Peter Orlando Hutchinson spent all his adult life in
Sidmouth, Devon. The son of a doctor and a man of
adequate means, he was able to pursue a wide range of
interests extraordinary even by Victorian standards.
Everything interested him, from fishermen's tales to
international politics, and into his diary went such
details as precise astronomical measurements, the
latest methods of preserving telegraph poles, the
design of an iron-clad gunboat he proposed to the government,
and the result of testing explosive shells of his
own design on Sidmouth beach.
His many talents matched his interests whether
performing on the flute or French Horn in public concerts
in Exeter, carving decorative stonework for the
newly restored Sidmouth church, or building his home
the Old Chancel, out of discarded fragments of
churches in the vicinity.
His pioneering geological observations and archaeological
researches arc now of special value, particularly
his mapping of Bronze Age burial mounds of south-east
Devon, many of which have now disappeared. Above all,
it is as an artist and inveterate recorder of what he saw
and heard that makes Hutchinson’s diaries and sketchbooks
such a valuable and interesting addition to the
literature of Devon. It is these that are brought
together and published in this superbly illustrated book.
The text for this work is based on Hutchinson’s five volume
diary now held in the Devon Record Office,
supplemented here and there with extracts from
letters and other manuscript sources. The illustrations
come from six volumes of sketchbooks, also held in the
DRO. These contain hundreds of watercolours, many of
which are miniature masterpieces. Other watercolours
and fine pen-and-ink sketches are taken from the diaries,
from manuscripts sent to the Society of Antiquaries in
London, from Hutchinson's manuscript history of
Sidmouth (in the West Country Studies Library), and
elsewhere, totalling over 450 illustrations.
Jeremy Butler is best known for his
five-volume work The Dartmoor Atlas of
Antiquities long held to be the premier
archaeological study of that landscape.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 075 6 (standard edition), 978 0 85704 077 0 (slipcased edition), hardback, 297x210mm, 200 pages. Published Novemver 2010.