Hungarians, not Bidefordians.

I was rather surprised to see the photograph (see above) on the first page of the July ‘Buzz’ labelled ‘An early Bideford Town Band’. The gentlemen shown went by the name of the ‘Hungarian Band’. They were a group of itinerant musicians who regularly turned up in Bideford during the Summer tourist season and played for anyone who would pay for them. The earliest reference I have is from May 1892 when the North Devon Journal carried a small mention –

Two months later they were playing at a fete held by St.Peter’s church at Chudleigh Fort and a month after this they provided the music at an outing to Westward Ho! for 70 inmates of the Bideford Workhouse. In September members of the Westleigh Sunday Schools marched through the village headed by the Band.

The next year they played for the Bideford Foresters’ and Oddfellows’ Friendly Societies at their fete held in the grounds of Porthill. Also in 1893 they appeared at the Regatta and also at the Bideford Horse Show though here they ‘augmented’ the Town Band –

This wasn’t one of their happiest events as during their return the carriage they were riding in crashed and both they and the Town Band members were thrown out, though luckily no-one was badly injured.

One notable occasion was when they appear to have been hired to play at the opening of the Bideford-Westward Ho! railway in May 1901 with at least three of their members, attired in military style uniforms being pictured in a photograph of the event –

The band re-appear year after year in the local newspapers though I haven’t seen any mention of them after 1910, which would seem to have been the date at which they either disbanded or removed to a new site.

Peter Christie.


Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago ; August 1915.

From August 16th there will be a reduction in Mail deliveries due to a shortage of staff, many men having enlisted. There will be only 3 deliveries per day rather than the usual 5, at 7.00 am, 1.50 pm and 6.00 pm.

Recognising that ladies clothing is becoming more practical the Gazette newspaper publishes a pattern for a skirt with pockets.

The estimated cost of extending the Isolation Hospital is now £8,200, almost double the original projection in 1913.

Three girls from Edgehill College, Beryl Adams, Phyllis Culverwell and Dorothy Randle, have passed the Matriculation examination of the University of London.

The continuing wet weather is badly affecting Bideford farmers as the corn is beginning to grow out.

An appeal is launched to raise £50.00 to buy a sterilizer which will provide 700 front line troops with pure water. The appeal is led by S. R. Chope, the town mayor.

A. E. Tupper of Market Place advertises the sale of double knitting wool in regulation khaki, navy, steel grey and natural for making winter comforts for the Army and Navy.

Bideford Rural District Council has been advised that from the end of August it is compulsory to notify births to the Medical Officer of Health within 36 hours. This rule had previously been waived for rural areas.

On the 15th July the National Registration Act was passed and on the 15th of this month everyone between 15 and 65 years old has to register at their residential location. Enumerators are being recruited in the Bideford area for this task. Once registered, an Identity card will be issued.

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


Bideford & District Community Archive is running a General Knowledge Quiz in Northam Hall, Fore Street, on Friday 4 September 2015 from 7pm. Entry is £5 per person, tables of a maximum of 6 people, food will be provided, BYO drink. Prizes! Contact 07980944146 to register a team.


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

‘The Book of Hartland’.

While Bideford Library has marched boldly into the 21st Century with its Wi-Fi and e-book service, we shouldn’t forget the wealth of historical material also kept here. We have a wonderful set of old photographs and also an impressive collection of dusty old books relating to the history of Bideford and Devon more widely. It’s a shame that these aren’t used more, so this is the first in a series of occasional articles drawing your attention to some of the books that we feel deserve greater appreciation.

The bulk of our collection was bequeathed to us by Richard Pearse Chope (1862-1938), a native of Hartland parish. He was a keen local historian and member of the Devonshire Association and regularly wrote articles for them and also the Hartland Chronicle. We have a run of the Chronicle from 1896-1931 and while they are fascinating to read, they are in poor condition so we have to be very careful when producing them. On his death, Chope left a nearly-completed book based on these articles so with some editing and minor additions, The Book of Hartland was published in 1940. The editor, Isobel Thornley from University College London, sadly also died shortly afterwards in an air raid so it was quite a troubled publication. Pictured is the title page and frontispiece showing the author looking very dapper with his neatly trimmed beard.

