
Great Moor House
Bittern Road
01392 888712
07939 106549

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

Monday, 30 October 2017

Murder, Magic and Witchcraft

All are welcome on Thursday, 2nd November in the Armory Moot Room on the Streatham Campus at Exeter University, when Dr Peter Elmer will present the 2017 Joyce Youings Memorial Lecture titled Murder: Magic & Witchcraft: the Politics of the Supernatural in Restoration Exeter 

Drinks and reception are in the foyer at 6:00pm. The lecture starts at 6:30pm

Poster for the 2017 Joyce Youings Memorial Lecture

Dr Elmer is a senior research fellow in  the history department at Exeter University

Dr Peter Elmer
 He has a "broad interest in the cultural and intellectual history of early modern Europe, with a particular interest in the impact of religious and political change upon medicine and its practitioners in Britain in the same period."

Exeter Steampunk's November Convivial on November 7th

Michael Farley, of Exeter Steampunk,  invites everyone to enjoy a convivial STEAMPUNK evening at the Cowick Barton in Exeter, at 7:30pm on Tuesday, 7th November
"It's the first Tuesday of the month, so why not join us at the Cowick Barton for Exeter Steampunk's November Convivial? Everybody's welcome (the more the merrier)..."

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Train attempts hurdle

Many thanks to Dave Grylls from Newton Abbot for this action photograph by the River Lemon:
March 6th 1997 Train attempts to jump hurdle  spanning the river next to racecourse 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Remember the heroes at St Mary's Church, Cofton. 12:00 noon this Thursday, 26th October, 2017

 The Dawlish World War One Project 
website details three local boys who died 100 years ago, fighting for King and country in the First World War .

 Remember them at St Mary's Church, Cofton. 12:00 noon this Thursday, 26th October, 2017

The information on the Dawlish World War One Project's website is comprehensive and includes some photographs, which include, for us in Starcross, a very poignant one of a very young Leonard Reggie Stephens at school in Starcross

Private William Blatchford. Royal Marine Light Infantry
Royal Marine Light Infantry Badge

Private Leonard Reggie Stephens. Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Private Leonard Reggie Stephens in uniform

Leonard Reggie Stephens at school in Starcross
Private Tom Pook. Devonshire Regiment
Devonshire Regiment Badge

Poster for 26th October

Friday, 20 October 2017

Earning Pocket Money in the 40s

Here's a marvellous example of oral history, from Newton Abbot's Dave Grylls:

Dave Grylls, aka Isambard Kingdom Brunel, kindly sent in this audio clip about his childhood in the 40s. Children would make their own barrows, from crates and pram wheels, and use them to ferry things they could sell, such as jam jars, wood and flowers.

RIGHT CLICK AND OPEN IN NEW TAB so that you can see the transcript while you listen

Hello. This is Dave Grylls again. This is just another memory that I have of when I was a child, growing up.
During the war years, things were perhaps a little bit scarce. We were rationed and all sorts like that but nevertheless we managed to carry on with a little bit of endeavour we enjoyed life to a degree and had many happy times.
However this is all about earning, and I repeat, earning pocket money not thrown around but earning it and how to earn it in the 40s as a young boy. I grew up in the time when pocket money was earned and not freely given away on a weekly basis. Money, as you can appreciate was scarce. Every penny had to be accounted for and consequently parents found it very difficult to reward children. If we as young boys really wanted something, then we worked together to gather enough money to buy it. This was good for all as it taught responsibility at an early age. And also, how to look after it once you'd got it.
Often items were handed down from one child to the next and because of the value of hard work and care it represented, almost these items were as good as their first day of purchase.

