Monthly talk: David Gearing – Dawlish Life in Pictures 1865-1925

The cast of ‘HMS Pinafore’ performed in The Hut in 1925 by Miss Westenra’s Amateur Operatic Society

At our February meeting, members filled the Council Chamber to enjoy a fascinating presentation by David Gearing of photographs showing aspects of life in Dawlish during the years 1865-1925.  David is one of our members and also the Chair of the Dawlish Local History Group which is the custodian of an extensive archive of photographs.  A sample of the rich resource this offers can be seen by following this link: Dawlish Local History Group.

David selected 30 photographs from this period, beginning with the very earliest photograph in the archive.  We saw images of the changing face of the Strand, the evolving construction and engineering works on the sea front, rough and ready roads in the town, the development of the railway line, the active fishing community at Boat Cove, pupils at the local school, the G&S Society, a remarkable number of children displaying their violins, the changing fashions and conventions about how people dressed over the years, and a fleeting visit by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII).

The Strand, 1905. Avants auction shop with two fashionably dressed ladies and an elegant pushchair

What the pictures themselves intended to show us is interest enough, but it is often the unintended, accidental details of a photograph which are most intriguing.  What exactly was that man doing playing a musical instrument in an empty street outside the hairdresser?  Why does no-one seem to smile when they are being photographed?  Why is there such a crowd gathered on the beach?  (It seems they were there to watch a water polo match.)  As we sat in the Council Chamber, we learned of the history of the contractor who built Early’s Wall which gives access to Coryton Cove, who seems to have been unjustly driven into bankruptcy by the ill treatment from the Town Council.

Ceremony marking arrival of a new steam-powered horse-driven water pump for Dawlish fire service, 1900

David is currently working on the next phase of his presentation on Dawlish Life in Pictures, this time taking the history from 1925 to the 1960s.  He will be showing this at the Local History Group AGM on 19th April.  I am sure David would welcome enquiries from anyone who would like to join the Group to learn more about the often surprising story of our town and its people.

John Vick

Photos credit: Dawlish Local History Group