Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Beauty of Tiverton

(This information is linked to the article ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge and The Beauty of Tiverton’ in the Tiverton Civic Society Newsletter for April 2020)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) | Art UK
Samuel Taylor Coleridge by James Northcote R.A. 1804.


54, St Peter Street, Tiverton

Following a major fire in 1788 this house was built for James and Frances Coleridge in 1789 and they lived here until 1796.  James was an older brother of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was a frequent visitor from 1789 to 1794. Sir John Taylor Coleridge was born here in 1790. This house is listed as Grade II . The listing information suggests that parts of earlier buildings may be incorporated.

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54, St Peter Street Tiverton


Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote at least four poems extolling the attractions of Fanny Nesbitt, ‘The Beauty of Tiverton’, but details of her life have eluded Coleridge scholars. They have now been convincingly researched, and revealed, by Peter Maunder, the author of ‘Tiverton Cloth’ and a Tiverton Civic Society member.

Francis (‘Fanny’) Blundell Nesbitt was the eldest daughter of Major Richard Nesbitt and Ann Blundell, and she was born in Ireland in 1773, when her father was serving there as an officer in the 63rd Regiment of Foot . In Tiverton the family lived in a large house on the north side of Gold Street, Tiverton, just below the Cross Keys inn. Fanny married Richard Henry Strong in 1802 and they had at least three children. Her husband died at the age of 43 in 1822, but she lived for a further thirty years: in the 1851 census she was living at 89, Bampton Street with her son Charles Blundell Strong, a solicitor, and she died at the age of 79, being buried at St George’s Church on 16th October, 1852.

Many thanks to Peter for his important research, which he has offered to summarize in much greater detail in the Autumn Newsletter.


Cupid Turned Chymist (1793)

Cupid, if storying Legends tell aright,
Once fram’d a rich Elixir of Delight.
A Chalice o’er love-kindled flames he fix’d,
And in it Nectar and Ambrosia mix’d:
With these the magic dews, which Evening brings,
Brush’d from the Idalian star by faery wings:
Each tender pledge of sacred Faith he join’d,
Each gentler Pleasure of th’ unspotted mind–
Day-dreams, whose tints with sportive brightness glow,
And Hope, the blameless Parasite of Woe.
The eyeless Chemist heard the process rise,
The steamy Chalice bubbled up in sighs;
Sweet sounds transpir’d, as when the enamour’d Dove
Pours the soft murm’ring of responsive Love.
The finish’d work might Envy vainly blame,
And ‘Kisses’ was the precious Compound’s name.
With half the God his Cyprian Mother blest,
And breath’d on Nesbitt’s lovelier lips the rest.

Lines from ‘Absence: A Poem’ (1793)

No lovelier maid does love’s wide empire know,

No lovelier maid e’er heav’d the bosom’s snow,

A thousand loves her gentle face adorn,

Fair as the blushes of a summer morn.

A thousand loves around her forehead fly,

A thousand loves sit melting in her eye:

Love lights her smile – in joy’s red nectar dips

The opening rose, and plants it on her lips. (Lines 38-46)

Lines from ‘To a Painter’ (?1798/99)

Ah baffled artist! could thy toil

Depaint the light’ning of her smile,

Her soften’d sense, her wit refin’d,

The blameless features of her mind,

Not such should Titian’s colours shine,

Nor Rafael’s magic equal Thine

Whose art could breath along the canvas warm

An Angel’s Soul in Nesbitt’s kindred form! (Lines 19 – 26).

(‘On Presenting a Moss Rose to Miss F.Nesbitt’  is included in the Newsletter).


February 20, 1794.

In a mind which vice has not utterly divested of sensibility, few occurrences can inflict a more acute pang than the receiving proofs of tenderness and love where only resentment and reproach were expected and deserved. The gentle voice of conscience which had incessantly murmured within the soul then raises its tone and speaks with a tongue of thunder. My conduct towards you, and towards my other brothers, has displayed a strange combination of madness, ingratitude, and dishonesty. But you forgive me. May my Maker forgive me! May the time arrive when I shall have forgiven myself!

