February diary.



Saturday 13th

Valentine Food Festival at Bideford Pannier Market.

7.30pm ‘Encore’ concert at Lavington Church. 424982

Monday 15th

10am-12pm Appledore Community Art Group at Appledore Community Hall.

2pm Bideford Ladies Club at Marlborough Court. 421925

7pm Tai Chi at Bideford High Street Methodist Church Hall. 472532

7.15pm Appledore Singers rehearse at Appledore Baptist Church. 420652

7.30pm Appledore Amateur Radio Club, Appledore Football Social Club. 473251

8.30pm North Devon Jazz Club at The Beaver, Appledore. 421065

Tuesday 16th

10am-1pm Lavington Church coffee and lunches.

10.30am Walking for Health. 421528

11.45am-12.45pm Tai Chi at Northam Community Hall.

2-3.30pm Salvation Army ‘Fun & Fellowship’ Club meets at Baptist Hall.

3pm ‘ReflectionsGrief & Loss Group at St Mary’s Church. 475765

6.30pm Bideford Band Beginner’s Group at Band Room. 475653

8pm Torridge Male Voice Choir meets at Woolsery Village Hall. 441601

Palladium Club – Jam Night.

Wednesday 17th

9.30am-2.30pm Free Social Club for ages 19+ at Happy Café, W Ho!

10am-12pm Bideford Healing Group at Sea Cadets Bldg in Victoria Park.

10.30am-12pm ‘Feel Better with a Book’ at Bideford Library.

10.30am Walking for Health in Victoria Park. Meet at Cafe du Parc. 421528

11am-1pm Creative (Memory) Café at Quay Meeting Rm, 5 Danver Court, Clovelly Rd Ind Estate. 07817 976053

1.30-3.30pm ‘Knit & Natter’ Group at St Margaret’s Church, Northam.

7.30pm Bideford Phoenix Morris practise at Bideford Baptist Church. 473798

7.30pm Two Rivers Wind Ensemble Rehearsal at Bideford Band Room.

7.30pm Rolle Canal and Northern Devon Waterways Society at Castle Centre, Barnstaple. £2.50.

Thursday 18th

10.15am Northam Men’s Forum, Northam Methodist Hall. 476201

10.30am Walking for Health along Tarka Trail. Clarence Wharf Car Park. 421528

10.30-11.30am Tai Chi at Chubb Churchill Centre, E-T-W.

2-3pm Seated Exercise for over 60s at W Ho! Baptist Hall. 01805 622666

7pm Hartland Aikido Club for over 18s at Bucks Cross Village Hall.

7.30pm Scottish Country Dancing at Westleigh Village Hall. 473801

7.30-9pm Samba Baia Rehearsal at Community Arts Network,13 Rope Walk.

8pm Bideford Folk Club at Joiners Arms.

Friday 19th

10am-12pm Northam Reminiscence café at Northam Hall. 459337

2-4pm ‘Sew Together’ at Westward Ho! Baptist Church Hall. 01805 622606

2.30-4.30pm Torridge Table Tennis Club at Bideford Youth Centre.

7.45pm Modern Sequence Dancing, Kingsley Hall, W. Ho! 01769 540309

8pm Ceilidh Club at Northam Hall 476632

Sunday 21st

1.30pm Torridge Ramblers walk. 01805 625485

Monday 22nd

10am-12pm Appledore Community Art Group at Appledore Community Hall.

7pm Tai Chi at Bideford High Street Methodist Church Hall. 472532

7.15pm Appledore Singers rehearse at Appledore Baptist Church. 420652

Tuesday 23rd

10am-1pm Lavington Church coffee and lunches.

10.30am Walking for Health. 421528

11.45am-12.45pm Tai Chi at Northam Community Hall.

2-3.30pm Salvation Army ‘Fun & Fellowship’ Club meets at Baptist Hall.

6.30pm Bideford Band Beginner’s Group at Band Room. 475653

7.30pm Lions Club meet at Royal Hotel.

8pm Torridge Male Voice Choir meets at Woolsery Village Hall. 441601

Palladium Club – Jam Night.

Wednesday 24th

9.30am-2.30pm Free Social Club for ages 19+ at Happy Café, W. Ho!

10am-12pm Bideford Healing Group at Sea Cadets Bldg in Victoria Park.

10.15am Probus Club at Royal Hotel.

10.30am-12pm ‘Feel Better with a Book’ at Bideford Library.

10.30am Walking for Health in Victoria Park. Meet at Cafe du Parc. 421528

2-3.30pm TorrAGE Ageing Well Project at Burton Art Gallery. 01805 622666

7.30pm Bideford Phoenix Morris practise at Bideford Baptist Church. 473798

7.30pm Two Rivers Wind Ensemble Rehearsal at Bideford Band Room.

Thursday 25th

10.15am Northam Men’s Forum, Northam Methodist Hall. 476201

10.30am Walking for Health along Tarka Trail. Clarence Wharf Car Park. 421528

10.30-11.30am Tai Chi at Chubb Churchill Centre, E-T-W.

2-3pm Seated Exercise for over 60s at W Ho! Baptist Hall. 01805 622666

7pm Hartland Aikido Club for over 18s at Bucks Cross Village Hall.

7.30pm Scottish Country Dancing at Westleigh Village Hall. 473801

7.30-9pm Samba Baia Rehearsal at Community Arts Network,13 Rope Walk.

8pm Bideford Folk Club at Joiners Arms.

Friday 26th

10am-1pm Lundy Art Group at Blue Lights Hall, Appledore.

10am-12pm Craft’n’Chat at The Old Schoolroom, Kingsley Hall, W. Ho!

2.30-4.30pm Torridge Table Tennis Club at Bideford Youth Centre.

