In 1847 there was danger of a riot in Ashburton because of the high price of corn. A large number of men (mainly, according to the newspaper report, miners), women and children gathered near the Mr W R Whiteway's Town Mills.
The mob searched through the mill store-rooms, and then '100' women seized a quantity of wheat that was arriving at the yard.
Taking the key to the market from Mr S Mann (and allegedly threatening to break his shop windows if he did not give it to them), the women sold the wheat at 8s a bushel.
The town was in 'a state of excitement' all day, and '200 special constables were sworn in'.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 22 May 1847 p8 col3
For more on the Town Mills, see Woollen and Other Mills, under Banks and Businesses 3
The National Archives holds 39 letters concerning disturbances in Devon. Dated between May and August 1847, they include two letters from John Caunter saying that tranquility has been restored.
Ref HO45/1799, The National Archives, May 12th - Aug 31st 1847 https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C5071269 - accessed 31-07-2023
'There is a particular kind of beer brewed in Ashburton, in Devonshire, very full of fixed air, and therefore known by the name of Ashburton pop, which is supposed to be as efficacious in consumptions as even the air of Devonshire itself...'
Sir John Sinclair, Bart., The Code of Health and Longevity, London 1818, p100 (notes)
'There is a legend that Ashburton was at one time famous for a beer known as Ashburton "pop". Tradition in this case is true, because the matter is referred to in a letter to the Earl of Dartmouth published by the Historical MSS Commission.'
J Henry Harris, My Devonshire Book, Plymouth, 1907, p43
John Cooke, quoted by Sabine Baring-Gould:
"I recollect its sharp feeding good taste, far richer than the best small beer, more of the champagne taste, and what was termed a good sharp bottle. When you untied and hand-drew the cork it gave a report louder than a pop-gun, to which I attribute its name; its contents would fly up to the ceiling if you did not mind to keep the mouth of the stone bottle into the white quart cup; it filled it with froth, but not over a pint of clear liquor. Three old cronies would sit an afternoon six hours, smoke and drink a dozen bottles, their reckoning bit eightpence each, and a penny for tobacco. The pop was but twopence a bottle. It is a great loss to the town, because its recipe died with its brewer about 1785".
Devonshire Characters and Strange Events, S Baring-Gould, Bodley Head Ltd., London 1908 (this edition 1926) p 74
Cuming was aquitted, but Willoughby, who was heard to say that he hoped there would be plenty of Ashburton pop for dinner, was then charged with insolence and contempt - he was dismissed from the service.
article about Ashburton Pop in the Mid Devon Advertiser, John Hutcheson
of Denbury wrote in (and provided a photograph) to say that Ashburton
Pop was apparently produced long after 1785. He has a large stoneware
bottle in his collection with 'Michelmore's Ashburton Pop 1835' written
Mid Devon Advertiser 27 November 2015 p27, cols 1,2,3,4
Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Assocation, vol 56, Plymouth 1925, p102
In 1849 a Mr Rossiter had developed an anti-ferment compound, that would, he claimed restore old, 'ropy or reamy' cider.
Nathan Beck*, an Ashburton chemist, was happy to endorse the product - one packet had, he said, restored the colour and taste of a hogshead of old cider.
Western Times 15 September 1849 p2 col5
* The 1851 census shows Nathan Beck, a druggist, his wife Sarah and son George, living in East Street
For more on cider, see Farmers, under Banks and Businesses
June 1856. Cecil Torr's grandfather wrote to his father about the dinner and tea that he had given the villagers of Wreyland, near Lustleigh. It included roast beef and plum pudding, washed down with good beer. Then for tea, at 5 o'clock, there were 'Ashburton cakes and bread with plenty of cream and butter'.
Small talk at Wreyland, Cecil Torr 1970 edition. Adams and Dart, part 1 p 25
Weights and Measures
1st October 1848. An new Act of Parliament stated that bread had to have the weight stamped on the outside. The penalty for non-compliance was 40s.
Should the weight be lighter than was marked, a 5s fine was imposed for every ounce the bread was underweight. Similar rules affected the sale of meat and dairy products.
Magistrates could employ inspectors of weights and constables to search premises and seize goods.
Western Times 15 July 1848 p5 col4
November 1848. Inspectors of Weights and Measures were appointed at the Court Leet. Most items inspected were satisfactory.