Despite being a wartime production, the quality of the book is really quite nice. The paper is strong and retains its crispness and it is bound in a dark blue cloth. I haven’t been able to find out how many were printed but it must have been very few, probably numbering in hundreds. An acknowledgment at the front of the book thanks the Devonshire Association and 172 subscribers who financially supported the printing. Despite all this, the book is not really valuable. At the time of writing, there is currently a nice copy listed on ebay for £26!

As the title suggests the book is concerned with the story of Hartland. It’s not a conventional history but a series of chapters, some of them only a few pages long, on a variety of topics from Saxon times until the 1800s. I’ll leave it to you to come and browse through the book, but my favourite chapter is a reproduction of the Borough Accounts from 1612-1807. This is a long list of payments made to travellers, soldiers, the poor and others. So for example in 1613 payments were made to watch Elloner Prust, presumably because there was no jail in Hartland. Also to provide ‘candells’ and bread while she was being detained and then to carry her to Exeter where the Assize Court would have been held. We wonder what Elloner did! There are still Prusts living in the area so maybe her descendants are among us. Elsewhere we read about ‘howses’ being burnt by ‘piratts’ and torn down by papists. In the seventeenth century most of the payments seem to have been made to Irish people. This was a time of famine in Ireland and also population being displaced by English Settlements. It seems that many of the poor Irish turned up in Devon where they received charity from the good people of Hartland.

Please come and look through the book for yourself. It can’t be taken out from the library, but we also have a facsimile edition published in 1995 which can be borrowed.

Matt Chamings, Bideford Library.


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

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – July.

July is the start of the Summer Holidays for the children. I have been working with many school groups, cooking specially developed recipes for children and parents to cook together. Here is one -a crab risotto that can be made with tinned crab. However, it is better with fresh crab.

If you would like to know about sustainable local crab and how to prepare it, please come along to the free Crab Sessions and Events as part of the Appledore Fish Summer School. This starts in July and carries on throughout August. (Please pick up a brochure or like us on facebook for more information.)

Crab Risotto with Smoked Fish- (recipe from SEAFISH :“fish is the dish”)

Ingredients. (Serves 4).

125g mixed crabmeat.

2 fillets smoked trout or mackerel, flaked.

3 cups of stock – fish, vegetable or chicken.

170g Arborio rice.

1 small onion.

50g frozen peas.

2 spring onions.

1tbsp olive oil.

Zest and juice of 1 lemon.

How to cook.

1. Heat the stock in a pan.

2. Dice the onion into small pieces.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the rice, stir and cook very gently for a further 2 minutes.

4. Then add the heated stock a cupful at a time, stirring constantly; wait until the stock is absorbed before adding more.

5. Once all the stock has been absorbed add the crab meat, peas and spring onions along with the lemon juice and zest, continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.

6. Optional: at this point the risotto can be enriched by adding butter and a spoonful of creme fraiche or yoghurt, along with grated Parmesan.

7.To serve, either stir the flaked smoked fish-either trout or mackerel through the risotto or scatter on top along with a little chopped herbs of your choice-Parsley, Dill, or Basil would be very good!

(If there is too much you can make miniature crab cakes with the mixture.)


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

One hundred years ago : July 1915.

At East–the-Water school during a recent health test it was found that 7 out of 10 children need to wear glasses. The School managers cannot supply them and if the parents cannot afford to buy them there is serious concern that either the Guardians (from the Workhouse) or the County Council will have to pay. It is also reported that there is an acute shortage of teachers.

Schools have been told not to allow any time off for harvest. 14 days extra had been suggested but farmers’ sons may stay at home to help if necessary.

A complaint has been made by Mr Cook, Headmaster of Gunstone School, of a woman coming there and making a disturbance because her son had been punished. It has happened several times and she has been warned that if this continues she will be prosecuted.

Properties for sale in Bideford include the following:

1, Bull Hill, formerly known as ‘The Cornish Arms’, comprising of a 60 foot frontage, large garden and considered suitable for a builder or painter;

2, Bull Hill, which has recently been re-drained.

22, Meddon Street, a ground floor shop and bakery complete with ovens and with 4 bedroom accommodation upstairs.

Following the auction, 22 Meddon Street was withdrawn at £300. The reserve had been set at £320 and the property was subsequently sold privately at an enhanced figure. The Cornish Arms was withdrawn at £145 and 2 Bull Hill at £50.

According to the Taw & Torridge Fisheries, substantial catches of salmon have been made during May and June. Some boats had 12 fish at a cast and often 5 or 6 were netted, the largest recorded being 32lbs. Little rod and line fishing was being done.