There were various ways in which to earn pocket money; some easy maybe but some needed some effort at least. The most lucrative demanded some hard work.  Before the commencement of all these little earners, we had to consider some way of transportation of our goods and suchlike. Many  youngsters, with a little initiative, built their own little wheelbarrows from wood, an old tea-chest or box, old pram-wheels, 2 shafts, a few nails or screws and we were away. Initial outlay was quite small as most grocers had an unwanted chest or box. Pram wheels were also easy to come by so with a little bit of initiative, hammer, screws and nails you could create something quite reasonable.
Almost all children of my generation can remember the Jam Jar Run.  Collect enough jam jars from your neighbours to fill a wheelbarrow and off you go to the back entrance of Maple in Hopkins Lane.
The manager would count each jam jar out and pay up accordingly. 2 or 3 ... shillings are not to be sneezed at. The Maples stores were recycling jam jars long before most modern-day supermarkets were even thought of. Half a penny for the 1lb jars and a whole penny for the 2lb jars.

All radios and wireless of the day - if you were lucky enough to have one -  were powered by what we termed cumulators1 . These had to be charged on a regular basis by the local electrical shop so we would collect the cumulators, take them to be charge and return them for a fee.
The wheelbarrows really worked hard and often wheels buckled down with the strain,. Quite often, running repairs were necessary. Often there were 2 of us pushing. And as some of the loads were quite heavy - for children - However not too wise a move to have too many pushers, 'cause it meant splitting the profits.

Most homes had log fires; some coal maybe, but most burnt logs and proved to be a real earner. We'd make several trips to Culls' wood yard where whole trees were sawn into logs while you waited. Lovely smell - freshly sawn wood. Empty barrows down the hill; loaded barrow up the hill which, believe me, can be quite back-breaking at times. Sometimes we would amalgamate the wood run with the paraffin run as some customers had paraffin heaters. This was actually sold by the gallon and it was essential to screw the lid on securely, or you would smell of paraffin all day. Any leakage also cut down the profit.

Spring and Summertime came and it could have proved a bit lean for child business so we picked primroses, foxgloves, bluebells violets; and made them into bunches. Good salesmanship could make this quite lucrative however we always found time for play.

The surrounding countryside had much to offer and all absolutely free. And as a child  you work this hard to earn your pocket money, then, believe me, you really appreciate the end result.

This story I penned on 22nd  November 2009 and it came to me just out of the blue and this I think  is a great thing. If you fail to record all these little stories, however silly they may seem to be, unless you put them on paper or record them, they are lost forever. And some stories are really quite delightful.

Thankyou and bye-bye.

 1 cumulators was us chillen's word for electrical accumulators, which is an obsolete term for capacitors: electrochemical cell, a cell that stores electrical energy, typically used in rechargeable batteries wiki 

Dave Grylls as Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the Starcross History meet

Dave Grylls as Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Dawlish
 Unearth  event recorded some Starcross Stories from Starcross residents. This is a first step in the Starcross Oral History project. We have been offered the facilities and expertise of the Hear and Now recording studio in Dawlish, and we have people who are willing to tell us more Starcross stories. We need a leader to take forward the Starcross Oral History project. Please get in touch if you would be that leader.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

TILES WANTED for The Starcross History Mosaics Project

With lots of help from the village, The Starcross History Mosaics Project will create a series of mosaics to celebrate its fascinating history.

The first design being worked on is for the forge.The forge mosaic will have an anvil, horse-shoes, hammer & tongs and a HORSE (of course), set against a background  of the red&orange-glowing coals of the furnace.
The forge used to be called Smiths Forge  The Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies   hold a bundle of documents, dated 1728-1894.

Another current design idea is of Brunel with his iconic cigar and stove-pipe hat, by a red sandstone tower.

The owner of the house where Captain Peacock lived, has kindly agreed to display our mosaic of The Swan of the Exe  - which will be based on this excellent photograph ( kindly forwarded by The Liverpool Archives) of Captain Peacock's folly, The Swan of the Exe, with Mr Dixon, of Dixon's Yard at Exmouth (where the yacht was built)  and Captain Peacock on board

Teignbridge District Council point out that the siting of mosaics might mean getting planning permission, and they have offered the help of their Community Art and Design Adviser.

Anyone could have a go at making a mosaic. But broken tiles can have sharp edges, cutting tiles can result in flying shrapnel, tile adhesive can stick to stuff you don't want it to, so be aware of the Health and Safety aspect of what ought to be a harmless hobby.

