Winter 2017 edition new


The Sheepwash Chronicle is a magazine for and about the residents of the little village of Sheepwash in Devon.

Memories of Sheepwash

Some of you may enjoy just a few of my memories of Sheepwash from when I first came to live in the

village in 1958.

Father, having retired from the RAF, had bought the Half Moon Inn, mainly because of his enthusiasm for

salmon fishing. Our dear mother would do the cooking and organise the hotel, my elder brother, Benjie, ran

the bar, and father looked after the fishermen. I was 15 years old and preparing to take my “O” levels at

Shebbear College, so my involvement in the challenges of starting up a new business was limited.

Not long after moving into the village, my mother decided that it would improve the village square if the

hideous railings around the war memorial were removed. As soon we started to dismantle the

monstrosities, there was uproar in the village! What right had these outsiders to come into our village and

start tearing things abroad? It was many years later before the railings were finally removed.

As a family we quickly realised that many of the old village stalwarts had a deep distrust of newcomers.

These days, when a new family comes to live in the village, every effort is made to make them welcome. It

certainly wasn’t always Iike that.

Charlie and Emma Luxton used to live in Wren Cottage, where Paul and Jan Tomlinson now live. Whenever I

walked up East Street, whatever the weather and whatever the time of day, Emma would be sitting in her

doorway. I am not exaggerating, she was always there - at least she was when I went past. She never spoke

to me and I was too nervous to speak to her.

Then one day the silence was broken. Emma curtly enquired about the health of some poor old soul in the

village who I had never heard of. I politely informed her I did not know. “Of course you don’t know,” she

retorted, “you don’t belong ‘ere!”

Emma’s husband, Charlie, drove a cattle lorry for Percy Browne. Percy (he was our MP at the time) had a

cattle lorry business based in Sheepwash. His office was in Walden Cottage, at the top of the Square, where

Tony and Jenny Gent now live. It was cattle lorries, not motor vehicles, that filled the Square in those days.

Emma Luxton, sitting in her doorway seemingly for hours on end, was symptomatic of the pace of life in

Sheepwash. What had to be done was never rushed. Even the cows, having been milked by Walter

Newcombe or Alan Finnemore, would dawdle oh so slowly through the Square on the way back to the

fields, always leaving their evidence behind. More often than not, Walter would hold onto his bicycle for

support rather than ride it.

When Robert Glenton, the motoring correspondent for the Sunday Express, came to the village to promote

rural tourism in North Devon, he described our village as, “the sleepy land of summer”!

My reason for walking up East Street was often to visit a quaint little shop run by Miss Balkwill. I think it

was just beyond Oak House, where there was a row of thatched cottages. It was approached by going down

a narrow, dimly lit corridor. It was so tiny it would make our current community shop look like a


It might have been small, but it was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave, with an amazing array of goods for sale. I

well remember the row of large sweet jars behind the counter, with the goodies weighed out and handed

over in a paper bag. What joy! Sometimes Vera and Valerie’s mother, Gladys, would be behind the counter

and serve me.

Maybe these few thoughts will jog a few memories. Let me know if you can think of anything of interest, or

even better write it down yourself. Perhaps we could have a “page of memories” in every Chronicle!

Charles Inniss

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