Sidmouth search for the Fields connection

Nostalgia helps reader unravel history of Fields and those families linked to the store

LAST summer Nostalgia reader Maureen D’Albertanson asked for help with a project she was working on, putting together memories and mementos of Fields of Sidmouth department store.

Maureen, of Salcombe Road, Sidmouth, has returned to the project after a busy 2011 and has already had some response to her original plea for help.

She would like anyone who has worked at Fields in the past, or shopped there during the last 50 years, who may have anecdotes about the store to share, to contact her.

Now she has produced an article for Nostalgia asking relatives of long-standing Sidmouth families to get in touch to enrich her findings so far.

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She writes: “It was only the privileged who could afford to travel across Europe in the 18th century.

With the Napoleonic War raging, the wealthy had to look for new places to travel to, and the once tiny fishing villages around the coast were transformed into fashionable retreats.

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Sidmouth grew as a result of these changes.

If fashionable and wealthy visors were staying in the town, then they would need shops and this is why Fields came into being.

As mentioned in Sidmouth Scenery published by J Wallis at the beginning of the 19th century: “Sidmouth is, every year, increasing its attraction, receiving into its bosom a great number of visitants and admirers.”

So from a small fishing village with a port, which even by the 17th century was “choked with chisel and by the vicissitudes of the tides” and was facing a declining future, Sidmouth entered a new period of prosperity.

Its new status was underlined by the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Kent and their daughter Victoria, who became Queen in 1837. A month after their arrival at Woolbrook Cottage (now The Royal Glen Hotel), the duke died and the whole village turned out to honour the cortege as it passed by.

Did Fields supply the mourning clothes?

Later the Duke of Connaught would visit. The future of Sidmouth as a retreat for a wealthy clientele was now assured. So the ‘Harrods’ of East Devon, situated in the Market Square, had a secure future supplying the fashionable houses that were being built.

The family names that were linked to these developments were the Alan Sugars of their day: Matthew and William Hall, William Faulkner and the Follett family. Wealth from the Newfoundland fishing trade fuelled investment in the area. The Hall brothers quarrelled bitterly over a new invention, pannuscorium. Did that make their fortune?

These were the people who were involved in the early history of Fields, and of the birth of Sidmouth as a fashionable seaside retreat.

I am sure there are family trees for these founding families – would you share your findings with me? Do you know anything about Sarah Kingdon?

This story may be as interesting as the fictional House of Elliott.”

*You can contact Maureen direct with information or photographs at or call Nostalgia on (01392) 888 502.

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