Widecombe History Group Minutes July 2000

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Apologies:- Audrey Mortimore, Jenny Pascoe, Ruby Churchward, Wendy Beard, Rodney Mortimore, Roger and Rosamund Whale and Michael Pascoe.

The meeting began by Sylvia Needham giving the group a bell for the use of our chairman to call order at meetings. This bell was the old A.R.P, (Air Raid Personnel) bell for the parish of Holne and had been in the possession of her family since the end of World War II, (1945).

North Hall

Peter Rennells is still researching the project. He has arranged with John Christian, artist and dowser of South Tawton, to dowse the North Hall site, with the kind permission of the owners, Mr and Mrs Michael Skinner. Peter has obtained from the Westcountry Studies (WS) Library a copy of the Land Tax records for 1780 which list about 100 properties in the Widecombe area, showing who owned the property, who lived there and what they paid. This has reinforced his research into the Andrews family as being at North Hall in 1780. This was collated by a young member of the Mormon religious group, who spent three months day and night living in the basement of the W.S. Library, and photocopied all he could find about the Mormons in Devon. He is going to look into the possibility of getting it on micro-fiche, or is it available on the ‘Internet’? It would entail about 30/40 sheets of paper per year to get it photocopied and as it is expensive to get paper print-outs this may be a way to get the information.

Devon Family History Soc

Peter has examined several micro-fiche sheets, and found at least 65 local family names are mentioned on them, amongst the 1200 or so entries, he hopes to get print-offs soon from these so that those interested can read them, thanks to Mary Pascoe and Chris Mayhead for their help with this. Enquiries from all over the world appear on these lists.

Devon Archives

Peter Rennells reported that at Newton Abbot Reference Library there are now a great many local newspapers on view from the beginning of the 1900’s to date. These are available to the general public and they make fascinating reading, he has already looked at some and the local news items are well worth recording. For example one that he had examined dated 1929 mentioned Widecombe School and a Mr Stanhope of Widecombe who objected to the full tarmacing of the roads, he felt that the centre strip should remain uncovered so to provide better grip walking for the horses as they pulled wagons etc, the wheels alone running on the smooth tarmac.

Devon History Soc - nothing to report.


Secretary gave Geoffrey Bamsey some notes, contact numbers and names that had been passed on to him by Mrs Boyes of Rutherford House, (previously the police station), which may be of use for further research into the policing of the parish.

John Lake Webber’s book of poems c1876

P.C. Simon Dell of Tavistock, is continuing his research into the late P. C. John Lake Webber, one time constable of this parish, having lived at Bittleford Cottages during his term of office. To date Simon has found a copy of Dymond’s "Things Old and New concerning the Parish of Widecombe" that once belonged to Webber and is now owned by a person in Exmouth. Inside the book is a handwritten ‘Family History or Family Tree" of the Webber family in his handwriting and complete with his signature.

Please also see Poems.


Anthony has obtained from Jim Hine, current president of Widecombe Fair, and late of this parish, a photograph showing the cottage at Windwhistle, a two story cottage with a thatched roof, dating from early 1900’s. He has also obtained from Pat and Patrick Coaker of Bittleford Farm, a photograph of Windwhistle and that cottage taken in 1919, from the field known as ‘Hill Park’, it must be remembered that Windwhistle was built c 1906-1912 on the site of two other cottages, a 1905 map shows the site as Bittleford Cottages. Chris Mayhead has produced a photograph of the boards inside the church tower, relating the storm of 1638, this fits with one of the poems, and Bessie French and Geoffrey Bamsey are looking for photographs of Leusdon Church, to go with another poem in the book, and the c1906 photograph mentioned in the June minutes, of the Widecombe Church Tower, covered in what appears to be timber scaffolding, should now complete the set required by Simon.

The next obstacle is to raise the finance to reprint the book, Simon has had one quote of £2.600.00, this seems excessive and various other avenues will have to be explored. Anthony will contact again "The Dartmoor Trust", when we have more details, to see if their interest in a grant or loan can be implemented, and he will also explore other sources. Peter Hirst also has some printers to contact.

If Simon can obtain approval from The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, Sir John Evans, to complete this project on our behalf, Geoffrey will contact Sir Roger Birch, one time local Widecombe policeman, former Chief Constable of Sussex, and Former President of the Association of Chief Constables, to ask if he may feel inclined to write the forward to the book.


Chairman has obtained some details regarding ‘small heritage grants’, this could help with the cost of storage cupboards etc. A sub-committee was formed to look into this. Margaret Steemson, Peter Hirst and Roy Barnes were appointed and will report back.

Jim Churchward has attended a meeting recently about various grants and was not impressed, he felt that they spent more time telling you why you were unlikely to get aid, rather than encouraging you to partake.

Flower Festival

A letter was read from Barbara Newport, (Rector’s Wife), co-ordinator of the event, thanking the group for its wonderful contribution. The festival raised over £3,400.00 towards the Tower Appeal. Everyone who saw it was delighted, and our chairman thanked all those who had participated in any way towards making ‘our exhibit’ so special. A special mention to Betty Andrews and Ruby Churchward for their expertise in flower arrangement and to Freda Wilkinson, Margaret Steemson, Sylvia Needham and Rodney Cruze and all the others for their assistance. Jim Churchward brought to the meeting many of the items that were loaned for our display. Members will collect them at the end of the meeting. A letter from Peter Dracup, sec P. Ch. Council, thanking the group for its excellent contribution. Chairman thanked Anthony Beard and Chris Mayhead for an article recently published in "Dartmoor - The Country Magazine", which has resulted in some further contributions to the Tower Appeal. A copy to be put into the archives.

