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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Kingsbridge Traces 2

Part 2 starts in Derby Road, for Part 1 in Ebrington Street go here.

This is a close up of the tithe map of the early 1800's and you can see that back then, this was open countryside. Dodbrooke Manor is bottom centre while directly above it is a farm down a narrow lane where Ebrington Street and Derby Road meet.

This is the later, Dodbrooke Lodge, of 1894, below. On the left Derby Road leads down to the quayside. This is an interesting piece about plans discussed at the Kingsbridge Urban Council

Western Morning News - Wednesday 13 February 1946

...............Mr. L. Pedrick referred to the congestion at the quay caused by Western National 'buses, and it was agreed the chairman and vice-chairman, Messrs. T. R. Britton and H. A. Pymont. and the officers meet the 'bus company officials to see what could be done. Mr. Pearce suggested when the top of the estuary was filled in as proposed, the company should be offered a portion as a 'bus station. It was announced the estuary proposition would be again discussed at the next committee meeting.

In these early articles I kept thinking bus spelt 'bus was a typo but after it appeared continuously I relised that the apostrophe indicated something was missing, in this case it was an abbreviation from omnibus.

The narrow farm track now leads to a large housing estate called Rack Park. In that area were the drying racks where wool or linen from the nearby water mills would have been hung out to dry. To prevent shrinking of the material the cloth was stretched out on tenterhooks. The phrase "on tenterhooks" derives from the quivering of the taut material pulled tight on these hooks.

Here Derby Road curves to the right and down the slope to a small valley in which stood various mills. Today there is the Recreation Ground and further upstream Rack Park itself where dog walkers are now allowed to let their dogs off the lead.

I should add that this photo is a blend of two shots featuring lens barrel distortion. I like the effect in this instance and it isn't another example of over inflated stonework as we saw in the Malt Mill in Part 1.

On the left hand side you can just see up Rack Park Road where the multi coloured recycling truck is doing its rounds. Just behind it you can make out a slate roof, which is a converted farm building, now a residence. It features on the tithe map above.

Rack Park was chosen as one of the areas for new housing by Kingsbridge Rural District Council as part of the slum clearance scheme of the 1930's. Several groups of houses in and around Fore Street in Kingsbridge were demolished and new alternative homes were needed.

In December 1933 the council invited tenders for the slum clearance "The applicant appointed will be required to make all inspections, prepare maps and schedules, attend meetings and generally to carry out all such matters arising from the scheme".

The proposals were to demolish houses in Mill Street, Duncombe Street and Church Steps. They also included improvement schemes in Ebrington Street and Duke Street. Repairs were suggested for some properties in Fore Street and Connaught Row.

In October 1936 a Clerk of Works was appointed for the construction of 32 houses in Rack Park. It was estimated the work would take 18 months. In April 1938 the Council decided to visit the site to settle the question of whether trees should be planted along the new pavements or not. Nearly a hundred years later, trees in pavements is still a controversial topic. The same meeting discussed the air raid precautions being made "Kingsbridge was well to the fore with regard to air-raid precautions matters".

September 1947 was to see the "First Post-War House Occupied"

Western Morning News - Thursday 11 September 1947

Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Hobbs, who formerly lived at 31a, Ebrington street, Kingsbridge, are living in the first house to be completed under Kingsbridge Urban Council's post-war building programme. They moved in at the beginning of this week. The house, 2, Henacre-road, Rack Park is one of 30 permanent brick houses which are being built on this site.

You're never far from a boat in Kingsbridge.

In the valley is the Recreation Ground, a rare area of flat land, perfect for ball sports, balls having a tendency to run away with themselves in the rest of Dodbrooke. In this park there used to be a tidal mill where a small dam at the far end held back the water from high tides.

What is missing in Dodbrooke and it could have been right here, is a Railway Station, and I wonder how many residents of Kingsbridge today know that there nearly was one. In 1845 a railway was planned which would have run from Dartmouth to Kingsbridge.

