Widecombe History Group Minutes June 2000

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A meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 7th June 2000 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 24 people attended. She opened the meeting by welcoming everyone.

Apologies:- Betty Andrews, Rodney Mortimore, Pam Clare, Tim Steemson, Wendy Beard, Sylvia Needham, Wendy Cruze, Phyllis Pascoe, Roger and Rosamund Whale, Jenny Pascoe and Michael Pascoe.

North Hall Peter Rennells is still awaiting replies to letters that he has written regarding the Fitzralphs. He is also waiting to meet John Christian, a dowser from South Tawton, who is planning to ‘scan’ the North Hall site.

Storage The Church House Management Committee have decided that we can place a storage cabinet in the upstairs kitchen on the right as one enters the kitchen from the main hall. Ideal size is one meter wide x two meters high x 50 centimeters deep. The question of funding was then raised and there is a ‘local heritage initiative’ being launched. Margaret and Tim Steemson offered to get the various leaflets that give details. They will look at them and report to the next meeting. It is reputed to cover a vast array of subjects.

Flower Festival 17-20 June Ruby Churchward reported that Betty Andrews and her, had the matter under control with the cooperation of Sylvia Needham, Margaret Steemson and Freda Wilkinson. Rodney Cruze will be bringing his heavy items to the church on the Thursday evening, 15th June, and he and Roger Whale will get them in situ ready for the major onslaught by the ladies the following morning. Various other people offered to get their contributions to the church on the Friday morning, the 16th.

Programme 2001 The secretary is still compiling the programme and is still open for suggestions of content and speakers.

Beating the Bounds Peter Hirst gave a full ‘up to the minute’ report on the situation.

A letter will be sent to the inter-manorial landowners/occupiers to say that those boundaries will now be undertaken in May in the year 2001, this is due mainly to the fact that the summer growth of vegetation will make it very difficult to walk. This will also act as an extension to what has so far proved to be a most enjoyable exercise. A vote of thanks was expressed to Peter and all his team who have worked so hard to get this project up and running, and to Sylvia Needham for her services with ‘the grub wagon’! Peter will now be concentrating on the special walks that have been arranged with Mrs Price, headteacher, for all the pupils of our Widecombe Primary School.

It was reported that a ‘wartime anti-glider pole’ was found lying on the ground and was retrieved and has been brought down from Hameldown by our walking group to be kept in the village as a memento of their existence and purpose.

Peter posed the idea of having a ‘get-to-gether’ at the end of the summer, to exchange notes, photo’s, bring and share supper and distribute the mugs. We shall write to The Parish Council to record that the ‘Bounds have been beaten’.

Millennium Satellite Aerial Photo - Secretary reported that it appears that £127.00 will need to be paid to register before anything else is undertaken. It was decided that this matter should rest for the time being.

Megaliths by Moonlight The guided walk around Merrivale Stone Rows scheduled for Wednesday 17th May had to be postponed due to the weather. This has been re-arranged for Thursday 15th June, 7.30 p.m. meet at Four Winds/Foggingtor School car park.

July meeting To be held on Wednesday 5th July. Colin Ridgers "Ancient Medicinal Uses of Moorland Plants.

Followed by a guided walk on the Saturday 8th July with Colin Ridgers around Blackslade Mire to identify some of those plants. Meet at Cold East Cross carpark at 12.00 noon. Map ref. (SX 740 743).

Invitation Yelverton LHG have invited us to join them for a walk around Pew Tor on Tuesday 20th June at 7.00 p.m. with Helen Harris.


Roger and Ann Claxton brought along their ‘lap-top computer’ so that members could see what is currently on our ‘community website’.

At the end of the meeting several people took the opportunity to view the website. This was most enjoyable, we saw items concerning Widecombe Fair, Widecombe Flower Festival, the group minutes and write-ups concerning speakers, beating the bounds, school prospectus, parish council minutes, advertisements the sports group’s ‘fun-run’ and the church bells. A very impressive demonstration to follow up Roger’s March talk on the possibilities and potential of the website. It is to be hoped that they will be willing to do this at future meetings.