Exeter Flying Post 9 November 1848 p8 col3
Mr Edwards, Inspector of Weights and Measures, charged John Gerry, of the Royal Oak Inn, with having 17 unstamped and 2 unjust measures. In mitigation, Mrs Gerry claimed that she had not had time to buy and wash new measures between Mr Edwards' original visit on a Friday and a subsequent check the following Monday.
The magistrates imposed a fine of 7s for the unstamped measures, dismissing the rest of the charge.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 24 April 1894 p7 col5
The Sunday Closing Association had recently sent representatives to
advocate stopping the sale of alcohol on Sundays. As a result of a
meeting at the Market Hall Messrs Craddock, Down, Clark and Mann had
distributed and collected voting papers to Ashburton householders. Of
the 75% who responded, 203 voted for closing, 53 had voted against, and
42 had no preference either way.
Western Times 29 October 1880 p8 col4
In 1896 the price of bread increased by 'another' half penny. This brought the price of a 4lb loaf to 5d
Western Times 11 December 1896 p6 col5
Food in the 1920s and 30s
Horses and carts were common sights, delivering coal, logs and also milk and bread to housewives. The local dairyman at the bottom of Woodland Road brought milk on foot twice a day to his customers: he carried a covered milk pail, and measured the milk (still warm from the cow) in to a jug. Unhygienic and untreated, and it tasted delicious. The cows were brought down to the adjoining yard to be miked twice a day by Mr Stanbury, an old man with a flowing beard and brooding expression, who looked to me like one of the old testament prophets we saw in picture books. It was his son, Dick, Mary Woolacott's father, who brought the milk to our doors. A glass of fresh milk was a comfort to a sick child, especially with a sprinkling of grated nutmeg on the top.
There were several bakers. Barnes in West Street supplied bread and a rich assortment of fancy cakes – mouth watering, they provided a welcome treat for Sunday tea. Their hot cross buns were looked forward to eagerly, appearing only on Good Friday. Andrews, the baker at the bottom of East Street, perhaps sold plainer fare but the memories of his bread linger still. On Mondays he made what was known as a 'twist' – today we would say 'plait', but they bore no resemblance to the modern version. It was unglazed: we had it broken off in chunks and eaten with local farm butter. He also made Bermaline bread, an oval brown loaf with a blue and white paper cuff proclaiming its properties. This bread had exceptional keeping qualities, and retained its flavour and freshness for days. Barnes made 'tuff' cakes, sometimes referred to as 'splits' – about the size of a small dough bun, they were very slightly sweet and made to eat with the traditional jam and cream teas. Andrews made plain bread buns, larger than a tuff cake, which resembled baps and were subtly flavoured with a couple of caraway seeds. They were known as 'Ashburtons' and were also bought for cream teas. I remember with nostalgia the smell of newly baked bread. Bread rolls, dough cakes, meat patties and fruit tarts were also available. There were other bakers in the town, well known for their specialities, but in a little place like Ashburton, people kept to their own territory.
Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account.
In 1943 the ceremony of ale tasting was revived - it had not been performed for some years.
Those involved included:
The portreeve - Mr Brian Bernard Baker
The bailiff - Prof Abell
Aletasters - W Eales and H Hannaford
Pig drovers - C J Bawden and Mr Soper
Marshalls - R Arscott and S Cowles
Breadweighers - Mr Amery Adams and the Rev L B Stallard
Overseers - Mr Clark and Mr P Hill
The town crier was Mr F Wills.
Western Morning News 18 August 1943 p2 col2
1949 R Arscott and W J Eales pronounced that the ale was 'improvin' ev'ry yer' at the traditional ceremony of ale-tasting and bread-weighing. They formed part of a procession including the portreeve, bailiff, steward, chaplain and others, all dressed in full regalia, and in the case of the ale-tasters, with the addition of home-made red noses. Preceded by a brass band, they toured the 10 hotels and inns of the town.
The bailiff knocked three times on each inn door, instructing the landlord to bring out two tankards of ale so that the tasters could judge the quality. Each inn was presented by greenery to hang on the door, and a certificate to show that the ale came up to standard.
A large crowd watched the procession, including Mr Roy Kellino and executives of Associated British Pictures Corporation, who were in the town filming 'The intruder'*
Western Times 2 September 1949 p7 cols1,2
*Better known as 'Guilt is my shadow' http://www.citwf.com
See the website Reelstreets https://www.reelstreets.com/ for screenshots from the film