Excursions in the Tamar Valley: Postcards Home.
An illustrated talk by Dr Helen Wilson on Thursday 2nd December 2021 at 7pm in The Devon Rural Archive.
When paddle steamers were introduced as pleasure craft in the mid-nineteenth century, seats were expensive and beyond the reach of most people. As the cost of tickets fell in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, taking an outing on a steamer became a popular pastime. Excursions on the River Tamar, which was navigable up to the weir below Gunnislake on the right tide, became an attractive outing from Plymouth. The steam boats would stop at suitable locations for passengers to alight, explore the area and partake of refreshments at the numerous ‘tea houses’ that sprang up to cater for the trade. This boom in river excursions coincided with an upsurge in the availability of postcards, which could be purchased cheaply and sent to relatives and friends at a reduced postal rate. These postcards record a bye-gone era of leisure activity – the excursion.
Dr Helen Wilson is perhaps better known as a speaker on the Devon woodcarver Violet Pinwill. She began collecting postcards of churches associated with Pinwill work several years ago but, as a keen member of the Friends of the Tamar Valley, she soon became drawn to early images of this most attractive area and to the idea of paddle steamer excursions as a Victorian and Edwardian pastime. Helen was born and bred in Plymouth and, living on the boundary, has developed an interest in both Devon and Cornwall. She obtained a degree and doctorate at Plymouth University but since leaving academia has developed an enthusiasm for local history and applied her research skills to a number of projects. She sits on the Executive Committee of the Devonshire Association and is Chair of its Buildings Section.
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