Join the Club - Organizations and societies

                                    The St John Ambulance Association

The St John Ambulance Association, formed to train the public in first aid, was established in 1877.

1902 Devon had centres at Plymouth, Uffculme, Ashburton, Newton Abbot and Exeter. Newton Abbot had been first in 1895. William Jewell, superintendent of the Newton Division, stated that Newton now had 86 members, wiith Ashburton a 'poor second' with 13.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 22 July 1902 p7 col3

In 1904 the Newton Abbot and Ashburton Divisions were inspected. Ashburton was said to be very enthusiastic, but there were unspecified difficulties, and it was suggested that Ashburton join with the Newton Abbot Division.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 3 October 1904 p3 col3

When W T Butchers died in 1927, he was described as the founder of the local St John Ambulance Brigade.

Western Times 14 October 1927 p2 col6

1939 The new headquarters of the Ashburton St John Ambulance Brigade was opened. Four cottages, condemned as unfit for human habitation, had been converted into the new hall and offices.

Ashburton Brigade and the Cadet Division were said to be the second oldest in Devon.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 April 1939 p16 col2

At the outbreak of war the hall was designated a first-aid post, and individuals were given specific responsibilities in case of air raids.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1 December 1939, p4 col4

Right: The St. John's Ambulance Hall, through the arch off West Street.
My own photograph 2015


In 1940 several evacuees from London joined the cadet section of the St John Ambulance Brigade, Ashburton.
Western Times 6 September 1940 p6 col1

Left: This letter, sent 23 June 1946, is addressed to Mrs Jones, and expresses thanks for work that she has done for the St John Ambulance. She had set up and run a gift shop to raise fiunds. John A Mann, who signs the letter, calls her 'Our Amy'.

Many thanks to Linda Phillips for the above item.

''Patients were conveyed to the local hospital in what I can only describe as an elongated perambulator. It had a brown canvas hood and cover and was pushed by two St John Ambulance men. It can still be seen in the St John Ambulance Hall today.'

Reminiscences of Hazel Bray, to whom many thanks.

Vehicle for conveying patients to hospital.
Many thanks to Mary Woollacott and Mary Dent.
See also The virtual museum.

1948 Ashburton Division's first ambulance was dedicated in the Bullring by the vicar, the Rev G A B Jones. H H Whitley was chairman of the Ashburton Association. J A Mann said that when the new Health Act* came into force the ambulance would remain the property of the St John organization.

Western Times 28 May 1948 p3 col4

* The act that brought in the National Health, which came into being two months later.


By 1948 Ashburton had a motor ambulance. Christened 'The Good Samaritan', in less than two months it had made 15 journeys, to hospitals in Plymouth, Exeter, Torbay, Newton Abbot and Ashburton. Pte W J Tucker had been the driver on each occasion.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 28 May 1948 p3 col4
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 16 July 1948 p6 col3

The Ashburton Ambulance Association met for their annual meeting in March 1949, with H H Whitley presiding.
Ambulance Officer R Stanbury received a service medal bar with two crosses (for 25 years service); Supt J A Mann and Sergt W T Gill received service medals bar with one cross (20 years); and Pte S M Gill received a certificate of service medal and ribbon (15 years).
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25 March 1949, p7 col6


                                                   The Library


The subscription library, 'one of Ashburton's oldest institutions', was established in 1831 at the house of Mr Joseph Fitze, later the Registrar of Births and Deaths. 

Western Times 20 April 1916 p13 col1

Before this, however, there was a Library Society, established in 1825 but on the brink of being dissolved in early 1830, when shareholders were to meet 'at the library' on the 18th February. W E Stentiford was secretary at the time.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 January 1830 p1 col2

Joseph Fitze, saddler, is living in East Street at the time of the 1861 census

For a portrait of Joseph Fitze, see the 1860s section of the Virtual museum.


On the 1901 census John Peter Foot is a bootmaker in East Street, living with his wife Elizabeth.

He died at The Library, a month after the census, aged 85

Western Times 2 May 1901 p1 col1

In 1903 Mr W T Butchers, the headmaster of the board school, 'deplored' the fact that there was no library* for the people of Ashburton. Speaking at the Mutual Improvement Society, he said that he would rather young people read nothing at all rather than the 'trash' that they currently got hold of.

Western Times 19 March 1903 p3 col5

*ie a free one

At a ratepayers' meeting in 1905 it was noted that a Mr Carnegie had been consulted over a free library, which might be achieved if a penny rate was adopted.
Western Times 20 June 1905 p3 col6

Mrs J P Foot is the librarian in the Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Brent and Ivybridge Almanac 1906.

Subscriptions dwindled during the First World War, and the books were then offered to the Governors of the Grammar School, on condition that the public could have access once a week. This resolution was adopted on 15th April 1916, with Miss May Tucker being elected librarian.

