Salcombe History Society

Discover the history of the Devonshire town of Salcombe …

Newsletter – Issue 21 -June 2022

James Fairweather published a detailed account of Salcombe’s celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee held on Tuesday 21st June 1887, republished in 2001 by his great-grandson John Fairweather Tall, who wrote:Golden Jubilees of British monarchs are few and far between.  Counting from Ecgberht (Egbert) of Wessex – acknowledged from 827 as the first King of all England – there have been a mere four: Henry III (reigned 1216-1272), Edward III (1327-1377), George III (1760-1820) and Victoria (1837-1901).Our present Queen is therefore only the fifth British monarch to celebrate a Golden Jubilee – she acceded to the throne on 6th February 1952.Victoria gave her name to a remarkable era.  During her time on the throne – over 63 years – this country experienced a social transformation, increasing prosperity, immense industrial and scientific developments, and a massive expansion of the Empire.

Victoria herself experienced highs and lows.  She came to the throne as a young girl of 18, admired for her honesty and the enthusiasm with which she took to her duties.  Her marriage to Prince Albert gave her a husband on whose support and advice she came to rely, and his premature death in 1861 came as a devastating blow.  Grief-stricken, Victoria withdrew from public life and remained in mourning for so long that her popularity waned.  Voices called for her abdication and some went so far as to suggest the abolition of the monarchy.

She finally emerged from mourning in 1874, and by the time of her Golden Jubilee had won back the loyalty and affection of her subjects.  Throughout the Empire, the event was marked enthusiastically, with church services and celebrations in great cities and remote villages alike.

It is against such a background that James Fairweather’s account of Salcombe’s own celebration is set.  As Secretary to the General Committee charged with organizing events in the town, he had every detail at his fingertips.  He wrote as a journalist, capturing each scene in vivid prose.  His verbatim report of the public meeting called to make preliminary arrangements, enables today’s readers to imagine themselves in the midst … Although many ladies were present, only the gentlemen spoke.

The weather on the day is reported: it turned out fine, though giving early anxiety – a typical English summer day.

The graphic account continues: religious services; an impressive procession the largest ever organised in Salcombe, led by The Salcombe Brass Band, then HM Coastguards and many other representatives of the town, and finally ending with the Holy Trinity Church, Wesleyan and Baptist Sunday Schools, starting at North Sands and wending its way to the Park, including six old people who took part in George III’s Jubilee; the dinner and tea, complete with a sketch plan showing the positions occupied at the tables by the gentlemen who carved at dinner and the ladies who presided at tea.  Altogether about 1200 feet of tabling was provided.  It was laid in double rows along Devon Road, extending from the corner of Courtenay Terrace to the grounds of Powderham Villas.  It was estimated that between 1500 and 1600 persons in all sat down to dinner, and nearly all the provisions provided were consumed, the things that actually ran short being the plum puddings and the temperance drinks.

The sports, held in a field at Beadon, are reported minutely.  Competitors probably wore everyday clothes, heavy boots and, for the girls, long skirts.

It must have been a magnificent, memorable sight to stand at Sharp Tors watching the bonfire burn, while farther afield over 30 bonfires of other communities blazed.  The day concluded with a glowing display of illuminations throughout the town – gas and oil lit in those pre-electricity, pre-laser beam days.

Over 400 people contributed to the cost of the events, and the total collected in 1887 would today be worth about £25,500.

Photos by Bill Budgett

Cliff House Gardens

Rugby Club
Hockey Club
Floral Dance
This account of Salcombe’s celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee at the beginning of June 2002 is from a booklet published by Kingsbridge History Society recording the festivities in 22 towns and villages in the South Hams.Money was set aside in Salcombe Town Council’s annual budget, and some 50 organisations in the town were invited to attend meetings to discuss a programme of events.  The Town Council allocated £4,000 to fund a fireworks display, Jubilee commemorative coins for the children, a civic reception, and the Laira Youth Band which played at the floral dance.The Church of England Primary School celebrated the Jubilee by creating an eye-catching mosaic displayed near the school entrance of an underwater scene fashioned from pieces of coloured pottery, initiated by head-teacher Sue Stanton, with financial backing from the Town Council.The Maritime Museum offered free entrance during the Jubilee weekend and included a very interesting display of photographs and memorabilia from the Coronation in 1953.Visitors to the Over-60s Day Centre on Victoria Quay were welcome to call in for tea, coffee, biscuits, cakes and flags.  Carol Jones was in charge of arrangements.  Salcombe Floral Society mounted tasteful floral displays arranged by Sue Waterfield, Betty Crocker, Joan Bentley, June Bowers and Ann Woodhatch.The programme for Saturday 1st June began with a Jubilee garden tour, with eight volunteering to open their gardens: Mike and Penny Fenton, Joan and David Parkes, Mackenzie Bell, Annette Kenny-Smith, Edna Davies, Sue Waterfield, Jean and Gordon Rothwell, and the gardens at Woodcot.