7.30pm Skittles evening at the Con. Club, Bridgeland Street. £2.00 per head. All welcome.

7.45pm Modern Sequence Dancing, Kingsley Hall, W. Ho! 01769 540309

8pm Barn Dance & music by ‘Pigeon Swing’ at Northam Hall. 476632

Saturday 27th

10am Torridge Ramblers day walk. 01805 625485

10am -2pm Tarka Quilters at Northam Hall. Boo Boyne, ‘Easter Celebrations.’

Sunday 28th

6.30pm Alverdiscott Methodist Chapel – ‘What is prayer?’.

Monday 29th

10am-12pm Appledore Community Art Group at Appledore Community Hall.

7pm Tai Chi at Bideford High Street Methodist Church Hall. 472532

7.15pm Appledore Singers rehearse at Appledore Baptist Church. 420652


Posted in Diary, Events | Tagged | Leave a comment

Shipping news No. 131 (Nov. ’15 – Jan. ’16).

In port – Yelland Quay.

DSCF8021 copy

Vita – (ex- Emja, ’04) ; built 1990; flag St John’s, Antigua & Barbuda; owners Latvian; crew Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian; from Glensanda, for orders; arrived 13.12, sailed 14.12; discharged 3,717 tons chippings.

DSCF8047 copyCeltic Endeavour – (ex- Northern Lady, Antabe ’01, Athus ’15) ; built 1997; flag Cardiff, UK; owners British; crew Russian & Bulgarian; from Glensanda to Avonmouth; arrived 27.12, sailed 29.12 (due to sail pm tide 28th, but due to electrical problems sailed pm tide 29th); discharged 3,000 tons chippings.

In port – Bideford Quay.

DSCF7969 copyEdzard Cirksena – built 2009; flag St. John’s, Antigua & Barbuda; owners German; crew Russian; from Newport to Bendorf, via Teignmouth; arrived 25.11, sailed 25.11; loaded 1,100 tons ball clay.

The Oldenburg has returned from her annual drydocking at Sharpness and has since performed various cargo runs to Lundy

Welsh Piper 13.1.

Bristol Channel Observations.

24.11 at 09.10 vehicle carrier Lavender Ace, 17,262 tons d.w., owners Mitsui OSK Lines Japan outward bound from Portbury having sailed at 05.05 hrs.

13.12 at 10.39 vehicle carrier Grande Napoli,14,565 tons d.w., owners Grimaldi Line of Italy outward bound from Portbury, having sailed at 05.01 hrs.

24.12 at 11.07 cargo vessel Blue Image, 24,228 tons d.w., owners Sealine Premium SA Pireaus outward bound from Avonmouth having sailed at 04.19 hrs.

28.12 at 09.30 buoy maintenance vessel Patricia, 990 tons d.w., owners Trinity House, Harwich undertaking repairs to the entrance buoy for the River Taw/Torridge . (Sailed later in the morning and returned a few days later).

29.12 at 09.51 cargo vessel Eider, 3,672 tons d.w., owners Reederei Erwin Strahlmann Germany inward bound for Avonmouth.

6.1 at 16.38 cable ship Ile Daix, 7776 tons d.w., owners Alcatel -Lucent, France, outward bound from Avonmouth having sailed at 13.41 hrs. on the 4th.

7.1 at 12.15 ro-ro vessel Ciudad de Cadiz, 3,500 tons d.w., owners Anita 2 SNC France, inward bound for Portbury. At 14.38 vehicle carrier Fedora, 30,386 tons d.w., owners Wallenius Wilhelmsen Norway and Sweden, inward bound for Portbury.

8.1 at 12.20 chemical tanker Stolt Shearwater, 5,248 tons d.w., owners Stolt Nielsen Rotterdam, outward bound from Barry having sailed at 06.51 . At 16.15 vehicle carrier Viking Odessa, 6,500 tons d.w., outward bound from Portbury having sailed at 18.01 hrs 27.12 and has been anchored in Bridgewater Bay awaiting orders.

9.1 at 08.50 vehicle carrier Morning Calypso, 18,932 tons d.w., owners Kaho Shipping Co Ltd Japan outward bound from Portbury having sailed at 03.42 hrs.

11.1 at 11.45 cargo vessel Pinnau, 3,686 tons d.w., owners Reederei Erwin Strahlmann Germany inward bound for Cardiff.

14.1 at 12.43 container vessel MSC Sabrina, 43,078 tons d.w., owners Freshen Corp Switzerland on charter to Mediterrean Shipping Co Switzerland, outward bound from Portbury having sailed at 08.05.




Posted in Shipping | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas in Nineteenth-Century Bideford.

by Liz Shakespeare.

Today, our local newspapers are full of advertisements for Christmas presents, Christmas events and Christmas meals, but when we look at the newspapers of the nineteenth century, it is apparent that the festival was a less commercial affair.

Few shops advertised Christmas goods in the newspapers, but there were some exceptions:

screenshot_07(These advertisements are from the Bideford Gazette in 1869 and 1863).

We often hear complaints today that Christmas goods start appearing in the shops in September or October, but in 1886, it was only on the 23rd December that the following observation appeared in the North Devon Journal

Bideford Christmas at the shops. The shop windows are now in full festive attire – especially, of course, those of the grocers, drapers and stationers – and are receiving their full share of attention.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, many people had only one day’s holiday at Christmas. Boxing Day did not become a Bank Holiday until 1871 but it would appear that a holiday, for some people, was kept before that date by mutual consent.

A report in the Bideford Weekly Gazette on 22nd December 1857 stated:

Christmas Holiday The public are respectfully informed that the principal Merchants and Tradesmen of this Town, having kindly consented to suspend business on Saturday, 26th instant, being the day after Christmas-day, A general holiday will be kept on that day. The public are requested to facilitate the object by making their purchases on Thursday 24th December.

