South Devon Branch report: 2015

Our AGM held in January was quite well attended, helped by the delicious tea provided by the committee.

Our April talk was given by Professor Tony Buller who gave a most informative and entertaining account of the part played by the Teign Estuary in the industrial development of the Newton Abbot hinterland, particularly the extraction of ball clay and its transportation out of the region. We are eagerly looking forward to seeing for ourselves his guided walk on the physical development of early Teignmouth together with the estuary and harbour in August.

In May we were entertained by past-president Andrew Cooper at his farm at Haccombe. On a most interesting tour he explained how the land is managed for the maximum benefit of wildlife and the films he has been able to make as a result. After refreshment, we also had the rare treat of a visit to the tiny church of St. Blaise where, as well as the fascinating history, there was the added enjoyment of a flower festival in honour of Keble Martin, author of the Flora, who was priest-in-charge. Consisting entirely of wild flowers, this was a fitting tribute to his life’s work.

For our July meeting, 21 members met at the Grade II* listed church of St Peter and Paul, Teigngrace, where we were given an excellent and informative talk on the history and features of the church by Julie, a local historian. Tucked away from the road, down a quiet drive, the church, dating back to 1350, was rebuilt in 1736 by the the three Templer brothers as a monument to their parents, James and Mary Templer of Stover. Our guide spoke of the history of the Templer family and pointed out the family vault, situated under the pulpit, and the many monuments on the walls. The village war memorial is also, unusually, situated inside the church. A large painting of the Pieta hangs as an Altar piece and two stained glass windows are situated behind the Altar. A fascinating collection of newspaper cuttings and photographs relating to the church and surrounding area forms a display which will repay a further visit to St Peter and Paul’s as there is never enough time to explore all there is to see on these occasions. On this occasion, too, we had an excellent tea awaiting us, prepared by the ladies of the church.

The August excursion was a walk by the sea. Following his talk on the industrial river Teign earlier in the year, Professor Tony Buller took a group along the sea front at Teignmouth. He described and explained the development of the port for clay export as well as the underlying geology which largely determined its use and access. It was fascinating to know that the present built up area was, in some areas, an arm of the sea and how it had been filled in and developed. The subsequent stages of residential and resort development were pointed out and the influence of the railway, right up to its recent problems, were also explained. A most enjoyable and instructive afternoon thanks to his easy and approachable delivery.

Our November event was a talk by Philip Algar who gave a most interesting talk about childhood in war-torn Torquay. This was based on his latest book Stumbling Through a Wartime Childhood which he says is part autobiography, part fiction. The event brought back many memories for the audience and a good time was had by all.

In December, giving us the benefit of his 25 years’ experience in our local Ball Clay Industry, John Pike’s talk was a real treat. Amply illustrated with diagrams, old pictures and historical documents coupled with a selection of old mining tools, he traced the geological formation of ball clay from the earliest stages through to the industrial product that we know today. A detailed question and answer session then rounded off a fine afternoon.

We always welcome new members to our sessions.

Gwen Davis

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