POH Transcripts - 1866

< Go back to the previous page

January 1866.

Thursday. January 4. 1866.-Amateur Theatricals for the first time here in public - at all events since my education. It was all got up by the Volunteer Artillery Corps. The pieces were “Whitebait at Greenwich,” and “Box and Cox,” Most creditably gone through by all parties.

Th. Jan. 11.- A heavy fall of snow. This is the first really winter day we have had, for the weather has been wonderfully mild. 1st. Penny Reading.

Sat. Jan. 13.-A sudden thaw and plenty of Rain. The recent storm, bringing the snow from the north-east, did much damage. The wind was so violent as to prostrate a large number of trees, and several chimneys were blown down. The rain and the melting snow ran down the streets in torrents.

Note :- The following is a printed article dated Jan. 16. 1866, taken from the Tiverton Gazette, and inserted into the diary.




On Thursday evening, despite the inclemency of the weather, the first of these readings was inaugurated at the Assembly Rooms, London Hotel, in the presence of a large audience of all classes, under the presidency of the Rev. H. G. J. Clements, the vicar. Miss. Hayward kindly presided at the pianoforte, and the Messrs. Warner, Knowles, Charles and William Farrant, and the Rev. J. B. Lloyd were the vocalists for the occasion;

The Chairman opened the proceedings with the following introductory address:-Ladies and Gentlemen, - In commencing our proceedings this evening. I have been requested to state to you generally what is the object of these Penny Readings. We are met together here to try an experiment which has been attended with great success in other places, and which we are induced to hope may be successful in this, although, unfortunately, this evening the elements appear to have conspired against us. The object which is aimed at by these who here and elsewhere endeavour to set on foot these penny readings, is to afford an evening for rational amusement and recreation to all classes, but especially to that class which has otherwise little or no opportunity of obtaining it, to place as far as possible within the reach of all some of those social and intellectual advantages which have hitherto been available to comparatively few. With this object in view, conscious how few opportunities of rational and humanising recreation many in this place possess, it has occurred to several of us that we could not better employ a few of our winter evening than by coming forward to inaugurate a form of entertainments I which trust may supply this want, by reading to you (as well as we can) some of the more amusing portions of our English literature. And in order to put this within the reach of all and make it as general as possible, it has been made as cheap as possible: and I cannot suppose that the mere penny which is asked for admittance will be sufficient to exclude any who may otherwise be disposed to avail themselves of the entertainment offered. To add to the attractions of the evening the musical members of our community have offered the aid of their talents in playing and singing during the intervals of reading, so that the enterprise (whatever else it may prove) cannot fail to be harmonious. Harmonious, I trust, it may prove in more senses than one. I trust it may tend to bring all classes of our little community together, and enable us to feel that here in Sidmouth we are able rationally to amuse ourselves, and desirous of promoting rational amusement as far as we may one for another. And whilst I mention amusement, I must not forget another very desirable object, viz., “improvement,” I trust that in the selection of subjects this later may not be entirely lost sight of, although in our programme of this evening we seem to have. I fear devoted ourselves rather exclusively to the former, but that whilst we seek to entertain we may combine with our entertainment some form of instruction. Perhaps indirectly rather than directly we should, seek to do this, and whether there be any direct lessons or moral conveyed in what you are invited to hear or not, there is a certain insensible influence inseparable from good literature and good music which cannot fail of itself to exert a humanising, a civilizing, and, therefore, an improving influence upon the mind. Simply to afford you the opportunity of enjoying these in the best manner we can is our object, and to ascertain whether you are disposed to avail yourselves of such opportunity, is our experiment, but I must beg you to remember that it is an experiment, and that we readers are ourselves, I believe, for the most part novices at the work, and must claim some share of allowance on account of that consideration. We are desirous, however, of setting an example which others who may be qualified for the task, I trust, may be induced to follow; so that when the scheme is fairly developed you may be able in this manner, in a great measure, to amuse yourselves. Having thus far explained to you our object and intention, I will not longer detain you with any remarks of my own, but simply conclude by wishing good success and good results (of general improvement and general entertainment) to these our Penny Readings.

Mr. Rippon, of the Tiverton Gazette, then read an original piece entitled “Prologue to Sidmouth Penny Readings” which was followed by that well-known humorous legend from Ingoldsby - “the Knight and the Lady,” read with splendid effect by Mr. Warner, and a glee by the amateurs. The Chairman then read exceedingly well “A Christmas Tree” one of Dickens’ stories, which was succeeded by the duet “Alls Well” beautifully sung by Mr. Aloof and The Rev. J. B. Lloyd, and cleverly accompanied on the pianoforte by Miss Hayward. Mr. Warner read another of the Ingoldsby legends “Misadventures at Margate,” with as much effect as before and gained great applause. Mr. Rippon followed with “Lover’s Leap,” a legend of the Dart by Ursa Major. At the special request of the Rev. J. B. Lloyd, who wished that his reading might be deferred to another evening, Mr. Warner for the third time delighted the audience with his readings. The national anthem concluded the evening’s entertainment which appeared to pass off with the greatest success.

The second reading will take place on Thursday next.

Th. Jan. 18. - Second theatrical performance by the same company.

Th. Jan. 25. - Second “Penny Reading.” Room extremely full.


Fri. Jan. 26. - Finished reading Dr. Thurnani’s Book on the two principal forms of ancient British and Gaulish skulls. In excavating tumuli in England, he remarks that the long barrows, in which there are generally cists or chambers formed of large stones, contain unburnt skeletons, the skulls of which are mostly of a long form from front to back; to which the term dolichocephalous has been given.