Tower Appeal The group had organised a talk which was held in the church on Thursday 4th May when Rev Preb John Scott gave us an insight into the history of the bells, and we all had an opportunity to see them and the recently secured old bell clappers. John Scott expressed a desire to look at The Churchwarden’s Accounts held in our Parish Chest, this will be arranged through Peter Hirst our archivist. The result of the evening was that £206.00 was raised for the Tower Appeal. The secretary will write up the details of that evening in due course. The meeting was reminded that Leusdon Church has had a very successful millennium project in the rehanging and restoration of its bell, and Rev Scott has been the advisor for that. It was mentioned that Miles Fursdon and John Vicary had done most of the work in making the frame and rehanging it, Geoffrey offered to do a write-up about this, and it was suggested that a copy of "Widecombe Bells" the locally written song about the bells should be added to those notes for our archives. The police choir have had harmony parts written to the song and this information should be passed on to Graham Knibbs, (history of local music).

John L. Webber’s book of poems.

Simon Dell is continuing his research into the possible reprint of "Poems on Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Neighbourhood by John L. Webber, (The Dartmoor Poet) published c1876. It is believed that Webber came to Widecombe in 1862, and Geoffrey pointed out, that in historical terms, there had in fact at that time only been a police force for six years. This came about as a result of The County Council Act 1856. So could he have been a founder member of The Devon Constabulary police force?

It is hoped that this can be achieved to raise funds for the tower appeal. To date he has found an original book to copy and is looking for relevant photographs. June Kernick produced a copy of a photograph of Widecombe Church Tower completely surrounded in scaffolding dated c1906, Peter Dracup, secretary to P.Ch. Council also has a similar photograph. Chris Mayhead has taken a photograph of the boards relating the 1638 storm which hang in the church, Bessie French has one of the interior of Leusdon Church and Anthony is currently trying to trace pictures of Bittleford Cottages where Webber lived. The means of financing this project has to be investigated. Local Heritage Grants?

Geoffrey Bamsey suggested that perhaps Sir Roger Birch, one time Widecombe’s local policeman, now leader of The Chief Constable’s Association, may be prepared to write the foreword, this idea will be passed on to Simon.


A letter from:- Betty Smith, President of Plymouth Atheneum, asking for any information of "Lady Drake" of Widecombe. Do we know anything about her? It was suggested that she should read the chapter in Stephen Woods’s latest book on Widecombe - Uncle Tom Cobley and All.

A letter from:- Sue Price, headteacher, Widecombe School, referring to the recent Village Appraisal, where the possibility of using the school swimming pool was muted. This can only be permitted with strict controls and regulations, including the need for people with lifesaving abilities being on duty at all times when the pool is open. The idea of making the pool available met with approval but no-one within the group was sufficiently qualified to be able to offer their assistance.

Stephen Woods would appreciate any information regarding Challacombe and it’s tin workings and agriculture, Freda will reply on behalf of the group.

A letter of enquiry regarding the Cleave family has been received and replied to, Peter Rennells our ‘Society Secretary’ has obtained many ‘micro-fiche’ sheets regarding Family History and Chris Mayhead has obtained the ‘longterm loan’ of a micro-fiche reader for our use in this field.

A small parcel has been received from "Win French" containing maps, note books and papers which will be added to our archive collection.

Widecombe British Legion - now The Royal British Legion.

Geoffrey Bamsey produced the original Minute of book of The Local British Legion. Founded in 1924 at about the same time as The Leusdon Memorial Hall was built, so obviously the two events were very much connected. A beautiful example of ‘copper plate writing’ within it. Many local names appearing it. Many interesting insights into the running of the organisation and the people involved and how they ran the group. There are only the two minute books, that one and the current one. Geoffrey felt that he could write a summary of the contents and the book should then be placed in the Parish Chest. Should the book have its spine and boards attended to or be rebound to help maintain it?

Tea Rota A vote of thanks was recorded to all those who helped with the tea break.

  • July Audrey Mortimore and Pam Clare
  • August Phyllis Pascoe and Margaret Steemson

The meeting closed at 10.12 p.m.

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