Widecombe History Group Minutes February 1999

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A meeting of Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at the Church House, Widecombe in the Moor, on Wednesday 3rd February 1999 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Steemson was in the Chair and 30 people attended.

Apologies were received from Bessie French, Audrey and Archie Mortimore, Rodney and Wendy Cruze, Pam Clare, Roger and Rosamund Whale, Sue Booty.

Before the business of the meeting commenced we were given a talk by Susan Laithwaite of Devon Records Office, on the art of reading and recording the old documents in the Parish Chest. She started by referring to the afternoon session and the meeting saw what had been done then, regarding the different styles of wrapping and she commanded us on the start that had been made. She brought a couple of books on the interpretation of "Old Style Writing" and "reference for dates", as many old documents do not say the actual year, they state "the xth year in the reign of our sovereign Lord King ,so and so'. She also brought a book of "what you can, expect to find in a Parish Chest These will be very helpful.

The folders containing the "Apprentices Indentures", "Apprentices Examinations (a form of interview/C.V.) by the Overseers of the poor", etc were distributed around the room and it was found that most could be read without too much difficulty particularly when two or three jointly read them together, each member of the team in turn being able to pick out words that the others were struggling with. This it was agreed was the best way forward and when we decide to tackle this part of the archives it was generally felt that teams of three, two reading and one recording what was read out, seemed a good format. The following columns would be ideal for recording the indentures: Apprentice name - Masters name - Masters profession - Age of Child - Document date. When recording the Examinations for poor relief.-

Paupers name - Pocket history of his/her life - Date of document.

Local knowledge of names, farms etc will be of good help when trying to pick out the details. Advisable to write down names as spelt but it will be found that the spelling of names varies according to who did the writing.

It was suggested that these should then be packed flat in folders containing 10 or 12 documents per folder.

Susan Laithwaite then went around the room joining each group in turn helping with the interpretations of the papers they were examining and everyone seemed so engrossed in what they were looking at, the time passed very quickly, and the information within them was quite fascinating. Local surnames of today were evident on some of these old documents.

On playing back the tapes of the meeting various recognisable voices could be heard fluently reading some the papers with great enthusiasm. This was very encouraging as one felt that the project of getting details onto data base from these documents is a reasonable possibility.


What is a 'vagrant' - a person who is wandering about with no fixed place of abode. Could easily end up in prison given hard labour to encourage him to get a proper job. What is a 'yeoman' - usually a farmer, a fairly well to-do man who rents or owns his farm one step down from a 'gentleman' and this would be one step-up from a 'husbandman'. How much detail needed from examinations:- try to make an abridged version of the details like a pocket C.V. (name, where he has been during his life so far and what he has done and for whom and where). 1837 was when register of births began. There are occasions when people were "economical with the truth" to avoid being moved too far away.

Tea and biscuits were served at about 9.00 p.m. and while she drank her tea Susan Laithwaite transcribed for us the oldest document we have dated 22nd May 1608 "Grant of Church House and Butparke".

(Photocopy of original and the transcript attached to minutes)

A vote of thanks was accorded to her and the afternoon team for all their help and encouragement. In reply she expressed a willingness to continue to help us with the very 'good work being undertaken'.

The meeting resumed with the minutes from the last meeting being read and signed as correct. Mrs Steemson welcomed all the new faces present and expressed the hope that they will become regular in their attention.


Newhouse. June Kernick has given the Group a copy of her booklet "The Mystery of Newhouse". This is a good example of what can be done by anyone who is prepared to write up a pocket history of their research of a subject. Her draft copy was one page of A4 and as she accumulated more information from other people and sources she added to it producing this attractive booklet.

Map drawer still not secured.

No news from Time Watch.

New edition of Devon Historian was put into circulation.

It was reported that Chris Chapman, Photographer of Throwleigh, will be guest speaker at the March meeting.

It was also reported that Len Copley would address our 7th July meeting on the subject "Tinners and Warreners" and on Saturday 10th July he would lead a guided walk around TrowlesworthyWarren and adjoining tin works. Meet at Cadover Bridge at 12.00 noon. The Secretary reported that the 1999 and 2000 programmes were now completed. Copies of the programmes will soon be made available.

Beating the Bounds: Mementoes for the occasion were still being pursued, Bigbury Mint produce some excellent items but they may prove to be too expensive. Peter Hirst felt that there may well be a way of reducing the costs, he would look into that. Local sports trophy shops will also be explored. Jim Churchward showed the meeting two very satisfactory types of medallions that had been issued on two "Beatings of Bounds" that he had attended, (Ilsington and Kingsteignton) Jim would find out details and costs and report back, Mark Hutchins offered to contact a firm that supplies sport medals and he too would report back. Dartmoor Trust would consider a grant if full details were made available to them.

