Widecombe History Group Minutes January 2002

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 2nd January 2002 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 30 people attended. The Chairman opened the meeting by wishing everyone a Happy and Peaceful New Year, these wishes were reciprocated to her. A warm welcome was extended to all present including a first time visitor John Kimber from Ashburton.

Apologies :- Sylvia Needham, Bessie French and Viv Layfield.

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

Arising and Correspondence.

The Dartmoor Rescue Group have contacted the secretary and apologised for not turning up at the last meeting. There was a misunderstanding within their communication system and they thought it was the following week in spite of the fact that we had checked with them only two weeks before. "There Tis these things can happen!"

Data Base. Peter Hirst has started to allocate further Indentures to be transcribed and will pass the completed forms on to Ann Claxton as they become available for addition to the database.

November’s Local Transport Discussion write-up is progressing.

2002 Programme. A copy has been passed to Barbara Newport for regular monthly inclusion in The Parish Link Newsletter. The secretary has asked her to also include the subject for the next month’s meeting. Barbara has agreed to this.

Hermon French. The tree planting ceremony at Hutholes held on Thursday 13th December 2001 was a success, several members attending as well as Mrs Harman herself, friends and representatives of The Dartmoor National Park Authority. Mrs Harman has retained part of field OS 2785 which adjoins the Hutholes site for the purpose of planting memorial trees and it is on this site that the following three trees were planted.:-

a) Aspen - Populus tremula - Hermon French 1906 - 1988.Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

‘His whole life was dedicated to his beloved Dartmoor’

b) Silver Birch - Betula tremula - Jozef Olszewski 1913 - 1973 Poland.

‘He found peace and rest on the Moor’

c) Mountain Ash - Sorbus aucuparia - Cyril Harman 1920 - 1999 Merthyr Tydfil.

‘A true Welshman who loved Dartmoor’

DNP are intending to allow other trees to be planted on the site and they will keep a record book of each tree and for whom it is a memorial. There were some photographs taken of the event.

The newly erected gate posts used for the gateway joining Hutholes and this site were cut by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Duke of Cornwall, at a recent ceremony held at Parke, Bovey Tracey, the headquarters of The Dartmoor National Park Authority, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the creation of The Dartmoor National Park. It was agreed the Hutholes site is really worth a visit.

The secretary reported that he had discussed with Mrs Harman the whereabouts of Hermon’s collection of flints. She informed him that ALL the Dartmoor Flints are at Parke in the care of The Dartmoor National Park Authority. The rest of his collection has been distributed between other collections and her family. Secretary will pursue this through Debbie Griffiths, D.N.P.Archaeologist, with a view to the group having sight of the collection.

Widecombe Church Dropcloth storage and the possibility of postcards being produced showing it and the recent scaffolding covering the Tower needs to be followed up.

Family History Society and the books and equipment will be obtained and passed on to Ken Hamlyn as soon as possible by the secretary.

Bellever Day. The secretary’s detailed write-up in the December Minutes regarding information gathered concerning Bellever Day has been copied and sent to Gerald Smerdon of Postbridge Post Office. Hope was expressed that it will be of interest and help to the people of Postbridge considering organising a fun day or something similar to raise funds for their community.

Ordnance Survey are being contacted to ascertain the correct amount to pay for a licence.

Widecombe Fair. The enquiry regarding the history of the Fair has now been resolved and a further letter received from Tony Foxworthy of London thanking the group for their assistance.

Hext/Hamlyn Freda Wilkinson has replied to the enquiry from America regarding and Hext-Hamlyns, of Uppacott, - to date no reply.

Exeter Museum. Secretary will continue contacts with them.

Craft Fair. Thanks were expressed to all those who manned the book stall at the recent craft fair. Unfortunately there was a power cut which put the Hall into darkness and spoilt the event.


a) Roger Claxton has replied to the enquiry from Jill Bowden regarding The Old Inn and other queries concerning Widecombe and the surrounding area. He has now received a reply thanking him for the information and asking about the inmates of Dartmoor Prison during the 1800’s. We have replied to say that in 1807 it was used to house the Napoleonic Prisoners of War. In 1812 - c1815 it housed the American Prisoners of War and after they left the buildings were put to various uses including a ‘Naphtha Factory’. In about 1850 it was converted to a Civil Convict Prison.

b) Roger has also thanked Patrick Wildgust for the Beatrice Chase information.

c) A copy of the e-mail :- "The French Connection" has been passed on to Terry and Bessie French to consider and compile notes for a reply. Terry has not yet found any definite link but he hopes soon to have a look at the more recent parish births, marriages and deaths register.

d) Attempts will be made to find any old map of Widecombe Village to help with a project being run by The East Devon Geography GCSE Consortium.

e) Roger will confirm with a family researcher that there is a booklet in the archives listing headstones in Widecombe Churchyard that can be examined by contacting our Archivist Peter Hirst.

As this was the first meeting of 2002 it was decided that the second half should take the form of "A Wazegoose and Frawsey"!

Wazegoose = Party (social event).

Frawsey = Treat (something nice to eat).

