Widecombe History Group Minutes February 2002

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 6th February 2002 at 7.30p.m.

Click here for the Talk on Victorian Costume

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 32 people attended.

Apologies were received from John and Pearl Northcott, Archie and Audrey Mortimore, Rodney and Wendy Cruze, Mary Pascoe, Jan Peet, Jim and Ruby Churchward and Betty Andrews.

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

Arising and Correspondence

A card was passed around the meeting for all present to sign congratulating Archie and Audrey Mortimore on their Golden Wedding Anniversary for 9th February and it was decided to purchase a bouquet of flowers for them as a token from all the members of the Group.

Copies of the write-up concerning the November’s Local Transport Discussion were passed around and members were asked to take them home, read and pass comments, write additional material, make any corrections they feel necessary, with the aim of producing an even more comprehensive record on the subject.

June Kernick’s son has written a leaflet about his own research into "Packhorses" and June has passed this to Freda for her to read. As far as we know this has never been researched to this degree before, we await with interest her comments on its contents, and any addition to the write-up as a result.

Hermon French. A letter and two short accounts of his life were read. These have been received from Mrs Harman. They will be placed with the minutes.

Winnie Harman sent these two small articles concerning Hermon French and stated that Hermon had a brother-in-law called Herman French so the spelling is of paramount importance, ( note the ‘o’ in one and the ’a’ in the other). The first article referred to Hutholes and his connection with Rowden and how his early life cutting grass around the site led to his recognising it for what it was, particularly after being told by an elder of the parish that lintels from Hutholes, (the original Manor site), had been taken and used in the present Jordan Manor House. The second article mentioning his connection with Southcombe and those who worked with him namely John Brown and Sam Cannon, and the carving of initials on trees, this was quite a common practice in the early part of the last century. Hermon and his friends carved their initials on a ‘pollard’ in Dockwell Lane. This tree has since been cut down much to the family’s disappointment. This habit of carving trees had a similarity about it to carving crosses on stones, there was a reason for it and a hope that it would last a long time. There was a stone in one of the fields near Hutholes that had an "X" carved on it - alas no longer in situ - and one can only guess as to why it was there! Could it too have been a coffin resting place on the way to Widecombe Church many years ago? This can only be conjecture.

Secretary reported that he has spoken to Debbie Griffiths at D.N.P. and she has agreed that the boxes of Hermon’s flints stored at Parke will be made available to the group for examination. Action will be taken to get some of them brought to some future meeting for examination. Needless to say, care must be taken NOT to get the contents of the various boxes mixed up as the details of their contents are only written on the lids! Peter and Eileen Carrett offered to collect them for us.

The Church Dropcloth is soon to be taken down. Contact needs to be made with The Church House Management Committee as to its possible storage near the Tithe Map. Wendy Beard offered to make a ‘Calico Wrap’ with tape ties to keep it in.

Family History material still needs to be passed on to Ken Hamlyn who with the cooperation of his son Andrew has offered to be our ‘Family History Secretary’ for the time being.

Bellever Day. To date we have not heard from the Postbridge Organisers.

Ordnance Survey licence still under negotiation.

Hext/Hamlyn. Freda Wilkinson reported that she has heard from the family in USA making the original enquiries and how they had appreciated all the information she has sent them. Freda has explained the difference between Upacott and Sherrill as the letter had confused the issue. The writer has told all his American relations of the information and we may well hear more from them!


a) The French Connection. Terry and Bessie French have researched the subject raised in an e-mail dated 12.12.2001 from a John French of Overton, Hampshire. Their findings have been ‘mailed’ back to him.

The George French who married Avis Hamlyn c1858 lived at Higher Natsworthy. George Baptised 11.01.1824 was buried at Widecombe 19.05.1910 aged 86 years.

Avis French (Hamlyn) buried at Widecombe 18.06.1891 aged 68 years, (she must have been born c1828).

Their son Richard baptised 16.01.1859, married Marcia ? Believed to have farmed at Dunstone and Venton.

Richard had two brothers:-

William Elias French - baptised 22.01.1854 - buried 28.08.1915

George French baptised 12.10.1856.

This could call into question the date of the marriage of George and Avis!

