Widecombe History Group Minutes September 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 September 2002 at 7.30 p.m.

Click here for the talk on the History of the Dartmoor Pony.

Mr Peter Hirst was in the chair and 50 people attended including several who were attending for the first time, and one visitor from Finland. The meeting began by Peter offering apologies on behalf of our chairman Margaret Steemson who was unwell. It is the first meeting that she has missed since the group was formed. A ‘Get Well’ card was obtained and all those present signed it and wished her a happy birthday for Sunday 8th September.


Margaret Steemson, Tim Steemson, Frank Hext, Andrew and Sue Hamlyn, Kate Strasdin, Sylvia Needham, Peter Rennells, Jenny Pascoe, Audrey and Arch Mortimore.

Arising :-

Church Dropcloth. Secretary asked to find out by the next meeting the dimensions so that the wrapping and storage of the cloth could be done before the winter sets in.

Family History and E-mails.

One E-mail this month.

September E/1. Enquiry from Mrs Gayle Vaatstra (nee Radcliffe) regarding the Radcliffe family.

Reply: the Radcliffe family lived at Bag Parks. Part of the Widecombe Council carpark was given to the parish by Sir William Van Straubenzee and his sister Vivien in memory of their Mother, Margaret Van Straubenzee (nee Radcliffe), a plaque recording this gift from the Van Straubenzee family is built into the wall of the car park. Sir William died 02.11.1999 after a career in politics, he was M.P. for Wokingham 1959-87. The Radcliffe family donated the Altar rail in Widecombe Church. Any further details that come to hand will be passed on to Gayle.

All the E-mails of last month have been answered.

August E/4. Regarding the Wills/Thorne/Howis connection,the secretary has forwarded the details to Dick Wills of Ilsington to deal with.

August E/9. Regarding the French connection. Terry French reported that Hermon’s father was Thomas French of Rowbrook, born 12.06.1870, buried at Leusdon 05.07.1949, aged 80 years, his wife was Jessie Ada (nee Langdon) buried at Leusdon 14.12.1944.

Other Rowbrook Frenchs’ were :-

  • Richard Henry bn 07.08.1864
  • Thirza 06.09.1868 bd 05.03.1934 aged 64
  • Thomas 12.06.1870 bd 05.07 1949 aged 80

Their parents :-

  • Richard French bn 08.01.1837 bd 19.08.1920 aged 83
  • Mary Jane bd 05.09.1920 aged 75

All buried at Widecombe.

Tower Lead: This venture is taking a long time to materialise!

Secretary has two fresh contacts to pursue! Anthony reported that on examination of the scrap lead, he had found two local names carved: 1. A. (Arthur) Horton dated June 1919, this he is going to pass on to his daughter Enid and,

2. Joan Palmer dated August 12th 1935, together with her parents initials - L.P. and R.S.P. (her mother Louie and her father Robert [Bob] ), which he will now pass on to Joan Hambleton (nee Palmer).


Ann Claxton reported that to date she has had several suggestions. Dunster and Exmoor, Dewley Manor in Somerset, Lostwithiel and Restormel Castle, Cornwall, The Military Museum, Cobaton Combat Collection, at Chittlehamholt, Plymouth Sound and Devonport Docks. It was decided that an outing in May/June and another in September/October would be ideal if we are not imposing on Ann’s time too much! She agreed to research the options and let us know, however there was a consensus of opinion that Dunster and Exmoor would be an ideal Autumn Outing due to the Heather being in flower. The possibility of doing a trip on a day other than Saturday will be considered. Discus this prior to tea break next meeting.

Kelly Mines: Several members had attended the Kelly Open Day on September 1st and were all agreed that they had found it most interesting.

Tea Rota:- October Freda and Margaret

November Betty and Ruby

December Bring and Share Party Night.

Secretary has contacted Mr & Mrs Knapman of Kingsteignton regarding the Chittleford photograph (see August’s minutes) and they were delighted to know that the young lady pictured was Hilda Mann, who was Mrs Knapman’s mother. She is going to obtain a further copy of the photograph. The present owners of Chittleford would also like a copy.

It is hoped that the ‘blackout curtains’ will soon be fixed in the Hall.

A folder of our walk at Meldon has now been completed by Aileen and Peter Carrett.


1. A letter from Mrs Julie Higgins of East Allington enquiring about any Hext connections, has been passed on to Frank Hext to pursue.

2. Notification of the AGM of the Friends of Devon Archives 10.30 a.m. on Saturday 12th October at County Hall Exeter, to be followed by various speakers. Tickets £15 includes buffet lunch made payable to ‘Friends of Devon’s Archives’ obtainable from Brian Carpenter, Devon Records Office, Exeter.

3. On the four Tuesdays in November from 2p.m. to 4 p.m.there will be four different Archive Workshops covering various sources of information for those involved with tracing family history. The cost is £5 per workshop and booking forms obtainable from Devon & Exeter Institution, 7 The Close, Exeter, EX1 1EZ.

This prompted the question - do we want to know all about our ancestors and who we are related to? Anthony will try to find the words of "I’m my own Grandpa" - a Music Hall Song in time for the next meeting!

The speaker at the next meeting, on Wednesday 2nd October, is Geoffrey Weymouth and the subject ‘Dartmoor Marshes’.

Peter Hirst was thanked for giving some of our members an enjoyable guided walk around Sharpitor and Burrator Reservoir on Saturday August 10th. For those who had missed the walk, he has agreed to give similar walk on Sunday 6th October starting at the top of Peek Hill map ref. SX557 707 at 12.00 noon, bring a picnic!

Ann Claxton reported that the 2003 programme is nearing completion. It was suggested that perhaps with Andrew Hamlyn’s cooperation in conjunction with his May 2003 talk, a "Mini Ten Tors Walk" could be organised, or a walk to a check point on the Ten Tor Weekend, to see competitors coming and going, so getting a little of the atmosphere of the event.

Budleigh Salterton Museum. Secretary has written to Miss Gawne to say that we can not take any of the clothes that she offered us but suggested that Ashburton or Totnes Museums may well like to receive some of the early clothes that she is hoping to rehouse.

Princetown Local History Group have arranged a talk, which will be given by Miles and Gail Fursdon about their Hydro Electric Project at Old Walls, Ponsworthy, on Tuesday 1st October at the Princetown Primary School, at 7.30 p.m. followed by a guided walk on Saturday 5th, at 2.30 p.m. around the site. An invitation is extended to any of our members to join them.

Mary Pascoe wants to know of any Working Griss (Corn) Mill, suitable for children to visit! Anthony said that he had once seen something at a Vintage Rally, mounted on a lorry of a mill to grind the corn and then an oven to cook the bread. He will try to find out more! Mary has also heard that there is a site on Dartmoor where there is a ‘piano’ carved into a rock. Any ideas as to where?

Librarian: The group are beginning to collect several Dartmoor Books and Publications including the folders, it was felt that the post of Librarian needs creating. The books are marked with our insignia and it is simply to "give them out and get them back" in other words keep track of them so that they are constantly available for all! Any volunteer please contact the secretary.

The meeting closed at 10.10. p.m.

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