Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard… 

If you ever driven through the village of Yealmpton in the South Hams you will have noticed Old Mother Hubbard’s cottage. Squat along the road with an undulating thatched roof, thick stone walls and tiny cottage windows it stands out to passers-by, if nothing else because of its interesting juxtaposition of now housing a Chinese restaurant. 

We have all heard the nursery rhyme of ‘Old Mother Hubbard’, but did you know that this famous children’s rhyme originated from Yealmpton?

It was written by Sarah Catherine Martin in 1805 while she was staying with her sister, Mrs Pollexfen Bastard, at Kitley. The rhyme is supposed to be based on the old housekeeper at Kitley and was written for the entertainment of the family and other guests during her stay. It is also thought that the lines about the cupboard being bare relate to the great shortage of food at that time due to the Napoleonic wars.  The story is told that the house keeper lived at Old Mother Hubbard’s cottage in her retirement, but this can’t be verified. It was published in June 1805 by John Harris and was an immediate success selling (according to Harris) over 10,000 copies. In 1806 a sequel was published called ‘A Continuation of the Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog’. Both books used engravings from Martin’s own designs. 

You can find more information in Yealmpton Yesterday by Peter Holloway which is available to read in our Research Library. 

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