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


In 1850 the town was battling outbreaks of cholera and, in the hope of combating the disease, the council ordered its houses to be lime-washed and the street’s to be spread with lime ash. These measures may have been ineffective, but almost overnight they transformed Bideford into Charles Kingsley’s “little white town.” The use of white rendering or white-glazed brick during later developments has preserved much of that whiteness.

Despite Bideford’s battle with disease, or perhaps because of it, White’s Directory of 1850 claimed “Few places excel in romantic scenery this beautiful little seaport town of North Devon,” which “is highly salubrious, and the streets are clean and well drained.” The directory also notes the presence in the town of three potteries, several malt-houses, two breweries, a number of lime-kilns, and an iron-foundry.

In 1850 the Bideford Anthracite Mining and Mineral Black Paint company’s Chapel Park tramway was still under construction. By this point flooding was clearly an issue for the culm works, and a shaft and pumping station were also installed, on the hillside above the East-the-Water quays, between Vinegar Hill and Chudleigh Fort.

The company moved culm from its tramway to waiting colliers via an aerial chute that ran across Barnstaple Street. So high was the chute and so urgent the miner’s desire to get the Culm to market, that falling coal became a menace to the public and the town council issued the company with a public warning.

A palaeontologist, writing in 1905, mentioned that an adit had been run from Broadstone Quarry, for the purpose of draining it, and it has been said that you could walk through to Barnstaple Street from there.This appears to have happened after the closure of the mine, and in connection with the extraction of stone from the quarry, rather than the extraction of culm.