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 *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Sidmouth in old picture postcards'

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19. The Chit promontory and reef gives an unusual beauty in the middle of this bay, The earthmovements which caused the uprise of the European Alps pushed up the hard Ladram sandstones here. The reef is the worndown remnant of a bigger headland. In 1800 there was a Ramshorn on it, made of big poles stuck into holes in the rock and connected by a long curtain of nets. Fish swam into the stationary spiral of netting and were collected when they reached the end of the trap. Salcombe Hill is usually drawn as going upwards to a point. It is an illusion: the seacliff is just over 500 feet high, but on the left of the picture it has risen to 580 feet. The hili is running away from the viewer as it goes inland.

20. The handsome !ittle c!iff of Chit needed early proteetion on the right - or was it the householder who needed it? Notice that there is no sign of undermining here, but with the disappearance of much of the shingle, waves have cut big holes in the base, now covered by seawall. One day it is hoped that the wall will be continued to join the Front, but the houseowners are not keen. (See Murray Laver, 'Sidmouth Shingle' in the 1981 Transactions of the Devonshire Association in the Library.) Before 1810, when these houses were built, fishermen lived in shacky houses against the c!iff, on the shingle. They often got thoroughly doused by the sea, but in the Great Storm the shacks were totally swept away. Sidney Smith invented the story and name of Mrs. Partington as an example of useless courage in trying to hold back the sea, comparing her with po!iticians who were trying to stop the Reform Bill.

21. The hard sandstone of Chit is seen pushing abruptly forward from the softer marl cliff. It only juts out because the marl has been washed away. Until 1855 there was a cart-track up the face ofthe soft cliff, for carrying limestone from Babbacombe to the limekiln at the top. The path and much of the kiln finally fell down about 1870, though the newer buildings have kept a similar outline. The public had got so used to the western beach that an extremely long vertical and dizzy ladder was erected, like Jacob's Ladder to heaven (Genesis 28.12). But some Victorian angels didn't 1ike it - with a brisk onshore wind, and the clothes of that date, they might easily loft over the top like chickens! So later a new ladder was built: then sea-defences, huts, a gun emplacement, and the place became an eyesore: now much better by the bulldozing of a new Chine.

22. Lots of Royals have stayed in Sidmouth, but the favourite was the Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria's third son. He first came in 1931, wh en Britain went off the Gold Standard and it was patriotic to stay at home. He stayed for the winter in the Fortfield Hotel. Again in 1932, and at the Manor House in 1933. Several Royals came to see the charming old man: Princess Astrid was the favourite. At that time the Council had bought 'Seaview', pulled it down, and made pleasure gardens there on the Chit headland, and the Duke was pleased to give his name to them. Perhaps it was all our grand visitors and residents that started the idea that Sidmouth is snobby. One author in a canoe detected it from half a mile away out to seal

23. Markets have always been a method of taxatien. The Conqueror granted a Market to the Lords of our Manor in 1086, with the Priors of Otterton as their agents, They had it on Sundays at Otterton; they also ate porpoises. In 1220 Jordan of Tidwell exchanged the sheds, shops and stalls he had in Sidmouth Market. Henry VII agreed to let our Lord, the Abbess of Sion, pay no tolls or rates. In 1803 Butcher wrote that our 'Marker House or Town Hall' was convenient and modern. But in 1840 POH said it was cumbrous and inconvenient, simply one big room above. Everything happened there: committees, dancing, public meetings, piano lessons, temporary museum. In 1903 the Council bought it and its rights, and in 1929 the present handsome 'Post Office Georgian' single storey building was put up: it must have been by Sampson. Fairs? The great one was the Wake of St. Giles, the third Monday in September.

24. Looking from the Market Square up Church Street, the wind ow on the far left appears to be that of the Post Office, after Georgina Barrett had taken over from her husband as Postmistress, and extended her range of goods. The shop beyond the girls is getting very smart, and stayed so. This is a classical scene, silent girls on the left standing on flat feet, and mixed young men on the right, rather dolled up. The bath chair seems heavy, but the long-basket-barrow is very practical. Theophilus Mortimore, the Town Crier, has not watched the stresses in extending his poultry shop: one good flood, and it looks as though the doorway will collapse. Up Church Street, at the end of the thatched roof, is the entrance to Ebdon's Court ...

25 .... where the whole area looks strange, as though a fairly squalid area had had a quick clean-up for the photographer. Ebden's Court shows clearly the materials and shape of buildings which are homely and beautiful in the countryside, but which in this smal1 town must be called slums. The baker (7 ) with his rough wall, very high gate, and hostile appearance seems to be protecting his enclosure: the bulge on left is probably his oven. The two women right - judging by this slender evidence - seem to be disassociating themselves in their white dresses from their surroundings. Primrose Cottage in the background final!y came up for sale, and it was incredible that such a thickness of soggy old thatch could be supported by such thin timbers, much of it of holly with the leaves still on. Wood used with cob appears to be protected by having its ends buried in the cob. Was fresh wood used in that way?

26. Ebden's Court is behind the house at furthest right, but here the shops are neat and clean, the thatch good, and a house even dares to grow a vine, for great ladies, of ten Royalty, came to admire the pillow-lace women. The daughters of rich houses around were proud to produce their literal designs of birds and flowers, typically Sidmouth lace. It was a family affair. 'Our' Miss Barnard's grandmother, Mrs. Hayman, made three flounees for the Queen in 1865 for !-300; her mother, Mrs. Nicholls, made lace for the Duchess of Kent, and got her Royal Warrant. It has always been a coastal employment in East Devon, keeping fishermen's families alive in bad times. It was sold at Honiton, on the coach road. Modern ladies are fin ding it 'more peaceful than knitting' incredible.

27. Fire is a great leveller: the houses are gutted and the vine frizzled. It is remarkable that the Willow Tree rose so weIl from the ashes. Sidmouth has been lucky not to have had a holocaust, for great areas of other towns hereabouts have been devastated, especially Honiton. This would have been better if it had occurred earlier when the Regency rebuilding would have been much preferabie. In fact, nearly all our cottages were pulled down deliberately. Western Town, where the Bedford car park is now, disappeared between 1795 and 1815, leaving even the stripfields untenanted. Adam de Radway's mill, where Ford's is, was burnt down in September 1847 by a drunken coachman with a candle. The millstream had failed long before, so that the 'new Mill at the ford' had been built back in 1801.

28. 'Fore Streef in Devon towns is the main street, often leading to water. OLD Fore Street is unusual, meaning what is says. It leads down to the Market Place, Church, and sea. On a map Fore Street is clearly a bypass. The idea that the Regency found a tiny fishing place is wrong. It was compact - only a quarter of a mile across each way - but between Eastern and Western Towns is a core of streets, Old Fore St reet already superseded. On the left is Mr. Lethaby's shop where the Sidmouth Directory was publislied from 1850. In the foreground the sanitary squad are trying to flush the drains. (The picture is May 1884, when Balfour came of age.) Only a few years before, drainsjust ran into the old river-gravel under the town, and the drinking pumps drew water from there. No wonder the highest mortality was in summer, from 'typhus and putrid fever',

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