Building Contractors

Mr John Matthews, builder, was appointed Registrar for Marriages in Ashburton in 1838.
Western Times 17 November 1838 p2 col2

George Morcombe, a builder from Ashburton, died in July 1839, leaving a widow and 8 children. He was 42.
Western Times 27 July 1839 p2 col6

Philip Wootton of Bristol died in April 1843. He was the only son of the late William Wootton, a builder of Ashburton.
Presumably this is the same Philip Wootton, builder, who was involved in letting an extensive house in East Street in 1810.
Sherborne Mercury 29 April 1843 p4 col4
Exeter Flying Post 18 October 1810, p4 col5

In August 1850 at Ashburton  Mr Thomas Norris, tailor, married Mary Ireland Baker, the eldest daughter of C Baker, a builder.
Exeter Flying Post 8 August 1850, p8 col6

In 1853 William Ireland, an Ashburton builder, set off for America with his family, via Bristol and Liverpool. A large number of Irish passengers were aboard the ship, the Emma Fields, and a 'raging fever' broke out before they reached New York. Mr Ireland was one of those who died.
Western Times 15 January p7 col4

1885 T Easterbrook, builder, was selling a 'handsome bay gelding' in May. It was suitable for a lady to ride.
Western Morning News 7 May 1885 p2 col6

In 1884 Mr Thuell, an Ashburton builder, supervised the renovation of the Baptist chapel in Fore Street, Moretonhampstead.
Exeter Flying Post 10 September 1884 p7 col5

In 1892 the newly renoved Ashburton Congregational Chapel was reopened. J H Pomroy had undertaken the building work at an approximate cost of £450
Western Morning News 18 November 1892 p5 col4

When Emily Stewart died in London in 1893, aged 61, she was said to be the daughter of the late Mr Thomas Hext, a builder from North Street, Ashburton.
Totnes Weekly Times 30 September 1893 p5 col6

The Wesleyan Chapel was renovated in 1896, with Mr Lear, builder of Ashburton, undertaking the work. It cost £300 to bring the chapel 'into line with modern ideas of what a place of worship should be.' Mr H Boon did the decorative work.
Western Times 2 October 1896 p8 col6

'Stevens and Foaden were the chief builders. Stevens work lay largely in Staverton Parish, where for years he held the contracts with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who owned nearly all the parish.'
Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, Professor John Satterly, Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 84, 1952, p36

                                                                   Henry Stevens
20 masons were needed in 1873, and could expect 'liberal wages' if they were good workmen. Applicants were to contact Stevens, contractor, Ashburton.
Western Morning News 18 September 1873 p2 col1

In 1876 Henry Stevens married Gertrude Alice Creach at Cradley*. Both bride and groom were from Ashburton.
Western Times 3 November 1876 p5 col4
*In the Stourbridge registration district

Henry Stevens of Ashburton was a member of the Grand Jury at the Devon Quarter Sessions in July 1878
Exeter Flying Post 10 July 1878 p3 col6

In the 1881 census Henry Stevens, aged 54, is living in Lawrence Lane with two daughters. A building contractor, he was born in Holwell, Dorset; his daughters Sara and Emma were both born in Alderney.
Ten years later Henry Stevens is living at Hazeldene, Chuley Road, with his wife Gertruda A. A railway contractor, born in Holwell, Dorset, he is now only 56 (and his wife 47).
1881 census RG11, piece no 2161, folio 71, p18
1891 census RG12, piece no 1698, folio 58, p23

Emma Stevens, youngest daughter of Henry Stevens, married Henry Luscombe Creagh in 1882. Her father, a building contractor, had lived in the town about 10 or 12 years, and was one of the largest employers. The wedding breakfast was held at Hazeldene, the bride's residence.
Western Times 17 November 1882 p5 col5

1883 Richard Whiddon, aged 16, was amongst several Ashburton men and boys working for Henry Stevens near Hayle, Cornwall, constructing a viaduct across the Angarrack Valley. Richard, the eldest son of John Whiddon, slipped and fell 50 feet, sustaining fatal injuries including a broken neck. The Whiddon family had at one time been associated with the Globe Inn.
Western Times 25 October 1883, p4 col1

In August 1886 Mr Henry Stevens joined his employees on their annual wayzgoose.* Two vehicles from the London Hotel took the men through Totnes, Harbertonford and Halwell, ending at Slapton Sands. They enjoyed a 'sumptuous dinner' at the Torcross Hotel, and had boating and a trip to Start Lighthouse before tea. They returned to Ashburton at about 11 o'clock.
Totnes Weekly Times, 14 August 1886, p6 col3
*Wayzgoose - An annual summer entertainment, originally connected to the printing trade. It often consisted of a dinner and a trip into the country.

H Stevens supplied the oak coffin for the funeral of Mr John Berry in 1889.

