Friday, 20 October 2017

Earning Pocket Money in the 40s

Here's a marvellous example of oral history, from Newton Abbot's Dave Grylls:

Dave Grylls, aka Isambard Kingdom Brunel, kindly sent in this audio clip about his childhood in the 40s. Children would make their own barrows, from crates and pram wheels, and use them to ferry things they could sell, such as jam jars, wood and flowers.

RIGHT CLICK AND OPEN IN NEW TAB   so that you can see the transcript while you listen

Hello. This is Dave Grylls again. This is just another memory that I have of when I was a child, growing up.
During the war years, things were perhaps a little bit scarce. We were rationed and all sorts like that but nevertheless we managed to carry on with a little bit of endeavour we enjoyed life to a degree and had many happy times.
However this is all about earning, and I repeat, earning pocket money not thrown around but earning it and how to earn it in the 40s as a young boy. I grew up in the time when pocket money was earned and not freely given away on a weekly basis. Money, as you can appreciate was scarce. Every penny had to be accounted for and consequently parents found it very difficult to reward children. If we as young boys really wanted something, then we worked together to gather enough money to buy it. This was good for all as it taught responsibility at an early age. And also, how to look after it once you'd got it.
Often items were handed down from one child to the next and because of the value of hard work and care it represented, almost these items were as good as their first day of purchase.

There were various ways in which to earn pocket money; some easy maybe but some needed some effort at least. The most lucrative demanded some hard work.  Before the commencement of all these little earners, we had to consider some way of transportation of our goods and suchlike. Many  youngsters, with a little initiative, built their own little wheelbarrows from wood, an old tea-chest or box, old pram-wheels, 2 shafts, a few nails or screws and we were away. Initial outlay was quite small as most grocers had an unwanted chest or box. Pram wheels were also easy to come by so with a little bit of initiative, hammer, screws and nails you could create something quite reasonable.
Almost all children of my generation can remember the Jam Jar Run.  Collect enough jam jars from your neighbours to fill a wheelbarrow and off you go to the back entrance of Maple in Hopkins Lane.
The manager would count each jam jar out and pay up accordingly. 2 or 3 ... shillings are not to be sneezed at. The Maples stores were recycling jam jars long before most modern-day supermarkets were even thought of. Half a penny for the 1lb jars and a whole penny for the 2lb jars.

All radios and wireless of the day - if you were lucky enough to have one -  were powered by what we termed cumulators1 . These had to be charged on a regular basis by the local electrical shop so we would collect the cumulators, take them to be charge and return them for a fee.
The wheelbarrows really worked hard and often wheels buckled down with the strain,. Quite often, running repairs were necessary. Often there were 2 of us pushing. And as some of the loads were quite heavy - for children - However not too wise a move to have too many pushers, 'cause it meant splitting the profits.

Most homes had log fires; some coal maybe, but most burnt logs and proved to be a real earner. We'd make several trips to Culls' wood yard where whole trees were sawn into logs while you waited. Lovely smell - freshly sawn wood. Empty barrows down the hill; loaded barrow up the hill which, believe me, can be quite back-breaking at times. Sometimes we would amalgamate the wood run with the paraffin run as some customers had paraffin heaters. This was actually sold by the gallon and it was essential to screw the lid on securely, or you would smell of paraffin all day. Any leakage also cut down the profit.

Spring and Summertime came and it could have proved a bit lean for child business so we picked primroses, foxgloves, bluebells violets; and made them into bunches. Good salesmanship could make this quite lucrative however we always found time for play.

The surrounding countryside had much to offer and all absolutely free. And as a child  you work this hard to earn your pocket money, then, believe me, you really appreciate the end result.

This story I penned on 22nd  November 2009 and it came to me just out of the blue and this I think  is a great thing. If you fail to record all these little stories, however silly they may seem to be, unless you put them on paper or record them, they are lost forever. And some stories are really quite delightful.

Thankyou and bye-bye.

