The Battle of Trafalgar
200 years on East Devon remembers

The Lorna Doone stagecoach  - photo by Ray

The Trafalgar Way was inaugurated between 15th and 18th August by an actor dressed as Lieutenant Lapenotiere who followed the route. Bronze plaques were unveiled along the way to commemorate his historic journey. These will be a permanent addition to Britain's maritime heritage.

The Devon programme of events is being co-ordinated by Nelson enthusiasts who have formed a Devon committee for the Trafalgar Way with the support of the Lord Lieutenant of Devon.

In 1805 over 1,115 Devonians fought for Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar - more than from any other county.

The messenger who took the news of the Trafalgar victory to London was Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere, the captain of HMS Pickle, who was born in Ilfracombe, a third generation descendant of French Huguenot refugees.

From Falmouth he travelled to London by post-chaise - the taxi of the time - changing horses at Launceston and entering Devon at Lifton. He then sped through the county, briefly stopping to obtain further horses at Okehampton, Crockernwell, Exeter, Honiton and Axminster.

The actual journey took place across two days in November, but it was decided August offered better weather for the re-creation.

The Trafalgar Way

Alex Price as Lieutenant Lapontiere - photo by Ray

The route itself is to be inaugurated as The Trafalgar Way. Bronze plaques will mark the Way and at each location a replica Trafalgar dispatch, based on contemporary documents, will be presented.

Actor Alex Price, dressed in full 1805 Naval uniform, travelled through the county in a replica post chaise along the exact route taken by Lieutenant Lapenotiere to take the news of the victory at Trafalgar and Nelson's death from Falmouth to London.

Alex rode post-chaise, sometimes with outriders and other carriages, on a five-day journey through Devon during August 2005, on the old main road to the Admiralty in London.

After reaching Exeter he transferred from his horse drawn carriage onto a Stagecoach Park and Ride bus. The Park and Ride’s final stop is outside the new Devon Record Office at Great Moor House, Sowton. Here the Lord Lieutenant presented a copy of the New Trafalgar Dispatch to the Record Office to be officially archived.

Executive Member for Culture, Councillor Sheila Hobden, said: "We decided for the Devon County Council-organised part of this event we wanted to do something a little different. Despite the limitations of horse-drawn carriages and bumpy roads, in many ways transport was easier 200 years ago because there was so much less traffic. We wanted to draw attention to today's problems and the role buses play in easing congestion in Exeter. The actor in full 19th century naval uniform riding on the bus should make quite a spectacle!"

I can assure you that it did!

Alex Price was then presented with a copy of Lapenotiere's baptism from the parish register for Ilfracombe, sourced from the Record Office - the nearest documentation to a birth certificate in 1770. He was also given a glimpse of his future, with records of the baptism of his daughters Jane and Elizabeth in 1815 and 1816.

The seamen of Devon played a major part in the historic victory, when Nelson defeated the combined fleets of France and Spain off the coast of Spain near Cape Trafalgar, which reaches its 200th anniversary on 21st October 2005.

Lapontiere’s route through East Devon

17 August - Exeter: A procession that included the Lorna Doone Coach, the Sheriff's coach and the post chaise with Lapenotiere moved down the High Street to the Guildhall, where at 11.10am the dispatch was read out to the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Mayor and civic dignitaries.

After unveiling a commemorative plaque, Lapenotiere and the Deputy Lord Mayor presented commemorative dispatches to local innkeepers at the Royal Clarence Hotel and the White Hart.

In the afternoon the county copy of the New Trafalgar Dispatch was presented to the Devon Record Office after the party travelled there on the Honiton Road Park and Ride bus.

18 August - Honiton: The Lorna Doone Coach delivered commemorative dispatches to pubs and inns at Clyst Honiton, Rockbeare, Whimple, the Escot estate, Fairmile, Fenny Bridges and Buckerell.

In Honiton, accompanied by much hooting of car horns and shouting, the church bells rang at 1.15 p.m. heralding the arrival of Lapenotiere to St, Paul's Church at 2 p.m., to be met by the Mayor and the High Sheriff of Devon. After reading the dispatch and unveiling a commemorative plaque in the vicinity of the Museum, the party toured Honiton inns in the post chaise and a local carriage to present commemorative hostel packs.

Children's drawings were on display in the Mackarness Hall and Devon Cream Teas were also available during the afternoon. The Honiton Band played at the war memorial before the performance of Haydn's Nelson Mass by the Sheldon Singers in St. Paul's Church.

19 August - Wilmington, Kilmington and Axminster: Lapenotiere in the post chaise visited the White Hart, Wilmington at 11.30am to present a dispatch to the Chairman of Wilmington parish council and to unveil a commemorative plaque.

