Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – April.


Mussels in Beer Broth with Cheesy Rarebits.


For the Mussel broth –

2 Spring onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves-chopped

1 kg(2lb) fresh mussels, cleaned and beards removed

1 tbsp. cream

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

For the Rarebits-

50g(2oz) butter

1 leek, trimmed and finely sliced

25g(1oz) flour

1x330ml bottle beer- Clearwater Brewery beers are good!

125g(4oz) Cheddar grated

1or 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

8 slices of Toast – sourdough, granary or white.


1. For the rarebits – melt the butter in a pan. Add the leeks and cook until softened. Stir in the flour, cook for 2mins.then stir in 125ml(4floz) beer, the cheese and 1 tbsp. mustard. Season with a little black pepper. Let stand to combine.

2. In a lidded pan melt the remaining butter. Add the shallots and fry for 5 mins. or until golden. Add the garlic and the remaining beer, leave to bubble for 2-3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, spread the rarebit mixture on the bread. Toast under a hot grill until melted and golden.

4. Tip in the mussels, then cover the pan with the lid and steam for 4-5 minutes, until opened (discard any that remain closed). Transfer the mussels to a serving bowl, leaving the liquor in the pan. Whisk the cream parsley with the remaining mustard into the mussel liquor. Season. Pour over the mussels.

Serve with the rarebits. Good to share with family and friends.



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One hundred years ago – April 1916.


Mr A.W. Cock has auctioned three freehold properties in the town. These were 7 Elm Grove, 13 Vinegar Hill and a dwelling house and stables at 1 Bull Hill, the latter premises formerly known as ‘The Cornish Arms’.

Bideford Borough Council holds tribunals every week, sitting in the Town Hall, to hear and determine applications for exemption from military service. Herniman Prust Woodyard, 32 years old and a proprietor of a grocery and provisions merchant’s business, was granted exemption as long as he remains in his present occupation. He has been left single-handed, as both his assistants have joined up and his 5 brothers are already serving in the Army.

Albert Henry Prance, a Fish and chip shop proprietor, claimed that his wife could not carry on the business which would have to be closed if he went to war. It was obvious that such a business was a great advantage to the people living in the neighbourhood. He was granted a one month exemption.

Any ladies who are interested in Motor Cycling should inspect the latest model, the “Royal Ruby” 2-stroke motorcycle, perfect in every detail, now on show at Messrs .George Boyle, 1, Allhalland Street.

At a meeting of Bideford Urban District Council it was decided that the names of those who had volunteered for the war should be displayed on boards fixed on to the Market walls.

The Taw & Torridge Fishery Conservators heard a status report from the Superintendent Water Bailiff. Large numbers of salmon have passed through the town and on to the upper waters of both rivers. Salmon fishing was very good and a good number of fish have been taken. The weather has been too cold for trout fishing.

Henry Hopkins of Bideford was summoned for using headlights on his motorcycle at 10.10pm on 29th March. He pleaded guilty through ignorance. Superintendent Hulland said that under current wartime regulations, no headlights were to be carried within six miles of the sea or estuary. Mr Hopkins was fined 2/6d.

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.


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Home Fire Safety check.

DS2016-1807 Blatchcombe Parish Magazine PosterDS2016-1807 Blatchcombe Parish Magazine Editorialwww.dsfire.gov.uk


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Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery : March.

Tray- bake Skate Wing.

Skate has a wonderful sweet tasting flesh with a subtle flavour. The bones are flat and glutinous and the flesh should be scraped from the bones from the thick skate1side down to the thin edge. Some people eat all the flat cartilage bones! A good dish to share with friends for Easter or a simple Good Friday lunch.

Skate is on the ‘red’ MSC (Marine Conservation Society) sustainable fish list. However, there are several types of skate, and on the whole the Skate wings bought from local sources will be the sustainable type.


Ingredients -serves 2 (add extra small /medium skate wings for extra servings.)

2 medium size skate wings.

Splash of olive oil.

Salt and pepper.

19 baby plum tomatoes.

2 tablespoons mini capers or chopped capers.

2 tablespoon chopped parsley.

2 tablespoon chopped oregano.

1 whole bulb of garlic.


