Thursday, 27 September 2018

Devon Voices to tell the Raleigh story

Singers from the East Budleigh area will portray Sir Walter’s life in words and music at a concert to benefit All Saints Church.  Tickets in advance for the event on Saturday 13 October at 7.30 pm can be obtained at the East Budleigh Village Shop.



Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Sherborne feasts for Sir Walter

Devon’s not the only county where Sir Walter is being remembered this year. At Sherborne, in the neighbouring county of Dorset, Raleigh built his New Castle in the early 1590s. It was a country retreat from the troubles that he’d experienced at Queen Elizabeth I’s court.

To lose his Sherborne estate when he fell out of favour with her successor James I must have been a bitter experience.  

He was deeply attached to his new home, and Raleigh enthusiasts in the Sherborne area are keen to show their appreciation of this remarkable Renaissance man and great British hero.

On Saturday 6 October the organisers of the Ralegh 400 Festival at Sherborne have planned a fantastic Tudor banquet in the town’s Memorial Hall.  Guests include Edward and Maria Wingfield Digby, owners of Sherborne Castle which is staging its own exhibition in honour of Sir Walter this year.    

There will be a large table of guests from the Eastbury Hotel, the elegant Georgian building recently acquired by entrepreneur Peter de Savary. The hotel is sponsoring the event by providing its chef and kitchen team. Guests in costume are welcome.

Sherborne enthusiasts involved in the Ralegh 400 Festival include Bob Walden, Chairman of the town’s Twinning Association, and Blue Badge guide Cindy Chant. They are pictured above, shortly after their interview with Sherborne Abbey’s 104FM Radio, conducted by presenter Jenny Devitt.

The interview was followed, inevitably, by Bob Newhart’s comedy turn ‘Nutty Walt’ and then a phone interview with Budleigh playwright Steve Andrews as a prelude to Steve’s recently produced play ‘From Exe to Axe’.

Sadly, bad weather prevented the play’s performance in Sherborne, but the Sherborne Festival feast on 6 October should go ahead without any such difficulty.  

Tickets for the Banquet are £30, obtainable from Sherborne’s Tourist Information Centre and WinstoneBooks, Sherborne,. with profits being donated to the charity The British Lung Foundation and Sherborne’s Yeatman Hospital.

On 26 October Raleigh biographer Anna Beer  will give a talk at a meeting of the town’s Historical Society

Find out more about Raleigh’s Sherborne Castle at
The Eastbury Hotel website is at


Sidmouth walkers in search of Sir Walter

As part of the Sidmouth and East Devon Walking Festival on 24  September, local ramblers set out on a walk called ‘In Search of Sir Walter Raleigh’. 

The idea was to tour the places associated with the Great Elizabethan, culminating in a visit to Fairlynch.  

Led by East Devon Ramblers member Norma Self, who started the festival with Ted Swan in 2014, the group met at the Public Hall in Budleigh Salterton before heading for Hayes Barton via Dalditch, Bystock and Squabmoor. Then it was back through East Budleigh, admiring picturesque Vicars Mead, where young Walter may have received his early schooling, and a visit to All Saints Church to see the Raleigh family pew. 

The final destination of Fairlynch and the Raleigh 400 exhibition, opened up specially for the group, did not disappoint. 

I really should have been in costume to welcome them.  



'A great and complex character'

'A great and complex character' is the title they've given to my article about Sir Walter and his legacy in the October 2018 edition of Devon Life, pages 138-9. I wouldn't argue with that. 


Our Great Elizabethan in Exmouth – yet more of my illustrated talks

On six occasions so far this year I’ve been given the chance to air my views about our local hero, and on Monday 1 October it will be the turn of members of the Exmouth Historical and Archaeological Society to hear what I have to say.

And, of course, anyone else who wants to come along.  Visitors are welcome at all meetings – entrance £2.00.The talk, illustrated with loads of slides, will start at 7.30 pm in the Glenorchy Church Hall on Exeter Road, Exmouth.

Sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be in costume. My Raleigh outfit is quite heavy and I can get overheated. But I thought the photo of me by Exmouth photographer Christine Chittock was so arresting that I put it on my Facebook page. 

If you can’t make the talk on 1 October I’ll be speaking again at the same venue on Wednesday 17 October at 2.30 pm, but to members of the Raleigh Centre, National Trust.

Websites for the two above societies are at

Sir Walter at St Peter’s Lympstone

Fairlynch Museum’s Education Outreach officer Lizzie Mee with Sir Walter, Head Charlotte Johnston and three of the pupils at St Peter's Preparatory School, Lympstone

All 300 pupils with their teachers at this leading independent preparatory school for 3 to 13- year-olds are involved in the Raleigh 400 project to learn about Sir Walter and his times. 

St Peter’s has its own baccalaureate which is well suited to the subject: it includes studies of explorers, Native America and the Tudors, and the impact of religion throughout history.

‘We would be very happy to promote the Raleigh 400 exhibition to our parents and children,' wrote the school's Head of Humanities Amy Hughes to Raleigh 400 organisers at Fairlynch Museum.  

'I have included it in my Humanities development plan and we are looking forward to ensuring that this important event, the 400th anniversary year of his death is one to remember. Staff are currently planning and deciding which activities to do with their classes. We fully support the work that you are doing. We plan to discuss how as a school we are going to make sure this local Devonian is remembered. We are excited!’  

Dressed in my finest apparel, complete with ostrich feather, rapier, bejeweled fingers,   (and of course colossal arrogance, as I told the children) Sir Walter gave an account of his amazing life.

Raleigh spoke for an impressive 40 minutes or so on the scaffold before he was executed. I didn’t have quite as long in the St Peter’s school assembly on Friday 21 September, and I’m not as tall as the great man but I hope I gave the children an idea of why he is our local hero.

Sir Walter Raleigh is indeed a fascinating character and it is great to see the children's interest in him grow,’ wrote Amy Hughes to me after the event.   



Thursday, 20 September 2018

Sir Walter led the LitFest

Author Anna Beer visited Fairlynch Museum’s Raleigh 400 exhibition before her Literary Festival talk to admire Sir John Everett Millais’ masterpiece The Boyhood of Raleigh.  The museum exhibition ends on 31 October.

It seemed only right that the first talk of Budleigh Salterton’s 2018 Literary Festival dealt with the complex character of Sir Walter Raleigh in the weeks leading up to the 400th anniversary of the East Devon hero’s death.

For historian Anna Beer who spoke to a packed audience in the Temple Methodist Church on  Wednesday 19 September it was her second visit to Budleigh, following the publication of her acclaimed 2004 biography of Raleigh’s wife Bess.    

Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh is Anna Beer’s latest book. It’s an authoritative but highly readable study of a man who, as the author writes, ‘lived more lives than most people of his time, of any time’.

His patriotism was clear, she told the audience, including his deep attachment to his home county.  ‘And a traitor?’ she asked. ‘You’ll have to read the book.’  

Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh by Anna Beer is published by Oneworld Publications ISBN 978-1-78607-434-8

Find out more about the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival at

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Raleigh Far and Wide: West Horsley - 'A School and that Head'

Quite a few schools have a link to Raleigh merely because they've chosen the name of our Great Elizabethan. However The Raleigh School in Surrey has a more substantial link and is clearly proud of it, as I found out from its Bursar, Peter Hill.

The school is a popular two-form entry co-educational primary academy in the semi-rural village of West Horsley, near Guildford.  It takes children from 4 to 11, and includes on site a privately run Nursery that admits children from the age of 2½

The vast majority of children move on at age 11, to the Howard of Effingham School, an outstanding academy that operates as the hub for a group of 10 schools making up the Effingham Learning Partnership, a thriving collaborative network for teaching and learning. 