A severe storm swept across North Devon causing serious damage. Hailstones “as big as champagne corks” were collected and glass in conservatories was smashed. 84 chickens were killed and 3 cottages near Crediton were burned out by lightning. Locally the damage was less severe but crops, potatoes and soft fruit were destroyed.

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


Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Connections’ – Annie Coughlan (1872-1936).

This is the intriguing story of a Mrs. Annie Coughlan, who survived the ‘Titanic’ disaster and eventually came to live in Bideford, together with her sister, Phoebe.

She was the daughter of Alfred William Woodland (1838- 1899) and Sarah Saunders (1842- ?). The couple were married in Netherbury, Dorset in 1860, where Alfred worked as a butcher. They later moved to Guernsey, where he worked part-time as a butcher, but also ran his own pub, the ‘Half Moon’, in Les Caches Road, St. Martins.

Annie Woodland was born on Guernsey on 17 November 1872, had two older brothers and sister, and two younger brothers and sister. She married a soldier, called William Henry Martin, in Ireland in 1893. The marriage didn’t last, but she never divorced, and by 1912 was calling herself Mrs Coughlan, having presumably entered into a common-law relationship with a Mr Coughlan but unable to get divorced.. She gave her surname as Martin when registering for work, and is also described as the ‘widow of William Martin’ on her death certificate. Her legal husband died on 19 October 1918 in Wallasey, Cheshire of pneumonia and heart failure.

In the meantime, she had gained employment with the White Star Line as a stewardess on the ‘Olympic’, a sister ship of the ‘Titanic’. The ‘Olympic’ was, in fact, the same size as the ‘Titanic’, but the latter had greater tonnage because of its heavier interior fitments. Whilst employed in this capacity, she was believed to be on board when it collided with HMS ‘Hawke’ in the Solent in 1911. (The ‘Olympic’, unlike the ‘Titanic’, and its other sister ship the ‘Britannic’, survived to serve a full working life, and finished its active career in 1934. The ‘Britannic’ was sunk in the Mediterranean in 1915).

In 1912, Annie became a stewardess on the ‘Titanic’, giving her last address as Posbrook Road, Portsmouth, which was also the address of her younger sister, Phoebe. She was paid £3/10/00 a month, and embarked on the ‘Titanic’ on its fateful voyage at Southampton, when she was 39 years old. A few days later, as everyone knows, the ‘Titanic’ was hit by an iceberg, and sank within a few hours, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

At first, Mrs Coughlan, as she now liked to call herself, was thought to have perished, and appeared on the official list of the missing. She did, however, manage to get a place on one of the lifeboats (Boat 11), was picked up by the ‘Carpathia’, and disembarked in New York City on 12 April 1912.

Nothing is known of her whereabouts immediately after this. However, in the mid-to-late ’20s, she was known to have worked at The Royal Hotel in Bideford. It was also known that one of her sisters lived in Northam. This is assumed to be Phoebe Humby, her younger sister, with whom she was very close. After she left the Royal, she appears to have moved to Combe Martin, where she lived a quiet life, and where she died in 1936. A local newspaper at the time reported her death, mentioning that her husband (presumably Mr Coughlan), had drowned with the ‘Titanic’, adding that she had lived in Bideford, before moving to Combe Martin, and had a sister who still lived in Northam. Her sister moved to Barnstaple after this date, and died there in 1951.

If anything, the story of Phoebe is even more interesting. When she was a young girl of 14, she was convicted of attempting to murder her father. Her father, as mentioned above, brought up his family in Guernsey, where he worked as a butcher and a publican. At this time, he was separated from his wife, and he would often leave Phoebe alone at the bar, which she hated. Eventually, she struck up a relationship with a soldier, and they both decided to run away. However, her father found out about this before they had the opportunity to do so, and gave Phoebe a serious thrashing. In retaliation, Phoebe attempted to murder her father by poisoning his tea with oxalic acid. William felt nauseous after sipping it, and decided not to drink it. Apparently, there was enough oxalic acid in the tea to kill three or four people. Phoebe was sentenced to two years’ hard labour for her crime, and was widely reported in the national press at the time.

Phoebe died in Barnstaple in 1951.


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

‘Connections’ – Lt.-Col. John Mervin Cutcliffe, C.B. (1778- 1822).