 1 cumulators was us chillen's word for electrical accumulators, which is an obsolete term for capacitors: electrochemical cell, a cell that stores electrical energy, typically used in rechargeable batteries wiki 

Dave Grylls as Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the Starcross History meet

Dave Grylls as Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Dawlish
 Unearth  event recorded some Starcross Stories from Starcross residents. This is a first step in the Starcross Oral History project. We have been offered the facilities and expertise of the Hear and Now recording studio in Dawlish, and we have people who are willing to tell us more Starcross stories. We need a leader to take forward the Starcross Oral History project. Please get in touch if you would be that leader.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

TILES WANTED for The Starcross History Mosaics Project

With lots of help from the village, The Starcross History Mosaics Project will create a series of mosaics to celebrate its fascinating history.

The first design being worked on is for the forge.The forge mosaic will have an anvil, horse-shoes, hammer & tongs and a HORSE (of course), set against a background  of the red&orange-glowing coals of the furnace.
The forge used to be called Smiths Forge  The Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies   hold a bundle of documents, dated 1728-1894.

Another current design idea is of Brunel with his iconic cigar and stove-pipe hat, by a red sandstone tower.

The owner of the house where Captain Peacock lived, has kindly agreed to display our mosaic of The Swan of the Exe  - which will be based on this excellent photograph ( kindly forwarded by The Liverpool Archives) of Captain Peacock's folly, The Swan of the Exe, with Mr Dixon, of Dixon's Yard at Exmouth (where the yacht was built)  and Captain Peacock on board

Teignbridge District Council point out that the siting of mosaics might mean getting planning permission, and they have offered the help of their Community Art and Design Adviser.

Anyone could have a go at making a mosaic. But broken tiles can have sharp edges, cutting tiles can result in flying shrapnel, tile adhesive can stick to stuff you don't want it to, so be aware of the Health and Safety aspect of what ought to be a harmless hobby.

The steps to create an outside mosaic could be:
NB wear goggles to protect your eyes, and gloves to protect your hands.  Put your hands inside a pillowcase when you cut tessarae; to prevent pieces flying.
  • Find a piece of wood with at least one side unvarnished and unpainted.
  • Drill holes where you will fix it to a wall
  • (you will leave a space around the fixing holes you have drilled - you tile over the top of the screws after the mosaic is fixed in place)
  • Create a design out of simple shapes 
  • Draw it onto the unvarnished, unpainted wood
  • Collect the tessarae - which need to be small, thin and flat. You could use pebbles, or tiles, or pottery or shells. If you need to cut tessarae, do it inside a pillowcase to prevent pieces flying. 
  • Sort the tesserae into colours
  • Use WATERPROOF adhesive cement. Polyfilla is ideal. Either butter it on to the tesserae or put it onto the wood - whichever way suits you is best. 
  • After it's dried for a couple of days, grout it all with WATERPROOF grout.
  • Leave a couple more days.
  • Use yacht varnish to make the wood waterproof on the back and the edge of the wood.

NB wear goggles to protect your eyes, and gloves to protect your hands.  Put your hands inside a pillowcase when you cut tessarae; to prevent pieces flying. 

There's lots more advice on the internet, but much of it is around mosaic suppliers. Using unwanted materials such as old/broken tiles and shells is the cheapo way

Please get in touch if you can add to this basic how2, or would help with this project. Do you have any plain coloured tiles? It doesn't matter if they are broken. Any colours, but we need red and orange for now. and silver and gold.
Many thanks to Joanne Bickel and Alma for their advice and encouragement.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

307 Squadron Project in Exeter

third from the right navigator F/O Leon Michalski, fifth pilot
F/O Alfred Suskiewicz, sixth mechanic Cpl Piotr Czereda.

 307 Squadron Project invite you to a number of important events taking place in Exeter on Wednesday 15th November (307 Squadron Day) to honour the Polish 307 Squadron.

307 Squadron, part of the RAF, were night-fighters who fought the Luftwaffe over the skies of
Britain and prevented Exeter from being totally destroyed during the blitz on the city in 1942.
This year is the 75th anniversary of when the squadron presented the city of Exeter with
the Polish flag on 15th November 1942 in a sign of international cooperation.