By 1885, some traders were taking a third day – this is from 1885, when Christmas Day fell on a Thursday. CHRISTMAS DAY passed very quietly at Bideford, as did also Boxing Day. Saturday was also exceedingly quiet. Most of the ironmongers, nearly all the shoemakers, and several other shopkeepers, kept up the holiday by closing their establishments on that day also.

It was expected that the poor should be remembered at Christmas and it was common practice for Christmas parties to be provided for those who might otherwise go without.

North Devon Journal 1st January 1863 –

The aged poor. Not the least interesting gathering of the poor at this festive season took place through the kindness of T.L. Pridham Esq. at his residence on Christmas day, when 65 of the oldest inhabitants of the town sat down to a sumptuous repast of old English fare of roast beef and plum pudding. The dinner was held in the hall which was tastefully decorated for the occasion. On the centre of the dining table was an elegant silver flower basket under a glass shade which was the gift of 500 of the poor inhabitants of Bideford.

This was Thomas Lawrence Pridham, a GP who lived in the house then known as Hyefield, in Pitt Lane. It seems rather strange that the ‘poor inhabitants’ should give him an apparently expensive present!

Those unfortunate enough to spend Christmas in the Workhouse were not forgotten and most years got a mention in the newspaper. In December 1864 it was reported:

The Bideford Guardians ordered roast beef and plum pudding for the poor in the Union Workhouse on Christmas Day, with other luxuries and a libation of good ale.

The market was the centre of activity for Christmas shopping and every year both the North Devon Journal and the Bideford Gazette carried an account of the Christmas market. This example is from the Bideford Gazette in 1859 –

The exhibition of Christmas fare displayed in our market on Tuesday last was very fine, and seldom have we seen a larger attendance of purchasers and sight-seers than was gathered there during a portion of the day. The average rates maintained throughout were: beef, 7d to 8d; mutton, 6d to 7½d; pork, 6½dto 7½d; turkeys 9d; geese 9d per lb; ducks, 3s each. Some of the stalls in the meat market were tastefully fitted up, conspicuous amongst which we observed were those of Mr R. Holman and Mr T. Holman (Bideford), Mr Fulford (Northam) and Mr Withecombe (Buckland Brewer)

The reporting of Christmas activities in Bideford was, of course, dependent on the interests and observations of the journalist. In 1851 Edward Capern, later known as the Bideford postman-poet, became the Bideford correspondent for the North Devon Journal, and his contributions were more detailed and descriptive than others – and sometimes included lines from his own poems. The following is from 27th December 1855, just after the opening of the railway from Barnstaple to Bideford.

The Season The time-honoured festival of Christmas is again present with us, a fact that appears to have so thoroughly occupied the public of this ancient town during the past week, that there is nothing but what relates to it left to record. The railway has given additional activity to the duties of the season; perhaps at no former period has there been so many Christmas visitors, persons who have found their way home by that cheap and rapid path. It is pleasing to see that the same liberality that has prevailed in former years is still the order of the day; the charity of the rich is introducing a gleam of sunshine into the dwellings of the poor. The great Birth-day was introduced by the merry music of the church bells, while the ‘waits’ made the night air vocal with their ‘carols’ in the streets. The grocers’ windows are decorated as befits the generous time – the new fruits never looked more tempting, nor found more customers. One object famous in Christmas decoration, which has reached us this year, and never was until now seen in the market, is the mistletoe – a visitor we owe to the rail.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the sending of Christmas presents and cards became more popular, as the following report illustrates. I have heard that it was not unusual for pheasants and chickens to be posted unwrapped with a label tied around their necks!

North Devon Journal 31st December 1896

The Christmas season produced a greater strain upon the officials of the Bideford Post Office than has ever been experienced before. The parcel post has been used to an unequalled extent, large quantities of poultry, Devonshire cream, and game, besides miscellaneous goods of all kinds having been despatched and delivered. The delivered parcels numbered 3,084 and weighed eight tons. There were despatched 2880 parcels weighing 7 tons 4 cwt. Christmas cards have been posted and delivered in much greater numbers than previously. The sale of postage stamps has exceeded the record of the 1894 season by nearly 100 per cent. The approximate number of letters passing through the office during the Christmas period was 143,000. I wonder how these statistics compare with today?

Liz Shakespeare is the author of four books set in the Bideford area.


Posted in History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago – December 1915 / January 1916.


In the Children’s Court in Bideford, before Mayor Mr. S. R. Chope and other magistrates, is a 13 year-old boy charges under the Children’s Act with stealing 5 savoy cabbages and 18 broccolis. He was caught red handed with a sack, a table knife and a perambulator in which he was going to carry the vegetables away. Found guilty as proved, his father was ordered to pay 9/- (which equates to £46 in today’s values).

Owing to the number of Bideford constables who have joined HM Forces, Devon Constabulary has published a list of 33 men who are doing duty as unpaid special constables. Each street and its constable are named and there are 5 in the High Street alone.

The paper is full of Christmas advertising; local stores are suggesting to readers that an early purchase would ensure goods because some items are in short supply. W. T. Ridge, 70, High Street has various whiskies at 3/6d a bottle, (equivalent to £18 today). S. Dennis of Mill Street advertises prime Ox beef, fed by Mr Curtis of Abbotsham which will be slaughtered by humane  killer as supplied by the RSPCA. He also has rendered lard at 8d per pound, pickled silversides and briskets always ready. Messrs W.H. Short, 10, Allhalland St. advertises ladies Parcels. No1 at 10/- contains 1 cream japanese silk blouse of the newest style, 1 silk lace collar, 6 dainty embroidered lawn handkerchiefs and 1 crepe de chine bow. Less expensive is parcel No 2 at 5/- containing 1 flannelette blouse, 1 useful overall, 3 hemstitched handkerchiefs and a bottle of Eau de cologne. For the girls, 1 cream wool turban, 1 dainty pinafore, 1 smart hair ribbon and 2 pretty hankies. The men seem to be catered for by H. Meredith in the High street. Vacuum flasks, shaving requisites, Tommy Cookers, electro pocket lamps in a great variety. ( We are interested to learn about the Tommy Cooker?)

