Widecombe History Group Minutes December 2001


A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 5th December 2001 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 32 people attended. She opened the meeting by welcoming two new faces to the meeting and expressing the hope that they would enjoy the meeting and wished all the group a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year. She commented on the continued success of the Group and the support of not only of those of our Parish but the regular supporters from Ashburton, Bovey Tracey, Liverton, Totnes and Ilsington and many more surrounding Parishes. She presented the secretary with a token of appreciation for all the work he puts into the group.

Apologies:- Sylvia Needham, Rosemary Mortimore, Wendy Cruze, Roger Claxton and Geoffrey Hannaford.

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

Concern was expressed at the beginning of the meeting that our speaker from The Dartmoor Rescue Group had not arrived as he was expected at 7.00 p.m. to set up. In line with the lighthearted manner in which our meetings are conducted jokes as to whether he had lost his way, could not find us etc, abounded! He never arrived but the meeting continued successfully never-the-less!

Arising and Correspondence

Data Base. The transcription of Indentures etc is continuing.

November’s Discussion Meeting on Local Transport.

A letter was read from Roger and Barbara Grimley of Bigbury thanking us for the warm welcome they had received at our November meeting, as well as joining in the discussion they too had gained a lot of information. They hope to attend further meetings particularly during the summer. We agreed to send them a copy of the 2002 programme and a copy of our most recent newsletter.

TSW/Westward T.V. Archives.

Peter Carrett pointed out that Graham Spink, who gave us such an interesting talk on The Kelly Mines on 5th September 2001, can also arrange for us to view further films in the TSW/Westward television archives.

2002 programme Copies are now available. A copy will be passed on to Barbara Newport, Editor of the Parish Link Newsletter. This ensures that the group will continue to get maximum publicity for our regular monthly meetings.

Lark family of Widecombe/Denbury

Reference to the Lark family, it was noted that a Harry Lark was the last Landlord of The Union Inn at Denbury and believed to be connected possibly to George Lark and/or John Lark of this parish, mentioned in earlier minutes.

Hermon French

The Tree Planting ceremony in memory of Hermon French, at ‘Hutholes’, is now scheduled to take place on Thursday 13th December 2001 at 2.00 p.m. when members are welcomed to attend. The Secretary has agreed to follow up the ‘Hermon French Collection of Prehistoric Memorabilia’ currently at Parke and he will also contact Mrs Harman to record where the rest of his collection , e.g. arrowheads, scrapers, and knives etc. may be.

Widecombe Church Dropcloth

Secretary reported on a meeting held with The Rector. The Parochial Church Council are happy for us to arrange the storage of the ‘Mural’. We shall contact The Church House Management Committee with the view of storing it near the Tithe Map in The Church House. Whether or not the P.C.C. are intending to get postcards made showing the dropcloth and the Tower enclosed in scaffolding, has yet to be decided. Peter and Eileen Carrett brought samples of photographs they have taken of the dropcloth and tower and are happy for the P.C.C. to have copies of them for that purpose if so desired. It is thought that several photographs have been taken and this should be pursued.

Audrey Mortimore stated that when in Church she has been asked for photographs of the tower and the screen. The secretary agreed to ‘keep the ball rolling’ and maintain contact with the PCC, as this could be a further fund raiser.

Family History Society Secretary/Custodian

Ken Hamlyn of Ashburton offered to take on the responsibility of being Secretary/Custodian of all the work and equipment in connection with the above. Secretary will obtain the Micro-fiche reader and all the documents at present held within the Group and pass on to him.

Tythe Book. Peter Hirst’s amendments are continuing and he hopes to arrange The Inter-manorial walks next year subject to Foot & Mouth Restrictions!

Bellever Day

Information regarding Bellever Day is continuing to be brought to the meetings.

Peter and Eileen Carrett brought notes that they had collected:-

a. Mentioned in “Crossing’s Hundred Years on Dartmoor” - pages 89 & 90 under ‘Annual Meet at Bellaford Tor’. “.............During the Dartmoor Week the headquarters of the hunt are The Duchy Hotel, Princetown, and the Dart Vale Harriers meet in the immediate neighbourhood two days out of the four over which the assemblage extends, alternately with another pack - usually Mr Netherton’s. This pleasant fixture takes place in the month of April, and on the concluding day, the Friday, the meet is always at Bellaford Tor, and forms the great holiday of the year for the Dartmoor folk. It is invariably numerously attended, hundreds of visitors flocking to the tor. At this annual picnic on old “Bellever”, in 1901, the field was probably the largest ever known there. It was considered that fully a thousand persons were present, more than five hundred of them being mounted, while vehicles of every description were to be seen on the slopes around the tor.

b. There is a photograph in “Crossing’s Dartmoor Worker”. The caption reads: “Part of the crowd assembled on Bellaford Day to see the meet at Bellaford Tor. Early in the Century”.

c. Reference in “Sabine Baring Gould’s - A Book of Dartmoor”

All these references suggest that these occasions were connected to Hunting rather than Racing.

