Widecombe History Group Minutes February 2000

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held in The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 2nd February 2000 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 36 people attended. She began by welcoming some new faces to the meeting and also Mr and Mrs Brian Maddock, our speaker for the evening and his wife.

Apologies:- Roger and Ann Claxton, Roger and Rosamund Whale, Vivien Layfield and Rodney Mortimore.

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

There was one query:- Was the headteacher at Widecombe School c1940’s, Mrs Tucker’s first name Rose or Renee?


North Hall

Regarding the cropmarkings seen on photographs in the vicinity of the old North Hall site, and the suggestion that they may have been left by World War II Army Encampments. The local people suggested in last month’s minutes have been interviewed and they all state that no encampments were there at that time. It was confirmed that the military took over the cafes, the Church House, and other buildings to house soldiers after the evacuation from Dunkirk, some Officers were billeted in private houses, a canteen was operated from Green Restaurant. Leonard Norrish related that there was a ‘searchlight battery’ at the top of Blackaton Hill, however a cluster of German bombs were dropped near them one night and by the morning they had moved to the site on Bittleford Down, north-east of Watergate. Other sites around the area were at Hele near Ashburton, Holne Park, Halshanger, Lock’s Cross, and the memory of the poles erected on Pudsham Down and Hameldown to stop enemy gliders from landing, anti-aircraft guns near Foxworthy hedges and on Dunstone Down, the Bailey Bridges at Holne Bridge and New Bridge the amount of army traffic and the noise of the army moving during the night that lead up to The D-Day Invasion of Normandy, all good historical information.

Peter Rennells asked the meeting for permission to purchase another aerial photograph of the North Hall site c1973, cost £16.00, proposed by Terry French that we should do this to support Peter in his research, unanimously agreed. Peter also mentioned the wealth of information that he has seen at Torquay Museum including newspaper cuttings from the, now out of print, ‘South Devon Journal’. His visit resulted from a letter from Kath Brewer enclosing several photographs and news items regarding Widecombe. He reported that there is a vast amount of material in store there, relevant to our Parish.

The question of writing again to the T.V. programme "Time Team" to see if they would be interested in this project was agreed. It was suggested by Jim Churchward that we should register an interest in the Millennium Satellite Aerial Photograph System now being promoted. Rod Newbolt-Young will find out the contact procedure and inform the secretary.

Peter also mentioned a booklet by Rev Pickering dated 1897, seen at The Westcountry Studies Library, about St Pancras Church of Widecombe, the village and containing some lovely ink drawings of the inside of the church. Secretary thought it should be followed up in case it could be reproduced to help with the current Church Tower Appeal. He will enquire. Peter has copied some of what Rev Pickering had to say about North Hall. This will be added to the material already recorded by Peter and included in the updated write-up being produced. Peter suggested that Anthony should go with him one day and view the booklet. University of Reading suggests that we pursue the afore-mentioned "Time Team" idea, as they believe that they are currently looking for fresh sites to explore.


Audrey Lamb has been unable to trace the ‘Venton Police Station’ photograph to date.

Geoffrey Bamsey has still to contact the New Zealand source of information.

Could the policeman’s wife who taught the children illuminated writing c1940’s be Mrs Reed ?


Still being pursued, but waiting on the proposed redecoration of the hall’s kitchen, and any grant that may be forth-coming. The Parish Council have agreed to pay for the acid free manila, (see last month’s minutes).

Beating the Bounds

Peter Hirst reported that plans are well in hand, the committee have met and drawn up a "programme for the event", a copy to be attached to the minutes.

Two drawings were submitted to the meeting as possible designs for ‘the commemorative mug’, the drawing by Roger Whale in a silhouette form of walkers and three riders mounted on a horse was accepted. It also included a sketch of Newbridge, south of the Parish, and the tors of Honeybags, Chinkwell etc to the north and the inscription "WIDECOMBE PARISH 2000 BEATING THE BOUNDS".

The school will be involved and there was a request for anyone that could help with transport, grub-wagon, leaders of groups, attendance monitors, recorders and photographers to write up the stages, donations towards costs and of course walkers on the days!

