Picturing the Town Timelines: All, Victorian (1837 - 1901)


On 1 Jan 1856, Thomas Honey (whose surname adorns a close in East-the-Water) published the first edition of his Bideford Gazette. It is still in circulation and serves both sides of the water, but now as the advertising-financed Gazette. Henceforth, the Gazette would provide later historians with a far clearer picture of activities in the town.

With the railway bringing tourists into East-the-Water, a proportion would have needed rooms, In addition to the Royal Hotel, Billings Directory of 1857 gives them the choice of the Sailors Inn in Torrington Lane, managed by J Kivell, or the Railway Inn in Barnstaple Street, managed by William Lake.

A painting of the town, believed to show the launch of Copiapo from Johnson’s ship-yard in 1862, provides a glimpse of East-the-Water, as viewed from the south. Lime-kilns are shown at the southern end of the settlement, which may be those mentioned in 1794 by Instead Marshall. The coal chute across Barnstaple Street and the hillside pumphouse are all clearly seen.

Whilst some developments were preserving a clearer picture of the town, the re-development of St Mary’s in 1862 was having the reverse effect. The church had served as a repository for municipal documents, but its redevelopment saw the disappearance of a chest believed to contain the Borough’s earliest records. A subsequent deathbed confession suggested that this “quantity of old rubbish, written chiefly in Latin, such as nobody could read or understand,” had been “destroyed and burned,” at the instruction of the Town Clerk. How this relates to the destruction of documents attributed to 1861, if at all, remains uncertain.