Richard’s son Lewin George French baptised 09.07.1882, killed in war 1918 - no reference to him on any war memorial seen to date.

b) Peter Hirst has obtained copies of some old maps 1840, 1930 and 1960 regarding Widecombe, as requested by Exmouth Community College to assist in their GCSE Geographical Course Work. Secretary has forwarded them on and offered to meet the group at Widecombe to point out the buildings and their earlier uses, and also offered to have a question and answer session with them to assist in their studies.

c) There has been continued interest in our Website that Roger and Ann Claxton keep updated and managed. Totally non profit making with 50% of any surplus going to the Local History Group and 50% to the Church Tower Appeal. We have an established "Where to Stay" section and several Local businesses have requested having their sites linked to ours. Roger produced a letter for inclusion in The Parish Link Newsletter for our approval, stating the rates for 2002, and offering all those Local businesses, advertising accommodation in the Widecombe Area, both new and those wishing to renew their listing, the option of a link to their own site at £10, or a page within the Widecombe site (for those without a site of their own) for £20 for the year. This was agreed and thanks expressed to Roger and Ann for a wonderful community project.

Waste lead taken from the top of The Church Tower during the recent renovation work was mentioned. The possibility of creating paper weights from it and selling them in aid of the Tower Fund was discussed. Secretary has borrowed an old mould from Widecombe Forge to see if it could be used for such a project. Another option was suggested - could the lead be simply cut into sections and sold off that way? We wait and see the results!

One piece has the name of two expatriots of the parish on it. One Arthur Horton and the other Joan Palmer. Secretary will try to make contact with Joan and also Arthur’s daughter Enid to see if they would like them.

It has been decided to postpone the ‘Inter Manorial Beating of the Bounds’ until Spring 2003. By then we hope that the threat of any re-occurence of ‘Foot and Mouth’ will be well and truly behind us!

Anthony Beard reported on a contact that has been made between the Group and a Bruce Newling of New Jersey U.S.A. He visited Widecombe in October 2000 and his friends bought for him a card and leaflet concerning the Great Storm of 21st October 1638. On returning home he decided for his own enjoyment to re-write the text in a more modern style and having completed this had a leaflet printed that showed on one side of the page the original as taken from the boards in Widecombe Church, and on the facing page his rendition. Copies of his leaflet have been received from Bruce, and were distributed amongst the members at the meeting. He has requested an honest comment on the leaflet and also stated that he is prepared to let the Widecombe Church sell these if the Parochial Church Council so wish, to help fund raising. Details of the costs and remuneration involved will be discussed between him and the PCC in due course. We have sent him a copy of an old Lithoprint c1825, which he has used for the front cover, and information regarding the Richard Hill poem which we hope will help him with his project. On the back cover he has a copy of a drawing from Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries 1905 Vol III that relate ‘The Two Widecombe Tracts 1638’. He has also developed a ‘form of writing prose and poetry’ named the ‘Mc Whirtle Style’ and has sent a book of his poems and a calendar based on this with drawings to compliment the words.

He has also telephoned our Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman and no doubt we shall hear more as time goes by.

The Friends of Widecombe School wish to thank the members of The Widecombe and District Local History Group for their considerable support at their recent fund raising event held at Leusdon Memorial Hall which raised £175 for projects at the School.

The tea break, such a vital part of our meetings, was again held and a vote of thanks passed to all those who assisted.

Rota March - Nora Lamb and Ann Claxton.

April - Rosemary and Audrey Mortimore.

Next Month’s Meeting - Wednesday 6th March at 7.70 p.m.

Francis Griffiths on Archaeology of Devon from the Air.

Victorian Costume

We had the privilege of once again seeing at Widecombe the wedding dress worn at the wedding of Richard and Hannah Waldron the great-grandparents of Miss Bessie Beard late of Bonehill and Dunstone. Bessie’s Mother (Eliza French Waldron) then wore it at her wedding to James Beard at Widecombe Church on February 12th 1889. It is now the property of Miss Joy Gawne, sister to Miss Elizabeth Gawne who lived for several years near Heatree and was a good friend of Bessie’s. We also had on display some early Victorian children’s dresses and bonnets and underclothes and an elaborate shawl that was given to James and Eliza by the Radcliffe family of Bag Parks. This was then used at the christenings of their children, William, Oliver, Eveline, Henry and Bessie.

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