Ivybridge

took its name from ‘ye bridge which lieth over ye Erme, being much inclined to ivy’.

Sir William Pole, Devon historian.

Welcome to Ivybridge Uncovered

A Mill Town Heritage

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

The History of Ivybridge

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Ivybridge derives its name from a small bridge, which is covered with ivy, and stretches across the River Erme.

Sep21.2

Ivybridge derives its name from a small bridge, which is covered with ivy, and stretches across the River Erme.

Ivybridge

is a small village, in the parish of Cornwood and hundred of Ermington, 205 miles from London, 11 N.E. from Plymouth, 12 W. from Totnes, 13 S.W. from Ashburton and 5 W. from Modbury. It derives its name from a small bridge, which is covered with Ivy, and stretches across the river Erme. This village is beautifully situated in a romantic dell; and from its rattling river, wooded accompaniments and picturesque scenery, excites the admiration of every tourist of pleasure; but holds out no inducement to delay the commercial traveller. Upon the river are two paper mills and another for flour; and there is a good posting inn. A small chapel of ease to Cornwood is the only place of worship connected with the establishment, but there are chapels for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists. The parish contained, in 1841, 1,080 inhabitants and in 1851, 812 inhabitants.

Slater’s (Late Pigot & Co.) Directory 1852-53

Ivybridge

is a small village, in the parish of Cornwood and hundred of Ermington, 205 miles from London, 11 N.E. from Plymouth, 12 W. from Totnes, 13 S.W. from Ashburton and 5 W. from Modbury. It derives its name from a small bridge, which is covered with Ivy, and stretches across the river Erme. This village is beautifully situated in a romantic dell; and from its rattling river, wooded accompaniments and picturesque scenery, excites the admiration of every tourist of pleasure; but holds out no inducement to delay the commercial traveller. Upon the river are two paper mills and another for flour; and there is a good posting inn. A small chapel of ease to Cornwood is the only place of worship connected with the establishment, but there are chapels for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists. The parish contained, in 1841, 1,080 inhabitants and in 1851, 812 inhabitants.

Slater’s (Late Pigot & Co.) Directory 1852-53

Michaelmas Daisies (Asters)

These daisies are a popular late-summer and autumn plant for garden borders as they flower from August through to October.

 

The act of giving a Michaelmas Daisy symbolises saying farewell, perhaps in the same way as Michaelmas Day is seen to say farewell to the productive year and welcoming in the new cycle.

These daisies are a popular late-summer and autumn plant for garden borders as they flower from August through to October.

 

The act of giving a Michaelmas Daisy symbolises saying farewell, perhaps in the same way as Michaelmas Day is seen to say farewell to the productive year and welcoming in the new cycle.

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aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

In September 1903, the picturesque Erme valley was the venue for the Torbay Camera Society. They were the guests of photography enthusiast and society member Robert Morris, who lived at Nirvana on Blachford Road in Ivybridge.

 

Although the weather was not the most favourable, some very good photographs were taken during the visit, providing some very attractive remembrances of the outing.

The district is so abundant in pictorial possibilities for the camera that at no time, perhaps, it may be impossible to do satisfactory work. From Stowford Mills upward for a mile or two in some of the finest typical Devon river scenery to be met with, with a fresh picture every few yards. The photographer who goes to Ivybridge has no need to wander far from the station, and so the party found work close at hand. When this was done they gathered at Nirvana, Mr. Morris’s house, where the heartiest hospitality was shown. The Society has had outings in brighter, sunnier days, but none on which a heartier reception had been accorded to members. Mr. Morris acted as guide to the many points of loveliness on the Erme, and by the courtesy of Mr. John Allen, of Stowford Lodge, some very beautiful scenes were photographed from the banks of the river.

Torquay Times, and South Devon Advertiser 11 September 1903

After a lunch at Nirvana, the society were driven to Cornwood, where ‘by the courtesy of the Misses Deare of Blachford, photography was indulged in’.

 

After what was described as a very enjoyable drive back through the lanes to Nirvana the group enjoyed tea before leaving on the train back to Torbay, the day described as ‘one of the best the Society has ever had’.

 

The Misses Louisa and Margaret Deare had inherited the considerable Blachford Estate following the death of Lady Georgina, the wife of Sir Frederick Rogers, the eighth baronet of Blachford in 1900. The estate had passed back to her as both Sir John Charles Rogers, the ninth baronet and Sir Edward Rogers, the tenth baronet, were both bachelors when they died in 1894 and 1895 respectively. The baronetcy which had existed since 1698 ceased from this point.

