Nostalgic memories of Sidmouth's Reginald Wadams

PUBLISHED: 13:53 08 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:27 18 June 2010

SIDMOUTH resident Roger Hunt, retired manager at Bagwell s builders, shares his early memories of Reginald Wadams unusual home, tucked away on a remote site on the higher slopes of Soldiers Hill,

SIDMOUTH resident Roger Hunt, retired manager at Bagwell's builders, shares his early memories of Reginald Wadams' unusual home, tucked away on a remote site on the higher slopes of Soldiers Hill, accessed only by footpath and with far-reaching views to the sea.

"My recollections as a young boy go back to the 1940s," said Roger, 67. "My parents were good friends of Mr Wadams and as far as I am aware became acquainted well before the war, when he and my father were both keen golfers.

"As a family we would often climb the steep path to visit on a summer afternoon and to enjoy tea in the neatly kept lawned garden where an ancient oak tree provided the perfect spot for a hammock, which was slung from its horizontal lower limbs.

"I was told Mr Wadams was a survivor of a gas attack in the First World War and when he returned to civilian life he was advised, for the sake of his breathing, to live on high ground.

"The home he acquired started life, probably in the mid to late Victorian or early Edwardian era, as a horse-drawn omnibus, which was skilfully converted into a comfortable mobile home.

"Initially it was positioned at the top of Haldon Hill near Exeter, but later he was able to have it moved to the site overlooking Sidmouth.

"Given the exceptional steepness of the hill, and lack of road access, it is difficult to imagine how this home on four wooden spoked wheels, was towed to its new location."

Roger recently found two photographs in a family album, one taken during the bad winter of 1947,when blizzards blanketed the country in deep snow for weeks.

The windows were shuttered and Roger suspects the occupant used more conventional accommodation during the freezing spell.

The other picture shows Mr Wadams inside his home, relaxing in golfing plus fours with his faithful Dalmatian dog.

"I do not know what became of Mr Wadams, as for several years I left the area whilst attending boarding school," said Roger.

"However, some time in the early 1960s I returned to Soldiers Hill and was saddened to find this once beautifully maintained home, the pride and joy of Mr Wadams, had been totally vandalised, the contents gone, save for the iron stove and the roof, lying inverted on the lawn.

"A few months ago, armed with camera, I returned again to the site to find established trees, dense bracken and bramble growth rendering the area virtually unrecognisable, save for the dominant oak tree.

"After a careful search I uncovered the remaining fragments of the ancient omnibus and photographs the forward end where leaf springs, some ironwork and pieces of the timber chassis, still with signs of the original red paint, lie partly hidden beneath ivy.

"Although the wooden wheel spokes have long since rotted away, the metal rims are still standing."

Roger is keen to hear from anyone else who may have known Mr Wadams or the area where he lived, possibly from the 1920s. He thinks the girl is in one photograph, could be Mr Wadams' daughter.


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