With regard to my emancipation, every inquiry I have made, every piece of intelligence I could collect, alike tend to assure me that it may be done by interest, but[Pg 62] not by negotiation without an expense which I should tremble to write. Forty guineas were offered for a discharge the day after a young man was sworn in, and were refused. His friends made interest, and his discharge came down from the War Office. If, however, negotiation must be first attempted, it will be expedient to write to our colonel—his name is Gwynne—he holds the rank of general in the army. His address is General Gwynne, K. L. D., King’s Mews, London.

My assumed name is Silas Tomkyn Comberbacke, 15th, or King’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, G Troop. My number I do not know. It is of no import. The bounty I received was six guineas and a half; but a light horseman’s bounty is a mere lure; it is expended for him in things which he must have had without a bounty—gaiters, a pair of leather breeches, stable jacket, and shell; horse cloth, surcingle, watering bridle, brushes, and the long etc. of military accoutrement. I enlisted the 2d of December, 1793, was attested and sworn the 4th. I am at present nurse to a sick man, and shall, I believe, stay at Henley another week. There will be a large draught from our regiment to complete our troops abroad. The men were picked out to-day. I suppose I am not one, being a very indocile equestrian. Farewell.

S. T. Coleridge.

Our regiment is at Reading, and Hounslow, and Maidenhead, and Kensington; our headquarters, Reading, Berks. The commanding officer there, Lieutenant Hopkinson, our adjutant.

To Captain James Coleridge, Tiverton, Devonshire.


Hence, soul-dissolving Harmony
That lead’st th’ oblivious soul astray
Though thou sphere-descended be
Hence away!
Thou mightier Goddess, thou demand’st my lay,
Born when earth was seiz’d with cholic;
Or as more sapient sages say,
What time the Legion diabolic
Compell’d their beings to enshrine
In bodies vile of herded swine,
Precipitate adown the steep
With hideous rout were plunging in the deep,
And hog and devil mingling grunt and yell
Seiz’d on the ear with horrible obtrusion;
Then if aright old legendaries tell,
Wert thou begot by Discord on Confusion!
What though no name’s sonorous power
Was given thee at thy natal hour!
Yet oft I feel thy sacred might,
While concords wing their distant flight.
Such Power inspires thy holy son
Sable clerk of Tiverton!
And oft where Otter sports his stream,
I hear thy banded offspring scream.
Thou Goddess! thou inspir’st each throat;
‘Tis thou who pour’st the scritch-owl note!
Transported hear’st thy children all
Scrape and blow and squeak and squall;
And while old Otter’s steeple rings,
Clappest hoarse thy raven wings!

Canonsleigh Abbey

Details of Des Atkinson’s researches into Canonsleigh Abbey will be found at:

‘Tiverton Cloth’ by Peter Maunder

‘Tiverton Cloth’, Peter Maunder’s superb new book on ‘the story of the town’s woollen trade 1475 – 1815’, with an extensive appendix on cloth seals by Jane Evans, is now available. For details please click on Scan_0003

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Cloth Seals and other Textile Items on Display at the Book Launch in Tiverton Museum
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Peter Maunder and Jane Evans at the Book Launch on December 12th

The Fountain in the People’s Park.

Julie Hubbard ( is hoping to raise funds for the restoration of the fountain in the People’s Park, possibly by applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Tiverton Museum have supplied her with this information:

People’s Park

London resident John Coles, who was born in Washfield, offered the borough council £1000 to buy land for a “People’s Park” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession. This money was used to buy Govett’s field a 3 ½ acre plot opposite the entrance to Villa Franca. An adjacent plot of a similar size was purchased from the owners of the castle for a further £1000 (from public donations).  Sir John Amory gave approx. 1 ½ acres

of the cricket field as a playground. The old toll house was turned into the Park Keeper’s cottage.

Mr Arthur McDonald quoted £1,200 for the creating of the park, which was to include 38 seats, band stand, pond and rockery, shrubs, footpaths with drainage, two sets of 10 ½ feet entrance gates, a wicket gate, iron railings with gate, converting the old toll house  and general labour.

The park was officially opened in June 1888.

The recreation area had a bandstand, near the northern entrance was a drinking fountain with 3 drinking basins and stone carved pelicans and at the opposite end was another drinking fountain with 4 basins.

