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Sidmouth Steppers ladies North West Morris was formed in 1999 following the 45th Sidmouth International Folk Festival.
Most of the dances that Steppers perform originated in the north of England and were performed by mill workers at holiday festivals and in processions.

Clogs are used for most of the dances although shoes are used for some of the less energetic numbers. Other accessories used in the dances are bobbins and perns from the spinning mills, decorated sticks, garlands and handkerchiefs.

The kit reflects the style of dress of the female mill workers with cotton blouses, full skirt and pinafore. The national colours were chosen for the kit which consists of white blouse, blue skirt and red pinafore. The hand made clogs are dark blue.

Music for the dances is traditionally quite loud. Usually it is led by melodeons but accompanying instruments may range through stringed, brass, wind and percussion instruments.

Since their formation, Sidmouth Steppers have danced out each season with an increasingly busy programme.

Charities have benefited from Steppers performances over the seasons.

For the dancers themselves, the side provides variety, fresh air and exercise in an easy-going social group.

Copyright - photographs copyright to Sidmouth Website,
Sidmouth Life with the kind permission of the
Sidmouth Steppers who provided the text

MUTTERS HEAD – ONE MANS VIEW
BY J M GARDINER

Mutters Head – One Mans View Photograph

As a lad of seven I was brought up in Sidmouth in the early 30’s. Days when gentlemen visitors with their wives, staying at the seafront hotels, took strolls along the promenade on warm summer evenings.

Gentlemen in their dinner jackets with cigars, ladies with long evening dresses taking in the air, both before and after dinner.

Days when the Duchess of Devonshire paddle steamer ran her bows up onto the foreshore, to drop and pick up passengers along the coastline. Until, sadly, she ended up like a beached whale stuck having dragged her mooring anchor unable to get off the beach with incoming swell and rough sea she broke up and finished her days sadly in pieces.

As a lad with lots of my local pals, mostly gone today, we helped pull up the herring drifters after slipping wooden weighs under the bows of boats hauled by capstans round and round, all hands to the windlass arms to park them safely high on the shore. Unloading herrings in to boxes to be sold and distributed to fishmongers far and wide. Our reward, a string of fresh fish.

Rowing fishing boats loaded with baited lobster pots to pick up and relay new pots on positions off Chitt Rocks and Ladram Bay and Chiselbury with a local fisherman sitting smugly puffing on his pipe shouting directions to the drop unconcerned of the sweat dripping from the brows of his two young oarsmen.

As a lad collecting seagulls eggs from nest sites under Peak Hill and even swinging on the end of a rope from High Peak, a basket tied to the waist unaware of the danger presenting itself. I now cringe in fear at the thought of what we did. Thus our knowledge of the coast was absolutely clear.

Mutters Head – One Mans View Photograph

A number of years ago severe westerly storms struck along the coast removing all the shingle and severely damaging the seafront. Thus it came to pass, as I sat upon the seafront wall, I was joined by a couple of elderly visitors who sat next to me. I was asked if I lived locally and in conversation they were interested in the local history. Of the fact that Queen Victoria stayed here as a child, the Duke of Connaught had his summer retreat at Sidmouth.

Smuggling also was raised. I recorded that Dr Gerald Gibbons, our family doctor and also a local historian, had told me of things he had recorded from tales of Jack Rattenbury and his smuggling gang, who operated along the coast from Beer Village to Budleigh Salterton in cahoots with Mutters family at Ladram Bay, bringing smuggled goods ashore at safe points when the duty men were absent. Boats arriving, given the all clear signal by lanterns fitted with lengths of pipe attached, once pointed seaward the light was only visible from the end of the pipe in the direction it was pointed and by covering the end of the pipe with ones hand and exposing the number of flashes, seen by those approaching boats signalled either safety or danger. Muttersmoor so called because of the fear of locals caught on the Moor when contraband was being transported or buried in pits among the gorse for safety.

Having related these tales I also added that he told me, they do say, that Abe Mutters can be seen on misty nights as a ghost still looking out to sea watching for his boats. My story ended with being asked where is Ladram Boy? I pointed in the direction and turned my head to be greeted by the sight of the rock formation obviously caused by a section of the rock that had slipped into the sea, sculpting into a perfect smugglers head formation. I was greeted by crowds of passers by wanting to know, what we were looking at – I said this is Sidmouth’s answer to Americas Mount Rushmore, so I named it Mutters Head, the perfect sculpture of the head, beard, hair, ears, eyes and nose. Reporting it to the Sidmouth local newspaper a picture was published, but of poor quality alas, with my account and my picture. With great difficulty I recorded this with photographs in a series taken by me on my camcorder, my main idea was to get someone to get a clear picture of the head for posterity and possibly a painting of same before another storm wiped out what it had exposed.