These are the same with the Kumbe-Rephalic mentioned ante, Dec. 17. 1862. Measuring from the glabella, or point between the eyebrows to the occiput, and calling that 100, the long-heads or dolichocephali would run from 75 or less, from side to side, as the width of the skull. From the usual fact that the skeletons with these heads concisely occupying the lowest position in the tumulus, and being associated only with flint or bone implements, it is inferred that they belong to the aboriginal race of England. Some investigations, as the examination of tumuli on the continent, lead to the supposition that this ancient race may be traced to the Basque provinces, to Iberia, and to the north of Africa. The most barbarous rites seen to have attended the internments; for numerous remains of men, women, and children, all packed close to the principal body, are met with, having their skulls left open or beaten in, as if whole families had been slaughtered at the grave. In the dolichocephali the sutures of the skull get sooner obliterated than in other skulls found in the tumuli; that is at an earlier age. In modern times the Hindoos, Australians, and the Negroes are inclined to dolichocephalism. The brachicephalic or round headed race seem to have succeeded the others in England. They appear to have had more savage countenances, larger teeth, and bony eyebrows. This is the race known to Casar. They were of the late bronze age. Their skulls had a proportion of 80 and upwards to the 100. Their remains are usually met with in the round barrows. The length of the femur of the leg varies in length from 16 inches to 22, reaching from short women to the extreme of tall men. Dr. Humphrey gives a table of proportions of the femur to the whole height of the figure, which, taking the figure at 100, the femur would be 27.5. Maintaining this proportion, a femur of 17 inches would represent a person 5 feet 3 inches high. One of 16 inches, eight tenths, one of 5,1 high: 19.5 = 5, 11 high: 20.5 = 6,, 2 high, &c.. The dolichocephalic heads from the long barrows have an average capacity of 99 cubic inches, whilst the brachicephalic from the round barrows have a capacity of 98. It is strange that this is a larger average than the average of modem heads, despite the progress of Civilization. The proportion of the capacity of the male head to the female is as 10 to 9. The average weight of a modem brain in men is 49 ounces, though many brains occasionally exceed this very much. The average in women is 44oz. The heaviest brain on record is Cuvier’s, which was 64 ½ ounces.


February 1866.

February 1. 1866. Thursday. - Left Sidmouth for a few weeks, and went down to Belmont Villa, Dawlish, on a visit to my cousin Mary Roberton, Mrs. Kersteman (formally Frances Bingham) was there.

Fri. Feb. 9. - Made a geological view of the cliffs each side of Dawlish, from the Bishop’s Parlour on the south west to Langstone Point on the NE. Walked to Teignmouth and back. Went first to the new Villas at Holcombe, which are now all occupied, and then down what used to be a romantic gully or chasm, called “The Smuggler’s Path,” to the beach. Mounted the Railway Wall, and so to Teignmouth. Returned over Teignmouth hill by the road all the way I find great changes since I was this way last. Not the least of which is the great nunnery on the high ground, recently. Report says that the priests and the young ladies amuse themselves during the fine weather by playing croquet on the lawn.

Mon. Feb. 12. - Walked to the top of Little Haldon and back, for the purpose of again examining the Camp. Every part was so wet with the recent rains that I could do little. I hunted about for any chance arrow head, but hunted in vain.

Tu. Feb. 13.-My cousin Mrs. Kersteman left for London.

Mon. Feb. 19. - Went to Teiginmouth and back by rail. Called on the Cresswells. Had a long talk with the Rev. R. C. on the seaweeds of Sidmouth. He gave me a specimen of the Schyzothix Cresswellii, which he discovered there. He also told me where I could find the Gracillaria erecta. Called and saw Miss Cousins, from whom and her late mother, my late father rented the house in East Teignmouth just below the Independent Chapel and the lane, when I was eight years old, and confined to my bed with lameness in my left leg.

Tu. Feb. 20. -Went and looked at the tumulus on the hill about half a mile or more north of Dawlish, on the road to Mainhead. The field in which it stands is now ploughed. It used to be pasture.

Wed. Feb. 21.-So the Habeas Corpus Act has been suspended in Ireland, on account of the rebellious projects of the “Fenians” as they are called. This movement has been much promoted of late by the return of many disbanded Irish from the armies in America, since the close of the rebellion there. The Bill to suspend the Act, as promptitude was needed, passed the Commons, the Lords, and received royal assent last Saturday Night.

Sat. Feb. 24.-Walked to Lidwell chapel, via Aller and Higher Southwood. The ground about the ruin is still very swampy. As far as I could feel the foundations, I make the length of the building 36 feet outside. But nothing short of a regular draining and proper examination would decide this point correctly.

Mon. Feb. 26.-The recent dreadful wrecks in Torbay have given rise to some absurd rumours. It is said that the authorities (Whoever they are) have forbidden the sale of fish, because so many drowned persons have not yet been found. Again – that the divers who have been employed in Torbay to examine the wrecks, when examining the ship underwater saw some ladies sitting in the cabin reading. And again – that a woman who recently bought a hake found three gold rings inside it…


March 1866.

