(Extract from Kelly's Directory showing principal residents and businesses in 1914)



 At the beginning of 1914 Kingsteignton was still recovering from a bitter clayworkers’ strike which had lasted through the previous summer and autumn.  Clay mining, brick making and agriculture were the principal industries of the parish and three years before the village was described by Rural District Council’s Medical Officer of Health as “chiefly inhabited by a working class population”. In his assessment of housing he mentioned that there were scarcely any villa residences and 57 thatched dwellings were to be found in the parish. He added that whilst many houses had enjoyed access to a supply of piped water for almost twenty years (in some cases just a communal tap), and were connected to the mains sewer, some still relied on wells and earth closets.

The few villa residences he referred to included a palladian mansion at Teign Bridge (the grounds of which fronted the river

together with a boat house and landing stage), a country house at nearby Fishwick, Greenhill, Oakford House, the Vicarage, Brookside and Briarstowe. Some of the streets had gas lighting and were macadamised but motor cars were a rarity.

It was a time when the village was experiencing a rapid growth, its population having just topped the 2000 mark in the census of 1911. A wave of new building had taken place north of Oakford, bringing the hamlet of Gestridge within the built up area of the village, but Ware Cross and Sandygate were still regarded as separate communities. Town End Farm (recently known as The Thatched Cottage Restaurant) marked the end of the village in the Crossley Moor direction. At the bottom of Longford Lane the Rydon stream still flowed freely across the road and the Fairwater Leat, fed from the same Rydon Wellhead, powered three mills.

Most of the male population did not have to venture far outside of the village for work which could be found at the clay pits, the local brickworks, the Hackney and Stover Canals, or on the many small farms that were then being worked in the parish. Many men were engaged at the railway workshops in nearby Newton Abbot, whilst those seeking adventure joined the army or navy. Britannia ruled the waves and the trade routes of the Empire were policed by ships built at yards such as Devonport.

Many women still used the village streams to run small laundries whilst a new modern steam laundry had recently been opened on the Newton Road.

Village life was very much centred on the places of worship which at that time included the parish church, the Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church) the Wesleyan Chapel in Gestridge Road (now converted into two dwellings) and the Gospel Hall at Sandygate. Church and chapel social events were well supported. Recently formed political clubs at Oakford (Liberal) and Broadway Road (Unionist) had given people new focal points of interest as alternatives to the village pubs. Kingsteignton had just acquired a new vicar and clubs for boys and girls were held in the former coachman’s house behind the vicarage.  Lord Clifford owned the greater part of the parish and most of the cottages within the village itself.  Village education was still strictly segregated on religious lines, even though the County Council had taken over responsibility for the Chapel School in Sandpath Road in 1911.

The summer of 1914 in Kingsteignton began with a successful Ram Fair. The brook had been turned off and cleansed and a ram had been roasted in accordance with ancient tradition. Children from the Church School danced the maypole and competed in a variety of sports. At the beginning of August the village rugby club, which carried the name of the village around the county, had just staged a successful fete and was looking forward to a new season playing at senior level.

Little did anyone know that the 4th August 1914, was a day destined to be inscribed in the nation’s annals forever.  On that day many villagers attended the second day of the race meeting at the local racecourse. Featured on the programme were races with a Kingsteignton theme, such as The Brookside Selling Hurdle, The Kingsteignton Handicap Hurdle and The Teignbridge Handicap Steeplechase.

When war was declared no-one had any idea that it would drag on for over four years and bring so much pain and suffering to so may families.  The war, which it was hoped would be over by Christmas, proved to be the most violent and destructive war the world had ever seen. More than 10 million were killed and more than 20 million wounded and for good reason it became known as the Great War. Once the conflicthad started, the countries involved mobilized their entire populations and manufacturing resources to achieve victory on the battlefield, on the seas and later in the war, in the air.



Throughout Devon young men flocked to recruiting offices to be attested as they responded to General Kitchener’s call  whilst the civilian population became directly involved in the war effort, in the factories, fields and hospitals set up to treat the wounded.

The Mid Devon Advertiser of 8th August reported that local trade had been disrupted due to the Government commandeering horses for the military and that many businesses were having to deliver their goods by handcart.

Within a fortnight of the declaration the effect of the war was being felt by the local clay trade and one company, Whiteway & Co, had to introduce a three day week due to the dislocation of trade. The Western Times of 11th August noted that the pottery was on short time working.

A Devon Patriotic Fund was set up in Exeter to co-ordinate contributions from parishes to aid the wives and children of Regulars, Reserves and Territorials.

In Kingsteignton a public meeting was held on 12th August at the Council School in Sandpath Road where it was decided to form a committee to direct efforts to support the Devon Patriotic Fund. Mr W H Whiteway-Wilkinson was elected chairman, and told the audience that:

 “Men of all shades of politics and religions were standing together in this great national crisis. They had had an ungodly war thrust upon them and must do whatever they could to prevent distress and to alleviate it. They were not a rich parish but all could do something. It could hardly be realised that with the advanced state of civilisation, which they were led to believe supposedly existed, that it should be in the power of one man, supported by a clique of grasping militarists, to plunge the whole continent of Europe into war. England was going to stand to her last man for justice and liberty.”

