History and Heritage in Flowers
at St Johns Church Lynmouth
The Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage were delighted to join in the St John The Baptist Flower Festival in Lynmouth. This beautiful little church – a Grade II listed building – was completed in 1870 and has, this year, undergone extensive repairs to the roof and improvements to the interior. You can read more about St John The Baptist – its architecture and history – on this link.
This year the theme of the Flower Festival was the history of Lynmouth and the official opening was on the anniversary of the Lynmouth Flood 65 years ago. There were floral interpretations of many aspects of Lynmouth’s history and each was accompanied by a brief history. Here is a taster of just a few:
The Herring Fishing Industry was commemorated in a blue, silver and white display with the following short history:
First mentioned as early as the 1500s, the herring industry of Lynmouth reached its peak in the late eighteenth century when, quite suddenly, the herring stock declined. The export of herring to Europe ceased, as did the practice of using the fish for manuring the land. However, Lynmouth herring was still a valuable source of protein for the Hoar Oak shepherd families. Even within living memory, herrings were sold for sixpence (2 1/2p) each from the barrows wheeled along the streets.
Smugglers were remembered in a delightful cave-inspired display and the history recalled that:
There are many tales of smuggling along this coast but the only record is of an incident in 1832 when a suspicious boat was sighted off Lynmouth and was watched by three “Preventative Men”. That night a boat came ashore laden with 30 kegs of brandy and was met by a number of farmers with their horses. A scuffle ensured but the smugglers managed to escape leaving their contraband on the shore.
The Paddle Steamers arriving in Lynmouth in 1830, the Boxing Day Meet of the Exmoor Foxhounds and the stirrup cup provided by the Bath Hotel and the Rising Sun Hotel, the amazing hydro-electric power station opening in 1890 as well as the Lynmouth Flood in 1952 were amongst other events recorded in flowers.
The Overland Launch of 1899 was commemorated with a display shaped to reflect the steep hill between Lynmouth and Porlock that the old style, heavy wooden Lifeboat was hauled up and over. The accompanying short history tells a bit more of the story:
A severe gale blowing on the 12th January, 1899 prevented the lifeboat Louisa from launching at Lynmouth to help a ship in distress. The twenty-man crew, deciding to launch from Porlock Weir, were helped by 100s of villagers and 18 horses to haul the ten-ton boat 1400ft up Countisbury Hill. In places, the narrow road had to be widened to allow it to pass. continuing across the moor to descend Porlock Hill alone, the crew finally reached the stricken ship the following morning and every one was saved.
The St Johns Flower Festival was a great success with many visitors – locals and holidaymakers – who enjoyed the displays as well as delicious cream teas and cakes. Well over £1000 was raised in donations. A great achievement.