MEMORIES OF Roy Underhill
The Village of MARLDON near Paignton, Devon
“marl” – soil consisting of clay and lime, with fertilising properties “don” – to put on.
Well known for our red soil, it would seem appropriate that the name of Marldon should be associated with the clay type soil and the limestone quarries in the village where limestone was quarried and burnt for the benefit of the local agricultural and farming population. Visitors to the area are greeted with the changing colour of the soil as they approach Marldon, and it will probably be one of the features they will remember about Marldon.
I am putting these memories of Marldon on paper while I can remember them, and hope to speak to several Marldon residents and perhaps former residents who have moved away, to help in compiling details and facts which I think should be preserved for future reference.
One of the most important happenings of the time in our village history, occurred on Wednesday 9th. September 1931 at 10:30 a.m. at the Globe Hotel in Newton Abbot , when there was an auction of the Compton Castle Estate. 1538 acres of land were sold, comprising seven capital dairy farms, the Historic Remains of Compton Castle, two residential properties (i.e. Marldon House and Rose Cottage Compton), together with numerous small holdings, accommodation land, full bearing orchards, allotments and woodlands, delightful Building Sites with Company’s water mains and electric lighting and 28 cottages in Marldon and Compton villages.
Just imagine what interest there would be if anything of this scale came onto the market today! The sales brochure described Marldon ‘In delightful undulating country within three miles of Tor Bay’. I still have the original catalogue for this sale, but without the plan, showing the fields and position of the properties. I understand there is a copy somewhere in the Village. (MLFG has a complete copy of the catalogue including the plan).
Many of us know, and have enjoyed for years, the pleasant village life that has been a feature of our lives. This event took place two years before I was born and was brought to Marldon, where I have since lived.
Going back to what must have been the origin of the name Marldon, it is natural that it was the Limestone that was the feature of the area. I can remember talking to Mr. Sam Plymsol about the time when limestone was quarried at the quarry where ‘Marcom’ in Kiln Road now stands, and was burnt in the kiln there, which was known as the first kiln. The works were closed in about 1929 when it was discovered that the limestone could be quarried easier, because of the way the stone was lying, at the quarry further along Kiln Road, (where the current Marldon Parish Council still has a piece of land), which was known as the third kiln. The second kiln was situated, and is still in Kiln Road. There is a further kiln at Aptor; you or someone else may know of others.
Mr. Plymsol told me how they burnt the lime and that once the kiln was lit, it was very important that it was not allowed to go out until the burn was completed. Quite often he would have to go to the kiln during the nights following the lighting to ensure everything was going O.K.. When the limestone was burnt the rocks would come out the same shape as they went in only they would be white, from which the lime for spreading on the land would be used, after it had been hauled by horse and cart to the fields, placed in heaps to let it slake down, whereby it would be spread by hand.
Apart from the farming, which was the principal activity in the Village, there was a thriving agricultural maintenance business at Compton, which was run by the brothers Fred and Bert Bridgeman, opposite to what was then the village shop. There was a wheelwrights’ shop where my father worked for many years, a blacksmith shop which was the responsibility of Mr. Syd Tuckett and a foundry where the foundryman was Mr. George Caunter. Fond memories of seeing the sparks fly in the blacksmith’s shop where horses were shod, and wooden wagon wheels tyred, together with all the repairs to the agricultural equipment. And of course the foundry where moulds would be made for replacements and on foundry day everyone would lend a hand to get the cast iron melted to fill the moulds, and with the ever changing times there was a petrol pump (and I mean pump, whereby it was delivered manually by means of the pump handle) on the wall opposite the wheelwrights’ shop.
There was a village shop opposite the foundry which was operated by Miss Fawden for many years and was for many years latterly by Mr. And Mrs. Garratt. Eventually the shop was not a viable business and was closed down and is now a family residence. There was also a village shop in Marldon, now Tor Hill House, the home of Dr. Carr, which was run up to, during and after the war years by Mrs. Bridgeman (wife of the aforesaid Mr. Bert Bridgeman).
Our first Village Hall was built during the 1920’s on its present site and was for many years the meeting point in the village, as is our New Village Hall.
Our Church is the main building of any kind in the parish and has a very long history. One of the features I can remember is when the Bells were removed from the church tower and a new sixth bell was presented to the village by Commander Gilbert of Compton Castle. This type of event may only take place once in a century or one’s lifetime. It was a rare occurrence to see the bells laid out on the path leading up to the church door, awaiting collection. They were then taken to Leicester for re-tuning to match the new bell that was being cast at the same factory; the installation of the new bell was quite a feature.
My earliest recollections were when I was about six years old, 1939, at the outbreak of World War II. Marldon was one of the villages chosen away from London to which children would be evacuated, and I can remember numerous children coming here with name labels, suitcases and gas masks, to be met by host families who had been asked to provide homes for the children.
Marldon School was very much overcrowded in the following months and years. There were two classrooms, one of which had a large dividing screen which was put in place to make the third classroom. We also had to make use of the Village Hall for extra classes. Our then Headmaster was Mr. A.E.Harris, who lived in the house attached to the school, our other teacher was Miss J. Coathorpe. Village school life in those days was very much different from the schools of today. Being wartime most things were in short supply and many of our activities involved collecting such things as scrap iron, books and anything to do with saving.
There were no Biro type pens in those days. We had pens and nibs with the old type ink-wells. Mr. Harris actually had two fountain pens, one black and one red, which he would fill from large bottles of ink. School radio was in its infancy then, the radio teaching was something of a novelty for us.
During those war years many local organisations were formed, the Home Guard (Dad’s Army style), Red Cross, Woman’s Royal Voluntary Service, Local Defence Volunteers and the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precaution).
Marldon was bombed twice, once at the beginning and once near the end, probably bombers unloading after bombing trips to Plymouth, which was a main enemy target.