A Family Goes to War

The Vicary family were prosperous tanners and fellmongers, processing hides and fleeces in two large factories in Newton Abbot, Devon. They lived in a large house on the edge of town, where parents Charles and Octavia brought up six children: Florence, Charles, Gilbert, Walter, Alexander, Nora and John. During the First World War Charles, as the eldest son, stayed to manage the factory and the two daughters also remained in Devon. However all four of the other boys went to war far away from the Western Front.

Working with the Newton Abbot Museum, we carried out research into the war experiences of the four brothers and uncovered a fascinating snapshot of the breadth and spread of the war.

Dyrons House and students in 2018 (© Newton Abbot College)

Interestingly, ‘Dyrons House’, where the family lived is now part of Newton Abbot College. We approached the Head of History, Kalie Dowling, to see whether the school would like to explore the history of the Vicary family and they picked up the idea with enthusiasm. The result was threefold – a display in the school, a series of school assemblies and to cap it all, ‘Dyrons Boys’, a home-grown drama production telling the story, with a particular focus on the part played by horses in the war.