Widecombe History Group Minutes January 1999

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A meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 6th January 1999 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and she started the meeting by welcoming everyone particularly the new faces and wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

30 people attended.

Apologies were received from:- Bessie French, Peter Rennells, Sylvia Needham, Wendy Beard, Mary Pascoe, Len and Mary Cherrett, Roger and Rosamund Whale, Rodney and Wendy Cruze, Pam Clare, Ken Hamlyn, Timothy Steemson.

The minutes of the last meeting were read and after two small amendments were signed as correct.


Regarding Newhouse. Anthony produced some notes on Newhouse from June Kernick. Map drawer still not secured.

No news from "Time Watch".

Books and leaflets still circulating.

It was suggested that a list should be drawn up of people who have various books, leaflets, articles and memorabilia scrapbooks etc that are of interest, and who are willing to lend and make available to members for their research, should be drawn up.

Jenny Sanders reported that she had contacted the late Miss Gawne's sister regarding her tape recordings of local people and she would hopefully be able to bring them to a meeting soon.

Secretary reported that Chris Chapman, photographer of Throwleigh, was prepared to come and give the group a slide show of photographs relevant to this area. It was decided that Anthony should try to arrange it for the March meeting.

Programme for 2000 A.D.

Brian Byng will give a talk to the meeting on Wednesday 3rd May 2000, about his theory of Megaliths and Moonlight, this to be followed by a guided walk on Wednesday 17th May at 7.30 p.m. commencing from the 'Four Winds' car park,(Foggingtor School Carpark) Ref.- SX 561 749.

TSW/Westward TV archives - films of the area?

Beating the Bounds:-

Peter Hirst reported on the committee's progress.

A preliminary meeting had been held to exchange ideas. Maps were considered and the overall strategy discussed. The first and main task is to beat the bounds of the Parish. This was last done in 1977 and it was then done over two days. There was a suggestion that 3 stages, (a) Buckland Bridge to Houndtor, (b) Houndtor to Blackaton Bridge, (c) Blackaton Bridge to Buckland Bridge would be within the capabilities of most that would wish to take part. Records of the 1977 event have been mislaid. Everyone who wants to take part must be given the opportunity to do so and this will mean walking at a speed to accommodate the slowest as well as the fastest. This may mean different schedules. We should co-operate with any separately organised Manor Bound Beatings and try to fit these together and then if possible cover the Manor Bounds that are missed. Spring of 2000 would be the best time to do this, before the ferns grow too high. During 1999 members of the committee would reconnoitre and plan the operation. Thought was to be given to organising food at halfway and finishing points. The question of mementoes for those taking part and the cost was debated. Various people would make enquiries of type and cost and report back. Secretary to research sponsorships, Dartmoor Trust and others?

A further meeting will be organised.

Mugs, medallions, plaques, or even a certificate and similar ideas to be investigated as mementoes for members of the parish who take part. Ideas will be welcomed by the committee. A written and photographic record of the event must be made.

Peter Hirst produced provisional maps for the committee to work with. The school will be encouraged to be involved.