1. Cut the tomatoes in half and sprinkle over the fish, adding the capers and herbs.

2. Brush the bulb of garlic with the side of the knife, leaving the skin on.

3. Add the fish, with a good splash of white wine and a little more olive oil.

4. Bake in the oven at 180 /gas mark 6, or in the centre of a solid fuel cooker, for 20 mins.

5. The flesh will come away from the central cartilage when the fish is cooked.

6. Serve with crusty bread.

The Appledore Fish Summer School 2016 programme will be promoting local skate and have sessions on rays, skate and sharks – cookery demonstrations, tasting, and talks. We are still looking for ideas and volunteers -so please contact me if you are interested – Felicity Sylvester on brilliantfishsw@gmail.co.uk

-Thanks, Felicity.


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One hundred years ago – March 1916.


The death has occurred in his 90th year of the Reverend Hudson G. Heaven, whose family own Lundy Island. He had been parish priest on Lundy for 57 years. The cortege bearing his coffin embarked from Bideford on Captain Dark’s skiff “The Gannet” for interment in the family vault on the island. He has been succeeded on the island by his son, Mr Walter Heaven.

At this time of the year the ‘Gazette’ is full of seed merchant adverts, one local supplier being Messrs. Yeo & Son. Every kind of seed imaginable is on offer. On receipt of a Postal Order for 1/6d, the gardener will receive 10 packets of assorted vegetable seeds and 4 of flower seeds. As a bonus, they will also receive a packet of “Quite Content Peas”, whose pods reach an extraordinary 7” in length, and one of “Red Giant Beans” which can grow pods 15-16” long.

At Tanton’s Hotel, Mr. A.W. Cock auctioned a shop and premises in Bideford High Street, immediately adjoining the Post Office, together with 3 cottages in the rear giving a back entrance from Lower Gunstone. Bidding started at £1000, but the property was withdrawn at £1500.

In financial news, 4 original shares of £10 each for the Bideford Gas Company were purchased by Mr. J. Squire, at £24 each. He also purchased 30 £5 shares in the Bideford Public Rooms Company Ltd at £2.12.6d each.

At the Bideford Town Council meeting the Lighting Committee reported that they had arranged to turn off a further 34 street lamps. In all 96 lamps have now been turned off, which comprises about half of the public lamps in the town. Most of the grumbling had ceased and it was thought they might be able to put out a few more lamps.

Mr. H.R. Bazeley questioned why a great deal of waste paper was found in the scavengers’ carts. He felt it would be a benefit to the town if old paper could be repulped. At present much of it is burned on the river bank.

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.


Also from the archives (1932, not from a Century ago) – thanks Peter Christie for this:-

Bd 1932 Library copy


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Memories of Bideford Shipyard.

Many thanks to Mr. Freddie Palmer, who provided these photos. We’re sure that they’ll be of interest to many people.

Buzz” is dating the photos of the trawler “Galatea” as 1975, since records show that as date of launch.  Names supplied by Freddie Palmer & Kenny Davis. 

Any further photos for publication would be welcomed, as would memories of the Shipyard’s history.



Above,  L-R : Phil Pester, Harold Braund, Bill ‘Bimbo’ Hocking, Fred Palmer, Matty Blackmore.



Above,    L-R on deck : Alan Tuplin, ?, Phil Pester.

on slipway : ?, Colin Pennington, ?.




Above,   Alan Walker.


L-R : Des Roberts, Raymond Garrard, Matty Blackmore.


Buzz” shipping correspondent Norman Hardaker has supplied a schedule of vessels launched at Bideford Shipbuilders between 1966 & 1975 (listed as Name, category, & displacement).


Isle of Gigha / Sound of Gigha – ferry, 60.35 tons.


Fregata – fishing, 44.8 tons.

Sagitario – fishing, 44.8 tons.

Ibis – fishing, 44.8 tons.


Nocella – fishing, 22.17 tons.

Hasa Hasa – fishing, 40 tons.

Joanna C – fishing, 25 tons.


Don Bosco – fishing, 24.9 tons.

Polo – barge, 41.22 tons.


Our Tracey – fishing, 25.11 tons.

Barbarella – fishing, 25.11 tons.

