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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials

It was decided that we should live in the Mill Street house and the bakehouse was converted into a spacious kitchen, dining and living room. We had a "front room" for Sunday and special occasions, fronting on Charlotte Street. My father settled in the shop, utilizing the counter for cutting cloth and sitting on, crosslegged for sewing in the traditional way. Upstairs we had four bedrooms for our parents, the three boys and one girl. At this time, my brother Fred was eighteen, I was eleven, my brother Stan, ten and sister Olive, six.

Fred was a motor mechanic and had ridden our father's motor cycle from Farnham. This is was B.S.A belt-driven 500cc machine which my father had bought just before the war and all during the war years it had been stored in a corner of our front room at Farnham.


Statue of Sir Redvers Buller, Exeter

General Buller's statue in Exeter

His first name (which is becoming difficult to see) was Redvers. He was much loved here in Devon for the actions which won him a VC - his rescue from certain death, three Devon men who came from the ranks during the Zulu Wars.


Crediton is an old town dating back to Saxon and perhaps Celtic times. It was the birthplace of St Boniface in AD680 and so acquired religious prestige, leading to the foundation of a monastery in 739 and the creation of a bishopric of Crediton in 910 for the diocese of Devon and Cornwall. In 1050 however, the See was transferred to the larger town of Exeter. Today, the Bishop of Crediton is a suffragan of the See of Exeter. Just outside Crediton in a farmhouse still extant, was born Bodley the founder of the famous Bodlean Library at Oxford. A more recent famous son was the Victorian soldier General Sir Redvers Buller VC, Commander-in-Chief for part of the South African Boer War. Of interest to our family was the fact that he led the British forces that relieved the sige of Ladysmith - in which ny father-to-be was a defender. The General died in 1908 but was still remembered as a local and Devon hero.


General Rt.Hon. Sir Redvers Buller VC GCB
General the Right Honorable Sir Redvers Buller VC; GCB; was born just outside Crediton at a house called Downes, which the public can visit.


Stan, Olive and I started to make friends with local children but first we had difficulty understanding the Devon dialect and our new friends found our nesr-London accent amusing. We had to get to know what phrases like "it baint vitty" (it isn't right) and "twas a proper scummer" (it was a proper uproar) meant. I remember my mother was amused when she asked one of our friends when he had the mumps and he replied "aw when twuz yere" (oh, when it was here).


We enrolled in Haywards School, the town's elementary school which was situated at the bas of Church Hill. This consisted of two schools, an infants' and girls' school, and a boy's school in separate building connected by houses for the headmaster for the boys and a headmistress for the girls. The buildings were of stone, built in  late Victorian time and were very little altered or modernised.


Hayward's School, Crediton in 2009

Hayward's School, Crediton

© Richard J. Brine


The school day started with the singing of a hymn and I was impressed. The singing was much better than that of my more-up-to-date Surrey school. School leaving age was 14 so basically only the three Rs were taught. In school something like the King's English had to be spoken but as soon as school was over the dialect was reverted to, so not much harm was done to the dialect and, as one teacher very sensibly said, "There is no need to be ashamed of the Devonshire dialect. It was the dialect of Drake and Raleigh."


The cane was regarded as just about as essential to education as blackboard and chalk. Anyone guilty of a transgression - from not paying attention, to truancy - would be ordered to the front of the class to bend over and touch his toes to have his bottom suitably warmed up. When we went to an open roofed area in the corner of the playground for exercises, the Master would bring along his cane and anyone turning right instead of left would likely get the cane across his shoulders. When one boy was ordered to the front he put this thick woollen cap inside his trousers whilst the Master's back was turned getting this cane. Later in the playground he boasted "it hadn't hurt a bit".


The School Dentist came round regularly and inspected all the children's teeth. If the parent had not sent a note requesting his child not to be treated, the dentist would do everything necessary for a small fee or for free, according to the parent's circumstances. One boy was foolish enough to "vig" (pick the filling out and boast about it). Unfortunately, this came to the Headmaster's ears and the boy was returned to the dentist's chair. As soon as the dentist was finished, the headmaster demonstrated to the boy that his cane was much more uncomfortable than the dentist's drill.


Another unlucky boy lived across the road from the school with his widowed mother. He liked to run out of the school and across the road to home. I think this mother spoke to the headmaster about it, for on afternoon, the head was waiting just outside the school gate and grabbed the boy and took him back inside, ordering other boys back as well to see the boy caned and so spread the word that it was not a good idea to run out of school. The headmaster, although a strict disciplinarian, had his human side, During a cold spell in winter, he would help as to make an ice slide. He was a keen gardener and taught us the basics, and he encouraged good singing. (This Headmaster was Mr Titcombe)


Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Crediton c.1900

Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Crediton in 1900

From our post card collection




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