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THE RECOLLECTIONS OF ERNEST J. VIGERS, LATE OF CREDITON

PART 1

 

Ernest Vigers (born in 1911) was an aero-engineer who emigrated to Canada from Bristol in 1945. He wrote this essay which he called Recollections of Crediton just for his family and friends and sent them to David Symonds of Symonds Estate Agency in the town. 

The hand-written account was typed up and made legible by David's firm and saved carefully for many years, a fact which has added much to their value as a piece of local history.

As his father's business eventually passed to Jonathan Symonds, so too did Ernest's Recollections and we should like to thank him for his generosity in passing them on to us

 

In 1922, my parents decided to return to their native Devon to live. My father, a couple of years previously, had retired from the Army after 24 years of service. At the time, we were living in Farnham, a few miles from the Army's Southern Command base at Aldershot. Accordingly, he bought a property in the small town of Crediton with a population of about four thousand. My Father, before joining the Army, had learnt tailoring from his Uncle and in the Army, had kept up the trade having been the Master Tailor of a famous Cavalry Regiment. So his intention was to go into business as a self-employed tailor. The premises he bought were on the corner of Charlotte Street and Mill Street and consisted of two attached house, one on each street. They could be used as one house or separately by unlocking or locking doors on the ground and upper floors. Previously the place had been used as a steam bakery and a shop fronted on Charlotte Street. The baking ovens were still in situ and there was a cobbled yard and stabling for our horses plus ample storage for flour, fodder for the horses etc. Both houses were built of the traditional material for the district - cob. This consisted of a mixture of clay, straw and horsehair, tamped between the forms and allowed to dry, the walls being two feet thick at the bottoms and tapering towards the top. The outside of the wall would be waterproofed by a roughcasting of a mixture of cement and small cracked stone followed by whitewash. The rock foundation of the wall or plinth was usually painted with tar. (The properties were demolished in the 1950s and replaced by Reed's Garage, now Treen's Motor Cycles.)

 

Mill Street is a much older road than Charlotte Street and the Mill Street house was correspondingly older with lower ceilings, exposed beams and small-pane casement windows set into the thick walls, with seats in the window nooks on the ground floor. The upper storey had been rebuilt at the time of the building of the Charlotte Street Georgian house by removing the thatch roof, raising the walls and slating the roof to match the "new" house.

We children were excited about our impending move and what our father had told us about the house and especially the stables - visions of a pony sprang to our imaginations!

 

We travelled to Devon by the London and South Western Railway to Crediton Station which was typical for a small town. There was a platform for each of the "up" and "down" lines - "up" being to Exeter and London, "down" to Barnstaple and Plymouth - on the Devonshire North and South coasts respectively. A road crossed the lines at the ends of the platforms and this was protected by gates worked from the nearby signal box. A pedestrian bridges served for both rail and road travellers to cross the railway. Outside the station four-horse cabs were waiting and we piled into one. Devonshire is a hilly county and Crediton is confined to a long and narrow shape by hills on each side.

 

Crediton Railway Station c.1920

Crediton Railway Station c. 1920 (and still there!)

Two of the horse cabs mentioned by Mr. Vigers wait patiently

on the left in the approach road

From our post card collection

 

From the station to the junction of Charlotte Street and Mill Street it is called Exeter Road. At the other end of Charlotte Street, "Church Hill" or "Union Road", otherwise known as  Jim White's Hill, leads at its top to the High Street. This street is exceptionally wide for an English town, the reason being several disastrous fires. In the days before fire insurance it was usual to raise relief funds in the county but Crediton's fires became so notorious that  collectors had to face some unkind comments. High Street is level up to the main shopping area and then rises gradually to the shore St Lawrence Green Road which in turn leads to the Western Road and the way to Barnstaple, 32 miles distant.

 

Crediton High Street in the 20th Century

Crediton High Street in the 20th Century

(I'm sure there is someone out there who can identify the exact year

simply by looking at the cars!)

Frtom our post card collection

 

Commemorating the Great Fire of 1743

A plaque fixed on a High Street building commemorates the Great Fire of 1743

© Richard J. Brine

 

Our cab horse trotted along until the moderate hill called White Hart Hill, leading to Charlotte Street, which it walked up and we had our first look at our new home. The houses fronting Charlotte Street looked spacious and well built, but we had to pass them by as our horse trotted along Charlotte Street which was built up on one side only, the other side being an orchard. Now our horse dropped to a slow walk as it pulled us up the steep hill past the large redstone church. In the town centre my father went to get the key from the lawyer; then we drove back to our new home and we children had an exciting time exploring the house, stables and storage rooms.

 

CONTINUED

 

 
 
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