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The Blachford Estate

In 1694, John Rogers, a high-ranking Customs official and wealthy merchant from Plymouth, purchased the leasehold for part of the Blachford Estate from the Hele family who had owned it since 1620. At that time, the vast estate extended onto Dartmoor and a number of boundary stones on the moor still bear the inscription ‘BB’, for Blachford Bounds.

 

The baronetcy was created in 1698, in which year the first baronet was elected M.P. for the borough.

Robert Morris

was born in Ceylon on 1 June 1835. His father was a Government agent working in Colombo. At the age of seven Robert was brought to England and educated privately. From 1849 to 1850 he attended Elizabeth College in Guernsey before returning to Ceylon at the age of seventeen. Recorded as a ‘brilliant student’ he attracted attention in high quarters and before very long was acting as a deputy judge at just 21 years of age. He later became a civil judge.

 

He was a known athlete and won numerous prizes during his time in Ceylon. He was also a renowned horse breeder. The Duke of Edinburgh (Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) had greatly admired Mr Morris’ stud and even purchased two horses.

 

After completing his term as a judge he returned to England in 1878 . He settled in Ivybridge where he arranged the construction of his ‘beautiful home, Nirvana’ (a word from Sanskrit relating to religious enlightenment). Whilst enjoying his retirement he devoted a considerable amount of time to travel, visiting nearly every part of the world. At home, his main recreational activities were hunting and fishing. He also continued to breed horses, the most well-known being Flaxman and he owned land at Hunsdon. He was also an accomplished amateur photographer and as we gather from the newspaper article, an active member of the Torbay Camera Club.

Nirvana with Robert Morris standing on the steps

Towards the end of 1907 Robert Morris became ill and underwent an operation. Believing a long sea voyage would be beneficial to his recovery, he visited Jamaica, the Rhine and Russia amongst other destinations before returning home in April the following year, reportedly in the best of health. On Friday 1 May he went on a long fishing expedition to Harford, where fishing to around two o’clock in the morning, it was believed he caught a chill and developed acute peritonitis. Sadly he died just five days later, on 6 May 1908, aged 72. In his will he left his cameras and photographic appliances to the grand-daughter of his sister Mary.

 

Nirvana, the home of Robert Morris was an opulent dwelling for the village of Ivybridge, set in extensive grounds with fruit trees and vinery. Inside it was lavishly decorated with an array of pictures, ornaments and other articles, no doubt collected over the years from their extensive travels around the world. It even boasted a large billiard room. At one time, there was a large elevated wooden footbridge which led from the front garden across Blachford Road to a tennis court on the other side. The road at the time was of course much narrower than today with only a few other properties dotted around, the land belonging to the Blachford Estate. Lady Rogers’ School (Tremarran Court today) had not even been built when Morris moved in to his property in 1880.

Ivybridge in the late nineteenth century

Despite the picturesque description of Ivybridge at this time it still had its social and environmental issues.

 

“Tramps have infested the neighbourhood of Ivybridge for some time, but the vigilance of P.C. Wheaton has succeeded in reducing their number. Last evening, however, as Mr Bailey, a visitor at Mr. Morris, of Nirvana, was going down the station-road he was accosted by a beggar, who asked for a copper. While Mr. Bailey was taking one from his pocket, the man made an attempt to relieve him of his watch and chain, but not succeeding, ran away. The man, a licensed hawker from Bristol was later arrested by P. C. Wheaton.”

Western Morning News 30 December 1881

 

Hawkers or pedlars were street vendors, selling their wares by calling out in the street. The advent of the railway provided a fast and economical way to distribute their merchandise throughout the country. There were incidents recorded of hawkers making a nuisance of themselves along Station Road, close to the railway station.

 

The Pedlars’ Acts of 1871 and 1881 required these street vendors to apply to the local police for a pedlar’s certificate and for a fixed fee were permitted to trade in a designated area.

 

PC George Wheaton was stationed at Ivybridge during the 1880s and presumably lived with his wife and young family at the Police Station at Highland Street. He led a very busy life judging by all the reports recorded in the local newspapers. Incidents ranged from drunk and disorderly behaviour, petty theft, the sending of threatening letters within the local community to an incident of card-sharping on the Great Western Railway. A card sharp was a person who used deception to win at card games such as poker.

Ivybridge in the late nineteenth century

Despite the picturesque description of Ivybridge at this time it still had its social and environmental issues.

 

“Tramps have infested the neighbourhood of Ivybridge for some time, but the vigilance of P.C. Wheaton has succeeded in reducing their number. Last evening, however, as Mr Bailey, a visitor at Mr. Morris, of Nirvana, was going down the station-road he was accosted by a beggar, who asked for a copper. While Mr. Bailey was taking one from his pocket, the man made an attempt to relieve him of his watch and chain, but not succeeding, ran away. The man, a licensed hawker from Bristol was later arrested by P. C. Wheaton.”

Western Morning News 30 December 1881

 

Hawkers or pedlars were street vendors, selling their wares by calling out in the street. The advent of the railway provided a fast and economical way to distribute their merchandise throughout the country. There were incidents recorded of hawkers making a nuisance of themselves along Station Road, close to the railway station.

 

The Pedlars’ Acts of 1871 and 1881 required these street vendors to apply to the local police for a pedlar’s certificate and for a fixed fee were permitted to trade in a designated area.

 

PC George Wheaton was stationed at Ivybridge during the 1880s and presumably lived with his wife and young family at the Police Station at Highland Street. He led a very busy life judging by all the reports recorded in the local newspapers. Incidents ranged from drunk and disorderly behaviour, petty theft, the sending of threatening letters within the local community to an incident of card-sharping on the Great Western Railway. A card sharp was a person who used deception to win at card games such as poker.

A Public Nuisance at Ivybridge – 1891

Sir, – I wish to call the attention of the authorities to a dangerous practice connected with some of the Sunday-school treats visiting Ivybridge. Yesterday some of the scholars (of both sexes) of a Sunday-school tea party were making a sort of horse parade ground of the thoroughfare leading to the Ivybridge Railway Station, being mounted on horses let out for the occasion by someone who came out with some travelling toy vendors and hokey stalls.

 

The galloping of these evidently very inexperienced riders was a great source of danger to persons going to and from the railway station, and I am sure, were the kind owners of the grounds lent for the school teas aware of the nuisance, they would make the loan of their grounds conditional on such accompaniments being kept away.

 

This nuisance is not a new one to Ivybridge. A large kiss-in-the-ring in the public road did not add to the convenience of pedestrians. Some of these school tea folks are not content with the beautiful lawn of Stowford Lodge, but seem to wish to take the whole place by storm.

 

Western Morning News 20 June 1891

A Public Nuisance at Ivybridge – 1891

Sir, – I wish to call the attention of the authorities to a dangerous practice connected with some of the Sunday-school treats visiting Ivybridge. Yesterday some of the scholars (of both sexes) of a Sunday-school tea party were making a sort of horse parade ground of the thoroughfare leading to the Ivybridge Railway Station, being mounted on horses let out for the occasion by someone who came out with some travelling toy vendors and hokey stalls.

 

The galloping of these evidently very inexperienced riders was a great source of danger to persons going to and from the railway station, and I am sure, were the kind owners of the grounds lent for the school teas aware of the nuisance, they would make the loan of their grounds conditional on such accompaniments being kept away.

This nuisance is not a new one to Ivybridge. A large kiss-in-the-ring in the public road did not add to the convenience of pedestrians. Some of these school tea folks are not content with the beautiful lawn of Stowford Lodge, but seem to wish to take the whole place by storm.

 

Western Morning News 20 June 1891

Located on Blachford Road also brought the vagaries of being in close proximity to a busy paper manufactory. On more than one occasion Robert Morris had to write to the proprietors of Stowford Paper Mills to complain of the nuisance of smoke billowing from their high chimney and the unpleasant odour of boiling rags emanating from their building.

Dear Sir

I again call your attention to the dense clouds of smoke issuing as I write this (at 5 p.m.) from the Messrs Allen’s factory chimney.

Mr R Morris

Nirvana 24 Aug 1883

Street lighting was also in its infancy and was provided by coal gas. In December 1882 it is recorded that Robert Morris approached the Local Board to enquire whether an additional street lamp could be placed near to his house in Blachford Road. The Lighting Committee, whilst admitting that an additional lamp in the area was recommended it was decided to leave the matter in abeyance until the completion of the new church a little further down the hill when alterations to the road were likely to be made. The gas main had only reached the church gate at this time.