The events on 15th November, ‘307 Squadron Day’ include:
  • 09:50 RAF Brize Norton Parade from the top of High Street to the Guildhall. RAF Brize Norton will be exercising their Freedom of Exeter to honour 307 Squadron.
  • 10:00 Raising of the Polish flag over Exeter Guildhall in the presence of distinguished guests including:
Vice Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Sir John Cave
His Excellency Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Ambassador to Great Britain
The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Councillor Lesley Robson
  • 10:30 Exhibition ‘Night Fighters of Exeter’ at the Guildhall opens. This free public exhibition, in both languages, is open until 16:00 hours.
The exhibition is also open on:
Tuesday 14th November 10:30 - 16:00
Thursday 16th November 10:30 - 16:00
  • 16:30 Unveiling of 307 Squadron plaque at Exeter Cathedral. The plaque, which will be placed inside the St James Chapel, will be unveiled by The Polish Ambassador
  • 17:30 Choral Evensong Incorporating 307 Squadron at Exeter Cathedral
For more information on these events please contact us at
Andrzej Michalski, Michael Parrott, Marcin Piórkowski
307 Squadron Project

poster: Night Fighters of Exeter

Commemoration at Exeter Guildhall

Commemoration at Exeter Guildhall

Commemoration at Exeter Guildhall

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Dress up as a film star. Popcorn is free.

 Newton's Place Film Night

On Tuesday, 17th October, at 7:30pm, in  St. Leonard's Church, Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot, there will be a National Lottery funded show of archive film about Newton Abbot and surrounds.
 Come as you are, or as your favourite film star.
 Donations requested, to the Newton's Place development fund



Tuesday, 19 September 2017

November 8th in St Paul's. Ian Graham-Jones on John Marsh


November 8th meet

The next meet of Starcross History will be on Wednesday, 8th November at 7:30pm in St Paul’s Church. No membership fee and admission is free. We have to pay for the room, so we charge £1 for tea/coffee and £1 a strip for raffle tickets. Please bring a raffle prize.
Ian Graham-Jones has kindly agreed to present an illustrated talk about John Marsh’s visits to Starcross and Dawlish. John Marsh (1752 -1828) was perhaps the most prolific English composer of his time - over 350 works. He had varied interests; from bellringing and religion to astronomy and geometry. His 37 journals are valuable sources of information on life and music in 18th -19th century England. They remained unpublished until 1998. (wiki)
Here's the full wikitext:
John Marsh (31 May 1752 – 31 October 1828) was an English gentleman, composer, diarist and writer born in Dorking, England.[1] A lawyer by training, he is known to have written at least 350 compositions, including at least 39 symphonies. While today known primarily for his music, he also had strong interest in other fields, including astronomy and philosophy, and wrote books about astronomy, music, religion, and geometry.

Life and career

Marsh lived in Dorking, Gosport, Romsey, Salisbury and Canterbury before settling in Chichester in 1787 until his death in 1828. As a concert organizer, he was responsible for the music making in the towns and cities where he worked, especially in Chichester, where he led the subscription concerts for some 35 years.
Marsh was perhaps the most prolific English composer of his time. His own catalog of compositions records over 350 works, of which he lists 39 symphonies. Of these, only the nine that Marsh had printed are extant, together with three one-movement finales.
Marsh was a man of varied interests, and his 37 volumes of journals are among the most valuable sources of information on life and music in 18th-century England. They represent one of the most important musical and social documents of the period. It remained unpublished until the first volume was published in 1998. In one passage, Marsh describes the great Handel Commemoration of 1784 in London.
Marsh's son was poet and cleric Edward Garrard Marsh.