Geoffrey Bamsey then showed the meeting a collection of 34 aerial photographs of the area taken in 1946-47 that he has had enlarged, copied and put into a folio. Each photo is numbered and its centre point shown on an accompanied ordnance map, with a brief description of each area covered. It is his wish to keep ownership of the folio, but also that all members should take it home and examine and note anything on them that they feel is of interest. One field caused debate, was it stooks of corn or heaps of dung? We await the next point of debate! Many interesting points can be noticed by examining with care these photo's, for instance, Geoffrey said that on the one of Poundsgate, the piece of land where the present telephone exchange now stands, was cultivated by his father Fred and it can be seen that half of that area was tilled, to potatoes. Dr Blackalls Drive shows clearly, it is a virtual semicircle and it has many times been said "if you start walking the length of the drive with the wind in your face, when you get to the other end the wind will be behind you", the reason for this can clearly be, seen. The copy of the Watergate area shows the standings of the military camp on the common nearby, nissen huts and a searchlight that were there during the war. It is evident that surprisingly few changes have taken place in the fifty odd years that have passed since these photo's were taken, not that many hedges have been removed. The closeness of some places is very evident, Riddon and Sherrill for example and Kingshead and Hatchwell. Geoffrey is happy for anyone to have copies made of any photo's that are of particular interest to them, he suggests that by having them copied on a ‘colour photocopier' is far better than a 'black and white' machine, while the cost is perhaps ten times more expensive, the quality is so much better. At Deeper Marsh, (Dipper Mesh to the locals) the Iron Age Forts can clearly be seen, now difficult to find even on the ground because of trees and other vegetation. Rams Parlour. Leightor Rocks, and the little plat in the middle of Newbridge Hill, the plats (small fields) down under Lowertown which used to carry the names of those that used to cultivate them, 'Bamsey's Plat' being one of them, the plantation below the Memorial Hall with the centre cleared of timber during the war years, and Geoffrey remembers that the brushwood from the trees was used for the Victory Bonfire at Leusdon (at Snap Corner which is up behind the Memorial H-all close to the Sweaton Field hedges) on V.J. Day (when Japan surrendered). The V.E. Day (victory in Europe) celebrations took place at Widecombe with a bonfire at the top of Widecombe Hill. Terry French is attempting to perpetuate these old local names of places in the parish. Terry and Geoffrey confirmed that pony racing years ago took place around Leusdon Common.

Freda Wilkinson brought some other aerial photographs and items that she had produced for an exhibition of local history in the village several(30) years ago. One item was a pictorial and written history of a typical hamlet anywhere on Dartmoor. She also had copies of pages from some of the early Gazetteers relevant to the parish, listing names, occupations and residences. She then read an account of the evidence of a trial concerning a William Hannaford returning to his home at Spitchwick Bottom Lodge, when he was set upon by someone named Kivell who also lived in that area, after shouting for help a Mr French and a Mr Hext came out from Leightor to help him, he was reported to be shouting out murder. This had been given to her by the late Canon Hall.

"On the 17th January 1838 William Hannaford, labourer, of Spitchwick Lower Lodge was attacked on his way home on a road through Park Wood, opposite the entrance to Leightor Farm, by Jacob Kivell. His cries of murder brought the farmer ftom Leightor and his two sons who called Hannaford's parents and they carried him home on a cart. William Norrish of Huccaby said that he had been hunting with William Hannaford and on the way home had drunk some cider as it was so hot." There being a great deal more to read Freda said that anyone interested could read it in their own time.

Another item from Freda's wealth of artefacts was taken from the 'Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries' (autumn 1976) contributed by Theo Brown, and concerns the case of 'The Devon Conjuror'. In Lowertown there is a cottage named 'Tooley's Cott', and it is possible that the Mr Tooley that this concerns was once the owner. Mr Robert Tooley represented himself as being a Doctor and Conjuror, and the case brought by a certain Edward Foster and John Coucher of Bow, maintained that Tooley had cheated and abused several country people. One case of a poor man being ill, was stated by Tooley as being troubled by the spirit of a man that had hanged himself, and undertook to cure him by conjuring the said spirit thus! The wife of the said sick man was to get two stout men in the night-time with two swords to go to the grave of the man that hanged himself and one was to stand at the head of the grave and the other at the foot, for an hours time to flourish their swords while the said Tooley with a bottle of brandy stood by to conjure the said spirit. The sword then rammed into the middle part of the grave. During this time the wife would hear strange noises in and about the house. He would also put a grey owl cut into two parts, newly killed, and bound to the head of the said sick person. With a new horseshoe, each hole being filled up with nails, and the sick person was to wear this next to his skin, under his armpit, and at twelve o’clock in the night-time go out of the house of the man that had hanged himself and fetch seven nooks of straw, and he would make a pincase for him to wear under his other arm. It was stated that in spite of doing all this the man remains ill if not worse than before. Yet having been paid twenty shillings for his pains, he still troubles them, and they shut the door fast when they see him coming lest he should turn them out, and in many other manners he deludes and deceives people of the country and cheats them of their money, yet he is but a cooper by trade. There was a warrant out to apprehend him by the Worshipful Sir William Bastard, Knight, but he for some time is reported to be out of the country, but he makes out he was ill, there are some that say he was near Exeter. The appeal was that he should be brought to court and severely punished for the said offences.