The first part consisted of a ‘Magic Lantern Show’ given by Peter and Eileen Carrett. This was a look back into the early part of the last century through the early form of photographic slides, ‘Glass Plates’. Shown through a real magic lantern projector, which had in the early part of the last century been used to give shows at The Prospect Hall in Newton Abbot., now adapted to use electricity, but originally worked by gas passed over quick-lime or perhaps carbide. The slides were all original and taken by members of Eileen’s family about 100 years ago. The quality of the pictures projected onto the screen were outstanding, they needed to be seen to be believed, but only two still have the original dates still written on them. The first one dated February 22nd 1898 showed Newton Abbot, and the other entitled ‘Workhouse Folk’ dated 1897 showed elderly ladies and young women with babies. Many pictures were of scenes in and around Newton Abbot and were taken at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries including several featuring Vickery’s Mill. The meeting wondered how over 100 years ago a camera was efficient enough to obtain images of that quality, particularly as some were of moving objects like horses racing. Most of the pictures were taken by Eileen’s Uncle who was a founder member of Newton Abbot Cooperative Society. He worked at The Newton Abbot Cooperative Society at the time and several featured the shop, staff and produce sold. The shop at Kingsteignton, and possibly the one in Kings Street, Newton Abbot featured, and these coupled with an interesting collection of photographs of posters, still in bright colours, advertising C.W.S. biscuits, cocoa, cream crackers, soap and preserves made an interesting collection. A fine selection of Railway Stations including Heathfield, Bovey Tracey and Chudleigh were featured, alas most now non-existent due to the actions of one Dr Beeching in c1960’s when he savagely cut the rural railway system, how wonderful it would be to get them back again, to assist in transport and tourism in this 21st century! Of Dartmoor there were some lovely scenes, Leigham, Postbridge, Warren Inn, Dartmeet, Bowerman’s Nose, Lower Lodge at Spitchwick, and various Tors on the moors. These historical views of Bradley Lane with the nearby meadows including a hay rick and stables and St Leonards Tower on the edge of the scene, Berry Pomeroy, Torquay, River Lemon in Bradley Woods, the list seems endless.

In 1881 the Government decided that the army would be better served by volunteers if the Regiments were given regional or local names, so the 11th Regiment of Foot was renamed The Devonshire Regiment. In 1888 they formed The Volunteer Brigade which were called The Haytors and they camped at Haytor. Some of the most thrilling pictures showed "The Devon Volunteers", ‘The Haytors’ under canvas at Saddle Tor in c1900’s. The uniforms and the ‘bell tents’, the horses the men, and the band, were all depicted. As an extra bonus Peter and Eileen showed us an original ‘hat badge’ of ‘The Haytors’ that belongs to their family. Copies of these photographs are incidentally at The Imperial War Museum in London. Working horses and wagons also featured, there were coal wagons while others were in the harvest fields. Jingles and traps could also be seen, and other country pursuits including salmon netting on the Teign, fishing parties, hunting meets and horse racing at Newton Abbot and point to point meetings held at Buckfastleigh, Forches Cross 100 years ago. Some of these photographs showed how much, or how little, some areas and streets have changed over the last 100 years. Activities surrounding the mills of the area and scenes of Newton Abbot, Bradley Lane, Denbury, Ogwell, Abbotskerswell, Berry Pomeroy, Cockington and The Princess Gardens at Torquay including boats tied up to the pier. One picture showed telephone posts that were erected in 1912. Each pole we were told has its date when erected stamped into it and it is always 10 feet above the bottom of the pole. Kingswear Castle was shown, this was restored by Mr Seale Hayne who then gave it to the National Trust. Telegraph Hill, Kingsteignton, so named because the Admiralty, who had found beacons unreliable means of sending signals, built signal stations on the top of various hills, these buildings had shutters built into them which were used to send messages. Four men were stationed at each signal station two looking in opposite directions to look for the warnings and then to work the shutters to pass on the message. They claimed that they could get a message from London to Plymouth Dockyard and back again in twenty minutes using that method.

Agricultural scenes included harvest and cropping. One showed ‘The Squire’? Had he come out on his pony to check that the men were working hard enough we wondered? A picture of a Cricket club , could it be Ogwell?

All in all a very interesting, discussion provoking and fascinating display.

These glass slides will still produce beautiful prints although it is a bit costly!

Margaret Steemson thanked Peter and Eileen for a most enjoyable show which set the scene and the atmosphere for the rest of the evening.

Mary Pascoe then presented a lighthearted parody/spoof of ‘The New Years Honour List’ for the four officials of the group with ‘insignias’ for their service to the group over the past year.

"The Queen has not had time to come to present these honours herself so she has asked the Lord High Sheriff of Higher Dunstone (alias Peter Rennells) to act on her behalf and present these awards."

1st award is for a lady who ensures everyone is made welcome in our Society, and it is for the patience and control she shows in dealing with her secretary. Lady Margaret Steemson -

2nd The next award goes to a man who is always scribbling on bits of paper and often loses them, however he seems to make sense of his notes, (with perhaps the aid of his wife?) it is also for the fun and laughter that he brings to the meetings in general :- Sir Anthony Beard

3rd Amongst us there is a man who likes to lay wires and microphones around to record our every word. He then has free entertainment for the next month! He also works very hard behind the scenes. The Honourable Peter Hirst.

4th The final award goes to a lady who is a ‘whizz’ at figures - just look at her to see its true! She looks after our pennies and pounds but I wonder what she would do if we gave her a Euro. Dame Jenny Pascoe.

On a more serious note ladies and gentlemen I know you will all join with me in thanking our committee for all the hard work they do on our behalf.

All four were caught completely unaware by the ‘ceremony’!

It was the first time that they have ever been known to be lost for words!

Wazegoose and Frawsey

The evening then concluded with a ‘bring and share’ supper which was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.

Next month’s meeting is on Wednesday 6th February 2002 at 7.30 p.m. when the speaker is Kate Strasdin and the subject is Victorian Costumes.

The meeting closed at 10.30 p.m.

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