#100daysofbfotc Day 68: Bucks Mills Methodist Chapel

Malcolm Langford cards (9)

Former Methodist Chapel on the left

In a tract written in the 1850s, the irreligious nature of the inhabitants of Bucks Mills was lamented. The evangelising efforts of the Wesleyan Methodists and the Bible Christians bore fruit and the characters in Barefoot on the Cobbles attend the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the first chapter. The original, tin roofed, chapel was probably constructed in the 1860s. It was Captain Joe, Albert’s uncle, who is said to have donated the land on which the chapel was built. He also promised that his subscription to the chapel would increase by £2 each year. He lived to be 87, so this may have been rash. In 1907, the chapel was closed and a new chapel was built on the opposite side of the road. Leet Cottage now stands on the site of the old chapel.

‘Kneeling on a coarse hassock between Mary and Albert, Eadie’s mind wandered as the words of the prayers washed over her. The walls of the chapel echoed back the phrases with an eerie resonance. For Eadie, the sermon was the hardest part. The dust motes swam in the sinking sunlight and she struggled to stay awake as the preacher spoke of sin and salvation.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

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#100daysofbfotc Day 67: Rosie

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Rosie (left) and her sister Lily

Rosie was born in the last year of the peace and shared her birthday, 3 February, with her sister Lily. She was the youngest child in Polly and Albert’s family. The incident, in chapter 9 of Barefoot on the Cobbles, when Rosie fails to come home from school, is based on a real family story.

She married in 1936 and had one daughter but her husband died shortly afterwards, so Rosie returned to Clovelly to live with her parents. She spent the rest of her life in the village.

 Rosie ran indoors, oblivious of the commotion that she had caused. The good news rushed down the street faster than a flood tide. Villagers came to express their relief, or to check if the rumours of Rosie’s safe return were true.’

 Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 66: Mr Caird

New InnIn Barefoot on the Cobbles’ divide between ‘us and them’, that is characteristic of early twentieth century society, Mr Caird is unequivocally one of ‘them’. As such, he is distanced from Clovelly’s villagers, acting as a buffer between them and the Lady of the Manor, Mrs Hamlyn.

George Charles Caird was agent to the Clovelly estate. He was born in Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, Scotland, in 1865, the son of George Scott Caird and his wife Christian née Sharpe. His father was a solicitor and procurator fiscal, so Caird grew up in a comfortably off household in Evan Street, Fetteresso. By 1901, Mr Caird was working as a factor’s clerk in Roxboroughshire and here he met his wife, Hellen Hall Thomson, who was living with her uncle at Huntlaw Farm in Minto. Together they moved to Clovelly where their only child, Hellen Christian Drawhill Caird, was born in 1904. They lived firstly at Slerra, Upper Clovelly and then in the village, at number 21 but Mr Caird’s role probably prevented them from being regarded as villagers. Mr Caird died in 1922; his widow and daughter remained at 21 Clovelly until the second world war, when his wife died and his daughter married.

Mr Caird called to present Mrs Hamlyn’s good wishes and to enquire after Daisy. Remembering the last time he had visited, Polly was reluctant to invite him in. Only the thought that other people might overhear what he had to say persuaded her to grudgingly open the door wider and usher the dapper little man inside. He brushed down his immaculate, tweed plus-fours and rested the stout stick that he always carried against the chimney breast. The stick was an affectation, rather than a necessary aid; Mr Caird was fit for his fifty years.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 65: Bideford Pannier Market

Pannier MarketIn 1891, when Polly visits Bideford Pannier Market in the second chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles, the new market building had only been open for seven years. It replaced an earlier market on the same spot and was designed, in particular for the butchers, in a designated Butchers’ Row and fishmongers. It was also the local corn exchange. The previous market had been owned by the Lords of the Manor but as they were disinclined to improve the building, the Corporation took responsibility. Market days were Tuesdays and Saturdays and attracted many traders and shoppers from the surrounding rural villages.

The building cost the ratepayers £4200 and it opened on 15 April 1884 amidst great celebrations. The area was bedecked with garlands and there was a peal of church bells, a gun salute and a mayoral procession. Other activities including a concert, a dinner for 200 town worthies, with food provided by the nearby (and now closed) New Inn. This must have been a protracted affairs there were many loyal toasts. The North Devon Gazette gives a detailed account of the proceeding and the attendees at the dinner. Later in the week there was a tea party for 2000 children.