Wed. March 7. 1866. - Today was set apart in Dawlish as a day of prayer and humiliation, mainly on account of the Cattle Plague now raging in many parts of the country, and attacking then by hundreds, I got back to go to the private chapel attached to the house at Luscombe Park. The little building is a beautiful specimen of architecture, and on expense has been speared. The walls inside are buff colour sandstone well put together, the arched roof of the same, and groined. A good effect is produced in the roof by the insertion of bands of darker colour stone. There is a small north aisle with an organ in it. The east end of the nave is a sort of circular apse. It is not railed off. There are five single light windows in it. The style of architecture, I need scarcely say, is Late Early English, or early decorated, for nine architects out of ten now-a-days, build nothing else. The Columns of various sizes, are of finely polished vari-coloured Devonshire Marble, as well as a band of the same let in flush with the surface of the wall all around about four feet from the floor. Minton’s tiles cover the floor. The seats are very good – some being of oak, some apparently birch, and some deal – all unpolished. At the north-west corner, there is a space measuring about six feet by eight, railed in by high filigree work, coloured and gilt, and made of iron. I am told that when Mr. Hoare is at home, he sits there. The present chaplain is the Rev. Kingdon.

Tu. Mar. 13. 1866. - Left Dawlish for Sidmouth, via. Exeter. Whilst in Exeter made a sketch of the block of granite at the corner of the High Street and Gandy Street, which is supposed to be part of the shaft of an old cross. See my sketch, book No. 12, and at this date.


March 27. 1866.



The sixth and last of the series of readings for this season came off according to announcement at the Assembly Rooms, London Hotel, on Thursday evening. The room was densely crowded in every part, and large numbers of persons were unable to obtain admission. Amongst those present were,-Mr. Lonsada, Col. Andros, Mrs. and Misses Eyre, the Misses Cornish (2), Dr. and Mrs. Mackenzie, Miss. Selwyn, Mrs. Leather, Miss. Dillon, Miss C. Jenkins, Mrs. Maitland, the Misses Ritchie (2), the Misses Copeland (2), Mr. and Mrs. Aloof, Mr. A. Aloof, &c.

The evening’s entertainment opened with the Glee “Under Briar, rock or mountain,” effectively sung by the Rev. J. B. Lloyd and Messrs. Week’s and C. and W. Farrant, the Rev. J. B. Lloyd then read “Blanche Raymond,” which was followed by Braham’s popular song “The Death of Nelson,” given by Mr. Aloof. The Rev. H. G. J. Clements read “The Battle of the League,” by Macaulay with excellent taste and fine effect, and was loudly applauded, Mr. Aloof the “Red Fisherman” by Praed. The Rev. J. B. Lloyd’s Welsh song “Codiad yr Ehedydd” or “ the Rising of the Lark” was something of a novelty and well sung and received. A song from Mr. Farrant stood next on the programme. He accordingly gave “Under the Greenwood Tree” with his usual ability and success, and received an enthusiastic and well-merited encore, to with he responded by singing the last part over again. Dr. Mackenzie then read “Mrs. Grimsby’s Private Theatricals,” by Albert Smith, amidst roars of laughter, as he expressed the comic element in most happy manner. Mr. C. Farrant’s song, “O Gentle Maid,” was very well rendered, and followed by an encore to which he did not respond. The Rev. H. G. J. Clements then gave the address of the evening as follows:-

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, - As this is the last Penny Reading of the season, I have been requested to address a few words to you before the conclusion of our proceedings to-night. And I think I may venture to assert that the experiment which we made in setting these Penny Readings on foot last Christmas, has been fully justified by the result, and that if their success is to be measured either by the numbers who have attended or by the amount of interest that has been manifested in them, they have been decidedly very successful. They have commanded, on every occasion, audiences large and, I may venture to say, sometimes overflowing-for on most of the evenings, I understand, not a few would-be auditors have been turned back from the door, not by our unhospitality or unwillingness to entertain, but through sheer want of space to accommodate them:- and although once or twice some slight disorder and noise has prevailed in the back part of the room, still, on the whole, we have so little to complain of on that score, that we have not found it necessary to complain at all and may trust that we may congratulate ourselves on having entertained and in some degree instructed you, and that a Sidmouth audience of whatever class it is composed, can without constant appeals or coercive restraints behave itself creditably and intelligently and well. I do not know how far it is becoming in me, having been so often one of the performers here myself, to speak of the quality of the performances and the efforts and success of the performers. But as a closing address like this would be manifestly incomplete without something of the sort, perhaps I may be regarded as addressing you for the time being in the character, not of a performer, but of an indifferent spectator - something like the chorus of a Greek play - whilst I pass a few running comments on our past entertainments. These I really believe without any wish to flatter or exaggerate, to have been on the whole of more than ordinary excellence. If you will compare any one of our performances of the past season with those of the penny readings in other places, I think I may be bold to say you will find that ours presents a better, a more amusing, and a more varied selection. The musical performances I need scarcely remind you (for you have yourselves constantly testified your appreciation of them) have been remarkably good of their kind and such as have been a credit to Sidmouth, and I think (speaking still in my character of chorus) our thanks are due to that lady and those gentlemen who have so kindly come forward and bestowed so freely not a little time and trouble, and such an amount of musical talent for the gratification and amusement of the public. With regard to the reading in general, I may say, that if it has not been of its kind altogether of an excellence equal to that of the musical performance, (owing, partly to the fact that reading in public has been a novelty to many of the readers, and what they have been unaccustomed to; and partly perhaps, to its not affording scope for the exhibition of so much excellence). Yet I do believe (still if you please, speaking in my character of chorus) that it has been on the whole, very good; and that, for that very reason of its being what they were little accustomed to hitherto, the thanks of the audience are all the more due to those gentlemen who have come forward in this way to further this effort for the public amusement. I am sure it has been in general very amusing, and I trust and believe it has amused you all. In speaking of our readings, however I feel bound to say that in spite of these causes of congratulation, I do see some room in one particular for improvement, and that these entertainments of ours have been in one respect fairly open to criticism. Without being myself at all squeamish on the subject, or desirous of detracting from the amusement derived from them, I must confess I do, to some extent, agree with those critics who have found some fault with us for the undue preponderance of the light and comic element in our readings, and have taken us to task for not betraying more anxiety in the selection of our subjects for the information and improvement of the audience. I believe that this has arisen from excessive shortness of the time allowed for each several readings (which I think is a mistake) and the difficulty of finding pieces of literature sufficiently brief to suit the time possessing any interest without the pungent stimulus of a comic flavour. I have experienced this difficulty myself, I know, in endeavouring usually to adhere to serious selections. I believe moreover, that this predominance of the comic is characteristic of the penny readings in other places: but I would not plead this as an apology, inasmuch as I believe and hope that our Penny Readings are, and may still become, superior to Penny Readings in other places - maintaining a higher tone and establishing a higher character, - and do not think for a moment that I would be so hard-hearted and cynical as to desire to banish altogether from our meetings the beloved figure of the great Mr. Pickwick, the spectacles of Mr. Ledbury, the inimitable fun of Sam Weller, or the merry and magical strains of Thomas Hood and Thomas Ingoldsby. A hearty honest laugh is as wholesome and welcome in its place as the saddest of sighs or the severest of frowns. Our lives in this world are so full of melancholy realities that a few light-hearted and merry fancies (as long as they be harmless and innocent) afford the, I believe, a grateful and not unhealthy alleviation, and act Like a change of air. Still there is a certain amount of danger with regard to these, lest we should have too much even of a good thing, and I am inclined to believe, if I may say so without offence (in the privileged position I have assumed) that a slight change, only a slight one is requisite, in this respect would, without detracting at all from the general interest of the entertainment, prove to be a change for the better. However, as I said before, these Penny Readings have hitherto been an experiment, and must only if you please be criticised as such. They are an experiment for which I venture to repeat that in my opinion, (the opinion please to remember of a chorus or indifferent spectator of proceedings with which he is supposed to be quite unconnected), the public are greatly indebted to all those who have come forward, whether as readers or as musical performers to assist in the general amusement; an experiment which, I trust, if it please God to spare us till then in life and health, may be repeated next winter with equal if not with increased success: an experiment which I trust there may then be found many more (especially in the reading line) ready and willing to come forward and assist; an experiment which I trust moreover will tend to promote kindly feeling amongst us here in Sidmouth among all classes of our little community, bringing us together for mutual entertainment and improvement and manifesting our mutual desire freely to exert ourselves to amuse and improve one another; an experiment which, however secular its character, I hope may thus not be without God’s blessing; may be always carried on honestly, wholesomely, and without offence; and may therefore prove in the best and highest senses of the word successful.