On 21st December an article in the paper states “present giving seems to be on the increase, although perhaps owing to the lessons of the War they are of a more practical nature and it is a delightful reminder of human affection. Considering the value of the articles offered as Xmas presents the prices in the present circumstances are extraordinarily low.”

There is less poaching at the moment, although a large number of salmon which have been in the fresh water have now swam into the small rivers.

The Ford Motor Co has published a reply to allegations made in the national press that Mr Henry Ford is pro German. The company state that these statements are malicious slander. Included in the advertisement by the Bideford Motor Works who are the agents for Ford Motors are price reductions in all of their model range with the claim that they are now better value than ever. Interestingly, other manufacturers have increased their prices!

In the Workhouse, known locally as ‘The White House,’ Bideford guardians at their fortnightly meeting have read an amusing postcard from a former inmate. “Postmarked Liverpool December 1915 : I am writing to say I am sorry I had to leave the school but I am trying to pass into the Army and I have had a lot of teeth out by order of the Drs and my sight is a lot better. I am glad to say I can write this card myself I have passed the Doctors for Home service subject to getting my glasses I have been going to the Eye hospital twice a week for some months now. I will write to you again. Yours respectfully. Name given”. The clerk to the workhouse commented, amid laughter, that he seemed to have made a rapid recovery.

And finally, In the 21st December edition ‘A Notice to Tradesmen,’ A number of Bideford Boy scouts are offering their services to the local tradesmen in order to facilitate the delivery of parcels etc.; in the town during the next few days. Any money earned by the Scouts in this way will be paid into the Boy scouts Ambulance Fund which is keeping a number of Motor Ambulances at the Front. A tradition continuing till today.


Christmas Traditions in and around Bideford 1915.

Farmers from across North Devon gathered every year end to celebrate what had become known as ‘Capt. W. Ascott’s Manure Audit’ and Dinner at the New Inn, Bideford. In 1915 Capt Ascott was unable to attend the dinner as he was ‘somewhere in France’ and ‘leave was difficult to obtain, in fact impossible just now!’ He had sent a letter which Acting President Mr C. S. Carnegie, JP, read to the assembled farmers. At the conclusion of an excellent and well served repast, a toast was submitted to the King, Queen and Royal Family which was heartily honoured.

In a tradition dating back to the 1900s the Town Alderman entertained a number of the aged poor in Bideford to a tea and social evening at the Baptist Schoolroom. Oranges were distributed to the guests as they left after having a very happy time.

In 1915, the Bideford and District Emergency League had collected and sent away a box of comforts for troops at the Dardenelles. It included 12 Christmas puddings from Mrs. Thrupp, mufflers and socks from Mrs. Norman and preserved cream in tins, pure Devon chocolate, a parcel of Oxo cubes, tobacco and cigarettes.

On 7th December 1915 the Bideford Wesleyan Band of Hope Society held its Christmas tea and entertainment which was described as ‘a real good one’. The Hon. Secretary, Miss A. E. Langbridge, was assisted by many ladies and there was standing room only for the entertainment arranged by Miss E. M. Luxton. Unfortunately the esteemed Minister, the Revd J. T. Tyreman, was indisposed but the Revd E B Crocker rose to the occasion ‘right well’.  The singing of the National Anthem brought to an end one of the most successful events this Society had experienced.

On New Year’s Day 1916, Mr. A. G. Duncan, JP, chairman of the Bideford Board of Guardians, provided his annual treat to the indoor poor in the Workhouse. This year the special fare included rounds of beef, vegetables, plum pudding and coffee. Mr Duncan distributed tobacco, tea, sugar, sweets, oranges and some money to the 90 inmates.

These and many more items of local interest are available to read at the Bideford Community Archive at the Council Offices, Windmill Lane, Northam. Tel: 01237 471714. Open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.



Posted in History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Felicity’s Festive Fish cookery.

fish ad


Here is my news about Seafood Sunday. Last year my friends Suzanna and Tony invited me to a wonderful seafood lunch on the last Sunday before Christmas . The idea is to eat a Seafood Feast instead of a “Roast”, thus making the Christmas roast turkey (or goose !) that more special, instead of having two roast meals in one week!!

We ate prawn ring with smoked oysters, crab bisque , devilled crab casserole and finished with spice biscuits and Stollen with ice cream. What a feast!   So why not start a new tradition here in the Bideford area?

My idea is a Devon Smorgasbord. This is simple to lay out, with smoked trout and mackerel, hot-roasted salmon and conger,  Gravalax made from local trout and mackerel with rollmops and soused Clovelly herrings.

This will all be enhanced with a hot and creamy Jansson’s Temptation. Here is the recipe –

This is a very simple dish that uses ingredients you will already have in your kitchen. (Keeping a couple of tins of anchovies that are approx.70p a tin is always useful.)   Also you can make this winter warmer comfort meal with Clovelly herring fillets, smoked sprats or lovely black kale and crispy bacon (or just the kale if you are vegetarian).

Jansson’s Temptation.


75g/3oz unsalted butter and I tbsp of vegetable or olive oil.

3 medium onions-white or red, thinly sliced

6 potatoes peeled and cut into rounds

12 anchovy fillets,drained and chopped.  (I keep the oil and use to fry the onion.)