The RNLI Guild served cream teas and hosted a raffle, with Nancy Underwood, Val Lovatt, Sonia Parkinson, Eileen Davies and Bettine Wessel managing the event.

The Tennis Club hosted a barbecue, organised by Val Lovatt, Jackie Lidstone and David Alcock.

Sunday’s highlight for the children was a fun day and afternoon tea party at the Rugby Club, all Salcombe children being invited to join.  The event was run by Hazel Burkitt, Jean Furness, Karen Box, Lindy and Richard Sinnott, Peggy Jeffrey, Edna Rooney, Caroline Bricknell, and Christine and John Sinnott.  There was a barbecue, Salcombe Dairy ice-cream, Salcombe Chocolate Factory chocolates, a bouncy castle, postcard painting, a fancy hat competition, 200 helium balloon release, sports races (flat, sack, potato and spoon, beanbag on head), conga dance, tea at which Rev Ron Owen, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, said grace), magic show, presentation of Jubilee medals to younger children by Jean Furness, the Town Mayor, all rounded off by a disco with music provided by local quartet, the Four Seasons.

On Monday 3rd June there was a Civic Reception at the Kings Arms.  Folk music duo of Jo Woodcock on accordion and David Sinnott on guitar provided the entertainment.

A street party attended by over 150 residents and guests was held in Bonaventure Road, organised by Cllr Peter Howard, Sheila Anderson, Herbert Duderstadt, Caroline Thompson, and Paul Coulson.  Rev Ron Owen welcomed everyone, offered prayers for the Queen and said grace.  Peter Howard proposed the loyal toast. Dena Login, Salcombe’s postmistress provided keyboard accompaniment for dancing.  There was a 1950s themed disco.

The floral dance was organised by Christine Sinnott, the procession gathering in Devon Road by Courtenay Park was led by Laira Youth Band, followed by Hazel Burkitt’s Brownies and Rainbows, and then a line of sprightly adults.  The route was from Devon Road to Church Hill, down Market Street and along Fore Street, finally to disperse at Cliff House Gardens.

Salcombe Yacht Club held a Jubilee ball for 130 members and guests, colour-themed red, white and blue, from 7.30 p.m. until 1 a.m. on the terraces in front of the club’s remises and Cliff House.  Vice Commodore Peter Hodges presided and proposed the loyal toast.

Tuesday 4th June started at 10 a.m. when the Royal British Legion, Salcombe Branch, marched with standards and pipes from Coleman’s Corner to Whitestrand for a D-Day Service of Remembrance conducted by Rev Ron Owen. The parade was led by Pipe Major Gordon McCormack, with David Corkhill and Betty Croker as standard-bearers.

A Celebration Service at Holy Trinity Church followed at 11 a.m., attended by the Chairman of South Hams District Council, Cllr Gordon Rothwell, Salcombe Town Mayor, Cllr Jean Furness, the Deputy, Cllr David Stevens, together with District and Town councillors and many others.  Rev Ron Owen led the service.

The captain and three crew members of the guard boat, HMS Express, attended a lunch after the service, hosted by the Town Mayor, the Deputy, the immediate past Town Mayor, Cllr Gaynor Tabiner. The Bishop of Exeter and Rev Ron Owen were also present.

The remainder of the day’s events included outdoor stalls in the grounds of the Winking Prawn at North Sands from 4 p.m., fairground games, a ram roast, and folk music of the Nigel Sture Duo and the Ragin’ Beer Monkeys.  Members of the fire brigade attended and gave a demonstration on how to extinguish a chip fire.

Kingsbridge Scout Group arranged a barbeque in Cliff House gardens from 8 p.m.

At 10 p.m. the grand finale was a colourful and noisy red, white and blue firework display, masterminded by Philip Pritchard and Chris Watkins, sited on the water opposite Cliff House.

More questions to test your knowledge about Salcombe’s history!

  1. What was the railway line from South Brent to Kingsbridge called?
  2. In what year was Salcombe Yacht Club founded?
  3. What happened to HMHS Asturias?
  4. How many bakers’ shops were in Salcombe in the 1920s?
  5. How many RAF radar stations were positioned around Salcombe in the Second World War?
  6. What did the Seabees do in the Second World War?
  7. When was Beadon Park built?
  8. When did Redfern Health Centre in Shadycombe Road open?
  9. What is the emblem of Salcombe Town Football Club?
  10. Which two Poet Laureates wrote poems about Salcombe?

