Widecombe History Group Talk November 1999
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North Hall - presentation by Peter Rennells on his research to date!
Peter Rennells gave the meeting a very detailed and interesting account of his research into the history of North Hall.
This is the result of two years of on going study of a subject that is very much part of the history and folklore of the Parish. There are many factual reports that he has read and recorded, and there is also quite a lot of lore concerning this subject that has been passed down through the generations which needs clarifying, recording and documenting.
He started by saying that for several months now he has been hoping to obtain a certain photograph held by the American Defence Services National Archives, which had been taken of this Parish by the German Luftwaffe in August 1940. Roger Claxton has been helping Peter in this quest and produced it at the meeting, he had been able to order it through the Internet and it had been obtained through the generosity of an anonymous donor who financed the operation. Peter was delighted, and the meeting was fascinated by this, Peter will now try and obtain an enlargement of the section regarding "North Hall" to see what shows up!
Peter said that his interest in North Hall began as a result of an aerial photograph taken by the R.A.F. in December 1946, this showed crop marks in a field called North Hall Moor, which differed from the site marked by Ordnance Survey on their maps. So the search was on to find the correct site if possible. English Heritage stated that the ruins of the Manor and Farmhouse called North Hall could be seen in 1903 as sited by O.S. They were completely cleared to build a shippen and quoted a Mr Morgan, who to date has not been traced, as the source of that information, his source recorded as local people and the Sexton. The marks shown in the photograph was the query, and Peter then started his quest for information by writing to, and telephoning many people, and searching through books, documents and records in various places around the area in persuit of anything that may help to solve the conflict over the site. In most old maps the O.S. site is shown as an orchard, the crop marks are in a field named North Hall Moor. Devon Records Office, Exeter University, Newton Abbot Library, County Archivists, Dartmoor National Park Authority, Devon Archaeology Society, English Heritage, West Country Studies Library, they have all been approached in his search for the truth.
Geo-physics, the electronical surveying of what is underground and not visible to the eye above ground, is far too expensive for a group like ours to undertake, but there are those who maintain that by the means of dowsing, sometimes, details of what lies under the ground can be logged and mapped, Peter expressed the hope that perhaps this line of enquiry could be tried.
Rev Pickering, vicar of Widecombe 1894-1914, had a son Lt Pickering , who had stated that the O.S. site was the correct one. The late Iris Woods however, considered that the Moor could be the correct site, but Mark Beeson in his archaeological work on Widecombe, tended to opt with O.S. as he noted that their site was in fact a raised site, and he believed that North Hall was supposed to have had a Moat around it, and the Moor was too low for one. In 1680, the then schoolmaster Hill wrote a rhyming couplet and mentioned the moat, (it is worth noting that a Richard Hill, schoolmaster, was at Widecombe when the Great Thunderstorm of 21st October 1638 took place).
Manorial records are a good source for information, these are obtainable at Kew, The Public Records Office, they will not send information. There are two ways of getting information from them, one go there yourself and try to find what you want or, pay a professional researcher £18.00 per hour to do the research for you.
It appears that up to twelve different organisations have made aerial photographs of this area, and Peter has obtained copies of several. It is understood that the Moor was drained in the last fifty years and a great amount of stone removed, this could be very unfortunate! If this is so, where are all those stones now? Could they have been used to fill up a pit? The queries keep piling up!
While researching his "North Hall Project" a great deal of other information has come to light. There was a kiln at the bottom of Kingshead Lane, and it is registered as an Ancient Monument and there are a further twenty five other sites scheduled in Widecombe. Peter has a list of them. We are still hoping that Jeremy Butler may produce a modern photograph of the area.
Peter has now built up a chronological list of the people that have had a part to play in the history of North Hall.
1042 - Widecombe Manor was held by Edric - for services rendered to Edward the Confessor.
1066 - .. .. .. Alric - he was a tenant of Walscin De Donay
1216 - .. .. .. Fitzralph
(son Richard born between 1272 and 1307)
(Note; in 1283 Fitzralph adopts the name Shillingford.)
1347 - Richard Shillingford becomes Primate of all Ireland. Later to become a Saint in Ireland.
(Note; North Hall was home to nine decendants of the Fitzralph/Shillingford family).
1406 - Recorded that a John Shillingford requested to be buried beside his mother in St Catherines Chapel, at Widecombe.
1482 - Shillingford sold the Manor to Lord Huddisfilde (Attorney General to Edward IV)
1499 - Huddisfilde died. - Estate left to daughter Elizabeth. She then sold it to John Southcote of Indio, Bovey Tracey.
1558 - John Southcote died. Estate left to son Thomas.
(Note; that in 1588 John Southcote owned Scobitor)
(Robert Dymond claimed that a possible tenant of North Hall at that time was a Richard Reynell whose mother Agnes was Thomas Southcotes sister. He had a servant called Robert Meade who was buried in Widecombe in 1638).
1626 - Vincent and Margaret Andrews leased North Hall from Thomas Southcote. They had three daughters, Mary, Ann, Elizabeth, and three sons, Vincent, Elias and Richard.
They leased:- a mansion, a barton, three grist mills and a supply of water.
1669 - John and Margaret Morrell leased from Richard Cabell, (Squire Cabell of Brooke, Buckfastleigh, reputed to be an unpleasant sort), Smitha Cottage, North Hall Mills and Gooseland Close. Peter believes that Smitha Cottage is where Wayside Cafe now stands.
1682 - Ellis and Mary Smerdon leased from a Samuel Cabell of South Petherton a messuage called North Hall and two Grist Mills.