Extant works

  • The Salisbury Symphonies
    • Symphony No. 8 [9] in G Major (1778)
    I. Allegro
    II. Andante
    III. Allegro
    • A Conversation Symphony for Two Orchestras [No. 10] in E-flat Major (1778)
    I. Allegro maestoso
    II. Andante
    III. Allegretto
    • Symphony No. 2 [12] in B-flat Major (1780)
    I. Allegro
    II. Largo 8 in a bar
    III. Allegro spirituoso
    • Symphony No. 1 [13] in B-flat Major (1781)
    I. Allegro
    II. Andante
    III. Chasse: Allegro
  • The Canterbury Symphonies
    • Symphony No. 5 [16] in E-flat Major (1783)
    I. Largo staccatto
    II. Allegro moderato
    III. Minuetto; Allegro spirituoso
    • Symphony No. 3 [17] in D Major (1784)
    I. Allegro
    II. Andante
    III. Presto
  • The Chichester Symphonies
    • Symphony No. 4 [19] in F Major (1788)
    I. Allegro
    II. Larghetto
    III. Minuetto
    IV. Allegro
    • Symphony No. 7 [24] in E-flat Major (La Chasse) (1790)
    I. Andante (The hunter’s call in the morning)
    II. Allegretto (Setting out from home; the fox discovered)
    III. Allegro (Chasse)
    • Symphony No. 6 [27] in D Major (1796)
    I. Largo maestoso; Allegro spiritoso
    II. Andante
    III. Minuetto: Allegro
    IV. Allegro scherzando
  • The Finales
    • Finale No. 3 in E-flat Major (1799)
    Andante; Allegro
    • Finale No. 1 in D Major (1800)
    • Finale No. 2 in B-flat Major (1801)
    Maestoso; Trio


  1. Brandon, Peter (2006). Sussex. London: Robert Hale. p. 224. ISBN 0-7090-6998-7.


  • The John Marsh Journals—The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer (1752–1828) Edited, introduced and annotated by Brian Robins. Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, NJ, 1998. ISBN 0-945193-94-7. A second volume, covering the period from June 1802 to Marsh's death on October 31, 1828, was published by Pendragon Press in July 2013. ISBN 978-1576471630.
  • "The John Marsh Journals: The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer (1752-1828)." Music & Letters, Nov. 1999.
  • Temperley, Nicholas, "Marsh of Chichester: Gentleman, Composer, Musician, Writer 1752-1828” (review), Music and Letters - Volume 86, Number 4, 2005, at p. 633.
  • Marsh of Chichester: Gentleman, Composer, Musician, Writer 1752-1828. Ed. by Paul Foster. pp. 158. Otter Memorial Papers, 19. University College Chichester, Chichester, England, 2004. ISBN 0-948765-34-8.
  • John Marsh--Symphonies, Edited by Ian Graham-Jones
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians (2000)

External links

There are 2 c.d's of John Marsh's symphonies:One of the c.d.'s is Chandos 10458(64 minutes,2008).It contains 5 of his symphonies: Number 2(LaChasse-1780),Number 6(1796),Number 7(LaChasse-1790),Number 8(1778)and Conversation Symphony for 2 Orchestras(1778).It's played by the London Mozart and conducted by Matthias Bamert.The other by The Chichester Concert conducted by Ian-Graham Jones(64 minutes,1989).It also contains 5 symphonies(Number 1,3,4,6 and A Conversation Symphony for 2 Orchestras.It was given a favorable review in Gramophone Magazine in 1989.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Music by John Marsh

Starcross History is to have a presentation, on 8th November, from Ian Graham-Jones, about the composer and diarist John Marsh. (1752 - 1828)  John Marsh visited Devon, including Dawlish and Starcross.

Here is a selection of John Marsh music: 

John Marsh - Symphony No.7 in E-flat major "La Chasse" (1790)



John Marsh - Conversation Symphony for 2 Orchestras in E-flat major (1778)

John Marsh - Symphony No.6 in D-major (1796)


John Marsh - Symphony No. 4 in F major


John Marsh (1752-1828): Voluntary No. 1 in C Major (Ménestérol)

John Marsh (1752-1828): Voluntary No. 15 in G Major (Ménestérol)

Photograph of the Royal Western Counties Hospital with a topiary swan

What a great photo.
  • Is that a swan hedge in the background?
  • Does anyone know anything about this photo please? 
  • Who did that topiary? 
  • What year was this taken? 
  • Who took this photo?

