Appledore Buildings

 Odun House

Many of the old properties in Appledore, have a full and fascinating history. Sadly some have been long forgotten and will not now ever be known. But there are just a few histories that have been recorded on paper or perhaps are in the memory of those still with us. A few years ago Mark Woolaway’s talking map helped to jog many memories, either about our own properties or those of our relatives. It was an excellent project, but there are just a few properties who have such a rich history that it could not be included in such a small space, one of these is Odun House, now the home of the Maritime Museum.

Odun House was built in 1830 by Thomas Hogg who lived in Odun Hall, he was a magistrate and member of Parliament. At that time he was looked on as being the local Squire, and had many in his employ. As a young man he inherited a large fortune, but unfortunately because of his lifestyle lost a great deal of money, especially through gambling.

The house like the road was named after Odun, Earl of Wessex, who defeated the Vikings in 878 AD when King Alfred ruled Wessex.

In the 1840s a Congregational Church Minister lived in the house whose name was Jerome Clapp. He was a composer of music and set up a printing press nearby where he printed books of psalms that he composed - maybe in the small building now used as the Victorian Classroom - He dedicated these psalms to his two daughters who had the very fancy names of Blandina and Seraphina. Unfortunately the minister seriously blotted his copybook by becoming too friendly with the organist who was known as Miss Mary, and as a result was unceremoniously evicted from Appledore, by the Elders of the Chapel at very short notice. His wife and daughters were left to pack up the house with all their belongings and follow him later. They then spent a short time in Walsall, before moving to America where they had another addition to the family, a son who became the famous author Jerome K Jerome who wrote amongst others “Three men in a Boat”.

We then move on to 1870 when a ship owner by the name of John Darracott lived at Odun House. He was a very wealthy man and in time became one of Appledore’s most generous benefactors, he used a large portion of his fortune to take care of the many poor people who were living here in great poverty. He was also responsible for the building of the Baptist Chapel, firstly supplying the funds for the purchases of the land, which at the time was Glebe land belonging to the local Church, and then donating the money to actually build the Chapel and fit it out, quite an outlay of money for one man. Two very old cottages were raised to the ground in order to make room for this large building, the one remaining cottage that was left can still be seen today, and in the early part of the last century was a Dame School. Because of his generosity, it was decided that his name should live on in Appledore and so one of the courtyards off Irsha Street was named after him, and so we now have “Darracotts Court “ His large box grave is situated in the front of our Churchyard to the right of the main gate and sadly is in a sorry state of repair, all relatives having long since gone. 

We then move on to the last private resident of this lovely old house, and I am sure many will remember her. She kept four beautiful Golden Retrievers and they all had wonderful names. I can remember my sister and I meeting them of a Sunday afternoon when we were out walking with our parents and would spend quite sometime stroking them, not fearful at all that they would harm us in any way as they were such docile creatures. The ladies name was Mrs Gallaway and she had moved down to North Devon on retirement, firstly to Northam and then on to Appledore, probably late forties or early fifties. Her husband had died quite young of TB and she had taken over his business as a Tea Broker, which was unheard of for a lady at that time, but as she didn't have any other qualifications to earn a living with, she really had no choice. So she made history as the first lady ever to do this job, but once accepted by the male Brookers she did very well for herself and when she did retire was quite well off. She lived at Odun House with her beloved dogs very happily for a number of years. A local man Alfie Bennett worked for her preparing her food and working in the large garden opposite her house, which is now a Car Park. It was said by her Godson who visited regularly, that Alfie made the tastiest and the thinnest cucumber sandwiches that he had ever ate. Alfie had been in the Appledore Navy during the war with his close associates Walter Ford, Billy Edwards and Stanley Bennett.

After the war they all worked at Zita Berth, the same four also went fishing together and were known locally as the “Four Musketeers” As the years went on Mrs Gallaway became more and more reclusive and the only visitor that she entertained was the local GP, Doctor Desmond Valentine, but even then, she put her dogs before herself and Doctor Des. - as he was known - would be asked to check them over before attending to her. One wonders if he used the same stethoscope for the four legged creatures as he did for the dear lady!!!! When she died her solicitor carried out the instructions left for him in her will, that she be cremated and her ashes buried or scattered before any of her family were told she had died. To this day they have no idea where her last remains rest, but there are those who believe that the only place she would have chosen to be, are with her beloved dogs and their graves can still be seen in the Odun Road Car park, on the far wall, which was once her garden. 

After that, as they say everything is history, the Council purchased the building to be used as a Maritime Museum. It has received many thousands of visitors over the years as well as Royalty, it also has a Victorian Schoolroom which is well loved by all the Schools that visit, and I understand that the School Mistress there can be very strict at times and struts around with one of the longest canes every seen. It is meant to show to days children that they have quite an easy time at school compared to those who attended school during the Victorian times. The cane belonged to one of Appledore’s lady School Mistresses, Miss Kelly who lived in Alpha Place and taught at The Church School, which closed in the early 1970s. The Cane was found in the attic by the people who purchased her house after she had died, and I am sure there were many still living then, which would have either felt it or dreaded it.

More interesting old buildings in Appledore to come....
THE GAIETY CINEMA was first built as a Public Hall by a man named Harold Moody, he was the local Station Master here at the time for the Appledore Westward Ho and Bideford Railway. Many local Concerts were held there, which was well supported, acting as a welcome relief from the hardship of everyday life.  One man in particular will be remembered for all his efforts in arranging entertainment by many of the locals, and his name was Alfred Green. He was actually the Congregational Minister at Northam, but lived in Appledore on Marine Parade he and his brother had a block and tackle business in Docton Court and in his spare time also took many family photos, some still around today.

One of the more unpleasant things that happened there was for a Magistrate to hear evidence about the murder of a seventeen year old french boy on board a ship which was moored in the pool at Appledore. His body had been taken in to the public Hall to be examined by the local Doctor, who had pronounced him dead.  The evidence was heard by the Magistrate shortly afterwards as some of those who were involved were waiting to go back to sea. Most of the evidence pointed to another crew member and he was sent to Exeter Prison to await trial.  He was later tried and found guilty and sent to Exeter prison for 15 years. . The latter being buried in Appledore Churchyard after a service around the grave, he wasn't taken into St. Mary's as he was a Roman Catholic.

Much later the building was turned into a Cinema which from day one proved to be very popular by all thoses who could afford it. The early films were of course the old silent black and white films.The lady who used to play the piano at this time was called May Marshall and she has been remembered to this day for her "Thunder and Lightening Chorus" as it was named. It was remembered by many that the first evening that the talking films arrived at Appledore there was a queue of people right back to the beginning of Irsha Street all eager to see this wonderful new style of film. Unfortunately many were turned away and had to return the next evening.

Gaiety Cinema
The Old Vicarage
Richmond House/ later known as "The Holt"
Appledore National Schoolroom
Odun Hall
Docton House