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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Cheek by Jowl

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas SEPTEMBER. 04, 2020


[30-365] 4th September 2020- I have only just looked up the origin of this idiom as it fascinates me how these phrases survive. Unlike many idioms used in English today, cheek by jowl can be traced back as far as 600 AD. It first appeared in The Auncient Ecclesiasticall Histories of the First Six Hundred Yeares After Christ: Shakespeare’s use of the phrase may be the reason it is still used as an idiom today.


My dual 365 project and photo walk today comes from Totnes. And my impression of walking around the town was that idiom "Cheek by Jowl". It commonly describes cramped conditions, particularly living conditions. In this sense, it would have a negative context, but a wider meaning describes a town like Totnes, built on a steep hill around a defensive castle, where all the buildings are built higgledy piggledy (another great phrase) one on top of the other.



Here the upper windows of the Guildhall are on the same level as the graveyard of St. Mary's church. You quite often find yourself looking across at roof levels lower down the hill.

St Mary’s Church, is a Grade I listed parish church built as part of the Benedictine Priory of St Mary. The townspeople came to an arrangement with the priory for the complete rebuilding in the 15th century, and the church was rebuilt in sections with the nave being done first between 1432-44, the chancel between 1445-48, the tower between 1449-59 and the screen from 1459-60.

Above the East Gate Arch is the town clock. The East Gate Arch was once the gateway to the medieval town and has been faithfully restored after a devastating fire in 1990.


Red, White, and Blue. There's almost the makings for a National Flag there.


This is a historically documented 17th century conduit head (essentially a water tap) of town supply. It remains intact, with dated inscription, as part of a timber-framed town-house. Apparently the only surviving conduit of the town's 16th century water supply. Set in a rectangular recess, with upper shuttered opening and iron latch; below this is a single tap with iron guard (twisted square rods). The square, framed plaque above the recess states, "This conduit was erected out of a gift of thirtye pounds gine by Robert Babett, 1607."


By the 12th century, Totnes was already an important market town, due to its position on one of the main roads of the South West, in conjunction with its easy access to its hinterland and the easy navigation of the River Dart. Today a market is held every Friday.



This was a food stall although I have no idea what this is. That was the actual colour, believe it or not.


Pretzel turntable. Well this is Totnes.


Giant Clog? No it's a canoe of course.


Weird and wonderful combinations of randomly thrown together items.



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