Bideford’s market charter dates from 1272 and the Medieval market was in a different location, at the bottom of the High Street, near the river. The panniers, that give the market its name, are the woven baskets that would be slung either side of the backs of the donkeys and pack horses who brought the produce to market.

‘Tuesday brought market day, with its feverish hubbub and bustle. From early morning, eager sellers arrived with their produce, by rail, by cart, or with panniers slung across the back of a horse or a donkey. Farmers’ wives walked to the town from the surrounding villages to sell eggs, cheese or succulent pies. The smell of the butchers’ stalls with their carcasses of meat and hanging game, caught the throats of the more fastidious. Squawking chickens in stacked crates and the shouts of the stallholders, vied with the chatter of gossiping women and the squeals of children clamouring for sweetmeats.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 64: Aunt Susan

Aunt Susan makes a brief appearance in Barefoot on the Cobbles. She was the first member of Polly’s family to move from rural North Devon to Bideford and was an inspiration to her nieces, making them aware that there was life beyond their birthplace. She was born about 1834, the daughter of Zechariah and Sally Found. Susan’s great grandfather was a foundling, hence the surname. He had been abandoned in the porch of Morwenstow Church more than a century before Susan’s birth. Time had done nothing to diminish the rumour that all the Founds were gypsies and the Found children were still snubbed in the neighbourhood. Susan spent her childhood in a cottage in the woods above Bucks Mills, which compounded the stories. Susan went into service in Parkham. Here she met Joseph Prance, a fisherman and they married in 1855. At first they lived with Joseph’s father in Peppercombe. In the 1870s, Joseph came ashore and together they ran a fishmonger’s shop in Mill Street, Bideford.

CaptureDespite having had eight children of her own, in 1890, Susan took in four grandchildren, following her eldest daughter’s death. Her, niece Lydia, was also living with the Prances. In later life, Susan lost her hearing. She went to live with her youngest daughter and her family in Bideford and died in 1924.

Aunt Susan greeted Polly warmly. ‘You’ll have to shout,’ she said, as Polly thanked her for letting her visit, ‘I’m a bit deaf now’.

Certainly her aunt had aged in the few years since Polly had last seen her. Apart from her own brood of girls, Aunt Susan was now custodian of two young grandchildren, following the recent death of Polly’s cousin.’

 Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 63: Mrs Harris

Mrs Margaret Harris is one of many Clovelly villagers whose lives are a backdrop to those of the main characters. Margaret’s neighbourliness leads her to become directly involved in the penultimate act of the Devon tragedy that is retold Barefoot on the Cobbles.

Independent Street Flossie Harris on rightMrs Harris was born Margaret Headon in Clovelly about 1853. Like many from Clovelly, she crossed the Bristol Channel and there she married James Harris, whose family also lived in Clovelly. With her husband away at sea, Margaret lived with her widowered father back in Clovelly. She became Polly’s neighbour in Independent Street, where Margaret ran a lodging house. Margaret and James had five children before James died in the 1890s. The Samuel Harris, who also appears in the novel, was the son of James Harris’ sister, Elizabeth. Margaret died in 1928.

Briskly, Emma Stanbury took charge. Later, when the children clattered back from school, she shooed them off to be minded by Mrs Harris.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 62: Aunt Ellen

Aunt Ellen was another minor character, in Barefoot on the Cobbles, who was fascinating to research. Like her sister, she spent time in the asylum at Exminster, contributing to her sister-in-law Polly’s dread of the institution. Although Eadie was a year old when Ellen was admitted, she was probably suffering from post-natal depression.

Mark's & Emily's

Mark’s Cottage in the foreground on the right

Ellen was the ninth child in a family of eleven and grew up in a fishing family at King’s Cottage, Bucks Mills. She was born on 11 June 1848 and married her first cousin, Thomas, ‘Crumplefoot Tommy’, in 1873. It appears that the first year of their married life was spent in the cottage now known as Mark’s, before they moved to Ivy Cottage. In the 1911 census, Ellen states that she had ten children but only nine have been identified; three of these died young. Her mental ill-health was probably a contributing factor to her willingness to hand her daughter, Eadie, to her brother to be brought up. Ellen died on 22 January 1919.

 Polly felt frozen fingers grip her heart. She was well aware that Matilda’s sister, Albert’s Aunt Ellen, had spent nigh on a year in the asylum, when Eadie had been a year old. They’d blamed that on child bearing. Polly glanced involuntarily at Nelson in his cradle. Was she immune to this affliction that struck at mothers unawares?’

 Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.