Starcross is a village on the estuary of the River Exe, in Devon UK, which has nearly always been enthusiastic about its history.

Artefacts and buildings have been preserved, with one remarkable exception - The Royal Western Counties Hospital. In 1986, this huge expanse of dressed limestone was demolished. Every piece of stone was shipped upcountry. Not a trace remained.

Behind the main churchyard of St. Paul's Church, the patients' graveyard was just a field. The graves remain unmarked.
Houses were built on the hospital site; on condition that the village retained the sportsfield. The streets were named Royal Way, Western Drive and Counties Crescent, but for some who bought the houses, explanation for these apparently random names was needed.

Part of the name lives on in one of the village football teams, which is called Starcross Royals.

It wasn't until 2014 that a group of volunteers arranged for a memorial stone to be placed in the patients' graveyard.

There was a service in St Paul's Church, and prayers were said for all who had lived and worked in The Royal Western Counties Hospital, aka The Idiot Asylum.

The volunteers created a garden here; flowers and a bench seat; a tranquil place for quiet reflection.

When the railway authorities wanted to pull down the last remaining engine house and tower of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's atmospheric railway, Starcross formed the 'Brunel Tower Action Group' to publicise the proposed fate of this iconic landmark. The late Dick Forrester moved into the tower with his family, and the Brunel Tower was saved.

The Brunel Tower. photograph by Steve Nosworthy

Starcross may have originally been named Stairs Cross, because of the cross at the top of the stone steps where the ferry from Pratteshide (Exmouth) landed? or was the cross in Starcross from the word Staithe, which in turn is derived from the Norse stoth for landing stage? online Oxford English Dictionary definition of staithe  but there is no trace of the thirteenth-century stone cross at the Woolcomb's Island ferry landing

The many listed buildings in and around Starcross include: the early nineteenth century St Paul's Church,  an Elizabethan manor, many cob-built cottages which date back 500 years; to when they were built by the Courtenay family for their estate workers at Powderham Castle; and some grand Victorian residences.
Southbrook House on British Listed Buildings.co.uk
Southbrook House from British Listed Buildings.co.uk
Southbrook House from British Listed Buildings.co.uk

Artefacts which have been preserved in museums include paraphernalia from the Great Western Railway,
Piece of the Atmospheric Railway at Didcot Railway Museum
and the last of the 4 Cygnet boats built in 1865, by Captain George Peacock.
The story of The Swan of the Exe and her Cygnet by Tony Dunlop
The Cygnet in Topsham Museum

If you can help to gather photographs and information about Starcross, please comment below, or come to one of the Starcross History meetings.



  1. I'm delighted to see old Peacock getting some attention. Please feel free to milk 'Wayland Wordsmith' any time as you choose. I am, besides being WW, ralphrochester@Gmail.com.

    1. Thankyou for your interest, and for your permission to pinchstuff. I'll add your email to the Starcross History database and keep you informed of progress - we're currently recreating The Swan of the Exe for the Teignmouth Trail Recycled Art in the Landscape project