Friday, 15 December 2017

50 Years Ago: ‘The Boyhood’ at Budleigh - Pt 3

'The Boyhood of Raleigh'

Continued from

As I’ve noted elsewhere, a small group of Budleigh people were making a massive effort in the late 1960s to bring Millais’ painting ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’ back to the town. Some of the ways in which this was done were quite novel. Pun intended.

Budleigh-born author Victor Clinton-Baddeley. 

Image courtesy of The Shirburnian

It’s no coincidence that a detective story by the Budleigh-born author Victor Clinton-Baddeley which makes indirect reference to the painting was being written at around this time and was finally published in 1970, a century after ‘The Boyhood’ was exhibited in London.    

Clinton-Baddeley, brought up in Budleigh, was a childhood friend of Joyce Dennys, the Budleigh artist and author whose play ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ I wrote about at

He spent much of his working life in London but had a had a deep attachment to this part of Devon, even though, like fellow-author R.F. Delderfield he rather enjoyed poking fun at its stuffier elements. He seems to have collaborated with Joyce Dennys in co-writing her first play, ‘The Cup that Cheers’, produced in 1927. In August 1939 he took part in a charity show ‘in aid of debt on the Public Hall’, acting in a sketch by Joyce Dennys called ‘Half Term’.

This hitherto unpublished framed cartoon looks very much like Joyce Dennys’ work,  accompanied by Victor Clinton-Baddeley’s ditty:

The tide of Good Breeding
Is always receding -
A peril that makes us un-nerved -
And lest summer's effulgence
Should lead to indulgence
The decencies MUST be preserved.
There's a right ettiquette [sic]
In the way one gets wet -
And there's one view we all of us share -
If the Ladies bathe HERE
It's abundantly clear
That the Gentlemen bathe OVER THERE,
The Gentlemen bathe over there.

No Case for the Police, featuring the donnish amateur detective Dr Davie is set in a village called Tidwell St Peter’s, for which we should obviously read Budleigh Salterton. He makes a return visit to the place of his birth to stay at a hotel called The Ottery Arms – for this read The Rolle Hotel on Fore Street. The building has now been transformed into flats.    

If you still have doubts, read the following passage:

The Raleigh Wall with its ‘mushroom’ top end-piece

‘Davie turned to the left and wandered along the path towards the parade. Presently he reached the broad sea wall with the end-piece shaped like a mushroom. Children had run along the top of it these hundred years.

The blue plaque was added to the Wall by the Otter Valley Association in 1996

‘A famous wall it was, too, immortalized by Ambrose Faddle, A.R.A., in that endlessly popular picture ‘Sons of the Sea, in which four early Victorian fisher boys sit dangling provocative toes, listening to an old salt telling the story of Trafalgar. ‘Sons of the Sea’ had been exhibited at the Academy in 1880, but dates of that sort are not worth anyone’s verification, and several aged fishermen, but not as aged as that, were in the habit of claiming that they had been the original models. All of which was splendid nonsense. Yet anyone who knew the aboriginal families of Tidwell St Peter’s could easily trace likenesses. George Pengelly who worked at the garage was exactly like the long-faced boy on the left of p.9 Ambrose Faddle’s masterpiece. Likely indeed that the boy had been George’s grandfather.’ 

‘Sons of the Sea’ is evidently Clinton-Baddeley’s version of ‘Boyhood of Raleigh’. Millais was elected ARA - Associate of the Royal Academy - in 1853.

Smuggling is introduced as a theme early on in the novel, with the author’s reflection on the Reverend Ambrose Stapleton p.18 - ‘Splendid old Stapleton!’ as Clinton-Baddely calls him - the locally celebrated 19th century ‘smuggling vicar’ of All Saints’ Church in East Budleigh.  No Case for the Police puts smuggling in a 20th century context.

The character of a local fisherman, Walter Ford, bears a striking resemblance, according to Clinton-Baddeley, to a character in Ambrose Faddle’s ‘Sons of the Sea’. He is ‘small and dark’, looks like a pirate, and, the narrator tells us, ‘in the manner of an earlier age, he actually wore little gold earrings in his ears.’ It seems likely that this detail in Clinton-Baddeley’s novel is inspired directly by Millais’ portrayal of the old salt in ‘The Boyhood’.

‘If he had claimed to be the original sailor in Ambrose Faddle’s masterpiece the visitors would hardly have disbelieved him: and in fact his great-grandfather had been the very man,’ concludes Clinton-Baddeley’s narrator.  

Ford’s business partner in Tidwell St Peter’s is Ernest Stubbings, a man with a finger in every pie. Smuggling is indeed the background to the crime that Davie solves. But drugs, rather than the brandy associated with the Reverend Ambrose Stapleton, is what these 20th century smugglers are involved with. It turns out that ‘Stubbings was running the drugs as he ran everything else in Tidwell St Peter’s.’

We don’t know whether Victor Clinton-Baddeley came back to Budleigh Salterton to see the ‘Ambrose Faddle’ masterpiece at Fairlynch Museum. But he must have been amused and pleased to feel that he had contributed imaginatively to his Budleigh friends’ campaign to bring ‘The Boyhood’ back home.  

Sadly he died in 1970, at the early age of 70. He was buried in the family plot in All Saints’ Church graveyard in East Budleigh.

You can read more about Victor Clinton-Baddeley and the Budleigh Salterton setting for No Case for the Police at


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