West Horsley Place: the mid-17th century facade applied to the 15th-century structure.  Credit: Colin Smith

The Raleigh School's link is through its location in West Horsley.  It was at the Surrey manor house known as West Horsley Place that Raleigh’s only surviving son Carew came to live during the Civil War together with his mother Bess, who had kept her husband’s embalmed head in a leather bag after his execution in 1618.

St Mary’s Church, West Horsley  
Image credit: Hassocks5489

The date on which Sir Walter’s head was transferred to its final resting-place is unknown, but local historians in West Horsley claim that it lies under the floor of the chantry chapel of St Mary’s Church along with the bodies of Carew’s children who had died of the plague. 

Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Raleigh's half-brother. He features in Millais' celebrated painting 'The Boyhood of Raleigh'

The Raleigh School has reflected the link by naming parts of its building. One is known as Walter’s Wing. The Falcon Wing, for two older junior classes, is named after the 100-ton ship captained by Raleigh during the ill-fated expedition of November 1578 to discover ‘heathen and barbarous lands, counties and territories not actually possessed by any Christian prince or people’. 

Led by Raleigh’s half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert in November 1578 the expedition has been described as ‘an obviously disastrous adventure’ which failed to achieve any of its aims and ended up being seen by the Government as an embarrassing episode of piracy.

The four Houses which pupils join at The Raleigh School are also named after the ships associated with Sir Walter. Falcon is one; the three others are Roebuck, Ark Royal and Tyger. 

The Raleigh School also has a link with an American school in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

You can read more about The Raleigh School at

A Raleigh 400 Westminster Lecture: ‘The Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh’

Following on from the Symposium ‘Sir Walter Raleigh beyond England’ on 29 October there will be a lecture, ‘The Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh’ by Dr Mark Nicholls, of St John’s College, Cambridge from 6.30 – 7.30 pm.

Dr Nicholls’ publications include several analyses of conspiracies and state trials in Tudor and Stuart times, as well as studies of ‘succession politics’ at the death of Queen Elizabeth I and Raleigh’s political career. He was co-author with Penry Williams of Sir Walter Raleigh: in Life and Legend (2011).

Tickets: To book tickets (free), visit the Eventbrite website

An exhibition 'Sir Walter Raleigh and Virginia' will run from 
Monday 28 October – Wednesday 31 October:
Free entry. 
For opening times, please see


Westminster’s Raleigh 400 Symposium

Continued from

Statue of Sir Walter Raleigh at the Raleigh Convention Center in North Carolina

Raleigh’s legacy in the New World is well established, if only in the naming of the capital of the US state of North Carolina.

‘Sir Walter Raleigh beyond England’ is the title of a Symposium being conducted at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster on Monday 29 October, from 4.00 to 5.30pm, following the Sung Eucharist held the previous day.

Speakers from the USA who will contribute to the event include Dr Eric Klingelhofer, Emeritus Professor of History, at Mercer University, Georgia. Dr Klingelhofer has been involved in archaeological fieldwork at sites in Ireland and the Caribbean as well as at sites related to Elizabethan colonization in North Carolina.

Also speaking will be Dr Beverley Straube, Curator/Archaeologist, at the First Colony Foundation (FCF), with which Dr Klingelhofer has been involved.  

The Foundation, a North Carolina  non-profit organization formed in April 2003, is dedicated to conducting archaeological and historical research relating to the story of America’s beginnings with the attempts by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish English colonies at Roanoke Island in the 1580s under his charter from Queen Elizabeth I.

You can read more about the important and fascinating work of the FCF at

To book tickets (free) for the St Margaret’s Symposium, visit the Eventbrite website

To read about the Raleigh Lecture which follows the Symposium, click here

An exhibition 'Sir Walter Raleigh and Virginia' will run from 
Monday 28 October – Wednesday 31 October:
Free entry. 

For opening times, please see


Radical Ralegh

The point about Sir Walter Ralegh: historian Anna Beer with Millais’ celebrated 1870 painting at Fairlynch Museum.  Dr Beer’s visi...