North Devon, 1950s

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In the 1950s my parents moved all the way from Yorkshire to North Devon and bought a new bungalow on the edge of Tiverton. Not long after they went to the railway station to collect a puppy, a cocker spaniel who had travelled by train, in a wicker basket, from a breeder somewhere up country. I can’t imagine if the basket was shut or closed on the journey, but assume the breeders knew what they were doing for the time.

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The puppy was called Sherry, after the drink which matched her fur, but her kennel club name was the grander Gatehampton Caroline (although no-one would have any interest in dog shows).

These slides were taken on a camera which never worked by the time I was born, but I loved the beautiful brown leather case (which led to me choosing my current camera over ones which were probably much better value…) Taking photographs was much harder in the 1950s, and I’ve found the guide to ‘successful photography’ which must have been bought in an attempt to make sense of it.

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Some of Sherry’s walks in these days look impossibly idyllic, and this picture of Bickleigh looks like a stage set. The blossom at the end of the road looks as artificial as Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson’s cottage in the 1940s film Random Harvest (I know this because it was my grandad’s favourite film so have watched it again). Here’s a hastily found Youtube clip, and the scene is around 8 minutes in…

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It looks a particularly lovely moment in time, but my father could never settle in one place and Hollywood films are artificial for a reason, though I can’t imagine Yorkshire stock being under any illusions about this.

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North Devon and Exmoor is still, and always has been, organised around hunting and shooting. I’m not sure what Sherry is making of this sign, but on Boxing Day she may have gone into Tiverton to see the spectacle of the hunt meet. I’m sort of ambivalent about hunting, despite a gut reaction of repulsion, because there’s something primeval and ancient about it: a dreadful fascination. These photos from 1958 look so vivid I can imagine every sight and sound in the town square, and the colour of the winter light is beautiful.

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And then perhaps another walk over Tarr Steps, washed away and replaced time and again over the centuries…

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6 thoughts on “North Devon, 1950s

  1. Gosh , what evocative and beautiful photos these are. I was born in the early fifties and my father was an officer in the air force ~ he took masses of slides of our travels and when looking at them I find so often I love the quality of light and color , which seems to me in many cases ,superior to current digital photos~ Like you, love the quality of the winter light from the Tiverton photos. Have you any more like this ? If so, hope you will share some, as would love to see them.Thank you for all your excellent posts.

    • They do seem to look so much better than digital photos – makes me want to dig out my old camera and use proper film! My dad was in the RAF too until he got married, but his shots are all small black and white prints. I’m working through transferring slides to the computer so a few more will turn up I expect – really nice that others appreciate them – thanks.

      • Hello again. My family of course has lots of the black and white ‘snaps’ too, but also many slides and I , like you have been transferring (slowly in fits and starts ) some of the best and /or fav.’s of the slides onto the computer. So afraid they will disintegrate and would hate to lose them but also need to remember to ‘back up the computer files as well! Love you most recent post as well~ are they photos ones you took or older ones?

  2. I think you did a great job re: tinting and adjusting your recent photos~ they could easily pass for ‘vintage’ . Exmoor is a wonderful place and so many excellent subjects for photos. Thank you for sharing again. Always a treat to see your posts~ one never knows what it will be about or where you have traveled to. Sorry about my ‘typos ” in previous comment~ did it quickly and did not proofread!

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