The Cutcliffes were a well-to-do North Devon family, probably descended from the fifteenth century Thomas Cutliff of Hartland. They acquired the estate of Damage Barton, near Ilfracombe in about 1505, and later Lee Manor at Lee Bay, and, amongst other properties, eventually acquired Weach Barton in Westleigh, near Bideford.

Two of John’s ancestors were of note: his grandfather, Charles Cutcliffe, was one of the first pupils of Bideford Grammar School, under the tutelage of Rev. Zachariah Mudge, and went on to become a solicitor in Bideford, but, after his father’s death, decided to take up the life of a country squire; and Charles Newall Cutcliffe, who was also a Bideford solicitor and one of the founding partners of North Devon’s first bank, which opened in 1791, under the name of ‘Cutcliffe, Roche, Gribble and Co’, but more commonly known as ‘The Old Bank’.

John, however, chose the Army for his career. He was born at Alverdiscott, near Bideford, in 1778, but resided in his early years at the family estate at Westleigh.

He had a distinguished military career.

He entered the Army in 1800, as a Cornet in the 23rd Light Dragoons. In 1801, he was made a Lieutenant, and in the same year took part in the Egyptian Campaign, which successfully cut off Napoleon’s troops in Egypt. In 1804, he was made a Captain, and from 1809 onwards, he served in Portugal and Spain in the Peninsular War, and was present at the Battle of Talevera, near Madrid. This battle was both bloody and inconclusive. The 23rd suffered serious casualties: 207 killed, wounded and missing, and 105 captured, giving them a 70% casualty rate. He was promoted to Major in 1813, and he accompanied his regiment in the campaign on the eastern coast of Spain, before taking part in the operations in the Netherlands.

Here, he was present at the Battle of Quatre Bras on the 16 June 1815, the action at Genappe on the 17 June, and then on the 18 June, he commanded the 23rd Light Dragoons at the Battle of Waterloo.

According to one source, he was seriously wounded early on in the day, and on the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. A few days later, he was awarded the Turkish Order of the Crescent for his services in Egypt, and on the 22 June was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

The most interesting aspect of his story, however, is how he came to be in command of his regiment, the 23rd, at the Battle of Waterloo.

This was originally the post of the Earl of Portarlington. However, he decided to go into nearby Brussels on the eve of the battle for some entertainment, but on his way back, found himself caught up in the traffic of troops and supplies moving towards the battlefield, on the one hand, and civilians evacuating the scene to avoid the fighting, on the other. Heavy rain fell that night, only compounding the situation, and the whole area became a quagmire.

The Earl made it back in time to take part in the battle, joining the 18th Hussars, with whom he fought valiantly, but he was unable to rejoin his own regiment, so his second-in command, John Cutcliffe, had to take his place.

The Earl was ashamed of what had happened, but in spite of a letter of support and encouragement  and the gift of a snuff box from John Cutcliffe and his fellow officers in the 23rd, the Earl drank and drugged himself to an early death soon afterwards, having been reduced to living in a hovel in London.

At the end of the war, regiments were either reduced in size or disbanded, and the 23rd Light Dragoons was one of the first to be disbanded, perhaps because of the stigma attached to this incident.

In the meantime, John had married, in April 1808, the Honorable Charlotte Talbot, daughter of Baroness Talbot de Malahide, but died without issue in 1822 at Westleigh, where he is now buried.

The Battle of Waterloo ensured that no single power would dominate continental Europe militarily for many years to come, and led to a century of relative peace in Europe. This month ,of course, marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most significant in British history.


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

One hundred years ago : June 1915.

The Gazette was proud to announce that 2nd class Air Mechanic J E Prance of the Royal Flying Corps has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallant conduct and valuable service. He assisted in repairing an aeroplane, which had been forced to descend near the firing line whilst being heavily shelled. The repair was successful and the plane flew again the following morning. Newly promoted 1st class Air Mechanic Prance is the eldest of the four sons of Mr S. Prance, the Bideford Harbourmaster.

Following the death of Henry Ascott JP,the licensee of the New Inn, his executors have instructed J. J. Braddick to sell by auction a unique and extensive collection of carriages and stable paraphernalia from the ‘New Inn’ stables. Among the vehicles advertised are 6 varnished Brakes, two of them with detachable hoods, and the two largest able to carry over 20 passengers each. There are also 2 Landaus, 2 Victorias, a waggonette, 2 dog-carts, a colt-brake and various luggage carts, as well as an extensive range of harness and tack. Mr. Ascott had been the licensee from 1878 until 1914 when it was transferred to Richard G. Court. The manageress in 1915 was Miss Light.