Mrs Quinton of Blindwell House, Vicarage Hill, referred to work that women might do in response to the Queen’s Appeal on behalf of those might suffer owing to the war. She suggested that working parties be set up and a committee be appointed to co-ordinate the making of clothing items. Mr C R Sharp suggested that the skills acquired by men who had attended ambulance lectures be utilised if needed. The meeting closed with three cheers for the King and the singing of the National Anthem.

As the German army trampled across Belgium, Britain saw the arrival of Belgian refugees. The Young Patriots Group, which had been formed in the Kingsteignton Council School in Sandpath Road, gathered parcels of second hand clothing and despatched them to London for the refugees. In September 1914, Mr J Navaux a Belgian engaged in relief work wrote from London signalled his gratitude to the children following the receipt of a parcel; “I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your kind communication and generous gift of parcel of clothing to the Belgian Relief Fund. It will be forwarded at once to the proper quarters. Permit me to thank you most sincerely in the name of my countrymen for your kindness in responding so quickly and generously to the appeal in this time of great national suffering”. The Young Patriots Group sent regular parcels of newspapers and magazines to servicemen throughout the war.

A Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospital was set up at Stover by the sister-in-law of Sybil Hathaway, later the Dame of Sark. It had only one qualified nurse, the rest of the staff being volunteers. In the village schools teachers were authorised to buy wool for the girls to knit socks for soldiers and sailors being treated at Stover. The Managers at the Council School gave permission for teacher Mrs Kelland to use the school premises and piano to teach the children songs and routines for concerts to entertain the wounded from Stover. Fund raising events, such as jumble sales held by the village branch of the Women’s Liberal Association, for the Stover Hospital became regular events.

By the end of the month local newspapers were reporting how the war was affecting coastal shipping and the ball clay trade in particular. The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 30th October stated that the brigantines Lenore and Sophia had been loaded and lying in the Teign for over a month waiting to take cargoes to Dordt in the Netherlands but had to abandon their voyages. Instead the vessels had been towed to Plymouth where their cargoes would be transferred to a steamer and transhipped to another port. The report added that large shipments to the Mersey were continuing whilst cargoes to ports in Europe were being taken almost exclusively by neutral Danish craft.

House to house collections were made to raise funds for the Red Cross and St John Ambulance to support their hospitals for the wounded. Nearby Seale Hayne College became a hospital for the wounded. School log-books record that horse chestnuts were gathered by school children for the munitions industry.

The Western Times of 26th November  1915 mentioned how the children of the Church School had sent away another two parcels of letters, toffee, butter, chocolate, apples, pears, cigarettes and magazines to soldiers at the front.

The cancellation of Fair Day in 1916 meant that Kingsteignton folk had make other arrangements and had their holiday on Whit Monday instead. Many families walked to Teignmouth for the day and others went raking cockles in the Teign Estuary.

The renewed U-boat threat in 1917 which claimed a number of ships that had sailed from and were coming to Teignmouthmeant that the clay industry was facing increasing costs for shipment by sea .  Whilst some clay was now being shipped by rail, the Government’s need of rail trucks to transport military equipment, munitions and men led to a scarcity of trucks for the transport of other freight. This meant that available rail transport was insufficient to circumvent the U-boat threat.  One of the major uses of clay at this time was in the manufacture of jars for lime juice, rum and jam. A major customer was the Caledonian Pottery in Glasgow which made ceramic jam jars for its parent company, Hartley’s of Liverpool. The shortage of clay for its jars led to the introduction of the glass jam jar we are familiar with today.

The ever present need to maximise food production was the subject of a meeting called by local farmer and parish councillor Mr Frank Snow at the Church School in November 1917 at which a talk entitled “Food Production for 1918” was given by Mr Wale of Seale Hayne College. Mr Wale explained how more grassland needed to be ploughed and given over to corn and potatoes. A working party comprising local farmers and grocers was elected to look at ways of co-operating to achieve this end.



News of the signing of the armistice on Monday November 11th 1918 quickly spread through the village and flags appeared from all quarters. Hooters and whistles blew at the brickworks and the workmen downed tools to celebrate the momentous day. At noon the Church School fife and drum band paraded under the direction of teacher Miss Luscombe and a procession of village schoolchildren headed by Messrs Butland and Freestone made its way to the parish church where the National Anthem was played. In the evening special thanksgiving services were held in the parish church and non-conformist places of worship.

In the previous four years the Kingsteignton men had fought in numerous battles, mostly in the sodden fields of Flanders and northern France, but many fought in different parts of the globe such as Greece, Palestine and Mesopotamia. As the war progressed the names of Mons, Loos, Arras, Ypres, Paschendaele, Kut, Beersheba, Jutland, Dogger Bank and the Dardanelles became etched in British military history and Kingsteignton men saw action at all of them.