Western Times 20 April 1916 p13 col1

'The Old Library' is now No 49, East Street

When James Mortimer, a former headmaster of the Grammar School, died in 1929, the Old Ashburtonian Society appealed for money to fund a scholarship in his name.

The fund closed in December 1932, but as there was insufficient money to provide a scholarship a plan was formed for the refurnishment of the Library. The work was carried out during the following summer, and there was a formal opening in September. 'A new oak floor was laid and the somewhat ugly fireplace replaced by a modern grate with an oak mantelpiece and surround. In addition, the library was furnished with two large oak refectory tables and twenty two chairs.' A large photograph of James Mortimer was hung above an inscribed tablet.

Ashburton Grammar School 1314-1935, W S Graf, Ashburton 1938, pp 31 and 36.

1942. During the Second World War Devon County became involved in the library when a new branch of the Devon County Library opened in Ashburton. Up until that point volunteers had maintained the library with money subscribed from all over the world by old boys. The county library scheme had been in operation for 17 years, and the Chairman of the Devon County Library Committee said that books played a valuable part in keeping up public morale.
The library was located in the library room of the old Grammar School.

Western Morning News 15 October 1941 p5 col5

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 15 May 1942 p6 col5

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 May 1942 p5 col2                                                                    

The librarian in the 1960s and 70s was Miss Black, a formidable custodian of the books under her care.

'My sister, in her mid teens, was so engaged by books on magic and witchcraft (it was the era of Dennis Wheatley novels about black magic) that Miss Black had concerns about it. She came up to see our mother to share these concerns. I seem to remember that my mother said she would speak to my sister, and we shared a family giggle about it. However, my mother, not wanting the possible social embarrassment, banned my sister from such books for a while.
There certainly wasn't much choice in the little library and I seem to remember taking out the same favoured books again and again.'
Anon - very many thanks for this reminiscence.


                                            The Ashburton Band
According to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) Exeter, a woodwind instrument in their collection was part of the Ashburton Church Band. Known as a serpent because of its curved shape resembling a snake, the particular instrument in Exeter was made between 1810 and 1829.
It was played by Thomas Baston until 1836; later it was sold by Henry Veale, Thomas's son in law, to Mrs Budds of Totnes. Mr W Prescott Row of Surrey was a subsequent owner, and the serpent was acquired by RAMM in 1916 - accessed 02-01-2022
Above right: Serpent at Museu de la Musica de Barcelona
Sguastevi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Church Band may have been separate from the amateur band.

John Waycott, aged 53*, died in September 1846. He was described as formerly being a member of the Amateur Band.
Western Times 17 October 1846, p5 col2
The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette said that he was 45

A thief stole a clarionette, belonging to the Town Band, from H Foot, West Street. He was captured at Exeter.

Exeter Flying Post 4 January 1849 p8 col4

When William Popelstone, a rope manufacturer, died at Ashburton, he was described as being a member of the Ashburton Band for many years. He was 59.

Western Times 8 December 1855, p5 col3


                                  The Ashburton Farmer's Club

1847 Intending members of the Ashburton Farmers' Club were invited to Bracewell's London Inn on alternate Saturdays. Meetings were to begin in January, with Dr. Soper delivering the first lecture on agricultural chemistry. The committee included John Berry, Solomon Tozer, John S. Amery, John King, W. R. Whiteway, William Widger, John Hext, Richard Searle and others.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 27 November 1847 p4 col4

In 1848 there were plans for a ploughing match.

Mr W R Whiteway, seed merchant, had shown some new implements at a recent fair. Some 'extraordinary mangel worzel and turnips' had 'excited unusual interest'.

Western Times 18 November 1848 p5 col5

1849 The Ashburton Farmer's Club held its first anniversary dinner at Bracewell's London Inn.

Exeter Flying Post 4 January 1849 p8 col4


                            The Ashburton and South Devon Geological and Mineralogical  Society

The rules of the society (1850) are held at the Devon Heritage Centre, ref QS/56/23


                              The Ashburton Mutual Improvement Society.

1851 A large number of people attended the lecture by the Rev J Dore on the use of globes.

Western Times 22 November 1851 p7 col5

John Dore, a Baptist minister, is living with his wife Mary, son and daughter in East Street on the 1851 census. Aged 59, he was born in Lymington, Hampshire.

1851 census Class: HO107; Piece: 1871; Folio: 290; p8

The Mutual Improvement Society became dormant after the 1916-17 session, on account of the First World War; at the time there were 49 members. When meetings resumed in 1920. Mr J H Mitchelmore presented the report for that last session, and said that all those members who had joined the armed forces had returned safely from the war with the exception of Wilfred Evans, a past president and hon. secretary.

Western Times 5 November 1920 p9 col2



                               The Ashburton Madrigal and Glee Club

1854 saw the club's fourth public performance. The Western Times was complimentary, harking back to a time when music 'was more cultivated' than modern 'trashy compositions'  and was regarded as an important part of education.

