Benjamin Donn, 1729 – 98.

The man who put Bideford on the map.

During the eighteenth century, business in all the ports on the Atlantic coast of England was booming. This was due to increasing trade, both imports and exports, with the American colonies. There was thus a corresponding need for seamen versed in the maritime arts and related subjects, a need which was not met by a grammar school education. So George Donn, a native of Bideford and Benjamin’s father, set up a Mathematical School in Bridge Street, in which were taught all the skills needed for navigation, commerce, industry, surveying and, indeed, astronomy. George and his elder son Abraham taught there to begin with, but when Abraham died in 1746 his younger brother Benjamin took over from him. As well as teaching, he wrote many articles for magazines, mainly on mathematical and astronomical subjects (including one on eclipses that could be seen from Bideford).

It was at about this time that he embarked upon his most ambitious project. The Society of Arts announced that it would award a prize of £100 to anyone who could produce an accurate one inch to one mile map of an English county. Donn wrote to the Secretary, informing him of his intention to undertake ‘ the Surveying and Making (of) a New and Accurate Map of the County of Devon’. He managed to complete this task, but it cost him more than £1,900 to do so. He won the prize but still ended up considerably out of pocket, in spite of having 526 subscribers to the map.

The map itself contains many features which would later be incorporated in Ordnance Survey maps, but was unusual in that one of its main features was the inclusion of all the manor houses in Devon, of which there were 650, together with the names of the people who lived in them at the time.

In 1759, he married a Bidefordian, Mary Anne, daughter of Henry Wilcocks.

In 1764, Donn moved to Bristol, where he became Librarian to the City Library. The duties were light, so he was able to continue his cartographic activities, making a detailed map of Bristol and its environs, amongst other projects. He tried to set up another mathematical academy there, but was unsuccessful, so he set up his own academy at The Park, near St. Michael’s Church. When that failed, he went to live in Kingston, near Taunton.

In 1796, until he died, he was master of mechanics to King George III. He was held in high regard by his contemporaries, which included such figures as Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Josiah Wedgwood.

As well as being a cartographer and mathematician he made mathematical instruments, which he used in the many peripatetic lectures he gave.

He died impecuniously in 1798, leaving a widow, and a son, also Benjamin Donn, who became a priest in the Church of England, and minor cartographer.



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

Check the bathing water quality between May & September.

Regular testing of water quality by the Environment Agency is now underway at 150 designated bathing sites across Devon and Cornwall.

High standards of water quality at swimming locations are important for people’s enjoyment of beaches and other beauty spots in England. Throughout the season, which runs from 15 May until the end of September, the Environment Agency will regularly monitor water quality at bathing waters across the country to give bathers the up-to-date information they need.

The monitoring also means the Environment Agency can assess whether extra action is needed to address water quality at these sites. Dips in water quality can occur due to factors like rainfall, wind and high tides.

Information on all 424 designated bathing water sites nationally and any forecasted drops in water quality will be published on the Swimfo: Find a Bathing Water website. This provides immediate access to information on every bathing water in England, including coastal locations, inland lakes and the newly designated areas (Firestone Bay in Plymouth, for example).

The Environment Agency works with local authorities to ensure signs at these swimming locations to inform bathers about any possible dips in water quality.


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

Explorer app for visitors to Northern Devon.

North Devon UNESCO Biosphere launches sustainable tourism App for visitors to Northern Devon!

North Devon UNESCO Biosphere have launched a new web app aimed at visitors and residents, to highlight the fantastic experiences available in the area, while helping to reduce pressure on the popular hotspots.

The North Devon Explorer web app will provide real time information on traffic congestion and weather and aims to help people find the hidden gems in and around our biosphere, spreading the visitor load and economy.

The North Devon Explorer app will allow visitors to:

  • Discover the range of activities our biosphere has to offer, including natural and cultural highlights; walking and cycle trails; gardens, nature reserves and wildlife; museums and stately homes.

  • Find their nearest visitor information centre

  • View current weather information at their chosen destination

  • Check tide times at coastal points

  • Locate EV charging points across the area

  • Identify traffic congestion

  • View a range of hospitality related businesses certified by the North Devon Biosphere Business Partner Eco-Accreditation Scheme.

  • The App also provides visitors with a guide through the towns across the area through reciprocal links to the dscvr app, launched by Torridge and North Devon Councils last year.

