Monday, 6 March 2017

Blue Plaques, Seaton, Devon

A  joint celebration of the 1000th anniversary of seaton in 2005, along with the centenary year of Rotary International, gave rise to the idea by Rotarian member Douglas Smith of providing blue plaques for the historic buildings in the town. The official English Heritage blue plaques are used to identify buildings where famous people once resided but, along with the expense and difficulties in gaining approval, this wasn't felt to be applicable. Therefore a different approach was used whereby the historic buildings themselves were highlighted, rather than who lived there.

With a short list of 20 buildings, 16 owners agreed to have blue plaques on their walls. Manufactured by Rob Gibbons, of R & H Signs, they were made in aluminium with a pvc laminate and bear both the Seaton Coat of Arms and the Rotary International symbol, together with a brief history of the building.

Check House

Check House was built by Sir William Trevelyan and his wife, Pauline, and was used as their seaside residence between 1864 and 1866. Originally called Calverly Lodge, it is thought that it may have been designed by John Ruskin. Sir William had inherited the manor of Seaton, and he and his wife developed and made many improvements to the area. Pauline was a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites and they entertained many well-known people of their day, including Thomas Carlyle and Florence Nightingale. Their friends also included Tennyson, Christina Rosetti, John Millais and William Morris’s wife Jane.

A grade II listed building, the interior includes a Beer Stone staircase with a wrought iron balustrade entwined with lilies. Now a Care Home, in 2005 an extension won the Healthcare Design Award for the best extension to an existing home.

The building itself is quite lovely, and there are some delightful examples of late Victorian Gothic features. Personally I feel that the additional check design on the new extension has taken a quirky, but beautifully designed building, and totally unbalanced it. Despite that, it's unusual and interesting with some fabulous history...just ignore the new bit; that's what I did when taking the photos! ;)

I have a separate page for Check House on my website, with a lot more history, information and photos, and I'll be posting that up on the blog too at a later date. 

Seaforth Lodge 

Seaforth Lodge is a short distance along from Check House. and was built in 1863 for the Dowager Lady Ashburton, who also entertained noted visitors of the day, including the Carlisles and various members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Wonderful wrought iron balconies and porches can be seen to the side and rear of the building, and is one of the delightful features of its time.


Now used for residential purposes and separated into different apartments. The main building, complete with an observatory on the roof, overlooks the cliffs, and at the front is a two-cottage building facing the road.

As with Check House, I'll be adding a separate posting of Seaforth at a later day, with more history, information and photos.

Axmouth Old Bridge

Although it looks stone-built, the bridge was actually completely manufactured in concrete and moulded to look like stone blocks. Built in 1877 by Sir Walter Trevelyan, who was a keen advocate for it's use, it is now the oldest mass concrete bridge in England.

Taken on a lovely misty day, the photo above shows the old bridge on the right with the new one on the left. The old bridge is now used as a pedestrian walkway.

An odd remain, above, is an old rail line across the river, which can be seen at low tide. This is the sole remains of an attempt to dam the river during WWII. Situated just above where the new bridge is now, this was the second aborted attempt, the first being further down towards the harbour.

Subsidence at the Axmouth side of the bridge. This is the 'fishing side', whereas the yachts and pleasure craft are moored on the Seaton side where they can access the sea from the harbour.

An article of Axmouth Harbour itself will be added from my website at a later date too, which contains the above information, along with much more history about the harbour...and lots more photos.

Axmouth Bridge Toll House

A toll bridge until 1907, the little toll house still remains on the Seaton side of the river and is now a residential house. The Lord of the Manor at that time was S. Sanders Stephens. He paid £2,200 towards the sum of £5,000 raised to free the bridge from tolls. Interestingly, Mr Stephens owned the company Stephens Ink and lived at the nearby Queen Anne style house, Stedcombe Manor...known by locals as 'The Inkpot', both due to the style and the ink association. 

 And, as with the others, there'll be a full article of the Toll House posted up at a later time.

One of the things that I sometimes struggle with is what to include, and more importantly...what to leave out. It's very tempting to take photos of everything, just for the sheer joy of photography and working on my website. But, I sometimes have to remind myself that it isn't a gazeteer, but a personal journey of places that I've visited and found interesting. This is why I've only included the above blue plaque buildings in Seaton so far. 

Mind, I haven't visited all of them so there may be additions on my website article later...and will add a post on this blog if and when I do. :)

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