Bude and Stratton in old picture postcards

Bude and Stratton in old picture postcards

:   Rennie Bere and Roy Thorn
:   Cornwall
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-3094-3
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Bude and Stratton in old picture postcards'

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In 1880 Bude was a busy little port with the coastal trade in full flow. Small sailing ships, mostly ketches, brought coa1, limestone and trade goods into the harbour and through the great soa-loek. Corn and bark for tanning were the main exports. The canal trade was less extensive than it had been a decade earlier as the railway had already reached Holsworthy. Even so, immediate land links still depended upon horses, coaches and your own flat feet. Summer visitors came in sma1l numbers.

By 1930 the coasta1 trade had almost ended, and few ships used the harbour. The cana1 was closed (except to rowingboats) above the lower wharfs. The main link with the rest of the world was the railway. Tourism was growing steadily. Most of the major hotels looked much as they do today. There was little fishing and few signs of industry but the banks and many of the shops we now use were well established. Today seafishing - though mainly a leisure pursuit is a popular activity; and there is a growing industrial estate. But the main emphasis is on tourism, controlled by sound planning so that it does not despoil the environment.

Bude itself is a relative newcomer. At the beginning of the last century it was little more than an outlying part of the parish of Stratton where sailing ships could be beached upon the strand and the River Neet crossed at low tide. There were an ancient manor house and a few other buildings but nothing to suggest what has now evolved. The town is essentially a Victorian developrnent built up on the port and canal trade.

Stratton was, and indeed still is, an ancient market town clustering round its fine old church - very much an entity in its own right, PoughilI, where there is another fine church, was a sma1l vi1lage and a separate manor now absorbed into the Bude-Stratton complex. Marhamchurch is just outside the modern boundaries. Morwenstow, Kilkhampton and Week

St. Mary, which once had the status of a borough, are near but quite independent.

Untillate in the 18th century, the two principa1landowning families were the Arundells of Trerice and the Grenvilles of Stowe (between Bude and Morwenstow), Kilkhampton and Bideford. Their lands met in what is now the town of Bude and were connected by the ford which crossed the River Neet at Efford - the name derives from 'ebbing ford'. And, so far as our area is concerned, the outstanding member of the distinguished Grenville family was the Civil War hero, Sir Bevil, who fought and won the battle of Stamford Hili (at Stratton) for the royalist cause in 1643. The family of Thynne eventually inherited the Grenville lands while those of Arundell devolved upon Sir Thomas Acland, these two families dominating the development of Bude throughout the Victorian period and until the Second World War. Sir Thomas Acland, in particular, was closely concerned with the harbour and cana1 undertakings, the lower reaches of the canal passing through his land.

Little now remains of the cana1 beyond the two mile stretch along the flat, wide alluvial valley which leads inland from the loek-gates. The canal was supplied with water from the reservoir now known as Lower Tamar Lake, near Kilkhampton, and originally served Holsworthy, Launceston and numerous intermediate stations. lts main purpose was to distribute coal from the harbour and carry the lime-rich seasand, produced byerosion of the cliffs and the breakdown of shells, to farms in the hinterland where it had been used as a manure from times immemorial; produce was also exported. The line of the canal passed through hilly country - there was no alternative - far too steep for conventional locks, though there were plenty of these. The answer was found in a series of 'inclined planes', the longest of which (just above Marhamchurch) was 225 feet (68 metres) in vertical height

and 935 feet (285 metres) long where a 'weIl and bucket' method was used, Two wells were sunk from the top of the plane to the level of its bottom. A huge bucket, with a capacity of 15 tons of water, was suspended in each well and connected by chains over a drum-wheel. The deseending bucket provided the power to raise a wheeled tub-boat carrying a five ton load. When the bucket reached the bottom, a valve opened and the water escaped. Other shorter planes were powered by water-wheels. The Bude canal was, for its period, a remarkable feat of engineering - the longest tubboat canal in Britain - all too soon to be made obsolete by the railway age.

Stratton, Kilkhampton and Week St. Mary are believed to have evolved from Bronze Age settlements alongside an ancient ridgeway. This was the naturalline of communication by land, the same general route being foIlowed by the modern A39 trunk road which connects Bude with north Devon in one direction and with the heart of Cornwall in the ether. By contrast, Bude Haven (the postal address until after the 1930s) was the only break in the long line of cliffs, stretching from Hart1and Point to the Camel estuary, which offered any real proteetion for sailing ships during rough weather and which provided reasonably safe beaching - an obvious place for a small harbour. Even so, the high stark cliffs and the count1ess rocky ribs jutting into the sea made it an extremely hazardous haven, particularly in winter as some of the pictures in this colleetien will show.

It is these cliffs, the wild seas below and the sense of isolation which provide the neighbourhood with its greatest attraction: the riches of the natural environment. The slate and sandstone cliffs are exposed to the full force of the Atlantic and the battering of waves and weather. The rocks and cliff strata are folded into fantastic shapes and zigzag patterns; some rock nodules enclose the remains of a fossilized fish unique

to the area. The rock pools, revealed by the passage of the tides, support many different forms of seashore life. Wherever a break in the cllffs allows plants to take root, they are swathed in glorious wild flowers. Among them, rock samphire grows close to the sea and bands of thrift border the cllff-edge in summer with many colourful grassland

flowers. .