White pepper

200m / 7fl oz thin cream

2 tbsp of chopped parsley


1. Heat 25g/1oz of butter and the oil , fry the chopped onion gently until soft and transparent.

Grease a deep oven-proof dish.

Place a layer of sliced potato in the bottom, cover with a layer of onion and then a layer of fish or cabbage and cooked bacon.

Sprinkle each layer with white pepper as you go.

Repeat the layers and end with a layer of potato.

Pour half the cream over the top and dot with the rest of the butter.

Bake in a preheated oven 220C/Gas mark7 /Top shelf of your Rayburn/Aga for 15/20mins

Add the rest of the cream when the potatoes are just going brown and continue to cook for 25/30mins until the potatoes are soft .Cover top with foil to stop top potatoes burning.

Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and serve with the smoked fish, etc.

This is a very useful dish to eat alone after a long winter walk or when friends turn up to visit.  It can really cheer up a cold January day.

see www.brilliantfishonline.co.uk

Felicity Sylvester.


Posted in Food & Drink | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bideford Library’s ‘Westcountry Christmas’.

Westcountry Christmas.

Christmas. Love it or loathe it, you really can’t avoid it. It’s by far the biggest festival we celebrate in the UK with a predicted £24 billion to be spent this year, mostly on food, drink and gifts that will end up in a charity shop in January. Compare that to the mere £400 million spent on Halloween.

And it starts so early. One of the side effects of the recent rise of Halloween as a festival (apart from killing off Bonfire Night) is that at least we don’t focus so much on Christmas until that has passed. But come November 1st we start playing Slade songs in the shops, and then it’s full on for two months of merriment.

Christmas has certainly changed over the years. In principle it’s still a religious festival celebrating the birth of Christ but for the majority this aspect is now completely lost in the whirl of festivities. And the midwinter celebration centred on the solstice has pagan roots which pre-date Christianity.

What seems like an ancient tradition of bringing a tree into the house only really started in Victorian times. We have in our Pearce-Chope collection at Bideford Library a few books on customs and traditions in the South West and these are interesting for shedding some light on Christmas celebrations from the past. The books date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The authors collect information on various customs, some still in practice at the time of publication but some being only remembered. This is in no way a comprehensive study of Westcountry Christmas traditions but here are some of my observations from flicking through these old books.

The most obvious difference is in the length of the celebrations. All the books refer to decorations going up on Christmas Eve and coming down on Twelfth Night (January 6th). It was considered very bad luck to do otherwise. Similarly mince pies wouldn’t be eaten outside of these dates. For someone who has been eating Stollen since late September, I would find this very hard!


Superstition seems to have played a much bigger part in people’s beliefs in general. So for example it was believed that bread baked on Christmas Eve would never go mouldy, or if a mince pie was eaten in a different house on each of the twelve nights of Christmas then it would bring twelve months of good luck. Wassailing ceremonies to bless the orchards and ensure a good apple crop the following year are commonly mentioned.

Food and drink played a big part in celebrations as they still do today. Some of the Cornish recipes for pies sound challenging to say the least. Sweet Giblet Pie contained goose giblets. Muggety Pie was made from sheep entrails. Mackerel Pie contained mackerel, as you would imagine, but served with clotted cream. It makes you wonder why some of these dishes have died out. There is an intriguing recipe for a drink which you might want to try out, a variation of Egg Nog called Eggy Hot. No quantities are given so you’ll have to experiment but it’s eggs, hot beer, sugar and rum, mixed together and poured from jug to jug until it becomes white and covered with froth. Let me know how you get on.

Christmas now is a time when families get together. The books reveal that while family was important in the past, the wider community played a much bigger part in celebrations than it does today. So, employers would provide a feast for their workers. Mummers and singers would travel from door to door performing. Neighbours would visit each other, presumably to eat those twelve mince pies. And it was a time of increased charity, the poor calling on the better-off to receive gifts of food and drink.

Some traditions were really very simple. The Yule Log literally involved putting a big log on the fire and sitting round and watching it burn. Drinking beer and cider helped relieve the tedium of this one. Plays such as St George and the Dragon were performed by Mummers and carols and songs performed by Waits. There is a funny story from the early 1800s of some Waits called Woollen who played the fiddle and Pumpey Allen who played the tambourine. They can’t have been very good as on occasion people would put grease on Woollen’s bow to stop him playing. It was their habit to play all night, stopping on the hour to declare the time and that all was well. They performed together for many years until eventually they fell out and fought. This must have been quite a sight as Woollen was blind and Pumpey had paralysed hands. Which on reflection must have affected his tambourine playing.

My favourite story is of a belief that on the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve all the cattle would kneel quietly in their stalls in worship of the infant Jesus. I suppose a quick glance into the stable at midnight would prove or more likely disprove this one, but the belief persisted. Maybe people resisted the urge to find out. In these somewhat jaded times I think our biggest loss is a sense of mystery and wonder. Very little children still have it but it’s gone all too quickly. This Christmas why not try and recapture some of that. At midnight go outside, look at the stars and reflect for a moment. It will probably be raining, which will provide the perfect opportunity to go back inside and pour yourself another glass of mulled wine.

Happy Christmas from everyone at Bideford Library

Matt Chamings.


Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shipping review of 2015.

There has been a decline in numbers of vessels loading clay at Bideford, mainly due to the recession in world trade and the only shipments were to Castellon in Spain.


The proposed call of the preserved passenger vessel Balmoral in August had to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.

The second of the Irish Patrol vessels, Le James Joyce, was in and out of Appledore on numerous occasions due to various problems with her engines whilst on trials in the Bristol Channel – no problems with the ship’s hull or fittings, just the engines.

