Annual Conference, Bideford 2022

After two years during which we were forced by COVID to hold our meetings online, we were pleased to hold our 2022 Annual Conference and AGM at the Royal Hotel in Bideford from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th of September.

Bideford Quay
Photo: Tony Buller

In the Conference leaflet printed for the event, Dr Sue Andrew, Chair of the Executive Committee, wrote:

Our Annual Conference and AGM will take us to the ‘little white town’, whose port in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was so important in sending ships to the fisheries of Newfoundland. Foreign trade, especially in tobacco, ensured the town remained wealthy for another hundred years or so.

We have a busy and varied programme of stimulating and enjoyable events, including a special tour of the Burton Art Gallery with its fine collection of ceramics, and visits to the iconic Bridge and Trust Rooms, Rolle Canal with its sea lock and lime kilns, SS Freshspring and the Historic Wharves, and the glorious gardens at RHS Rosemoor.

Writer and bookworm Nick Arnold will give our Public Lecture on the Vikings’ Dragon Ships, and well-known local historian and thrice Mayor of Bideford, the ever-entertaining Peter Christie, will lead the town walk. Our incoming President Professor John Mather promises to challenge our thinking regarding the mapping of Devon’s fascinating geology.

With the prospect of good company, and plenty of time to share ideas, our three-day conference is always a highlight of the DA year. Do join us for all or part of it.

Summary Report

A full report will appear in this year’s volume, no 154, of our Report and Transactions.

Royal Hotel, Bideford
Photo: Tony Buller

Friday 2 September

The conference began on the Friday evening with a guided walk around the town led by Peter Christie, four-times mayor of Bideford. This was followed by the President’s Reception hosted by our outgoing President Robin Wootton in the presence of members and several guests, including the current Mayor of the town, Jude Gubb.

Historian and children’s science book author, Nick Arnold, then gave the annual public lecture entitled Devon and the Dragon Ships. A spirited Q&A session was followed by a hot buffet supper to round off the official business of the day.

Saturday 3 September

The Saturday morning session of our conferences is traditionally reserved for the reading of papers to be included in the upcoming volume of Transactions. It was chaired by the Honorary Editor, Professor Malcolm Hart, and members were entertained with the following talks:

  • Peter Christie – The Kingsley Statue, Bideford
  • Kelvin Boot – Bird, beast and animal stuffers: Devonshire taxidermists in the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century
  • Gillian Allen – A typology of Devon slave-owners
  • Jenny Pery – The art of Devon painters: William Gibbons – ‘The Barbican Artist’
  • Simon Timms – Picturing North Devon: The Beaford Archive and the photographs of James Ravilious
  • Philippe Planel – James Boswell and the Reverend William Temple at Mamhead.

Professor Hart summarised three other papers with his customary wit and enthusiasm:

  • Jane Elliott – What will Devon be like in 2050: Insights from the Social Sciences
  • Emma Laws – The Tale of Beatrix Potter and the Westcountry
  • Nicholas Orme – The visitation of Totnes Archdeaconry in 1342

The final paper written by Malcolm Hart and Jenny Bennett – Devon’s climate: Past, Present and Future – An update for 2022 was presented by the Honorary Editor.

Prof. John Mather, our new President

After lunch the Annual General Meeting was chaired by Robin Wootton. Sue Andrew presented a Report of the Executive Committee in which she thanked Helen Wilson, who retired as Vice Chair, and many members of the Executive Committee and the Branches and Sections. Jenny Bennett was appointed as Vice Chair and John Haslam was elected to the Executive Committee. Honorary Life Memberships were awarded to Robert (Bob) Letcher and Bruce Peeke for their long and dedicated service to the DA. Sue Andrew thanked Robin Wootton for his year as President and on behalf of the members of the Association presented him with a ceramic plate made by Harry Juniper of Bideford Pottery. Sue then introduced Professor John Mather and installed him as President for 2022–23. Professor Mather then delivered his Presidential Address: Granite, greywacke and the making of the geological map of Devon.

DA Chair, Sue Andrew presenting plate to Robin Wootton, outgoing President

The day ended with a dinner, hosted by the DA Chair.

Sunday 4th September

The Rolle Canal. photo by Peter Cox

A selection of visits were arranged for Sunday – a guided tour of the Burton Art Gallery, a visit to SS Freshspring and escorted walk along the historic wharves accompanied by Mike Teare; Peter Christie led a small group to the Bideford Bridge Trust building and in the afternoon Adrian and Hilary Wills showed the restoration work being carried out at the Rolle Canal and Sea Lock near Weare Giffard.


The Association is greatly indebted to Mrs Sadie Green for invaluable help and advice in connection with the arrangements for this year’s Annual Conference. We also wish to thank Dr Jenny Bennett and Jonathan Aylett for organising the event.