Continuity and Change over Sixty Years

Forums Memories about Life in Chagford (Themes) Continuity and Change over Sixty Years

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    Jon Lawrence

    Reflections … by Susan Matthew

    I first visited Chagford in the early 1960s after my parents, Denis and Sheila Matthew, moved here when my father was appointed manager of the local branch of Lloyds Bank. When he first arrived, there was a little local confusion because my father’s immediate predecessor at the bank had been Bill Matthews – no relation, but some people wondered if they were father and son. In those days Lloyds in Chagford was a full branch with a sub-branch in Moretonhampstead, and there was also a branch of the NatWest bank in Chagford. From about 2014 onwards there was a gradual reduction in the number of days and hours the banks were open, they said because so many customers had changed to using online banking. Despite local protests, by mid-2017 both banks had closed and after a brief gap they replaced their branches with mobile banks offering limited services once a week. The two mobile banks still operate but a cynic might wonder how long they will continue! I once heard that Lloyds Chagford was the only thatched bank in the country.

    My parents’ first home in Chagford was half the rectory. At that time the rectory was the large granite house now a private residence called Nattadon Hill House. The building was divided into two residences, the Rector Bill Buckmaster and his wife Zoe and their two daughters lived in one half, and my parents rented the other half. It was then a rambling, cold and draughty building. There was no central heating and the chimney in the living room of my parents’ half smoked so badly it was impossible to have an open fire. Paraffin heaters became a life-saver during the big freeze of 1962-63. In 1972 a new rectory was built in a corner of the grounds of the old one.

    The old Lloyds Bank building at 56 The Square is now home to several enterprises. The exterior of the building has been carefully retained and when I peep in through the front door I see the Lloyds’ huge walk-in strong room is still in situ (I would hazard a guess that it was impossible to remove it!). The rest of the interior has been renovated to accommodate its changed use. The upper floor has been maintained as residential accommodation, which it has been for very many years. The former NatWest premises at 2 The Square have been sympathetically converted to a mix of commercial and residential accommodation, but thankfully the ATM cash machine at the premises, which is a life-saver for so many people, residents and visitors alike, has continued to operate.

    My parents enjoyed participating in the local community and among other things were founder members of the Chagford Tennis Club and staunch supporters of the Chagford Show. They stayed on in Chagford after my father retired in 1969. I worked for the United Nations for many years, mostly in peace-keeping in Africa and the Middle East, and because Chagford had always been a warm and welcoming place I, too, decided to retire here. At Easter 1996 I flew home from the peace-keeping operation in Rwanda to view, and subsequently bought, the house where I now live – The Coach House, Mill Street. By dint of couriers coming to the wrong house, I have discovered there are three other Coach Houses in Chagford and I believe there may be a fourth when the Bellacouch Meadow housing development is completed!

    Over the years Chagford has changed and evolved. Naturally, there have been varying opinions regarding the impact of the changes – but throughout Chagford has remained an easy, peaceful and very pleasant place to live. While there are times when I miss the adrenaline flow that came from working in Africa and the Middle East, too often these days I also weep when I see the catastrophes that have befallen many of the countries where I lived and worked and the accompanying tragic destruction of so much of their history and cultural heritage. We are fortunate to live in Chagford.

    Susan Matthew
    September 2020

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