 Topiary in Starcross
Starcross once had some more topiary - there was a row of conical Yew trees along The Strand. see bottom right picture on this postcard

Greetings from Starcross. potcard. 5 views

and here's another view of them; with people in Victorian clothing.

and here's 3 Francis Frith postcards which also show the Yew trees along The Strand

and here's one of the row of conical yew trees by the Starcross siding

Kenton Past & Present meet this Wednesday

Hugh Meller will address Kenton Past and Present Society this Wednesday 20th September in the Victory Hall.
subject -  The  Country Houses of Devon
Non-members welcome
Admission £4
Hugh has written many books about  architectural history. They include The  Country Houses of Devon published by Black Dog in 2015 -  Two hardback volumes (each 303 x 213mm) complete with a slip-case. 1,204 pages in total.
ISBN 9780952434146
These books won the WG Hoskins Prize
Hugh pictured at the launch of his books, with Devon Gardens Trust Vice President Carolyn Keep.

Hugh Meller speaking at Devon History Society AGM after receiving the W G Hoskins prize for his books The Country Houses of Devon.

Poster advertising the meet with covers of the 2 books

link to The Country Houses of Devon by Hugh Meller on The Black Dog Press
This... publication describes more than 400 of Devon’s most notable country houses in lively detail. Their owners & architectural history, their estates, ancillary buildings & gardens are all included. Over 1,000 old and new photographs, drawings, maps and sketch-plans, many published for the first time, illustrate the text.
The author spent 26 years working for the National Trust in Devon, responsible for its historic buildings, and 15 years researching the houses in these two volumes. Significantly, it is the first time that the county’s more obscure country houses, as well as the better-known ones, have been comprehensively recorded.

Image of Paul Holden's review of the books The Country Houses of Devon
Paul Holden's Review of The Country Houses of Devon
link to Paul Holden's review of Country Houses in Devon

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Starcross Unearthed - The Villages in Action Show

What are the stories that make Starcross such a unique place? Who are the characters that have lived over the centuries in the village? Playwright Lucy Bell, actors Charlie Coldfield and Kirsty Cox, sculptor Peter Margerum, digital artist Kate Green plus folk musician Jim Causley have woven local stories into a fascinating evening of song, drama, interactive art, sound and archive images

The performance is on Friday, 15th September at 7pm (doors open at 6pm ) in St Paul's Church, Starcross.
Tickets from Westbank Charity Shop, or from Alison
£7 adults
£4 under 18s
£18 per family
There will be a bar and a raffle

Friday, 18 August 2017

Exmouth from Starcross before the railway

This is a reproduction of an 1850 print from the Illustrated London News. It shows 2 sailed fishing boats and 2 rowed boats on the foreshore at Starcross.  Another 2-masted sailboat lies at anchor on the Exmouth side. A few white-sailed sailing dinghies are dotted around the Exe estuary.

Friday, 26 May 2017

FREE Lectures at Powderham

Lectures at Powderham

 There is no charge to attend these lectures at Powderham Castle

Powderham Castle (Daniel Maudlin 2016)

Fri 26 May, 1pm          

 'Design and the Future of Heritage Apps',
James Brocklehurst, Programme Leader, Graphic Communication,
University of Plymouth

Mon 29 May, 1pm             

'Conserving the Robert Adam Interiors at Saltram House',
Louise Ayres, House and Collections Manager,
Saltram House, Devon (National Trust)

Tues 30 May, 1pm          

'Built Heritage as Virtual Reality',
Rob Giles, Team Leader, Faculty of Business Information Technology,
University of Plymouth

Wed 31 May, 


 'The American Interior in the Eighteenth Century',
 Laura C. Keim, Penn Design, University of Pennsylvania


 'Place-Making for the Imagination: Horace Walpole and the Landscape of Strawberry Hill', Dr Marion Harney, University of Bath

Thurs 1 June, 6pm              

  Histories of the Unexpected Live:
'The Material World of Powderham: a castle, a horn, a bookcase and a chair',
James Daybell and Sam Willis, Histories of the Unexpected

