One of the more repellent episodes in British history was the rise of the fascist movement between the wars.
The British Union of Fascists known, after their uniforms, as ‘Blackshirts’ was founded in 1932 by Sir Oswald Mosley, being modelled on organisations started by Hitler.
In fact, Mosley spoke at Barnstaple Pannier Market in 1934, but was interned during the Second World War as a Nazi supporter.
For many years farmers had grumbled about the tithe system whereby they had to pay money to the Church Commissioners to support the parish clergy - whether they were members of the Church of England or not.
In the 1930s many refused to pay and the church would obtain a court order allowing bailiffs to enter farms and seize goods to the value of the tithes owed.
Such actions were extremely unpopular and Mosley saw them as a golden opportunity to win much needed support in country areas.
In September 1933 an order was issued against LW Brown of Holwell Farm in Buckland Brewer for non-payment of tithes and advertisements were published saying that ricks of hay and corn had been seized and were to be auctioned to pay off the debt.
A bailiff turned up to secure the ricks but before he arrived six ‘Blackshirts’ turned up and dug trenches across the road to the farm and erected barricades.
Within days most of the corn ricks ‘mysteriously disappeared’.
Faced with this the court wrote to Farmer Brown saying they were stopping the action there being no point in carrying on.
Days later 50 cases of non-payment of tithes were presented at Torrington Court - but not one of the accused appeared to answer the charges.
The ‘Blackshirts’ then left for Plymouth on a lorry bearing two large signs reading ‘Tithes – Bah’ and ‘Victory from Buckland Brewer’.
They received excellent publicity unlike their later thuggery in the East End of London where their Nazi sympathies were revealed.
The whole episode was repeated a month later at Stoney Cross near Bideford when local farmer F Chipman saw the ‘Blackshirts’ turn up to repel the bailiffs - as shown in the photograph.