The rev. gentlemen was listened to with great attention throughout, and continually applauded. The glee-singers gave the chorus “Lutzow’s Wild Chase” with much spirit, Mr. Knowles’ song was judiciously reserved to the last. He was greeted on his appearance with deafening cheers, and after singing three songs in the most obliging and effective manner. The calls for an encore were still tremendous, to which Mr. Knowles responded by appearing on the platform with the rest of the performers to take part in the National Anthem, with which the entertainment concluded. Thus ended one of the most successful efforts of local talent to provide rational amusement for the inhabitants of Sidmouth amongst themselves, with the unanimous hopes of the audience that the effort may be repeated next season with similar success, in which hope we cordially join. Miss Hayward kindly accompanied the vocalists on the piano; Mr. Aloof playing his own accompaniment.

Note: - There are no further entries in the diary until the 1st. May.

May 1866.

Tu. May 1. 1866. - Such a May morning, as I never saw before. We had a splendid summer last year, and the year proceeding. The fine weather of last summer ended on the fourth of October, when a shower of rain fell. All the winter there was no snow except on the 11th. Of January 1866; but the storms of wind and rain have been violent and almost incessant for months together. These have continued far into April, but towards the later part of the month intervals of spring weather began to show themselves. Last week there were several days so warm that I put on light clothing and flattered myself that summer was come. Yesterday it was rather cold again, as the wind had got to the north-east; but judge my surprise this May day morning, when I awoke and looked out of the window, to see the broad flakes of snow flying by thick and fast! At breakfast time I put out the thermometer, when it went down to 38’; only six degrees above freezing. I was very cold all day.

Tu. May 8. - Mrs. Maitland with her nieces, left my home No. 4 Coburg Terrace, Sidmouth, after having been in it nearly two years as my tenant.

Mon. May 21. - The First Yeomanry Cavalry, numbering about 420 sabres, assembled at Sidmouth for eight days drill, under the command of Col. Sir John Duckworth. At half past six in the morning they turn out in the Fort Field on foot to learn sword and carbine exercise; at ten, as cavalry, they go to the top of Peek Hill and remain until two in the afternoon; and at half past five they parade as infantry in the Fort Field. It is five years since they were last here.

Th. May 24. - The Queen’s birthday. In honour of the day, the men this evening, fired three rounds, file firing, in the Fort Field.

Fri. May 25. - At 11 this morning a fire broke out in Western town. The alarm was sounded and the Yeomanry turned out. They exerted themselves well, and did good service. Four houses burnt.

Sat. May 26. - Rain all day. The Yeomanry not out.

Sun. May 27. - Fine day.

Mon. May 28. - The Review on Peak Hill, to which I went with a party of friends.


June 1866.

Fri. June 1. 1866. - The weather very unlike summer in feel. We have had the coldest spring I ever remember.

