South Devon Branch report for the year to March 2019

Our spring 2018 season consisted of three lectures given by experienced speakers: Derek Gore who described the ongoing archaeological excavations on the Romano-British site near Ipplepen; Michael Martyn who related the sad story of Princess Charlotte who died 200 years ago aged only 21 after delivering a stillborn son; and John Risdon who revealed many of the lesser-known facts about Agatha Christie and her life.

On a brilliantly sunny day in May we visited Fursdon, the ancestral home of David Fursdon LL. who was then president of the DA. A short report and some photos can be seen here.

On an even sunnier day in July a good turn-out of members braved the heat to learn about the history of Babbacombe and St Marychurch, the oldest parts of Torquay. Meeting outside the Cliff Railway café – the source of several fortifying ice-creams – we first walked along the Downs learning about the people who had built the fine houses there in Victorian times. After passing the Model Village we walked up the now-pedestrianised main street, with recollections of how much trouble its narrowness had caused when traffic was allowed – bus timetables had to be arranged so that two buses would not need to pass one another along its length. Next we admired the external features of the Anglican parish church, which was rebuilt after being almost completely destroyed by a bomb in 1943, and finally we were admitted to the Catholic Church (the one with the spire) where we lingered longer than was strictly necessary due to its welcome coolness. Many thanks were given to our knowledgeable guides, Pat Young and John Lee from the Babbacombe & St Marychurch Local History Society who led us around with great humour and patience.

In September Lee Martin led us on a fascinating visit around three churches hidden in the Teign Valley: Christow, Doddiscombsleigh and Higher Ashton.

Our first talk of the autumn season, by Dr David Stone, was on the gruesome topic of the effects of the Black Death in Devon. That disease spread westwards along the Silk Route from its origin in the far east. A far more benign entity that followed the same route and settled in Devon was the Three Hares Motif: Dr Sue Andrew told us all about this in December. Our AGM in January featured a Devon-based photo quiz designed by Colin Turner.

In February, David Austin told the story of his family’s department store in Newton Abbot and as I write this we’re looking forward to John Cole telling us about Devon’s seaside piers, with an emphasis on Paignton, in March. April will see us learning about the North Hall Manor archaeological excavations in Widecombe, followed up by a visit to the site in July. May will feature ‘Dawlish Warren Day’, jointly arranged with Exeter Branch and devised by Prof. Tony Buller, who has already organised similar visits to Teignmouth and Dawlish. Lastly in September we have a rare opportunity to visit Teignmouth Docks. Book early!