Widecombe History Group Minutes December 2000

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A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 6th December 2000 at 7.30 p.m.

Please click here for Mike Maslin's talk on Salmon in the Dart and Its Trubutaries.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 37 people attended. She began the meeting by wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year in readiness for the forthcoming festivities.

Apologies were received from :- Geoffrey Bamsey, David Fisher, Bessie French, Jack Simpson, Wendy Cruze, Pearl and John Northcott, Pauline Barnes and Sylvia Needham.

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

North Hall:- Peter Rennells updated the group on the project. English Heritage are unable to get involved with the proposed ‘Dig’ as they currently have no funds available, they may however get some funding at a future date. They did suggest that perhaps The Archaeological Commission may be able to assist particularly if one can obtain the assistance of a University, he will contact them in due course. Peter has sent relevant maps, photo’s etc to Mr Alan Neale, dowser of Launceston. He, having dowsed the maps, is convinced that there is plenty of evidence of an old settlement on the site. Peter is still searching for the connection of Fitzralphs of North Hall, Widecombe, with Dundalk, in Ireland, this is a slow process! Peter has also given Brian Harper of Swallaton Gate, pilot and aerial photographer, and John Pidgeon of Linchaford, archaeologist, copies of maps, plans, photographs etc of the North Hall site, for their perusal. He is awaiting their comments. Brian Harper being at the meeting said that he has found it very interesting and is looking forward to getting an opportunity of flying over the site and when he has done this he will report back to the group about his observations. Brian will attempt to find any earlier aerial photographs that may be in existence elsewhere. Peter Hirst reported that John Pidgeon is prepared to give us the benefit of his observations and advice, when he has had time to evaluate the evidence. His historical knowledge, advice, archaeological experience and qualifications would be of great value to the ongoing saga.

Peter Rennells will be joining the secretary on BBC Radio Devon soon to discuss the North Hall project, how he has gone about researching it and where he has been able to find documents and information. This may bring forth more information.

Parish Documents:- Peter Hirst reported on a meeting he had with Rev. Preb. John Scott, Exeter Diocesan Bell Advisor, when they examined The Churchwarden’s Accounts in the Parish Chest looking for information relevant to the bells. John expressed a wish to examine these at the talk he gave the group on Thursday 8th May last. John was delighted with the information he found in them. Once again our historical documents have proved invaluable to research. One interesting point was that a bellfounder of dubious repute had to return to the village and recast a bell that he had done previously to a poor standard. Incidentally there is one Churchwardens Account Book missing and the ‘bell incident’ would have continued into that record.

Roger and Ann Claxton reported on the Database that they are compiling of our documents, and expressed a hope that more people would help tackle this mammoth task by contacting Peter Hirst who in turn would allocate them with a clutch of papers to decipher, and then record on the accompanying forms all the details there-in. E-mails continue to come in and they are getting dealt with accordingly, by being passed on to relevant researchers and interested members, for answers which are then returned.

An Example.

The Hannaford-Hill enquiry has thrown up quite a lot of interesting details. Were they from Widecombe or not? There was a Hannaford that came from Widecombe and did very well in business in Cincinnati U.S.A. He became a very well known architect and was responsible for the construction of over 300 buildings in that area. Being one of eleven children and born in April 1835 he came from Southcombe in Widecombe in Devon, England, where his parents were farmers. When he was an infant the roof of his home caught fire, according to Hannaford’s Grandaughter, a maid ran into his room and snatched the sleeping child, Samuel, from the house just before the roof came crashing down. When he was nine the family emigrated to the United States, according to another family story because his father had been caught in a compromising position with a maid, we do not know if it was the same girl, arriving in the steam boat "Revenue" in 1844. Details of this will be sent to June Kernick.


Freda Wilkinson then gave a resumee of what she had seen on the documents that she has worked on. This proved very interesting, in the 1700’s children as young as seven being apprenticed out until he/she was twenty one, or in the case of a girl until she married, for food, lodgings and clothes, could this be verging on ‘slave labour’ in the pretence of learning a skill? This was done by permission of a Justice of the Peace and the Churchwardens. Rodney Cruze said that he had seen documents of that kind dumped many years ago in a parish in South Devon, and he had rescued some himself.

Newsletter No 6 has run out. Peter Rennells will be asked to produce some more!

