Widecombe History Group Minutes March 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 March 1999 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Steemson was in the Chair and 37 people attended.

Apologies were received from Bessie French, Audrey and Archie Mortimore, Wendy Cruze, Rosamund Whale, Sue Booty, Wendy Beard and Colin and Midge Westward.

The minutes of the last meeting were read and signed as correct..


Regarding the interpretation of the items listed in the inventory of the 1608 grant "Church House and Butparke" it was suggested that we get Freda to list them.

The agistment of summer grazing on Dartmoor, secretary reported having spoken to John Hooper of Wimple (late of Pizwell) who can remember helping Adolphis Coaker of Runnage bring cattle from Denbury to Postbridge in the pre World War II days and he related how cattle had their horns marked with a hack-saw, depending on which bunch they were to graze with. Roger Whale stated that at Runnage Mr Coaker had a small forge/blacksmith shop and a collection of small branding irons with which he used to brand the initials of the owners on the horns again for identification purposes, all cattle in those days also had their ear marks. These were still there when Roger worked at Runnage. The cattle were put into three separate places and they were inspected on a regular basis, Monday and Thursday "Gara Plains, Tuesday and Friday "East Quarter", Wednesday and Saturday "Big Stannon Newtake" and Adolphis and John Hamlyn used to ride out each day to do the inspection, with the exception of Sunday "when they had to take their chance!" Freda Wilkinson stated that Sam Narramore of Kingskerswell is still alive and he too had been involved with the bringing of cattle out on to the moors in the same era to Runnage.

It was suggested that June Kernick's booklet on "Newhouse" could be made even better by the addition of a 'plan of the site' and a map reference SX 740756.

Map drawer still to be secured.

Time Watch, no news.

Devon historian - circulating.

Beating the bounds - planning continuing. Mementoes and their cost still being pursued. Peter Rennells continuing to research "North Hall".

L,eusdon Memorial Hall Committee are arranging the TSW/Westward Archive film show for the autumn. Details to follow. Our speaker Chris Chapman would like to know when this is held as the film "Peter and Ruby" hopefully will be shown, concerning Peter Hannaford and his cousin Ruby French of Sherrill.

Freda Wikinson reported on her successful meeting with a representative from D.N.P. regarding our proposed guided tour of Uppacott Longhouse in April. She has successfully negotiated free access on Saturday April 10th 1999 with a maximum of 20 people at a time with the possibility of two groups being taken around. This is entirely due to Freda's personal contact for which the meeting thanked her very much.

A letter from The Moorland Merrymakers stating that their summer walks were more of a 'ad hoc' social occasion when the group can meet and catch up with each others news more a short walk and back to the pub for a drink and a bite to eat - we are welcome to join in but must bear in mind the above! They may well take up our invitation of joining in some of our activities.

The Devon Record Office have sent an account for £39.00 for the material used to wrap the items in the Parish Chest. The Parish Council are going to pay this and through our Chairman have thanked us for the work so far undertaken.

A sincere vote of thanks to Terry and Bessie French for the work that they have put into naming all but two people in the "Home Guard" photograph. This has now been re-framed and all the known names printed below the photograph which has now been re-hung in The Church House. Thanks were also expressed to Colin and Midge Westward for getting this done and for their generosity in paying for all the work that this entailed, a letter of thanks will be sent to them. It was noted that there is one error W Courtler (should be W Courtier). The question of doing something similar to the "Home Guard" photo in the Memorial Hall was raised and will be looked into.

The meeting was then addressed by Chris Chapman, photographer, of Throwleigh.

He gave the meeting a most interesting, amusing and informative slide show of some of the many photographs that he has in his archive showing the people, places, history, ways of life and the whole aspect of "Dartmoor through the eyes of himself and his camera'. The evening was particularly interesting because many of those shown in the photos were known to the audience. The White Brothers of Batworthy, Peter Hannaford of Sherrill, Mrs Shillabeer of Believer with milk churns, 'Aunt' Mabel at Drewsteignton , Sam Harris of Lettaford, people picking up sticks for fire-lighting and he finished the show with some of the last days at Truelove Farm, near Shaugh Prior, the Dennis family had farmed there for five generations and moved out in 1998. These photos showed the whole atmosphere of the farm, the occupiers and one could feel the emotion of the move. Perhaps that is why Chris Chapman always works in 'black and white', instead of colour. This is no 'chocolate box' photography, it captures moods, feelings and the stark reality of life.

He began his show with a few landscapes, Houndtor, Beardown Man and some of the old Granite Crosses scattered about the moors, even these were showing man's effect and influence on the scenery.

The anecdotes connected to the occasion when the photo's were taken, some very amusing, some quite sad, all added to the enjoyment of the programme.

Men at work, stonewalling, hedge paring, T20 Ferguson tractor, pig killing, peat cutting, many of these crafts still practised on the moors and an ever increasing need to be kept alive if the old stone walls are to survive, the traditional hedges are to be laid, cider to be drunk and thatched roofs to be maintained. This and much more is captured in his ever increasing archive of "Rural Life" and all that entails. Many places, buildings etc are now no longer there, thank goodness for the camera.

Most of his photos contain either a human being or an animal, sometimes both, and when studied, so much of the social history is there to be appreciated, the clothes depicting the era, the chattles, tools and equipment in use at the time, aspects of the architecture with dated stones, the catalogue is endless, but most importantly it is now recorded hopefully for ever.

A rick of faggots of wood, saved for fire lighting from one winters hedging to be used the following year prompted a statement "to tie 60 vaggots of 'ood was a good days work!"

Rodney Cruze stated that Ash faggots were preferred by the "Bakers for their ovens". The scene of potato pits (clamps) - is it 'teddie, tattie, taddie or teddy?'

During this year Chris is compiling a book of his photographs due to be published in the year 2000 and it will be titled "Wild Goose and Riddon", this will be worth waiting for!.

Chris said that lucky moments - being in the right place at the right time - is all part of the days work of a photographer!!!

I suppose to summarise, Chris Chapman's archives are a wonderful collection of photographs of people, places, animals, buildings, implements - a whole way of life both past and present recorded for posterity.

Chris Chapman's final remark - "Tomorrow, today is History - record it if you can while it is still here" and he impressed on us the importance of carrying and using a camera.

A sincere vote of thanks was expressed to Mr Chapman for a wonderful evening of interest and information.

A vote of thanks to Roy and Pauline Barnes for the refreshments.

Secretary received this evening a letter from Roger Claxton of Dunstone House offering to build up a diskette/P.C. database for recording the Apprentices Indentures and Examinations.

The most enjoyable meeting closed at 10.20 p.m.

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