Smeatharpe as I remember

Smeatharpe As I Remember by Ruby Cooke (with help from Lewis Arscott and Mrs B Woollacott, July 2003)

Smeatharpe was a self contained community for many years before the aerodrome was built. The school, known as Viscount Sidmouth School, was built in 1871. When Mrs. Bessie Woollacott attended there were 51 pupils. When she left an extra classroom was added. A screen partitioned off an attractive Sanctuary which was opened into the schoolroom for church services taken by the Upottery Vicar every Sunday afternoon. The first vicar I remember was Rev. G. Heslop, who gave Lewis, my brother, a penny for not going to sleep during the sermon!! There was a playing field biven by Lord Sidmouth. An oak tree, planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of George V, has grown into a very attractive specimen.

The hall opened in 1926, free of debt, built by local labour given free of charge. My father had a great deal to do with the building, helping with haulage and many other tasks. The rent of 6p per year, paid to Lord Sidmouth for the field in which it was built. For many years a very successful carnival was organised by the residents, proceeds going to local hospitals. during the war, the hall became a WVS canteen where hundreds of servicemen came for refreshments. There were 3 aerodromes in close proximity - Americans, Polish as well as our own came for a cup of coffee and a chat. Local ladies had a rota system for teas and beans on toast, open every night except Sundays.

There were two sawmills, one owned by Mr. A. Bromfield & Son in the centre of the village, and the other opposite the New House Chapel owned by Mr. W. Pym. The pub, knows as The King's Arms, was situated on the edge of the aerodrome. Mr. G. Clode & Sons, who were builders, lived at 'Little Inches', currently home of Mr. and Mrs. G. Layzell. Miss Gladys Clode was the Post Mistress, the Post Office opening 1933-4. Mr. Frank Smith was the Blacksmith, horses coming from a wide area to be shod. Mr. Smith also ran a taxi service when the car was in working order! There was an allotment - plots let at 3/6 per year. Bloomers Farm (owned by Mr. & Mrs. J. Woollacott) sold mile, everyone bringing their cans to be filled each day.

The community seemed to fade after the aerodrome closed and the barracks that were scattered around were sold or demolished. The school closed in 1962 when pupil numbers were only 17. The church altar, font, cross and candlesticks and the painting, situated over the altar, were given to St. Mary's Church in Upottery and placed in the Lady Chapel. The War Memorial for 2 wars was given to the hall and the bible to new House Baptist Chapel. The school is now a private dwelling, as are the pub and sawmills. The hall keeps going and has regular bookings.

(This article first was published in the Upottery & Rawridge Parish Pump Magazine, July 2003.)

History enthusiast buys part of Smeatharpe Airfield (From Aviation Forum, June 26, 2006)

Upottery airfield looks to have been bought by a man with a passion for history. Hopefully we may see the restoration of the control tower if nothing else. Read on:

A devon airfield which saw US airmen parachute into France on D-Day went up for auction, raising more than £1 million for the farming family selling it. It was standing room only for the auction of Smeatharpe Airfield and adjoining Godleigh Farm at the Castle Hotel in Taunton, with keen bidding not just from local farmers but also from military enthusiasts.

The airfield on the Blackdown Hills was a base for the paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division who dropped down into northern France on the night of June 5 1944. Their exploits were immortalised in the Steven Spielberg television series Band of Brothers.

Seven parcels of land and a farmhouse changed hands, a total of about 350 acres of arable land, for £1.13 million. A further lot, the site of the stock car stadium and part of the runway on the site, sold before the auction.

The most historically significant lot , including the air traffic control tower and barracks, sold to Second World War history enthusiast Nicholas Boyett of London.

Mr Boyett arrived with ten seconds to spare to successfully bid £150,000 for the lot, which also includes 50 acres of arable land and part of the runway.

He had seen details of the sale just five days previously and had inspected the airfield, just inside Devon, minutes beforehand. He is selling his home in London to fund the purchase. His main interest is the air traffic control tower, dating from the war, which is still in reasonable condition.

He said: "These control towers are historic, they should not be allowed to rot into the ground. These buildings tell a definite story and have different campaigns under their belt."

The land is being sold by farmer Dennis Sanders and his brothers William and Sidney because one of the brothers is retiring.

Mr Sanders is still retaining a few acres at Smeatharpe, where he will continue to keep pigs. The rest of the stock and farm machinery were sold last week.

Most of the land was compulsorily purchased from the Sanders family by the Ministry of Defence to build the airfield during the war. Mr Sanders' grandfather bought it back during the 1960s and the family have farmed it ever since.

Auctioneer Charles Clark, of Chard-based Greenslade Taylor Hunt which organised the sale, said: "We have been inundated with enquiries, particularly Americans from the D-Day connection, really wanting to know what is going to happen to it.

"It has a fascinating history. The bidding was very spirited."

The original page can be visited at:

More information about Smeatharpe Airfield can be found by following the links below:

World War II Airfields and Radar Stations site:

Control Towers site: