Sidmouth in old picture postcards

Sidmouth in old picture postcards

:   Dr. G.H. Gerald Gibbens
:   Devon
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2740-0
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

Levertijd: 2 - 3 werkdagen (onder voorbehoud). Het getoonde omslag kan afwijken.


Fragmenten uit het boek 'Sidmouth in old picture postcards'

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Sidmouth is a poor place to start a revolution. Almost everybody is glad to be here. Locals don't want to go away unless ambition drives them, and lots of people say, with broad grins: 'We've been co ming here for many years, and now we live here! We see the children more than before, although it's a lot further.' There are many reasons for this. First is the clean, moist air, felt instantly. The southwest wind comes straight from the warm middle-Atlantic. Statistically we have the warmth of the southwest with much of the wetness taken off by Dartmoor, which has twice our rainfall. But, of course, it is Britain, and we still complain.

Then the cosy town, quiet, guarded by the highest cliffs on the south coast. Running up the rniddle is a broad belt of green which makes us all countrified: no sensation of stifling bricks. Next are the Locals the human foundation on which every town rests. (That can only be appreciated by knowing a town wh ere the natives are unpleasant or non-existent.) Ours are kind and polite, firm and peaceful, easily laughing, the girls gay and (apparently) natural. Some of these qualities are catching, for incomers on arrival are often grand, narky mini-tycoons, or otherwise snaggleminded: they drop it and life is happier and longer.

Surprisingly, there is plenty to do. Apart from all the

things that one pays for, there are CLUBS: when counted nine years ago, 131 of them. On a rough classification, Games (rugby, chess) 30; 'Technical' (garden, stamps) 24; Social (though all are social in some degree) 13; Public Active (Ratepayers, Amenity) 18; Public Specific (Guide Dogs, St. Johns) 31; Welfare (British Legion etc.) 11. Sidmouth College offers Courses in apparently everything. They all have officers and committees, all beavering away at their chosen interests. H's a low-voltage maelstrom!

Shopping is good and a pleasure. The INDUSTRY apart from the ever-shrinking Fishing - is Service. Hotels in great variety, rest homes, houses and local inhabitants all need support of all kinds. Of all pleasant surroundings in which this is carried on, let us choose the doctors who work alongside their own hospital in an Aesculapian environment of books (superb D.C.C. library), sunlight and fresh air from all the greenery around. Nobody is surprised that Sidmouth keeps winning the Britain in BIoom, and the Floral Town of Europe for our size-group - we are 13,000. Private gardens are very good.

The STRUCTURE of a town inf1uences us all, even if not consciously. Going up Station Road, a handsome ridge rises on each side; beyond that, on the right, is Temple Street, full of traffic and avoided if possible:

beyond on the left is the Bickwell Valley, very quieto So there is an interesting complexity about the actual town area. The hills are flat-topped, 500 feet high, rising smoothly to 800 feet at the head of the fivemile valley. The top 150 feet is of sand with flints on top, becoming chalky to our east; the base is the famous red marl. That means easy walking all round the top, which is breached at only one point. It makes a marvellous environment which almost everybody struggles to maintain. Nee dle ss to say , the value of property here is high, as the pressure for development is strong, and has been resisted stubbornly. The place is protected in every way that can be devised. The Regency development of 1800-1830 was very charrning, and students of architecture must come here to see the Marine Villa Ornée. Several such houses have been lost, but by wood worm and neglect, not public apathy. Infilling of their big gardens is not always avoidable, and Inspeetors may think that it is unreasonable to try to prevent it, but the big trees go too. We have special proteetion by being in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but local views including those of the Sid Vale Association, the first Amenity Society in England - have been over-ruled in the past and such cases are taken as precedents. So it cannot be denied that unwelcome development does slowly go on.

Enough local history is scattered about later pages, but pre-history needs a mention. Our flat tops are the western edge of the Blackdown Hills: only a dozen miles squared in all, but they are well worth exploring, and remote. Ancient people moved far more than used to be thought, Across the head of the valley, on the high road, is the biggest collection of Bronze Age barrows in England; felling of woods show old hut circles; the camps or 'castles' of High Peak and Sidbury and Blackbury are just the three nearest of ten.

Please come and see our very local Museum.


Photographs 1, 37, 66 and 67 were kindly lent by E.E. Whitton Esq. lP, who has helped in many other ways.

Postcards 5, 21, 29,32, 55 and 59 were kindly lent by John Greer. All other photographs are from Sidmouth Museum.

Much accurate information comes from the works of Peter Orlando Hutchinson, 1810-1897. 'POH Hist. IV, 97' means that the reference is to his History, volume IV, page 97: in Sidmouth Museum.

1. This picture is to illustrate some points in the Introduction: the projection of tree-covered Chit into the midd!e of the bay, separating two beaches; the flat tops and fertile hill-slopes; the grassy centre of the valley, running far up to the right; the genera! quality and c1eanliness of the houses. Though the picture was taken about 1900, the same view in 1982 would look litt1e different - some houses in the !ower foreground, !ess fishing boats.

~~r ~~


2. The coast-road to the west runs as straight as possible from the Axe crossing to the top of Trow, where it curves northwards to cross the Sid at the wide expanse of river-shingle where the Snodbrook joins the Sid, making an easy ford. Why should a narrow bridge have been made there as early as about lIDO? At that time Sa!combe stone was being sent to Exeter to build the Cathedra!. Some of the stone went by sea in barges, but much went by road, and, as bridges were built throughout Europe by the Church, it seems likely that Sidford's was to lessen the risk of the stoney crossing for laden packhorses. When the road was widened in 1930, the narrow old bridge was 'untouched', says the plaque.

3. The oldest of all loeal names is usually a river, especially in the West. 'Sid' is a real fixer. Experts derive the word from 'wide' or 'flashing' or 'arrow'. For a tiny river they seem laughable, until heavy rain pours off the steep hillsides, suddenly making a wide flashflood like an arrow. The river is fairly straight and confined in its channel, but below Sidford it normally meanders widely, with sandmartins nesting in its four-foot banks. But in flood it rushes straight over the fields, thereby dissipating mueh of its energy; fortunately, beeause a recent flood plucked a car off the stone Waterloo bridge and deposited it at the mouth, the driver narrowly escaping, To the photographer the brevity of the flash is maddening: he rushes for his camera (it's usually night, anyway), but finds from the height of the debris in the trees that the top of the flash has already passed.

4. This view looks north from the base of the Roly-Poly Field. Salter's Meadow and Sid Park Road are now on the left. The Levels can be traeed right down through the Town. The trees must be the conkers planted by the S.V.A., now noble. Notice the gates, the edges of different properties. Sidmouth Churchwardens paid for 'freeth to freeth the freeths', A very Devon word: 'Vreath' was the wickerwork that bound sta nes around the supports of Bideford Bridge. Some tenants were granted 'firebote frith and stake'. So freeth is hedgecuttings to make weirs, to stop scouting and to proteet the fish. Did they? It is assumed as Gospel that people in Old Days had the profound knowledge and wisdom of experience. But Hippocrates he said: 'Judgernent is difficult and experienee fallacious.'


5. The Byes are a riverside walk, one and a half miles up to Sidford. The word is not in the great list of Devon Talk (T.D.A. 1960 in the Reference Room at Sidmouth Library), In the Oxford Dictionary it occurs only in the sense of 'passed by' as in cricket, or in drawing no opponent in a competition. Here, the belief is that the ploughman 'gave a miss' to the soft or crumbling banks of the river, leaving it for strollers or fishermen. The early Sid Vale Association felt very strongly about the path. In several places tenants blocked it (notice the gates), and the right of way was only secured by purchase of the land. Out of work men were employed with rocks and stones.

6. The Mill Leat ean still be traeed from above the dam in the Byes to the side of the Mill itself, close to the west of the lowest ford on the Sid. Polwhele wrote in 1795 that the only bridge below Sidford was the footbridge alongside the ford, eonsisting of a huge treetrunk. Until very recently, the flooded river was often bloeked by debris at that point, and then it poured down Mill Street and into Eastern Town - the Vietorian name for the Marsh. When the Waterloo Bridge upstream (Vietorian for the Stone Bridge) was made, the ford beeame mueh quieter; all the more fun for the Folk Festival people to see how many ears they ean park there, in the bed of the river.

7. The bridge over the Sid's mouth could not be made by the S.V.A. for nine years. When Mrs. Cornish finally yielded a right-of-way, the ship 'Laurel' had recently wreeked, and her timbers were used for a bridge in 1855. Swept away in 1871, it was quickly rebuilt, but handrails bulged, deck sagged, supports woggled, and footings scoured: it was rebuilt by Sampson in 1900. The boundary survey of 1322 (pOH Hist. Il, 78) showed that both banks of the Sid were in the parish of Salcombe Regis (till this century) and the salterns, which gave the name, must have been in the Ham, then lower than now? (See page 8.) The 'Regis' part - it belonged to Athelstan - was only added in the 1700's to distinguish it fr om Salcombe, the drowned valley at the southern tip of Devon.

8. 'Sidmouth' is rather a joke, for the river is blocked for almost exactly half the days of the year, when rainfall is low. But there was a real harbour here for small mediaeval ships until about 1450, when 'an extraordinary storminess with probably a sudden land-rise' (Professor Steers) blocked this and many other harbours on the south coast. Here is the black mouth of the tunnel, made in 1837 to carry a railway 1,200 metres to Hook Ebb, to bring stones for the proposed harbour. The engine came by road, but was too big for the tunnel. It was the last straw, and the project was abandoned! (For the absurd Harbour plans, see POH Rist. IV, 162-172 - incredible! )

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