WB.01 – WB.05 (5 vessels) – work boats, 25 tons.


Gull – pilot, 22 tons.

Miss Anna – tug, 83.21 tons.


Miss Debbie – tug, 83.21 tons.

Guardwell – customs, 30 tons.

Tri Star – passenger, 42.8 tons.

Polo II – hopper barge, 58.29 tons.


Peter David – passenger, 17.11 tons.

Golden Mariana – passenger, 40 tons.


Grima – ferry, 147.76 tons.

RNLB City of Bristol – lifeboat, 90 tons.

Langdale – trawler, 102.5 tons.

Majestic – trawler, 102.5 tons.

Solent Scene – passenger, 50 tons.


Vision – trawler, 102.5 tons.

Galatea – trawler, 102.5 tons.



For photos and information on some of the vessels on the above list that are still in use, link here. (By kind permission of ShipPhotos).



Happy Hours at the Bideford Ship Yard.

If I ever had the joy of ‘happy hour’ in my long working life, it has to be the two and a half years at Bideford Ship Yard, between coming home from the Dark Continent in 1972 until August 1974 when again returning to the African Veld.

At the Bideford Yard in those far off days we didn’t get as much on the hour compared to the big yard a mile down river, but we had plenty of daily laughs and a pleasure to go to work.

Looking at the front cover of the February edition showing photos of the former yard sent in by Fred Palmer (well done that man) – and yes, I do recognise most in the photo – Harold Braund, Bimbo Hocking, Fred Palmer, Mattie Blackmoor, can be seen standing on the nearby platform; in the second photo I can recognise Alan Tuplin, and further in the middle of three Bogey Clover, Colin Elliot and Steve Wicks.

There was one old hand in the ‘afternoon’ of his working life (Fred will remember him), a shipwright in his younger days serving King and country, who saw action at the River Plate aboard HMS Exeter . He had a number of repetitive catch phrases – ‘it can’t go on like this’, ‘the money’s run out,’ ‘where is it all going to end.? ‘ Then there was another shipwright of the same age who would more often than not break into song and sing his praises to the Lord for all the yard to hear :- ‘ it is not night while they are near.’

There was one piece of satire written on the toilet house wall – ‘ thank goodness for the raft, just to say we have launched something.’

One shipwright went by the name of ‘give us a fag’ ; as for me I was known at times as the ‘snorter king.’

Happy days,happy memories.

Kenny Davis – Blacksmith. Retired.


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Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – February.

fish ad

Cod Caramba.

So winter is here, the cold weather has finally started, and this colourful Mexican standard fish recipe is simple to prepare and is a lovely warming family supper dish.

Cod is now available and is often on special offer as it has bigger quota and is no longer on a sustainable fish-to-be-avoided list. Pollack ,Ling or Coley will be just as good and still cheaper!


450g/1lb cod fillets or Pollack, coley or any inexpensive white fish fillets.

225g/8oz smoked cod or any smoked white fish-pollack, haddock or whiting.

300g fish or vegetable stock.

50g/2oz butter.

1 onion sliced.

2 garlic cloves-crushed.

1 green +1red pepper-diced.

2 courgettes -diced.

115g/40z sweetcorn-canned or frozen.

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped.

Juice of 1 lime.

Tabasco sauce.

Salt, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper.

For topping-

75g tortilla chips and 50g/2oz grated cheddar cheese

Coriander sprigs and lime wedges to serve.


1, Lay the fish in a shallow pan and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 8-10mins only and then turn off the heat and leave to cool. Then drain and remove skin and separate the flesh into large flakes. Keep hot.

2, Fry the onion and garlic in the butter, cook gently until soft and add peppers and cook for 2mins. Stir in the courgettes and cook for 3 mins more.

3.Stir in the corn and tomatoes, add lime juice and tabasco to taste. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Cook for 2mins to heat through the corn and tomatoes, then stir in the fish and transfer to a heatproof dish-suitable to heat under the grill.

4, Preheat the grill. Make the topping by crushing the tortilla chips then mixing with grated cheese. Add cayenne pepper to taste and sprinkle over the fish mixture.

5. Place under the grill until the topping is crisp and brown. Garnish with coriander sprigs and lime wedges.

Pollack wrapped in Parma Ham.