1688 - As previously mentioned we find Schoolmaster Hill describing North Hall in ruins.
(what was he describing as ruins because in...........)
1689 - Richard and Elizabeth Andrews leased from Samuel Cabell a Mansion House and two Mills. They had two daughters Rachel and Ann, and four sons William, Vincent, Elias, and John.
1694 - Samuel Cabell leased to Elias Andrew in partnership with brother Vincent Andrew, Smitha Cottage, Smitha Mill, Gooseland and North Hall Mill.
1703 - Elisa Andrew leased from Samuel Wooton, Smitha Cottage, Smitha Mill, Gooseland and Six Pits.
(A notice issued in 1713 by Samuel Wooton that all corn grown in the Manor was to be ground in North Hall Mill).
1716 - Samuel Wooton leased to John and Margaret Morrell, Smitha Mill and the Pitts.
(Note; A John Morrell is recorded as being a weaver in 1669).
1721 - Samuel Wooton leased to John and Joan Andrew, North Hall Mansion and two Mills.
They had three daughters, Mary, Ann, Joan. Mary is recorded to have been baptised
whilst living at North Hall. They also had seven sons, Joshua, John, Caleb, Richard, Jacob, Nicholas and George.
(Note; recorded by Handsford Worth that in 1725 there was a cloth/weaving boom, and eight mills were at that time in Widecombe).
1736 - William Wooton leased to John and Joan Andrew, North Hall Mansion and two Mills.
(Note; the Andrew family were at North Hall from 1626-1736, there is no further mention of the Andrew family connected to North Hall untill 1843, when a Caleb Andrew, of Dunstone, rented four fields of the estate, from Margaret Baring).
1746 - Reverend John Wooton created a 99 year lease.
1769 - John Dunning, (1st Lord Ashburton), became the leaseholder. He married Elizabeth Baring in 1780. He died in 1783. She died in 1809.
1782 - Leaseholder became Richard Barre Dunning. He became the second Baron Ashburton.
(Note; 1803 - a Rev A. Neck (botanist), recorded that Valerian was growing on the ruins of North Hall).
1803 - Richard Barre Dunning let to John and Elizabeth Tremills, North Hall Mills, Field and Garden. They had a daughter Elizabeth and two sons, Richard and Thomas.
1800 - North Hall and North Hall Mills part Wootons Lands leased from Lord Ashburton 1800-1833.
1812 - Lord Ashburton let to Richard and Joan Brooking, North Hall Tenement.
(Note; according to Stephen Woods, 1815 seat No 84 in Widecombe Church was alloted to North Hall).
1817 - Richard Barre Dunning let to John Tremills, North Hall Mills and Garden.
1823 - Margaret Baring inherited the remainder of the lease until 1845.
1834 - Peter and Susanna Hannaford of North Hall, baptised their son Roger.
(Possibly moved to Hatchwell in 1841, then possibly emigrated to America).
1843 - Margaret Baring let to Daniel Hext of Dunstone four fields.
Caleb Andrew of Dunstone four fields.
Samuel Mann of Venton four fields and a pond.
John Baker, publican, four fields, two orchards and The New Inn, (cidershop?).
1845 - Caroline Mason Drake, (nee Brodrick), purchased the lease and also owned Wooder and Coombe.
(Note; in 1850 first writen record of Widecombe Fair, listed in the guests is a Rev T. Fry, as Lord of the Manor, he was not Vicar of Widecombe. Was he an absent Lord?).
1880 - Recorded in the Daily Western Times, a excursion to see the ruins of North Hall.
1883 - Thomas Drake died - address given as The Manor House. (This is likely to be Wooder).
1885 - The self-styled Lady Drake, let lands to S. Hern, four acres at Coombe,
to D. Follett, eighteen acres which were part of Kingshead, Ley and Lower Bartons, and twenty-one acres to W. Norsworthy, part of North Hall.
1890 - A. A. Broderick, Lord of the Manor.
1893 - Albert Broderick, Lord of the Manor.
1902 - Misses Larpent owners of the Manor, (Wooder). Baron De Hochepied, in residence.
1903 - References to North Hall Fields in a sale catalogue of Wooder Manor.
1910 - Henry Mallaby Firth, Lord of the Manor, owner of the Mansion. A John Balson living in the Manor House Apartments. This too possibly Wooder.
1921 - North Hall Tea Gardens owned by Miss Mary Willcocks.
To summarise the presentation, Peter will continue to assess the details that he has, hoping that the Lufftwaffe photograph will throw up some more points of interest. He invites people to offer up different interpretations of the work and opinions that he has developed. For instance which field is which, were there two sites? He has written to Bournemouth University as they sometimes are looking for a site to do geo-physical work to train students, an answer is yet to come.
Professor Todd Gray is at present researching the eighteenth century touring artist ,John Swete, who it is believed may have visited Widecombe in 1789, there may be examples of his work depicting the area and perhaps, who knows, North Hall. Another artist Alfred Dawson toured the area in c1920, are there any examples of his work about? The quest for knowledge and information will continue, and Peter will be pleased to hear from anyone who may have any piece of information or folklore, however small, concerning North Hall.
A hearty vote of thanks was expressed to Peter, and this was greated by spontaneous applause.
By bringing together all this information into one paper Peter has demonstrated what can be achieved. It is to be hoped that other members will now be encouraged to put down on paper what they have found out about their projects. It must be emphasised that it does not matter, how much or how little material, you have to date, it is by publishing what you do have, that will encourage others to offer up further snippets of information which will gradually complete your Jig-saw!! This in turn can open up different lines of research and inquiry. GOOD LUCK!!
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