Located on Blachford Road also brought the vagaries of being in close proximity to a busy paper manufactory. On more than one occasion Robert Morris had to write to the proprietors of Stowford Paper Mills to complain of the nuisance of smoke billowing from their high chimney and the unpleasant odour of boiling rags emanating from their building.

Dear Sir

I again call your attention to the dense clouds of smoke issuing as I write this (at 5 p.m.) from the Messrs Allen’s factory chimney.

Mr R Morris

Nirvana 24 Aug 1883

Street lighting was also in its infancy and was provided by coal gas. In December 1882 it is recorded that Robert Morris approached the Local Board to enquire whether an additional street lamp could be placed near to his house in Blachford Road. The Lighting Committee, whilst admitting that an additional lamp in the area was recommended it was decided to leave the matter in abeyance until the completion of the new church a little further down the hill when alterations to the road were likely to be made. The gas main had only reached the church gate at this time.

Flete House near Ivybridge, is almost to be lighted throughout by electricity, and it will, I believe, be the first country seat in the west of England into which this improvement has been introduced. Flete is an old Tudor mansion a few miles to the south of Ivybridge, and the extensive and beautiful grounds are intersected by the River Erme… Flete House has been enlarged and carefully restored since Mr. Mildmay bought the estate, and it is now one of the finest country places in Devonshire.

9 February 1889

The inhabitants of Ivybridge are in sore plight just at present over their public lighting … a grave responsibility rests on the Local Board for leaving the place in utter darkness. Whether the action of a section of that body, in dispensing with gas in favour of oil lamps is wise or not, the future will show; but light of some sort should have been provided before the dark evenings set in. That the public lighting of Ivybridge has been notoriously bad for the past year or two there are no two opinions. The oil lamps in use compare very favourably with the gas lights; but that the matter should have been delayed so long reflects no credit on the responsible body.

Western Morning News 14 September 1893

Judging by the unfavourable newspaper reports during the late nineteenth century the street lighting in Ivybridge was unsatisfactory. The Ivybridge Local Board were very unpopular in reverting back to oil lamps and awarding a contract to Messrs. Cowdy for ongoing maintenance. Many ratepayers were of the opinion that the oil lamps did not provide the ‘35 candle’ brightness they were suppose to offer. Thankfully, electric street lighting was eventually introduced just after the turn of the century so the inhabitants did not have to endure the inadequate street lighting for very long.

Advances in amateur photography

The year 1888 marked a significant event in the history of amateur photography when George Eastman in the U.S. invented the Kodak no.1, a simple box camera which could be loaded with a roll of film. A few years later in 1900 ‘The Brownie’ was launched and 150,000 were made in the first year of production. Again, a basic box camera with a simple lens which took 2¼inch square photographs on a roll of film. The era of snapshot photography was upon us.

Local photographers

Charles Smallridge was an enterprising shopkeeper and keen photographer, who developed his own local postcard business. Using what are believed to be his own photographs, his range of postcards included many images of Ivybridge, often complemented with information regarding the subject matter. The ‘Erme Valley Descriptive Series’, dated 1906, adopted this format and featured many of the landmarks of the village including:

De Ponte Hederae, or Ivybridge; The Old Bridge; The New Bridge; Station Road, Ivybridge; Weir Head; The Viaduct, Ivybridge; Ruins of St. John’s Church (landscape and portrait versions) and The Woods, Ivybridge.

 

 These postcards not only provided the many visitors to Ivybridge with the ability to send a message bearing an image of the holiday destination but gave collectors of ephemera the opportunity to obtain postcards of local interest. Many of Charles Smallridge’s postcards can be found in local private collections.

William Richard Gay

Another local man associated with postcards was the artist and photographer William Richard Gay. His work centred predominantly around the South Hams. Paintings of Burgh Island and Thurlestone Rock by Gay reside at the Cookworthy Museum in Kingsbridge.

 

The ‘W R Gay Series’ of postcards (carrying the words physically embossed into the card) feature many images of Ivybridge including scenes of Fore Street and Exeter Road (including The Sportsmans Arms), Ivybridge Railway Station, Ivybridge Viaduct, Stowford Paper Mill (including the fire of 1914), St John’s Church, the Congregational Church, the Woods and the Post Office. His postcards are now highly sought after and demand a premium on auction websites.

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