Widecombe History Group Minutes May 2002

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The FIFTH Annual General Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 1st May 2002 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 50 people attended.

Apologies were received from :- Aileen and Peter Carrett, Richard Wells, Bessie French, Peter Rennells, Andrew Hamlyn and Kate Strasdin.

Chairman reported another very successful year. We had some very interesting speakers and an excellent outing to Tiverton Castle and the Canal. The minutes of the 2001 AGM were read and signed as correct.

Treasurer reported that the finances of the group as at 31st December 2001 were very sound, showing a surplus of income over expenses of £548.41. The assets of the group now stand at £1492.22. It was decided to donate £50 towards the expenses of running the Parish Link Newsletter. It was also stressed that within our assets there is a certain amount of money that still has to be distributed. This is revenue from The Gazette, The Children’s Poems and The Dartmoor Policeman Poet publications, and also the revenue from the website, (50% of which is to go to The Tower Appeal). The committee will calculate the sums involved and at a future meeting the payments can be authorised. It was explained that we are now in a position to explore the feasibility of getting the "Things Old and New concerning the Parish of Widecombe-in-the-Moor and its Neighbourhood" book reprinted, also the further conservation of The Parish Chest. It was agreed that the costs involved in reprinting will be explored and the committee will report back in due course. This also applies to the plan to utilise the scrap lead from the Church Tower saved from the recent restoration of the Tower. A vote of thanks was recorded to Jenny and the accounts were adopted.

A vote of thanks was recorded to Andrew Tilt for Auditing the accounts

Election of Officers The following were all re-elected unanimously:-

  • Chairman Margaret Steemson
  • Vice Chairman & Archivist Peter Hirst
  • Secretary Anthony Beard
  • Treasurer Jenny Pascoe
  • Family History Sec. Ken Hamlyn & Andrew Hamlyn
  • Programme/outings Secs Ann Claxton & Viv Layfield

A vote of thanks was recorded to the Committee for all their hard work on behalf of the Group during the past twelve months.

The AGM closed at 7.50 p.m.

A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 1st May 2002 at 7.50 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 50 people attended.

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for their continued support during the past twelve months. She then welcomed Miles, Gail and Luke Fursdon who were our guest speakers for the evening. They were to give us a most interesting, informative and quite spectacular illustrated talk about the Hydro-Electric System they have installed at Old Walls, Ponsworthy which supplies their own personal needs and produces enough surplus electricity that can be sold to the National Grid.

Please click here for The Old Walls Talk

Apologies were received from:-Bessie French, Aileen and Peter Carrett, Richard Wells, Peter Rennells, Andrew Hamlyn and Kate Strasdin.

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


The Church Dropcloth is now at The Rectory, the secretary has asked the Rector for the exact measurement of the width of the cloth so that it can be wrapped and stored and placed in The Church House. Secretary and Archivist will proceed with this.

The Family History Society papers etc are now with Ken Hamlyn. Ken has already received enquiries from a Mrs Dawkings asking for details of a John Warren and Elizabeth Stapling, tailors of Newton Abbot. Elizabeth’s mother Ann died 13.04.1876 at Fernhill, Ponsworthy, at the home of her son-in-law, John Warren. A further letter was given to Ken during the evening.

Scrap Lead. A discussion on how best to use this to raise funds for the Church took place. The problems of getting a suitable mould to cast ingots or paper weights led to Miles Fursdon stating that he may have a contact who could help. Miles agreed to look into this and report to the secretary.

Copies of the write-ups of our speakers talks are in circulation, so that anyone unfortunate enough to miss a meeting, can catch up on what had been said. The idea is to take a copy home and read and, if so wished, take a photocopy for their own use. This could be most beneficial for the reports of our Non-speaker meetings as everyone is encouraged to add their amendments, giving the secretary a copy of their contribution so that it can be added to, and so improve, these records.

The Annual Church Fete is scheduled for Bank Holiday Monday 6th May 2002. It will be held on and around the Village Green from 10.00 a.m. Several members of the Group have already volunteered to help on the day and the idea of having a stall to sell our publications was muted. Some of the proceeds of these books etc goes towards the Tower Appeal. Audrey Mortimore, Barbara Guthrie, Peter Hirst, Mary Pascoe and Sue Booty offered to assist with this.

An invitation to attend the opening of an exhibition entitled The City, The County and The Crown was received from Exeter Museum, this is to be held at The Guildhall on Friday 10th May. Two tickets each admitting two people had been received. Those able to attend were asked to see the Chairman during the interval.

The usual tea break was enjoyed and a vote of thanks recorded to those who supplied the tea, coffee and biscuits and all the others who assisted with the preparation and washing up afterwards.