Programme 2001

This is being compiled.

Suggestion that we ask Miles Fursdon, who has developed a hydro-electric system at Old Walls, to give us a talk and guided walk around the plant, its leat and associated works.

Beating the Bounds

Peter Hirst reported on what can only be described as a most successful project, and a sincere vote of thanks was recorded to him and his committee for all the work put into the arrangement of the walks.

The circumnavigation of our bounds has now been successfully completed.

About 80 people took part in some or all of the walks and it has been decided that everyone who in anyway assisted or took part would be eligible for a souvenir commemorative mug. Peter is currently doing a series of smaller walks in conjunction with our Widecombe County Primary School. This involves the teachers, classroom assistants and many of the parents as well as the pupils of the school. This amounts to about another 60 and they will also be eligible for a commemorative mug.

It was suggested that the children’s mugs be presented at the end of term service to be held in the church on Thursday 20th July, this would be a very easy way of distributing them particularly to those that are leaving to go on to secondary education. Peter asked that a special vote of thanks be recorded to Mark Hutchins for erecting the bridge over the West Webburn at Lizwell Meet, thus making that section of the walk much easier, and also that there should be a ‘bring and share’ supper evening at The Church House, late September or early October, when everyone could bring copies of photographs and notes and write-ups concerning the ‘Bounds’ to share with each other, with the ultimate aim of creating a comprehensive record of the event. Peter agreed to arrange this and also undertook to arrange for the "Parish Tithe Map" to be exhibited in The Church House on another date so that parishioners could examine it. He thought that it would be a good idea to invite the County Archivists, with whom we have a very good working relationship, to look at it while it was on show regarding any preservation work that it may need. All these ideas met with the approval of the meeting. Dates and times will be announced when he has got them arranged. Peter proposed a special vote of thanks to Sylvia Needham, who has acted as emergency transport for the whole duration of the walks and also transported our rucksacks and food etc from place to place around the parish. Chris Mayhead offered to give us a slide show based on photographs taken during the beating of the bounds, this was accepted, a possibility at the ‘bring and share evening’, or one of our non-speaker evenings.


Roger and Ann Claxton reported on the continued interest that the website is creating. Some local establishments have started to use it to advertise their businesses. They have already added to the site details on the first two sections of the ‘beating the bounds’ and a report on the progress of the tower appeal and the bells. Details about our school are on site, the June minutes of The Parish Council and our group’s minutes and reports are now there to be read, pictures of the walks and details of Widecombe Fair are all creating interest and there have been 100 visits to our site in both April and May. In June there has been 140 visits so interest is growing. Details of Parish Documents are slowly coming along, more are expected as the summer passes by! It is hoped that soon C.D. copies of all these documents and the website will be available to members at a very cheap rate (approx. £1.00 per copy), for use by those that have computors but with no e-mail facilities! These CD’s could each hold as much as twelve months minutes.


Letters of thanks have been sent to all land occupiers who gave us permission to cross their land to ‘Beat the Bounds’.

"Awards for All" have written to say that our application for assistance has been turned down.

Peter Hirst has bought an original poster advertising the sale of Scobitor Farm in 1888 and he has given it to the group’s archives. He is prepared for the present owners to have a copy if they so wish. Secretary was interested in the fact that Scobitor had no common rights on Pudsham Down or Blackslade Manor, (the two commons adjoining the farm), but did have rights on Widecombe Town Manor. This he had always been told was fact, by his late father, and the poster bears this out.

Tea rota

August Phyllis Pascoe and Margaret Steemson


Guided walk - Megaliths by Moonlight.

The re-arranged walk went ahead on Thursday 15th June and a very interesting and absorbing evening was enjoyed by those that attended. Tony Heath brought his dowsing rods with him, and several members tried their hand at dowsing with them. Some of the party were greatly surprised to find that they too could dowse, particularly those that viewed dowsing with scepticism, at the beginning of the evening, only to find themselves quite enthralled by it at the end. It was thought that another day Peter Rennells could take Tony to dowse the North Hall site. He agreed that this would be the way forward.

Guided walk around Pew Tor.

Some members attended the Yelverton Group’s wet and windy walk around Pew Tor and in spite of the weather found it very interesting.

Guided walk around Blackslade Mire

Colin Ridgers will lead a guided walk on Saturday 8th July 2000 around Blackslade Mire when it hoped that several of the flowers and plants mentioned in his talk given to the group on the 5th July will be identified. Meet at Cold East Cross car park at 12.00 noon.

Widecombe Bells

Secretary has written up a detailed resumee of Preb John Scott’s talk on the bells. John is checking this over and the copy will be available soon. Michael Pascoe is organising a coach trip to Bridport in Dorset on possibly Tuesday 8th August to see the bells and their new steel frame and tour the engineering works were the work is being undertaken. Leaving Widecombe at 6.00 p.m. and returning by 11.30 p.m. the cost is £6.00 per person

Anyone interested to contact Michael.

Any other business

The chairman thanked Anthony and Chris for donating their cheque received for their article in ‘Dartmoor - The Country Magazine’ issue No 9, summer 2000, entitled - The Cathedral of the Moor to the tower fund. The interesting article has also resulted in several donations towards the tower appeal being received.

The meeting closed at 10.17p.m.

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