The last post outlined what historiographical surveys are and the reasons as to why they are useful (as well as why I am incorporating them into an assessment on the History with English foundation degree that I teach on). I have written a sample survey to provide to students; rather than waste my time on an unrelated topic I chose one that is closer to my heart: St. Budeaux. It is a topic that I have written and researched about on a few occasions, and so here is a survey of what other local historians and antiquarians have added to our understanding of this once-village-now-suburban estate. (And yes, I have included myself in the survey; for as it turns out my modest articles are sizeable additions to the historiography of the village).
The influential historian, W.G. Hoskins, once commented that the study of local history presents various problems for the reader: local histories are smaller snapshots and pieces of information, rather than a fully written narrative. They are, to use his analogy, the separate ingredients of a meal – the meat and potatoes – but not the finished cooked product. The village of St. Budeaux is very much similar to Hoskins’ analogy, and therefore similar to the majority of other English settlements: despite a long existence it has never experienced the honour of a full, deep, meaningful historical study. As with many villages and suburban districts its history is a potted one; it is the domain of antiquarians, local historians, and enthusiasts over the centuries that continue to preserve the story and events of this one, small location.
Until the 20th Century, the only printed writing on St. Budeaux’s history came with smaller glimpses in the form of larger publications that focussed on Devon or Plymouth; principally Lysons’ History of Devonshire (1822), Jewitt’s A History of Plymouth (1873) and Worth’s History of Plymouth from the Earliest Period to the Present Day (1890). However, St. Budeaux is treated – as its geographical location deserves – as a peripheral character, with each of these histories highlighting and repeating an established narrative of the village’s story: its supposed founding by St. Budoc in the 5th Century, the Domesday Book entry of 1086, the founding of the parish in 1482, the construction of the present-day Elizabethan church (and Drake’s marriage there in 1569), as well as the skirmishes during the Civil War of the 1640s. This approach was continued in the 20th Century with Bracken’s A History of Plymouth and Her Neighbours (1931), Walling’s The Story of Plymouth (1950), and in later books, such as Chris Robinson’s numerous publications and Crispin Gill’s Plymouth: A New History (1993). The lack of emphasis on St. Budeaux itself meant that the established narrative was repeated again and again, with no deeper research or wider understanding of the village’s progression throughout the centuries.
The first serious, focussed work on the village comes in the form of H. Montagu Evans; Evans was an active local historian, and in 1913 his essay ‘St. Budeaux – Its Manors and First Church’ was printed in Transactions of the Plymouth Institution. The essay demonstrates Evans’ considerable research into the principle manors of the area (with a specific focus on Budshead) and it has not yet been superseded by later generations. The same institution – the Plymouth Institution – also published a later essay from Thomas Hancock, a reverend of St. Budeaux Church. His 1934 essay – ‘St. Budeaux: Its Documents and Its Treasures’ – joins Evans’ earlier work as cornerstone historical pieces on the understanding of St. Budeaux parish. Both provided a platform that has been continued by later local historians, including the emphasis on the importance of Budshead Manor, as well as providing a greater understanding of the church’s role in community life.
The village was not the specific focus of any additional publications until the second half of the 20th Century. In 1963 Barnes and Bevington published a pamphlet entitled A Safe Stronghold, with the more modest subtitle: A short historical sketch and guide to St. Budeaux parish church. The pamphlet acts as a brief walkthrough of the major points of St. Budeaux’s history, yet again repeating the established narrative: St. Budoc’s arrival, the establishment of the Elizabethan church, the Civil War skirmishes, etc and etc. Beyond this, it does not delve into any more deeper detail than Hancock’s earlier essay from the 1930s, however, no doubt the pamphlet has served a purpose in widening understanding of the basic plot points of the village’s history.
Later popular publications came in the form of Marshall Ware’s booklets: St. Budeaux – Yesterday’s Village (1980) and The Ancient Parish of St. Budeaux (1983). Both were pictorial books, the type of which retains popularity in the realm of local history; this is undoubtedly due to their focus on nostalgia and thing as they once were (before urban development and the influence of globalisation). Ware’s books were affectionately received by locals, however, neither were serious scholarly efforts in terms of obtaining a deeper understanding of St. Budeaux’s history. Ware himself was witness to a great change in the village, from a self-contained settlement which transformed into a suburb of Plymouth – his longevity is demonstrated in his relationship with H. Montagu Evans, with the older historian presented the younger one with a greenstone Neolithic axe in 1910 – so, it is unfortunate that he was not able to develop this change in more writings. There are a few examples available beyond the pictorial publications, notably his essay Barne (1977) which provides valuable insight on the history of Barne Barton (and is available in the local library archive).