    Andy Bell, Biosphere Service Coordinator, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere says:

    We have designed this app to help give visitors to northern Devon access to a range of experiences that will add to the quality of their stay in our area. With up-to-date weather and traffic information, they can avoid busy hot spots and get more enjoyment by connecting with our wonderful environment and culture

    The project was developed and part funded under the Interreg Channel programme through the BioCultural Heritage Tourism Project co-ordinated by North Devon UNESCO Biosphere. This project’s aims were to demonstrate how tourism growth can be compatible with regions of very high environmental quality.

After months of work behind the scenes getting this app created, tested and refined, I’m delighted that we are now able to launch North Devon Explorer, just in time for the summer holidays! I urge all accommodation providers to mention the app to their guests in their pre arrival information or welcome packs, as an extra layer of service and to help us spread the visitor load this summer” – Sarah Jordan, North Devon Explorer Project Lead.

The project was also part funded by The Tarka Country Trust, in line with their objectives for the conservation of sites and education for all.

The App can be found


Posted in Environment | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Huntshaw Church bells project.

Huntshaw’s Historic Bells drop into the limelight – After 500 years!

For over a year the ‘Friends of Huntshaw Bells’ have been raising money through grants, sponsorship and events and have raised so far £17k. There is a long way to go yet to get the full £30k needed, but last month saw a big step on the way.

Because Taylors of Loughborough (the Bell Founders) had a slot in their work schedule come free due to a cancellation they were able to come down and over a 3 day period remove the bells as a first step.

The tower in its present form was added to church in 1439 with 3 bells sitting on a framework of oak trusses; but over the centuries with decay in some of the trusses the bells have been sinking under their own weight making them unringable for the past 20 years, plus also needing attention with new fittings and bearings etc – plus one of them needs specialist welding as it is cracked.

The earliest bell, the tenor, dates from 1505 and was cast by Thomas Gefferies in Bristol, and this will be the first time it has seen daylight in 500 years! The other two are more local, one being cast in in Exeter in 1665 and the other in 1634 by “WK” in Barnstaple – this one is believed to be only 1 of 8 known to exist in the country. We still have some grant applications lodged which we hope will come to fruition soon, but our next event is: –

The Art and Science of Bells and Bell Ringing.” – On Sat 14th May 2.30pm – with Ian Campbell.

Entry free but donations welcome.

Ian will bring an 8 ft high bell stand and large bell into the church to demonstrate ringing in the “up” position and when down. He will also bring a set of handbells and volunteers to demonstrate change ringing, and on his laptop connected to speakers he will demonstrate the “Magic of Bells.” – Ian says his talk will be more like ‘entertainment’ than a talk and afterwards everybody will have a chance to try to ring the bell. Whilst this is happening there will be Cream Teas (with pink bubbly), Devon Guild of Ringers displays and models to view, and activities for the children with some small prizes for them, a bell-shaped cake raffle and a “guess the weight” of a handbell (the handbell being the noisy prize!).

In renovating we also found a pristine 600-year-old hand-made nail in the bell chamber, so at about 4pm we’re going to hold an auction for it – just for Fun! (It will be framed and with certificate of provenance).

Further ahead: – on the afternoon of Sunday 17th July we are holding a “Walking Treasure Hunt” of about 3 to 5 miles ending at the church with a “Beer and Burger BBQ!”

For further info, or to become a sponsor, contact [email protected]

The 1505 Tenor bell comes down – first time in 517 years!

In transit.

In transit.

Ready for the off.

New steel UB goes up as replacement support.


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

The ‘Way of the Wharves’ project.

‘Way of the Wharves’.

The Torridge Estuary and Bideford have a long and fascinating maritime history with boat building documented back to Elizabethan times. On the east bank of the Torridge, opposite Bideford town, East-the-Water was an industrial and transport hub connecting the medieval bridge, port and railway. From the mid 1800s the deep-water channel started migrating west across the river, leading to the slow decline of the port on the east bank. In addition to the important transport links East-the-Water was a centre for ship and boat building, clay export and potteries, coal mining, lime burning, timber, agricultural suppliers, energy distribution and even a first world war munitions factory.

New Book from Way of the Wharves.