Including the New Inn there are 5 Bideford hotels which continue to advertise in the Gazette each week –

The Royal Hotel is under new management. The manageress is Miss Constable and the telephone number is Bideford 5. A charge of 6d per person is made to visitors wishing to view the famous Kingsley Suite with its panelled rooms and unique ceilings. The charge does not apply to hotel residents and those taking meals in the hotel.

The Hillgarden Hotel was situated in Mill Street. The proprietor, Mr W G Pearce, advertises a photographic dark-room for the use of guests and boasts that it is the only hotel in Bideford with a Bowling Green attached.

The Proprietor of the Kingsley Hotel on the Quay was Mr George Radford, but no proprietor is given for Tanton’s Hotel.

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


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago : May 1915.

At the Annual meeting of the Bideford Workhouse Guardians it was announced that 26 meetings were held during the year and only 4 of the elected Guardians had attended all meetings. Some had only been present at 10 meetings and one person had only made one attendance. The War has had an effect on the number of tramps calling overnight, falling from 80 the previous year to 37 and the numbers of men fully employed or going off to fight has caused the casual numbers to fall from 2220 to 1548.

Over the Whitsun holidays, May 22/23rd, traffic has fallen by a half. No railway excursions were run and with over 3,000 men from North Devon off to war families stayed at home.

George Boyle, Motor Cycle and Bicycle agent of Allhalland Street and Queen Street, warns of a “dearth of bicycles” due to the scarcity of raw materials and shortages of manpower.

Recruiting at Bideford is quoted as being similar to or better than other towns. 540 men have enlisted and have gone to the Devonshire Territorials who are now garrisoned in India, or to the Devon Yeomanry who are defending the east coast against possible invasion. A recruiting march was organised around North Devon which stopped overnight in Bideford. 130 men were recruited into the 6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment but more are needed. Currently there are 370 men between the ages of 18 and 38, fit or unfit, in the town. There is reluctance to volunteer, many saying that they will “Go if conscripted but not voluntarily”. Tattersill’s, the grocers in the town, had the advertisement (as shown) during May which seemed to reflect this growing unease generated by the war.

In other news:

For Sale at Pines Lane Bideford, 16 acres of luxuriant grass and farming implements together with one Guernsey cow in full milk. Offered by the Executors of the late H Arscott JP.

The town water supply is giving concern again. Supply is dwindling and Bideford Urban District councillors are debating whether to turn off the supply overnight.

Farleigh’s Stores in High Street are selling “tempting little breakfast hams” at 7d a pound. Miss A Littlejohns of York Cottage will give lessons in the new method of “Touch” typing.

Bideford & District Community Archive, Windmill Lane, Northam. Tel: 01237 471714


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Time capsules and the Port Memorial.

Saturday April 11th saw an interesting event on the Quay when the restored Port Memorial and Ornamental Gardens were re- opened by the Mayor following refurbishment.

Councillor David Howell had also organised a ceremony with the Sea Scouts to bury a time capsule containing items from local groups and organisations within the town, (including 4 years worth of Bideford Buzz on a memory stick.) The plan is that the capsule will be excavated in 30 years time and will give a snapshot of life in Bideford in 2015.

Councillor Peter Christie described the history of the Port Memorial, which commemorates how Bideford regained its port status in 1925 after losing it in 1882. This was echoed in an historical description by the Town Crier.

A rather wonderful terracotta mural has been designed and built by ceramicist Maggie Curtis, and this now forms part of the memorial. Maggie writes ;-

‘Being asked to make commemorative plaques for a public memorial is an honour, but daunting, especially when my knowledge of the history of Bideford Port was sketchy at best. However the research was fascinating; I found out why Harry Juniper called Peter’s Marland clay “pipe clay”, why, when on holiday in Portugal in 1967 at the Cascois’ Fiesta, the prize for the Greasy pole was a salt cod, and why there are so many Americans visiting the North Devon Maritime Museum in Appledore.

I decided to show Bideford’s mercantile shipping history by depicting two illustrated trade maps. Bideford’s shipbuilding industry played a crucial part in enabling Bideford’s merchants to trade, so I researched and found named Bideford-built ships throughout the history of both Tobacco and Salt Cod  and used them to represent the development of each trade and their subsidiary cargos.’

