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RECOLLECTIONS OF CREDITON'S PAST by ERNEST VIGERS

Part 3

 

Although Crediton had lost its pannier market, it was still the shopping centre for the district. All the shops kept to their own speciality; "shops of all sorts" were only found in small villages. Crediton had bakeries, grocers, greengrocers, ironmongers, chemists, haberdashers, boot shops, dairies, drapers, fishmongers and butchers, to list the main ones.

 

One of the ironmongers still had the traditional sign of his trade - a large kettle suspended over his door. A chemist had the large glass containers of coloured liquid in his window to show his vocation. One of the chemist shops was a branch of an Exeter firm - the manager was a Mr Morgan - Jones, a Welshman, and many would be advised to see him if they felt "under the weather".

At the bottom of Church Hill was a butcher's shop run by Ainey (Henry) Elston and his wife. Unfortunately they would occasionally have an unholy row and their shouting at each other attracted onlookers. It was said that they would throw joints of meat at each other and sometimes a piece would land in the street and be taken away, I never saw this, as I did not stay long as I found their rows rather frightening.

 

The larger grocers sent their sales assistants on a weekly round of district farmers, gentry and others to obtain orders and then, a couple of days later, they delivered the orders by horse and van and later,  by motor vehicles.

 

The milkman came around the town twice daily with a churn or two of milk in a hand cart or pony trap and later, in a small motor van, People took their jugs out and had the required amount dipped from the churn. Bakers making their deliveries were a familiar sight, as was the coalman delivering the hundredweight bags of coal. Bottled beer or cider could be ordered with the grocery order and most pubs had a "jug and bottle" door where, during opening hours, a jug could be filled or bottles bought for consumption at home.

My Uncle Jack (Dad's brother) was a market gardener and Saturday mornings he came into town (he only lived two miles away at a village called Venny Tedburn) with his pony and cart loaded with produce which he sold around the town. I helped him for a small and useful amount of pocket money. Potatoes were always sold by the "score" ( 20 pounds) so many a score have I taken out of the sack, weighed and delivered.

Crediton Fire Brigade 1906

This is not the Crediton Fire Brigade described by Ernest Vigers but they would have looked much the same as this. The bugler ( Reg Yelland) stands apart, front right.

Thanks to Albert Labbett

 

Crediton had a volunteer fire brigade, in my time, the chief being a Welshman - Captain Parry Jones. I do not know whether he was a military captain or if the title was given to him as chief of the fire brigade, probably the latter. Anyway, he was always known as the "the Captain". When we moved to Crediton, the brigade were still equipped with a horse-drawn manually operated fire engine, so is a thatched house caught fair, by the time they reached the scene all they could do was to try to stop it from spreading. The firemen were called out by a  bugler  who rode around the town on a cycle, making a bugle call outside firemen's homes or places of work. Meanwhile the horses were being harnessed to the engine and as soon as sufficient firemen had arrived, off they galloped.

 

About the last time this outfit was used, was  at the village of Newton St Cyres. This was a very picturesque place about five miles from Crediton on the Exeter Road which descended a steep hill to the village and then climbed an equally steep hill out of the village.  The village consisted almost entirely of whitewashed cob and thatched houses and cottages, most of them attached and without fire breaks.  The fire was on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in one of the thatched houses on the Exeter Road. I managed to get there for the later stages of the fire.  Water was drawn from the stream that ran in the valley and was pumped by teams of about ten men, five on each side of the engine, moving the long horizontal poles of the pump up and down. The pumpers were teams of local volunteers and names were taken so that they could be paid later. One of the first jobs of the Captain in this kind of fire was to put men on the roof to make a firebreak in the thatch each side of the house on fire. This could be difficult as thatchers normally put new thatch over the old, so there might be four or five layers of thatch tightly pegged together. A fire hose had to be directed over the roofs to keep them damp. Volunteers would then get to work, removing all furniture and possessions from threatened houses. In this case, three houses were destroyed.

The main road in Newton St. Cyres described by Ernest Vigers

The main road in Newton St Cyres described by Ernest Vigers

© Richard J. Brine

CONTINUED

 

 
 
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