Saturday, 24 July 2021


 In 1871,  it was an offence to let one's dog roam at large in the city of Exeter without a muzzle.   Mr. T. H. Stone, the High Street silversmith, was summoned to appear before the magistrates at the Guildhall for allowing his bull-terrier to wander through Martin's-lane unmuzzled.  In court was Thomas Ward, at whose instance the summons was issued.  Thomas Ward had himself been fined for the unmuzzled-roaming-dog offence by the same Bench and now he was on a crusade to make sure others conformed to the regulation.

In court Mr. Stone said to Ward: I think you were fined the other day for letting your dog roam without a muzzle.  Ward replied: Yes,  I was; and I'll drag everybody up who lets their dog go about.  I don't see why I should pay no more than others. 

Mr. Stone told the magistrates:   "It is a very quiet dog.  It is nine years old, and has no teeth.  It lived seven years in the Mint, and some 200 children attending the school could do what they liked with it.  I tried to put a muzzle on the other day, and it rubbed all the skin off its nose.  Every policeman in the city knows the dog is quiet.  The dog is better known than I am."

The Post in its reporting clearly distinguished between the vengeful 'Ward' and the good citizen 'Mr.' Stone. 

No magistrate could fail to have been moved by Mr. Stone's description of his famous, harmless, toothless, child-loving, policeman-friendly, old bull-terrier but justice demanded that the regulations should be observed.  Ward had his pound of flesh and honest Mr. Stone was fined two-shillings-and-sixpence and had to pay costs.

Today, when it would seem that none of the city's regulations are enforced, there are no such anomolies.  

Source:  The Exeter Flying Post, 9th August 1871. 


Friday, 23 July 2021


On Thursday 5th July 1884, Mr G. Smith of Cowick Street complained to the St. Thomas School Board that great damage had been done to his property by the children attending the Girls' and Infants' Schools.  His garden adjoined the play-ground and the glass in his greenhouse was constantly being broken.  He had collected quite a peck of stones thrown from the play-ground and he invited members of the Board to pay him a visit and see for themselves the extent of the damage.  He was not the only complainant:

"Mr Denham  said they had also been smashing his glass;  the other day he saw a collection of children drawn up in line and at a given signal   they all threw,  and there was quite a shower of stones.  He thought the teachers should be held responsible for the better conduct of the children.

"Dr. Woodman inquired if the girls as well as the boys threw stones, and on receiving a reply in the affirmative, intimated that he had hardly expected to hear that the girls were so bad, but other members  intimated that where there was any mischief on foot the girls were quite as active as the boys.  

"It was decided to require the teachers to report every case of stone throwing they saw, whether damage was done or not, to take steps for punishing the offenders, and to also call the attention of the police to any stone throwing in the streets."

As every Board School boy, or girl, knows, a peck contains 554.548 cubic inches.  But yes, of course, Mr Smith is using the term loosely.

Source The Western Times, 7th July 1884.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021


 "The lovers of this amusement were afforded a high treat on Monday last, when three prizes were rang for on the musical bells in St. Sidwell's tower, in this city, by the ringers from Christow, and Cheriton Bishop, who united, Moretonhamstead, Tedburn St. Mary, Crediton, Kenton, Exminster and Southmolton....

"The fineness of the weather and it being Whit-Monday drew a great number of persons to the spot, and St. Sidwells bore the appearance of a general holiday; the prize ringing commenced at a quarter to three o' clock. P.M. and continued for about three hours, when the prizes were adjudged in the following manner, first, a Superb Silver Quart Tankard to Christow and Cheriton Bishop; the second a pair of very handsome Silver Table Spoons. to Moretonhampstead; and the third, six Silver Tea Spoons, to Tedburn St. Mary.

"Some disappointment was evinced at this decision of the Triers, the Moreton ringers conceiving themselves not fairly treated, but those excellent youths should know they have lost nothing in public estimation, their well-earned reputation was nobly sustained, and the sixrth peal rang by them, will be long remembered and spoken of by all who heard it as a master piece in the annnals of ringing;  indeed great praise is due to all the sets for the manner in which they acquitted themselves."

