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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods July 2023

It seems like only a month since my last monthly Odds and Sods, and because it has been a wet one, our drought now being over, the headlines have all changed overnight from "The Boiling Planet" to "Will we get a summer this year?" It's almost like they just make it all up as they go along.

Anyway, that's why I am starting with stained glass and why there are several church interiors this month, it tends not to be raining in churches. This is Dodbrooke Church and one of the Three Kings.

This is Kingsbridge harbour and what counted for a good day, the rain keeping away long enough for me to walk up the south face of Dodbrooke hill.

There used to be a lot of pubs in Kingsbridge and there are a few left and this has to be one of the prettiest. It's early 19th century and Grade 2 Listed.

It has a beautiful curved exterior and gained national notoriety during Covid for restricting entry to locals only. The interior is very small, normally only five tables and during Covid with serving restrictions meaning sitting only, and social distancing, and table service, space was at a premium. The pub only survives on its regular local trade which is year round, so during Covid they posted a sign outside which limited entry to regular customers only. A tourist spotted the sign and social media being what it is, it was soon a national headline. As the landlady explained, they cannot afford to turn away the regulars because a tourist wants to come in once and buy one drink.

Following the road along the front is another curved building the other side, an antique shop, which leads to what was the main route through the town, before the main road along the embankment was constructed at the harbour front.

On the way up Dodbrooke Hill I snapped various photos.

Dodbrooke is much older than Kingsbridge which grew up around it. The church is up the hill hidden away from the sea and any danger that may have come from that direction. I am going to do a post about the church so just a couple of tasters here. The font dates from 1170.

The church is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket as is the church at Kingswear not far from here. Foreign pilgrims making the journey to Canterbury would land along this part of the coast to start their pilgrimage.

Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, and later Thomas à Becket served as Lord Chancellor from 1155 to 1162, and then notably as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his death in 1170. He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was canonised by Pope Alexander III. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

This is a detail from the large "Mason's Window" which features much iconography related to masonry.

I crossed over to Fore Street to come back down the hill, while others were only starting the climb.

This is the picturesque, even "chocolate box" village of North Bovey on Dartmoor.

Chocolate Box - Today it is used to describe something which is "pretty in a conventional or idealised way." Gaining popularity back in the mid 20th century, the phrase "chocolate box cottage" derives from the picturesque scenes printed on boxes of Cadbury's chocolates throughout the 1950s and 60s.

In North Bovey is the "chocolate box" thatched pub called the Ring of Bells Inn. It still has the original charming Egon Ronay sign in place, a rare sight indeed.

An "Egon Ronay" sign was the "Michelin Star" of its day. Egon Miklos Ronay (24 July 1915 – 12 June 2010) was a Hungarian-born food critic who wrote and published a famous series of guides to British and Irish restaurants and hotels in the 1950s and 1960s. These guidebooks are credited with raising the quality of British cuisine offered in public eating places. Ronay also championed foreign cuisine for British diners.

A fire ravaged 13th century Dartmoor pub is set to reopen by Christmas after a £1.5million rebuild. The Ring of Bells in North Bovey was left a charred shell after flames ripped through the thatch and historic timbers in January 2016. More than 70 firefighters were on the scene at the height of the blaze which, dampened by a white suppressant foam, seemed to make a snowy Christmas scene of the picturesque village.

Meanwhile a coincidental day out to Babbacombe Model Village, where one of it's iconic sights is the thatched cottage on fire.

"House on Fire" has changed design several times over the years. In fact in 1984, one of the earlier versions caught fire overnight and was no more than a pile of ash in the morning.

Feel like a giant as you enter through the small entrance and the vast miniature world opens up before you. Explore 4 acres of award-winning gardens showcasing hundreds of uniquely hand-crafted model scenes, vehicles & people.

The Model Village portrays a generic version of Britain through the decades with some well-known landmarks too. The attention to detail is incredible with many hidden puns, lots of humour for all ages along with animated displays, including a fire-breathing dragon.

Adults will also appreciate the work and craftsmanship that goes into making and maintaining the models, each costing thousands of pounds to create, ensuring the high quality standards our visitors expect.

Here is the Royal Crescent in Bath.

These little people are real big people far away.

....and the village like the real villages of Devon is ever expanding with new "Unaffordable Homes".

Here is a miniature version of the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, another nearby visitor attraction.

This was in the hedgerow nearby, on a walk to Sherford.

This was the sea tractor at South Sands in Salcombe. It drives out into the waves to engage with the ferry boat into town. You can just make out the V shape at the front which "mates" with the prow of the boat. It's a real adventure and a great little boat ride.

Back on the walk to Sherford.

Sherford church, St. Martins, and a rare telephone box with a phone inside.

Sherford is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning Clear Ford. It was once on a direct route, north south but has been bypassed by later developments. If you aim for Frogmore by Sat-nav you may be brought through Sherford and you may regret it, especially if you meet a tractor coming the other way. Sat navs sometimes have an Anglo-Saxon setting as their default which takes you in the most direct route rather than the widest route, the Anglo-Saxons did not have tractors designed for American prairies.

