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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Kingsbridge Town

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 02, 2020

So in my other post Kingsbridge Market and Quayside, I told you all Porkie Pies. Having now edited all the photos from that photo walk there are still too many to make two parts so there will be three. Number two is this one Kingsbridge Town and the other will be Kingsbridge Architecture. I am always taking architecture shots so they will all make a nice part three, probably without a narrative.

Porkie Pies? Yes, our old favourite Cockney Rhyming Slang. Porkie Pies, Lies. Apples and Pears, Stairs, or going for a Ruby. Ruby Murray, curry. And so on..........

You can't Adam and Eve it can you? I can't believe it either, that we still use all these phrases? Actually I don't think I've ever used the apples and pears one ever. Some are in more common use than others.

But I digress. Here is Kingsbridge Town, as depicted in the Kingsbridge Community Mosaic, one of six panels by Michelle McQuinn Farrand. There are some interesting little details in these panels and I intend to find out why they are all there. In my quest to find interesting things to write about on this little tour I have already discovered why the local museum is called The Cookworthy Museum. I never knew before. Born in Kingsbridge in 1705, the acclaimed chemist William Cookworthy discovered English china clay and produced the first English porcelain. So how appropriate it is to celebrate with mosaics including the back stamp of a china plate between the two clock faces.

The main street is Fore Street, and a steep one it is too. Coming from the flat Midlands it was a bit of a wheezy challenge at first but now I am quite used to it. It has many independent shops, and I mean real actual shops that sell real things that you actually might need, like meat, fish and vegetables. Very few national chains have taken hold and it has been surprisingly resilient to the Covid lockdown with noticeably few empty shopfronts. In fact it even got a mention nationally as being notable for that very fact. In the brief period after the main restrictions were lifted it had one of the highest rates of new start up businesses of any comparable High Street in England. The Cod Father regularly makes offers you cannot refuse. If you don't get your Fish'n'chips there, you are in danger of waking up with a fish head on your pillow. They mean seriously fishy business.

The twin towers of Kingsbridge. The church spire of St Edmund King and Martyr, and the Town Hall clock tower. One of the four faces is blank. The blank side faced The Workhouse. If you know the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist you know The Workhouse. The people reduced to living in The Workhouse did not need to know the time of day. There is a common expression in English about being so disdainful of someone that you would not give them the time of day. Early clocks were super expensive things and if your tower had four faces you gave serious thought as to who you were paying to give the time of day to. There are English border towns with blank clock faces pointing toward Wales, I will say no more, being Welsh myself.

Western Backway, one of the many small alleys off Fore Street, this one charmingly with it's own babbling brook. In this case a Mill Leat for a mill no longer in evidence.

These walls running along the leat are the back boundaries of the burgage plots that run up Fore Street. Burgage plots were the property owned by a burgess in a medieval town. As burgesses congregated around the marketplace (which was in Fore Street) and main streets generally, space at the front of the street was at a premium, therefore plots were not very wide. Burgage plots were therefore characteristically long, with a row of outbuildings stretching to the rear of the house and shop as you see here. A burgess was a freeman of a Borough or Burgage.

Off Western Backway leading down to Mill Street, where the missing mill was presumably situated is Squeezebelly Lane. It's difficult to know why this extremely narrow alley about 40 cms/16 inches wide is called Squeezebelly Lane. Ha ha! After all from my experience it would be more accurately called Squeezeshoulder Lane as my shoulders are wider than 40 cms and I'm not even mentioning my belly.

To make the squeeze even worse, and it actually was quite a squeeze, they have erected scaffolding poles for building work either side of the alley, so maybe temporarily it should be called Squeezehead Lane.

This is the really wide bit at the top end.

My attempt to get through alive with a camera bag on my back and, OK, a belly in front raised some concerns locally. This had to be my best shot of the day.

The missing word below is Tobacco. Three things that could be taxed to raise ready money. Presumably to build The Workhouse, and pay for three sides of the Town Hall clock. It is a beautiful old sign though, that has miraculously survived. These premises are now a very upscale restaurant.