Geoffrey Bamsey's folio of Aerial Photographs is being circulated around the Group. Peter Rennells and Anthony Beard had been to the Devon County Council Archaeological Department and had met with Frances Griffiths and Bill Homer and discussed ground markings evident in some of the photographs. In Great Close, at the bottom of Southcombe Lane, two circular marks could be seen, and it was decided that this should be marked on their list of Ancient Monuments. The large white oval marking in the field north of the village (part Glebe Farm) has caused some considerable interest and a letter and photocopy enlargement from Mrs. Winifred French, wife of the late Hermon French of Watergate, appears to show an entrance to the compound and the remains of four rectangular buildings. These were evident again in the dry summer of 1976 as Mrs. French states in her letter that this could be clearly seen from the top of Widecombe Hill then. Peter stated that there is considerable material to be examined in the records office and several photocopies were brought back by Peter and Anthony for our use. There was a willingness by the archaeologists to exchange ideas and interpretations, this was rewarding to find out. Recently there had been a problem with getting FREE access to the D.R.O. this has now been resolved, but members are advised to get a certificate from the secretary to make access more easily obtained.

Geoffrey expressed the hope that everyone who inspects the photographs makes a note on a piece of paper and adds to the folio any unusual item they may notice or any queries they may have.

Peter Rennells has produced volume 2 of our newsletter May 1998 - October 1998.

A vote of thanks to him and Barbara Mayhead who had typed up the copy was recorded. The local school had done the photocopying for us and it agreed that we should donate £5.00 to their funds in thanks.

Refreshment teams:- March Roy and Pauline Barnes

April Mary Pascoe and Wendy Beard.

May Nora Lamb and Sharron Hutchins.

The letter from the TSW/ Westward film archives stating a desire to present a film show in the area on local people and events has been passed on to the Memorial Hall Committee to organise, as they belong to an organisation that entitles them to special rates on the hiring of the films and equipment. The majority of the group expressed the intention of supporting the event when it is arranged.

Secretary reported that he had received a favourable reply from Mr Aylette, to his suggestion that the Blackslade and Dunstone Manor Court Minute Books should be copied, one copy being stored in our chest the second copy would act as an insurance against damage or loss, far better than paying to insure them, as money could not replace the information held in them.

Margaret Steemson has been contacted by a Richard Compson (BBC Radio Devon) who is looking for some farmers to interview regarding the changes in the industry over the last 100 years. It was agreed that if he were to gather a bunch of three or four together the conversation would be worth recording as each would tend to feed off the other and the stories would flow easier, she was given a list that the meeting thought would fit the bill. Several names were put forward and Margaret would pass their names on. The agistment of summer grazing on Dartmoor was mentioned. Why were these cattle brought out to the moors in summer? Possibly because there was insufficient water 'incountry' for the stock but plenty on Dartmoor and in the winter the stock was taken down to the 'in land farms' as plenty of grass would be available and winter rains providing water. The traditional Dartmoor sheep were taken 'down about' for the winter. What people see on Dartmoor today and assume are Dartmoor sheep are intact imports from Scotland c 1924, Scotch Blackface sheep. Freda pointed out that now there are only about 10% of the Dartmoor ponies on the moor compared with 50 years ago. South Devon cattle particularly steers were taken out to the moor for four years or more in some cases. They were put in a yard at Runnage and had their horns marked with a hacksaw some put into 'Newtakes' some ran out on the forest.

Margaret reported on the afternoon session. She thought it was an excellent effort, calico bags, manila wrappings and melinex see-through folders for photographs and delicate papers. It was agreed that soon some afternoon sessions to cut out the material should be organised and the machining could then be done at home. Chairman thanked all those who helped.

Jack Elliott brought a Directory of Devon 1900, several people examined it and he promised to bring it to another meeting so that others could also look at it.

Secretary admitted some confusion over the proposed guided walk at Uppacott. Freda Wilkinson agreed to contact D.N.P. regarding our planned visit to Uppacott Longhouse in April, to clarify charges and access.

Freda. enquired about details regarding the 'cartwheel' rolling from Meltor. It was done on the Saint Day of St John the Baptists Mid-summer Eve. Freda has two newspaper cuttings one from 1955 taken from South Devon Journal "Keeping the Dragons away" and another from 1962 with a photograph showing local people. She wants to know of the origin of the practice, its tradition. (see transaction of Devonshire Association 1963) could be pre christian sun worship. People used to visit Corndon Tor Easter Sunday morning to see the sun dance. It is reputed that the sun rises and then dips below the horizon again as a salute to Jesus Christ. Any information would be appreciated.

Secretary had written to The Moorland Merrymakers to ask if we could join them on their guided walks they have in the summer, and inviting their members to attend any of our meetings if ever they wish.

As there was no further business the meeting closed 10.20 p.m.



May xxiith (22nd) 1608

this grante but for one whole yeare

John Baker is to paie twentie fower shillings a yere unto the parishe of Wydecomb for their churchouse and Butparke and to permitt and suffer the parishioners to keepe ale once or twice a yere att their ellecion and to use the said house and butparke att conveniente tymes as they have bin accustomed and Baker to use the chittle, two pans a brandle two keeves a brandice a barrell a coole and a coffer and a bynch and to leve it a gaine unto the said parish as good as he received it one keeve with Peter Hamlyn of the parishe.

The like grante is made againe for one yere by the parish unto John Baker of the churchouse and Butpark and vessell above said and John Baker is to paie xxiiii s, (24s) a yere att the daie of accompt unto the parishe for a yere.


See Trans D Assoc 1961 "Vol XCIII" page 265.

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