Mon 5 June,


  'US Approaches to Cultural Landscapes and Conservation Planning'
   Prof Randall F. Mason, Chair in Historic Preservation, University of Pennsylvania


  'The Restoration of the Belvedere at Powderham'
   Philip Hughes, Philip Hughes Associates Building Conservation

Tues 6 June, 1pm                               

 'Heritage and Historic Buildings',
Richard Hewlings, Senior Properties Historian, Historic England (retired)

Wed 7 June, 1pm              

   'The Georgian Country House',
Richard Hewlings

Thurs 8 June, 1pm              

 'Managing a World Heritage Site in the Twenty-First Century',
Deborah Boden,
Director, Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscapes World Heritage Site

Cornerstone Heritage with Plymouth University


Cornerstone at Powderham Castle

The History department at Plymouth is currently engaged on a two-year project at Powderham Castle, Devon, in partnership with the Historic Preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania. The project has several strands including community projects, field studies - commencing in June 2017 - to investigate the historic fabric and material culture of the castle and surrounding landscape, cataloguing the castle library; producing a database of archived documents relating to the castle and Courtenay family (held in the castle and at local and national archives), and,the development of new  heritage interpretation content and platforms (including digital media).

Powderham Castle and the Courtenays are part of Devon's long history, our  project focuses on the later eighteenth century and the transformation of the castle into a Georgian country house. Both our research activities and outcomes are intended to enrich the understanding of the castle and Powderham estate for the benefit of the local community with local groups, schools and the international members of the Courtenay Society involved.
Archival work is already underway and the first field study is scheduled for June 2017 when a group of staff and students from Plymouth and UPenn will be working at Powderham.
For more information contact Daniel Maudlin or James Daybell.
programme of Cornerstone Lectures at Powderham

Saturday, 20 May 2017

HarMONICA and mouthorgan workshops

Starcross History took part in the Thankyou for the Music event today in St Paul's Church. The display of photographs and information about Starcross included a file of recently Unearthed material.

Musical workshops Monica presented were an invitation to play the glass harmonica
wineglasses filled to different levels with water

and to make&play the Comb&paper Mouthorgan

Quite a few of the grown-ups could play one. Maybe, with a bit of practice, we could have a Starcross Comb Band??

The event continues tomorrow with a Pet Service at 2:30pm followed by Cream Teas

Sunday, 14 May 2017

A Potted History of the Violet...

Violet posy
Violets used to be cultivated in Starcross. The leaves of the flower known as Butterburr were used to make posies, which were boxed and put on the trains to Covent Garden Market. All that remains of the violet industry in Starcross is the almond-scented Butterburr; abundant in the Starcross hedgebanks.
Butterburr is also known as Coltsfoot. During World War 2, the leaves were dried and smoked as a tobacco substitute. Was Butterburr more or less likely to cause cancer than tobacco? 

Starcross Butterburr hedgebank Petasites fragrans

Devon Violet Nursery at Ottery St Mary is one of the few nurseries in the country who specialise [today] in growing sweet violets. [They] also have many other gifts for sale such as hand-made Devon Violet Soaps, Bath Bombs/Salts, Violet Perfume, Essential Oils, Candles, Incense, Napkins, Glassware, Pots and associated dried grasses.

 A Potted History of the Violet...  
The Viola Odorata was one of the first flowering plants to be grown commercially. It was noted that they were for sale in Athens 400BC being grown in specialist Nurseries in Attica. Throughout the centuries Violets have been a favourite flower, either for their perfume which scented the rooms and floors or their medicinal qualities which are still being researched today (eg. Viola Yedoensis).Most perfumes of Violets today are synthetic of course but the perfume evokes such nostalgic memories for so many people. Dawlish in Devon was the most important centre for the cultivation of Violets in 1916 and a special train ran from Cornwall to London carrying all the flowers on their way to Covent Garden Market every day. By 1936 there was a flourishing trade from this area and flowers were sent regularly to the Queen and ladies at the Court. During the war years the land was requisitioned for the growing of food,and Violets went out of fashion, sadly never to return. Until now. A lot of the old varieties have been lost, but [the Devon Violet Nursery is] are slowly bringing back as many as [they] can into [their] catalogue every year, so [they] are doubly proud of [their] efforts to reintroduce this nostalgic little flower back into our gardens and preserve a little of our English History at the same time.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Starcross Cattle Market

