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Images of Dawlish

This set of images was presented and discussed at the History Group meeting on August 1st  2017. 

If you have any further information (or corrections) on any of these pictures please let me know.

                                                                                                                                                 David Gearing

The first image is one of three given to the History Group recently by Jimmy Hill of Swiftprint. 

It’s an original watercolour by William Henry Barnard dated 1801, and therefore one of the earliest images of Dawlish that we have.  It was the subject of an article in our July 2017 Newsletter, so won’t be further discussed here. 

All three images are somewhat damaged, being subject to ‘foxing’: spots and browning caused by the formation of mold and mildew on paper that has been exposed to damp conditions over time.



The second picture donated by Jimmy Hill is a colour print entitled ‘Public Rooms, Bridge and part of Strand, Dawlish’.  We already had a monochrome image of this print (dated 1830) in our files, but it’s interesting to have a coloured alternative. 

The notes on the back of the frame in which the print is currently mounted describe it as an aquatint of 1828.  Aquatint is a printmaking technique that produces tonal effects by using acid to eat into the printing plate creating sunken areas which hold the ink.  Fine particles of acid-resistant material, such as powdered rosin, are attached to a printing plate by heating.  The plate is then immersed in an acid bath; the acid eats into the metal around the particles to produce a granular pattern of tiny indented rings.

These hold sufficient ink to give the effect of an area of wash when inked and printed.  The extent of the printed areas can be controlled by varnishing those parts of the plate to appear white in the final design. Gradations of tone can be achieved by varying the length of time in the acid bath; longer periods produce more deeply-bitten rings, which print darker areas of tone. The technique was developed in France in the 1760s. 

It’s probable that many copies of this coloured image were produced using this method, both for framing (this print is about 33cm by 22cm) and in smaller sizes for inclusion in souvenir booklets of similar prints of local scenes. 



The third picture donated by Jimmy Hill is another coloured print, this one of the bottom end of what was then the Strand, now Piermont Place.  The legends printed around the image say ‘Published by H Bisley (or Besley), South St, Exeter’ and ‘G Townsend del Exeter’ (meaning it is taken from an original work by Townsend).

Unlike similar prints by Rock and Co from the 1860s and 1870s, this one isn’t dated.  The only clue is that the Assembly Rooms on still there – the building was demolished in the mid-1860s.



This recently discovered picture from 1908 of a group of people outside Church Cottages is of interest because everyone in it is identified in a strip of paper attached to the back of the photo, shown here as a caption.  It’s also interesting because we already have another picture that was obviously taken within a few minutes of this one, framed differently but with the same people in a different arrangement.  They are Chapman pictures, with sequential reference numbers.  Presumably the people just happened to be there when the photographer arrived, and have moved around a bit in the time taken to move the camera to a new position.



In the photo we already had I was curious about the man in the wide brimmed hat and gaiters, who was taking a drink from a cup.   He looked to me like a gamekeeper.  Here he is identified as ‘Farmer Trant’ and it’s looks as if he is delivering milk. The only person who didn’t move about between pictures is the tall woman in the white blouse standing by the doorway, identified here as Greta Wishart (Mrs Alf Devill).  Tricia Whiteaway has previously written of Margarita (Greta) Wishart, who had been orphaned as a baby.  The Hoare family paid for her keep until she was an adult, and she was looked after by a former Luscombe servant living in Church Cottages.

There is a connection with the next picture, which is of Lewis Trant and his pony and trap in front of the Trant Dairy shop in Park Road (or the ‘West End’ of town as it was known then) sometime in the 1930s.  Presumably the Trants had a dairy herd – in our ‘Dawlish Farms’ book Tricia noted that Charles Trant, possibly the son of this man, was the farmer at Lidwell Farm in the 1930s.

The photo below was provided by Dave Luscombe, a painter and decorator who was born and bred in Dawlish and has worked here for the last 30 years.  His wife is related to the Trant family.  Dave remembered (or was told by an older relative?) that the Brimble & Son boots & shoes shop seen next to the Trant shop was basically a long corridor piled with shoe boxes to the ceiling either side, leaving so little room inside that you had to try shoes on the pavement outside.


The last three images are more modern, and presumably were all originally taken for newspaper articles.

The next one shows the brook in Tuck’s Plot being dredged with the use of a small mechanical digger.  Apparently this was the first time a mechanical digger had been used for this task, which up to this point had been done by men with shovels.  The picture was taken in March 1961.  The fountain and the stone edging to the brook don’t seem to have changed at all over the past 50 years.  But there is no longer a WH Smith (the portico of which can just be seen on the right), or any other shops for that matter, in Piermont Place, and if it were still around the Ford Anglia parked in front of WH Smith’s would now be considered a classic car.



We don’t know the date of the next picture (perhaps the late 1960s?), of competitors in a pram race posing in front of the bandstand, either before or after the race has taken place.  This was presumably one of the events in the Carnival for the year in question.  It’s notable that real prams are being used, so the young women are perched rather precariously and it would be quite difficult to maintain balance at speed.  While we don’t know when, we do know who they are: John Robertson is pushing Sandy Acton, and Andy Carter is pushing Joy Glanville (who was Miss Dawlish at the time).  And we do know the result: it was a tie for first place between these two.




The final picture is this set also looks like it was part of a Carnival programme.  On the beach near the station a man is being pushed in a wheelbarrow through a scaffolding contraption that has a hinged shelf on which a bucket of water is placed by a man up a ladder.  The man in the wheelbarrow has a long pole with which he tries to push up the shelf in order to dislodge the bucket of water so that the person pushing gets wet.  But here the whole bucket has landed right onto the head of the person pushing.  Even if it was a small plastic bucket, that still looks painful and even potentially dangerous.  From the picture it’s not absolutely clear that the bucket was full of water, but something is emerging as it hits the unfortunate pusher, and water seems the most likely.  One wonders what the point of this was – the only excuse would be that it was to raise money for a good cause.