It is the afternoon of Whit Monday, 1824, and the sun is shining and the bells are chiming from the tower of old St. Sidwell's Church and the good people of Exeter gather to hear them.

Rang rather than rung is fun!

They were all good but that sixth peal that was rang by the Moretonhampstead ringers was a masterpiece in the annals of bell-ringing!   It was awesome! 

Source: The Exeter Flying Post, 10th June, 1824.

Monday, 19 July 2021



Cum up t' Exeter to zee the Railway Opened, May 1, 1844.

"Lor Johnny! lor Johnny! now whativver es that,/ A urning along like a hoss upon wheels?/ Tis as bright as yer buttons and black as yer hat,/ And just listen, Johnny, and yer how 'a squeals!"

"Dash my buttons, Moll - I'll be darn'd if I know./ Us was vools to come yerr and to urn into danger; / Let's be off - 'a spits vire! lor do let us go - / And 'a holds up his head like a goose at a stranger."

"I be a bit vrightened- but let us bide yerr/ and hark how 'a puffs, and 'a caughs , and 'a blows;/ He edden unlike the old cart-hoss last yer - / Broken-winded; - and yet only zee how 'a goes!

"'A urns upon ladders , with they things like wheels / on hurdles, or palings put down on the ground;/  But why do they let un stray out o' the veels? / Tis a wonder they don't clap un into the pound."

"''A can't be alive, John, - I don't think 'a can." / " I bain't zure of that, Moll, for jist look 'ee how/ 'A breathes like a hoss or a znivell'd old man;- / And hark how he's bust out a caughing good now!"

"'A never could dra' all they waggins, d'ee zee,/ If 'a lived upon vatches, or turmets, or hay;/ Why, they waggins be vill'd up with people - they be; / And d'ee but look how they'm larfing away!"

"And look at they childern a urning about,/ Wi' their mouths full of gingerbread, there by the zhows;/ And zee to the scores of vine ladies turn'd out; / And gentlemen all in their best Zunday clothes.

"And look to thie houze made o'canvas so smart; / And the dinner set out with such bussle and fuss;-/ But us brought a squab-pie, you know, in the cart, / And a keg of good zider - zo that's nort to us,

"I tell 'ee what 'tis, Moll - this here is my mind; / The world's gone quite maze, as zure as you'm born;/  "Tis as true as I'm living - and that they will vind,/ With their hosses on wheels that don't live upon corn.

"I wouldn't go home b'mbye to the varm / Behind such a critter, when all's zed and dun, / We've travell'd score miles , but we never got harm, - / Vor there's nort like a market cart under the zun."  - PETER"

John and Moll (Mary) were far and away the most popular christian names given to Devon's village children in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.  The county was full of Johns and Marys.

The 'gullibility' and 'simplicity' of the  dialect-speaking rural Devonians were a source of great fun to the writers and the readers of the Exeter newspapers,.  Of course, the 'peasants' were neither so gullible nor so simple as the citizens of Exeter liked to think they were. These days somebody would take offence. 

Urning for running is new to me.  Did people actually say that? 

Vatches and turmets are vetches (legumes) and turnips.

Znivelled is a pleasant adjective for an old man.   I feel like that sometimes.

Why the apostrophe before 'a ?  Does anybody know?

Source: The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 4th May 1844.



Wednesday, 14 July 2021


The Western Times in 1887 (5th March) was at its most radical.  'Common sense' dictated that Exeter Cathedral should open its doors to the citizens of Exeter as a place of entertainment.  This idea was inspired by the news that the daughter of an ex-rector of Heavitree was making for herself a career as an actress. (shock, horror!)

"Histrionics are coming into vogue in Church matters, and we are to have a musical festival in the scheme of a choir festival in Exeter Cathedral, to which the British public will be admitted by five shilling tickets.  A procession of singing men in surplice, marching and choralling as they march, with a banner displayed, is a mild sort of beginning which may be made the precursor of some bold and heroic achievements in the histrionic line.