Beating the Bounds 2000 is gradually reaching its final stages with the last of the proposed "school children’s" walks scheduled for Thursday 28th December at 10.00 a.m. Peter Hirst told the meeting that anyone can join the walk, meeting at Newbridge at 10.00 a.m. with the aim of transporting everyone to the Sherril Road, near The Cavepenny Cross, then walking to Corndon Tor, hopefully for a panoramic view of most of the parish, then walking back to Newbridge via Oldsbrim, Bell Tor Corner, and Dr Blackall’s Drive. The intention is still to do the inter-manorial boundaries next year. The chairman then gave Peter a gift token as a token of the group’s appreciation for all the hard work that he has already put in to this wonderful and successful millennium project. Peter in thanking the group stressed that there is still time for members to produce write-ups etc of the perambulation. He told the meeting that Mr Jack Simpson has given the group for its archives, a copy of the official record of the ‘Beating the Bounds of Spitchwick Manor 2000’ complete with map showing all the features, the stones and boundaries etc., a very valuable asset for future reference.

Tithe Map:- Further to the last minutes it had been noticed that a report in The Western Morning News recently, stated that The D.R.O. are hoping for a Millennium Grant to build a new store for archives and also to erect a large room for the restoration of items like our tithe map. We shall watch with interest the progression of that scheme!

Dartmoor’s Policeman Poet book is continuing to sell. Barbara Guthrie is holding a craft market in The Church House on Sunday 10th of December from 10.00 a.m. till 4.00 p.m. to raise funds for The Tower Appeal. She offered the group a stall to sell the book. This offer was taken up and several members offered their services at different times during the day to ‘man the stall’.

Tea/coffee A vote of thanks was expressed to the ‘tea ladies’ for their mince-pies and to all their team of helpers.

Rota:-January Audrey Mortimore and Margaret Steemson.

February Ann Claxton and Nora Lamb.

March Pat Coaker and Beryl Tabor.

Programme 2001 The secretary produced the amended 2001 programme which he has at last been able to finalise. Copies were available for members to take home.

The Secretary reported having booked the Church House for the first Wednesday in each month for the years 2001 and 2002.

  • 3 Jan Geoffrey Weymouth Dartmoor and its Wildlife
  • 7 Feb Non-Speaker Evening
  • 7 Mar. Francis Griffiths Aerial photography of Dartmoor
  • 4 Apr Miles & Gail Fursdon Old Walls Leat & Hydro Electrics
  • 7 Apr(Sat) Guided Walk around Old Walls Leat and Hydro Electric Scheme
  • meet at Old Walls at 12.00 noon
  • 2 May John Weir Dartmoors Artists and Writers
  • 6 Jun Suzanne Haines The Art of Calligraphy
  • 4 July Non-Speaker Evening
  • 7 July(Sat) Guided Walk around Yarner/Trendlebeer Down
  • meet at Yarner carpark at 12.00 noon
  • 1 Aug Len Copley Railways of Dartmoor
  • 4 Aug(Sat) Guided Walk around Princetown Railway and surrounding area
  • meet at D.N.P. carpark 12.00 noon
  • 5 Sept Graeme Spink History of Kelly Mines - Lustleigh
  • 3 Oct Lyn Walmsley Field Archaeology
  • 7 Oct(Sun) Guided Walk around Kelly Mines - Lustleigh at 1.30 p.m.
  • N.B. parking is a premium - please try and share cars
  • 7 Nov Non-Speaker Evening
  • 17 Nov(Sat) John Allen Visit to Royal Albert Museum, Exeter
  • N.B. this is a conducted tour 10.30a.m. - 12.30p.m.
  • 5 Dec Pauline Richards Dartmoor Rescue Group


1. An invitation was received from the Church House Committee to attend a party to celebrate the arrival of their new kitchens at the Church House on Friday 29th December at 7.30 p.m. Bring and share supper.

2. Notification from Ordnance Survey regarding copying maps. It is in order to do so for research and educational purposes without charge. Copying maps for own use is acceptable but any map less than 50 years old is liable for copyright fees if used for publications etc. Maps over 50 years old involve no copyright fees.

3. BT Community Connections - computer award competition. A copy of our entry was received from Roger and Ann Claxton who have submitted our entry to the Western Morning News.

4. Widecombe in the Moor Parish Council - a letter was read from the Council asking anyone attending meetings at the Church House to make sure they do not block the access road to Venton.

5 Stephen Woods has contacted the secretary asking for any information on farming in the area. Anyone wishing to talk to Stephen must contact him direct.

Programme 2002

Roger and Ann Claxton and Vivien Layfield have offered to take on the task of building up a programme of speakers for 2002. The folder containing names and addresses of potential speakers, some that we have already heard but will often talk on different subjects, lists of speakers that have been obtained from other groups and organisations, and a few suggested by members, was passed on to the three volunteers.

January 3rd 2001 Illustrated talk by Geoffrey Weymouth - Dartmoor and its Wildlife.

The meeting closed at 10.00 p.m.

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