If covid helped the Way of the Wharves Project at all it was in giving time to pull together the research of the last years and write a book: A History of East-the-Water, Bideford. Published in December 2021, with line drawings by Lou Boulter, it includes chapters on timber, shipbuilding, mining, transport and pottery as well as the origins and traditions of Shamwickshire. You can order a copy on the Way of the Wharves website:

Also available at Walter Henry’s and The Burton.

One of the stories uncovered is that of local hero George Parkin. He started building boats on the site of the East the Water School, in Torrington Street, in about 1847. He operated from here until 1858, when he moved to Appledore. His boats were carvel built, with hull planks, fastened to a robust frame, laid edge to edge to form a smooth surface. By 1852, his pilot boat True Blue had won many accolades competing in local regattas, both under canvas and oars and this helped his business develop.

But Parkin also has a much more precious claim to fame. In July 1852, when he saw a seven-year-old local boy in danger of being swept away by the tide, he leapt from the rear wall of his house and rescued him. Everywhere he went there seemed to be people in need of rescuing. In 1871, after his twenty-ninth rescue, he was recognised by the Royal Humane Society. So, if you’ve local links and your family tree includes the surnames Reed, Rudd, Isaac, Cawell, Stanbury, Johns, Jenkins, Berry, Dannell, Fisher, Dunn, Colwill, or Lewis, then Parkin may just possibly have played his part in keeping that branch of your family alive.

‘Way of the Wharves’ CIO.

The Way of the Wharves charity (WOTW) was established in 2020 to advance information and education about the industrial and maritime heritage of the Wharves at East the Water and the Torridge Estuary. The project commenced four years earlier, when a group of volunteers started to research and promote the history of the wharves on Barnstaple Street.

This had not previously been researched in any detail and the imminent planning application for re-development of the site gave this great local interest. Torridge District Council have now granted planning approval for Red Earth to start work on a £20million development of commercial and residential units. The sea wall will be raised against flood risk and land that has always been an industrial site will in future have public access. A pathway through the bridge gardens will lead onto a riverside walkway along the wharf’s seawall and an open square, conserving the view between Bideford and the Grade 1 listed Royal Hotel.

Demolition, clearance and archaeological surveys started on the Barnstaple Street wharves site in November 2021. Archaeological work is being carried out by AC Archaeology, Exeter. They have uncovered walls and the edge of a dock on Brunswick Wharf. Work on another trench on Clarence Wharf car park will be undertaken later. At the time of writing, we have not heard that any important artefacts have been discovered. The next work on site will be the repairs to the seawall starting early in the new year. The main contractors are expected to start work in summer 2022 with completion anticipated in spring 2025.

Another time of rapid change for East-the-Water.

Above – blue lines mark planned trenches on wharves site (on 1886 base map).

Adopting the phone box in Torrington Street.

Working together with East the Water in Bloom, Way of the Wharves have adopted the phone box on Torrington Street, next to the Bethel Chapel. This iconic K6 phone box will be conserved and used by the two local groups as a community resource – promoting history and horticulture. Way of the Wharves will install information about local heritage whilst the box will look a bit different as a result of the planned floral exhibits from East the Water in Bloom. Local ‘history and horticulture’ links include the many lime kilns along the estuary, Fulfords agricultural and seed merchants (for many years headquartered on Queens Wharf) and Old Pottery Works, Torrington Lane which produced flower pots.

This phone box is in such a key position, just close to the Bideford station entrance, that there must be many stories connected with it. Happy news, sad news, calling for assistance, long distance romances. WOTW are working with Bideford library to collect phone box stories. These social and family history anecdotes will be turned into a digital archive, in the form of answer machine messages. Please let us know your phone box story.

More about ‘Way of the Wharves’.

If you’d like more information, check out the website You can follow and like our Facebook page @Brunswick Wharf. Get more information and sign up for our email newsletter updates by mailing [email protected]

Michael Teare, Chair, Way of the Wharves, 14/12/2021.

New from Way of the Wharves.

A History of East-the-Water, Bideford “. £10.00

By Michael Teare, Bob Kirby, Anthony Burt with line drawings by Lou Boulter.

Much that has been written about Bideford’s past has touched upon the story of East- the-Water, despite the long history of the wharves and their commercial importance to the local area, this is the first book to focus on their history.

After introducing East-the-Water and the wharves, the book concentrates on the important strands that make up the history of the local community: timber, emigration, shipbuilding, tobacco and pottery, coal mining and gravel extraction, fisheries, agriculture, energy and enterprise as well as the changes brought about by steamships and railways.

