Volunteer Project

In the footsteps of Elizabeth Hervey

Joyce, one of our volunteers exploring weather in diaries, writes about her recent trip to Devon, where she visited some of the sites described by Elizabeth Hervey in the diaries she has been working on (for more information on Elizabeth Hervey, see Alice’s earlier post)

As one of the volunteers for the historic flood and drought project, I have been looking at the diaries of Elizabeth Hervey which describe her travels around Britain.

I have just returned from a week in South Devon and whilst there I decided to visit some of the places described by Elizabeth in the summer of 1792 when she was staying at Mount Edgcumbe near Plymouth.

One of the places she visited was Cotehele which is now a National Trust property. I was struck by the similarity of Elizabeth’s description of the property with the extracts from Queen Charlotte’s diary, written in 1789, quoted in the guidebook. It is obvious that little has changed even today.

Cotehele House and the Terrace garden today

Elizabeth describes that “The style of the building, the antique form of its furniture and every thing about it are clear proofs that it was built during the feudal system….. The old Hall at the entrance is adorned with old Armour, pikes, truncheons and stags heads”.

old armour, pikes, truncheons and stags heads…

I also visited Dartmouth which Elizabeth described. “Dartmouth is a place where houses seem placed as if on shelves, one row above the other, it is one of the prettiest places I ever saw…..”

Houses…placed as if on shelves

Elizabeth spent a night at the Castle Inn in Dartmouth where I decided to have a meal. The service has improved since 1792 as I had to wait a shorter time for my food than Elizabeth, as she “waited an hour before I could get any dinner”.


It was also much quieter than during Elizabeth’s visit as she noted “There was a drunken brawl in the house, swearing, fighting and repeated cries of murder, …….. occasioned by drunken Sea Captains who ………. were forcibly shoved out of the Inn at 4 o’clock in the morning”.

On leaving Dartmouth Elizabeth “embarked in a boat with 4 oars for such I agreed to pay 12s 6d (equivalent to 62½p)” to travel to Totnes. By comparison today it costs 60p just to cross the river, Dartmouth to Kingswear, as a foot passenger on the ferry.



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