- Credit: Matt Austin
This Mid Devon village refuses to be left behind the times, writes Alexandra Hurley
The cornerstones of traditional village life, such as the much-loved shop, pub and doctor’s surgery are disappearing from villages at an alarming rate. However, Mid Devon village Thorverton is writing a different story; one that is centred on resurgence. Three years ago Thorverton was on the verge of becoming a mere memory of times gone by, but determined members of the community have fought to change the future of Thorverton.
“Against the tide, Thorverton is booming!” smiles Janet Wills, owner of Berry Dairy village shop, “We have a new shop, an improved doctor’s surgery, a new village hall and a new housing development in progress.” Breathing new life into Thorverton has prevented closures and boosted the community services.
Established in 1905, the shop was run by the Pile family until 2006. Janet Wills, who worked for a government agency at the time, bought the house and empty shop before deciding to change jobs and open up the shop in its original dwellings. “Everyone is very appreciative to have the shop back!” Jan reveals.
Every atom of space in the stylishly designed shop has been filled with a foodie selection that resembles the high quality produce of a local farmers’ market. Customers can browse produce from Riverford Organic, Rookbeare Ice cream made in the next village, cheese, Hanlons Beer, homemade pastries, hot pasties, takeaway tea and coffee and a selection of dry goods. Mat Askham of Bespoke Kitchens and Furniture was involved in the makeover process from start to finish. “I wanted it to look unique – we packed so much stuff into it and it looks exactly like a traditional shop,” he says. The original stone floor, more than 100 years old, has been kept, and everything is made out of reclaimed timber.
In keeping with village tradition, the shop has regained its place at the heart of the community. Mat says: “I didn’t realise how much Berry Dairy would matter, but people are having conversations with people around the village again.”
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Westhaven Homes concentrate on quality homes with villages being their prime locations. “We want to build a local community and hopefully by the time we leave, we will have improved it,” says Ian Edgecumbe, Project Manager. Twenty houses are currently in construction, with an even split between open market and affordable. The CGI images of the houses showcase an attractive mixture of stone, brick and cream render, fitting with the style of houses along Silver Street leading up to Barton Meadows.
Bought by the village in 1946, the village hall was tired and run down from lack of use. However, recent events organised by Mike Shelton, Chairman of trustees that run the hall, and his fellow trustees have raised money – alongside grants – to refurbish the hall with a new kitchen extension, licensed bar and fresh look. “It’s now a well-used community building by the school for gym work and to rehearse plays, we have art and yoga classes here and the local amateur dramatics use it,” reveals Mike.
The Exeter Inn & The Thorverton Arms
Much-loved drinking establishment, The Exeter Inn, celebrated its 70th birthday in 2016. Mr and Mrs Mann bought the property in 1946, where they served the local community for 35 years before their son John Mann took over. His nephew, Richard Barron and wife Stella, now run the cosy ‘meeting place’ as it is fondly referred to by many of the locals.
Just down the road, The Thorverton Arms brings a delightful dining experience to the village and has recently been taken over by new chef Dwane Murlock.
The village surgery was under threat of closure, but then it merged with a practice in Crediton. A welcome revamp later and it has become a stable part of the community. Lynn Anderson, A.K.A ‘the lovely doctor Anderson’ as she is affectionately known, comments: “We fought for the surgery because we wanted to provide a local service and, since its resurgence, we’ve had people register from the whole district.”
Thorverton is back on the map and it’s here to stay, thanks to the help of the local community tirelessly fighting to save it!