Western Times 30 March 1850 p7 col5

In 1855 the Musical Times said the Madrigal Society had been in existence for forty years.* '[It] is at present progressing favorably, and was augmented on the 11th May to the number of twenty-one members, with H Caunter Esq. as their President.'

The Musical Times, vol7 1855, London, p28




                                                 The Rifle Volunteers


Worried by the idea of an invasion of Britain, a slightly reluctant Government allowed, in 1859, the formation of local groups of volunteers, to defend the country if necessary. Arranged by county, they were formed into companies and battalions.
Review of 'Tracing the Rifle Volunteers, a Guide for military and family historians', by Ray Westlake, on

'Almost every town in Devon (held) meetings for the purpose of forming corps'

The Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Corps was 'accepted' (by Queen Victoria) on the 25 February 1860 as the 9th Devon R. V.
The Haytor Volunteers, Their history and development, Lieut Col Amery, rep from the Totnes Times and Western Guardian 1888, pp19,20

9 months after it was formed, a bazaar was held in the new Market Hall to raise funds. Items on the stalls included lace, embroidery, stuffed birds and lithographs. One stall attracted particular attention - it consisted of fresh game birds, including a rare one shot on Dartmoor.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 October 1860 p7 col1


1864. J H Astell M. P. gave the 9th Devon R. V.£20 towards new uniform.

Ashburton ladies were planning a 'fancy bazaar' to raise funds for the corps.
Exeter Flying Post 23 March 1864 p3 col6

About 1865 the whole Battalion was clothed alike in slate grey with scarlet facings, and black belts.
The Haytor Volunteers, Their history and development, Lieut Col Amery, rep from the Totnes Times and Western Guardian 1888, pp19,20

1869 George Rowlands, a member of the Volunteers, had to have his foot amputated after a gun accident (not necessarily connected to the Volunteers). Corporal Edgecumbe started a collection for the young man, and £7 12s 6d was raised.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 9 October 1869 p4 col1

In the 1871 census 25 year old John S[parke] Amery gives his occupation as Lieutenant in the Volunteers.
1871 census RG10 piece no 2080 folio 21 p19

In 1883 25 year old Richard Rowland died. The youngest son of John Rowland of Lower Headborough, he was a private in the Volunteer Corps. He was buried in Ashburton churchyard, with a procession which included a  firing party with reversed arms. They fired three volleys. Present were: Maj Amery, Lieut. Tozer, Lieut. Tuckers, Sergts Distin, Foot, Smerdon and Barnicott, Corporals Skinner and Maynard and forty rank and file. Richard was described as a 'promising shot'.
Western Times 2 October 1883 p5 col2
Western Times 5 October 1883 p7 col2                                          

When the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Cottage Hospital was opened in 1889, the 5th V B D R (Haytor) Rifles formed a guard of honour.

Western Times 16 August 1889 p2 col4

In 1891 the Devon County Volunteers Association held an annual shooting contest. The Class F Association Challenge Cup was won by Pte J Burch, Ashburton, who received a 'Plate and £7'.
The Exeter Flying Post 6 June 1891 p3

Right: Thomas Baker, the great uncle of Lerida Arnold, thought to be wearing the uniform of the Rifle Volunteers. Lerida believes the photograph was taken between 1895 and 1905.
The photographer was J Blampey, who was in Ashburton by 1891 (see Photographers, under Banks and Businesses) .
With many thanks to Lerida Arnold, for both the photograph and the information

Thomas J[ohn] was born in April 1877, the son of John and Elizabeth Baker.
1881 census RG11, piece no. 2161, folio 27 p9
1939 register

In the 1901 census Frank Loveridge, aged 42, was the Colour Sergeant Instructor of the Volunteers. He was living in St. Lawrence Lane.
1901 Census RG13, Piece 2053, Folio 5, p2

When he died in 1920 he was described as the holder of various medals, including the Afghan medal of 1878-79-80. He had also served in India with the 2nd Devons.
Western Times 21 May 1920 p8 col1
See The Rifle Volunteers in the main menu for Dave Dycher's research.                     

Left: 'Here comes Buggins, with his iron walking stick, which he carries to accustom his muscles to the rifle'.

The magazine Punch took great delight in poking fun at the Volunteers (see left).
Punch 14 April 1860

Below: A notice concerning shooting matches to be held at Ashburton and Newton Abbot in September 1877

'On these occasions, Volunteers in uniform will be conveyed from Bristol, and Stations west thereof, to Ashburton and Newton Abbot and Back, at a Single Government Fare for the Double Journey....'
From my own collection


In 1894 the Volunteers attended a camp at Lustleigh. The weather was extremely wet and the tents could not be taken down when the camp ended. All the Haytor companies marched down to take the train home with the exception of A (Ashburton) Company and G (Buckfastleigh) Company, who were ordered to 'strike' the tents of the whole battalion. They 'flatly refused', alleging that a junior officer had given the order to insult them. They also said that they had had no breakfast. They were ordered home and the allowance for the week was stopped. At an inquiry into the incident 37 members of the Ashburton Company were dismissed for insubordination, together with 4 from Buckfastleigh.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 August 1894, p5 col4

