Review of ‘Devon, Its Moorlands, Streams and Coasts’ by Rosalind Northcote

A very surprising and impressive book all about the English county of Devon. This was my second random pick from Project Gutenberg and it turned out to be a very good read, if rather bloated and idiosyncratic.

This is a trip around Devon with a very knowledgeable tour guide, Lady Rosalind Northcote. She stops at places with a lot of historical significance, interesting architecture, idyllic landscape or famous inhabitants. She certainly knows her stuff, particularly about the gentry, the English Civil War and church styles. I have discovered via the Devon History Society that although she was born in North Yorkshire and lived in London, the family had a country house near Exeter and she was much involved with Devonshire life. She sounds like a formidably good character, being a suffragist, animal welfare campaigner and having been awarded a medal for her work in the First World War.

Most of the book is very interesting and there are some lovely watercolour illustrations. The many quotations from verses were not to my taste, however. It’s also quite amusing when Lady Northcote says we don’t have space to dwell on such-and-such person or event… and then she tells us about them anyway! She reminds me of a chatty visitor who keeps saying they must be going but then they find something more to talk about. The title is perhaps misleading, as although the travel does follow the moors, streams and coasts, the focus is on the people and buildings more than the wildlife and natural landscape. It’s strange to consider that what she describes as ‘modern’ buildings are now, to us, old and quaint.

First published in 1908. Pictured: Teignmouth & Shaldon and Ottery St Mary.

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