In 1887, Rev Sabine Baring-Gould published a novel called Red Spider, set in nineteenth century Bratton Clovelly. He even checked the parish registers to ensure that he used real historical surnames and he knew the territory well, born in Exeter and parson of neighbouring Lewtrenchard. You can see him in the parish registers officiating at some of the services in Bratton Clovelly.
Sabine was a prolific writer, one of the most popular novelists of the time with over 1200 publications to his name. He had numerous other pursuits as well and you might recognise his name from his hymn, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. His memory is being preserved to this day through the efforts of the Sabine Baring-Gould Appreciation Society. Red Spider is available in bookstores but, even better, it’s free online through the Internet Archive, http://archive.org.
So here’s some questions for those familiar with Bratton Clovelly and with Sabine’s book. Do you think that Red Spider is a fair depiction of life in Bratton Clovelly in the 1800s? Was the story of the red spider real folklore in West Devon? And do the characters sound like those you’ve heard of from the past? If you grew up in the parish, did you read the book as a child? For those of us trying to get acquainted with this part of the world, it would be good to know how well Sabine did with capturing the time and place.