In 1886 three girls, Lucy Skeagell, 6, her sister Edith, 9, and Elizabeth Gill, 10, went missing after morning school. Mrs Skeagell walked all night searching the roads and lanes, and William Gill, the father of Elizabeth rode out looking for them. There was great concern because it was reported that they had been seen looking in to the river at Holne Bridge. It turned out that they had followed the flying column of the 2nd DRV and got lost - they were finally found the following afternoon near Newton Abbot.
Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 20 August 1886, p5 col6

Lucy is possibly the Margaret L Skedgell who is 10 years old on the 1891 census. She is living with her widowed mother Hannah in Cousins Court, East Street.
The birth of a Margaret Lucy was registered in the Totnes district in 1881.
1891 census RG12, piece no 1698, folio 47 p1

Above: 'A' Company, the 5th Haytor V.B.D.R. 20th century?
With many thanks to Morva Townsend



                                   Registrar of Friendly Societies in England

Amicable Society, established Ashburton, Devon, Midsummer session 1829
Accounts and papers, Private bills, Friendly Societies, Poor Laws (Ireland) etc., vol13, 31 Jan-17 July 1837, p6

Dissolution of the Ashburton Provident Tradesmen's Friendly Society, held at the Duke's Head Inn, Ashburton
London Gazette Issue 22731 1 May 1863, p2326    

The Ashburton Union Society, (a Friendly Society), held at the London Inn, West Street, was dissolved in February 1883 
London Gazette Issue 25206 2 March 1883, p1187                                                          

A meeting was held in the Grammer School in October 1890 with the aim of establishing a tent, or branch, of the Rechabite cause. It was both a Friendly and a temperance society, and 'acted on the principle that if they were to improve the town [they] must begin by improving themselves.' The society encouraged thrift, and saw intemperance as the greatest hindrance to thriftiness.
Several pledges were taken at the close of the meeting, but there were not enough candidates to form a tent.
Totnes Weekly Times 25 October 1890, p7 col3

The fifty first annual meeting of the Mid-Devon District of the Independent Order of Rechabites was held in Newton Abbot in April 1891. New tents had been formed in Tiverton and Ashburton, and Ashburton was represented amongst the delegates.
Teignmouth Post and Gazette 24 April 1891, p5 col4

The Ashburton branch, no. 34, of the Rational Sick and Burial Association held its first fête in August 1895. The A Company of the Haytor Volunteers led a procession through the town to the vicarage lawn, where there was a programme of sports.
There were a variety of prizes, which had been on display in Mr H Foot's shop in West Street.
Mr R L Butland, who was born in Ashburton and was the district representative on the Board of Management, later made a speech. He said that the town was the first place to establish a branch of the association*, and that since 1860 the Association as a whole had paid out £968,527.
Totnes Weekly Times 10 August 1895, p7 col3
*First in the district?

The annual church parade of the United Friendly Societies took place in June 1896, and was in aid of the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Cottage Hospital. The Volunteer Band led the procession of Odd Fellows, Shepherds, Rationals and Rechabites from the top of East Street to the parish church; after the service they paraded through the town.
Western Times 29 June 1896, p4 col5

'On Monday December 25th, 1827, at the Friendship Inn [Ashton-Under-Lyne]...twelve persons met to enjoy a social evening, and before they parted company, established a new Friendly Society on the affiliated principle. At a meeting held a few weeks afterwards the following resolution was carried: That this society having held its first meeting on Christmas Day for the purpose of proclaiming glad tidings to future generations, it is resolved that it shall henceforth be entitled "The Society of Ancient Shepherds"...'
The Friendly Society Movement, Rev John Frome-Wilkinson, London 1886, p19

The annual dinner of the Loyal Cavern Lodge of Ancient Shepherds was held in the London Inn in October 1898. The portreeve, Mr J Parnelll Tucker, was in attendance, together with the Rev Birch, Dr Wilcox and others. After the removal of the cloth the chairman suggested they drink to the health of the Queen and royal family, at a time of foreign difficulties. 'The toast was drunk with enthusiasm.' When Mr J Cock Jnr proposed a toast, he noted that the order had once been regarded as a 'shady concern' but was now ranked highly as a Friendly Society.
Totnes Weekly Times, 29 October 1898, p3 col5

The Lodge had been established in 1892. Known as the Shepherd of the Cavern, it was no. 2298.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 13 May 1892, p6 col6


                                          The  Ashburton Institute

The Ashburton Institute 'established chiefly for the working classes' opened in St Lawrence Street in October 1878.

Financed by voluntary subscription and charges (working men paid 1d weekly, others 2d), it provided reading, smoking, recreation and refreshment rooms. Newspapers and magazines were provided.