This tiny hamlet has a long history with the Manor of Sherford being attached to Battle Abbey founded by William the Conqueror himself. There are no less than three Domesday estates in the Parish. The church is early for Devon, 14th century. I cannot find a date for the ancient font.

The pulpit is thought to be 19th century although the applied carvings are from the rood screen, a great example of early recycling. The carved sections are 16th century and some were moved yet again, leaving a footprint, and replaced on the rood screen. It is a fascinating history.

An early memorial near the altar with elaborate lettering incised into slate. Dated 1643. I am working on a later post which shows the church in more detail.

A slight detour to Warwick in the Midlands because of a bit of interesting history. I had walked past this building for many years until recently when I noticed a small sign welcoming visitors in, to view the rear garden of the property. This property is the historic Friends Meeting House for Warwick. Better known as Quakers, the Friends bought the house in the centre of Warwick in 1671 and later added a meeting house. This was burnt down in the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694 and rebuilt a year later. The Friends still meet here every Sunday over 300 years later. It must be one of the earliest Quaker Meeting Houses as they only emerged in the 1650's as a heavily persecuted sect.

The well is still in the garden. Each property had its own well, used until the town got its first water supply in 1858. The wells of Warwick were very deep as the town was built on a hill.

A return to Totnes and the market, and this time I did a tour around Totnes church too, which is another rich historical treasure trove.

In the market along with all the other wonders of our past on display on the second hand stalls was this ancient computer. While church fonts have to be 14th century to be considered ancient, computers only need to be forty years old.

"The Acorn Electron was a lower-cost alternative to the BBC Micro educational/home computer, also developed by Acorn Computers Ltd, to provide many of the features of that more expensive machine at a price more competitive with that of the ZX Spectrum. It had 32 kilobytes of RAM, and its ROM included BBC BASIC II together with the operating system. Announced in 1982 for a possible release the same year, it was eventually introduced on 25 August 1983 priced at £199.

The Electron was able to save and load programs onto audio cassette via a supplied cable that connected it to any standard tape recorder that had the correct sockets. It was capable of bitmapped graphics, and could use either a television set, a colour (RGB) monitor or a monochrome monitor as its display. "

That's nearly £800 in today's prices. I didn't ask how much this one was, assuming about £5 to an enthusiast, so I am surprised to see them on Ebay for over £100 today.

This is a weird shot, not taken by me, but taken by my camera. It demonstrates the hazards of a touch screen that hangs around your neck and which bounces around against your chest as you walk. The camera reset itself to screen touch firing of the shutter and took about five photos as I walked along. I had no idea until a week later that this had even happened. This photo was passable which means that at about one reasonable shot out of five it has as good a record as me with my impossibly huge human brain working flat out. Admittedly mine have better horizon lines but then with what passes for "art" today, this one could always pass for the work of a genius. It certainly has what are called leading lines and probably a deep significant meaning, if I could be bothered to invent one.

I'm thinking lofty ideals, moving forward through time and delivering a message of great importance. See how easy it is?

This is a view of The Guildhall. That glass lantern window on the roof illuminates the chamber below in which the Town Council still meets. In that chamber is a large wooden table on which Oliver Cromwell laid out his strategy maps in his battles against the Royalist strongholds of the South West, in the English Civil War in 1646.

Totnes Guildhall has nearly a thousand years of history for you to explore with the original priory building dating back to 1088. In the early 1500s England monasteries were dissolved under the rule of Henry VIII and most of this building was destroyed. In 1553 the Guildhall was built and over the years it has been used as the town gaol, boy’s school, magistrates court, and is still used today as the Council Chambers for Totnes Town Council.

Inside the church you can walk around Totnes in miniature with this pictorial map in a huge scale laid out on the floor. This shows the High Street, just seen above, and the churchyard.

This is a special find and again just a taster of a later post to come. These stairs now go nowhere, but they once led to a sort of mezzanine floor above called a Rood Loft. This was a secret ceremonial area of the church hidden from view. Most of these disappeared by order of Elizabeth I who wanted the church opened up to the common people.

This is an unusual memorial to a local man. Walter Venning founded The Prison Society of Russia. Born in Totnes in 1781 he devoted his life to the care of poor prisoners in that country. He died in 1821 from fever contracted in a gaol in St Petersburg. It is also dedicated to his brother John who carried on his work.

The doors of the South doorway are probably late 16th century. The top halves of the doors are thought to be original. Various exotic carvings include a bird and a monkey. The symbolism of monkeys that feature in churches is uncertain but has been suggested by some scholars to be a warning against lust and indecorum.

If true, it is interesting, because it suggests a recognition of the fact that monkeys are our close relatives, maybe in a less civilised form, something not even seriously proposed for another 300 years by Charles Darwin.

This is where I leave my July meanderings and digressions.

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2 comentarios

John Durham
John Durham
01 ago 2023

Really nice - my favorite is the next to last, the patio with the bright yellow chairs and the beautiful flower containers.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
02 ago 2023
Contestando a

Thanks John.

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