One of our Society’s twin primary aims is to watch over, and promote awareness of, our historic heritage, in particular the Listed Buildings and the Conservation Areas. The other aim is to ward or protect our historic heritage. It was as a result of a threat to a listed building that the Society was formed in 1968 and that, in 1993, in response to a threat to close a right of way, Tiverton Civic Society put up the first of its Historic Tiverton plaques. This one (number 5 below) was not rounded, or blue, as were the six that followed in the period October 1999 to May 2003.
The purpose of installing a Blue Plaque is to record a notable individual who lived at that spot or events that took place there. The list is:
1. Chilcot School, in St Peter Street. The plaque reads: “Robert Chilcot (c1560-1609), wool manufacturer in London, nephew of Peter Blundell (founder of Blundell’s School) and brother-in-law of George Slee, founded this school for the teaching of reading and writing. This listed building was built in 1611, survived the fire of 1612, and was in use as a school until 1906. It was then converted into a gymnasium, and has subsequently been used as a military store, pottery studio, museum, meeting room and auctioneer’s showroom.”
2. Hannah Cowley, at 10 Bridge Street, on the wall between the Golden Buddha Restaurant and the Coffee Bean Cafe. It bears her portrait and reads: “Hannah Cowley 1743-1809 Playwright, poet, pioneer champion of women’s rights, lived here from 1801. Hannah, who was born in Tiverton, was a leading playwright of her day, her first play being produced by David Garrick at Drury Lane.” For more information about her life, see the book Hannah Cowley by our late member, Mary de la Mahotiere, who also contributed the entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. (See photograph).
3. The Great House of St George, in St Peter Street, opposite No 1 above. “This Jacobean building was erected for George Slee (1555-1612), wealthy clothier, wool merchant and benefactor of Tiverton as his home, business premises, and Guild headquarters. It probably replaced his home lost in the fire of 1598 which killed his daughter, Eleanor, & destroyed much of the town. Careful restoration was carried out by Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) in 1997-9.”
John Heathcoat, 48/50 St Peter Street. “This was one house when occupied between 1817-1832 by John Heathcoat, Inventor of the first bobbin-net machine, Founder of Tiverton’s lace-making industry, Benefactor of the Borough and its Member of Parliament 1832-1859.” Visit Tiverton Museum to find out more about John Heathcoat and his workers from Loughborough who came to Tiverton in 1816. Also see as well as the article by Laura Boyle on the Jane Austen Centre website.
5. Hit-or-Miss Alley, Castle Street, at entrance to an alley, a public right of way, which comes out in The Works opposite Tiverton Castle. The plaque is a black rectangle, with a knight in armour. It reads: “Hit-or-Miss Alley (later Hippopotamus Court), Ancient Tilt-Yard of the Castle Garrison.” The name Hit-or-Miss was corrupted to Hippopotamus.
6. John Lock, in Gold Street. “In August 1643 at the sign of the White Horse, John Lock, a Miller, was hanged by a Troop of the King’s Dragoons.The soldiers, entering the town via Gold Street, were beset by an angry mob. Being fired on, the mob dispersed, but John Lock was seized. After his execution, the town was plundered.”
M.P. for Tiverton 1835-1865, and twice Prime Minister between 1855-1865, gave election addresses from one of the windows.”
Any suggestions about the siting of further blue plaques would be most welcome. Several famous Tivertonians are not at present included because we are not sure where they lived e.g.the famous artist Richard Cosway, (although this Wikipedia Article contains inaccuracies e.g. There was no evidence that he was educated at Blundell’s). The most likely location of his family home was Combe Willis, Ashley, Tiverton,
There are a number of other plaques or commemorative information boards on historic buildings around the town. Some are as follows:-
In the middle of Fore Street, on the initiative of our member Mary de la Mahotiere, a stone pavement plaque was placed beside Coggan’s Well. It tells that the well “marks the termination of the Town Leat. Given to Tiverton by Countess Isabella in the thirteenth century.” This information was based on the account in Dunsford’s History of Tiverton, published 1790. In Mike Sampson’s History of Tiverton, we read that the Leat was given by Alice, or Alson de Ros, the Courtenay tenant of Chettiscombe, in the 1240s.
On the Market House (Corn Market) in Bampton Street, the Tiverton Exebridge & Market Trust Charity erected a plaque in 1995. This building, was rebuilt soon after the 1731 fire. John Wesley preached here eight times between 1750 and 1765. The Market House was restored in 1971.(See photograph).
The Tiverton Almshouses Trust placed a plaque on Slee’s Almshouses, St Peter Street, recording that “George Slee of the Great House, Tiverton, Manufacturer and Exporter of Tiverton kersies, financed the erection of these Almshouses as homes for six poor widows or maidens of the Town in the year 1613. They were fully modernised in 1983 and now comprise four flats named after four recent trustees, Mrs Barrington, Miss Molland, Mrs Russell and Mrs Strong.” (See photograph).
There are three plaques on the Waldron’s Almshouses in Wellbrook Street, recording the restoration of the Almshouses in 1987, another for the restoration of the chapel in 1990 and a small one recording the inscriptions on the building, erected by the Tiverton Evening Townswomen’s Guild in 1972.
There are plaques on Greenway’s Almshouses in Gold Street, although these can only be seen on private land. A recent extension to the Greenway Almshouses was opened by Prince Charles in 2004.
A plaque beside the entrance to Old Blundell’s records: “This school, founded 1604 by Peter Blundell, clothier of this town, was sold in 1882 to provide for the building of the new school, bought back in 1940 with funds collected by the Old Blundellian Club and presented to the Governors in 1945. It was given in 1954 to the National Trust.”
The plaque illustrated below is above the doorway of the Chilcot School, St Peter’s Street.
The picture below shows a worn notice, carved in stone, above an arch below Angel Terrace. It reads: ‘Take Notice. Whoever is found Throwing rubbish, or any Nuisance Whatsoever, into this Well, will be Prosecuted’.
Clicking on some of the pictures on the right will provide expanded views. Photographs referred to which are not on this page can be viewed in ‘Our Gallery’.