Morning Herald (London) - Wednesday 29 October 1845

PRELIMINARY ANNOUNCEMENT. DARTMOUTH and PLYMOUTH RAILWAY. (Registered Provisionally.) Capital £500,600, in 25,000 Shares Of £2O each. Deposit £2 2s. per Share.

In consequence of the numerous representations of the necessity and advantage of forming a Railway from Dartmouth to Plymouth, via Kingsbridge and Modbury, the Committee, in compliance with the wishes thus expressed, have determined to carry out this important object. The line will commence at Dartmouth, and passing near or through Dittisham,Cornworthy, Stoke Fleming, Blackawton, Slapton, Stokenham, Chillington, Frogmore, Charleton, Dodbrook, Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Aveton-Gifford, Modbury, Yealmpton, and Plympton, will proceed to Plymouth.

With this line, and the existing and projected lines, there will be a direct coast line from Dover to the Land's End, and the important telegraphic communication between these most important points and London, will be thus complete. This line will also effect the desirable object of connecting the harbours of Torbay, Dartmouth, and Salcombe, (which places, there is no doubt, will be adopted as harbours of refuge, and stations for the departure of the West India and other packets,) with the naval arsenal of Plymouth.

By 1849 the railway had not yet arrived in Kingsbridge from South Brent and the nearest railway station was Kingsbridge Road Station in Wrangaton which was later renamed Wrangaton Station. Coaches ran between the station and Kingsbridge.

Western Times - Saturday 02 June 1849

KINGSBRIDGE. Coaching Extraordinary.—ln consequence of the directors of the South Devon Line having come to a determination to stop the express train down and up at the Kingsbridge Road Station—the proprietors of the Mazeppa and Great Britain coaches (which run daily up and down to Plymouth) have each started a coach daily to the Kingsbridge Road Station ; consequently there are four coaches in and out to Kingsbridge, an accommodation hitherto unknown. Hundreds of strangers have visited this thriving town during the spring, and are delighted with its clean and healthy appearance, and the beauty of the surrounding neighbourhood.

This is the other side of the small valley where attempts are still being made to build further houses. This time the hillside is actually being excavated and terraced. There are also some very impressive giant Lego bricks which form retaining walls. As the road turns to the left there are traces of an old wrought iron fence that has probably suffered over the years from being on a bend in a very narrow lane.

On the tithe map this view would have been just farmland, or maybe some white flashes of drying linen on tenterhooks.

Where part of the hedgerow has become exposed there is an old piece of broken pottery. Was this thrown from a carriage window by some passing passenger on the way to Frogmore two hundred years ago?

A small cottage features this device in its front wall. My best guess is a ring for tethering your horse.

This looks like some sort of collision protection from passing vehicles. Maybe I was right about the iron fence.

Some assorted industrial units are tucked away here. One of them supplies Thai food takeaways, not this particular one obviously.

We are fast approaching the end of the walk and this is the boundary wall of Buttville House, below, running along the lane.

But, I hear you ask, "why Butt?" ......and if you were not asking "why Butt?" why weren't you?

In this area Butts is a very common street name or area name such as Loddiswell Butts, Butts Farm, Butts Park, The Butts, Butts Cottages, Ham Butts, Butts Lane and the village of Butts near Exeter. Butt why? I asked the question for you.

The clue is in one of the dictionary explanations for the word, an archery or shooting target or range. A mound on or in front of which a target is set up for archery or shooting.

This part of England along the South Coast was the front line against invasion from France for hundreds of years. The primary weapon of defence was the longbow. So important was the longbow to the defence of the realm that every able bodied man was required to be an expert. So dangerous was the shooting of arrows with a longbow that every hamlet had its own shooting practice area on the edge of the village and at right angles to it. These were The Butts.

If a French army ever took English prisoners they cut off their first two fingers of their right hand, their bow fingers. If the front rows of English bowmen facing their French counterparts wanted to rile their opponents they stuck these two fingers in the air as a display of contempt. This two fingered rude hand gesture is still used today in exactly the same way, to show contempt, but mostly with the longbow meaning long lost.