Mutters Head – One Mans View Photograph

A good few years later, in early April 2005 to be exact, my wife and I went in to the White Horse Café for a meal and coffee, we found that the café had been refurbished by the proprietor and new pictures adorned the walls. One in particular, a wonderful clear picture, showing Jacobs Ladder Beach and low and behold Ladram Bay – Picket Rocks – and a beautiful clear picture of the head I had been seeking. A number of customers asked what I was looking at – and were equally astonished by the clarity of the head. I was told by the café proprietor he had not noticed the head even though so clear. I was told that the photographer lived at the shop Puddleducks, just a few yards away, subsequently I met the photographer Mr Mike Parkin, who confessed having taken the photograph and had published a number of the photos he could not understand how he had missed seeing such a clear picture of Mutters Head in his photo.

Copyright J M Gardiner. Mutters Head One Mans View.
Copyright M L Parkin – Sidmouthwebsite – this article is copyright including all photographic images and may not be copied or reproduced or published by any media format without the express written permission of the copyright owners J M Gardiner. Michael Leonard Parkin Sidmouth Website. EX108LP.
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POEM ‘THE CHANGING FACE OF SIDMOUTH’
a poem by John Meiklejohn Gardiner

When I was a young lad, with chums from my school
We carved wooden feather boats to sail on Ham Pool
Played on the beaches, hid under the boats
Kicked footballs with goal posts marked with piled coats
Hold on a moment – there’s something quite wrong!
The playing fields here but the boating pools gone.

The Changing Face of Sidmouth Photograph

Roller skate on the seafront, crawl up the storm drains
Splash in the puddles whenever it rained
Leap from the esplanade down on the stones
Never a thought that we might break our bones
Hold on a moment – there’s something quite wrong!
The beach is still here but the pebbles have gone.

In high summer holidays we’d help on Maers farm
Stacking the corn stooks or play in the barn
Go looking for lost balls on Sidmouths golf course
And round off the day riding Charlie Maers horse
Hold on a moment - there’s something quite wrong!
Their old cottage is still here but the working farms gone.

The Changing Face of Sidmouth Photograph

I recall starting work at the old Star Supplies Stores
With the 6th Airborne Division served in the last war
Served D-Day at Normandy with glider born troops
And marched many a mile in my old ammo boots
Hold on a moment - there’s something now wrong!
The Airborne Division’s with us but the gliders have gone

The Changing Face of Sidmouth Photograph

Some things have vanished but others remain
What we’ve lost on the swings is the roundabouts gain
Now in my seventies with a lifetime of dreams
I reflect on the past and what might have been
Hold on a moment – Let’s be of good cheer
Sid Valleys alive, Sidmouth’s still here.

The Changing Face of Sidmouth Photograph

Copyright J M Gardiner Copyright Photos/images – Sidmouth Website email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Our thanks to White Horse Café, Sidmouth – image in their premises

I first visited Sidmouth at the age of 11 with my parents in 1945, returned every year until 1952.

Major earliest memories:

Travelling by train! Did that for a couple of years before we bought our first car.

Many RAAF airmen (distinguished by their darker blue uniforms) in town, probably billeted in local hotel(s).

Anti-invasion scaffolding along beach? Still there in '45 or am I thinking of another resort in an earlier year?

VJ Day! Celebrations including fireworks, along the Esplanade. Jacob's Ladder with its lower flights of steps removed; only a long conventional ladder in their place, fastened to the top landing only weakly, as I was to find out. This know-no-fear and curious young man climbed the ladder up to the landing and as I stepped off the ladder it crashed to the platform below. I had to walk back round to where my parents were sitting on the area above the Jacobs Ladder beach through the Connaught Gardens.

Accommodation:

1945, '46, '47: Kingswood Hotel. We were allocated a lesser quality room for our second stay, and we were "walked" to a small B&B round the back for part of our third (and last!) stay.

1948: Devoran, next door!

1949 till '52: Salcombe Hill House Hotel.

Other memories of Sidmouth town:

Tiny greengrocers shop at sea end of Old Fore Street, location I recall (to the best of my memory after 60 years), most likely at or next to Gliddons. Lovely aroma of the fruit as you walked in. It was run by very large lady with cheeks as red as the beautiful apples I can still recall the scent of, with an extremely husky voice and absolutely the broadest Devon accent I have ever heard and still remember easily today. Bookshop and stationers in High Street, at or near the junction with Fore and Old Fore Streets, with a recalled scent of the books, I suppose. For the first years of our visits my father would always buy me a book from there for me to read during our holiday, and I still have one of them on my bookshelves one even today.