If you have lots of Serrano Ham from that extra special deal this is a fantastic quick and easy dish, or you can make small wraps on cocktail sticks to eat with drinks – lovely. See recipe on www.brilliantfishonline.co.uk/recipes.

During 2016, I will also be reviewing fish dishes in a local restaurant, pub, fish and chips shop or street food outlet, and I will share a good recipe from these visits.

As I do not want to dine alone please could you send name and contact details in to the editor if you would like to join me – the name will be drawn from a hat. (We will have to pay for the meals ourselves). Thank you.

Felicity Sylvester.


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One hundred years ago – February 1916.

At a meeting of the War Agricultural Committee to discuss the shortage of labour, Mr W. T. Braddick, the Honourable Clerk, said “he was confident that despite the prejudice of many farmers, they would have to utilise women’s labour to make up for the shortage.”

Last week the Bideford War Supply Depot sent a bale of 100 pairs of socks, 250 pairs of mittens and 150 mufflers to the Military Forwarding Offices at Le Havre. This week the Depot will be forwarding a bale of felt slippers to St David’s Military Hospital in Malta.

William Hatch, a rabbit trapper, was summoned for setting 120 spring traps without the permission of the landowner, Mr Norman. Mr Hatch was fined 15 shillings.

Lionel E Davis, of Mill Street, has joined His Majesty’s Forces and has disposed of his dental practice to Mr W G Friendship.

Walter J Slee, auctioneer, reports that at the cattle market monthly auction, 100 choice bullocks were sold at good prices; 120 fat sheep were also snapped up. There was a good attendance of dealers.

Privately run Bideford Hospital, at its 66th Annual General Meeting, has elected retired Brigadier General Fanshaw as its new Chairman, to replace Mr F A Searle. Medical reports stated that 272 inpatients had been treated during the last year, 143 outpatients and 197 minor casualties. 288 operations had been carried out. Support for the hospital has continued despite the war and it is seen as an essential service for the Bideford community.

Owing to the recent spell of damp and mild weather, all vegetation is remarkably forward in North Devon. Trees are budding freely and in some cases blossom is appearing on pear trees.



The Archive started work as a registered charity in 1985 and over 30 years has amassed a fascinating collection of photographs and documents that tell the exciting story of our local past. Some parts of the story are told in great detail; for example, copies of The Gazette newspaper dated from 1856 to the present day give us word by word accounts of shipping disasters, murder investigations, accident inquests, festivals and civic celebrations. We have detailed accounts of badger, fox and otter hunts where the names of the dogs highlight the pace of the game.

Likewise, we have hundreds of photographs and memorabilia donated by families who wish us to be the custodian of their family history. Sadly a number of the photographs are only partly useful to us because the all-important detail, such as date, location and persons present, are missing. Perhaps this is a lesson to us all. To preserve our family histories for future generations we should ensure that relevant information is attached.

In addition we have many other local collections and sources of information:-

  • 280 Ordnance Survey maps of North Devon area dating back to 1884

  • Birth Marriage & Death announcements 1856-1978

  • Prior to 1837 Birth Marriage & Death information was only recorded by the clergy and we have copies of the Bishops Transcripts for the North Devon area.

  • A complete Census set from 1841 for all of Devon on microfiche with the four local areas transcribed.

  • Churchyard plans and memorial inscriptions for St Mary’s Appledore; St Margaret’s Northam; East the Water Bideford & Old Town Cemetery Bideford.

  • Alphabetic lists of WW1 & WW2 casualties, War memorials & Rolls of honour.

  • Over 250 recorded conversations with local prominent people. Some unique insights are revealed!

  • Bideford Buzz back issues, Hartland Times and other village magazines.

  • Original planning applications and drawings for the rural districts of Holsworthy and Torrington as well as Bideford and Torridge back to early 1900s.

The Archive is open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings between 9.30 and 1.00 at the Council Offices in Windmill Lane, Northam, (Tel: 01237 471714) and a warm welcome is extended to anyone who wishes to visit us. It is run by volunteers who may be able to help with family history research or local information. Come and see us sometime!!


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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.


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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.



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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.


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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.


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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!


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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.


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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).


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