Swimbridge can fairly claim to be one of North
Devon’s most attractive and most interesting
villages, set in a deep valley watered by the
Venn Stream and overlooked by rolling hills.
The village itself, grouped around its
gem of a parish church, is forever associated
with the famous hunting parson, the Rev. John
Russell – Parson Jack – and the breed of dog he
originated. It stands at the centre of a much
wider parish, once one of the largest in Devon.
Although life in the twentieth century was
largely centred around agriculture (which
remains a vital part of the local economy today.
Swimbridge also boasts a considerable industrial
heritage, based upon leather tanning,
quarrying and mining.
The village was fortunate
throughout most of the twentieth century
to enjoy good transport links, with a railway
station on the Barnstaple-Taunton line, and a
regular bus service to the market town of
Barnstaple, less than 5 miles distant.
The book examines life in Swimbridge
during the momentous decades from 1900 to
the Millennium, looking back where appropriate
to examine the factors that formed the
settlement, and forward to see how the village
has responded to the challenges of the twentyfirst
It looks closely at the people of the parish,
who made up a varied and fascinating community
– gentry, farmers, smallholders, and
those who worked in the tannery and quarries,
and on the railway line. It records their daily
lives at work and play, and examines the major
roles played by the churches, the village
school – one of the finest in Devon – and the
refurbished village hall.
There are stories of triumph and tragedy,
both in war and in peace, feuds and friendships,
together with fascinating eye-witness
accounts of what it was really like to live in
Swimbridge throughout a tumultuous century.
Philip Dalling can trace his family’s roots in Swimbridge
back to the late seventeenth century. He is a
journalist and author who has worked on regional
newspapers and in media relations for government,
and in industry and higher education. He is a regular
contributor to Devon Life magazine.
He is the first cousin of Swimbridge historian
Mervyn Dalling and is the custodian of the extensive
collection of historical records and photographs
amassed by Mervyn during a lifetime of interest in
the lives of villagers, past and present. As such, this
volume forms a tribute to Mervyn’s life and work.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 270 5, hardback, 297x210mm, 160 pages. Published October 2015
The Book of Swimbridge is to be published in October 2015, priced at £24.99.