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The Fragments of Devon collection of paintings and drawings is split over 3 pages on this website simply for ease of viewing because of the numbers involved. There are 24 pieces in total. Please also see the Introduction and Artist’s Statement relating to this work.
Glances at Salcombe
Oil on Canvas 50 x 40 cm
Salcombe is a popular resort town close to the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary in the South Hams district of Devon, South West England. It is mostly built on the steep west side of the estuary. The town’s extensive waterfront and the naturally sheltered harbour formed by the estuary gave rise to its success as a boat and ship building, and sailing port.
This painting, as well as celebrating the picturesque harbour, is considering the way we look at a scene. We do not look like a camera looks, one click and all the detail is recorded. On the contrary, we look with a series of glances, with our eyes flitting from one interesting part of the scene to another. Inevitably we return our gaze on parts of the scene (paying attention is parallel with focusing) so that some parts are examined in more detail, and consequently remembered more accurately.
The 5 boxes drawn on this picture represent the concentration of glances.
Within ferry reach of Dartmouth, this second ferry, just a small boat really, at Dittisham carries passengers across from the ‘Ferry Boat Inn’ on the Dittisham side across to the quay above which, hidden by the trees, is the large house of Greenway now owned by the National Trust, but previously owned by Agatha Christie. There is a large collection of 2,700 trees on that side of the river.
It was a lovely spot, mild for December, with a light breeze. It was nice to walk out to the ferry pontoon and look up the river where it broadened into a wide sound full of anchored boats. Not many boats can anchor up for the winter in Wales. My eye fell on a beautiful green vessel with a strange cross-like structure on the back. I reasoned that the structure has some professional use, as a ferry or a special kind of fishing boat. It somehow awakened my imagination.
Thus this painting led to the next.
Green Boat on the Dart near Dittisham
This boat caught my eye. It seemed to be the most authentic, being part of the working life of the river, rather than the rash of posh plastic ‘gin palaces’ parked elsewhere. To be honest, I was impressed by the multifarious activity that goes on around the edges of the river – boatyards, mills, farms, workshops and the like. I get the impression of a lot of watery folk hereabouts.
Anyway, the mystery of this boat remains, I have not yet returned to make enquiries, but there is something both robust and elegant about this craft, with the pair of medieval crosses, that it brings to mind Ophelia and a Pre Raphaelite painting.
Descent to Kingswear Ferry
Kingswear is a small settlement on the east side of the river from Dartmouth. Some of the ferry traffic comes this way, to proceed by road to Brixham, Paignton and the East. A car ferry and foot passenger ferry discharge through the large arch visible at the bottom of this road.
Also visible are the buildings of a steam railway line that runs privately between Kingswear and Paignton. A rather elegant station begins on the quayside below my viewpoint in this picture. That is Dartmouth, shrouded a bit in sea mist, on the opposite side of the river.
I contemplated a painting higher up the road from this position, to include a picturesque pub (whose inside I sampled a little later on), but settled on this view instead. There is a Parisian air to this building.
At the southern end of Tor Bay is Brixham, a small fishing town in the county of Devon. The name may be one of the rare Brythonic survivals in England coming from ‘Brioc’s village’. ‘Brioc’ was an old English or Brythonic personal name and ‘-ham’ is an ancient term for village.
Now it is a busy work a day town – busy with fishing and a population swollen by tourists in the summer. This slipway is widely used by the pleasure boat crowd, but beside it is the statue commemorating the landing site of William of Orange, so momentous landings have occurred here. Another memory of adventure on the high seas is symbolised by the floating copy of the ‘Golden Hind’ now a visitor’s attraction beside this slipway.
This painting is exploring peripheral vision.
Brixham Overgang Steps
William Prince of Orange (afterwards King William III of Great Britain & Ireland) landed in Brixham, with his mainly Dutch army, on 5 November 1688 during the Glorious Revolution, and issued his famous declaration, “the liberties of England and the Protestant religion I will maintain”.
It is said that many local people still have Dutch surnames, being direct descendants of soldiers in that army. The steps in this picture lead from the harbour up a steep hill, to where the Dutch made their camp, is still called Overgang, Dutch for ‘passage’ or ‘crossing’.
Crewmen from the Ebenezer in an old photograph that was hanging on the quay wall in Brixham.
The “Ebenezer”, official No. 81,402, was a British wooden cutter, built by Samuel Dewdney and Sons, at Brixham, Devonshire, in 1879, and she was registered as a trawler there in the same year. This fishing trawler sank some years later with these men on board.
Dartmouth Castle Ferryman
This is one of the many ferries from Dartmouth, and this ferryman plies his trade between the castle and the centre of town.
I took the ride on the last day of the season, when he told me he would return to fishing for the winter. I’m not sure I would take up fishing in such a bleak time of year, but he looks a hardy fellow.
As I boarded the ferry beside the castle, I realised that I had found the view that had eluded me elsewhere. It is dramatic to look up at the medieval buildings, church to the fore. You virtually step from the carved rock footsteps into the boat, as people must have done for hundreds of years.