Th. June 7. -Went into Exeter to attend a Quarterly meeting of the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society. I have belonged to this Society for five or six years, but owing to the distance, and the inconveniency of getting to and from Exeter, I have never been till now. The meetings are held in the Collage Hall, a large room on the east side of South Street. Some 50 to 100 yards from the Carfoix. This is a good specimen of a Gothic chamber. It is panelled in the “napkin pattern” about 6 or 7 feet high, and 3 or 4 feet above that in Jacobean or later scroll patterns in raised work, the rest of the arched ceiling being the wall. There is a fine carved oak table in the middle of the room. The Rev. H. T. Ellacombe, Rector of Clyst St. George, read a paper on all the church bells of Devon - very interesting . I think he said he had mounted 420 church towers during the course of his researches. In one or two of his expeditions I accompanied him.

Tu. June 19. 1866. - Hearing that some of the Christophers were at Budleigh (whom I know in 1838 in London) took a carriage and went over. By mistake went to Budleigh Salterton instead of East Budleigh. Looked round Budleigh Salterton, and made a sketch of the pebble bed cropping out of the cliff, west of the town. Started back for East Budleigh. Found William settled as a surgeon there, and Joseph, with wife, and daughter and son, on a visit from London. Mrs. J. Christophers is a grand-daughter of a brother of Gilbert White, author of the “Natural History of Selborn.” They have got has oak chest and chair, both of which I saw. Took a hasty look at the church. They are re-seating it, using the beautiful old ends again. I am sorry they are using deal, instead of oak. They have misplaced the carried end of the Rawley seat, with the date 153(4)? on it. I miss the tomb of Radulphus Node (who broke his neck trying to fly from the tower) near the south gate of the churchyard. Had tea with the Christophers, and returned. Supped with Mr. Heineken.

Sat. June 30. - The last week in June has been extremely hot; and we have felt it so much the more, as the season hitherto has been cold, showery, and unpleasant. It is said the thermometer has ranged higher than has ever been known in Sidmouth.


July 1866.

Man. July 16. - Went to Dawlish via Exeter - first taking the coach and then the rail. Stayed at Belmont Villa, Mrs. Jones and her eldest son John, being there with my cousin Miss Roberton.

At the latter part of the week went over to Teignmouth with my cousins. Walked about to see what there was new, and remarked that the iron pier approaches completion. There was the hull of a brig high and dry in the harbour, the stern of which had been entirely knocked away, apparently in a storm - perhaps last February in Torbay.

During my stay a Flower Show was held in Dawlish. Mrs Long, residing at the Manor House, threw open her grounds for the occasion.

Mon. July 23. - Mrs Gardiner, recently residing at Harpford, gave a croquet party on the sandy expanse between the Mount Pleasant Inn and the Railway, on the Warren. I had time first to witness some very good swimming matches held at the Bishop’s Parlour, Dawlish, and then my cousin J. Jones and myself walked out along the Railway wall by Langstone Point to the place of meeting, where we arrived at four in the afternoon. Here, about three dozen ladies and gentlemen had assembled. We played until seven, when we had tea and coffee on the ground, tables and chairs having been spread for the occasion. We then played again; nor did we stop until the moon was shinning bright. Some returned to Dawlish by the road in carriages; but the greater number of us enjoyed a moonlight walk by the wall and the sands. We were home by ten.

Wed. July 25. 1866. - Had breakfast at Mrs. Gardiner’s, and then, took the up train just before nine in company with Mrs. Walker, (nee’ Gardiner) going to Sidmouth, as far as Exeter. Took other tickets on to Ottery Road. Here we took the coach to Sidmouth. On passing through Ottery, so much of which was recently burnet down, I was forcibly reminded of the pictures one sees of Pompeii. Arrived in Sidmouth soon after noon day.

August 1866.

Tu. August 7. 1866. - Pic-nic at Otterton. After dinner we most of us rambled down towards the sea through Otterton Park, so called.

Wed. Aug 8. - Dined with Captain Compton and a few friends at the York Hotel, at 7.P.M.

Fri. Aug 10. - Croquet part and tea at the Acraman’s.

Sat. Aug 11. - Pic-nic party at Sand farm, Sidbury parish.

Fri. Aug 24. 1866. - Went with Mr. Heineken to examine Broadclist Heath, where the old Camp used to be. We proceeded through Newton Poppleford (pebble-ford) to the top of Aylesbear Hill, and to the Halfway House. Here we turned off to Aylesbear, steering in a north-westerly direction. WE stopped at Aylesbear to examine the church. It is all Third Pointed. The east window is one of five lights, and square headed. The west gallery carved oak (if oak it be) of 17th. Century style. Fine arch into east end of north aisle (span E. and W.) with panelling under broad soffit. Diagonally through the square support of the west end of this arch, a squint or hagioscope has been somewhat roughly cut, subsequently to the completion of the erection of the church. Five bells in the tower. Outside the east entrance of the churchyard, against a house, lies half the base of an old granite cross. Same pattern as that at Alphington and at Dawlish. It is three feet long; 12 inches wide and 16 high. The Sexton’s wife could not give us any account of the other portions.

We also stopped at Rockbere to see the church. The chancel was under repair. The new chancel arch is a miserable affair. The east window was entirely out, a new one being in preparation. The north aisle has a waggon cover ceiling, divided into squares by ribs, the intersections being set off with rude wooden bosses painted yellow and red, like the sketch.

The windows are Third Pointed. The west doorway (blocked up) is the gem of the building. Mr. Heineken took two photographs of it. It is a good arch with square headed mouldings over. The Gable over the square head descends on each side to the springing of the arch. There are no bosses at the lower ends, but the mouldings make a turn and run into the wall.