Profit from the sale of this book supports the work of the Way of the Wharves Charity – researching and promoting the maritime history of the Torridge Estuary and the wharves at East-the-Water.

Product Details.

A History of East the Water, Bideford”.

By Michael Teare, Bob Kirby, Anthony Burt with line drawings by Lou Boulter. Published: Peterhouse Press. December 2021.

ISBN: 978-0-946312-20-7.  Paperback: 154 pages.  Size: 240 x 170mm, spine 9mm.


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

The “Freshspring” project.

Steamship ‘Freshspring’ celebrates four years in Bideford.

During the Second World War, a fleet of freshwater-carrying steam ships was commissioned by the Royal Navy to deliver water to warships. These became the ‘Fresh’ class of ships and the last one to be built by Lytham Shipbuilders, in 1946, was named ‘Freshspring’. She served most of her time in Malta before being retired to the Clyde in the late 1970s, where she was decommissioned and mothballed.

While all of her sister ships were scrapped, ‘Freshspring’ was sold into civilian life and was towed to a new life in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. However, all did not go well and in the late 1980s she eventually ended up moored on the banks of the River Severn at Newnham where her machinery was kept in good order by her then owner, though externally she was deteriorating.

In 2012, a charitable trust was set up with the aim of saving ‘Freshspring’, and she was acquired by the Trust in 2013. Major funds for hull repairs were gained in 2016 and on 16th Oct 2016, SS ‘Freshspring’, towed by the tug ‘Severn Sea’, made her way down the Bristol Channel and up the Torridge to a new home in Bideford. It was an amazing journey, managed by a team classed as lunatics by experts for even attempting this remarkable project.

During her early days in Bideford, SS ‘Freshspring’ could not be opened to the public, as she needed further work. Volunteers stepped forward and achieved miracles with the ship, but some things needed funds. The wheelhouse and boat deck were rotten but the team persisted.

Four years later with Heritage Lottery Funding, local financial support and in the safe hands of the people of Bideford, SS ‘Freshspring’ is a very different ship.

Welcoming over 3,500 visitors during 2018/2019, The Trust’s 54 registered volunteers have been working hard to make sure that the visitor experience is truly memorable.

From 2017- 2019, the Steamship Freshspring Trust contributed over £18,000 to the local economy.

With its own brand of beer, sponsored and brewed in a local brewery, and a range of branded clothing, also supplied locally, the Trust is proud to cultivate maritime pride back into Bideford and be part of the community.

SS Freshspring is more than a steamship. She’s a place for volunteers to meet, learn new skills and have a sense of purpose. She’s a classroom for local schools where education involves hands-on activities and learning, she’s a venue for art classes, she helps young people to understand careers in maritime and has potential for so much more.

In recent months, Covid-19 has forced the Trust to review its ways of working. Confined spaces have made it impossible to safely open the ship to the public. However, a virtual reality tour, currently being created in partnership with BMT Global, will provide a valuable education resource and let the public tour the ship without leaving the comfort of the fore deck. This is a really exciting piece of work using cutting edge technologies. With the newly crowdfunded awning in place, tours won’t even be hampered by inclement weather!

The next challenge is to secure funding for two essential studies. Tenders are in for Feasibility and Viability studies and are ready to go. Once funds for this work are obtained, the Trust will learn exactly what needs to be done for SS ‘Freshspring’ to operate and become economically sustainable. These studies are pivotal pieces of work.

There are so many ways that you could help Freshspring, either from home or by helping on board. You are promised a warm welcome and a range of activities to choose from. Visit to find out more.


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

Abbotsham – an historical note.

If you have been watching the last series of ‘Poldark’ you will know that the final episodes dealt with the threat of invasion in the West Country by the French. This threat was temporarily resolved by the Peace of Amiens in March 1802, but by May of 1803 the war was back on and the threat of invasion with it.

This threat was perceived very seriously in the area around Bideford, as can be seen from two documents in the North Devon Record office that relate to the parish of Abbotsham. These are what in today’s parlance might be called a ‘contingency plan’.

The first document, dated 4th December 1803, is The minutes of the resolutions entered into at a meeting of the inhabitants of Abbotsham’. There were six numbered resolutions setting out where parishioners were to meet and place themselves under the direction of named persons, where they should take their stock, that various carts were appointed for the removal of sick and infirm people and that the overseers of the poor would supply 6 bushels of meal at parish expense to Mrs Stone to make 4 loaves of bread for each of the poor. The Overseers of the Poor were also to supply materials to enable the livestock to be marked and they even specified how and where such markings we to be placed.