Beadon Park being built


  1. Primrose Line.  The railway opened in 1893 and closed, despite local opposition, in 1963.  It ran for 12 miles and the cost of construction including 48 bridges, was £180,000.  In spring the route was filled with primroses, wild daffodils and bluebells.
  2. 1894 Salcombe Sailing Club was founded on 12th November 1894.  From spring 1896, the club was known as Salcombe Yacht Club.  It moved to Cliff House in 1919, accepting the generous offer to take up quarters there from Vice Commodore Andrew McIlwraith.
  3. She was torpedoed off Start Point and beached at Starehole Bay in the First World War.  Asturias was a hospital ship, showing her lights and an illuminated red cross.  On the night of 20th March 1917, five miles south of Start Point, U-boat U-20 torpedoed her without warning.  The torpedo lodged in a stack of sulphur and noxious fumes filled the ship.  Asturias was beached at Starehole Bay and survivors were taken to the Salcombe Hotel.  31 died, 12 missing and 39 injured.  Between 1917 and 1918 enemy U-boats sank at least 25 British and allied merchant ships off Salcombe.  The largest victim (of UB-31) was P&O liner Medina (12,358 tons), also torpedoed off Start Point on 28th April 1917, carrying retiring Governor of Madras Lord Carmichael and 410 passengers and crew.  All but six were saved.
  4. Eight Mr. Hatch down the Island, Mr. Edwards top of Church Street and Mr. Rich up Courtney Street (“where you could stand on the grating in the hot air when he was opening the oven and smell that wonderful aroma of bread and fresh buns – sheer bliss on a winter’s day”).  Then down the Street was Cranch’s, Mr. Giles, Cook’s at the corner of Market Street, and the other Mr. Cranch opposite Ferry Steps, and finally, Mr. Wood on Victoria Quay.  From a talk by Adam Rodick in the 1980s.
  5. Five West Prawle, Bolt Tail, Hope Cove, Start Point and Prawle Point Remote Reserve Site. Their task was to give early warning of Luftwaffe air raids.
  6. They built facilities in Salcombe to prepare U.S. Navy vessels for the D-Day landingsThe Seabees are the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions (‘CBs’). They arrived in Salcombe in September 1943 initially to build Quonset hutted camps on the hill near the Rugby Club and a landing craft repair slipway on Mill Bay.  By 1944, almost 2,000 U.S. servicemen were based at Salcombe and took over more than 60 properties.  They were preparing for Operation Neptune, the seaborne allied invasion of Northern France.  On 4th-5th June 1944, 66 landing craft and their escorts sailed from Salcombe to join Assault Force U of the Western Task Force to land the 4th Division, VII Corps U.S. Army on Utah Beach, Normandy on 6th June 1944.  Normandy Way in Salcombe was named to commemorate the men who took part in this great enterprise.
  7. Early 1970s.
  8. 1st April 1974.
  9. A crab with red claws, its body is a football The club was re-formed in 2010 and plays in the South Devon Premier League.  Home pitch is Malborough village playing fields.
  10. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) and John Masefield (1878-1967).  Tennyson and Masefield were Poet Laureate for respectively the longest and second-longest periods, Tennyson for 42 years and Masefield for 37 years.  Tennyson stayed at The Moult with his friend, historian J.A. Froude (1818-1894) who is buried in Shadycombe Cemetery.  Tennyson’s departure from Salcombe by sea one fine evening to the distant sound of church bells is said to have inspired ‘Crossing the Bar’, written in 1889.  Shortly before he died, Tennyson told his son Hallam to “put ‘Crossing the Bar’ at the end of all editions of my poems”:
‘Crossing the Bar’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.‘Christmas, 1903’ by John Masefield
O, THE sea breeze will be steady, and the tall ship ‘s going trim,
And the dark blue skies are paling, and the white stars burning dim;
The long night watch is over, and the long sea-roving done,
And yonder light is the Start Point light, and yonder comes the sun.O, we have been with the Spaniards, and far and long on the sea;
But there are the twisted chimneys, and the gnarled old inns on the quay.
The wind blows keen as the day breaks, the roofs are white with the rime,
And the church-bells ring as the sun comes up to call men in to Prime.

The church-bells rock and jangle, and there is peace on the earth.
Peace and good will and plenty and Christmas games and mirth.
O, the gold glints bright on the wind-vane as it shifts above the squire’s house,
And the water of the bar of Salcombe is muttering about the bows.

O, the salt sea tide of Salcombe, it wrinkles into wisps of foam,
And the church-bells ring in Salcombe to ring poor sailors home.
The belfry rocks as the bells ring, the chimes are merry as a song,
They ring home wandering sailors who have been homeless long.


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