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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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


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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.


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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!


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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.


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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.


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‘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.


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