On leaving this and getting into the Honiton and Exeter road, we proceeded westward, and turned north over the rail at the Broadclist station. On Broadclist Heath we hunted in vain for a small camp which Mr. Heineken remembers to have looked at more than thirty years ago. But the land about here has been enclosed and cultivated, and we could not identify localities. We then mounted the hill where the remains of the Windmill stand. A well known ancient camp once crowned this hill, as is recorded in County history; but the camp is entirely obliterated, and the whole district is now cultivated fields. The windmill tower stands near the middle of a large field. The tower stands at the north-west corner of a garden, of about from 50 to 60 yards square, sloping towards the south-east, in full view of Woodbury Castle, Henbury Fort, &c. After due examination, we felt persuaded, (in default of other evidence) that this garden occupies the area of the camp itself; and that the enclosing hedge is no other than the old agger. A small farm house stands at the lower corner of the garden. On proceeding home we altered our course. We went along the great road, then by Streetway Head to Ottery, where we observed that the Ottery people are beginning to clear away the ruins of the fire, and to rebuild, and so to Sidmouth, where we arrived by nine.

P.S.-I may add that the east window of the north aisle in Aylesbear(?) church, is peculiar as being a fragmentary portion of a Decorated or Flamboyant window.

And we stopped at Knightstone. The house is good Elizabethan. Splendid hall. Entrance door studded with nails, strengthened at the back with diagonal bars.

Mon. Aug. 27. 1866.-Mr. Heineken and myself made an expedition to Farway and Northleigh - commonly pronounced Nor’leigh by the country people. In Sidford we saw a bent sixpence of William III. Dug up where they are erecting the new church at the lower end of the village, and heard of some copper coins which we could not see. Passed Sidbury and Sand farm, and stopped a few minutes at Roncombe Farm house, and admired the splendid view down the valley looking towards Sidmouth. The Road is very steep here. We got out of the carriage and walked. Patches of Lady Fern, Athyrium filix fomina, on the left, and Aspleniun trichomanes on the right - neither found very near Sidmouth. Colleted horsetail for polishing. On reaching the top of the hill, we drove northward, and turned down to Farway by a place called “Money-acre-corner.” Visited Farway church. The columns down the nave are Norman, surmounted by pointed arches, the soffit of the arch consists of a plain chamfer of two orders. Tradition says that this church was built by a maiden lady of a certain age called Mallock, who had a great dislike to the male sex, and desired that she might be buried on the left of the porch, where the men did not go. Perhaps this was on the left of the west entrance, which would place her on the north side of the church; and possibly the sexes may have been separated in this church, during divine service. [see White’s Gazetteer.]* And we were told in the village that her coffin was to be placed upright, so that no man should walk over it.

* Harrison and Harrods Directory. - “Northleigh.”

Another tradition says that at “Money-acre-corner,” (so called from the circumstances,) a crock of gold was found, on the top of which was written the words, “Do good with this,” and that the finder therewith built the north aisle of the church. It may however be observed, that the north aisle should be as old as the Nave of the church itself, as is shown by the arcade of Norman columns. And it may be further remarked, that on the north wall of this north aisle, there is a tablet, bearing the effigies of one Humphry Hutchins, bearing the date 1628, who “New built” this part of the church. Perhaps he rebuilt the north aisle. [See drawing in sketchbook, under this date,] On the north side of the chancel is a slab, recording in black letter the death of George Haydon, 1558. The name is obliterated, but it is preserved in Lysons’ Devon, II, 239. At the north-east corner of the north aisle are two recumbent figures. The upper one represents the first Sir Edmund Prideaux in his lawyer’s robes; The other is in armour, with his head on a helmet decorated with a Plume. - Sir Peter. The windows are Perpendicular, except the east window, which is Decorated, with some old glass in the top light. Many of the supports, under the seats, have remains of carving. South door Decorated. In the churchyard, a few yards south of the church, There is an alter tombe, on the north side of which is the tablet of Thomas Hendo, just given The Yew tree close by measures 14 feet, 2 inches in girth near the ground; The other, at the east end of the churchyard 19,,8. The great elm tree 30 or 40 yards south of the churchyard measures 17ft. 7in.

We proceeded to Netherton Hale, the seat of Sir Edmund Prideaux, Bart., the external appearance of which disappointed us for the building has been much repaired and modernized during the time of the present Baronet. I have been told by Farway people that, after the present’s Baronet’s mother had been more than forty years in her coffin, she was removed to a new one, as the old coffin was much decayed; that the body was very perfect and the flesh but little decayed: and that the only accident that occurred during the operation, was the loosening of a nail of one of the great toes, which caused it to come off. She was a farmer’s daughter of the neighbourhood. Mr. Heineken took a photograph of Netherton Hall.

We then pushed on to Northleigh, and went into the church. There are remains of a good deal of oak carving here: as the screen in the nave, being columns supporting half-round fan groining, which possibly supported a roodloft, the panels in the groining being carved in low relief. There is a good open border above. The pulpit is of oak, carved in late or 17th. Century work. There are a number of good bench ends of carved oak.

At the east end of the north aisle there is an open screen. Two bands of leaf work along the top, carved and painted, and much undercut are especially noteworthy, (in the margin) and some other parts.

The font is Norman. It is a square block of stone, with engaged columns at the corners.

The south door, covered by the porch, was once flanked be Norman columns, the capitals still remaining.

The sketch represents that on the east side. Whilst we were in the village of Northleigh, we made every enquiry for Beacon Hill and Northleigh Beacon, mentioned by Davidson, and other writers.

