Friday, 29 June 2018


In the churchyard at Salcombe Regis stands a gravestone to Magdalene the wife of Henry Harvey who died the twelfth of July 1822.   She was only 29 when she died.  The stone is unpretentious.  It is a solid rectangle without any of the extravagances that many of the stones here display.  It records her name, her husband's name and the dates of her birth and death.  No more than that. The significance of Magdalene's life was revealed to me by the verger here, the much-missed Gill Thomson, who had been sent a recent publication of the book, first printed in 1904, in which Magdalene gave the world a graphic account of the week after the battle of Waterloo and the days that she spent at the side of her first husband who was dying of his wounds.. .

This first husband was Sir William de Lancey,  a soldier who served as Wellington's Quartermaster at the time of the famous victory.  He was thirteen years or so older than she and she seems to have known him for less than a year and to have been married to him for only three months. Her portrait suggests that she was a very bright, pretty young woman.

Magdalene subsequently married Henry Harvey and bore him three children  The birth of the third  brought about her death.  Because of her manuscript account of de Lancey's death, which was circulated to a multitude of readers including Dickens and Scott and posthumously published in book form a hundred-odd years ago, the early part of her life is fully recorded as at:
but I can find nothing further that records the circumstances that brought her to Devon and to be buried in Salcome Regis churchyard.

Her book, which has been republished by a host of small publishers in the last few years, is usually entitled:  A Week at Waterloo.   It is a stunningly good read and it has established Lady de Lancey's fame nationwide.  But it is Salcombe Regis that has Magdalene Harvey's bones.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018


I have discovered a dragon in Salcombe Regis Church which I want to record for posterity.  No doubt she, dragons are mostly female, has been recorded by others but I don't want to take any chances.  She has almost disappeared beneath the feet of worshippers.   Sometimes I think worshippers should , like the early Nonconformists, be encouraged to take to the fields. In a decade or so this dragon will have completely disappeared.  Right now one can just about trace her wonderful tail and her dragon legs.  She is on the floor just West of the font. What I can read of the inscription is as follows:

2nd (?) of AUGUST 164?.

The dragon or wyvern or wyver-dragon is that of Drake of Ashe, an ancient family with which Sir Francis Drake tried, and initially failed, to share the fiery beast.  This is canting heraldry of course,  Drake being, or considered to be, derived from  draco  and nothing to do with ducks. She is a red dragon. Who this George Drake was I do not know.  I wish the indefatigable Ray Girvan was still here to find out.  The great slab beneath which George was buried signifies he was a man of substance.

This Wayland Wordsmith blog has now registered more than fifty thousand page-views but for a long while has been much neglected by me.  Today's post constitutes a significant change of direction and, for me, a liberation.  There are personal reasons why I can no longer limit myself to blogs of a salty, estuarial or coastal nature and I hope readers will follow me elsewhere, who knows where?   Perhaps to the stars!