Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh was born in about 1554 at Hayes Barton, in the village of East Budleigh, a couple of miles from Budleigh Salterton.

The ancestral home of the Raleigh’s was Fardell, near Ivybridge, but Sir Walter's father liked Budleigh and moved his family to Hayes Barton. The house is still there and has been little altered. From the outside at least it’s hardly changed in more than 400 years.

Raleigh is a famous English writer, poet, courtier and explorer. He was responsible for establishing the first English colony in the New World, on June 4, 1584 at Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina. Between 1584 and 1589 he tried to establish a colony near Roanoke Island (in present North Carolina), which he named Virginia, but he never set foot there himself.

One biographer said 'To him is due the undying glory of having made the great northern continent of America an English-speaking country. The plan sprang fully formed from his great brain.

Spuds and Baccy

Not only in his visions of colonies was Raleigh far in advance of his time. Besides his writings Sir Walter Raleigh is best known today as the man who brought back tobacco and potatoes to England.

He planned one expedition after another to the New World, and sent them out mainly at his own expense. In complete contrast to most explorers of the time, who were interested mainly in making a profit, he gave careful instructions to those in charge to observe carefully any plants or produce of any kind that might profit this country.

Due to those instructions the potato was brought to England. For a long time rumour said that Sir Walter actually brought back the plant himself, but in reality it is due to Heriot, a man of science employed by Raleigh. He showed it with the other 'commodities' he had collected to Sir Walter, who took the potatoes with him to Ireland, and planted them in his new estate of Youghal.

And though it was most probably Sir John Hawkins who introduced tobacco into England, it certainly was Sir Walter who brought smoking into fashion. There are now many places that are reputed to be the identical spot 'where Sir Walter smoked his first pipe.'

Raleigh's family was strongly Protestant and as a result had a number of narrow escapes during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England. In the most notable of these, Raleigh's father had to hide in a tower to avoid being killed. Thus, during his childhood, Raleigh developed a hatred of Catholicism, which he was quick to express after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558.

Somewhere between 1588 and 1592 Walter married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies in waiting. They had a son in 1592, who died in infancy. Later they had two more children Walter, born in 1593 and Carew in 1604 or 1605.

He was tried for treason against King James I because of his aggressive attitude towards Spain. His enemies ensured that he received a death sentence, which was eventually carried out, when he was beheaded in the Tower of London on 29 October 1618.

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