Housekeeper - Mrs Whiddon

Secretary - J Mortimer

Treasurer - J Bickford 

White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon, 1878-79,p14

In March 1881 Dr Adams read a paper on Cremation at the Institute. This was followed by a discussion on the proposal that, 'Cremation, from a sanitary point of view, is the best mode of disposing of the dead, and with due safeguards should be permitted in this country.'
Western Times 1 March 1881, p6 col1

At the beginning of the winter season an exhibition was held on the subject of home and foreign travel. The Messrs Amery contributed pictures of ancient forms of travel; Dr. Adams brought his microscope, graphoscope and specimens including coral, Dead Sea stone and cedar wood; Dr. Fraser displayed Indian hand paintings; and the Rev. W M Birch brought a stereoscope and a number of views. Mr. Clymo contributed an Australian whip to the exhibition, and Mr. Mortimer showed a case of stuffed birds from Queensland. There were many more exhibits, plus demonstrations. The Messrs. Amery 'caused much merriment with their experiments on their galvanic battery.'
Western Times 26 November 1881 p4 col3


                                                   The Field Club (part of The Institute)

In 1880 Mr Tanner suggested that a Field Club be established. Mr E F Tanner (presumably the same Mr Tanner) also offered £20 to start a library in connection with the Institute.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 4 May 1880 p4 col3

The second meeting was in June, when Mr Fabyan Amery led a group up to Blackslade Down. Topics included during the walk included a discussion on peat, and speculation on who inhabited the Down.

Western Times 11 June 1880 p8 col2

Right: The Field Club visiting Druid Mine.

In May a group went by train to Buckfastleigh, with Mr. Fabyan Amery as leader. They visited the parish church, the Brook and Wheal Emma mines, Hawsen Court, Buckfast Abbey and Dart Bridge.

Western Times 28 May 1880 p8 col4


The Field Club lapsed, but was revived in 1921, after a gap of 'thirty or forty years.'

Anonymous newspaper article, 21 April 1921 handwritten alongside.

Thanks to Lerida Arnold for the above.

Left: The Field Club in 1921, visiting Pridhamsleigh.

The group went up to Whiddon Scrubbs, beginning at North Street. Ancient tin workings were observed at Waterleaf* Bridge.

J S Amery gave a talk on the cuckoo, incorporating the latest discoveries made by Edgar Chance**.

Western Times 26 May 1922 p10 col1

* Surely must be Waterleat Bridge

* *Edgar Chance, a dedicated ornithologist, produced a film called The Cuckoo's Secret, which changed people's perception of how the bird reproduced. Accessed 13-10-2013

Above: Waterleat Bridge
Photograph R Bligh, 2015

54 members and friends went to Fingle Bridge in September 1923.

J Mortimer gave a talk comparing the Dart and the Teign.

Western Times 14 September 1923 p7 col4


Above: Trip to Pridhamsleigh

1924 The Field Club visited Buckland Beacon.

Mr J F Baker gave a paper on William Gifford and Dr. Cooksley

Western Times 4 July 1924 p11 col2

Right: Brian Bernard Baker

Many thanks to Lerida Arnold for the photographs and information
                               Cottage Garden and Allotment Society
1881 The first Cottage Garden and Allotment Society show was held in a field known as Greylands. Owned by Henry Tozer, the field was near the Board Schools.
Intended for the working classes there was 'naturally a little prejudice' at this new venture.
Western Times 12 August 1881 p7 col1

Right: The Cottage Garden Show 1920
Many thanks to Lerida Arnold for the photograph

                                      The Gospel Temperance Society

J Mortimer BA was president of this society in 1886, when fortnightly meetings were held in St Lawrence's Chapel.
Western Times 26 November 1886 p6 col7

                                                   The Masons

The Ashburton Lodge received its warrant of Constitution in 1886, and received its lodge number - 2189 - from 1894 onwards*. Meetings were held from 1887 at the Commercial Hotel, North Street.
Lane's Masonic Records 1717 - 1894
* The item below contradicts this date

The Commercial Hotel is presumably the same as The Commercial Inn documented by Pete Webb (The Pubs and Inns of Ashburton 1995 page 8), located at 7 North Street.

In 1890 the Ashburton Lodge moved to The Masonic Hall, Chuley Road. 