The document then sets out who would conduct and drive the stock along one of two specified routes – one to Dartmoor and the other to Somerton, distances of about 40 miles and 80 miles. They weren’t taking any chances!

The second document details the owners of the stock that was to be moved plus the names of the old and decrepit persons and whose cart they should travel on. There followed details of the routes to be used, with some alterations written in pencil, showing slight differences to those of the first document, which must be the later version.

This shows some forward thinking by the leaders of the parish, although one can’t help wondering how much notice of invasion they would need to put this plan into action.

David Snow.


Posted in History | Tagged | Leave a comment

Heroine of India honoured with statue in Torrington.

A bronze statue of Sister Nivedita (1867-1911) was unveiled by Great Torrington Town and Torridge District Councillors in Great Torrington Cemetery on Saturday 27th August . Sister Nivedita, who was born Margaret Elizabeth Noble, spent much of her life in India where she is revered as an educationalist and campaigner for India’s freedom movement. Her involvement with India came about after a meeting with Swami Vivekananda in London in 1895 after which she travelled to Calcutta. She was given the name Nivedita meaning “dedicated to god” and opened a girls school in 1898. Her intention was to educate girls who were at the time deprived of even the most basic education. She is also noted for nursing the poor during the plague epidemic in Calcutta in 1899 as well as having a close association with the Ramakrishna Mission until later when she made an active contribution in the field of Indian Nationalism.

She died in Darjeeling in 1911 and following her cremation her ashes were returned to Great Torrington where they were interred in the family grave. The statue and plinth were commissioned and paid for by the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms Mamata Banerjee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of her birth on July 4th and also in commemoration of her life which she dedicated to India. Torridge District Council provided the plot on which the bronze statue has been sited as a permanent memorial. It is the first statue of Sister Nivedita to be erected outside of India and was unveiled jointly by Deputy Mayor of Torrington Doug Smith and Torridge and Great Torrington Councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin who is also lead member for Community, Culture and Leisure at Torridge District Council.

TDC Lead member for Community, Culture and Leisure – Councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin said – “I must admit that I was largely unaware of Sister Nivedita’s family connection to the Great Torrington area or of the fascinating and selfless work she devoted herself to in India. Clearly she was a remarkable woman at a time when people (and women in particular) were not given the opportunities that they have today. This makes her achievements even more significant, and I hope that the statue will act as an inspiration to those who see it and bring about a greater recognition of her life which was dedicated to helping those who were less fortunate.”

Mayor of Great Torrington – Councillor Keeley Allin said: “The information in relation to Sister Nivedita’s incredible achievements in India and her connection to Great Torrington have been a revelation to many over these past few months. It is clear that amongst other things, this lady’s life had a major impact in empowering young women in India through the provision of education and learning. It is a privilege to host the statue of remembrance and recognition in our town’s cemetery and hope that many people, young and old, will visit and be inspired by the life and achievements of Sister Nivedita.”

Swami Sarvasthananda said: “We are delighted to be part of unveiling ceremony of Sister Nivedita, also known as Margaret Noble, who gave her all to India at the behest of her spiritual master Swami Vivekananda. She was inspired by his message of Service of God in man and contributed a lot in several fields for the uplift of the Indian masses including that of women’s education. It is a great privilege for the monks and devotees of the Ramakrishna Mission to honour her contribution by installing a bronze statue in Torrington kindly made possible by the help received from the government of West Bengal, India. Our sincere thanks to Torridge District Council for their unconditional help and support.”


Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago – May 1919.

Echoes of the war are still evident in some areas of life.

R Blackmore & Sons Auctioneers, of New Road, Bideford, have been instructed to sell agricultural items which are surplus to the requirements of the North Devon Agricultural Committee. These range from tractors and threshing machines to straw trussers and binder twine. Readers are assured that these items are by the best makers and most of them are practically new.

By order of the local Food Committee, milk prices for May have been fixed at 6d per quart delivered, 5d sold at the retailer’s premises. Imported meat will be 2d per pound less than the price stated on the list exhibited in the shop.

Soldiers attached to the Agricultural Corps will not now be moved to join the Army of Occupation until after May 15th, as it was felt that their removal at such a busy time would harm food production.

