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RECOLLECTIONS OF CREDITON'S PAST by ERNEST VIGERS

Part 2

 

"By present standards, I suppose most people in the town would be judged to be living below the poverty level. The normal work week was at least 50 hours, with a one week holiday in the Summer and bank holidays at Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and in August, totalling 6 days, all holidays being without pay. The average family man had very little money after his expenses were paid. My father kept fairly steadily employed at tailoring and he had his Sergeant Major's pension, but we never went away together for a holiday. The pubs used to have outing funds to which their customers could contribute. There was a pub called "The White Hart" close to us on the other side of the road and on a Saturday in Summer, a char-a-banc would draw up outside the pub and after a barrel of beer had been loaded on, the customers would go off for a trip which for most of them would be the only journey of any distance from the town for the year.

 

The Old Swan, Crediton in 1906

Many of the inns named below by Ernest Vigers have disappeared - the buildings of others have ceased to be licensed premises - and some have suffered name changes.

This photograph of the Old Swan was taken in 1906 when it was sold by auction and, from then on , became shop premises.

© CAHMS

 

The town was well supplied with hotels and Inns. There was The Railway, The White Hart, The Plymouth, The Crediton,The Ship, the Market, the Oat Sheaf, The Horse and Jockey, The Dock, The White Swan and The Old Swan. No pub was named after the Buller family, although there are Buller pubs around the County and the original White Hart had the Buller Arms over the door. The Dock Inn is now the Grape Vine. The Star Inn at the corner of Mill Street and Manning had closed sometime earlier.

 

The Buller Estate, Downes, was located just outside the town on the road leading towards Exeter, and the estate-owned, considerable property in the district. The estate is entailed in the male line and the General, having no son, it had passed to his nephew Major Mowbray Buller MC who held it until his death about 1945, but he also had daughters only. The Major lived a quiet life and took no active part in local or County affairs.

 
Downes House Crediton

Downes House Crediton

© The Downes Estate

 

In spite of all these public houses, drunkeness and rowdyism were not problems. The hours of opening on weekdays were 11am to 2 pm and 5pm until 10pm. Licensing sessions were held by the local Magistrates annually and any complaints by the police or the public could be aired and dealt with accordingly. Having such a number of pubs meant that only about a dozen customers could be in each bar at a time, so the landlord could ensure there was no excessive drinking. Card games were not allowed, but here were other games such as darts, shove-halfpenny, bar skittles; some pubs had a skittle alley and matches with teams from other pubs were organised, Conversation between friends was an important entertainment and most people had a stock of stories.

 

The town had a Police Station of the Devon Constabulary, staffed by a sergeant and three or four constables. The Police Station in Market Street is now the local office of Mid Devon District Council. Police staff patrolled the town and district on foot or bicycle - they had no patrol cars. A Magistrates' Court was held about once a week, presided over by local Justices of the Peace. To be appointed, a JP was an unpaid honour given to the serving Justices of the Council and others judged worthy by their public affairs activities. An odd number of J.Ps,  usually three of five, heard the cases, the majority verdict prevailing. A lawyer acting as the Court Clerk advised as to the law. The Court dealt only with minor cases such as motoring and cycling offences, petty theft and disputes between neighbours. It was an offence to let one's chimney catch fire. Houses were heated by coal burning open fireplaces so a chimney fire spread soot and was a threat to the many thatched houses in the town. One constable was embarrassed when his own chimney caught fire. He laid a charge against himself and was duly fined the usual amount, nearly half a day's pay. One young man named "Nugger" was a problem and was eventually sent for Borstal training. The townspeople were not very optimistic when he married but his wife seemed to change him and he became a steady citizen.

 

CONTINUED

 

 

 
 
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