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Exeter folk and friends in their own words - 1890's to the 1990's  << Previous story  Next story >>  

Mike Ewing - Exwick memories of growing up


For the first 10 years my memories of Exwick are a little vague. My parents were Bob and Louisa Ewings. Although we lived in Cleave Road initially, we moved into 25 Exwick Villas about 1950. I was about 3 years old at the time. The house was bought off the Rogers family. They moved into premises along Exwick Road, midway between the fish and chip shop and the Thatch pub. Mr Rogers set up business as a garden specialist eventually having a small garden centre beside the Mill; there was some ground beyond the mill on the Cowley side. I believe the centre was there for some years but I have no idea what happened to it. I think it became a storage ground for a building company or similar.

Community spirit

Exwick seemed such a quiet place to live, everyone knew each other and there always seemed to be a community spirit about the place. Later events proved this point. There was a little traffic at the time, and locals would rely on the 'B' bus which terminated at the roundabout by the chip shop. Its route would take you along Okehampton Street, across the then single Exe bridge, up through Fore Street, High Street, Pinhoe Road through Whipton terminating at Thornpike Rise. It was a regular and punctual service which served the community for years. The houses in the villas were all much the same. I recall there being an Anderson Shelter in the front garden of number 1. None had central heating that I was aware of. Ours, like some others, had three bedrooms with a lounge, kitchen/dining room and bathroom down stairs, although inside designs did vary, the outside shape remained constant. All had decent size back gardens with the Hill, Palmer and Edwards bakery buildings at the bottom. Most residents had a vegetable plot. I don't know how my parents paid for number 25, but I suspect it was less than £2,000. As a young lad growing up much of the time was spent playing with friends in Exwick playing fields or the park in Station Road near the church. We would attend the youth club in the 'institute' behind the church or go to the stable block in the vicarage where the then vicar, the Reverend Mr Roper, allowed us to play table tennis. There were times the lads became a bit mischievous by playing hide and seek in the vicarage (girls included) grounds - but to us it was just clean fun....

Some other childhood activities included fishing for tiddlers in the leat of fishing for roach and dace in the Exe. Summertime was particularly good. We would go up into the fields off Exwick Hill and out towards Cleave House where the guide dogs were trained. It was not uncommon to watch and sometimes help the farmers with hay making. During August and September we would go 'scrumping' for apples in an orchard that used to be close to the Mill. I think houses were built on the site now. We would also go scrumping in an orchard off of Exwick Hill. As I grew older I played football for the Foxhayes FC so named because the chap who ran it lived in Foxhayes Road. There were teams of all ages, from under 12 to under 18. All the lads would meet in the playing fields for a game, eventually being put into teams for the Exeter Youth League. I was lucky - I attended John Stocker Secondary School, representing them in all sports including rugby (they didn't play football), then I was selected to play for Exeter Schools and Devon Schools football teams. I know I raised a few eyebrows at school at the time. Much of the area we would visit are now covered with houses, with in some cases, the whole layout of the land totally different to what it used to be.

Remembering some Exwick residents

Turning now to some of the residents I recall. Living beyond the Mill was a chap called Arthur Heale. He used to go around Exwick on a horse and cart, selling fruit and veg. He would start somewhere near Exwick Hill, go along St Andrews Road, into Exwick Villas then to Exwick Road. Some Saturdays in the winter he would sell bags of logs from his cart. I remember, me and a lad called Gary (nickname Yank) used to walk into the woods where he was cutting and chopping wood. We helped to load the bags onto the cart and travel with him on the route around the village. Arthur was a gentle man with hands like a digger bucket, and a heart of gold. He would pay us 10 shillings for helping him - I suppose we were about 13-14 years old then. Moving back towards Exwick, opposite the Mill was a farm - Hamlyns Farm I think. The farmer was Mr Bailey - he had two daughters, Pat and Rose and a son Richard. Pat used to babysit me while my parents were out. The last time I saw Pat was at my father's funeral in 1991. I know Rose passed away some years back. Moving on to the Lamb Inn, as it was then. The landlord I remember during the early '60's was called Harry Bartholomew, a Scotsman. I know he was a professional footballer and think he ended his career at Exeter City before taking on the pub. My father and Harry started Exwick FC (known as the Wicks) - they were based at the pub and played their games on the playing fields. The only problem was that there were no changing rooms then on the fields, so players had to change in the pub, walk to and back from the pitch, sometimes in atrocious weather conditions - there's dedication for you!. Behind the Lamb Inn was the vicarage, as mentioned the Reverend Roper lived there. A typical, old fashioned vicar who was always about in the community, and sometimes in the pub as well. I'm now at the school. Exwick infants was looked after by the Pyle family who lived in the house adjoining the main school. I think there were only a couple of classrooms but you knew it was playtime from the noise the kids made.

Exwick Villas

Now into the Villas itself - some families I can't remember, but some I believe are still about in Exwick. I remember Pam and Ken Ford - Pam's parents lived in Foxhayes Road, opposite my grandfather, while Ken's parents lived in Exwick Road, near the bus terminus. Pam was a good friend of my late mother and spent some time with her during her illness. Ken was a sportsman; played for both the cricket club and football club. He also represented Devon at senior football level. I saw Pam's sister a few years back. They are now retired and, I was told, live near the Cat and Fiddle pub on the Sidmouth Road. Also in the Villas was Peggy and Ralph (Boxer) Hammond. Boxer was another retired footballer who had a professional career with Exeter City. Closer to our home was the Cornish family. I recall the twins Robin and Steven, their sister Hillary. She, I believe, married Jimmy Webber, and still lives in Exwick. It was either Robin or Steven who bought our house at no 25, when my father remarried. The local 'bobby' was PC Dunne who lived in Exwick Road near the hospital (we bought the house next door in 1968 when I got married). PC Dunne was a typical old fashioned policeman who patrolled the village on a bike. He had huge respect from everybody. More about him later.

The local shop was owned by Mrs Gazeley. You can see her name in the photo of the shops in the flood. My mother was born in North Devon and was stationed in Exeter during the war. Father was born in Exeter and worked all his life for the GWR at St David's Station. He once acted as a fireman on the Royal Train, taking it from Exeter to Paddington in 1956. Mother worked in the accounts offices at Hill, Palmer and Edwards. I remember I was often sent to the bakery to get a fresh loaf of bread for tea, especially on a Sunday about 6pm. You knew they had just been baked because the whole area smelt of that unforgettable aroma. Mother would also get one of the bakers to make a wheat sheaf out of the bread. I used to take it to the church at harvest time.

Further along Exwick Road was the Thatch pub. The landlady was a Mrs Joan Shire, and I understand she married Mr Hill of Hill, Palmer and Edwards. The bakery itself, was a munitions factory during the war. My aunt, still living in Exwick Road believes it was called 'Delaneys' or similar. All the buildings were original when it became a bakery, except for some at the end by the park which were demolished.

© 2006 Mike Ewing/David Cornforth

The bus terminal Exwick The bus terminus at Valley Road, before New Valley Road was cut. Mike in a barrow during a flood Mike in a wheelbarrow, in Exwick Road, during the floods. Outside Exwick Villas during the floods Mike's father and two neighbours in Exwick Road, outside Exwick Villas during the floods. Exwick Bakery The Exwick Store with the bakery behind. Letter to Mike's Father Letter to Mike's father thanking him for working on the Royal Train.

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