A piece specially written and composed by Bro. Fred. J W Crowe, organist, was sung at the consecration of the Ashburton Lodge No. 2189
'An Old Past Master', The Etiquette of Freemasonry, 1890

From an item on Masonic collections, in the journal of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati : 'A very interesting collection, on wider lines, is that of Bro F J W Crowe, of Ashburton, Devon. It already fills to repletion a huge imperial folio volume of 400 pages, made for the purpose, and is increasing daily.
....Its chief feature is perhaps the Certificates. These are of every country under the sun almost, and number several hundreds....Add to this a large collection of curious Masonic seals, ancient and modern, drawings of clothing and jewels, autographs of prominent masons, summonses of an artistic or special character, and old Warrants of Constitution, and the interest and value of this collection must be evident.
....Bro. Crowe has taken steps to ensure that at his death, which we trust may be long deferred, the collection shall be handed over intact to Lodge Quotuor Coronati, recognising that it will thus become accessible to all Masonic students and properly cared for.'
'I am glad that you have appreciatively noticed the extraordinary collection of Masonic curios being made by Bro Crowe, Professor of Music, at Ashburton....'
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Transactions of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati of A F and A M, London, 1890, pp35, 108

Frederick Joseph William Crowe married Sarah Elizabeth Stevens at Ashburton in June 1886. Aged 26, he was a professor of music.
By 1891 the couple were living at Tormoham, Newton Abbot.
Parish records
1891 census RG12, piece no. 1703, folio 29, p51

Above: The Masonic Hall, Chuley Road
Right: Foundation stone, Masonic Hall 

Inscription: This foundation stone of the Ashburton Lodge no. 2189 of A  F  and A Masons was laid on the 8th (?) day of December 1889 by W Bro the Hon R M W Dawson P M  ? Prov C S W Devon Founder and duly proved by Bro Walter S Gervis M D W M Founder  ? site Bro H Stevens Treas Founder

My own photographs, circa 2015

Dr Fraser's funeral was the first Masonic funeral in Ashburton, and a dispensation was granted for members to wear masonic clothing. Attendees met at the Masonic Lodge, and then made their way to Dr. Fraser's house, before processing in front of the coffin to the Church. Most businesses were partially closed, 'although it was market day.' J Clymo carried out the funeral arrangements.Totnes Weekly Times 21 June 1890, p3 col2

List of masons from the Ashburton Lodge attending the funeral of Dr William Fraser in 1890:
The Hon R Dawson
H Steele
W S Gervis
J Olver
C G S Acock
S Tozer
F J W Crowe
H Stevens
R E Tucker

G C Foot
W Ford
J Eales
E Sawdye
G Furneaux
H M Firth
W T S Smerdon
W Pengilly
R Ackerley
J R Eddy
W Lear
The Freemason's Chronicle 21 June 1890 p391 col1
This, and other publications, can be freely searched at

1906 Bro F Loveridge was installed as Worshipful Master at the Ashburton Lodge.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 October 1906, p11 col1

In 1906, at the funeral of John Berry*, a newspaper report stated ' The Freemasons, wearing sprigs of acacia, headed the mournful procession...'
*Died 15th June 1906
Unknown newspaper article. Many thanks to Richard and Frances Berry for this item.

In 1945 the Ashburton Lodge of Mark Master Masons, number 1038, was founded and consecrated. In November 1946 the retiring Master was W Bro M H Needham, Prov G Chap. Bro E. O. Babbington was installed for the coming year
Western Times 22 Nov 1946 p5 col 6

For some masonic items, see the 1940s section of the Virtual Museum


                                                  The Liberal Club

No. of Company: 23780; Mid-Devon or Ashburton Division Liberal Club Limited. Incorporated 1887, dissolved in 1949
National Archives BT 31/33760/23780
Board of Trade and successors - Accessed 14-1-2014

In 1888 the Liberal Association was meeting in Kingsbridge House

Western Times 21 February 1888 p7 col3

The 1911 census shows 32 year old Susan Luscombe as the club caretaker at Kingsbridge House - she is living there with her two children

Old Age Pension Day was celebrated by a social gathering at the club. Congratulatory messages were sent to Mr Asquith during the evening on the success of the Old-age Pensions Act.

Western Times 4 January 1909 p4 col6

In April 1913 the Liberal Club moved from its old premises in Kingsbridge Lane to new ones in North St, formerly the Commercial Inn* Bought for £386, the property had been renovated to provide 2 billiard rooms, a bagatelle room, and rooms for reading and cards, in addition to the caretaker's apartment. The chairman commented that if 'Old Mr Andrews could rise up and see his hotel used as a Liberal Club, he did not know what he would say (laughter)'.

Western Times 18 April 1913 p11 col4

* 7 North St - the newspaper item has a photograph.

Mr John Cornish, Woodland Road, appointed caretaker

Western Times 26 February 1915 p10 col1


                               The Ashburton Mutual Improvement Society

In August 1881 the Mutual Improvement Society, together with some members of the Institute, went on an expedition to Castle Parks on Tower Hill. Mr F Amery put forward the argument for this being an ancient encampment before the group moved on to Ashburton Down, where Mr James Mortimer gave a talk on 'The effect of mountain scenery upon character.'
Western Times 5 August 1881 p8 col2

In 1883 the Rev. T N Oliphant as president. In October he gave a talk on the subject of 'Books'. J S and F Amery, R Eggbeer and J Batten were amongst those present.

Western Times 9 October 1883 p8 col6

'In my early days there was a Mutual Improvement Society in the town; it met during the winter months in the schoolroom of the Congregational Chapel. Special speakers would be invited and frequently those two scholarly brothers, Fabyan and John Amery, who show lantern slides of the various countries they had visited. It was an enlightening society.'

From the memories of Reg Andrews, born 1893.
Many thanks to Dave Hodge-Brooks and Ernie Smerdon.

The society sent congratulations to Queen Victoria on her 60th jubilee

London Gazette Issue 26872 13 July 1897, p3892


                                  The Young Women's Christian Assocation

In 1887 a Mrs Walker, of London, and Miss Jessie Coombes, of the Torquay Young Women's Christian Association, addressed a meeting in the St Lawrence Chapel. As a result an Ashburton branch of the Association was formed, and began meeting in Kingsbridge House. Mrs Birch was the president, Mrs Gervis the hon treasurer and Miss M Lay the hon secretary. 40 members were at the inaugural meeting, which included addresses, music and recitations.
Totnes Weekly Times 27 November 1887 p8 col1

In December 1888 about 60 members of the YWCA went to supper at Hele House, where Mr and Mrs W B Daw were their hosts. Entertainment included piano and violin playing, solos, duets and trios and a recitation in the Devonshire accent. It was noted that Mr Daw had a 'hale and hearty appearance', despite having endured terrrible sufferings during the previous three years.
Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 28 December 1888, p5 col5


                                                The Oddfellows

At the funeral of John Down (see The Down and Beer families, in the sub-menu of People and Properties) the bearers were past Grand Masters of the Ashburton Loyal Lodge of Oddfellows. They were: Bros J Cock, A Hays, G Edgecombe, G H Andrews, W H Langler, W H Whiddon, J French and C H Baker. Other Oddfellows included C J Roberts, E Salter, F Oliver, E Winsor, H Boon, J H Pomroy.

Western Times 6 March 1913 p4 col7

The Ashburton branch was at this time 70 years old - about 40 members were about to form a lodge on March 3rd, 1845, assembling at Husson's Crispin Inn, North Street.

Western Times 1 Mar 1845 p4 col 3

 Below: A letter from the Loyal Ashburton Lodge of Oddfellows, summoning members to the annual financial meeting of the lodge in February 1915. It is signed (Yours fraternally) by Charles H Baker, Secretary - presumably Highcross is his own address.

From my own collection 

See also the medal presented to E Luscombe, in the 1930s section of the Virtual Museum.


A Juvenile Lodge was opened in April 1891, entitled 'The Pride of Ashburton'

Western Times 10 April 1891 p7 col2


                                           The Hele Liberal Band
The Hele Band came out in uniform for the first time in May 1889
Western Times 28 May 1889, p2 col5

January 1890. The Hele Liberal Band was due to play Mr Seale-Hayne, MP, from the Golden Lion Hotel to the Market Hall, where he was going to address his constituents.
Western Times 27 January 1890, p2 col5

The Hele Liberal Band played through the town to Hele House on Easter Monday 1890. Mr W B Daw opened the grounds of the house for the afternoon and evening, and several hundred people gathered there.
Western Times 11 April 1890, p1 col3, p9 col1

Mr W Whiddon* was the bandmaster when the Hele Band played at Ashburton carnival in November 1912.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 12 November 1912, p10 col2
Other accounts around this time have his name as W H Whiddon

1917. Private Wiliam John Hannaford, 31, died during the fighting in WWI - he left a widow and five young children. He was formerly a member of the Hele Band.
Western Times 26 October 1917

                                                  The Constitutional Club            

 Arrangements were in hand during 1890 to build a Constitutional Club in St Lawrence Lane, on land belonging to Mr W Mann.

The new club was due to open on December 22nd 1890 

Western Times 20 June 1890 p8 col5

Western Times 15 December 1890 p2 col5

The front of the Constitutional Club was decorated on 19th April to celebrate Primrose Day*.

Western Times 21 April 1891 p7 col3

*Primrose Day commemorated the death of Conservative statesman Benjamin Disraeli on April 19th 1881. Frank Bramley, a Newlyn painter, entitled one of his works in 1885 'Primrose Day'.


A copy of the Constitutional Club Library rules can be seen at Ashburton Museum

Many thanks to Richard and Frances Berry for the images above and right                                                                                                                        ******

15 members of the Constitutional Club who died in World War 1 were commemorated on a memorial, unveiled in 1922. Their names, carved and gilded, were inscribed on an oak tablet, which was  hung in the billiard room, opposite the main entrance.

Western Times 11 August 1922 p5 col2

For a list of those who died, see the section Conflict, under Ashburton in Peril 

Following on from Primrose Day (see above) came the formation of the Primrose League, for admirers of Benjamin Disraeli and the principles of Conservatism and imperialism.