Diana Brickle showed the meeting a hand drawn map of the Hexworthy area made by her grandmother in the early part of this century. It depicted the river Dart and the Swincombe tributary and the pools where the family used to fish. The houses were drawn in situ as they would appear when looking at them. It was commented that this was surely an early example of a village map. It was suggested that she should bring it to our February meeting when the archivists could advise on the best way of conservation.

Anthony Beard produced a copy of the Minutes of the Court Meetings of the Natsworthy Manor and details of its foundation which had been sent to him by Mr Jonathan Aylett, of Michelmore Hughes, Estate Agents, of Gate House, Totnes, agents for the "Lord of the Manor", now Miss Caroline Fox. Natsworthy Manor was prior to 1684 the property of Sir Henry Ford, Knight of Nutwell, Devon, and by his will dated 11th September 1684 described it as The Manor or Lordship of Natsworthy.

In the year 1829 the Manor or Lordship became the property (by purchase) of the Duke of Somerset and in 1868 the Lordship was purchased from the then Duke of Somerset and Earl St. Maur (his eldest son), by the Trustees of the Marriage Settlement dated 13th October 1852, of William Owen John Tucker and Sarah Elizabeth his wife. (see Natsworthy Manor introductory notes and summary of court minutes etc.).

Minutes received for the following dates:- 29.10.1869, 9.1.1873, 21.12.1875, 23.12.1880, 20.12.1883, 4.10.1887, 6,10.1890, 3.10.1893, 16.5.1895, 26.10.1895, 16.8.1898, 7.2.1902, 12.1.1905, 22.1.1931, 1.2.1934, 17.6.1947, 24.6.1952, 5.8.1955, 7.6.1957.

Also dated 1930 Family History Narrative:-

John Shedden Scrimgeour Esq. died in 1917 and was buried in Widecombe-in-the-Moor Churchyard. He was a descendant of the family of Scrimgeour (Scrymgeour or Scrymsour) of Foxhall, in the County of Fyfe, a cadet branch of the Hereditary Standard Bearers of Scotland, whose common ancestor was Alexander Carron, surnamed the Hardy Fighter.

His eldest daughter and heiress, Christobel, Widow of the late Simpson Duguid, became Lady of the Manor. She died in February 1930, willing as her heir, her Cousin Keith Stephen Fox, second and surviving Son. of the late Stephen Newcome Fox, Barrister at law (of the family of Fox of Brislington, a branch of the family of Fox of St. Germans in the County of Cornwall) and of Annie Enid (nee Scrimgeour) his wife.

Secretary has written to Mr Aylette to thank him for his kindness. Mr Aylette is also agent for Blackslade and Dunstone Manor and secretary has suggested that perhaps a copy could be made of that Manor's minute book and held in our archives so that in the event of a disaster there would be a good chance that one copy would survive.

A copy of all the boundary stones listed in the 1957 minutes was given to Gordon Daw the only surviving person who took part in the beating of the bounds in 1957, a copy was also given to the bounds committee for their assistance.

