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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods February 2024

This month the odds and ends from last month are all taken on a photo walk in Shaldon and are being posted late, as I was lately laid low with something non fatal but debilitating. Let's call it Man Flu. Woe is me. "Woe is me" is an archaic idiom expressing sorrow or despair. It is an allusion to Psalm 120. The psalm forms a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies. It has been set to music in several languages. If this was a sound blog I could sing you my woe. You're in luck.

Shaldon is the smaller neighbour of Teignmouth where I went the month before, and I wanted to go to Shaldon so that I could eventually post about both places in the same series, as they are so closely linked.

So this post is a preview of what is to come, a pre-post. Both places straddle opposite banks of the Teign river where it meets the sea. Both have interesting history, some ancient and some more recent. Shaldon is small but beautifully formed. So small, that you really don't want to drive into the centre and you are better off driving past and parking at the Ness car park. From here it is a short stroll along the water's edge on a narrow one way road with very little traffic and some great views of the river and the sea.

From here there is a great view of Teignmouth too, with its seafront and pier. Ness is an old word for a headland or promontory, a word so old that it has both Norse and older origins and the root words mean nose. So here we are at the nose that juts out into the English Channel which protects the entrance to the Teign river. The pub right here, The Ness, is the former summer home of the so called "infamous" Clifford family, built in 1810.

The Cliffords of Chudleigh bought the land in 1671.

The Ness pub had these quotes painted on its front wall, and they should be fairly self-explanatory.

John Masefield was an English poet who became Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967. Poet Laureate is an honorary title and position appointed by the British monarch.

The role does not entail any specific duties, but there is an expectation that the holder will write verse for significant national occasions. The origins of the laureateship date back to 1616 when a pension was provided to Ben Jonson, but the first official holder of the position was John Dryden, appointed in 1668 by Charles II.

"Spike" Milligan KBE (16 April 1918 – 27 February 2002) is described strangely, in my view, on Wikipedia as "an Irish comedian, writer, musician, poet, playwright and actor. The son of an English mother and Irish father, he was born in British Colonial India, where he spent his childhood before relocating in 1931 to England, where he lived and worked for the majority of his life. Disliking his first name, he began to call himself "Spike" after hearing the band Spike Jones and his City Slickers on Radio Luxembourg." Until today I have never heard of him described as Irish and if you read the above description I fail to see why you would not describe him as English, English mother, born in British India and lived in England his entire life? We both went to the same school in Poona now Pune. Wikipedia seems to always be a woke political diatribe before a reliable source of information, these days.

Milligan was the co-creator, main writer, and a principal cast member of the British radio comedy programme The Goon Show, performing a range of roles including the characters Eccles and Minnie Bannister. He was the earliest-born and last surviving member of the Goons.

Shaldon was originally a small fishing village nestled, there's that same root word again, in this sheltered ness. Later it became a fashionable and popular retirement spot for ships captains and other professionals. It runs along the beach that fronts the tidal river and the opening to the sea.

The oldest part of the village is easy to see, with its tiny thatched cottages and narrow alleys and streets, built long before motorised transport.

It was in the Georgian period when it was "gentrified" to use a modern term, based on an old concept.

Gentry - people of good social position, specifically the class of people next below the nobility in position and birth. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry: the majority of the land-owning social class who typically had a coat of arms but did not have a peerage.

The Georgian part of town is notably different with only slightly wider streets but larger building plots and indeed larger, more decorative houses.

There are boats, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards secreted around every corner.

I don't know if the original "gentry" would have hung their washing out in public but in these less formal times, washing must hang where the sun shines. This is a lovely example of a Georgian double fronted house.

Magnolia is Grade 2 listed by English Heritage.

House. 1750 (deeds), remodelled c1810 and late C19. Stucco over red sandstone rubble and cob, hipped slate roof with bracketed wide eaves, rendered stacks. 3-room through-passage plan to the original building, the right-hand range was separated late C19, it is now all one house. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys; 3-window range. A painted platband and prostyle Tuscan timber porch (probably original) is flanked by early C19 shallow segmental bays which cut through the platband and terminate just under the eaves, they have curved frames to 10/10-pane sash windows.

There are just over 60 listed buildings in this small village.

In the middle of the village is the bowling green, the only significant open space. The houses surrounding the green are Georgian, three of them listed.

The phone box has been repurposed as a charity shop. This is the first charity shop phone box I have seen. Last year it raised nearly £1500 for the Rowcroft Hospice which is pretty hard to believe, what a success story?

John Grisham, there is always at least one John Grisham.

The main church of St Peter is Grade 1 listed and is pretty special. There had obviously been a large influx of cash locally by the time this church was built between 1893 and 1902. It is described as Arts and Crafts Free Gothic, which is a good summing up and we'll see more of it in a later post. It is awash with marble, carving and sumptuous design flourishes.

In the older part of the village is the still open Ferryboat Inn, where they only serve food from the spring onwards. In winter you'll need to pop into the very nice London Inn if you are hungry.

Just over the road from the Ferryboat Inn is the ferry boat itself. Once the only way to cross before they built the road bridge, it is still well used today even in low season. It is only a short hop to Teignmouth the other side.

The local architecture is really interesting with lots of little novel touches about. This little birdy had the look of a modern addition possibly in a later restoration, until I noticed that the neighbouring house had one exactly the same in the original stucco finish, so it's nice to see that back in the 1820's someone had an eye for detail and a sense of humour.

There are three in the row, 7,8 and 9 Bridge Rd. all Grade 2 listed.

Terrace of 3 houses. c1820s, Nos 7 and 8 altered c1870. Painted stucco, continuous slate roof with rendered stacks to the party walls. The terrace is articulated by deeply incised Soanian-style pilasters. The c1870 panelled doors have semicircular arches and fanlights set in Gibbs-style surrounds, the applied vermiculated blocks are probably Coade stone.

Coade Stone - Coade stone or Lithodipyra or "stone fired twice" is stoneware that was often described as an artificial stone in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was used for moulding neoclassical statues, architectural decorations and garden ornaments of the highest quality that remain virtually weatherproof today.

Coade stone features were produced by appointment to George III and the Prince Regent for St George's Chapel, Windsor; The Royal Pavilion, Brighton; Carlton House, London; the Royal Naval College, Greenwich; and refurbishment of Buckingham Palace in the 1820s.

The gentry of Shaldon were not going to be left out of such fashionable shenanigans.

.....and then there is Hunter's Lodge with it's Hansel and Gretel type fox heads frontage. Unfortunately at some point the many headed foxy frontage of the house has been punched through by waste pipes which is sad and wouldn't have happened on my watch. It was Grade 2 listed in 1949, presumably after the damage was done, as the listing would have prevented it. The style is 19th century "Cottage Ornee", as I said, Hansel and Gretel.

House, later a restaurant. Early C19, remodelled mid/late C19. Painted stucco with Coade stone dressings, slate roof with rendered stacks to gable ends and centre ridge. Picturesque Gothic style. A moulded string course over the ground floor has an ornamented frieze below it, probably Coade stone.

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