Western Times 2 April 1889 p8 col3

The Masons decided to erect a Masonic Hall in 1889. Bro. Henry Stevens had donated the site, near the railway station.
Totnes Weekly Times 12 October 1889 p5 col5

1892 Henry Stevens claimed - and won - £34 9s 10d from Cornelius Bawden, purser of the Wheal Agar Mine in Cornwall. He proved in the Vice-Warden's Court that he had done £1136 0s 3d worth of work, but had only received £1101 10s 5 and a half pence.
Royal Cornwell Gazette 25 February 1892

Technical workshops were built as an extension to Ashburton Grammar School in 1892. It was intended to teach chemistry, engineering, blacksmithing, carpentry and joinery. The chemistry section had benches supplied with gas, water and bunsen burners; and the engineering section contained a smith's forge. Henry Stevens was the contractor.

The following year saw the completion of the Capital and Counties Bank, on the site of the old Duke's Head Inn. The red stone used to face the walls came from Bishopsteignton, and ornamental features on the doors and windows were of Monk's parkstone, from Bath Stone Firms Ltd. Messrs Woolliscroft and Sons of Hanley supplied the tiles for the roof.
A private entranceway led to living accommodation, including a dining and drawing room, five bedrooms and a bathroom. Electric bells were fitted, together with speaking tubes connecting the floors. There was a dinner lift near the kitchen, and hot and cold water throughout.
Henry Stevens had been the contractor; he had also built the recently constructed Devon and Cornwall Bank.
Totnes Weekly Times 17 December 1892, p6 col2
East and South Devon Advertiser 12 August 1893 p8 col6

1894 Ejectment orders were issued at the Ashburton Petty Sessions against Susan Parnell and John Harvey of Heavyhead Lane, on behalf of Henry Stevens. Mr Stevens said he 'did not wish to be harsh', but there had been complaints from neighbours.
Totnes Weekly Times 28 July 1894 p3 col1

A fire behind the Globe Hotel affected property belonging to H Stevens in 1894, (which might have included) a Co-operative Society stable, and stores of coal, wood, grain, flour etc. belonging to John Beard. The damage was extensive, and the cause was being rigorously investigated.
Totnes Weekly Times 3 November 1894 p2 col4

The Cornubian and Redruth Times announced in March 1895 that Mr Henry Stevens of Ashburton, who had built the Redruth and other viaducts, had died a few days previously.
Cornubian and Redruth Times, 15 March 1895 p4 col5
Gertrude Alice Stevens died in May 1900 at Kingsbridge. She was the widow of the late Henry Stevens of Hazeldene, Ashburton.
She was 58
Totnes Weekly Times 12 May 1900 p5 col6

                                                                    The Foadens

See Individual Families for more on the Foaden family

Baptised in May 1837, John Hannibal Foaden was the son of Thomas and Susanna. When another son was born in 1841, the newspaper announcement (with Susannah named) said that Mr T Foaden was a builder.

Western Times 23 January 1841 p2 col2

The 1851 census shows Thomas Jnr. his wife, Susanna, and family living in West St. One of his children is Mary Ann. Thomas appears to be a mason and slater (?)

1851 census HO1871, folio 314, p3

Thomas Foaden advertised in 1851 that he was 'contractor for the tolls' for Ashburton market. Rooms could be rented for lectures, bazaars, auctions etc.

Western Times 4 October 1851 p1 col4

Mr Thomas Foaden, builder, died on April 5th 1854, aged 38. He left a widow and four children.

Western Times 15 April 1854 p5 col2

Susanna is shown as a widow in 1861. On the census of that year she is living in West Street with her brother Thomas Pearse, a master butcher.

1867 John Hannabal Foaden married Elizabeth Husson in the September quarter of 1867.

He became a builder like his father. In 1871 James Hamlyn, woollen manufacturer, was having a new house built to the west of Buckfastleigh. Mr J H Foaden's tender for the work was accepted.

Western Times 3 March 1871 p8 col1

In May 1874 John Foaden, an Ashburton builder, was fined 40s including costs (the full penalty) for boarding a train whilst it was in motion. He had jumped off the platform at Totnes, run across the line and tried to board 'an Ashburton carriage.' He fell, but got up and on the second attempt got through the window of the carriage the guard was riding in. He had pleaded guilty.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 15 May 1874 p7 col5

After the death of Edward Husson of the Globe Inn, Mr Foaden, brother-in-law to the executor, Mr E Husson, became the landlord.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 18 August 1876 p7 col5

1877 John Foaden, builder and landlord of the Globe Inn, successfully defended an action to recover money in a dispute with an auctioneer over some pictures.

Western Times 21 August 1877 p5 col5

1878 W L Jones and Sons, wine and spirit merchants, opened new bonded stores on Exeter Quay. The plans were by C E Ware, and the building was erected by Mr J H Foaden of Ashburton.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 13 September 1878 p5 col5

Later that year Mr. Foaden, builder of Ashburton, was involved in a serious accident. He and his sister-in-law, Frances Husson, were driving in a dog-cart near Highweek when a boy's hoop rolled under the horse's legs and caused it to bolt onto the pavement. Both Mr Foaden and Miss Husson were thrown out of the cart, and Miss Husson remained in a critical condition.

