Widecombe History Group Minutes June 2001

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.A meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 6th June 2001 at 7.30 p.m.

Talk on The Art of Calligraphy

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

Apologies:- Rodney Mortimore, Tim Steemson, Wendy and Rodney Cruze, Roger and Rosamund Whale, Jenny and Michael Pascoe, Arch and Audrey Mortimore, Viv Layfield, Peter and Dylis Harvey, Fred Daw, Peter Rennells, Jack Elliott, Jack Simpson, Dave Fisher, Bessie French, Roger Claxton and Geoff Bamsey.

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


1. Data Base of Parish Documents

Ann Claxton reported that to date there are some 300 entries in the Data Base.

2. North Hall

A copy of John Pidgeon’s Appraisal of North Hall has been attached to last February’s Minutes.

A copy of the full version of Richard Hill’s poem received from Ted Fitch, mentioned in last months minutes has been made for our archives, for researchers to use instead of handling the original.

3. 2002 Programme is near completion.

4. Tea Rota

A vote of thanks was recorded to those who supplied the tea and biscuits.

July: Rosemary and Audrey Mortimore

August: Ruby Churchward and Betty Andrews

5. Hermon French - Watergate Museum/Kingshead Ground Eruption

Further to our discussions concerning the late Hermon French, the Secretary was able to report the following details:

a) A letter from John Allen, Curator of Antiquities of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallary, Exeter, states that nothing from the Hermon French collection is held at the Museum, they do however, have an early bronze age knife, medieval pottery and other finds from the Long House excavations at Dinnaclerks, Hutholes, and Hound Tor, and that we will be welcome to see them on our visit to the Museum on November 17th.

b) Following a lengthy discussion with Winnie Harman (widow of the late Hermon French) the Secretary was able to report that a complete copy of Hermon’s write-up of the ‘Cataclysmic Eruption of Ground Water at Kingshead Farm on the 27th December 1979’ has been printed in Volume 21 Winter 1990 Edition, of the ‘Dartmoor Magazine’, a copy of which is attached to the Minutes.

A full report of the event that Hermon gave to Sylvia Needham, has now been presented to the Group to be added to its’ Archives. Attached to this are two drawings:

Fig. 1, Sketch Plan showing position of crater and track of flood.

Fig. 2, Drawing of view looking NNW of part of flood track taken from a photograph.

Also included is a hand written letter from Hermon stating that this was submitted to the Editor of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association in 1980, but was refused publication.

c) Further information received from Mrs. Harman relating to Hermon’s Geological collection: The Group was informed that most of this collection is now in the hands of Angus Gordon, owner of Tiverton Castle, and personal friend of Hermon.

At the request of the Officers of the Group, a trip is being arranged by Ann Claxton to visit Tiverton Castle to view the collection, and this will include a guided tour of the Castle and the gardens including Mr. and Mrs. Gordan’s private living accommodation. The afternoon will be spent on a trip on the Tiverton Canal aboard a horse-drawn barge. Full details will be available at the July meeting, hopefully the first or second Saturday in October.

d) Several of Hermon’s archaeological finds are in the hands of Debbie Griffiths, Archaeologist to the Dartmoor National Park. The Secretary will contact her with a view to us seeing them. Much more is still in the hands of Mrs. Harman and her family.

e) Mrs. Harman has also agreed to give the Group copies of any items she has of Hermon’s notes etc. that are relevant to the Parish for our archives. Already she has sent some photographs of the ‘Kingshead Eruption’, (this left a large crater in the field which resembled a small quarry). She also sent a map dated 1922 drawn on cloth, relating to the installation of the sewerage system in New Park Field, now owned by Widecombe Fair Co. Ltd, a copy of a poem relating to evening classes held at Widecombe in 1962, and transcription of a satirical poster deamed to have been written by one Samuel Wills, former School Master at Leusden School in about 1890, and a Valuation list for the Parish listing over 330 items and dating from the 1920’s. She also mentioned that Watergate Chapel was erected in 1834. Regarding the proposed tree planting at Hutholes, she hopes that when it is re-arranged some representatives of our Group will be able to attend.

f) Secretary reported that he has made contact with David and Peter Mills, relations of the late Ned Northmore, and they have documents and papers that belonged to Ned. They will look out what they have and if there is anything that they think could be of interest to the Parish, they will let us have copies for our archives.

6. Donation to the Parish Link

It was unanimously agreed to donate £30 towards production of the monthly Parish Link in appreciation for the continued support and publicity given to the Group.

7. Widecombe School Fund Raising

The Quiz Night postponed from February has been rearranged for Wednesday 20th June at the Old Inn, Widecombe. The team to represent the History Group will be the same, namely: Viv Layfield, Freda Wilkinson, Terry French and Peter Hirst, reserve Audrey Mortimore.

It was also noted that the School Fete will be held at the School on the afternoon of Tuesday July 4th.

8. Screen

Joyce Heath offered the Group a photographic screen, which was kindly accepted and will be kept at the Church House for the use of any Organisation of the Parish.

9. Guided Walk, Saturday 7th July

There will be a guided walk around Yarner Woods and/or Trendlebeare Down on Saturday 7th July, meeting at Yarner car park at 12 noon, bring a packed lunch.

10. Hedge Barton Deed

Jim Churchward reported that he has passed on to Tim Whitley the copy of the 1761 document mentioned in last months minutes.

11 Correspondence

A letter from Mary Vickery thanking the group for the cheque for £90 sent to the Church Tower Appeal which was raised from the sale of the Dartmoor Gazette and The Policeman Poet Book and the Website.