Vehicles now have to do a sharp turn to carry on up the hill to the Rugby Club. This is High House Lane, below, originally named for the house at the top of the hill. In 1849 there were news headlines to be made from the simple act of successfully growing some potatoes. Why? You are still not asking the right questions.

Most of us have heard of the Irish Potato Famine, but how many of us realised that the disease which caused the famine, potato blight, even affected farmers here in Dodbrooke.

Western Times - Saturday 02 June 1849

New Potatoes.—R. Brooking, gardener to J. J- Lloyd, Esq., Highhouse, near Kingsbridge, has produced this week a dish of new potatoes, fully ripe and perfectly free from disease. This encourages a hope that the disease, which for several years past, has almost destroyed that valuable esculent, will disappear.

One of my delights is in accidentally stumbling across long forgotten words, and here is a great example.

Esculent- a thing, especially a vegetable, which is fit to be eaten. From Latin ēsculentus (“fit for eating, eatable, edible; good to eat, delicious; nourishing; full of food”)

What is the distinction between a Footpath and a Byway? Footpaths are for "walking, running, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs" apparently. Most footpaths have stiles so I'm not sure how you get down them on a mobility scooter? Byways on the other hand are a bit less clear. "These routes are often unsurfaced, typically having the appearance of 'green lanes'. Despite this, it is legal (but may not be physically possible) to drive any type of vehicle along certain byways, the same as any ordinary tarmac road."

I will let you decide if you want to drive along this particular byway. I was told by someone I met right here that he has seen vehicles coming down this lane.

Here is the junction, and the "To Frogmore" with the road fading out only signifies that this tithe map stops here at the parish boundary. When this map was made, this route was still a highway to Frogmore.

This is the end of the main road before we walk down the green lane. Buttville House has an interesting history and it's famous occupant has connections with the victory over the Spanish Armada.

Buttville House was built in 1820 for Admiral Abraham Hawkins who was a descendant of Sir John Hawkins. The house is well hidden from the road and currently being refurbished so I have no photos of it. It was recently sold so you can read all about it here.

Admiral Hawkins entered the navy on March 23rd 1798, as a "first class volunteer" to serve on the Barfleur employed off the coast of Cadiz in Spain. His ancestor John Hawkins was a cousin of Francis Drake and after many years at sea the earlier Hawkins's most important work was designing and building ships for the navy. He ultimately developed a new type of fighting galleon which was faster, lighter and better able to withstand harsh weather conditions which proved the undoing of the Spanish Armada.

During the wait for the Armada Drake had been put in command at Plymouth, while Hawkins remained at Chatham at the elbow of the lord admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham. In December 1587 Hawkins showed he could fully mobilize the fleet in little more than a fortnight; Howard confirmed to Burghley (21 February 1588) that the ships were in excellent condition. It was early in June 1588 before Hawkins finally joined the assembled fleet at Plymouth.

Ranking third in seniority after Howard and Drake, Hawkins was a member of the war council. When the fleet spread out towards Ushant, Hawkins commanded the inshore squadron towards the Isles of Scilly. He hotly engaged a group of Spanish ships off Eddystone (21 July), expended much powder and shot off Portland Bill (23rd), and, after commanding one of the four squadrons at the Isle of Wight (25th), he was knighted by the lord admiral on board the Ark Royal (26th). The English galleons completely outsailed and outmanoeuvred the clumsy Armada carracks, and decisively outgunned them at their chosen range. Not a single English ship withdrew from the fight through damage by the elements or the enemy, and Hawkins's effective victualling of the fleet allowed it to chase the Armada past the Firth of Forth in Northern Scotland.

That is quite a family history to live up to. Our Admiral Hawkins of Buttville House went on to serve in several ships at The Cape of Good Hope, the East Indies, India and then The North Sea, then on to Cork in Ireland, Portugal and Martinique. He saw action at the mouth of the River Elbe and off the coast of Norway. This was all about the "War of the Sixth Coalition" one chapter of the larger period of Napoleonic Wars which saw countries all over Europe changing coalitions over a twelve year period. After a distinguished sea battle in Tromptsen Sound in Norway, the Admiral retired to leafy Dodbrooke.