Rodney Cruze supplied a copy of a newspaper article dated 1908 concerning The East Devon Hunt Point to Point. Not thought to be relevant to Bellever, but interesting nevertheless.

Alex Warne, proprietor/licensee of The East Dart Hotel, Postbridge has written in the December 2001 Parish Link Newsletter:-

“During the latter part of the 19th century & the early 20th century, there were a number of hunt weeks held towards the end of the hunting season. William Crossing in his ‘One Hundred Years on Dartmoor’ includes a section titled ‘Hunting in the Moor Country’.

He records that both The Ashburton Harriers and The Dart Vale Harriers were exceedingly popular, and that the hunt weeks connected with these packs brought together a large number of sportsmen from different parts of the county (Devon) as well as from Cornwall. He wrote the following account for The Dart Vale’s Dartmoor Week in 1901:-

“During the Dartmoor Week the headquarters of the hunt are at The Duchy Hotel (now The High Moorland Centre) in Princetown, and The Dart Vale Harriers meet in the immediate neighbourhood two days out of the four over which the assemblage extends, alternating with another pack. This pleasant fixture takes place in the month of April, and on the concluding day, the Friday, the Meet is always at Bellever Tor, and forms the great holiday of the year for the Dartmoor folk. It is invariably numerously attended, hundreds of visitors flocking to the Tor”.

Crossing goes on to describe the days hunting but makes no mention of hunt races being held. It seems that the Dartmoor Foxhounds may have been involved in the later years, as Mr David Hurn recalls their hounds being kennelled at Tor Royal for a week in 1920. Mrs Emmy Webb recalls attending one Bellever Day in 1924, presumably the last one held.

Freda Wilkinson brought notes also relating to “Bellever Day” mentioned in - “High Dartmoor by Eric Hemery”, page 486. .......”The hunting packs of the Dartmoor country know Bellever Tor and the rocky seclusion of Bellever Combe well. A former custom of uniting in a hunting festival on the Moor ended on the first Friday in May, (possibly the last Friday in April according to the calendar), with a meet on the Tor, known as Bellever Day. It was a tremendously popular occasion with the moor people”. Crossing, in 100 years, (on Dartmoor) writes that:- “In 1901 the field was probably the largest ever known there. It was considered that fully a thousand persons were present, more than five hundred of them being mounted, while vehicles of every description were to be seen on the slopes around the tor”......(Annie Sleep of Postbridge writing in the Postbridge ‘Parish Pump’ in June 1968... “It was as popular as Tavistock Goosey Fair”..... “Hundreds of people came to Bellever Tor for the last meet of the season. There were picnics galore, people, waggonettes, horses, hunters. The villagers selling soft drinks did a roaring trade”.

Freda continued:- “Bellever Day was a joint meet of several packs - the Dart Vale Harriers, the South Devon Foxhounds and the Dartmoor Hunt and Mid Devon Hunt and in the 19th century the Ashburton Harriers, - this was the close of the Dartmoor Week”.

From “Dartmoor - A New Study” edited by Crispin Gill page 230....... “The great event in the Dartmoor hunting calendar until the early 1930’s was ‘Bellever Day’ held on a Friday in April, when people flocked to Bellever Tor from miles around. This was the holiday of the year for many country folk, and champagne (for the gentry), sloe gin, ale and cider flowed freely. There were many who failed to get home in the evening and slept the night by the roadside, huddled under the newtake walls”.

Mrs Sue Booty may have a photograph of Miss Joan Cave-Penny at Bellever Tor Meet in c1905.

Also there is mention in “The Hound and the Horn” by W. F. Collier - page 155.

Also there is a poem by Jonas Coaker (The Dartmoor Poet), entitled “The Bellever Tor Hunt 1875”

This can be read in an article published in “The Dartmoor Magazine” edited by Elizabeth Stanbrook. Issue No 27 -Summer 1992 - page 5, written by Dr Tom Greeves.

It should be checked with Elizabeth if further copies are available.

Ordnance Survey

We are in receipt of a reply from Ordnance Survey.

It appears that we would be classified as a small business. We do make a great deal of use of maps for walks, projects etc and it seems that a £45.00 annual licence would suffice and keep us within the law. We can then copy for our use but not for financial return or publishing. Agreed.

Widecombe Fair. Secretary reported that he has misplaced the letter from Tony Foxworthy of London regarding Widecombe Fair. He has asked several members to check their files and e-mails to see if they have a copy. It was felt that the letter was received via Widecombe Post Office, and suggested he look again through his papers, this he agreed to do. It was suggested that perhaps this Tony Foxworthy has approached other local Fairs like Tavistock Goosey Fair for information and they may have a contact address, he agreed to to some ‘detective work’ and report to the next meeting.

