Sidney Simmons

Join me as I share the story of my life. I was born on September 10, 1840, within the walls of the cottage opposite that now stands as the Victorian Pantry Tea Rooms.

In 1846 I was sent away to a private school in Lincolnshire. I spent 5 years there but, the call of home beckoned in 1851, with the news of my father’s passing.

We had a family printing business at the time which was now in the capable hands of my mother, brother, and sisters.

However, my parth deviated to Devonport in Plymouth, where I embraced a ten-year apprenticeship with a drapery firm.

1862 marked a turning point, as London became my new home. I was employed by a carpet manufacturing company. Those were the days when I also joined the ranks of the Queen’s Westminster Volunteers, taking up the role of a marksman.

Later that same year I embarked on an adventure to America. As a sales representative for the carpet company, I crossed the vast landscapes of America and Canada, covering 30,000 miles each year. During these journeys, I stumbled upon a mechanical process for cleaning carpets, setting the stage for the next chapter of my life.

In 1888, London called me back where I started two companies – The Patent Steam Carpet Beating Company and The Compressed Air Carpet and Tapestry Cleaning Company.

By the dawn of the 20th century I was a wealthy man and by 1905, I began acquiring land in Okehampton. A field in East Street, destined for alms houses, and the preservation of Jole’s Meadow, a local beauty spot, soon became a cause dear to my heart. Eventually I created Simmons Park, a lush haven for the people of Okehampton opening its gates on July 8, 1907.

In 1911 I acquired Okehampton Castle and the medieval deer park, where I spent years restoring the castle. In 1917, I gave the site to the town, accompanied by £1,000 for its upkeep.

I had a passion for golf and I donated land from the Old Deer Park to create a golf course which, opened on the July 16, 1913.

My generosity continued in 1921 with the acquisition of Kempley Meadows, the Town Council taking charge while I offered £500 for the development of recreation grounds, including a bowling green.

But on April 29, 1924, I bid farewell to this world. Okehampton however, was not forgotten in my will. I earmarked £10,000 for the establishment of alms houses on the East Street site, which I had acquired back in 1905. This final gesture came to fruition in 1939.