Mr F A Searle, Honorary Treasurer of Bideford Town Council, has been thanked for his services in connection with the Belgian refugees. Some 200 refugees have been maintained by the town since their arrival in February 1915, the last having now been repatriated.

Germany was to lose 13 percent of its territory and 10 percent of its population. … Pressured by the Allies and thrown into confusion by crisis within the Weimar government at home, the Germans gave in and accepted the terms at 5:40 p.m. on May 23. The Versailles Treaty was signed on June 28, 1919

In other news:

Mr W J Barnes, Clerk to Northam Council, has written to the police calling attention to the excessive speed and dangerous driving of motor cars and motor cycles on the Bideford to Northam Road.

Pebbles are to be raked off the Westward Ho! Coastal path and notices erected prohibiting cycling.

A field at Northam belonging to Mr Penhorwood and occupied by Mr Griffey has been acquired for allotments, as has the field at Westward Ho! opposite Springfield belonging to Mr W S Bourne and occupied by Mr H Braddick.

A hive of bees swarmed in Abbotsham Road on 19th May, believed to be the first of the summer season. The 17th century proverb supports this “a swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly”

Mr Perkins, The Quay, Bideford, agent for the Combe Martin Jam & Preserve Company, will purchase any quantity of fruits, including strawberries, red currants, gooseberries and plums.

And finally:

Bideford Town Crier’s latest call on Friday was “Lost! Bideford Town Water Cart, last seen in the council yard. Anyone returning same to Mill Street in working order will be rewarded with thanks.” The Gazette reports that the much needed rain came on Saturday

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 or visit our website


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago – March 1919.

Property for sale:

At an auction held at the New Inn, Messrs Dymond & Son sold Swiss Cottage, Northam, which was knocked down to Mr A Chamberlain for £925; 3 pasture fields [2 adjacent Bloody Corner and 1 at White Horse Lane, Northam] to Mr E Withecombe for £730; 2 fields adjacent Diddywell Rd. to John Steer £500; 3 fields of 9 acres opposite Richmond House, Appledore, to Mr H M Bazeley at an undisclosed price; 2 acre field near Lookout Appledore to George Cork £300. A 6 acre field adjacent to Swiss Cottage was withdrawn at £800 by Messrs Hole Seldon & Ward Solicitors. Messrs R Blackmore have the Castle Inn No. 20 Allhalland Street, Bideford for sale. It is suggested that it can be used as a boarding house. Forrest Hill, the residence plus 10¾ acres is also offered for sale. Offered for sale from Messrs A W Cock is Higher Shute at Littleham in one lot and a field of land which is part of Stanbury Estate, Raleigh, Northam.

Upwards of 40 hands are now employed in the preparation of the new shipyard at Higher Cleave Houses, Bideford.

R Blackmore & Son has received instructions to sell by auction a Ford Touring Car. It has one spare and interchangeable wheel, new cylinders and practically a new hood. The Sale will follow on after the sale of 50 Army horses.

This month sees the Gazette filled with transport related adverts –

Lorries, cars and motorcycles are becoming available to purchase and businesses that were curtailed through staff being conscripted are trying to re-establish themselves.

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 or visit our website


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Felicity’s sustainable fish cookery – March.



Finnish Herring Pie – baked herring with tomatoes.


4 /6 herrings.

2 large onions.

oil/ butter.

1-2 ½ lbs of potatoes (6-med/large potatoes).

S &P.

½pt. milk.



Scale and bone the herring and clean by removing the roes and washing inside.

Soak in salted water for several hours before using. Slice up the drained herring fillet.

Fry the onions lightly in the oil until golden.

Grease a fireproof dish with butter.

Put in a layer of sliced potatoes -followed by a layer of sliced onions and sliced tomatoes and slices of herring fillets.

Season well with salt and pepper.

Top with the remaining sliced potatoes and pour over the milk.

Cook in the centre of the oven for 90 mins at Gas Mark 4-180C.

Serve with extra green vegetables or with crusty bread for supper.


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

One hundred years ago – January 1919.

At the beginning of January it was announced by the Food Controller, Mr Clynes, that no more ration books will be printed. The current issue will expire on April 19th. Margarine will be the first rationed food to be “de-rationed” and butter probably the last to regain its freedom. The meat situation is already improving thanks to deliveries from Argentina and it is hoped that the sugar supply will improve next month.

