Bideford's 'Little White Town' signs set to be changed

Image caption,
The phrase is associated with the novelist Charles Kingsley

Plans to change a seaport's "Little White Town" signs have been criticised as "absolutely bonkers".

Bideford in Devon is believed to have acquired the name due to its bleached houses - the phrase was used by Charles Kingsley in the 1855 novel Westward Ho!

However, there have been complaints the signs are racist, prompting the town council to debate the issue.

The council now intends to amend the signs to "Charles Kingsley's Little White Town" to avoid causing offence.

But Liz Wilde, who lives and works in Bideford, said the complaints were "absolutely bonkers".

'Barking up wrong tree'

She said: "It's part of our history. It's because the houses were painted white because of the cholera risk [in the hope of tackling the disease, some properties were ordered to be lime-washed], and I think it is really important to preserve that sort of thing.

"It should remain on the signs and maybe we should qualify it to say why that is. But I absolutely feel people are barking up the wrong tree."

Image caption,
Bideford's population was last recorded at about 17,000 people

A local man in his 80s, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC he thought it was "just the influx of people coming who think it's racist".

He added: "All the people I associate with think it's complete madness [to change the signs]."

Another criticism of the plan is from those who say they want potholes repaired, not "money spent on signs".

Town councillor Dermot McGeough confirmed he had had complaints about the phrase and the council had debated the issue.

He said that when he had tried to explain its history, the complainants "were not interested at all", which is why he "wanted the council to have their views on this matter".

Mr McGeough added the decision to change the signs to "Charles Kingsley's Little White Town" still needed finance committee approval and would then go "back to the full council for ratification".

He pointed out that the matter could still be removed from the agenda.

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