Widecombe History Group Minutes February 2001

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held in The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 7th February 2001 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 34 people attended. She began by welcoming some new faces to the meeting and also Mr John Pidgeon, archaeologist, who was to give the meeting his considered opinion about North Hall. A particularly warm welcome was given to Sylvia Needham on her recovery from her recent illness.

Apologies:- Roger and Rosamund Whale, Archie, Audrey and Rodney Mortimore, Bessie French, Roderick and Elizabeth Newbolt-Young, David West and Jan Peet.

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

- after a small amendment Ref:- E-mails (Jan Minutes),

“a letter in the Parish Chest concerning Roger Hannaford, dated 1871..........This could be the Father of Samuel Hannaford”.

Database of Parish Documents

Roger and Ann Claxton gave the meeting what can only be described as a detailed insight into the work that they have done to record on database, information obtained from some of the documents in The Parish Chest.

Roger has developed a form to be used for manually copying details off the ‘Indentures, Examinations and Removal Orders’, held in The Parish Chest and dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, and a ‘programme’ on his computer into which Ann feeds these details, that various members of the group have copied onto those forms. It can be seen from previous minutes under the heading Parish Documents, that people wishing to partake in this project, need to contact Peter Hirst our ‘archivist’, who will give them a bundle of documents and the necessary forms on which to write the details gleaned from them. When completed, the forms and papers should be returned to Peter who then numbers them, passes them on to Ann and when she has completed logging the information, they get catalogued and returned to the Chest. Volunteers are continually needed to continue this process.

Ann then demonstrated the system. It really is the Social History of the district that comes to light, names of the people involved (family surnames still evident in the area), dates, occupations and the names of farms and houses (again many still traceable today).

The purpose of the exercise is to make the information on these old documents available to researchers and the like, without the need of continually handling them. Serious researchers, will from the details on the database, be able to note the catalogue number of any document/s they need to examine further, and through our archivist be permitted to look at it/them without thumbing through the whole collection, thereby saving ultimate destruction and damage.

Roger explained that when this project is completed, the system could be extended to cover censuses, records of births, marriages and deaths, the potential is immense. Roger mentioned a plan by The Devon Archives to get all this type of information on database, for the whole of Devon, so that if one is looking for a name or place all references to that name would come up from that source. There are a number of groups in Devon now doing similar work this should result in interesting data.

Within the programme there are facilities to cross reference and tabulate the information in various ways. When searching the database it can be done through names, places, occupations etc.

Some of the papers are hand written and need careful examination, taking plenty of time and patience, others are printed forms that are filled in by hand, this too needs care as some of the words and names take a while to dicipher, when more than one person does this as a team a consensus of opinion prevails. An interesting example of an apprenticeship of Richard Coaker to John Wilcocks dated 1778 was shown to the meeting - so interesting! A form regarding Katherine Collins was demonstrated to the meeting, the writing has to be diciphered as some documents have a different style of writing. In some cases it will state how much the apprentices were paid. In many cases it was just for food, drink, lodging, and clothes, often until they were 18 or 21 or in the case of females until they were married.

To date 180 documents have been recorded resulting in 568 persons, (Justices of the Peace, subjects, employer, spouse, children, examiners, churchwardens, overseers of the poor etc.), 111 locations (place names), and 49 different occupations. Roger and Ann then demonstrated how entering the information into the system and the search facility worked. Searching can be done by name, place, document, profession, the options are many and various. They then gave a demonstration of names selected by the meeting. These included Hamlyn, Daw, Cleave, Tarr and French and they then followed them through as to who they employed, where they were apprenticed, where they lived, or what they did, the details already recorded were considerable.

Ken Hamlyn then commented that so much work has already been put into this project, how is this safely stored, what would happen if there was a fire or similar disaster, all this effort would be lost. Roger stated that this was a good point and there should be a second copy placed with another member perhaps Peter Hirst, so that if a tragedy happened there would be a copy available to be used to continue the work.

They felt that this information should not be put onto the website, but stored on a database C.D. which could be controlled by permitting serious researchers access, we must also be aware of the Data Protection Act. Anyone requiring more information about this project need to contact Roger and Ann, they will then assist in any way they can.

Once again the group are indebted to Ann and Roger for their expertise and also to Chris Mayhead for his assistance with equipment used to demonstrate the system.

Roger and Ann thanked everyone for their support and help with the scheme, a real on going community project.

It would be possible to extend this to include Church Records for both churches and all the contents of The Parish Chest and much more.

Arising from the Minutes

North Hall

The Chairman then introduced John Pidgeon, a local professional Archaeologist, who has examined the detailed work that Peter Rennells has done regarding North Hall.

He then gave a presentation on his interpretation of the information gathered to date. Furthermore, John gave the group a printed copy of his findings and interpretation developed from Peter’s papers and his own research. A copy of this can be retained by the group.

A sincere vote of thanks was recorded to John for his interest in our project and for the support his presentation has given to the continued enthusiasm of Peter Rennells.

Peter reported that he has about 35 documents at The West Country Studies at Exeter to examine and he and Mary Pascoe hope to tackle some of this during the forthcoming school half-term.

2002 Programme

Ann and Roger Claxton and Viv Layfield are busily compiling a programme of speakers for the year 2002. When they have it complete they will present it to the group.

The Cornworthy Book

Anthony brought to the meeting a copy of a book produced by the villagers of Cornworthy. He felt that this was the style of booklet that he envisaged we could produce, and in the format that could be continually added to as more and more information is retreived. The booklet will be circulated within the group and hopefully it will encourage people to start the process by producing write-ups, however small, to get the project off the ground.

Inter-manorial Boundaries

Peter Hirst reported that the committee that drew up the ‘Beating of the Bounds’ will shortly be meeting again to commence the organisation of the inter-manorial boundary walks scheduled for later this year as a follow on from last years successful project.

Tea Rota

April Ruby Churchward and Betty Andrews

May Wendy Beard and Mary Pascoe

June Freda Wilkinson and Margaret Steemson.

Widecombe Church Fete - May 2002

It was decided that we should help with the proposed fete next May and that we should also have a stall selling the book “Dartmoor’s Policeman Poet”. This has been produced with the aim of raising some funds for the Widecombe Church Tower Appeal.


A letter from Mr Simpson thanking the group for the copy of Mike Maslin’s talk of December, concerning the life of Salmon and the Dart River.

Letter from The Friends of Widecombe School requesting the group to send a team of four to take part in a quiz evening being held at the Old Inn to raise funds for the School on Tuesday 22nd February, 7.30 p.m.. It was agreed to support the event. Team:- Viv Layfield, Freda Wilkinson, Terry French and Peter Hirst.

Does anyone know anything about The Cator Hunt 1806? If so, please contact the secretary.

Teignbridge are building up a dossier of organisations like ours so that people with particular interests can join and take part.

The meeting then closed at 10.05 p.m.

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