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one foot in the past

Reproduced from an article printed in the Teignmouth Post & Gazette on 6.10.2017

by kind permission of the author and copyright holder Viv Wilson

Irene Foy nee Crocker


Born in Rowdens House lodge in 1920, Irene Foy nee Crocker (81 years old) contacted me from Nottingham in 2001 to share her thoughts of the old estate. Her parents were in service to Mr and Mrs Barklie who had just taken on a tenancy of the house, its lodge and extensive gardens. Among Teignmouth’s earliest motor car owners, Mr B was perfectly capable of driving himself but liked the kudos of having a personal chauffeur. The staff included a cook, butler, parlour maid, housemaid and 3 gardeners. A personal companion was also employed for Mrs M Barklie, the widow of Colonel Morrison formerly of Bitton House. Substantial households of this type began to evaporate between the wars when people were no longer willing to go into service in the traditional way. Irene, born with a heart defect, said in later life that she received so much care and consideration from Dr de Vine and the Barklies that she felt she owed her life to them.

It was a happy childhood for her and the daily routines soon became imprinted on her mind. Enjoying the freedom of the extensive grounds, pathway to the cliffs she noted that the lawns being kept neat by mowers pulled by a pony brought in for the purpose once a week. (see photos).

Her uncle Bowden was a live-in gardener at Cliffden during the 1930s but ill health forced him to retire early. He and his wife moved into Parson St, close to where Irene’s grandparents (Hallett) lived. Perhaps family threads still exist here.

Mrs Barklie had taken a shine to Irene and promised that when she married, her reception would be held in Rowdens’s large hall but it did not materialize as the young bride was whisked away to Nottingham.

After Mrs Barklie’s death, Rowdens House was bought by Doctors Bertha and Annie Mules (sisters) who in 1927 purchased Cliffden House to care for 8 women “of unsound mind”.


Today, Rowdens House contains 9 flats developed in the 1990s after the old building had lain fallow for years. The stylish fountain seen in the photo of the rose garden now adorns the terrace immediately in front of the house.


As a mature woman, Irene revisited Teignmouth and wishing to see the old house where she had been given so much affection discovered it was being run as the Beacon School. Mr Daunt the Headmaster gave her a tour of the building but the visit was distressing for her. Her third and final letter to me expressed hopes of returning to Teignmouth once more. “It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”


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