Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


by Sue Jackson

At the beginning of September 2022 another research query was received by Frances and forwarded to me. It was from Tony Dunlop, a not-for-profit local history researcher in West Yorkshire, mainly in the Batley, Dewsbury and Morley areas. His current research concerned a story of a WWI Dewsbury casualty, the end result being a “Little Book” aiming for donations for this year’s Poppy Appeal. The subject in question was Gunner Ernest Newsome who lost his life following the sinking of ‘The Osmanieh’ on 31 December 1917.

His widow Myra left Yorkshire and settled in Exeter. In 1935 she married Ernest Edward Morrish who was a gardener, and later head gardener at Feltrim Lodge. Tony emailed a copy of their marriage certificate for 20 May 1935 and was hoping to obtain a photograph of the couple from the local newspaper. Despite the best efforts of Todd Gray on my behalf, a photograph proved unavailable.

Dick Passmore, a former Exeter Local History Society chairman, sadly now deceased, had published a book on the history of Feltrim, and I was able to find interesting details about the house and its lodge. He wrote:

"At the Topsham Road entrance stood the usual lodge, with a gardener’s cottage and outbuildings alongside. A short drive led from Topsham Road to the house, and landscaped grounds sloped gently at first, but then quite steeply, down to Weirfield Path, on the banks of the River Exe. From the south-westerly side of the house there were uninterrupted views across the Haldon Hills. To the north side was Bungalow Lane, and to the south, open fields."


My local Besley’s directory listed No. 98 as Stork’s Nest a maternity home, and next door was Feltrim Dr Barnardo’s Home, then Feltrim Lodge, and Coomroye.

Feltrim was destroyed in the Blitz, and Dick Passmore wrote: (Peter Thomas’ book Fire on the Wind) allows us to see this incident in a little more detail. The records reproduced in that book show that 0250 hours on the morning of the 4th May 1942, a 1,000lb bomb fell in the grounds of Feltrim, some fifteen feet from the actual building, and about twenty feet from Topsham Road. ... As a result of the bomb, there appeared a crater (approximately twenty-three metres by eight metres). Despite this, whilst the house was destroyed, the air-raid shelter suffered only cracked walls.

For some unknown reason, the property was never rebuilt. For a considerable time it remained as one of the many bombed sites in the city, with the house in ruins. The grounds were taken over by nature, and within a short time became totally unrecognisable as the delightfully landscaped grounds they once were. It was inevitable that such a location would be developed, and in the 1950s the house and approximately six acres of land were acquired, on which was built Norwood Avenue, Glenwood Rise and St Bernard’s Close. Why those particular names were chosen is not known. It seems a shame that the occupancy of the site by Dr Barnardo’s Homes was not recognised in the naming of any of these roads.

The near-by Barnardo Road was, of course, constructed in 1928 - well before Dr Barnardo’s occupied Feltrim, I picked up the death of Ernest Edward Morrish in the June Quarter of 1979 in Exeter age 84 and wonder how long he continued to be a head gardener at The Quarries, Barley Lane off Dunsford Hill after Myra’s death in 1953. Dick notes that Dr Barnardo’s remained there until the end of the 20th century, when Dr Barnardo’s closed their Exeter Home, and the property became a nursing home which it still is as I have visited several people there over the years and now known as Parkland House.

All of this information was sent on to Tony Dunlop who because of the nature of the “Little Book” format (4” x 6” and 17 pages) had to confine himself to the main purpose of relating the story of the death of Myra’s first husband. But I noted his final paragraph about Myra and Ernest Morrish which states “Myra and Ernest remained in Exeter and retired into a bungalow at Quarries Cottage in Exeter. She died in November 1953 and she was buried with Ernest in Exeter Cemetery.” Cue further research – I found her burial in Exwick Cemetery on 25 November, Age 62 but there was no record of Ernest Edward Morrish in any of Exeter’s Council run cemeteries and wondered if he had been cremated. He was – and his funeral took place on 10 May 1979, Age 84 and his ashes were scattered at the Crematorium. Thanks are due to the very helpful staff at the Bereavement Services office of Exeter City Council and the Crematorium.

I had earlier sent Tony a donation towards their Royal British Legion 2022 Poppy Appeal, and he very kindly sent me two copies of the “Little Book”. To quote the Newsletter which accompanied them:

“To support this year’s Poppy Appeal a special little book has been prepared telling the story of a local soldier lost in WWI. Gunner Ernest Newsome drowned when the troopship (HMS Osmanieh) taking him to Egypt hit a mine. Ernest was born in Dewsbury, grew up and worked in Batley, and married a Morley girl. The book tells of his early life and details the incident when his ship sank. That incident was recorded in letters sent home by a volunteer nurse who was on board the ship. Fate … a soldier drowns serving his country: a young nurse lives to tell the tale, and a young survivor lives to become one of the most famous and successful men of his generation.”


[This concerned a seventeen year old volunteer from the Royal Flying Corps, Jacob Kohen, from a Polish immigrant family. In 1924 with a trading partner T.E.Stockwell he created the brand TESCO. In 1937 Jacob changed his name, by deed poll, to John Edward Cohen and later became Sir Jack Cohen.]

[November 2022]

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