Miscellaneous Documents etc.

Odd things come to light from time to time, so for those who are interested a few are shown (or transcribed) below:

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Good Friday 1917

Below is the transcription of a newspaper article published in the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette on 5th April 1917    100 years ago.   Note that it refers to an event that actually took place in 1898!


Devonshire children, like all other English youngsters, look eagerly forward to enjoying hot cross buns on Good Friday, and very little regard is felt for people who try to discourage this good old English custom.

An amusing and instructive instance of this is recorded in “Humorous Rhymes about Sidmouth  and Neighbourhood” by Mr Harry Ebdon of Wandsworth Common  – a native of Sidbury.  The special item referred to is entitled “Hot Buns from Newton Poppleford”, written in April 1898 and testifying to the great popularity of the late Mr John Parfitt Millen, the former proprietor of the Bedford Hotel, Sidmouth.

It will be remembered that Mr Millen adopted for telegraphic brevity the word “Millenium” which is still in use for business purposes at the hotel.  This fact was duly noted by the facetious Sidburyite in a rhyme commencing:

“Sing, sweetly sing, of Sidmouth’s pride and joy,
It is in praise of its Millen I hum!”

The children of Sidmouth idolised Mr Millen, and great was their enthusiasm every Good Friday morning when, on the lawn of the Bedford Hotel, huge supplies of hot cross buns were freely distributed to the youngsters, the cost being met by Mr Millen and his personal friends.  So popular was this annual event that, when at Easter 1898 it was announced that no buns would be baked in Sidmouth on Good Friday, the children were filled with consternation and dismay.

How the difficulty was happily surmounted is recorded by Mr Harry Ebdon in the following verses:-

            The Sidmouth children wept to hear
            That local bakers would not bake
            Good Friday’s hot cross buns that year  – 
            A folly which quite ‘took the cake’

            Then up rose Millen, noble man!
            Who is by Sidmouth folks adored,
            And said, “We’ll get them, if we can,
            Hot buns from Newton Poppleford.”

            Most joyfully did Wheaton say,
            “The children’s bliss shall be restored;
            Two thousand buns on that Good Day
            Shall come from Newton Poppleford!”

            And thus it was on Friday morn
            The Sidmouth bakers felt quite bored
            To find themselves held up to scorn
            By buns from Newton Poppleford.

            Though grown up people eat salt fish,
            And try to fancy it is good,
            Wise little children hate the dish,
            And say Hot Buns are Easter food.

            The moral is not hard to learn,
            No English bakers need be floored.
            If common-sense will but return,
            And copy Newton Poppleford.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 5th April 1917

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The Ghost of Venn Ottery, poem by William Welsman

     Venn Ottery is the parish where
     Once liv’d a man named Marshall Hare;
     Against the church wall stands a stone
     Recording that the flesh and bone
     Of Marshall Hare their resting have
     Inside the church in vaulted grave.
     There is no record left that would
     Show if his life was bad or good;
     But one thing sure when he deceased
     His spirit did not rest in peace;
     For after Marshall was interr’d
     Dim lights were seen and noises heard
     Inside the church, and soon it spread
     That Marshall Hare rose from the dead.

     In that old church’s ivied tower
     There is no clock to strike the hour;
     But when the noise and lights were on,
     ’Twas in that hour from twelve to one.
     And through the churchyard there’s a way,
     Much us’d by people night and day;
     To pass that way none were afraid,
     For peaceful lay the mould’ring dead.
     But one night there when some one pass’d,
     A huge black thing was on the grass;
     When passant it was like a hog,
     When rampant it look’d like a dog.

     The sexton, late in church one night,
     To dust the seats and put things right,
     He saw a coffin, spic and span,
     Tugg’d down the aisle by unseen hand.
     His thoughts were these he told the same
     That Marshall’s spirit that night came,
     And from the church its corpse it stole
     To in it reinstate his soul;
     And live again in that estate,
     Ere it was sever’d by stern fate.

     These tales were to the Vicar told,
     And he resolv’d at once to hold
     In church a solemn conclave, where
     He’d lay the ghost of Marshall Hare.
     He search’d    four holy men he found
     Who in ghost mysteries were profound,
     They all agreed and met one night
     Outside the church, each robed in white,
     And through the doorway in the tower
     They went in church at midnight hour,
     And knelt upon the stone slab there
     Which caps the vault of Marshall Hare.
     Most fervently these good men pray’d
     For Heav’n’s protection and its aid,
     Then cited Marshall to appear
     And show the cause of his career.

     But Marshall was not in the mood
     To be by men of earth withstood.
     Most fervently they pray again
     That Marshall’s ghost be now arraign’d;
     At once deep darkness fill’d the place,
     Which strictly hid each form and face;
     By this they knew the ghost was there,
     In answer to their fervent pray’r.

     Then tap, tap, from the good men’s side,
     By taps the ghost of Hare replied;
     By taps the converse was convey’d
     Between the living and the dead.
     The purport of the taps were this 
     That Marshall’s soul, not being in bliss,
     Had fled from where they prod and burn,
     With no intention to return;
     But meant to spend on earth each night,
     And vanish with each morning’s light.
     To this replied these sainted men,
     “The dead can ne’er return again,
     Or not until that awful day
     When man to judgment wakes from clay;
     And we are here this night to ban
     Your spirit from our christian land.” 

     To this it had objections strong,
     It thought its visits nothing wrong,
     And would agree to spend each night,
     Not to be seen nor none affright;
     In argument the Ghost was skill’d,
     And to these good men would not yield.
     The argument began with taps,
     By now ’twas got to rowdy raps.
     At last a compromise, to wit,
     Down in a mead in stagnant pit 
     They gave to Marshall’s ghost the right
     Whene’er it would spend a night,
     Also a clause that it should come
     Each year one cock’s stride nearer home
     With taps this awful deed was sign’d,
     Which to the pit the Ghost confin’d.

     And when it flew to take its place
     The old church trembl’d to its base;
     The pulpit seemed to dance about,
     The seats were all in rabble rout.
     At last, when order was restored,
     And all was silence and accord,
     Slowly arose these sainted men,
     Down through the aisle their way they wend;
     They issued at the tower door,
     ’Mid lightning’s blaze and thunder’s roar;
     With trembling limbs and faces white,
     They shook hands round and said “Good-night.”
     And all express’d how pleas’d they were
     To know they’d lay’d the ghost of Hare.

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Special constables image