The first of these fountains was carved by J.A.R. Goad of Plymouth and was presented by Rev George Hadow MA, Rector of Tidcombe, in July 1888. The drinking basins have been removed and the pelicans have lost their heads, so much restoration is required!

The drawings below, by Jo Mortimer, were completed at the request of Cllr Sue Griggs. The second of these is a reconstruction of the fountain as it  originally appeared.2019-04-04 11.17.44.jpg.

Fountain in the Peoples' Park (Jo Mortimer)
Drawing of the Fountain by Jo Mortimer


 Local Plan Review Examination

The Local Plan Submission Document 2013 – 2033 was reviewed by Paul Griffith, a Planning Inspector, at the Phoenix Chambers, Phoenix House, on Thursday 14th, Friday 15th, Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th February 2019. Tiverton Civic Society was represented at some of these Hearings, which were open to the public.

Hearing 1 (14/02/19) dealt with the Vision, Spatial and Development Strategies and Strategic Policies; Hearing 2 (15/02/19) Strategy and Site Allocations for Tiverton and Cullompton; Hearing 3 (15/02/19) Site Allocations for Crediton and Rural Areas; Hearing 4 (19/02/19) Development Management Policies; Hearing 5a (20/02/19) J27 and SP2; Hearing 5b (20/02/19) Proposed Modifications. Tiverton Civic Society submitted an extra Position Statement for the J27 meeting on February 20th.


Please also see the TCS statement J27 Meeting on February 20thx.docx (2)  delivered at the Hearing for Junction 27 on February 20th.

The Planning Inspector’s latest advice note, dated May 23rd 2019, has now been received by MDDC. It shows, among other things, that he is not happy that the 5 year housing targets can be achieved in the early years of the plan, and he suggests possible ways in which these might be achieved. MDDC’s responses to this advice note, which have little impact on existing plans for Tiverton, were submitted on July 17th 2019.  See also

We must strongly oppose plans to build yet more houses on Greenfield sites in and near Tiverton! Are 393 new houses per year really needed for Mid Devon? CPRE’s recent report casts considerable doubt on the rationale for such a high figure.

Tristan Peat’s Presentation on the Future of Mid Devon

Tristan has provided the following links, referred to in his presentation on October 30th 2018:

Housing White Paper

 NPPF 2018

National Planning Practice Guidance – standard method for assessing need

 Government consultation on changes to the National Planning Practice Guidance – standard method for assessing local housing need

 Sir Oliver Letwin’s reports (two links)

 Greater Exeter Strategic Plan

 Culm Garden Village

Mid Devon Local Plan Review – submission with modifications (Jan 2017)

Mid Devon Local Plan Review – schedule of minor modifications

 Mid Devon Local Plan Review examination

Unveiling of Plaque to Private Thomas Sage VC on October 4th 2017

Members of the Sage family are shown in the photograph, taken at the unveiling ceremony. A video of the ceremony is available.


Tiverton Floods in 1960


Following the fine presentation by Ian Hunter and Chris Khan from The Environment Agency on Tuesday, October 25th 2017, they kindly sent an extensive collection of photographs of the dramatic 1960 floods in Tiverton.

Letter Concerning Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension

Christopher Bell and TCS member Dennis Cook have written another excellent letter to the Tiverton Gazette: Letter Tiverton Gazette 4 July 2017 . This reflects our own views, and, no doubt, those of many others: if developed, as now planned, the road traffic from Eastern Urban Extension could have disastrous implications for Blundell’s School and residents in Blundell’s Road. The full A361 junction must be built well before 1,000 houses are built, and before Area B is started!

 November 2016 Newsletter

These three photographs accompany Tony Jarram’s article on John Heathcoat .

38 Leicester Road, Loughborough
The Stone House at Hathern, Leics
Secret Chamber under 38 Leicester Road


John Heathcoat.

John HeathcoatJohn Heathcoat moved to Tiverton from Loughborough with many members of his workforce 200 years ago, establishing his factory in West Exe in the autumn of 1816..

Oil Paintings in Tiverton Town Hall

As reported in the local media, Mid Devon District Council has, following the sale of the Town Hall to Tiverton Town Council, proposed moving six pictures from the Art Collection ‘to place them in a location with greater security’.