Letter from America.

The letter has now been passed to Freda Wilkinson and she will deal with it when she has a chance. There were two photographs with the letter one showing Sherrill and the other Uppacott.

Visit to Exeter Museum 17th November 2001

All those who attended had a most enjoyable and informative morning. Many wished that they had been able to go and expressed the hope that we could arrange another visit. Secretary to contact the Museum and enquire if we owe them for the guided tour. Firstly we were taken behind the scenes and shown hundreds of boxes all labeled with a wide variety of historic artifacts contained there-in. One item of particular local interest was a rebuilt pot, about 10 inches high and 10 inches in diameter, that had been found in pieces at ‘Dinna Clerks’ on West Shallowford. This site had been excavated in c1950’s by Mrs Minter, she discovered that the house had been burnt down and this one pot had fragmented. The pieces having been offered to the Museum by Mrs Barbara Lind the owner, and also a less complete jug that has been re-constucted using clay for the missing fragments. A collection of rare silver coins, some found in the county but others that had been found in Scandinavia having been minted at Lydford Mint a thousand years ago or more, one of these the only coin of its kind in the world! Some of these silver ‘pennies’ had a groove in them so that they could be broken in half as payment. One, the only coin found at Dinna Clerks is a ‘half of a silver penny’, (the original round penny having been cut in half). A collection of gold coins found at Chudleigh were also shown to our group. We did not have sufficient time to explore the museum’s public exhibition but one item shown to us which is on public display, was the well known ‘Horridge Axe Head’ found on Horridge Common many years ago and .believed to be of a style only previously known in Czechoslovakia, in Eastern Europe.

The meeting felt that we should make a donation to the Museum. It must be noted that normal admission is FREE, and recommended the coffee shop in the Museum for its good refreshments which were reasonably priced.

Ashburton Museum was also recommended as being worth a visit

Photograph was received from Joan and Les Hambleton of Widecombe School Class showing the teacher Miss Enid Horton who was born in this parish and after qualifying returned to teach here in c 1960. A copy of this photograph is already in our chest with most of the pupils named.

E-mails received this month:-

A) A Jill Bowden who is writing a novel based on this area wrote asking for information. She originated from Bovey Tracey!

Did the Old Inn have another name? If so what was it. Was it always an Inn or was it a shop? What Inns were in the parish in 1820’s? Mention of New House on the Parish Boundary at that time. Rugglestone Inn was still a cottage at that time

Was Widecombe Fair always held on the second Tuesday of September or was it held earlier and known as The Mid Summer Fair? Was there a Doctor in Widecombe at that time?

It was agreed that we write and suggest she contacts the partners of E. Bowden & Sons of Bovey Tracey, who may be relations and have further information.

B) Received from a Patrick Wildgust a copy of a postcard from Beatrice Chase showing herself by the river Dart in September 1928 and the following comments typed on the back.:- ‘This is a snap of me by the Dart near Broadstone, in September 1928 and I have come in person to thank you for your kind letter and sweet poem. Thank you for your kind words about my church. Lady Agatha’s niece Lady Avis Trewithen comes into the 2/ on March 14. Blessings on you.’ signed Beatrice Chase

Wazegooze and Frawzey

The suggestion by Ann Claxton that we should have a “bring and share” party after our January meeting was unanimously agreed. Members were asked to bring a bottle or a plate of sandwiches. We shall have the usual minutes and Peter and Eileen Carrett will give us a ‘Magic Lantern Show’ in the first half.

Thanks were recorded to Sue Booty for her first production of our Newsletter and to all those who helped with the teas and in particular Ruby and Betty for their delicious mince-pies.

D.N.P.50th Anniversary

Still waiting for John Earle’s contribution to the above.

Widecombe Craft Fair 9th December 2001

We agreed to attend the fair to try to sell our publications and to publicise the Group.

The following agreed to man the stall:-

  • 10 - 12 Wendy Beard & Margaret Steemson
  • 12 - 2 Audrey & Rosemary Mortimore
  • 2 - 4 Jim & Ruby Churchward.

he meeting closed at 10.00 p.m.

Back to Top

If you are having problems with the menu, please refer to the Site Contents instead.

We are hosted and supported by UK Web Hosting

SSL Certificate


The information on this page was last modified on March 18 2013 12:54:38.


Widecombe-in-the-Moor - The Heart of Dartmoor

Site Copyright © 2017 Widecombe History Group Registered Charity Number 1144684

Home  Contact Us  Site Contents  Site Search  Message Board  History Group  Parish Council  Privacy  Terms