Shipments of logs finally finished at Yelland during the year, the final cargo being shipped on the Roseburg (which happened to be the first vessel to load logs at Bideford in 2011). Notts Construction have made full use of the Yelland Jetty to bring various grades of chippings from Glensanda, Scotland, and dredged sand from Culver in the Bristol Channel for use in their concrete mixing plant at Yelland. In view of the large quantity of new building in the Bideford and Barnstaple area, this is saving a huge number of road vehicle movements otherwise involved in collecting material from quarries in Cornwall, as previously happened.


I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for 2016, and to thank everybody for their help in compiling the shipping page.




Posted in Shipping | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago : November 1915.

Messrs. I. Baker & Son of Brunswick House report that their lime kiln is now in full work. They are currently burning Lime for Agricultural Purposes. Telephone Bideford 85 or send Telegrams to ‘Baker & Son’.

Bideford Rural District Council has a vacancy for a steam roller driver. There is a sleeping van conveniently fitted up for the use of the driver. Apply to Mr J Turner, Surveyor.

Private H. W. Gent, son of Mrs Gent of Mill Street and a former member of the Church Lads’ Brigade is serving with the 1st 6th Devons at Lahore and has just qualified for his Marksman’s badge.

14 Cottages at Hyfield, Bideford and 24 Victoria Grove, which were offered at auction by A W Cock Auctioneers recently and then withdrawn, have been sold privately at an enhanced figure.

G. Boyle, Outfitters, of 4, High Street advertise Kee-Pu-Warm Lambskin waistcoats, with or without sleeves. They also have good stocks of wool sleeping-bags and waterproof valises which can be sent as Comforts for Our Brave Soldiers at the Front.

Mr. S. R. Chope has been unanimously re-elected Mayor for a third term. Mr H. N. G. Stucley is deputy Mayor.

Bideford Hospital appeals for the loan of a gramophone for the use of their patients, the old one which was lent to them being no longer available.

Madame Adele Vilars Hoare holds dancing classes at the Royal Hotel on Thursdays, commencing at 2.15pm. She and her staff of fully qualified assistants also teach deportment, physical education and breathing exercises. Private lessons can be arranged.

The Gazette now publishes a weekly War Diary covering several columns. During November they reported on events from Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria and France.

Lighting up time at the end of the month is 5pm.

These and many more items of local interest are available to read at the Bideford Community Archive at the Council Offices, Windmill Lane, Northam. Tel: 01237-471714

Need to buy a Christmas present that is light to post? To celebrate its 30th birthday, the Archive has produced a 2016 calendar full of lovely local pictures and priced at £5. Available from the Archive and from all good outlets in Bideford, Appledore, Northam and Westward Ho!


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – November.

November is the month when the winter fish becomes available. Herrings come into Clovelly and the Clovelly Herring festival, that has now become an established annual festival, will be on Sunday 15th this year.

Just as we make jams and jellies from fruit and chutneys and pickles from vegetables, oily fish such as mackerel and herrings can be soused and made into rollmops.

Here is a recipe for roll mop herrings, based on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe-

Cider Vinegar and orange Rollmops.

(also can use large sardines or mackerel).


6 -10 fresh herrings(Clovelly herrings are smaller those from supermarkets)

de-scaled,gutted and filleted – being careful to remove the fin bones with scissors.

60g salt.

for the marinade-

750ml cider vinegar.

12 allspice , 12 black peppercorns,6 bay leaves.

1 tablespoon light brown sugar.

Zest of 1 large orange,pared in wide strips – no white pith.

1 onion, red or white, sliced very thinly.


1. Dissolve the the salt in 500ml water to make a brine, then add the fillets & leave for 2-3 hours.

2. Meanwhile,put all the ingredients in a saucepan,bring slowly to the boil and simmer for just 1 minute. Remove from the heat and leave.

3. Drain the herring fillets from the brine and pat dry with kitchen paper. Roll them up from tail to head end ,skin side out and pack the the rolls into sterilised preserving jars.

4, Pour the marinade over the herrings, making sure there is spices and zest and onion in each jar.

Store in the fridge for at least 3 days before eating .They are best from 5-10 days, but can be kept for I month. The longer you leave them, the softer and more pickled they’ll get.

You can make and taste them and then if you like them,as many people do, you can prepare then for delicious Christmas Eve fish feast or Fish Sunday buffet (more about this next month!)

To serve. Drain the fillets from their marinade and accompany with a little soured cream. Fresh bread is delicious to soak up the tasty juices.


Posted in Food & Drink | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago: October 1915.

The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway Co. advised that the Sunday train service would be discontinued from October 10th 1915 until May 7th 1916. It was also announced that from November 1915 the down night mail train would not arrive in Bideford until 8:09am and deliveries would not commence until 9:30am. This was due to the release of men for enlistment and to provide for better disposal of military traffic. The up night mail train would also be affected. The Southern Railway thought it could safely promise the arrival of a new train called the ‘Devon Belle’ to the West for summer 1916.

A very interesting service was held in the Primary department of the Bideford Wesleyan Sunday School on October 10th. Tokens of remembrance were sent to the lads and fathers who had gone from the school to the scene of battle. The little folks were able to purchase a folding pocket book for every one of the men from the School and included in it a prayer for the lad’s protection and safe return, a hymn, a letter from a little one and a beautiful view of dear old Bideford.

Reported in a Council Sub-Committee Report in October 1915 was the fact that there were 113 Belgian refugees billeted in 38 Bideford homes costing £50 – on average 3s 9d per week. The billeting householders were being paid by the Refugee Committee in London*.

The Bideford ketch, Trio, with the Captain’s wife on board and laden with scrap iron sprang a leak off Trevose Head and was in a perilous condition. Crew from the steam lifeboat, Helen Peele, which also towed the lifeboat Edmund Harvey, assisted with manning the Trio’s pumps. Helen Peele towed the ketch into Padstow.

