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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Mill Street, Crediton today

Mill Street Crediton today

©Derek Harper

The van is just turning out of East Street


Our neighbours opposite to us in Mill Street ran a coal business with a depot and had a good sized orchard from which we often heard owls calling when we went to  bed. They were Plymouth Brethren; one of the daughters, a nurse, contracted consumption, as tuberculosis was then known, Mr Charles Symonds, her father, built a small summerhouse in the middle of the orchard and the poor girl had to live isolated there for about a year. Fortunately, there was a complete cure. The nurse afterwards became Mrs. Gertie Discombe.


Attached to our house on Mill Street was a row of thatched cottages all without a fire break between the thatched roofs. The first one housed the Symes family with two boys and three girls. Mr Symes was a railway mason and the elder boy was an apprentice mason. The other boy, Jack, was in my form at the Grammar School.


Girls usually wore their hair long and plaited in pigtails. I remember Winnie, the daughter coming to show my mother her hair done up in a "bun" for the first time. Girls had to wait until they were close to eighteen before their mothers would allow them to "put their hair up".


Resurfacting of Charlotte Street - early 20th century

Charlotte Street being resurfaced - c. early 1900s

Note the workmens' coats hanging on the lefthand wall

A. Labbett


Next to our property on Charlotte Street was a row of Buller-Estate houses built of brick and with slate roofs. They provided housing for widows with children and for retired people. Opposite us on Charlotte Street was the blacksmithing, farm supply and ironmongery business of my mother's cousin, Charlie Ashplant. He was a skilled blacksmith, but employed another smith, Frank Vicary of Dean Street, and only helped out in the smithy when it was very busy. Mr Ashplant lived with his family on the "raised" part of Exeter Road or White Hart Hill. (his house is now known as Norrington House).


The smithy opened about 7.0am so the first sounds I heard of a morning were the "clip clop" of horses coming to be shod and then the ring of the hammer on the anvil. Sometimes I would hear the smith speak severely to a restless horse, but men were careful not to use swear words in the hearing of their womenfolk.


carousel image

Norrington House, Crediton - once the home of Mr Ashplant - blacksmith -

with its numerous and useful outbuildings.


Crediton did not have a purpose-built cinema such as I was used to in Farnham, but a cinema show was held in the Town Hall about three nights a week and there was a matinee for children. We sat on forms, girls on one side and boys on the other, great care being taken to ensure the boys were not led astray by the girls! A pianist played suitable music and the Town Crier kept a watchful eye on everyone. The films were in reels and were advertised as "5 reels" etc to show length. At the end of each reel there was a short interval whilst the operator change d reels. Also it was quite common for the film to break  so there had to be another interval to splice it together again. The programme started with a one or two- reel comedy then came an episode of a serial followed by the main feature film of five or six reels. Of course our favourites were films by the comedians of the time - Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton to mention but a few. We loved cowboy films as well and I remember seeing more serious films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Ten Commandments.


10 c0ommandments poster
Orignal poster for The Ten Commandments (1956)


The Town Crier, Bill Sprague, to be succeeded by one named Browning, was a familiar figure in the town. He was of stocky build with a large white moustache tinged with tobacco stain. His job was strictly utilitarian as he went on his round dressed in everyday clothes and he never began his cry with "Oyez" nor ended with "God save the King ". The town had a weekly newspaper, the Crediton Chronicle,  in which coming events were advertised and the town crier was utilised mainly to go around on the day of the event, stopping at strategic places, including our corner, to ting his bell and read out the notice of the event. This was thirsty work and if the pubs were open, he would drop into one for a pint during his round. The coming of radio and public address systems on vans in the 1930s phased out his job, after, I suppose hundreds of years. Recently the bell was found and given to the Council for safe keeping.




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