During the Full Council Meeting on Wednesday, February 22nd 2017, Councillor Dennis Knowles proposed the following motion:

(5) Motion 535 (Councillor D J Knowles – 14 February 2017). The Council had before it a MOTION submitted for the first time: this Council resolves to enter into an agreement with Tiverton Town Council to retain at Tiverton Town Hall all the paintings currently on display at Tiverton Town Hall, either by way of long term loan or transfer to Tiverton Town Council, subject to the necessary insurance and security being maintained.’In accordance with Procedure Rule 14.4, the Chairman of the Council has decided that this Motion (if moved and seconded) will be referred without discussion to the Cabinet.

The MOTION was MOVED by Councillor D J Knowles and seconded by Councillor Mrs J Roach.

In accordance with procedure Rule 14.4, the Chairman of the Council had ruled that this MOTION STAND REFERRED to the Cabinet for consideration.

It was included on the Agenda of the MDDC Cabinet on March 30th. At this meeting it was agreed to accept Dennis Knowles’ motion and the Cabinet will therefore make a recommendation to this effect to be determined by the full Council on April 26th.  (TCS questions at this meeting were: Questions for the Cabinet on March 30th 2017 )

The most important of the six pictures is probably the full-length portrait of George III attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds which is in the Mayoralty Room. In 2016 Bearne, Hampton and Littlewood assessed this as having a six figure insurance value, but, since then, others have cast doubt on its originality.

In addition, the two other royal pictures shown below, as well as another, by an unknown artist, of George II, are of interest and some worth, but the remaining two pictures, unattributed portraits of unknown sitters, have little value, and there seems to be no logical reason to move them! (However, it is important that renewed efforts should be made to find out more about them).

Tiverton Civic Society strongly oppose the removal of these pictures from their present locations. Several of them represent a very important part of the town’s heritage, they have been owned by the town for a very long period, the royal pictures in all likelihood since the 18th century, and we feel that there is no more suitable site locally where they could be displayed, especially the very large portrait (77 x 64 cm) attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Security has never been a problem, Tiverton Town Council have guaranteed to continue with full insurance cover, and we consider that storage, or even sale, should not be considered as an option! With a current background of heavy funding costs the latter is a real concern:

‘All over the country cash-strapped local councils are selling off the family silver… Why is it suddenly necessary to sell? Of course this is a question that is being echoed all over the country as local authorities — struggling with enormous budget cuts imposed by central government — desperately try to flog everything from paintings and libraries to parks and playing fields. What’s under threat, however, is more than the sum of those recreational assets. It’s the very notion that the public should own any recreational assets at all. The modern town hall mantra appears to be “get rid of everything you can”. People once went into local government because they cared about public amenities and public service. Now, it seems, the main aim is to offload as much of both as possible — and damn the cost to residents’ health and happiness.’

– Richard Morrison in The Times 24/2/17

At the meeting the Cabinet voted to recommend that all the pictures should remain in the Town Hall, insurance and security being provided by Tiverton Town Council.

*See the Bibliography and Resources Page for details of ‘Oil Paintings in Public Ownership -Devon

George III. Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds
George III (1760-1820), one of many copies from the original (1761/2) by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784)
George 1 (1714-1727). One of a number of studio paintings based on the original (c1716) by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

Planning Committee Meeting on 29th March 2017

The Planning Committee Agenda and Minutes for 29th March  brought forward considerable recommended changes for both major applications (13/01616/MOUT and 14/00881/MOUT) in the Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension, and these represent a further fundamental series of alterations to the adopted Masterplan, a key requirement of which is that ‘the occupation of no more than 600 dwellings or 10,000 square metres commercial floorspace’ will occur ‘before the completion of the full movement grade separated junction to the A361’ . The Planning Officer’s Report states that ‘these Masterplan requirements are now found to be undeliverable’. In particular, there are ongoing problems with the availability and timing of funding, and changes to the timing of S106 payments are proposed, these being designed to facilitate finance for delivery of the A361 Junction. This would now be divided into two phases, the first of these being construction of a left-in, left-out junction on the southern side only. The second phase of the junction, on the northern side, would be built at a later date if and when funding becomes available.