A very pretty wedding took place at St Mary’s Church, Bideford, between Emma Sluman of 64 Honestreet, Bideford and John Bryant of Twinington. The bride was attended by Maude, Gertrude, May, Florrie, and Gwennie Sluman. After a reception at the home of the bride’s mother, the happy couple left by motor, amid showers of confetti, for Alcombe, Taunton, their future home.

These and many more items of local interest are available to read at the Bideford CommunityArchive at the Council offices, Windmill Lane, Northam. Tel: 01237 471714

Need to buy a Christmas present and don’t want to spend too much? To celebrate its 30th

anniversary, the Bideford & District Community Archive has produced a 2016 calendar priced at £5. Pick one up by popping into the Archive or register your interest by ringing 01237 471714. It’s also on sale in all good outlets in Bideford, Appledore, Northam and W Ho!


* Historical Note.

Like the fictional Poirot, roughly a quarter of a million Belgians found refuge in Britain during the First World War. It is an episode that we can be proud of. ‘Prodigious efforts were made on behalf of those refugees’, writes Terry Charman in his book ‘The First World War on the Home Front.’ They were sheltered throughout this island, from Kent to Strathaven, in villages, seaside resorts and mining towns”. (Michael Walker, ‘Open Democracy).


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – October.

We have had a very busy summer running all the various events and sessions for the Appledore Fish Summer School. We have shown preparation and enabled tasting of a wide range of local summer fish and shellfish. We have some unique recipes and lots of popular simple recipes for unusual fish such a cuttlefish, squid, megrim, hake and pollack (see the recipe below).

Drunken Pollack with mayonnaise and yoghurt.

Pollack is best from August to March. The fillets are a good size and can be cut into portions. This is a simple dish that is very popular once tasted!

Ingredients for 4

4 portions/fillets of pollack fillets ; these can be cut in large pieces.

1 glass of wine for marinade.

4 spring onions, chopped.

4 tablespoon plain yoghurt.

4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs.


1 teaspoon paprika, for decoration.


Marinade the pollack pieces in the wine for 3/4 hours.

Place the fish in a buttered ovenproof dish .

Mix well the mayonnaise and the yoghurt with the marinade and cover the fish.

Mix chopped spring onion with the breadcrumbs and spread on top of the dish.

Place in a hot oven 220C/ gas mark 7 for 15/20 minutes and serve, decorated with a sprinkling of paprika.

I plan to write an Appledore Fish Summer School Recipe Book to help promote the Summer School in 2016 and to encourage more people to take advantage of the fantastic range of local fish and shellfish available in North Devon.

If you have a favourite fish or shellfish recipe and would like it included in the cookery book please contact me on brilliantfish@btinternet.com /call 07918 779 060


Posted in Food & Drink | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Connections’ – Lady Anne Berry (1919- ).

A local horticulturalist who founded Rosemoor.

Lady Anne Berry came from an aristocratic family, which included Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, the first Earl of Orford. Her father was the fifth Earl. He was already 67 when Anne was born, and had no male heir, so before he died, he made over his family estate in Norfolk to a distant male cousin, then emigrated to Australia, where he died in 1931. In 1923, he had bought a smaller property at Rosemoor, near Torrington, which he used as a fishing lodge, and where Anne and her mother lived when not in New Zealand.

She liked the carefree New Zealand life and found being a debutante and courtier in London somewhat stifling. In 1939, she married Colonel Eric Palmer, and as a young military wife followed her husband from post to post, including a two-and-a-half year stay in Northern Ireland. Anne had two children, John and Eric.

During the War, Rosemoor was lent to the Red Cross.. After the War, her husband bought more land at Rosemoor, where she established a dairy farm, and rode horses.

In 1959, she went to southern Spain to recuperate from a bout of measles, and met Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram, a well-known plantsman, who introduced her to the world of horticulture, and gave her some specimens from his own garden in Kent. With the help of other gardeners, and together with her own collection of plants from her extensive travels abroad, she began to develop her garden at Rosemoor.

In the late sixties, she joined the RHS, and then the International Dendrology Society, of which she was chair for five years from 1983 onwards.

This job took her all over the world, including a trip to New Zealand, and to Hackfalls Arboretum, created by Bob Berry.

In 1979, she started a small nursery at Rosemoor, containing over a thousand items. Then in 1980 her husband Eric died, she found it increasingly difficult to manage the estate, so she offered the garden, the house and the remaining farmland to the RHS. In 1990 Rosemoor was opened to the general public.

In the same year, she made another visit to New Zealand and Hackenfalls Arboretum, where she married Bob Berry. You could say the marriage was rooted in a love of trees. The wedding took place in England, but she then went to live in New Zealand,in Gisbourne.

RHS Garden Rosemoor is now a major attraction in North Devon, with more than 100,000 visitors a year.

Chris Trigger.


Posted in 'Connections', Gardening, History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago – September 1915.

When the Bideford Workhouse Guardians held their monthly meeting it was reported there was little change in the numbers seeking help and support. On the 8th September there were 84 people housed indoors at Meddon Street, 9 casuals had been accommodated overnight and 318 people, mostly children, were out relieved. (This means they were placed with families across the town and a small subsistence paid). The cost was £38:16:10d this week. These figures vary for a multitude of reasons. For example the following week casuals increased to 12 whereas those out in the town fell a little. The workhouse was also seeking tenders for the supply of materials that could be made into clothing. Items of drapery sought include Saxony Flannel, Real Welsh Flannel, White Barras, Russian Crash and Blue striped print. Ready-made mens’ hand-knit grey stockings and women’s black-knit stockings were required. Footwear included Boys Cued and Nailed boots for 8 -16 year olds.