At 12.30pm the post chaise escorted by local riders travelled through Kilmington to present a dispatch to the Chairman of the parish council and to unveil a plaque before leaving for Axminster at 1.10 p.m.

In Axminster medieval dancers gave a display in the Town Square before Lapenotiere arrived at 2pm, preceded by the standard of the Royal Naval Association. The Mayor and council met him, the dispatch was read and a second commemorative plaque unveiled. The post chaise and a local horse-drawn carriage toured inns in the town to deliver commemorative dispatches.

The final presentation in Devon was made to the Hunter's Lodge at Raymonds Hill before Lapenotiere crossed into Dorset.

Among many other events to mark the anniversary there will be:

Lectures at the Plymouth City Museum between 27 September and 1 November and a Trafalgar Service at Exeter Cathedral on 16 October.

Councillor Sheila Hobden, said: "The bi-centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar marks an important turning point in history in terms of Anglo-French relations. Devon played an enormous part and we are pleased to add our support to the many volunteers and organisations who are working to put on these celebrations."

News of Trafalgar

Devon newspaper reports on the Trafalgar victory are available on-line to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the historic battle.

The web pages consist of transcriptions of Trewmans Exeter Flying Post, which was founded in 1763 as the Exeter Mercury, or West Country Advertiser.

Reflecting the importance of maritime affairs to the people of Devon, every edition carried lengthy reports from its full-time correspondents in Plymouth, Falmouth and Dartmouth, with occasional news from other ports in the West of England.

The weather was the single most important consideration for anyone concerned with maritime matters and was diligently recorded by Trewman's port correspondents whenever they reported shipping movements. After the Battle of Trafalgar their reports show the unfavourable conditions faced by ships entering the Channel Approaches on their return to England, which explains the delay in the arrival of the news.

Two local historical researchers - Pongo Blanchford and Charles Manning - provided information for the Lord Lieutenant and have voluntarily transcribed the text of Devon's project for the inauguration of the Trafalgar Way in Devon during August 2005. It has been donated to the Devon Libraries Local Studies Service for the 'Etched on Devon's Memory' project

Pongo Blanchford says: "In 1805 the local correspondents' reports, and the Exeter editorial comment, give a clear picture of the reactions of Devonians as details of the Battle of Trafalgar slowly unfolded and spread across the county. Nelson's men at Trafalgar included over 1,115 men born in Devon, more than from any other county, and about 500 more born in Cornwall. The families of many more who were born elsewhere were resident in the West Country to be near their men when their ships returned to Plymouth and they all waited anxiously for the news that Trewmans brought to them.

"The news was only published weekly, generally on the first Thursday following the receipt of the report in Exeter, so each individual story would take several days to spread around the south west, as fast as a coach and horses could carry it."

"It was the study of these records that led us to hitherto unseen documents that revealed the full story of the Trafalgar dispatches that is at the heart of The Trafalgar Way project."

Ian Maxted, who recently retired as the County Council’s Local Studies Librarian, has specially created the web pages.

The Trafalgar newspaper excerpts are available on-line at the Devon Record Office

The Highlights

The organisers of the Devon stage of the inauguration of the Trafalgar Way are celebrating the success of the week, in which thousands of people witnessed the recreation of the epic journey of Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere.

  • Bronze commemorative plaques unveiled at 12 places in Devon on The Trafalgar Way, and a New Trafalgar Dispatch presented to local civic leaders on each occasion.

  • Thousands of Devonians and visitors witnessed the arrival of Lieutenant Lapenotiere. He travelled in a horse drawn post chaise to major events, and transferred to the North Devon stagecoach the Lorna Doone to ensure that every community on the route was visited in sequence across the county.

  • Over 800 children received copies of the original Dispatch, the story of the origins of the Way and a special New Trafalgar Dispatch from Lapenotiere. Local children were chosen as messengers to take special copies of these dispatches to present to their schools when term starts.

  • Over 4000 people visited the Exeter Expects free exhibition at Exeter Guildhall, which remained open until 26 August.

  • Fifty five copies of the Dispatches were presented by Lapenotiere to landlords of inns and restaurants on the Way to display and explain the origins of The Trafalgar Way to local people and visitors to the county.

  • New signs marked the points on the A30 where the Way enters the county and on the A35 where it leaves Devon.

  • A framed copy of the New Trafalgar Dispatch for the people of Devon was presented to the Lord Lieutenant and deposited for posterity in the Devon Record Office. Lapenotiere travelled there by a park and ride bus from the Guildhall.
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