Interestingly Bideford has two other time capsules in place. Just at the entrance to Victoria Park is the Millennium Time Capsule, buried there in 2000. Another little book, ‘Secrets of Bideford’ (available at Bideford Library) describes the burying of art works in the fabric of the Quay when the flood defence scheme was completed.

Future generations of Bidefordians will have plenty of archive material to peruse!



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

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery : May.

There are two Bank Holidays in May and lots of opportunity to eat local sustainable fish and shellfish. The long days enable the fishermen to start catching more regularly and the shellfish pots are all out now, enabling a wide variety of fish to be be available.Here is a simple fish curry that is quick to make and you can eat in a bowl outside or feed a a crowd if you have visitors for the holidays.

Thai Fish Curry


2-3 tbsp red Thai curry paste.

2.5 cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped.

50g cashew nuts.

400ml can coconut milk.

3 carrots cut in batons.

1 broccoli head, cut into florets.

20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped.

2 handfuls of spinach leaves and /or ransons (wild garlic), chopped.

250g White fish skinned and cubed –Hake or Pollack is a good local choice.


1. Put curry paste into a large pan, add the ginger and nuts and stir fry over a medium heat for 2-3mins.

2. Add coconut milk, cover and bring to the boil. Stir in the carrots, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5mins. Add the broccoli florets and simmer for a further 5 mins.

3. Cut the fillets of fish into cubes, add and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender-no more than 10 mins.

4.Take off heat and stir in the coriander and lime zest into the pan with the spinach or wild garlic.Squeeze the lime juice over and serve with boiled rice and garnishwith coriander leaves -Simple!!

There are more Summer Festivals with a Fish/Water theme. The Appledore Fish Summer School group has a stall at the Northam May Fair and the Bradworthy Arts Festival. Please come and find out about the Events and buy some fish for tea!

Felicity Sylvester.


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

‘Connections’ – Herbert Ashley Asquith.

A Ship Sails up to Bideford

A ship sails up to Bideford,

Upon a western breeze,

Mast by mast, sail over sail,

She rises from the seas,

And sights the hills of Devon

And the misty English trees.

She comes from Eastern islands,

The sun is in her hold,

She bears the fruit of Jaffa,

Dates, oranges and gold;

She brings the silk of China,

And bales of Persian dyes,

And birds with sparkling feathers

And snakes with diamond eyes.

She’s gliding in the starlight

As white as any gull,

The east is gliding with her

In the shadows of her hull.

A ship sails up to Bideford,

Upon a western breeze,

With fruits of Eastern summers

She rises from the seas,

And sights the hills of Devon

And the misty English trees.

I am a native Bidefordian, and have to confess that I only came across this poem by Herbert Ashley Asquith by accident, whilst researching something completely different.

Its author was the second son of the Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith (1908-1916), with whom he was often confused, and about whom not an awful lot has been written. Born in 1881, he was nicknamed ‘Beb’ by his family. He was educated at Winchester College with his brothers, then went to Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Union, and afterwards became a lawyer, novelist and poet. In 1910, he married Cynthia Charteris, who was herself a writer. He served as Captain with the Royal Artillery in France during the First World War; several of his best poems are about the soldiers who died.

He would have had plenty of opportunity to visit Bideford during his life. His father often accepted invitations by Mrs Hamlyn to house-parties held at Clovelly Court whilst he was Prime Minister. At a later date, his younger brother, Arthur, married the inheratrix to the Clovelly Court estate, (Mrs Hamlyn having died with no direct heirs), and to which he retired at the end of the war, after a distinguished war career, and where he lived until his death in 1939.

His older brother, Raymond, was sadly killed during the First World War.

Herbert Ashley died in 1947. His father, the Prime Minister, was later made the 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith.

It is a rather fine poem; (there are others to be found on the internet.) The North Devon folk group ‘Hearts of Oak’, sadly now defunct, set it to music, where it gained a regular place in their repertoire, and can still be found on YouTube.

Chris Trigger

Part of our Connections Series.


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

‘Connections’ – Thomas Arthur, VC.

Thomas Arthur VC (1835- 1902)

Thomas Arthur was one of only four North Devonians who have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Born in Abbotsham, near Bideford in 1835, to Thomas and Jane Arthur, he appears to have worked as a farm labourer for a short while for a John Beckalick at Parkham, before joining the Army at the age of 18 at Devonport for service in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. He was sent to the Royal Artillery Depot at Woolwich, where he earned the princely sum of one and three pence per day (the equivalent of 6p today) as a gunner. In November 1854, he embarked on HMS ‘Niagara’ from Liverpool, bound for the war in the Crimea.

