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“Behind the house opened a narrow coomb and descended a road to the dwelling.....Far beneath the habitation, just above a high-tide level, a strip of shingle spread, and above it a sea cave had been turned into a boathouse.” If any reader recognises this scene I would


be interested to know. Was it an actual location he had seen, a composite picture, or an entirely imagined place? The writer’s association with the area continued when, in 1906, he bought a large Victorian house, Mount Ridley, in Kingswear, for his mother and brother Herbert Macdonald Phillpotts, a doctor. He hoped the move would distract his grieving mother after the untimely death of her third son Cecil. Cecil, “an adventurer” according to his niece Adelaide, had died of fever in South Africa. Eden himself lived nearby in Torquay at this time. The Phillpotts lived at Mount Ridley between 1906 and 1910 and were visited by Eden’s children Henry, later an artist, and Adelaide, later a writer, in school holidays and for Dart- mouth Regatta. They enjoyed the wonderful views from the house, over to Dartmouth and towards the sea, with Henry sketching the many visiting boats. Examples of Henry’s drawings can be seen in the Exeter University archive. The Dart estuary at this time was a busy industrial harbour with fishing, boat building, coaling and the railway as well as the Naval College.


Besides his medical practice Herbert took in


a paying residential patient with dementia and was involved with the Cottage Hospital, being a qualified surgeon. He was a freemason and, a fun-loving man, took part in charitable events, acting in a drama entertainment, for example, at a Dartmouth and Kingswear District Nursing


Mount Ridley, Kingswear


Left: St Saviours Dartmouth, the 15thC screen and the rood of 1891, to which Eden Phillpotts objected


Was it an actual location he had seen, a


composite picture, or an entirely imagined place?


Association bazaar. He kept bees which thrived on flowers in the garden provided by Eden, a keen gardener and plant breeder. In a lengthy letter to the Dart- mouth and South Hams Chronicle in 1909, Herbert bemoaned the lack of medical provision in case of accident in the area. This may sound familiar to local residents today. He had attended two accidents in Kingswear. In the first


THE DARTMOUTH HISTORY RESEARCH GROUP researches and records the history of Dartmouth and surrounding villages. If you’re interested in Dartmouth’s rich history, have a look at their many publications (available in the Community Book- shop, in the museum, or directly from the DHRG) at their website www. dartmouth-history.org. uk, or go along to one of their meetings – dates are on the home page. It costs nothing to join and new members are always welcome.


a man fell down steps and had to be taken to the hospital on the horse ferry using a stretcher from the station. In the second a sailor fell off the quay and also needed hospital treatment. Herbert urgently wanted provision in Kingswear if the ferry was unavailable to take patients over to the hos-


pital in Dartmouth or if the patient was too badly injured to be moved: “Surely Sir the few pounds necessary each year to pay the rent of some


bedroom...could be got together without any great effort.....such provision is absolutely necessary....we shall find ourselves unable to render the assistance which may be urgently needed to save life.” One wonders if Herbert’s warning was heeded. A year later there was


certainly nothing in place when the doctor and other medical staff were involved in the case of a patient who had died. A coroner’s inquest criti- cised management of the hospital and uncertainty over the responsibility of the doctors for the care of each other’s patients. In 1908 a woman had died after childbirth due to similar confusion. By 1910 the Phillpotts had moved from Mount Ridley to Paignton, possibly due to Herbert’s ill health and the inquest, and their association with Dartmouth and Kingswear ended. Eden continued to write about the Dart in some of his other novels and poems. The Red Redmaynes is worth reading for its descriptions of the area


as well as for its interesting plot. It is freely available on www.gutenberg. org and www.archive.org. Eden also published detective fiction under the pseudonym Harrington Hext. A short biography From An Obtuse Angle by David Needham gives an insight into Eden Phillpotts’ life and writing and is available from www.lulu.com


© Photograph Jean Tomlinson


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