Sidbury Parish Archive

Welcome to the Sidbury archive home page.
Neil Thompson - parish archivist
My name is Neil Thompson and I have been custodian of the archive since 2014. I live in Sidbury House on Buckley Road which was the old vicarage from 1813 until just after the Second World War.

The last vicar to reside there was the Reverend Taylor. He had a strong interest in local history and started to collect relevant material which he kept in a black metal box no larger than a mess tin. Now the collection fills an entire upstairs room in the church, as well as a numerous cupboards at home!

The growth in the size and quality of the archival collection is thanks largely to the work of Barbara, and latterly Alan, Softly, who devoted 25 years of their retirement years to recording Sidbury's past.
This was no mean feat, as all records prior to 1813 were consumed in the Vicarage fire of 1850. Fortunately there were a number of transcripts, duplicated for the Bishop of Exeter, but the parish chest is virtually bare, save for a few late 19th and 20th century original registers. Most of the archive, therefore consists, of photocopies, microfiche films (e.g. of the 1841 to 1891 census returns), as well a growing collection of original photographs.

Thankfully, Barbara Softly was quite a prolific author, principally of children's books but also of history. She has left a most valuable legacy in the form of four very useful guides to the history of the village which provide an accessible starting point for anyone interested in the village's past.
They are:
Within the Bounds; Sidbury Parish Past and Present - 1998
Tappings at the Sidbury gate 1998 and its sequel Further tappings at Sidbury Gate
Sidbury's Church of a Thousand Years (2000)

Church of 1000 years booklet

Those of you who have been accustomed to the family tree research service the Softlys' provided may have noticed that this facility is no longer being offered at present. Given the proliferation of commercial websites who offer this service, and the availability of many of Devon's parish records online, it was agreed that this would not be the main priority for the next five years, until I fully retire!
The Online Parish Clerk scheme's representative for this parish is Chris Graves, who will answer queries and lookup request using Baptismal records from 1803-1907 & Burials from 1813-1868. Naturally I will do all I can to help, time permitting, but we no longer have two people working full-time on this side of the archive's work.

What are the archives main functions?
The core function at present is to preserve and better organise the existing archive. In the short term I hope to digitise the collection to make the text more searchable, and to develop the use of databases. I am also codifying the photographic collection and scanning originals for the digital archive. To extend the collection I am carrying out even more research into the records held at Devon Record Office and trying to create an oral archive to capture people's recollections of the changing life of the village in the 20th century.
Recent projects
1. Exhibition for Sidbury fair week September 2013: Caught on camera: the changing face of Fore Street
2. Exhibition to accompany the flower festival's theme of the last 100 years, decade by decade.
3. Exhibition for Sidbury fair week 2014: Farming in Sidbury over time
4. Providing an authoritative 'script' for church guides

Upcoming projects
Sidbury Fair September 2016. The theme for the archival exhibition will be Sidbury Between the Wars. If you have any photographs, family stories or recollections you would be willing to share with me that might help with the exhibition I would very much like to hear from you.

During 2016 I will be creating a detailed digital archive of all Sidbury's listed buildings. So, if you own one, live in one, know a lot about one, or just want to find about more about them, please feel free to email me at

Would you be interested in helping?
I am always looking for help, principally in the areas of:

a. data entry using database/spreadsheets. Training will be given!
b. presentation of exhibition and displays
c. interviewing elderly residents

If you are interested please call me, Neil Thompson, on 01395 597324 or email