Conditions in the Crimea were atrocious, and more men were dying from infection, fever, poor sanitation and hunger, than from deaths and injuries sustained in battle, and it was to rectify this situation that Florence Nightingale was famously sent, with 38 nurses to help her. Though she was largely based in Scutari Barracks, she did make two visits to Balaclava, where at one timeThomas was briefly hospitalised.

He was eventually stationed at Sebastopol, where the Russians were dug in at the Quarries.

The 7th Fusiliers attacked the position, and gained it, but Thomas could see that that the infantrymen were running out of ammunition. When night fell he ran, on several occasions under heavy enemy fire, with barrels of ammunition on his head, and at obvious great danger to himself,to keep the infantry supplied. He was said to have thrown the ammunition down at the soldiers’ feet, shouting “Here you are, my lads, fire away!”.

The Quarries were little more than holes in the ground in front of a fort called the Redan, the capture of which was the object of the exercise, and against which the Commander-in Chief, Lord Raglan, threw about a thousand troops, but without success. Only half survived the attack.

It was at this point that Thomas volunteered to form and lead a spiking party, to disable and sabotage the enemy guns, an extremely hazardous operation.

On other occasions, he was seen, lifting up and bringing back wounded officers and men to the trenches.

For all these acts of bravery, he was later awarded the Victoria Cross.

He left the Crimea with his Battery in February 1856, and arrived back in Woolwich in the middle of March.

Uncharacteristically, he took two separate days off without leave soon after his return. He was court-martialled and ended up serving a twenty-eight day sentence in Weedon Military Prison in Northamptonshire.

Fortunately, he was released nine days before he was ordered to march to Hyde Park, where, together with 62 other Crimean War heroes, he was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria .

The Victoria Cross was specifically created at this time to commemorate the deeds of those servicemen who had acted with valour under enemy fire, above and beyond the call of duty, and this was the first investiture of its kind. The medals were awarded in strict order of seniority of service and rank. Thomas was the twenty-third, being one of five Royal Artillery members – four officers, and Thomas.

A few days afterwards, on 6 July, he got married to Ann Goddard, from Hornstead in Berkshire.

They had eight children in all, his sixth child, Sophia being born in Bideford in 1876. This was after his retirement from the army in 1874.

He finally settled in Savernake, Wiltshire, where he died, of unknown causes, on 2 March 1902, aged 67. He is buried here in Cadley Churchyard

Proud of Thomas’s exploits and medal, many of his descendants have included the name Arthur in their sons’ name, one relative even calling her daughter Mabel Arthur!

It is well-known that Victoria Crosses are made from the gunmetal of one of two Chinese cannons, used by the Russians and captured by the British at the siege of Sebastopol.

Thomas’s own medal was purchased on 19 July 1902 for £47, purchased again at a later date by the Royal Artillery Institute, and is now displayed at the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich, for all to see.

Chris Trigger.


Additionally, from May’s ‘Buzz Word’

Thomas Arthur

Following up the extremely interesting piece by Chris Trigger about Thomas Arthur, readers might be interested to learn a bit more about the Abbotsham connection.Thomas was baptised in St Helen’s Church in the village in August 1836. His two elder sisters, Catherine and Fanny had been baptised there in March 1833, but there is no record of his parents, Jane and Thomas, having been married there, so it is probable that they moved to Abbotsham from elsewhere. Thomas’ father appears to have died before his son was born as the Parish register reords the funeral of a Thomas Arthur (s) in 1836. (all the Parish records show the family as Arthurs.) It is possible that Thomas’ mother married again later in life as a Jane Arthur (s) married a John Dinford at St. Helen’s in November 1847.

In St Helen’s Churchyard, by the foot of the cross commemorating the war dead is a small plaque dedicated to Thomas Arthur as one of the first soldiers ever to receive a VC for his valour in war. There is also a small housing development named ‘Arthur’s Lea’ in his momory.

Martin Wilson. (Abbotsham Community Archive).


Posted in 'Connections', History, Local People | Tagged , | 1 Comment

One hundred years ago : April 1915.

Peugeot cars have now arrived in Bideford. The French manufacturer has appointed Heard Bros. as their only dealer across the entire Devon and Cornwall area. Prices range from £125 for a baby 2 seater up to £875 for a 40/50 hp car fitted with a “Suffolk” 5 seater touring body complete with all accessories. For further details telephone Bideford 70.

An exciting new crop on the gardening page in the 6th April edition: ‘Readers are encouraged to consider planting “a garden variety of Indian corn or maize” known as sugar or sweet corn. It is quite extensively grown and eaten as a vegetable in Canada and the United States. Several local seedsmen are selling seeds of improved acclimatisation and now is the time to sow’.

Sale of Lloyds Bank premises Bideford: Messrs R Dymond & Sons are offering for sale by auction on the 8th April the freehold property situated on the corner of High Street and Allhalland Street, formerly the Devon & Cornwall Bank. The Auction took place at Tantons Hotel and in the following week’s edition of the Gazette the following report was printed. “Bidding was started by G. Boyle at £1000 and W. H. Chope bettered this by £50, and then by £50 bids each bidder bettered their offer up to a figure of £1700. Then Mr W. H. Chope offered £1725, at which point the property was withdrawn and made open to Private Treaty sale by Messrs Hole, Seldon & Ward solicitors for the vendors”.

Local residents are beginning to respond to the opening of Commons Auxiliary Hospital to receive wounded soldiers with gifts and donations including vegetables, shirts, pillows, eggs, cigarettes, cream, carpet slippers, boots, jig saw puzzles, looking glasses, jam and hymn books. Rev Dimond gave sweets.

Bideford farmers and gardeners have been asked to contribute to a national egg collection scheme to aid wounded soldiers. Across the country 130,000 eggs have been collected weekly but the organisers hope to increase this to 200,000 and Bideford is expected to play its part. Collection points have been set up at the Butchers Market at the top of Grenville Street and at the NFU offices in the High Street.

In letters to the Editor in the 13th April edition a letter from Mr. J. M. Metherell, chairman of the Bideford branch of the Devon Farmers Union, “earnestly request the farmers of Bideford District to make a generous response to the appeal.” Eggs will go to the base hospital in France for men who are returning from the Front Line.


Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery : April.

Seafood Savoury Pancakes.

Here is a lovely recipe from the Marshford Cookbook using local ingredients. I have used locally caught white fish; Pollack, Whiting or Ling fillets are all available this Easter.(with thanks to Marshford for allowing use of this recipe.)

To make pancakes-

Ingredients- 110g plain flour and a pinch of salt,1 large egg,

100ml milk and100 ml cold water.

Mix the salt and flour in a large bowl, beat the egg lightly and add half the milk/water. Beat until well mixed and add the rest of the milk /water. Stir to mix.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and add half the liquid. Beat lightly and then pour the rest of the liquid in, slowly beating as you go until the mixture is well incorporated. Set aside in a cold place for 2 hours.

To cook pancakes

Use a 7in pan. Measure 2 Tablespoons of batter into a cup and when the pan is hot, pour the batter into the middle ,swirl round to coat the pan thinly.

Turn down the heat to medium and cook the pancake ; it should only take a minute, and then turn over or toss and cook on the other side.

Have 2 plates ready and place the cooked pancakes on the plate. Keep warm with a second inverted plate on top.

These are now ready for the fish filling.

Ingredients for filling-

150ml milk.

160g of Pollack, Whiting or Ling fillets.

80gms of prawns or sliced scallops or mussel meat.

3 black peppercorns,1bay leaf and a few parsley sprigs.

15g butter and 15g flour.

Salt and pepper to taste.

To finish-

15gm melted butter and a little grated cheese-Cornish yarg or mild Parkham cheddar

To make the filling

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and add the flour, stirring and cooking to form a roux. Add the liquid a little at a time, stirring continuously over a low heat until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and carefully fold in the cubed filleted fish and sliced scallops /mussels.

Heat the grill.

Divide the mixture between the pancakes and roll up. Place in a greased heatproof dish and brush each pancake with the melted butter, sprinkle the grated cheese over, and heat under the grill until golden. Garnish the reserved parsley leaves.

And serve.


Please let me know which fish and /or cheese you find most tasty for this dish.

For more information and Easter recipes visit or for more Organic food recipes visit , or visit the shop at Churchill Way, Northam. EX39 1NS. Marshford Organic Foods now has a range of local-caught fish.


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