Widecombe History Group Minutes December 2002

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A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 4th December 2002 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 38 people attended.

Apologies :- Bessie French, Jack Elliott, Ken Hamlyn, Sue Booty, Jim Churchward.

The minutes of the November Meeting were read and signed as correct.

The meeting was informed that Mr Ken Hamlyn a regular contributor to our meetings was in hospital due to a stroke, he is making a good recovery, and our best wishes for a speedy recovery was conveyed to him and his family.


Peter Hirst told the meeting that The Widecombe Parish Council would be meeting the next day, Thursday 5th December, and he would be bringing to their notice the very inaccurate map he has found of this area, on the market, this was mentioned in the November minutes.

Rodney Cruze reminded the meeting that the draft "Right To Roam Map" will be available to be examined early in 2003 and it is important that everyone does in fact view it. It will be on view at NFU and CLA Offices as well as the Local Council Offices.

Some members attended a meeting of the Moretonhampstead Local History Group Meeting held on the 20th November. They enjoyed the talk given by Jill Drysdale on "Crime in Totnes during 1884". This could be a future speaker for our group. This was very interesting and she also gives two other talks. One on "Walking Disease/Sickness", this refers to sailors of old that came to Totnes and as they crossed the county to Bideford etc could have transmitted or carried these illnesses with them, and the other on "The Plague".

It was interesting that Totnes Museum had rescued many old documents that were scheduled for the tip, from a solicitors office in town, amongst them a ledger that recorded for 1884 the names of the miscreants and their addresses, the crime, the punishment and the magistrate of the court, how sad it would have been if this information had been lost for ever. It is surprising that notable firms and people in general do not realise the historical value of this type of document and check with local historians or organisations before disposing of these types of papers.

Jill Drysdale thought it odd that to steal a rabbit, swede turnip or even a ferret should be considered such an important crime. We tried to explain that if there was a large family of say 8 - 10 children, a rabbit, some potatoes and a swede could be stretched to make a good meal for such a large family. Regarding the question of stealing a ferret, with a few nets and a ferret tomorrow’s dinner could easily and quietly be obtained. This had not occurred to her. When looking at the way people lived 100 years ago or more and how they managed with such large families, it is often difficult to understand today their needs, the poverty, and imagine how they tried to overcome their social deprecation.

A photograph has been received from Dartington Archives and will be given to Elizabeth and Roderick Newbolt-Young as a ‘thank you’ for their talk and hospitality, see September Minutes.

The Church Dropcloth, Church House blackout curtains and the Church Lead will continue to be items needing completion.

Family History and E-mails. Roger and Ann Claxton now have our micro-fiche reader and all Family History related correspondence should be passed to them.

Roger and Ann Claxton reported only one E-mail this month.

Dec/E-01. This concerned dowsing and was passed to Tony and Joyce Heath of "The Society of Moorland Dowsers", to deal with.


Tony and Joyce then presented to the group, from "The Society of Moorland Dowsers", a copy of their Year 2001 Year Book, which reported on their activities of that year. This included articles, diagrams, plans, photographs and a vast amount of text. They were thanked for their generosity and they then offered to obtain in due course copies of previous Year Books for the group.

They can be contacted at - anthony168@icqmail.com - by anyone interested in the subject of dowsing.

Outings 2003.

Trip 1.

Ann Claxton confirmed that 24th May 2003 will be our first trip for the year. This will be to Coldharbour Mill and Midelney Manor in Somerset. Full details to follow.

Trip 2. Still being negotiated.

Librarian Richard Wells in conjunction with Anthony and Peter will get the ever increasing number of items being given to the group listed and filed as soon as possible.

Guided Walks. Members are still requested to notify Peter of the day of the week and times that they would prefer guided walks to be organised.


This community website is continuing to be well used. Various bodies, organisations and individuals are benefiting from being on the website or linked with it. Roger and Ann Claxton who run this on behalf of the community are to be congratulated.

Widecombe Fair has now contributed £25 towards the annual running costs, there are a couple of other offers still in the pipeline.

The Apprentices Database is still on-going. Watch this space!

Terry French then informed the meeting that he and his mother Bessie would soon be leaving Ponsworthy and would be moving to Ashburton. They have both been stalwart supporters of the group from its beginning. They have both collected many interesting artefacts, magazines, newspaper cuttings, property sale catalogues and much much more, particularly relevant to this parish and the local families. It is their wish that anything of interest to the Local History Group should be preserved and to that end Terry gave the group an interesting collection of items for our chest.

This began with a complete set of Dartmoor Magazines which he donated to the group. At the end of WWII a gymkhana held at Leusdon and a poster and schedule about it was included in this collection of items as well as sale catalogues including Local Estates in 1958, Lower Aish 1929, Sweaton 1966, Ley Ridge 1969, Spitchwick Manor, Sandridge Estate 1921, this includes so many local farms, fields and plats and properties, and so many maps covering the area. Some up to date sale catalogues as well, all making for an extensive and interesting collection.

A sincere vote of thanks was recorded to Terry and Bessie for their generosity and for thinking of the group in this way. The chairman asked Terry to convey to Bessie our sincere

thanks and best wishes for the future, adding that we hope that they will continue to be able to attend many of our future meetings.

The next Meeting will be on Wednesday 8th January 2003 at 7.30 p.m. as the first is New Years Day. The speaker will be Rodney Cruze and the subject "Thatching".

Bring a bottle and a few mince pies!

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