Later in January it was stated that there might still be some food rationing after April but that it would be much less restrictive.

Heavy rains have reduced farm land to a sodden condition and almost all work has been at a standstill. The autumn sown wheat, oats and beans look promising, but straw is very scarce at present.

Bideford Chamber of Trade has received a letter from the Paper Controller expressing thanks for the large quantity of waste paper collected by the local community.

Mr T Williams, carrier, of Hartland advertises that he now runs a service to Bideford on Thursdays as well as on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Two lambs were born at Norton Farm on January 8th, believed to be the first of the year.

Bideford Rural Council hopes to obtain a portion of the Government Road Improvement Grant to convert the track of the Bideford to Appledore Railway to a metalled road. With its straight course and easy gradients it is believed that this would be a great service to the public.

W Huxtable of Heale Farm, Littleham appeals for help in finding a lost two year old dark Devon heifer. A black Pekinese bitch has strayed from Firsball, Woodtown and two homing pigeons belonging to Mr Lewis have failed to return to their loft in Bridgeland Street.

Messrs R Blackmore & Sons have sold by auction fifty Army horses. All were sold within one and a half hours, prices ranging from £30 to £73.

A public meeting was held at Northam National School to discuss erecting a public memorial to parishioners who had fallen in the War. The War Office has promised a captured machine gun for the village. Proposals included a new village hall, a cross in the Square and a shelter for the aged on Bone Hill. A small committee has been formed to consider these ideas and consult with the families concerned.

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 or visit our website


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago – November 1918.

In the Gazette of 9th November we learn that President Wilson has transmitted to Germany the Terms of Surrender required by the Allies as reached at the Versailles meeting. There are reports of a German Naval mutiny; the Naval Commandant of Keil has been shot by his own sailors and in Hamburg and Cuxhaven the red Communist flag replaces the naval pennant.

On 12th November the Gazette proclaims “The Doom of Autocracy”. The Kaiser abdicates and there is revolution inside Germany. The Armistice has been signed and Hostilities ceased yesterday.

At the end of the month the German Fleet surrenders and 9 battleships, 5 battle cruisers, 7 light cruisers, 50 destroyers and numerous submarines are escorted across the North Sea to the mouth of the Firth of Forth where they will be taken to Scarpa Flow. The newspaper also reports that the local Regiment, 2nd Devons, are to take part in the triumphal march to the Rhine.

Nationally, a General Election has been called for 14th December. The Prime Minister Lloyd George and Mr Bonar Law publish a joint manifesto and election meetings are advertised in the Market Hall in Bideford on November 29th at 8pm, when Mr C S Parker will address the meeting. (Charles Sandbach Parker, Conservative, failed to be elected in the Barnstaple Constituency, losing by 602 votes). Women electors are holding a meeting in the Town Hall at Bideford at 3pm, moving to Northam at 7.30pm and Appledore at 8.30pm. These meetings will be chaired by Mrs C S Parker and the speaker will be Miss Taylor from Exeter.

(With the hindsight that 100 years affords, we know that the War has ended but on the Home Front little has changed; locally more mundane matters make the headlines in the paper).

Bideford Fuel & Lighting Committee state that under the terms of the 1918 Fuel Wood Order licences will be needed to sell a maximum of 2 tons per year to domestic homes. Industry is not subject to this restriction. These licences can be obtained from Mr E J Labbett, Local Fuel Overseer.

Readers are urged to register their ration of jam, marmalade and sugar at Tattersall’s and Farleigh’s Stores.

The Western Express and Torrington Gazette report that the yield of potatoes is far larger than anticipated and in many districts the yield is “extraordinary”.

Alfred Perrin of Barnstaple Auctions offered the Barley Mow Inn for sale. “The property has for some time since reported for compensation and was recently dealt with by the Compensation Committee at Exeter”. Mr John Curtis who owns the adjoining property was the purchaser at £430. (We have tried to research what this Committee did. Can any of our readers help?)

The influenza epidemic is diminishing; 9 deaths were reported this week in Bideford, which is less than half the previous week.

Bideford Fire Brigade, captained by Mr S Lee, was called to a business premises in Mill Street. The fire originated in a gas cooker in the kitchen at Mrs Wilson’s house but the fire was contained and the reported damage amounted to £200.

Thanksgiving Week services are held across North Devon. An open air meeting was held at Bone Hill, led by Rev. G Payne-Cook and W Charlewood, Leader of Northam UDC.


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


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

One hundred years ago – October 1918.

On October 1st the Gazette proclaims that it has been “The Greatest Week of the War” with the Western Front ablaze and Bulgaria surrendering; the following week we are told that “pincers are closing on the Western Front”; Franz Ferdinand’s successor Charles 1 has “renounced participation in State affairs”. Towards the end of October we begin to hear hints that Germany is making moves towards peace.

However on the home front, tribunals continue to take place as men are still needed. In fact a Government directive has been issued to all Chairmen of Tribunals warning them to show no favour or deviation from the required replacement soldiers. Mr W C Friendship, baker, has been exempted until March 1919 with many other men given 3 or 6 month exemptions.

The many friends of Capt. J Whitefield RNR of Westcroft, Bideford will be pleased to learn of the further honour that he has won in the discharge of his duty in seeking the destruction of enemy submarines. He has previously been awarded the Italian Bronze Medal for military valour. He has now had the Distinguished Service Cross conferred.

Alderman J M Metherell, J P and R S Chope, J P, ex -Mayor of Bideford will be among those visiting the Western Front this weekend at the invitation of the War Office.

The local food committee notices state that the maximum price allowed to be charged for milk is 7d per quart, with butter capped at 2/4d per pound.

Jam, marmalade, syrup, treacle and honey will be rationed from November 3rd. Children from 6-18 years will receive an extra ration of jam. Perkins & Son, Fruit Merchants of The Quay, Bideford, have been appointed receivers and packers of fruit for licensed jam factories. They will pay 3d per pound for blackberries and £12 per ton for small apples.

A £1 reward has been offered for information regarding the theft of birds’ eggs from the museum.

The Barley Mow Inn in Mill Street, Bideford, is offered for sale.

The North Devon Permanent and Terminable Benefit Building Society based at Bridge Buildings in Bideford (established 1853) offers a rate of 3.5% on deposits. Mortgages are granted on Easy Terms.

Harvest festivals and thanksgivings are being held around the area, including at Instow, Littleham, Little Torrington and Lavington in Bideford.

It is interesting to note that the Swastika was an international symbol signifying good luck until a German Nationalist leader adopted it in 1920, and it is now reviled world-wide.


Posted in History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Buzz Byte; Alan Turing.

Do you know who Alan Turing was? Until I watched the 2014 film ‘The Imitation Game’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch, I did not know who he was and what he had contributed.

Mr Turing was a highly intelligent mathematician and logician. During World War II he worked for the government to crack the enemy’s codes that they received on a recovered Enigma machine. Mr Turing deviated from his original purpose and devised a machine that was eventually used to decrypt the coded messages. Along with his fellow code-breakers, working at Bletchley Park, an electro-mechanical device, named the ‘Bombe’ was created to speed up the detection of the key to that day’s encoded enigma messages. It is said the Churchill declared Mr Turing’s efforts had shortened the war by two years, saving millions of lives across the globe. This work earned him the title of ‘The Father of Modern Computing.’

It was Alan Turing who developed the idea of the modern computer and data science. Back in 1936 he wrote a paper about humans’ ability to perform a specified task ; he created a ‘universal machine’ which could decode and perform any set of instructions. It would be another 10 years before his concept was turned into a practical machine. The telephone decryption, codenamed Delilah, which he worked on during his time at Bletchley Park gave him practical experience with electronics. In 1946 Mr Turing designed the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), which stored programmes in its memory. The key principles of theoretical and applied mathematics along with engineering and computer skills allowed him to be pioneering in these developments towards technology.

I thought that artificial intelligence (AI) was a relatively new concept, but Mr Turing had already devised the notion by claiming that a computer could rival independent human thought. He compared human and machine outputs; the Turing test. In these he predicted the advancement of AI. In his initial tests an interrogator asked the same questions of a human and a computer, not knowing which was which,(the computer responses were textual.) He debated whether computers should be seen as intelligent from the response. The idea was to determine if a computer could imitate a human, and from Facebook’s recent endeavour into AI, they can.

This is only a brief look into a very interesting and influential life. Alan Turing died in 1954, just short of his 42nd birthday, a victim of his sexuality.

Nickie Baglow.


Posted in Computers, IT | Tagged , | Leave a comment