North Devon Journal 5 December 1878 p7 col1

By 1881 the Foadens were living at Sparnham House, West Street. On January 4th Mrs. Foaden gave birth to a daughter.

Western Times 7 January 1881 p5 col3

In 1883 Mr. Foaden of Ashburton was the contractor constructing the boarding and sheds on the twenty acre site at Bideford chosen for the Devon County Agricultural Show.

North Devon Journal 5 April 1883 p5 col2

The 1891 census shows 53 year old John H Foaden living in West Street with his wife Elizabeth and 6 children: Kate, George P(earse), Florence A(lice), Jessie A(melia), Amy J (Winifred?) and John H(enry). John Snr. is a builder and contractor.

John H Foaden died in 1924, aged 87. When the Newton Abbot Board of Guardians met in May, they unanimously decided to send a letter of condolence - John Foaden had been a Guardian for about 38 years.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 May 1924 p3 col4


Henry John Almond, a builder and contractor living at Hazeldene, was amongst those qualified to serve as jurors in 1901.
William Pengilly of West Street, builder, was also listed.
See People and Properties 1900s


In 1909 a fire in an outbuilding attached to Hazeldene House threatened to spread to the house itself and Mr Badcock's large timber yard.
Western Times 18 September 1909 p2 col5

1918. Fire caused £1500 to £2000 worth of damage to the premises of Mr F J Badcock, a builder and timber merchant, near the railway station.
Western Times 31 May 1918 p3 col3

Douglas Berry fell from a pair of steps in 1925, dislodging a stone which severely injured his leg. An apprentice to Mr F J Badcock, he was taken to the local hospital for treatment.
Western Times 25 September 1925 p7 col4

1927 F J Badcock, builder, bought the Old Brewery for £150
Western Times 30 September 1927 p9 col2


'Eales, builder, Ashburton' was selling a newly built small villa in Ashburton in 1931. It had 3 bedrooms and 2 reception rooms, hot and cold water, gas and electricity. Standing in its own grounds, the asking price was £850.
Western Morning News 20 April 1931 p2 col5

1931 'Eales, builder, Ashburton' wanted bricklayers on the Ipplepen Housing Site
Western Morning News 27 April 1931 p2 col1


In 1936 'Langler, builder, Ashburton' was letting Roselands, close to the station and bus route. The house had 6 bedrooms, bath and 'indoor sanitation', electricity and gas.
Western Morning News 6 January 1936 p2 col1


                                                             Webbers and Christophers
Henry S Christopher, a carpenter born in 1912, was living at 4 Jubilee Road, Newton Abbot, in 1939. With him was his wife Muriel M.

Meanwhile Sidney J Webber, a mason born in 1910, was living at 2, Rentor View Cottages, Newton Abbot, with his wife Rita E.
1939 register

  • Above: Webber and Christophers' annual outing, 1960s

Left to right, front row: Ed Yeatman, George Milton, Bob Cornish, Terry Baker, Jimmy Gale (standing, rolling a cigarette), Freddy Cunion

Back row: Paddy Harding, Les Townsend, Bob Gale, Joe Endacott, Bill Yolland, Les Underhill, Henry Christophers, Jack Woodgate, Ray Barr (?), Jim Morrish, Dave Coles, Jim Webber, Ray Webber, Robin Manual (?)

From my own collection

When Cliff Ellis removed some wallpaper at 2, Avenue Terrace he found this scroll drawn on the wall.
Many thanks to Cliff for this.

'We had a two-wheeled handcart for moving equipment around the town. Ladders, steps, paint, dustsheets - everything was tied to it. I used to be very embarrassed when I was allocated the task; it was in use until the 1970s.
In those days the owners only had to give two hours notice that they were laying off staff. I can remember them coming at 3 o'clock on a Friday afternoon to tell people that their employment was terminated. It happened circa 1963, but they had to keep me on because I was an apprentice.'
Robin Bligh

Doors leading to the former Webber and Christophers' yard, at the bottom of St Lawrence Lane.
My own photograph 2017

Paddy Harding once had to gold leaf the hands and numerals on the clock on St Andrew's Church. He was lowered down on a Bosun's chair, which was basically a plank suspended by ropes. Gold leaf was an expensive product that came in books interleaved with tissue paper. It was tricky to use: you had to size the object with gold size, rub a brush on your hair to create static electricity, and then pick up a leaf of gold with the brush.
Positioning it on the object whilst the size was not too wet (it which case it would come through the gold and dull it) or too dry (so that it wouldn't stick) you then let it dry, before burnishing.

Paddy went to pick up a gold leaf, the wind blew the whole book out of his hands, and sheets of it blew all over the churchyard.

From a work colleague of Paddy's.

Left: Deed of apprenticeship for Webber and Christophers

From my own collection