"The cathedral is a national building, and the people may get the use of it in more ways than one.  Only get rid of the notion that consecration can affect bricks, stone, mortar, timber and iron, however they may be combined in structure, and the building may be used for any purpose which will give pleasure and satisfaction to the greatest number.  People must not surrender their common sense to the parsons.  They will find no more religion in a building than the worshippers take into it;  and if the professional worshippers who are paid to carry on the established religion of the country pervert their office to the exaltation of the professional class, seeking to exalt their position by the mental enslavement of the people, that building becomes desecrate thereby."

'Common sense' has made little headway over the many years and the Church guards the 'sanctity' of its buildings like a dog a bone.   Concerts there are, as indeed there were in Georgian times, but not too many and always such as blend with the 'holy' fabric of the building having, perhaps, a sanctified fragrance about them and a few pious words from a dean or something to introduce them.    

'To choral' is a pretty verb.

Monday, 12 July 2021


The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 13th February 1841reported that Mr. Charles Kean, the celebrated Shakespearean actor, son of the legendary actor Edmund Kean,  looking rather thinner than before his visit to America, had commenced an engagement at the Exeter Theatre on Monday the eighth,

"The fire of his full bright eyes -  which Lady Bulwer describes as 'the finest that ever rolled in human head' (was beaming) with as much effulgence as ever."  

When he was on stage acting the part of the king in Shakespeare's  'Richard the Third', the Exeter audience was much amused by the unexpected appearance of his dog:

"During the fight of Richard and Richmond on Wednesday evening at our Theatre, a large dog belonging to Mr. Kean, rushed upon the stage, showed its teeth, growled at Richmond, and barked at the audience, who were cheering him.   

"When Richard fell, he walked around the dying warrior and licked his master's face.  At  last it was found necessary for Mr. Kean's servant to enter the field of Bosworth and make prisoner of the faithful animal." 

Curiously, in the same issue The Gazette notified its readers that:  "A report is now going the round of some of the papers that Mr. Charles Kean was married a short time since to Ellen Tree. We beg to contradict this, knowing it to be untrue, nothing of the kind having occured, or being even contemplated." 

In fact Charles and Ellen had long been loversThey married eleven months later.

It pleases me that The Gazette uses the personal pronoun, masculine, for the  dog and also that he writes of  'our Theatre' and with a capital T!

Saturday, 10 July 2021


On the first day of 1851, a correspondent, signing himself R. B's. GHOST ( I don't know who is meant by R. B.) wrote an open letter to the Bishop of Exeter which was published in The Western Times:

"My Lord Bishop of Exeter,

As one of the congregation at Heavitree Church, last Sunday morning, I complain of the Pussy conduct  there exhibited.   Instead of one or two parsons to perform the service decently and in order, there were no less than four of them, (Canon Bartholomew, Vicar Atherly, Curate Box and sub-curate Atkinson) all dressed in dirty looking surplices,  Mr. Atkindon, a half-fledged priest, playing the most histrionic part.

Immediately upon the  singers commencing to sing the first psalm after the morning prayers, he quitted the reading-desk, stalked out into the Chancel, and whle the other three clergymen were standing, he there threw himself nearly upon all fours, turning his back upon the audience, bringing his olfactory proboscis within three feet of the Canon's seat of honour, and remaining in that amusing position for about two minutes by Shrewsbury clock. And during the Communion Service, in which he performed no part, he exhibited the like disgusting behaviour...."

Those clergymen who exhibited 'Pussy conduct' were the followers of Dr. Pusey, the Oxford don who was arguing the need for more ceremony and ritual in the Anglican church service.  This was, rightly, seen to be 'popish' by most citizens of Exeter and as such was hated and feared.   Such things really mattered!

The canon's seat of honour is, of course, his backside.   

I much like the expression  'by Shrewsbury clock' which is found in Shakespeare and elsewhere meaning exactly.

I am surprised that R.B's GHOST was sloppy enough to use 'less than' when he meant 'fewer than'.

Source:  The Western Times,  4th January, 1851.