Here's the Starcross Cattle Market on a Bernard Chapman postcard
This was in the days of the Starcross abattoir, which was next to the Spar Shop. The buildings were used for many years as the village youth club - "The Peacock Cookson Centre" , sponsored by the Peacock Cookson family. The buildings were sold, and the monies used towards the youth facilities in the new Starcross Pavilion.

The Peacock Cookson Centre has recently been converted into a bungalow.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

More Starcross Stories Unearthed

No admission charge. No membership. Everyone interested in Starcross history is invited. We have a raffle to cover expenses, so please bring a raffle prize

This meeting will continue to look at the stories unearthed by the Villages in Action project to unearth the history of 8 Devon villages. The Starcross research material has been given to the Villages in Action Artists, who are hard at work creating a Villages in Action happening... What will it be? What will a playwright, an actor, a visual artist and a singer-songwriter create?
A fantastic amount of material has been unearthed - but the enthusiasm to discover even more Starcross Stories won't end with this project. Villages in Action will put everything on a special website, but what else can we do? 
Could we publish ebooks aimed at the Key Stages of the National Curriculum? Should we aim for a hard copy of a book? 
Unlike an ordinary village, Starcross's history has universal appeal. We have evidence of Romans using the river. There were Roundhead v Cavalier battles fought on our shores. The remarkable Swan Boat is still within living memory, and its Victorian designer was the redoubtable Victorian; Captain George Peacock. Also within living memory is the Royal Western Counties Hospital, with its wonderful innovations for the education of idiots. Then there's the scenic Great Western railway line; still dubbed God's Wonderful Railway. And we can't forget  Brunel's Atmospheric Caper
 The online British Newspaper Archive and the Devon Heritage Centre in Sowton continue to yield more tales to augment the knowledge from some of Starcross's more senior residents, and caches of documents and photographs from places which include: Starcross School,   St Paul's Church and the village pubs.

information sought about The Wills family

The Wills family bike repair shop in Well Street

Jack Wills; bike repairer

Pennyfarthing Cottage Bike repair shop in 1900s. Note the Pennyfarthing in the hedge

Well St Starcross in 1900s

I have visited Starcross today and enjoyed wandering around the village that was once the home of my paternal grandmother who was born around 1878.

Her name was Bessie Wills and, as far as I recall, she had two sisters and two brothers - Em(Emily I am guessing), Nance, Jack and Frank.  Her brother Jack was born with what we would now call polio and for a living he repaired bicycles - hence the penny farthing which always stood at right angles to the cottage which now bears that name. (At that time the gardens for the three cottages extended to the right (where the newer house now stands) with three adjacent lavatories with wooden bench time seats at the end of the garden.

I was interested to see the bicycle still on display outside the cottage.  An adopted daughter (although possibly not formally adopted) , Floss, looked after Jack in his later years and moved to New Road after he died - in the 1950s.

Her brother Frank worked at the asylum cutting hair, I believe - he married and had a daughter Betty who was born around 1923.  The two sisters moved to Cardiff and Chepstow where they had families and my grandmother moved to Paignton where she married Alfred Gibson and had three children, one of whom died in infancy.

I wonder whether you have any more information about the Wills family - I believe her father may have worked at Mamhead House.  She used to talk of Sunday evening walks after church to see the boys in Kenton and was very affected by once seeing a black man who had drowned and was washed up at Starcross.

I had hoped to find a Wills grave in the churchyard as I am guessing many of her family would have been buried there, although they would not have had a great deal of money and therefore there may be no headstone. 

If you have any information about any of the family I would be very interested and appreciative to hear from you

Many thanks

Janet Reed (formerly Gibson)