There is a report in one of the minutes of 1887, of a bullock drift, taken place by the Duchy over the Manor and someone shooting a dog belonging to a Mr Coaker. Mr Coaker summoned Mr Lewis Tucker, who had done this acting on instructions from the Lord of the Manor, before the magistrates, defendant had to pay forty shillings plus costs, being against the law to shoot a dog, but no claim for the dog was made. Then a letter was received from Windeatts solicitors stating they were instructed by Mr Coaker of Ashprington, to take proceedings against you for shooting his dog, the dog being valued at £5.00. Reply read that the dog was worrying my cattle on my property. A further letter from the Duchy stating that a large party of eighteen offered violent threats against those employed be us to make a cattle drift on the Eastern Quarter, and shot a valuable dog belonging to Mr Richard Coaker, further parts of the minutes still remain to be read. The question was raised of whether the Mr Coaker could have been of Runnage, the Coakers having lived at Runnage since 1844, however the minutes stated Ashprington, but the 1955 minutes mention the New Inn of Widecombe, when the meeting confirmed that it is the "OLD INN' in Widecornbe. These errors can be explained by the fact that the minutes are generally written by a clerk in the agents office who is not always aware of the true identity of people and places.

Margaret Steemson produced a photograph of Widecombe Village Sign when in 1989 it was runner-up in a Community Council Competition for the best Village Signpost. (Archived.) Margaret produced a book of questions on Devon by Chips Barber, which she has found very interesting, and she then suggested that the 'Group' ought to build up a library of books concerning Dartmoor that members could borrow and use for research. This was agreed. Any offers would be appreciated. Mention of Robert Burnards 'Pillage of Dartmoor' now being reproduced was made. Important that these must be used by members.

Peter Rennells has asked whether the meeting would like a six-monthly newsletter as there is so much information accumulating from the minutes. It was asked that the four officials of the group should be named on the newsletter for contact purposes. Agreed.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday 3rd of February when the Devon Records Office Archivists, Susan Laithewaite and Deborah Phillips, are due to help us with the conservation of documents. 2.00 p.m. afternoon session on wrapping and conserving. 7.30 p.m. meeting regarding the reading of old documents and manuscripts. Also how to record in a simplified manner the details of indentures etc.

A letter from our local Women’s Institute stating that if covers were cut out they may be able to machine around the edges at home to assist us, this offer was accepted. Audrey Mortimore said that the local sewing group may well be able to help in that way as well. Anthony to check with D.R.O. that they will bring with them the necessary materials. Velcro, calico, manila paper etc.

February teas................... Ruby Churchward and Betty Andrews.

March.............................. Roy and Pauline Barnes.

A vote of thanks was recorded for all those that helped with the teas this month and those that brought so many items of interest to the meeting.

Freda reported that 20th December 1998 was the centenary of the death of Mr Collins, Huntsman of the South Devon Foxhounds, in a rock fall in Buckland Woods. (AVIE CHURCH)

The meeting closed at 10.10 p.m.

A meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe in the Moor, on Wednesday 3rd February 1999 at 2.00 p.m.

Those attending were Audrey Mortimore, Phyllis Pascoe, Kathleen Daw, Freda Wilkinson, Margaret Steemson, Wendy Beard, Peter Hirst and Anthony Beard.

The purpose of this afternoon session was to meet Deborah Phillips and two of her colleagues from the Devon Records Office to look into the correct methods of wrapping the books and documents in the Parish Chest. In most cases a covering of washed unbleached calico or acid free manila card can be used.

Two calico bags were made to cover two rolls of maps, three bags for old seals, several melinex polyester sleeves were used to package photographs and the Widecombe Chronicle, silver safe paper put between pages of photo-albums, two old leather bound books were meticulously cleaned between each page, the Parish Chest was completely lined and silicon bags and insect traps were put into the chest and the large "Tithe Map" box on the kitchen wall. The conservators sewing machine made the task of edging off the cloth quite a simple task. It was felt that if another session was held when the amount of calico for each package was cut and numbered and then taken home to be edged around, the task would be not quite as formidable as at first was thought.

The meeting ended at 4.20 p.m.

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