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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Kingsbridge Spring Walk

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas APRIL. 27, 2021

This post is the first part of a short photo walk from the harbour up Fore Street to the church yard. The second part is dedicated to the alleyways off Eastern Backway back down to the harbour.

Kingsbridge has many mosaics scattered around and I think these bees predate the pandemic and so have been added to later by stencilling. They are on the side wall of the public toilets on the quayside.

This is Fore Street below, the main shopping street. It has all the usual local shops and very few national chains. It is also home to the market and the cinema. I am thinking of doing a series of shopfronts, working my way up both sides. The bunting has recently been renewed to coincide with the lifting of restrictions to shop opening. All shops are now open with social distancing. Apparently bunting is a very British word. I had always assumed it was well known around the world.

Looking into it, there are some interesting facts about it's history. There are offshoot meanings that are quite different from each other but the common thread seems to be in relation to rags or very thin cloth.

Bunting- A lightweight loosely woven fabric used chiefly for flags and festive decorations. It was used in the 1600's by the Royal Navy, and the 'Bunter' would be responsible for making strings of smaller flags to run up when the ship needed to send a message to another ship of the line. 'Bunting tosser' or 'Bunts' is an informal term used in the Royal Navy to describe the sailors who hoist signal flags. A signalman.

The cloth routinely used to make flags was called “bunting” because it was similar to the cloth used to sift grain and meal. And when the same cloth was used for decorative, flag-themed draperies or streamers, it made sense to call those “bunting.” The understanding of it particularly as 'strings of (decorative) flags' is ubiquitous in the UK.

Bunter (plural bunters) (archaic) A woman who picks up rags in the streets. (archaic, by extension) A low, vulgar woman.

This building below is an outlier in architecture terms. I wouldn't say it fits in exactly with a medieval town plan but then they didn't have telephonic communications back then either and this is a standard fare, British Telecoms, 1970's style, exchange building. It's highly likely I am posting these photos through this building on my BT broadband. I don't dislike it as an example of something modern and practical and at least it is fairly well tucked away behind Fore Street and almost missed.

The view across to Dodbrooke, the eastern part of town and the oldest, predating Kingsbridge but now encompassed by it.

The main church in Kingsbridge is St Edmund King and Martyr, which is set back from Fore Street. It has many very old gravestones most of which have sadly been removed to create a lawn with a stated aim of attracting wildlife which seems a strange aim for a churchyard which overlooks open countryside teeming with wildlife.

One of the attractions of ancient churchyards is to wander through the time worn and leaning stones trying to read their messages from voices past. A handful have been erected as a display on the outside church wall. It was not until this visit that I explored the lower reaches of the graveyard which is terraced down the steep hillside, and discovered to my surprise, a huge stack of ancient gravestones just left there in a heap. There has been no attempt made to preserve them or care for them.

This one caught my eye because of the unusual word Chirurgion, which I have never seen before.

Here Lyeth the Body of William Randall of this Town Chirurgion

Who Departed this Life the 4th Day of November Anno Dom 1745 In the 67th year of his Age.

William Randall reached a ripe old age for 1745. As recently as 1900 the average lifespan of a man in England was in the early forties. William Randall may have helped many more of his fellow townsfolk live longer than they may have expected to because a Chirurgion was an archaic spelling of Surgeon.

A wildlife hotel below, tempting insects out of the local countryside into an empty churchyard now chiefly used for exercising dogs.

This old marble cross is one of the handful of monuments left in situ. It is beautifully weathered and bears the words Gloria in Excelsis. Glory in the Highest.

Ice Mary should read Alice Mary at a guess. Someone has had a go at peeling away the letters which are made of metal and pegged into holes in the stone.

The view west from the churchyard to West Alvington hill. West Alvington also predates Kingsbridge but has been golloped up by it.

Gollop- To swallow (food) hastily or greedily. A dialectal variant of GULP.

West Alvington stands boldly on top of a hill with commanding views towards Kingsbridge and the sea. This site determined its early occupation, probably not much later than 700. it was a royal Estate in 1066, but was alienated from the Crown by Henry 1. The Parish originally included all the land as far as the sea, for Malborough, Salcombe, South Huish and South Milton were all chapelries of Alvington. Ships would sail up the estuary and trade at Quay House (the trading Post for West Alvington). West Alvington was a market place anciently called Alfyngton being granted by John de Besil in 1270 the right to hold a market on Saturdays and a three day fair at the festival of St Michael.

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