Hannaford is a very common local name around here that I have not seen anywhere else in the country. Fascinatingly the name first arose amongst the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It is derived from their having lived in the township of Handforth, in the parish of Cheadle in the county of Cheshire.

But Cheshire is the other end of England. At some point there was a major migration of Hannafords to Devon. My guess would be something to do with the Great Plague where whole towns were wiped off the map, because so many died they were economically unviable, but that is only a guess. The most Hannaford families ever, according to the UK census, were found in the UK in 1891. In 1891 there were 1,110 Hannaford families living in Devon. This was about 70% of all the recorded Hannaford's in the UK. Devon had the highest population of Hannaford families in 1891. I would love to know why. I have only seen the name above businesses so they obviously had merchant genes in there somewhere.

Gardeners Cottage, you can even stay in it, right in the centre of town, handy for the shops and restaurants and unbelievably, free parking too. Only one bedroom but very authentically tiny and cosy looking. No doubt at some point in the distant past there was a family of twelve living in it. That was quite common.

I love these little signs. There were major headlines a few weeks back when part of the harbour turned blue. Someone had either accidentally or deliberately caused paint to be put down one of these drains.

Now the pubs have been ordered to be closed at 10pm, (new Covid rules) there will be far fewer "legless" individuals hanging around town at night. I am not even going to venture into describing or excusing this Indiana Jones nightmare of a collage that I just stumbled upon. And I hadn't even been drinking.

On the edge of the town centre we do have the requisite chain supermarket, OK they do have their uses. This one is Tesco, and although I have avoided the store itself because of Covid, the company has really stepped up to the mark regarding home delivery, and their service has been remarkable, consistently good and a great relief. We have good farm shops locally too which I have used for fresh local produce and they too have offered a superb service throughout. So I would say it has been a great team effort by all the businesses locally.

Back into Fore Street now at the top end. Here is my most frequented shop. Fresh crab and smoked mackerel from Salcombe Smokers.

Recipe time.

Although I use large flakes of smoked mackerel you could use your smoked fish of choice. No measurements I'm afraid, it's not a chemical reaction this one, like the Victoria Sponge.

You need.......

Potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, not too thin, about 3mm or eighth of an inch so they have some bite when cooked.

Thinly sliced onions, as many as you like, probably 50/50 with the potato.

About 300 ml of double cream I think you Trans Atlantic cousins call that heavy cream? Thinned a little with about one third of that amount of milk. stir up the milk and cream. But you can use as much as you like, experiment guys.

If you are in the mood some Panko breadcrumbs and grated cheese mixed together.

Salt, pepper and Mace. It must be Mace but it is powerful so if you are not familiar we are talking pinches not spoonsful.

The rest is easy, throw it all in a baking dish and put in a hot oven to cook. Ha ha!

More precisely, I layer sliced onion and sliced potato and flaked fish, probably two layers of each ending up with potato on top.

As you go, sprinkle the salt, pepper and Mace finishing up with a sprinkle on top, Pour over the milk and cream. Now because I am an a-fishionado and microwaves are the work of the devil so I never had one until I moved here in January where there is one nailed into the kitchen units, I pop it covered into the microwave on full nuclear fission for ten minutes to get it going. In fact to get all it's little molecules vibrating to be exact.

Then I take off the lid and throw on the panko cheese mix and put it in a fan oven on 180 C uncovered. As it's late you non C° cooks will have to Google that into F° yourselves.

After about 35 minutes check it is toasty and brown on top, otherwise just leave until it is.

That is Salcombe Smokies for you, smoked on these very premises in the cellar.

That will feed one or six, depending on how many of you intend coming to venture down Squeezebelly Lane.

Two houses of yummy. I can only vouch for the bread from the Bakehouse, they do a mean sourdough, as a friend of mine would say at that point "Oooooh how bourgeois", and this coming from someone who shops at Waitrose? I cannot as yet vouch for the Yumminess of the Chinese Takeaway, which is a tiny door to the left. I will update you on that.

And this is the view on the way down, we have come full circle.

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