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The North Devon Village of Swimbridge & Its Dog: The Jack Russell Breed – A Dog With Delightful Devon Roots

March 19, 2019

The Jack Russell Inn provides a comfortable resting-place for owners of this popular breed on pilgrimage to the grave of Parson Jack Russell in the nearby churchyard of St James Church in Swimbridge, North Devon. Here the Revd. John (Jack) Russell originated the eponymous Jack Russell breed of terrier.

Who was Parson Jack Russell and How Did He Start the Breed?

Parson Russell came to North Devon in 1833 as incumbent of St James Church with his dog 'Trump', bought off a passing milk-cart while Russell was at Oxford. This dog was to become known to posterity as the forefather of the Jack Russell breed.

It is true that Parson Jack Russell, a 'muscular Christian' if ever there was one, was an inveterate sportsman and hunter, but he was also to become cherished by the local Devon folk as a conscientious vicar who restored his historic church, and developed the village school.

The grave of Parson Jack Russell is in the churchyard of St James Church (where he was in charge for no less than forty-six years) which is in sight of the old inn named in honour of the man and his dogs.

Jack Russell Terrier Dogs - 'Demons in Dog Suits'

Originally bred for the task of 'bolting' (flushing out) a fox from its underground den, the Jack Russell has a feisty temperament with no lack of intelligence, pluck and determination.

The Jack Russell makes an excellent family pet, and a lively house watchdog with a penetrating and persistent bark.

A word to the wise: the veterinarian and author Tracy Acosta warns, "Without an outlet for their boundless energy these cute little dogs can be, as she puts it, "Demons in dog suits." They are surely dogs for the active and young at heart.

Swimbridge Village & St James Church

Prettily set in a fold of rolling Devon hills on the Barnstable to South Molton road, Swimbridge is associated with a bridge mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The ancient church of St James, a 15th-century rebuilding, well worth a visit in its own right, has an even earlier original tower that dominates the village.

The interior is a well-kept secret for the connoisseur of the ancient English parish church, with a beautifully carved (c.1490) stone pulpit, one of the finest rood screens in Devon of the same date, and a most unusual 16th-century font.

The Jack Russell Inn

The contemporaneous Jack Russell Inn is an excellent place to stay when exploring the area, not only for its food and comfortable accommodation in an idyllic setting, but for its fine ales and Devon cider.

Upholding the best traditions of a Devon inn, with excellent local fresh fish and shellfish from the nearby North Devon coast on the menu and cooked to perfection, there is also succulent meat and dairy produce from the nearby lush farmland meadows of North Devon.

Why not visit and nail down the past of your beloved Jack Russell terrier at the same time?

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