Stan Bagwell - a tribute to 'one of Sidmouth's characters'

Stan Bagwell with his fishing boat, the Martha D.

Stan Bagwell with his fishing boat, the Martha D. - Credit: Mary Bagwell

Stan Bagwell, a locally well-known Sidmouth resident, passed away on Saturday, December 11. His wife Mary and their daughters have provided this tribute for the Herald. 

Stan was the son of Robert and Martha Bagwell, his father and grandfather were local fishermen.  

Stan was no scholar, he spent all of his free time with his father at Ladram Bay where his father fished and was coastguard during the war. He cycled up Peak Hill early mornings and after school. Sometimes he travelled on his father’s motorbike next to the crab bait. 

At 15 he bought his first 12ft clinker built rowing boat, this leaked badly so he spent many hours repairing it. 

 His mother insisted that he get a trade before fishing full time.  

Stan got an apprenticeship with a local builder Len Webster, he worked all day on the buildings then went to sea evenings and early mornings. When he met Mary she often joined him on the boat after work. 

Stan and Mary were married in Sidmouth Parish church in February 1960.   They had three children, Ian, Lynn and Kay. 

Stan and friends with a basking shark

Stan and friends with a basking shark - Credit: Archant

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 Stan’s 22ft drifter Albatross was built at Seaton by H J Mears in 1962, then in 1965 he designed the 25ft fishing boat Martha D, built by Dixons of Exmouth and she became a familiar sight on Port Royal beach with pictures of her ending up on postcards and calendars. Stan ran boat trips in the summer, being part of the visitor attractions. Later in the 1960s Stan built the fish stall in the fisherman's yard so he could sell his fish direct to the public. 

Mary worked in the stall whilst Stan got on with the fishing, pushing the Martha D off the beach early and pulling back later in the day watched by locals and visitors. 

He and his brother Graham were the unofficial lifeboat before the Sidmouth Inshore Rescue Team was founded. 

They were often in the Sidmouth Herald with various exploits, from salvaging Jeremy Thorpe’s hovercraft to the pinpointing of the submerged Red Arrows plane. 

Stan’s ambition to have a trawler working out of Brixham was realised in 1972. On obtaining his skipper’s ticket in 1982 Ian took charge of the Esther Colleen, and in December of that year he fished for sprats off Sidmouth, many of them ending up on the beach, to the delight of locals. 

In 1998 Stan and Mary’s son Ian was lost at sea. 

Ten days later when helping his brother and nephew, Stan fell onto their boat from the Exmouth dockside; he sustained life threatening injuries and was not expected to live, but with strength and determination he was able to regain a purposeful life. 

Eldest daughter Lynn put her work as a farrier on hold to help Kay retain the family fish business while Mary was busy with Stan’s recovery.  

Stan was a great storyteller with tremendous humour, relating all the things he had seen and done at sea. This was noted by Christine Hardy, a regular customer at the fish stall, who volunteered to write his life story. After many hours of listening to Stan as he recalled his adventures she compiled All I Ever Wanted. The book was published and all sale proceeds given to the Fishermen’s Mission, in recognition of all their help to Ian’s family. 

The Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub decided to produce a film, (DVD and YouTube) as a record of Sidmouth’s fishing and coastal heritage, featuring Stan and Mary’s life. 

In later years Stan would drive his mobility scooter across the seafront looking out to sea in case he could catch a glimpse of the fishing boat where two of his grandsons were working, then he was off to the fish stall to check daughter Kay and grandson Ryan had everything in order and get something to eat and a cuppa! 

Stan’s legacy lives on in seven grandchildren and eight (soon to be 11) great-grandchildren. 

Stan will be sorely missed as one of Sidmouth’s characters.