Sidmouth - a place to stay in the '30s

IN THE Sidmouth Guide of 1930, there are 17 hotels, and 66 boarding houses listed. In those days the guide s cover proclaimed: The Gem of that fair Galaxy Sidmouth, South Devon.

IN THE Sidmouth Guide of 1930, there are 17 hotels, and 66 boarding houses listed.

In those days the guide's cover proclaimed: "The Gem of that fair Galaxy Sidmouth, South Devon."

This collector's piece, together with more modern guides from 1958 and 1960, are precious to Joy and Colin Seward, former owners of Kingswood Hotel and the Hotel Elizabeth, not least because they show the demise of Sidmouth's accommodation providers, and that seaside institution, the boarding house landlady.

It lists the hours of sunshine and rainfall over the 1920s, showing the most rain - 44.47 inches - fell in 1924, while the year with most sun was 1925 with 1,750 sunshine hours.


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In fact Sidmouth was described as "sunny, sedative and equable" and, says the guide: "Its wonderful mildness is attested convincingly by unimpeachable witnesses - birds and plants.

"The whole valley is famous for its winged choristers. Furthermore, exotic plants thrive with vigour out of doors, even at Christmastide."

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Touring around the town we learn about its distinguished and royal visitors, including that of Queen Victoria's son, the Prince of Wales, in 1856 who paid an "astonishment visit" to Woolbrook Cottage, re-named Royal Glen, where the infant queen stayed with her parents during a brief visit.

At the beginning of the 19th century the building of this cottage had a remarkable sequel.

The guide states: "A jocose jingle by Bacon, the sculptor, one of Mr Boehm's friends, used to be known to all the school children of Sidmouth:

Mrs Boehm wrote a poem

On the Sidmouth air;

Mr Boehm read the poem

And built a cottage there.

Mr Bacon, all forsaken,

Wandered to the spot;

Mrs Bacon, he has taken

Partner of his lot.

As they longer live, the stronger

Their affection grows;

Every season, they with reason

Bless the spot they chose."

Mr Boehm was a royal favourite and it was at his house in St James's Square, London that the Prince Regent received news of the victory of Waterloo "and three of the French eagles were laid at his feet in the midst of the ballroom."

After the Prince Regent visited, Sidmouth became the most fashionable seaside resort in England.

"The visitors arrived by the famous London coaches, the Defiance and the Telegraph, and if we may trust the evidence of old engravings, sedan chairs were popular local vehicles."

Among aristocratic visitors were the Grand Duchess Helene of Russia and the Empress Eugenie.

The railway opened in 1874 and in the 1930s Sidmouth was served by the Southern Railway.

We read: "From London (Waterloo) the distance to Sidmouth Junction, is 159 miles.

"The branch line traverses the Otter Valley, the stations on the route being Ottery St Mary and Tipton.

"From the latter the line crosses through the hollows of Harpford Wood into the Sid Valley, its terminus being about a mile from the beach.

"There is a good service of trains with restaurant cars, and the fastest takes less than four hours."

The guide lists nearby walks, sporting activities, the seawater Marine Baths, and Norman Lockyer Observatory.

It describes Church House (now Kennaway House) as: "comprising a reference library and writing room for clergymen visiting the town; also a lending library, which is open to visitors generally."

Even the adverts are worth a glance. We read of John Field & Son in Market Place and a separate shop in Fore Street opposite the Post Office for men's and boy's outfitting, as well as The Puff Tea Shop, Church Street and The "refined, luxurious and safe" Grand Cinema.

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