Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Sacks of winkles have been taken from the Estuary for ever. There is still some winkling going on out there. In the nineteen seventies, Doctor Cyril G Tuckfield, local historian, wrote an article for 'Devon Life' entitled 'Inshore Fishing at Lympstone' and he mentioned the humble periwinkle. He wrote:

"Associated with mussel culture was the periwinkle (locally "wrinkle") industry. Westcote in 1630 wrote, "The wrinkle or sea-snail is common at Lympstone" so clearly the shell-fish industry is of some antiquity, as also is the local name."

Thomas Westcote Gent. was the author of 'A View of Devonshire in 1630'. He was a Devon man but not from East Devon which suggests that 'wrinkle' was not just local to this estuary. Curiously the two words would seem to be of quite separate derivation. Of course 'wrinkle' could be no more than a corruption of 'winkle' but I do not believe that. Four hundred year old, dialect words are not likely to have been born of and perpetuated by ignorance. 'Winkle' has to do with winches and 'wrinkle' to do with wrenches and etymologically the twain seem never to have met although both have a twisty history to them that makes one think of the winklewrinkle's shell. Interestingly, both words are, or were, used by fishermen on the Eastern seabord of the United States which implies that 'wrinkle' has its own history and its own legitimacy.

Where the peri comes from seems to be a mystery although I read that there are Old English forms 'winewincian' and 'pinewincian'. In some parts of England, but not here, there is a dialect form 'pennywinkle'.

But 'wrinkles' seems to be what, until recently, the people of the Estuary called them. I have never heard anyone speak of a 'periwrinkle'!

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