The steps to create an outside mosaic could be:
NB wear goggles to protect your eyes, and gloves to protect your hands.  Put your hands inside a pillowcase when you cut tessarae; to prevent pieces flying.
  • Find a piece of wood with at least one side unvarnished and unpainted.
  • Drill holes where you will fix it to a wall
  • (you will leave a space around the fixing holes you have drilled - you tile over the top of the screws after the mosaic is fixed in place)
  • Create a design out of simple shapes 
  • Draw it onto the unvarnished, unpainted wood
  • Collect the tessarae - which need to be small, thin and flat. You could use pebbles, or tiles, or pottery or shells. If you need to cut tessarae, do it inside a pillowcase to prevent pieces flying. 
  • Sort the tesserae into colours
  • Use WATERPROOF adhesive cement. Polyfilla is ideal. Either butter it on to the tesserae or put it onto the wood - whichever way suits you is best. 
  • After it's dried for a couple of days, grout it all with WATERPROOF grout.
  • Leave a couple more days.
  • Use yacht varnish to make the wood waterproof on the back and the edge of the wood.

NB wear goggles to protect your eyes, and gloves to protect your hands.  Put your hands inside a pillowcase when you cut tessarae; to prevent pieces flying. 

There's lots more advice on the internet, but much of it is around mosaic suppliers. Using unwanted materials such as old/broken tiles and shells is the cheapo way

Please get in touch if you can add to this basic how2, or would help with this project. Do you have any plain coloured tiles? It doesn't matter if they are broken. Any colours, but we need red and orange for now. and silver and gold.
Many thanks to Joanne Bickel and Alma for their advice and encouragement.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

307 Squadron Project in Exeter

third from the right navigator F/O Leon Michalski, fifth pilot
F/O Alfred Suskiewicz, sixth mechanic Cpl Piotr Czereda.

 307 Squadron Project invite you to a number of important events taking place in Exeter on Wednesday 15th November (307 Squadron Day) to honour the Polish 307 Squadron.

307 Squadron, part of the RAF, were night-fighters who fought the Luftwaffe over the skies of
Britain and prevented Exeter from being totally destroyed during the blitz on the city in 1942.
This year is the 75th anniversary of when the squadron presented the city of Exeter with
the Polish flag on 15th November 1942 in a sign of international cooperation.

The events on 15th November, ‘307 Squadron Day’ include:
  • 09:50 RAF Brize Norton Parade from the top of High Street to the Guildhall. RAF Brize Norton will be exercising their Freedom of Exeter to honour 307 Squadron.
  • 10:00 Raising of the Polish flag over Exeter Guildhall in the presence of distinguished guests including:
Vice Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Sir John Cave
His Excellency Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Ambassador to Great Britain
The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Councillor Lesley Robson
  • 10:30 Exhibition ‘Night Fighters of Exeter’ at the Guildhall opens. This free public exhibition, in both languages, is open until 16:00 hours.
The exhibition is also open on:
Tuesday 14th November 10:30 - 16:00
Thursday 16th November 10:30 - 16:00
  • 16:30 Unveiling of 307 Squadron plaque at Exeter Cathedral. The plaque, which will be placed inside the St James Chapel, will be unveiled by The Polish Ambassador

  • 17:30 Choral Evensong Incorporating 307 Squadron at Exeter Cathedral
For more information on these events please contact us at
Andrzej Michalski, Michael Parrott, Marcin Piórkowski
307 Squadron Project

poster: Night Fighters of Exeter

Commemoration at Exeter Guildhall

Commemoration at Exeter Guildhall

Commemoration at Exeter Guildhall

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Dress up as a film star. Popcorn is free.

 Newton's Place Film Night

On Tuesday, 17th October, at 7:30pm, in  St. Leonard's Church, Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot, there will be a National Lottery funded show of archive film about Newton Abbot and surrounds.
 Come as you are, or as your favourite film star.
 Donations requested, to the Newton's Place development fund