Several lists were produced by Peter of the programme and asked that members should take them home, read and comment on them at the March meeting.

Thanks were expressed to the sub-committee for all the work so far undertaken on this project.

A letter will be sent to all landowners and occupiers of land on either side of the boundary, requesting their cooperation and permission to pass over their land to "Beat the Bounds of the Parish", and asking if they have any special requests regarding the path we take through their property to safeguard against crop and hedge damage and disturbance of livestock.

The Parish Council have agreed that we can use the term "Beating the Bounds".

Archiving photographs etc

Dartington Rural Archives suggest photographing and storing as negatives or preferably using a ‘digital camera’ and storing on a hard disc or C.D.


At our March Meeting, Ann and Roger Claxton aided by Chris Mayhead, will present a demonstration on the ‘Website’ and "Internet" and its workings and implications. Cataloguing of parish documents, indentures, examinations and removals etc and recording their contents still progressing slowly. Contact Peter Hirst for papers to survey.

Grants and Financial Aid

To date no reply from Dartmoor Trust.

Secretary has written to Widecombe Fair and Widecombe Parish Council, to date no replies.

A donation from Widecombe Parochial Church Council of £50.00 towards the cost of running the Website has been received, secretary to write and thank the Council. No reply has been received from them regarding the conservation of the inscribed lead on the roof of the tower, it is understood that this may otherwise be scrapped when the refurbishment of the tower is undertaken. Secretary to write again.


A letter has been received from Miss Vivien Van Straubenzee, sister of the late Sir William Van Straubenzee, thanking us for our letter of condolence sent recently upon his death. She will keep in touch with the group if she finds anything of interest regarding Widecombe amongst his possessions.

Letter from Mrs Barbara Newport regarding the "Flower Festival" next June. This was passed to Betty Andrews our co-ordinator for the event, to add to her file, and discuss with her team of helpers. The design of our backdrop to our stand was shown to the meeting and the measurements have been recorded.

A copy of the photograph of the tithes being paid on the ‘Dunstone’ has been found in our archives and is at present with Roger and Ann who will no doubt get a copy made.

Mary Pascoe brought a copy of some details obtained from Widecombe School records, it showed that at one time in 1908 only 11 children were in school. July 23rd 1903, Prince and Princess of Wales visited Widecombe. 1907, reported to the Managers all the holes in the school made by rats. September 17th 1909, poor attendance - many gone to races to see Prince and Princess of Wales who were visiting The Dartmoor Races. 1918 School closed for 4 weeks because of ‘flu.

She will explore further for details of the war years.

The death of Lady Sylvia Sayers was noted. A stalwart supporter of Dartmoor and all its treasures. Her grandfather Robert Burnard was a great influence on her when she was a child.

Peter Rennells referred to another booklet that he had seen at The Westcountry Studies Library concerning Widecombe Fair that he thought was very interesting complete with illustrations. Geoffrey Bamsey mentioned a visit he once did to Spreyton, he was discussing Widecombe Fair, and he was informed that "You folk at Widecombe have got it all wrong - they was going to Whiddon Down not Widecombe!". Whiddon Down being just ‘down the road’ from Spreyton - This of course We Can Not Accept!! There was reputed at one time to be several items of memorabilia concerning "Uncle Tom Cobley" on display in The Tom Cobley Inn at Spreyton however most of that was lost in a fire at The Inn several years ago. Chairman said that she was pleased that he DID come to Widecombe and in so doing added to the prosperity of our district!


A vote of thanks was recorded to Nora and Pam for the provision of tea and biscuits for the meeting and to the band of helpers who assisted with the washing up etc.

March Freda and Margaret.


Secretary asked for suggestions for speakers for next years programme as now is the time to make a start with bookings if we want to maintain the same standard of speakers as the group has so far achieved.


Brian Maddock’s illustrated talk on :-

"Dartmoor - A land under pressure and its sights and sounds".

Please click here to view the talk.

The presentation was well received and a hearty vote of thanks was recorded to Mr Maddocks.

The meeting closed at 10.00 p.m.

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