Devon Culture

devon Culture

This page has a number of items that are part of Devon's culture. Culture is a difficult word to define in this context, and I have included various things that are part of "Devon" today

Thatching

Thatched cottages are part of the Devon countryside's Charm. Originally thatching was done with straw, but nowadays reeds, which are more durable are used. Straw was very difficult to rid completely of the grain, and if all the grain was not removed, then it would sprout in situ. Water reeds are longer, more durable, quicker to use and cleaner to handle than straw. Reed has a life span of  around 60 years, as opposed around 15 years for straw

The reason Devon has so many thatched roofs, is because Devon has so many houses made from cob. Now cob is a form of puddled clay, which is very durable, but will not carry a weight like clay tiles. Thatch was light, cheap and available. The craft of thatching is a skilled profession, requiring  years of apprenticeship. You will find thatcher's work not only on cottages, but also exhibited at craft and regional folk arts festivals like that at Sidmouth.

Cob Walls

Many of Devon's old cottages are made of "cob". This is clay, straw and various other ingredients puddled together and made into bricks. The lasted well as long as they had a good roof and a solid base, damp makes them crumble. There is an old Devon saying "All cob wants is a good hat and a good pair of shoes"

To the main ingredient many additional ingredients could be added to strengthen the final brick. Straw was always added, and other bits could include horsehair, sheep's wool and even manure. To get the right consistency for building the materials had to be kneaded together with water. Traditionally everything would be put on the floor of the cattle sheds and the animals feet would do the hard work of kneading.

Cob walls are now experiencing a modest revival in popularity in new cottages in Devon

Lacemaking

For hundreds of years Honiton has been a centre for lace-making. It is thought to originate from Flemish refugees who settled in the area in the 16th century. The women lacemakers would sit outside their houses to gain the advantage of the bright daylight to weave the highly intricate lace patterns. Hand made lace is extremely labour intensive work. Eventually mechanisation made cheaper lace an alternative, and eventually the demand for hand made Devon lace disappeared. At its height in the 1700's there were 3500 lacer makers at work in Honiton

In 1840 Honiton was commissioned to make Queen Victoria's wedding dress - 100 workers produced the lace at a cost then of 1000. Their customer was so pleased, that she commissioned then to make the christening robe of her eldest son, later King Edward VII.  And even today, this same christening robe is used by the royal family.


You will still find traces of lace and lace makers in Honiton today. The Honiton Lace shop will supply you with old and new lace, anything from antique wedding veils to modern christening robes. And the Allhallows museum in Honiton, has on display some beautiful examples of the work of some of the town's finest lace makers.


Lorna Doone

R D Blackmore set his story of the tragic heroine, Lorna Doone, and her lawless family, in the deep coombes and heatherclad moorland round Malmsmead and Oare. The story is said to be based on a Scottish family who came to Exmoor, couldn't make ends meets, and took to a life of crime. More information on Lorna Doone

Sidmouth International Folk Festival

This is a big international event staged in Sidmouth in the first week of August each year. 500 events are stages around the town as singers, musicians and dancers from all over the folk world plus their followers, descend on Sidmouth.

Folk music tends not to be confined just to the official events, but is widely to be found where ever there is an audience on street corners and in pubs

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