The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway track is in need of some urgent repair. A letter from Mr Sowden, the manager, is printed in response to a request from the Bideford Town Council. The repairs to the track curve outside the Art School at the far end of the Quay will take place at the earliest possible moment. There has been difficulty with the wood blocks at the corner, which was caused by the constant shrinkage of the made up ground over the Pill. The repairs were also delayed by the difficulty in getting steel rails in consequence of the war.

Each week the Situations Vacant column saw a constant demand for workers in the town and locality. There were two agencies specialising in domestic and ladies employment – Mrs Shutts Ladies Agency and Miss Birds Select Registry, both to be found in Bridgeland Street. Apprentice carpenters, dispensing chemists, butchers, cabinet makers are some trades that are always advertising. Domestic help, maids, strong boys and gardeners are needed. Trade continues despite the war but replacing the tradesmen is proving difficult.

The Public Rooms are showing, for one night only, the latest musical comedy “The Girl in a Taxi”

These and many more items of local interest are available to read at the Bideford Community Archive at the Council Offices, Windmill Lane, Northam. Tel: 01237 471714. Open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – September.

The Appledore Fish Summer School activities have been running during the whole of August. Our last event is a Family Fishy Fun Day in St Mary’s Hall from 11.am on Tuesday 1st September with plenty of sessions with a fishy theme…An inter village Crab Dressing Competition at 2.00pm. A talk by Gus Caslake of SEAFISH about Sustainable Fishing at 11am.Delicious Fish Paella will be available from 12 noon and Crab sandwiches from 3.00pm. Drinks will be available all day. Also, Children’s activities will include making “Fisher Folk” Scarecrows and Guess the weight and name of the Crab. There will be stalls and music and we will be raising money for the local RNLI appeal. These are the local people who keep our fishermen and others safe at sea!

Here is a simple Paella recipe that is great to share with a crowd. Reminds me of happy days in the garden with lots of friends.

Paella made with local fish.

The secret of a good paella is to mix and fry gently the ingredients in the favoured oil before you cook the rice. This ensures plenty of flavour.


150 ml olive oil.

350g cleaned squid, sliced into rings, and tentacles chopped.

6 scallops, chopped in half.

2 red peppers.

4 chicken thighs or rabbit meat, diced (or125g piece chorizo sausage,diced)

4 garlic cloves,crushed.

1 onion,chopped.

250g paella rice (available from Marshford Organics)or basmati rice.

450 ml Fish Stock -home made or stock cube

1 teaspoon saffron strands.

100g peas.

300gms mussels in shells, cleaned.

salt and pepper.

lemon wedges, to serve.


1.Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and fry the squid and the scallops stirring for 5 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon, Add the peppers and fry for 5mins in the flavoured oil. Remove and add the chicken,rabbit or chorizo cubes, remaining oil, garlic and onion and fry for 5 mins.

2.Sprinkle in the rice and cook for 1 min. stirring so that the grains become well coated in the spicy oil.

3.Stir in the stock and saffron and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid or foil and cook gently for about 20 mins or until the rice is cooked through. Stir in the peas, along with the returned squid, scallops and peppers.

4.Push the mussels into the rice so that they are half submerged. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed.

5. Season and add lemon wedges to decorate and to squeeze over the dish. Enjoy!


Posted in Events, Food & Drink | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Connections’ – King Aethelstan.

Aethelstan (c895 – 939AD)First Monarch to visit North Devon?

King Aethelstan is one of the forgotten kings of English history. The grandson of Alfred the Great, who had fought off the Danes and consolidated the Saxon territories of south and west Britain, it fell to Aethelstan to rid the northern territories of the Vikings and the Danes, eventually uniting all the different territories to become the first King of All England.

As well as being a good soldier, he was, like his grandfather, very religious and scholarly, and was keen to see his new nation develop into a law-abiding and prosperous country.

To this end, he travelled around the new nation, meeting the local rulers to establish conditions for the growth of towns and cities. He went all over the country, including Exeter and Lifton in south Devon, and , according to the local historian Tristram Risdon he built a royal palace at Umberleigh in north Devon. A church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built next to it.

The palace and its land were held in desmesne, which means that it was built and maintained expressly for the use of the king, his family and household, and was the property of the king himself. However, over a period of time, the palace and then the church fell into a state of ruin, and all that remains is one wall of the church, now part of a building which houses agricultural implements.

Another way of stabilising the nation was by standardising the coinage, and this was done by granting certain towns the right to mint their own high-grade silver coins. Barnstaple was one such town, Exeter another, and this in turn led to increased prosperity in both. Although some Saxon coins have been found in the vicinity of Barnstaple, none bearing Aethelstan’s head have come to light.

For Devonians, or Dumnonians, as they would have been called then, Aethelstan’s unifying rule came at a price: he favoured Anglo-Saxon settlers, calling the original Celtic inhabitants ‘a filthy race’, some of whom were forced to flee over the border into Cornwall, which itself lost its independence from England during Aethelstan’s reign. The last king of Cornwall, Howel, died at this time.

Apparently Aethelstan was quite impressed by south Devon, but found north Devon ‘wild and barren’.

Much else could be written about Aethelstan: how he later defeated the resurgent Northumbrians in a great battle, how he is said to have cast his brother out to sea in a boat without oars in revenge for an attempt to blind him and render him useless as a king, but that is outside the remit of this article.

He died in 939, after a fourteen- year reign, unmarried, and was succeeded by his half-brother, Edmund.

As far as I am aware, and assuming Tristram Risdon was correct, Aethelstan was the only English monarch to visit north Devon for over a thousand years, until Queen Elizabeth II visited Barnstaple in 1956.

Chris Trigger.


Posted in 'Connections', History | Tagged | Leave a comment