We could get no certain information, but enough to encourage us to come again. On reaching the top of Farway Hill, we cut across the common towards Putt’s corner, and descended Honiton Hill.

September 1866.

Tu. Sep. 26 1866. - Went to Sherborne on a visit to the Vicar, the Rev. Edward Harston, whom I know, and with whose younger brothers I was at school, when I was a boy at Tiverton. Missed the train at Honiton, so I went and looked at the parish church, which, curiously enough, his half a mile out of the town, up a hill. To account for this the Honiton people have a tradition, that the church was built before the town existed, and that there was once another and an older town, though small it may have been, clustered near this church, but which fell to decay when this new town was built. There is an avenue of yew trees leading across the churchyard to the north door. The present church is in the Perpendicular style. The tower has a square stair turret at the S.E. corner and 5 bells. Battlements paneled. Good oak screen inside, but miserably painted to resemble grey marble.

Also looked at the new church in the town. It is built to resemble Norman. Foundation stone laid in Oct. 1835, and the church consecrated in April 1838. Two coloured windows to Mules on south side of chancel, and one on north side to someone else. There are six bells.

Took the next train, and passing by Axminster, Crewkern, and Yeovil Junction, got to Sherborne. Went to the Vicarage.

Sherborne church is really beautiful. As a work of art, it must command our highest admiration. In the Saxon times it was a cathedral; in the Norman times an Abbey church, and now the parish church. There are portions of all the Gothic styles, from the Normans downwards. It is built of Ham or Ham-hill stone, an inferior oolite, from Montecute some 8 or 10 miles west of Yeovil. The whole roof is fan-tracery. The restorations have been going on during the last 15 years. The late Lord Digby, and the present Mr. Digby, have contributed about £32.000. Formerly another church (All Hallows) was joined on to the west wall of this one, traces of it remaining. The oak carving in the choir is very good. I took copies of many portions, by pressing wet white paper against them with a handkerchief, as I had done in Lichfield cathedral, a couple of years age. I went all over the roof and the tower. There are eight bells in Bb, (B flat) and two others, the “Fire bell,” and the little Saints Bell. The great bell is 5,, 11 in diameter. It is Wolsey’s bell, but was recast in 1670, and again recently. It was cast (by Warker) of too high a pitch, but was turned out to bring it down to Bb. (B flat) The Vicar has a piece of the 1670 bell, with the date on it. I had it in my hands. As far as I remember it was in shape, like the sketch annexed. The colour of this old mass of metal struck me as resembling iron in colour more than bronze.

The ruins of the old Norman castle are in Sherborne Park, the property of the Digby family. About 100 years ago the then owner ruthlessly took off a great deal of the best of the squared stone, being the outer casing of the keep and other parts, to build the extensive range of stabling. I am afraid the present owner does not value the ruin much. The only remains are part of the outer gateway, with the moat, in some degree filled up, right and left: portions of the Keep, there being a circular Norman column supporting arches, and some zig-zag mouldings in other parts of the ruins: and there are still standing most of the walls of the chapel. It is to be lamented that a man, reputed to have £50.000 a year, does not do something to restore or preserve this ruin.

The house, built by Sir Walter Rawley, but since added to, and occupied by the family, lies across the lake, and at some distance from the old castle. It is something in the form of an H. The original part was the centre, as shown in the annexed plan, shaded darkest. The other parts have been added.

The two leaves subjoined, on which are memorandums in pencil, I took from My Note book. The Roman pavement, described on the last page in pencil, is in the Dairy of this house. I think the Dairy window looks out at A, as far as I remember.

A review and sham fight, by twelve companies of Volunteers, took place one day in the park.

The Digby Mausoleum in the cemetery, out of the town, is well worth examining. It is like a chapel, and roofed with stone. The carving of the west doorway is remarkably beautiful. It is too good to be outside, exposed to the weather. The building is scarcely finished yet. The west door I think is bronze.

Sat. Sep. 29. 1866.-Returned from Sherborne to Sidmouth.

October 1866.

Oct. 31. 1866.- Mrs. Oxley and her family left my house, No. 4 Coburg Terrace, Sidmouth, having been five months in it, I, with my old servant Mrs. Webber, living in the Old Chance.


November 1866.

Mon. Nov. 5. 1866.- The weather is mild and agreeable, and has been mostly so for some time.

A disposition manifested itself in Sidmouth, to keep the usual Fifth of November celebrations with unabated vigour. The following account I sent to the Tiverton Gazette, much read here.



It is a long time since the 5th. of November was celebrated with so much vigour, as what we have recently witnessed at Sidmouth. Once or twice in past times some unfortunate collisions have taken place between the authorities and the townspeople, but on this occasion, we believe that no accident and no quarrel occurred. License indeed there was; for squibs and crackers were freely let off in the town, and the troops of disguised persons paraded, swinging those brilliant but dangerous meteors, called fireballs, round their heads. The practice for troops of boys and men to disguise themselves, by putting on masks, and covering themselves with fantastic costume, and even of dressing themselves in the gowns and petticoats of women, is comparatively speaking, only of recent introduction in Sidmouth. It would be hard to say whence it was derived; but it has been denounced as un-English, since it is said that no honest Englishman ought to be ashamed to uncover his face. These mountebanks however, do not seem to have committed any assault. It is well of course for the general public to give them a wide berth; for a blow on the back with one of these balls, will go far to destroy a coat, either with flames or hot pitch. They are made by winding tarred cord and pitch into a ball as big as a boys head, binding the whole together with wire and fixing to it a chain about a yard long. When this is lighted, it burns with a large and bright flame, and the person holding the chain, swings it about in order to keep it free of his clothes. Those who were disguised in women’s clothes set fire to there petticoats more than once, but contrived to put themselves out. These fire balls are also of recent introduction, comparatively speaking. They are in a great degree superseding the time-honoured tar-barrel. On this recent 5th, there was a great falling off of those stuffed figures, usually carried about in the morning, and commonly called “Old Popes,” most erroneously of course, as they are meant to represent Guy Fawkes, with a lantern in one hand and a bunch of old-fashioned brimstone matches in the other, with which, as history says, he was going to sat fire to the gun-powder and blow up the Houses of Parliament, and everybody in them. The verses that the boys now repeat when they carry these figures about is corrupted, and some portions have been forgotten. - Formerly they used to run thus:-