“As a strong tide set the boats towards them, Lieutenant Hawkins determined to attack, notwithstanding their advantageous position; at nine the fire commenced on the boats and after a most sanguinary combat, they were carried, in that true and gallant style which far surpasses any comment of mine on its merits, or of the characters of the brave fellows employed. "

Another great word, and very appropriate in this description of a battle.

Sanguinary - Involving or causing much bloodshed.

Sun (London) - Thursday 19 November 1857

DEATH OF REAR-ADMIRAL HAWKINS. Rear-Admiral Abraham Mills Hawkins, on the retired list C.D.E., died recently at Buttville, near Kingsbridge, aged 73. He was the second son of the late Richard Hawkins, Esq., of that place, and enumerates amongst his ancestors the celebrated Sir John Hawkins, who was knighted for the conspicuous part he had enacted as rear-admiral in the defeat of the Spanish Armada ;

Buttville House would later be sold by the family and was let unfurnished before becoming a hotel.

Western Daily Mercury - Thursday 01 December 1864

Buttville House, Dodbrooke, Kingsbridge.

Important Sale of Rosewood, Walnut, and Spanish Mahogany Dining-room, Drawing-room, and Library Furniture. Turkey and Brussells Carpets, about 200 volumes of Books, Mahogany and painted Bedroom Requisites, Kitchen. Culinary, Garden, and Stable Utensils, double-seated one-horse Phaeton, &c.,&c.

PARKHOUSE and SON respectfully announce that they are favoured with instructions from C. Stuart Hawkins, Esq, (in consequence of his having let the premises unfurnished), to SELL by PUBLIC AUCTION, without reserve, on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY next, the 6th and 7th of December, 1884, Buttvllle House, Dodbrooke, the whole of the valuable & superior HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE & other EFFECTS, described in printed handbills. May be viewed on Monday, December 5th, between the hours of 11 and 3 o’clock, and on the Mornings of the Sale, which will commence each day punctually 12- o’clock Noon. Kingsbridge, November 22nd 1864

Western Morning News - Monday 31 October 1949



Georgian house secluded, close shops and quay; comfortable lounge, h. & c. bedrooms, home atmosphere, good cuisine. 4 guineas —" Buttville". Kingsbridge.

Gloucestershire Echo - Tuesday 26 April 1949

KINGSBRIDGE. Devon. Buttville Private Hotel. Good food, modern amenities. Own farm produce. N2224

Buttville House marks the edge of the Parish of Dodbrooke and this is the byway as it is now described advising you not to drive even though you legally could. This is the better looking end as far as tarmac goes and this is about as far as the tarmac does go. It is well worth walking down though, as you will see.

More traces. This time, traces of a treehouse in the grounds of Buttville House. I hope this was not the "comfortable lounge".

More new houses climbing up the hill from Kingsbridge.

These traces though, have me foxed. There are two large stone gate pillars that lead into a small enclosure where there is evidence of a boarded up vertical wall, now mostly rotted away. It's a mystery to me. Is it some sort of quarry or mine working? Maybe even pigsties?

The roadway is still in remarkable condition in parts, as seen in this retaining wall. Much of the route is a holloway, carved out over the ages.

Now added to my bucket list is the plan to walk all the way to Frogmore along these lanes at some point. I hope you have enjoyed this short tour, please subscribe to my Blog if you don't want to miss future episodes. If you have not done so already, check out my continuing saga of The River Avon Moor to Sea, my series following England's shortest river Avon from Dartmoor to Bantham.

This is the end of the road on this occasion. It is now time for me to retire for some esculents.

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John Durham
John Durham
Oct 09, 2023

No "Butts" about it - a really interesting tour. Those old lanes look so fascinating! Make that walk! Reminds me of old sunken wagon roads through bottom lands in parts of the deep south.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Oct 09, 2023
Replying to

I thought it would make a great film set for something like Robin Hood. 🙂

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