Memorial to George Bidder unveiled:‘The Arithmetical Phenomenon’ of Moretonhampstead

Members of the Bidder family came from as far afield as Edinburgh to witness the unveiling ceremony © Mike Rego

By Mike Rego

At 11:30am on Saturday, 24th July, in spite of the mizzle, a small crowd of 40 to 50 people gathered at the top of Lime Street in Moretonhampstead to witness the official unveiling of a memorial bust to one of Moretonhampstead’s most famous sons, George Parker Bidder.

George Bidder was born in Lime Street in Moretonhampstead in 1806, to the son of a local stonemason, and from an early age possessed a remarkable ability for mental arithmetic, being able to calculate complex calculations mentally.

He was known locally and at country fairs as ‘The Calculating Boy’.

This remarkable gift enabled him to have a successful national and international career, becoming one of the most important and respected engineers of the Victorian Era.

Despite being a business partner and close friend of Robert Stephenson, particularly during the great age of Victorian railway building across the world, and President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1860, his name is almost unknown outside of engineering circles.

Aside from local residents of Moretonhampstead and members of the Parish Council, there were family descendants of George Bidder who had travelled from as far afield as Cheshire, Norfolk and Edinburgh to attend the unveiling, as well as local Moretonhampstead postman Jamie Bidder, also a direct descendant of the Bidder family.

A short speech was given by retired engineer David Cannon, who had initiated the Bidder memorial project, outlining why the memorial to George Bidder was so important to Moretonhampstead and how he and local architect John Dodds had sought to raise the necessary funds to pay for the memorial bust and see it installed in December, 2020, just before the third COVID-19 lockdown.

Local Moretonhampstead postman Jamie Bidder, a direct descendant of the Bidder family. © Mike Rego

A speech was then made by Stephen Kent, great great grandson of George Bidder, who then pulled the cloth aside to reveal the bronze bust. Following the unveiling, descendant members of the Bidder family, members of the Parish Council and other members of the local community involved with the fundraising and installation of the memorial, were invited back to the White Hart Hotel for a sumptuous spread to celebrate.

The memorial was donated to the care of the Parish Council who have stated that they are delighted to accept and look after the future care of the memorial to arguably one of Moretonhampstead’s most successful sons.

The following weblinks can provide more information on various aspects of George Bidder’s life and the Bidder Memorial in Moretonhampstead: Bidder, George Parker
https://devonassoc.org.uk/person/bidder-george-parker/
George Bidder (1806-1878) – Moretonhampstead’s ‘Calculating Boy’ and eminent engineer
https://dartmoorlinks.co.uk/culture/history/george-bidder/
George Parker Bidder, 1806-1878
http://www.moretonhampstead.org.uk/texts/people/bidderlife.ghtml
Monument to the Inspirational George Parker Bidder.
https://moretonhampsteadparishcouncil.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/bidder-monument-history.pdf

Author: Laura White

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