Remember, remember,

The Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I see no reason

Why Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Holla boys, holla boys, God save the King, (Queen)

Holla boys, holla boys, make the bells ring,

Up with the ladder and down with the rope,

Please to give me something to burn the old Pope.


Some gentlemen promoted a subscription for firewood, which was liberally met. A quantity of rough timber and roots of trees were purchased, and 150 faggots. These were deposited on the shingles outside the Esplanade, and set fire to about eight o’clock in the evening. Such a bonfire is probably without its parallel here. It was still burning the next morning.

Tu. 13. and Wed. 14. 1866. – Astronomers had foretold an unusually numerous display of the Periodical Meters at this period, as the cycle of rather more than 33 years was now completed. Mr. Samuel Chick having some time ago erected a small observatory at the back of his house, Mr Heineken and Myself, together with Mr. Chick’s eldest son and Mr. Bray, proceeded there before eleven o’clock P.M. of Tuesday the 13th. Occasional shooting stars showed themselves, but it was not until after midnight that we began to keep regular count, nor was it until after one A.M. of Wednesday morning that they appeared in there greatest numbers.

From midnight to 10 minutes before one (when it became cloudy) we counted 457. From 1 to 1. 10, namely the space of ten minutes, we noted 130. About this period they became too numerous to count. By two o’clock they had very much lessened in numbers. From 3. 10 to 3. 20 A.M. namely another space of ten minutes, we only registered 31. Perhaps one of the largest of the night was the one represented on the opposite page. (Shown above) It appeared at 1.8’..10” A.M. of Wednesday. After it had burnt out, it left a train on the sky where it had passed, looking like bright vapour or smoke. This we saw for upwards of six minutes. Other people, out of doors, declare they saw it much longer. This train gradually collapsed together, or folded up, and slowly drifted away to the south-east. It is shown in the collapsing cloud under the meteor opposite. (See above picture)

After midnight, when the constellation Leo had risen, nearly all the meteors seemed to emanate from that point, as is shown in the sketch here annexed.

Another large meteor, perhaps large from its nearness, shewed itself at 1. 27’.20”, the light, or vapour, or smoke of which was visible for three or four minutes afterwards. In colour some variety appeared. The burning heads of some were ruddy, in some yellow, and some almost a white light. The tails were green or blueish green. None exploded. One seemed to scintillate, almost as if an explosion of its brilliant head were imminent.

Tu. Nov, 27. – Read the account of Casar’s attack on Britain in an old book of my late father’s entitled – Commentaries if Julius Casar, with Observations Thereupon, &c., by Clement Edmonds, London, 1655. The notices of his movements and operations occur in different chapters of the IIId. And IVth. Books.

My reason for turning to these again was, to see what is said about the Cowey Stakes, and the ford somewhere above London, where Casar and his army passed the Thames in the face of the whole army of Cassivilaunus, and despite all opposition. All the searches and researches of modern times have failed to discover the place of the ford; and without finding the ford, of course it is vain to hope to find the Cowey Stakes. When I was in New York in 1837, I went one day to see Peel’s Museum, as it was then called, though I believe it has been called by different names since that time, for this Museum was one of the sights, nominally, (supposing all the curiosities genuine) worth visiting. In a case in one of the upstairs rooms I saw a bit of old wood about as long as one’s fore finger and nearly as thick, labelled “Piece of one of the Cowey Stakes, found in the river Thames near London,” or words to that effect. Having just come over from London, and knowing something of the controversy respecting the disputed site of the ford, I confess I was somewhat staggered. On coming down stairs I told one of the attendants what I had seen, and then added, that the Cowey Stakes had never yet been discovered – at which he looked very foolish. I mention this as one instance of American veracity.

December 1866.

Dec. 31. 1866. - The month of December, like most months this year, has been characterised by very boisterous and variable weather. It has, however, been wonderfully mild, nothing like cold weather having made its appearance. Christmas was unusually warm.

< Go back to the previous page

Contact Us

East Devon AONB Partnership
Kennaway House
Coburg Road, Sidmouth
EX10 8NG

Tel: 01404 46663

Email : info@eastdevonaonb.org.uk

Subscribe to our e-newsletter

Follow Us:twitter logo

'In the Footsteps of Peter Orlando Hutchinson' outputs

An introductory leaflet to 'In the Footsteps of Peter Orlando Hutchinson' (pdf)

A summary of our Peter Orlando Hutchinson Year 1 achievements (pdf)

About 'In the Footsteps of Peter Orlando Hutchinson'

In the Footsteps of Peter Orlando Hutchinson (2010-2013) has been delivered by the East Devon AONB Partnership on behalf of and with the financial support of Defra, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund (Your Heritage) and the Sid Vale Association's Keith Owen Trust Fund.

Phil Planel is your first point of contact for this cultural and historic landscapes project.

Find out more >