There is equal interest in the birds: seabirds and waders with smaller species in the furze. The canal, the marshes beside it and the little estuary of the River Neet attract plo vers, curlew and migrating wild-fowl, Usually there are herons, and a kingfisher sometimes perches on a wharfing post in the harbour. Grey Atlantic seals occasionally visit the bay from breeding caves further down the coast. The recently extinct large blue butterfly had one of its last British haunts near Bude, To accommodate some of this wildlife two nature reserves have been established actually in the town: the district council's Canal Marshes Reserve, where reed-beds and pools are overlooked by a hide, and Phillips's Point on the way to Widemouth where access is unrestricted and coastal flowers are plentifu1. The best of the cliff lands are permanently protected; and Tamar Lake, constructed to provide water for the canal, is a splendid refuge for wintering wildfowl.

We have airned in this collection to depiet as many aspects as possible of the past life of the place but are conscious of certain gaps, some of which are covered by this introduction. Though many of the pictures come from our own albums we have sought help from several friends and from Bude-Stratton Town Council's Historical and Folk Exhibition. We gratefully acknowledge this help and would particularly mention Andrew Jewell, Bryan Dudley Stamp, Brendon Parsons, Michael Johns, Michael Srnith, Beatrice Barker and Peter Cloke who, as harbourmaster, upholds a splendid tradition.

1. It is not easy, even with modern equipment, to capture the movement of the waves with a camera. Vet this beautiful picture was taken by Thorn of Bude in the early years of this century - an outstanding photograph for the period - and soon became a popular postcard. It shows the Atlantic rollers breaking on the rocks outside the breakwater and explains better than words can do why the haven was such a difficult harbour to enter under unassisted sail and why Bude beaches have become such excellent eentres of modern surfing. Break, break, break/ On thy cold gray stones, 0 Seal] And I would that my tongue could utter/ The thoughts that arise in me. (Alfred Tennyson.)

2. Bude breakwater protects the harbour. The original structure, begun in 1819, had high steep sides and an imposing pier-head but was destroyed by a storm in 1838. The present breakwater was then built and has survived the gales of the last 150 years with surprisingly little damage, It is less pretentious than its predecessor but more effective, standing only four feet above the level of a high spring tide, the gentle slope of its seaward face offering little resistance to the waves. It is a pleasant walk at any time, but when the sea is running high it has been a popular and spectacular viewing point throughout its history. This photograph was taken about 1910.

3. Sir Thomas' Pit, at the end of the breakwater, was Bude's first bathing pool. Constructed by blocking off the seaward end of a natural channel between two ribs of rock, it was and still is filled by the tides. At first used largely by Sir Thomas Acland's family and friends, it was opened to the public - 'with graduated depth for gentlemen' but certainly not ladies - during the second half of the last century when a small charge was raised. It remained Bude's only bathing pool until the early 1930s when the large Summerleaze Beach pool was constructed. The Pit is still popular, particularly with children, many of whom have learned to swirn th ere.

4. A familiar scene in old Bude with sailing ships in the canal - a smack, a ketch and a schooner - ready to pass out through the loek-gates when the tide is high enough; others wait under the lee of the breakwater. Chapel Rock, which was actually cut by the breakwater, stands out particularly well in this photograph taken about 1903. Chapel Rock was the site of a mediaeval chapel and was occupied by a hermit, holy man or 'bede' whose duty it was to keep a fire burning to guide ships into the haven. The origin of the name Bude is uncertain but is thought to derive from this chapel and its occupant, the haven being known to sailors as 'Haven of the Holy Man' or 'Bede's Haven' as it often appears on early maps.

5. Compass Point, which guards the southern approach to the haven, is one of the finest natural features on the coast. The photograph was taken about 1900, and a casua1 glance suggests !ittle change since then. But if you compare the picture with the scene today, you will notice changes in detail brought about byerosion which is going on all the time. The great prow of hard sandstone remains, The Storm Tower or 'Temple of the Winds' was built by Sir Thomas Acland in the 1820s; a necessary shelter for observing the movement of ships, it was used as a Coastguard Station until the new station was built on Efford Beacon. Shortly after this photograph was taken, the tower had to be dismantled and rebuilt a few yards further back from the c1iff edge.

6. In this picture, taken about 1925, a single ketch is seen in the canal just after passing through the loek-gates. Across the canal, a man is towing the ship along by means of a hawser, while she is accompanied by a throng of excited holiday-makers - there is always a thrill about even the smallest ship entering port. There are a few bathing huts on the beach beyond but, since this photograph was taken, most of the sand-dunes have been removed to make room for more huts and so deprive the higher levels of the beach of their natural defences, To its credit the Local Authority is now attempting to reclairn the small area of dunes that still remains.

7. About 500 yards above the sea-lock, where the canal is now crossed by a main road, there used to be a swing-bridge which allo wed ships to pass into the upper basin (see no. 9). This picture, from 1906, shows the new swing-bridge, which had replaced an earlier wooden structure, shortly after its installation; the beginning of the tow-path can also be seen. The Falcon Hotel, a landmark since the early 19th century, and sorne of the Falcon Terrace cottages are visible beyond the bridge with St. Michael's church nearby. Some of these cottages, almost unchanged in outward appearance, have become the Brendon Arms, unofficial centre of seafaring Bude.

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8. This photograph shows the work of the port in progress with three ships alongside lower wharf. Two have not been identified but furthest from the camera is Kindly Light, a steel-hulled ketch adorned by the figurehead of an angel with book which, however, did not proteet her from being sunk by a German submarine in the First Wor1d War. In the background are the low buildings of Bude's Primary School. Established during the 19th century as a Church of England school, it has retained links with the church. Among the many teachers who have helped to give Bude children a go ad start in life one name stands out: James Arthur, scha olm aster from 1861 to 1905. There were schools in Stratton and some of the villages long befare Bude.

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