My parents were fond of the Mocha Cafe. I preferred the ice cream parlour next door.

Both still there, I see.

Swimming: In 1945 I had only just learned to swim. By the next year I was a strong swimmer and was already successful in schools competition. So I swam a lot off the Esplanade beach where the slope of the shingle took you into the deeper water more quickly. I forget what year it was, but I took to swimming out to the yachting marker buoy which was moored some two hundred (?) yards or so out from the beach, much to my mother's concern. In later years I added snorkelling over Chit Rocks at full tide to my list of pastimes, and one afternoon diving I picked up a very large spider crab in my hands and swam back with it to where my parents were sitting in their deckchairs in front of their hired beach hut to show them, and my appearance with the "monster" crab almost cleared everyone off the deck, many saying they would never swim there again and one man saying he would report me to the police for causing the panic.

Movies at Grand and Radway cinemas.

Daring young man, part 2:

In the sea wall in front of the cricket ground (and Esplanade car park and shelters?) there was a large opening of what I thik must have been a storm water drain, or perhaps a drain for storm water which might have come from heavy seas crashing on the Esplanade above.

It was cavernous. There was a broad ledge running along the sea wall (and, by the way, the ledge and indeed the storm water drain opening look to have been covered right up by the works on the foreshore and beach which appear to have raised the level of beach) and at times of fairly rough seas and higher tides, not only did crowds gather at a safe distance to watch the waves crashing up and on the Esplanade, but it was a spectator sport to watch youths to run along that ledge from the nearest beach access steps to the shelter of the storm water drain between waves, and then gathering breath to time the dash back again without being drenched. I was one of those stupid boys who one summer were playing the wave-dodging game and managed to get drenched - but right through - and had to walk from that far end of the Esplanade right up to Salcombe Hill House Hotel soaking wet, avoiding going through the town and the likelihood of copping a lot of derision, by going along the Esplanade and crossing the River Sid by the bridge and going up and along the footpath to the hotel.

My mother had made me wear on holiday an awful maroon sleeveless pullover she had just finished knitting and which I heartily hated wearing. The colours weren't fast and so by the time I got back to the hotel - and dripped my way through the lobby and back to my room all the rest of my clothing and I were streaked with the maroon and the pullover was wrecked. So it wasn't an all bad experience!

Other clothes my mother requested me to wear - though not this time, thank God, made by her - was my RAF uniform, during our 1952 stay. I was doing my National Service by then and on leave and dearly wished to be out of uniform

I changed my attitude quite quickly after I discovered that holidaymakers ttracted to young men in uniform.

A long time ago it may have been, and now I'm many miles away, but I still have wonderful memories of Sidmouth.

Memories

Another fondly recalled memory is the lovely Scottish girl Anne Morrison whom I met while I was at the Salcombe Hill House Hotel in 1951 at the same time as she was there with relatives. We got on so well and after the holidays began writing to eachother frequently and after a brief period of no writing resumed while I was in the RAF. Exchange visits to Scotland for me and to London for her led to our becoming engaged in 1954, but that ended

After my last holiday with my family in 1952, I hardly returned to the place any more. Other influences occurred in my life and took me to other destinations over the years until my wife and I emigrated to Australia in 1966.

Sidmouth 1965

An exception was during a tour to the West Country in August 1965 with my future wife when although our final destination was much further west, we detoured so I could show her the place I had fondly described to her. The weather was fine on that day (see above), but turned dreadful as we headedwest, and was one of the factors in addition to considerations regarding our future lives that helped us to decide to come to Australia.

Although I have visited England in 1974, '78 and '81, my travels never took me to Sidmouth. But we managed to get there despite a tight schedule during our last trip in May 2003.

The weather had been fine and sunny as we neared the area, and it lasted as far as Sidford when the clouds rolled in and the first spots of rain fell. Our welcome to Sidmouth as we drove down Vicarage Road looking for Cheriton Guest House, our B&B for the night (a comfortable bed and fabulous breakfast!), was freezing and driving rain.

Memories

I was hoping for an evening stroll down Memory Lane - or at least High Street and Fore and Old Fore Streets, picking out familiatr places, but because of the rain the evening stroll became several dashes for shelter until we reached the Anchor Inn where I took on board a pint or so and we had a good meal. In the morning, the rain still heavy and driving in off the sea, we had to very regretfully turn our backs on Sidmoutn for the last time and not add to the fond memories getnered over the years long ago.