Shamwickshire Timelines: All, Victorian (1837 - 1901)


As the old shipyard sites at East the Water closed down a substantial new quay wall was built extending from the Cross Park goods yard to the Long Bridge.

By 1891 the Long Bridge was already familiar with spectators amassing on it to watch the annual Bideford regatta, but in that year they also assembled on the next day as well. This was for a Shamwickshire Regatta, featuring races such as one where ordinary ship’s boats were propelled by shovels. But this was probably not the first time what had started out being in the normal fashion was then parodied by people on the east.

Shamwickshire (or more properly Sham’ickshire) had entered the local vocabulary to describe a burlesque or mock version of the real thing. The term probably harks back to the days of limited parliamentary franchise, when the protest election of a mock mayor was a widespread practice (well known instances include the election of a Mayor of Barthelmas in Newbury, Berkshire, on St Annes Day, and the election of a Mayor of Garratt at Wandsworth, London). In Bideford, a similar tradition of disenfranchised people ridiculing local political life had developed in East-the-Water, in the form of a Shamwickshire Election, in which a mock ‘mayor’ and ‘mayoress’ (both male) were elected, amidst satirical speeches and general revelry. In most places that had them, the election celebrations were inclined to become drunken and unruly affairs. Bideford was no exception, for The North Devon Herald of 16 Nov 1893 carried a report on the recent taming of the election.

Shamwickshire became a local familiar name for East-the-Water, with those born here speaking of being a Shamwickshire boy or a Shamwickshire girl. This local identity is reflected in the name of East-the-Water football team, Shamwickshire Rovers, and the modern development Shamwickshire Close.