This pictorial approach was continued two decades later in the form of Derek Tait’s St. Budeaux (2007) and Memories of St. Budeaux (2009). Both books focussed on nostalgia rather than attempts at new, deeper research of St. Budeaux; and Tait replicates Ware’s earlier approach of predominately using photographs with captions of text (in many instances, the use of photographs and information are almost identical). However, Tait’s books are a welcome addition to the wider fabric, and it is pleasing to note how Tait’s and Ware’s relationship was similar to that of Ware’s and Montagu Evans’, with Tait holding many of Ware’s cuttings and notes.
Beyond this, finding out the history of St. Budeaux is a chore in which the local reader must actively search out smaller articles from different sources, including that of the local newspaper (the Plymouth Herald). Other scholarly attention has been minimal and sparse, with other inclusions focussing on single characters rather than full narratives; these include Amphlett Micklewright’s ‘Sir Harry Trelawny – A Forgotten Worthy’ (1949) and ‘The Correspondence of the Rev. B.W.S. Vallack’ (1982) by D.W. Dewhirst. Such articles have been added to in the 21st Century with Wildman’s ‘Rev. Thomas Alcock: Vicar & Eccentric’ (2008) and ‘The Trelawnys of Budshead Manor’ (2008).
The use of websites over the past two decades has provided another outlet for information, however, the majority of these (notably blogs) are ephemeral rather than static. Furthermore, the majority of them simply repeat information from earlier sources (notably that of the 1963 Barnes and Bevington pamphlet). Their greatest role, perhaps, is the preservation of this earlier material, rather than progression of more meaningful, deeper research. The website, Plymouth Data, by local historian Brian Moseley was an excellent example of what could be achieved on the web, however, it is no longer active and available for use.
By the time of the end of the second decade of the 21st Century the village remains barren of a deeper, serious study. This is a shame, especially if we consider St. Budeaux’s rich history and areas of possible debate; these include the supposed connection to St. Budoc and its founding in 410 AD, the role that Budshead Manor played in regional affairs in the early modern period, as well as its charismatic vicars over the centuries. Perhaps the remainder of the 21st Century will be more kind to this former village.
Amphlett Micklewright, F.H. (1949) ‘Sir Harry Trelawny – A Forgotten Worthy (1756-1834)’ in Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries, 1949.
Barnes, I.F. & Bevington, C.R. (1963) A Safe Stronghold (A short historical sketch and guide to St. Budeaux parish church) (Plymouth: St. Budeaux Parish Church).
Bracken, C.W. (1931) A History of Plymouth and Her Neighbours (Great Britain: Underhill).
Evans, H. Montagu (1913) ‘St. Budeaux: Its Manors and First Church’, from Transactions of the Plymouth Institution, Vol. 12 (pp.290-306)
Gill, C. (1993) Plymouth: A New History (Great Britain: Devon Books).
Hancock, Rev. T.A. (1934) ‘St. Budeaux: Its Documents and Its Treasures’, from Transactions of the Plymouth Institution, Vol.17 (pp.305-318)
Jewitt, L. (1873) A History of Plymouth (Plymouth: W.H. Luke).
Tait, D. (2007) St. Budeaux (Great Britain: Driftwood Coast Publishing)
Tait, D. (2009) Memories of St. Budeaux (Great Britain: Driftwood Publishing)
Ware, M. (1977) Barne (St. Budeaux Library).
Ware, M. (1980) St. Budeaux – Yesterday’s Village (Plymouth: Arthur L. Clamp).
Ware, M. (1983) The Ancient Parish of St. Budeaux (Plymouth: Arthur L. Clamp).
Wildman, D. (2008) ‘Rev. Thomas Alcock: Vicar & Eccentric’ in The Devon Historian, Vol.77.
Wildman, D. (2008) ‘The Trelawnys of Budshead Manor’ in The Cornish Banner (An Baner Kernewek).
Worth, R.N. (1890) History of Plymouth from the Earliest Period to the Present Day (Great Britain: William Brendon & Son).