If these changes go ahead, and the second stage of the A361 junction is not completed within an acceptable time period it would have major implications for traffic along the C269 road through Blundell’s School and the Horsdon Roundabout because a large proportion of eastbound traffic along the A361, as well as all traffic returning from Tiverton, would continue to use the existing road, leading to very considerable congestion and air quality issues.

it is clear that these unpalatable and contentious changes have occurred largely because of ‘very serious differences of opinion between the Planning Officers and the Chettiscombe trust on a range of issues’…. .’The s106 agreement and conditions associated with this application have been the subject of extensive discussions and negotiations with the applicant. Officers have sought to challenge the position of the applicant in many respects and believe that the contents of this report represents the best that can be achieved whilst also meeting the timescale driven by junction delivery requirements. This has required difficult decisions to be considered in several areas’. (Quotations from the Senior Planning Officer’s Report in this Agenda for Application 14/00881/MOUT).

(Questions for Planning Committee on 29.3.17 (2) were submitted on behalf of this Society.)

The meeting was held in The Exe Room, Phoenix House, at 2.15 pm on Wednesday, 29th March. After very lengthy discussions the Planning Committee voted in favour of all the recommended changes.


J.D. Salinger, the celebrated, but reclusive, American author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was, as a member of the 4th Infantry Division, posted to Tiverton for three months in 1944 during the preparations for the D Day landings. This experience is thought to have strongly influenced some of his writing, as reported in The Independent.

See the War Memorials Page for more on the 4th Infantry Division.

Planning Devon’s Transport.

Below you will find the slides used by Stuart Jarvis in his excellent presentation on ‘ Planning  Devon’s Transport’ on Tuesday, 15th September, 2015.

     Tiverton Civic Society (3)

Flood Risk

As a result of the wettest December on record the scale of some of the recent flooding in the North of England and Scotland has exceeded the 1% level, which, using previous records, is predicted to occur once every hundred years: many flood protection banks and walls, constructed to withstand this level, have been over-topped. Whether because of global warming, changing climate patterns created by El Nino, or other reasons, it has been widely forecast that, as a result of higher average rainfall and increased
storminess, such levels will be more regularly exceeded in future years. Much of Devon suffered from devastating floods in 2012, including properties along the River Lowman in Tiverton, and the town was severely affected by flooding of the River Exe in 1960, when over 500 properties were flooded,
Flooding in Tiverton, 1960
Flooding in West Exe, 1960

and 1965. Despite the construction of major flood defences on the River Exe, especially from 1971-1975, the risk for the town remains significant. In addition, the increased run-off which will result from major planned housing developments in the Eastern Urban Extension and elsewhere is an ongoing concern, despite the inclusion of SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems), such as attenuation ponds, in such developments.

The Environment Agency predicts that 3000 people and 1400 properties in Tiverton would be affected by a 1% flood event, and 4000 people and 1700 properties would be affected by an extreme 0.1% level flood, predicted from previous records to occur once in 1000 years. Details will be found in the Exe Valley Flood Management Plan, (published by the Environment Agency in 2012), as well as on Mid Devon District Council’s maps, showing the likely extent of such flooding as well as existing flood defences. As was demonstrated in Tiverton in 1960, less extensive floods with a more frequent predicted occurrence can still cause enormous damage!

Diesel Fumes – the Nitrous Dioxide Problem

Questions about the problem of road traffic pollution, especially with relation to diesel emissions, were asked on behalf of Tiverton Civic Society at two MDDC Cabinet meetings in November 2013 and April 2014. These, and the Planning Officers’ response to the second question, can be accessed below:

Question for Cabinet Meeting on November 28th 2013

Question for Cabinet Meeting April 17th 2014

Mid Devon District Council’s detailed information for air quality monitoring can be viewed online

See also the Sunday Times for 24/5/15.This includes two short videos.

Historic Maps of Devon

Those who attended Richard Oliver’s fascinating talk on October 13th may be interested in the large collection of historic maps of Devon, including part of the Tiverton Tithe Map, which may be viewed at Mapping the County. Benjamin Donne’s map of Tiverton for 1765 is illustrated on this page.. The Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life has a fine collection of maps.ss91don