After a most enjoyable talk the Fursdon Family then offered us a guided walk around their farm to see the leat, water courses and the power house, associated with their Hydro-Electric Project on Saturday 4th May at 12.00 noon. This invitation was accepted gratefully. Thanks also to Chris Mayhead and Roger Claxton for technical assistance with the presentation.

The next meeting is on Wednesday 5th June 2002 at 7.30 p.m. and the speaker will be Shan Toyne and the subject "Devon Privies".

Outing to Budleigh Salterton. Ann Claxton reported that the coach is rapidly filling up with only a few seats left. She urged anyone wishing to go, to please contact her with their details and the necessary £12 for the coach and entry fees. Also to be included, an extra £2.75, for cream teas as booking is necessary prior to the outing. Coffee in the morning can be paid individually as needed on the day. Packed lunch can be taken or food can be bought in the restaurant at Bicton upon arrival.

Contact Ann 01364 621232.

Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Celebrations.It was noted that Mrs Betty Hicks of Venton, Widecombe, had been invited to The County Hall, Exeter, to meet the Queen at a special party to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, 50 years as our Queen. This honour was bestowed on Betty for her community work.

E-mails. Roger mentioned the Local Community Website. He and Ann are continuing to run it on a non-profit making basis, 50% of the revenue goes to The Church Tower Appeal and 50% goes to the group.

He suggested that a folder should be maintained of the e-mails received, and the answers sent in reply. This idea met with total agreement.

April produced an enquiry about Hannafords and he has sent this on to June Kernick, who has a lot of information on this family, for her to reply.

Another e-mail enquiring as to whether there was ever a sanatorium at Widecombe. This could be referring to Windwhistle, when it was a convalescent home for Tuberculosis sufferers at the end of the war. Patients from Hawkmoor Sanatorium, near Bovey Tracey stayed there about 6 weeks before returning home. It was run by two nurses Miss Higley and Miss Champion. The patients stayed in wooden huts erected in the garden.

Kelly Mines. When will they be holding their next open day, could it be in June or September?

Peter and Dilys Harvey are opening their extensive gardens to the public on Saturday July 27th at Brownswell, Ashbuton, in aid of The Children’s Hospice South West, cream teas will also be available. More details at our next meeting.

Dowsing, a subject that Tony Heath and others in the group participate in, led to the production by Tony of a photograph of a stone in a wall at Little Roost, Sherrill. This stone has many marks or grooves on it and he has produced a drawing of the lines as he interprets them, he believes it could be a detailed plan possibly of a prehistoric site or settlement, showing hut circles, field systems, reeves etc. Tony dates this artefact as being between 800BC-1000AD. It would be well worthwhile for members to visit the site and see for themselves what they think of this find! Map ref:- required.

Tony also mentioned North Tor and Corndon Tor. Near North Tor there are two stones arranged in the form of a capital "T", the top section lying true north - south, the leg running west-east, where the west end touches the middle of top section there are true right-angles, could this be sightlines for a survey c1800 ?

Freda then mentioned a hut circle and adjoining ‘plat’ between Sherril and Cator Gate which extends to about 8 acres, could this be an early example of a farm holding? She then named the rock on which stands The Cave-Penny Cross as "Belson’s Bible", nearer Corndon Tor is a rock called "Belson’s Chair". One side of this rock there is a stone which appears like the arm of the chair and on the other side is a similar stone that has fallen down, could this have resembled an armchair years ago? Why Belson? Tony posed the question, could this have derived from Bell’s Stone? Bell was to do with the ‘God of Fire’, attributed to the Sun. A place where a fire was lit on ‘Bell Tane Night’ and kept burning all night, to retain the power of the Sun. This was the occasion when all old waste material in the home was burnt, this could be ferns that had been on the floor all year or other rubbish/char, and all the old fires then extinguished, the next day new kindling was brought into the house and fresh firing brought from the beacon and a new fire started in the home to last for the next twelve months. A form of purification for the home, children and stock were also driven through the fire and smoke for the same reason.

A letter from Moretonhampstead Local History Group had been received inviting two representatives of our group to attend a meeting to discuss the co-operation between local groups. The idea being that we could share with other local groups our findings, and if during our research we come across anything appertaining to them information could be passed on and vice versa. Each group will have contact numbers so that information can be exchanged. Initially Bridford, Chagford, Moretonhampstead, Lustleigh and Widecombe are involved. Secretary and Vice Chairman attended and will complete a form given to them with regard to our group, to outline our interests and activities.

Newsletter Volume 9

A vote of thanks was recorded to Sue Booty for her production of the latest newsletter. These are available free to all members and interested parties.

Margaret Steemson gave the group copies of two old photographs, one showing the Old Forge at Widecombe and one showing a little girl outside Inglemoor, the old Post Office.

The meeting closed at 10.15 p.m.

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