Friday, 17 October 2014


This altogether unimportant and inconsequential story I found in the Exeter Flying Post for 26th November 1857:   

John Richards had a coat worth one shilling.  He was a boatman who sometimes picked up passengers from the railway station at Starcross and ferried them to Exmouth.   On Sunday 15th November 1857 he made his boat fast to the landing at Starcross and went ashore to collect passengers from the station.  He was gone for only ten minutes but when he came back to his boat his coat had been taken.   John Richards reported the theft to Constable Froude. Two little lads from the collier brig Wyke Regis had been seen rowing about near John’s boat.   The intrepid Constable Froude went in pursuit of the suspects.   He boarded  the brig and saw fifteen year old Robert Puckett throw a bundle over the side.   The constable first fished out the bundle and found it to be John Richard’s one shilling coat,  then he confronted two boys with the evidence.   The second boy said to Robert Puckett,  “Now, tell the truth,  I had nothing to do with it, had I?”   “No,”  said Robert,  “I stole the coat.”

The Chairman of the Magistrates  (Cole Cole Esq.) told Robert Puckett he was sorry to see so young a lad charged with such an offence,   He hoped that the punishment which the Bench inflicted - a month’s imprisonment - would have the effect of inducing him never to repeat the offence.    

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Woodhead Farm in a Branscombe Mist.

"On Sunday morning last, from information they had received, a party of our active coast guardsmen, consisting of chief boatman Teed, and Messrs. Charlesworth, Fox, Mitchell, Sneedy, Dunn, Wilson and Dingle, proceeded to a barn, in the occupation of farmer Bray at Woodash in the parish of Branscombe, in which they discovered 35 tubs, and eight flagons of smuggled brandy, concealed under some straw.  The waggon in which it had been brought was standing outside, and in a very short time they had the whole loaded and brought to the coastguard station at Sidmouth, from whence it was taken, on Tuesday last, to Exeter.   Bray was taken into custody but is out on bail,  himself in £100 and a substantial security for £50. The case will be heard on Tuesday next, the 3rd instant."

Woolmer's Exeter and Plymouth Gazette,  Saturday, February 28th 1857.

Subsequent reports give 'Woodhead Farm'  not 'Woodash' which, GR 204901, would appear to be the farm where the goods were seized.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


In the summer of 1813 John Keble was 'engaged in private tuition' at Sidmouth and John Taylor Coleridge, nephew to the poet, was passing his vacation at Ottery St Mary.  The two young men  (they were in their early twenties)  many times walked together between the two.  This is JTC's description of the route:

"The foot-way from one place to the other was over the steep ridge which divides the two valleys of the Sid and the Otter, the distance not more than six miles, and the views on the way remarkably beautiful.  It was a delightful walk, and the frequent intercourse between us was principally kept up on foot over the hill.  At the termination of the ridge where it drops down with a steep descent into the Sidmouth Gap,  are the remains of an Armada beacon, according to the tradition of the country.  These, at the time I speak of, were not, as they are now, suffered to be overgrown and hidden by a plantation of firs.  There on the short green turf we often rested and enjoyed a view which for beauty, variety and extent is not easily to be surpassed.  At our feet was spread out Harpford - wood as a grand carpet laid on a surface here and there deeply indented, and beyond lay the rich and wooded valley of the Otter; thence the ground rises in successive ranges of hills, until you reach the higher outlines of Dartmoor.  Down deep on the left lay Sidmouth and the blue sea;  this sea view is interrupted by the bluff and wooded landward end of Peak-hill,  and opens again beyond this to a wide range of sea and sea-coast, down to and beyond the Berry Head, the westermost point of Torbay."

From "A Memoir of the Rev.John Keble, M.A."  by Sir J. T. Coleridge.  Jas Parker, 1869.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


It's February and a dismal day.
Coal black cloud has robbed us of the sun.
I wander mopish on my clifftop way
and don't perhaps look forward to much fun.

When suddenly, a glory not expected,
a gleam, a glare, a brightness from the sea,
the sun's face hidden still but so reflected
my winter shadow has crept home to me!