Dr Tom Greeves has given the group a copy of a sheet of paper which had been found in a copy of "Charrington’s Dartmoor" by Mr W. Radcliffe in 1997. Tom has photocopied it and transcribed the same and considers that is written in the hand of early 19th century - possibly by Rev J. H. Mason (vicar of Widecombe 1815-1860). A copy will be attached to the minutes. It was suggested that a further copy should be sent to Preb Rev John Scott of Totnes, who gave us such a detailed address about our bells last year.

12 Newsletter

Peter Rennells is preparing the next Newsletter and as we missed two monthly meetings this year he thought that we should include a few thoughts on the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak and how it has affected this community. The following people have been asked to contribute :- Jenny Pascoe (shopkeeper and post mistress), Penny Whale (cafe proprieter), Roderick Newbolt-Young (farmer and pony trekking centre), and Audrey Mortimore (farmer). They have all supplied a write-up and our chairman has also written an account which includes details of a ‘Special Rural Service’ held at Exeter Cathedral on Rogation Sunday, organised for support of agriculture and the rural community and rural businesses. Peter Hirst has agreed to obtain examples of the various signs etc issued by D.N.Park during this period so as to compile a sheaf of relevant information for future reference. Copies of the poems written by the pupils of Widecombe School will also be added to this making a comprehensive record of this 2001 serious outbreak. The photographs taken by Mary Pascoe of the fencing around the Widecombe Village Green and associated signs will be incorporated in the cover of this newsletter. Freda Wilkinson will get copies of the reports relevant to the Dunnabridge Outbreak, so near to our Parish and definitely relevant to this area.

13 A.O.B.

Mary Pascoe has given the group copy of details relating to Cockingford Mill, Dunstone Mill, Ponsworthy Mill and Jordan Mill that she has found. She has also transcribed details of Local Magistrates 1876 which could prove very helpful when we are studying the old indentures as some of the signatures are a little obscure and this may help clarify the names. Audrey Mortimore has some books written by Mike Brown of Dartmoor Press, he has produced several booklets and leaflets on Buckland-in-the-Moor and more recently two books for the millennium. One for 1000 - 2000 A.D. in which he lists events of importance for each year, and another for 2001 in which he lists historic events relevant to each day of the year. Ann Claxton will see if he would be prepared to give us a talk sometime on Buckland.

The next meeting will be a non-speaking meeting.

The Meeting closed at 10.06 p.m.

An Illustrated talk by Susanne Haines on the Art of Calligraphy.

Some interesting slides were shown of the development of Calligraphy through the ages. Examples of Roman lettering and the decorative style that some of these were engraved into ancient stone work and the method in which this was done was discussed. The carving into the stone at fairly acute angles enabled the lettering to be clearly seen by the affect of light and shadow. Examples of Arabic, Chinese and Japanese letter formations were also shown, the later two being more pictorial in their formation. Some letters are illuminated by the addition of elaborate designs. Copies of the early forms of letters and symbols are being rigorously preserved so as to conserve the various styles and patterns of the letters used and created by bygone eras. Some calligraphy has even been preserved in the form of mosaics on floors of old buildings and the earliest records of written calligraphy are preserved on papyrus, an early form of paper made from plant material. The shape and formation of letters and designs vary according to the mediums used and as the art progressed, particularly from the fifth century onwards, animal skins became another material for the written word. This was particularly evident in monasteries where so many scholars gathered. Calf skin when dried and stretched became velum and quills (goose feathers), reeds, canes and other stem-like material were used for writing and so developed an industry of scribes, illustrators, book-binders and calligraphers.

During the reign of Alfred the Great translations from Latin to English took place and during that period different formations of letters evolved. There also developed a system of apprenticeship in learning the art, the apprentice commenced his training by scoring the lines on the velum in readiness for the calligrapher to write. The illuminator, in other words the decorator of the documents, painted as what can only be described as an illustration generally around the border of the document and also entwined around the first letter generally written larger than the rest of the script. By the mid-fifteenth century printing was being developed and the letters used were then created by the use of wedge-shaped pens, some of which with a wide nib held at different angles, creating various widths in the letter due to the pressure applied, and sometimes held in one particular position but with different actions of the writer’s hand creating images of various widths.

Calligraphy is far from a dying art, many classes are held around the Country for amateur enthusiasts who in recent years have found it a very interesting and enjoyable hobby. In the process of learning to write the different styles, Roman, Gothic, Old English lettering and the various types of lettering that has evolved throughout the years this knowledge can be very beneficial in helping to read and decipher old documents and papers of the kind found in Parish Chests and Record Offices. One other place where interesting examples of calligraphy can be found is in Churchyards. On old headstones and other engraved stones a variety of styles can be found and the engravings themselves are often very interesting to read and the descriptive texts can vary from sad to amusing. The spelling of the craftsmen involved is entertaining as well, and in this locality the famous "1 MIOL" stone on the Natsworthy road is a good example. In the professional field, there is an increasing demand for calligraphers in designing the covers for books, CDs, and record sleeves, and many more commercial uses. With the increasing production of period plays, television documentaries and films, there is a need to produce letters, documents, posters etc. in the authentic style to suit the period being portrayed and then artificially aged to appear antique. The desire to produce official testimonials for presentations etc is still ongoing. Professional calligraphers are, and will continue to be, in demand for such projects for the foreseeable future, anyone wishing to experiment need only to obtain either a charcoal, crayon or wide lead pencil and a piece of paper, try holding the utensil at various angles and strokes, writing the same letter in different styles, sizes and designs to develop their own distinctive artistic talent.

At the end of the talk several members tried their hand at this decorative and delicate craft.

The chairman thanked Susanne for an interesting address.

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