Obituary of Edwin Steer, Water Bailiff of Bovey Tracey, Devon

Reported in the

Mid-Devon Advertiser, 19 February 1927

Contributed by Michael Steer (Grandson)

Provided here by permission of Devon & Cornwall Newspapers Ltd.

Edwin STEER was born in Hind Street, Bovey Tracey on 1 February 1853. At the March 1861 census he resided in nearby Fore Street with his grandparents Joseph and Mary STEER. In 1881 he was a Metropolitan Policemen living in lodgings in Middlesex. Due to ill health he resigned and returned to Bovey. In 1887 he married Linna SELLER of Honiton. They lived in Mary Street, Bovey, and Edwin worked as an earthenware potter. He and Linna raised two girls and five boys, the oldest three boys all serving in the Devonshire Regiment in the First World War. At that time and until his death they lived at 'The Retreat', 8 Abbey Road in Bovey. He was a devoted Baptist. In addition to his duties as Water Bailiff, he served with the Bovey Tracey Fire Brigade and was awarded its Long Service Medal. Photographs of the family, and of Edwin's funeral appear in Veronica Kennedy's, The Bovey Book. Liverton, Devon: Forest Publishing, pp. 192-195. The following report was transcribed from a newspaper clipping in his grandson's possession.



We regret to report the death of Mr Edwin Steer of Abbey Road, Bovey Tracey, which took place early on Tuesday morning, at the age of 74. Deceased was one of the most popular residents of the parish, and was held in the highest respect by all classes. For over twenty years he had been an employee of the Newton Rural Council and the Bovey Parish Council as the lamp-lighter and water bailiff for the parish, a post he relinquished some two years ago. In spite of his somewhat advanced age, he was very active almost until the last. Two years ago he had an extremely serious illness, but his end came rather unexpectedly, for he was about as usual until as recently as last Friday afternoon. His favourite hobby was to do light tasks at his home, and on Friday he erected a gate in his back garden, and apparently this exertion was too much for him, and by tea time he was taken dangerously ill. During the weekend his condition became more critical; and hopes of his recovery were given up.

He leaves a widow and grown-up family, with whom the greatest sympathy is felt in their bereavement. Unfortunately Mrs Steer herself, only came out of the Exeter Hospital last Christmas, after having undergone a serious operation. At the present time she is far from recovered from the operation. Deceased as a young man joined the Metropolitan Police Force, and served for a short time, when, on the grounds of ill health he had to resign from the Force. This was a very hard blow as his heart and soul were in his duties as a police constable, and undoubtedly has his health permitted, he would have secured rapid promotion and won a reputation for himself in the Police Force. Although his period of service was of short duration, it was not without exciting and interesting incidents. Nothing pleased Mr Steer more than to relate some of his experiences as a policeman. The headquarters of his Division was at the famous Vine Street Police Station. On one occasion he was the means of frustrating an attempt at robbery with violence, of an aged medical man who was rather eccentric in his habits. Another episode of important was when the attention of the police was drawn to the fact that counterfeit coins were being circulated in a given area. The authorities carried out the most carefully prepared investigations, but they could make no headway for a long time and were baffled at every move they made for the solution of the mystery.

A highly placed officer at the headquarters, more in jest than in earnest, suggested that deceased and another young constable be detailed to go into the case and try their luck. Both officers eagerly accepted the chance, not without a considerable amount of chaffing from other police officials, who had so far been engaged on the case. Mr Steer and his brother officer, who singularly enough also hailed from Devonshire, set about the task with considerable energy and zeal. After ten days had elapsed they were successful enough in presenting to their superior officers, information along entirely fresh lines, which ultimately culminated in an early morning raid, followed by arrests and a conviction.

Astute cleverness by deceased and his colleague concentrated attention on a shoemaker's shop. The shoemaker himself was, to all outward appearances, a most amiable and benevolent gentleman. A raid revealed the fact that the old benevolent-looking gentleman was only an accomplice to a gang who, in the rear of the premises, were engaged in a far more nefarious occupation.

Deceased was an honorary member of the Bovey Tracey Fire Brigade, having resigned about eighteen months ago. He served with the Brigade for 25 years, and possessed the long service medal. He was a keen and most efficient fireman, and was very popular with the other members.

For over 50 years Mr Steer was a member of the Rational Friendly Society. The funeral takes place this afternoon with full Fire Brigade Honours.