Now too is warmth.   On Weston heights I rest
at th' bench on th' beetling cliff, bask in the bright
mirror of sea, there to watch our good knight best
his dragon, to watch where dark is slain by light.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


"After a lapse of a couple of years,  and through the exertions of an energetic Committee,  this popular aquatic holiday has been this year revived, and was held Monday, when, notwithstanding the unpropitious state of the elements,  the programme was, as far as practicable carried to a most successful issue.   On Sunday and indeed up to yesterday morning,  it seemed likely that there would be no probability of holding the Regatta, for throughout Sunday there was a very heavy south-westerly gale blowing,  the sea washing over the Esplanade,  throwing up tons of shingle more than twenty yards beyond the charming sea walk,  and doing considerable damage to the Esplanade.  Such a storm had never been remembered at this season of the year by the oldest inhabitant,  the sea on Sunday presenting a majestic sight as the waves beat against the houses facing the beach, drenching all who endeavoured to witness or weather the storm.   The Committee, however, decided to proceed with the sports,  although the gale still continued yesterday morning,  so much so that no boats could come from any other place and all the competition was confined to Sidmouth."

From:  The Western Times,  Friday, September 7th,  1883.

Tough lot,  these Sidmothians!

Sunday, 12 January 2014


(A Study of a rare old Conservative)

Behold an old relic of old-fashioned days
Recalling the coaches, the hoy and post chaise!
It has not advanced in a timber or wheel
Since first it was fashioned by Benjamin Beale.
It is not aesthetic, nor yet picturesque,
'Tis heavy and cumbrous, expensive, grotesque-
      And I feel very certain there never was seen
      Such an old-fashioned thing as a Bathing Machine.

The windows won't open, the doors never fit.
The floor is strewn over with pebbles and grit.
A looking-glass too with a silverless back,
A pinless pin cushion, a broken boot jack;
It smells of old seaweed, 'tis mouldy and grim -
'Tis sloppy and stuffy, 'tis dismal and dim.
     'Tis a deer-cart, a fish-van, or something between.
     Oh a hideous hutch is the Bathing Machine.

The driver says "Right!" and he raps at the door;
He starts with a jerk and you sit on the floor;
It creaks and it rattles,  you rise and you fall
and bound to and fro like a mad tennis ball!
Again there's a lurch and you nearly fall flat
And first sprain your ancle, then tread on you hat-
     While you're bumped and you're battered, bruised blue, black and green
     In that horrid contraption,  the Bathing Machine.

( The Western Times, September 4th 1883)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


"As we descend the cliff pathway to Budleigh Salterton, the Duchess is nearing the shore.  Surely she shall stop presently, for there is no pier and the passengers must land in boats.   But nothing of the kind.  She steams straight for the beach, only stopping as her bow touches the pebbles.  Then a long stage is run out, down which the passengers troop to the shore.  It is an original way of disembarking and looks not a little dangerous.  But the fact is the beach slopes so rapidly that there is no danger of grounding, and, except in rough weather, the steamer can take no harm."

(The Coasts of Devon,  John Lloyd Warden Page, 1895.)

Friday, 3 January 2014


There is apparently no correlation to be found between the ghostly phenomenon known as 'earthshine on the moon',  and the coming of stormy weather.    We, however, had a rare example of this tonight, (3rd January 2014) here on the Jurassic Coast.   The light of the Earth was reflecting onto the hidden face of the moon and a bright crescent moon was seen to be supporting it and, within an hour,  the stormy weather followed it like a dog his tail.

By a remarkable coincidence I had earlier in the day been reading the Scottish ballad of 'Sir Patrick Spence' (or Spens) to one of my granddaughters, a nine-year old,  and she had been particularly taken by the famous stanza:

"Late late yestreen I saw the new moon
Wi' the auld moon in her arm;
and I fear, I fear, my dear master,
That we will come to harm."

So said a skeely mariner and of course they did come to harm:

"Half o'er,  half o'er to Aberdour,
It's fifty fathom deep;
and there lies guid Sir Partick Spence,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet." 

A few hours only after we had read this we were looking up at a fine example of the new moon with the old moon in her arm as the moon climbed high over Sidmouth.   Then came storm.