The Changing Face of Appledore

By Joan Dixon of the Appledore History Soceity The Appledore Historical Society was formed in 1995 by a group of Born-and-Bred Appledorians concerned that their village had changed so much in the previous twenty years that memories of their childhood and their parents’ and grandparents’ would soon be forgotten. 

Growing up in Appledore was a wonderful experience for myself and many others. As children we had great freedom and wandered where we chose. It was a very secure childhood, as we knew practically everyone that we met and they knew us and the family to whom we belonged. We played on the beach at a place called Badstep and on the breakwater where we played in amongst the large stones with all sorts of imaginary games. We had been told at a very young age that we must always be aware of the tide and what it was doing, so the breakwater was an ideal area as it had an iron ladder going up to the quay, so if the tide was rattling in rather fast as some tides do, then we could jump on the ladder and climb up to safety. Our social life was mainly through the church and as soon as we were old enough we would start Sunday School then on to Bible Class and Youth Club. Sunday School Summer Outings were usually to Ilfracombe but we didn’t mind going there year after year as it was so different from Appledore, and something which gave us much excitement and pleasure

The other highlights of our year would be The Regatta always held Bank Holiday Monday, the Carnival with many floats and walking characters which seemed to go on for ever, and of course Christmas Parties, always returning home with a small present off the tree plus an orange. Another thing that we took for granted at the time was that not many of our mothers’ worked so we always found them at home after School or when we came home from playing, we never gave it a second thought that one day many mothers would be forced to go out to work to subsidise the family income. Our parents never had much money, but as a family we were quite content with our lifestyle, holidays were few and far between and if taken would usually be spent with relatives who had moved elsewhere, going abroad was never even considered. “There were 45 shops in Appledore thus making us completely self sufficient” I know readers will find it difficult to believe but back in the forties and fifties there were 45 Shops in Appledore thus making us completely self sufficient, many were just front room shops selling a small number of groceries or sweets, but there were also larger one or two selling clothes and shoes also a very posh hat shop.

There were also vans that would call at our houses one selling bread and cakes, another one with meat, plus a local farmer selling vegetables and fruit, and I mustn’t forget to mention the Clovelly Herring man, there was great excitement amongst the ladies when he arrived, there was always a long queue to his van waiting to be served, everyone here seemed to enjoy their herrings and more importantly they made a very cheap meal. I think they were about 6d each. “Appledore has always been known as a working Town” Appledore has always been known as a working Town mainly because of our Shipyard plus 3 or 4 smaller boatbuilding yards in Irsha Street also our Glove Factory which employed approximately 200 ladies. In its hay day our dockyard employed about 500 men, not all from Appledore but also the surrounding area.

The wonderful skills that these men possessed were passed on from father to son over many generations and a few years ago when there was talk that the Shipyard may close for good, sadness was felt by everyone that if this happened these skills would eventually be lost for ever. I remember just a few years ago watching HMS Scott going off on her maiden voyage, many like me had a lump in their throat or a tear in their eye knowing that she was built by local men, husbands fathers, brothers and sons. She certainly looked a wonderful site as she made her way down the river. Thankfully at present things are looking good for our Yard we have just completed a contract for the Irish Navy and are hopeful for an order to build a Polar Research Vessel. Of course we must not forget Appledore’s oldest occupation that of Salmon fishing, when I was young there were numerous boats licensed to fish for Salmon, it was great to see them all setting off to their various points, and later when in bed to hear the swish of the salmon tails as they were pulled up the hill past my house, but now sadly there is just one license being issued, and in time even that will go as licenses cannot be transfered.

As I wrote earlier Appledore has always been a working town – but sadly we are now losing that title and are rapidly becoming a huge tourist attraction – a real honey pot for those looking for a different kind of break, I feel in a very short time we could easily become another Padstow or St Ives. Having lived here all my life I am not sure how I feel about this change but at present as they say I am just going with the flow.

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