Left: Badges worn by members of the Primrose League, which was formed in 1883 
Released under the GNU Free Documentation License

J E Geils, of Ashburton, received a Diploma of Knighthood' from the Primrose League in 1886.
Ref 1164B/11/11, Licences 1886-90, South West Heritage Trust, Devon Archive Catalogue - accessed 03-03-2022

J E Geils was John Edward Geils, who lived at Waye. For more see the page on Waye House, under People and Properties 2

Right: A letter from amongst the effects of the Misses Carter, who lived at 85, East St in the late 1900s. It was sent in 1929 from Reginald Bennett, of The Primrose League, to T Carter (their father ?)

T Carter had obviously had an idea on how to deal with the influence of Socialism. Mr Bennett replies "Emigration would do much to relieve conditions here and to develop Empire 

resources. Whether it would be possible to persuade large numbers of socialists to emigrate and to found a Socialist Republic in Northern Patagonia is rather doubtful...." 
From my own collection


                                       The Ashburton Choral Society

'He [Mr H O Jones] founded and conducted the choral society. Every year he presented a concert, with London artists and the Royal Marine Orchestra. They were considered social events of the year. Occasionally the parish church would be used and an oratorio sung, for which the acoustics of our splendid church were well nigh perfect.'
From the memories of Reg Andrews, born 1893.
Many thanks to Dave Hodge-Brooks and Ernie Smerdon.

1901 Charles Saunders, tenor, complimented Ashburton on the organization of its Choral and Orchestral Society.
Western Times 3 May 1901 p6 col1       

The Ashburton Choral Society was in existence in 1925, with President the Rev Prebendary A H Thompson, and Vice-President H J Mason.

See the poster for a Grand Festival Performance in that year, in the 1920s section of the Virtual museum.


                                                      Clubs and societies in the 1920s

(In the 1920s) the vicar and his wife were greatly respected, the church providing activities for children and young people. Teenagers did not exist then. There was Sunday School, King’s Messengers, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Cubs and Brownies. The chapels had their organisations too, children belonged to Guides and there were numerous other activities. I remember being taken by one of my chapel friends to see a magic lantern show for the princely sum of two pence. The first slide showed waves beating against rocks, I can still visualise it! A quite serious discussion between my mother and aunt took place as to whether I should be allowed to accompany my friend, happily for me it was agreed that as it was not a service, just a slide show, it probably wouldn’t do me any harm! On my arrival home I was cross-questioned by my mother, she seemed satisfied that I had not been indoctrinated, the opening hymn “Hark, hark my soul” being one of her favourites. This shows the hostility and suspicion that existed between church and chapel.


Thanks to Hazel Bray for the above item.


                                                          Ashburton Girl Guides, late 1920s.

Left: Ashburton Girl Guides. Eileen Martin is in the 3rd row up from the front and fourth one in from the left. She was presented that day with a prayer book by Lady Clinton for best patrol. 

Thanks to Christine Lunt for the photo and information


Above: Ashburton Girl Guides and Brownies. Eileen Martin is in the 3rd row up from the front and fourth one in from the left. She was presented that day with a prayer book by Lady Clinton for best patrol.
The vicar and his wife are in the centre row.
Elsie Edith May Rodgman (known as 'Billie'), aged about 12, is thought to be second from the right in the front row.

Thanks to Christine Lunt for the information about Eileen Martin, and to Nancy Frey for photograph, information about the vicar and information about Billie.

                                                The Ashburton and District Fanciers' Association

The Association met in 1932 after a lapse of a year, with a show in the Town Hall which attracted about 300 entries. There were categories for ducks and poultry, cagebirds, cats and rabbits. Mr R Bonstow won a trophy for gaining the most points in the show.
The Western Times 18 November 1932 p14 col6

                                                  Ashburton Dramatic and Musical Society

Some members of the cast from The Mikado, 1934:
Mr J C Nott
Mr E K Beer
Mrs Gladys Goodall
Mr R S Andrews
Mr J J Tape
Mrs Jones
Miss Moya Babington
Miss Mary French
Edward Dyson supervised the orchestra
Western Times 11 May 1934 p12 col1


                                       The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB)

Right and below: Medal of 'Ye Pride of Ashburton' commemorating 50 years between 1923 - 1973. The medal belonged to S W Kendall.
From my own collection


In 1937 'Ye Pride of Ashburton' Lodge held their third annual church parade. At this time the lodge had over 150 members.

Western Times 23 July 1937 p6 col2


                                     The Ashburton Mission Band

In April 1935 the newly formed Ashburton Mission Band performed sacred music in the Methodist Chapel.
Western Times 3 May 1935, p13 col1
Above: Members of the band.
In the following list of names one seems to be missing, but the band included Stanley Gill, ....Rooke, Gordon French, Bill Gill, Bill Ireland, Bill Stacey, Rev Knibb, Jeff Rooke, Jack Tucker, Owen Tucker, John Yolland, John Palk (sp?), Edgar Beer, Raymond Beer, Ken Stacey.
With many thanks to Morva Townsend