Widecombe History Group Minutes September 2003

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held on Wednesday 3rd September 2003 at 7.30 p.m.

Please click here for Freda Wilkinson's talk on Widecombe in the 17th Century.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 62 people attended.

The Chairman began by welcoming everyone and remarked that it must be record turnout. The meeting expressed its joy that Freda Wilkinson, a member of our group, was to give us a talk on life in this Parish, in and around the 17th Century.

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


The future of the scrap lead from the tower is on going and a Mr John Hodges of Torquay is hoping to design a suitable mould. This will be about 1.5 inches in diameter. We await developments.

When will the dropcloth saga be sorted? Are there any volunteers?

Richard Wells our librarian has had an article printed in the Sept./Oct. 2003 edition of Dartmoor Newsletter about the closure of Eastern Garage, Ashburton. Richard’s article on "The Ten Commandments" and Buckland Beacon will appear in the November/December edition of Dartmoor Newsletter, which is available from Widecombe Post Office, price £2.50. The meeting heard that Paul Rendell had given our book a favourable review in his Newsletter and Dr Tom Greeves had done us proud in Elizabeth Stanbrook’s Dartmoor Magazine No 72 Autumn 2003 edition, also available from Widecombe Post Office price £1.95.

Ann Claxton up dated the meeting on the outing on Saturday 27th September 2003 to Bishops Lydeard and Dunster. To date about 40 people have booked to go. Details in the August Minutes and on our website www.widecombe-in-the-moor.com

2004 programme of meetings and speakers etc.

Ann Claxton and Wendy Beard are developing the programme for 2004. Suggestions for speakers, places to visit, guided walks and venues for outings are always welcome. They will all go into the ‘melting pot’ and will be filed for future reference.

A cheque had been received from Carlton Television in recompense for assistance given by members of the group to a film they are producing.

Moretonhampstead L.H.G. commence their winter programme with a talk by Dr Tom Greeves, on the third Wednesday of the month, September 17th at The Community Club, Court Street at 7.30 p.m. The subject will be The Warren House Inn.

Widecombe Bellringers will be holding their Annual Outing on Saturday 13th September. Those wishing to go should contact Michael Pascoe at The Post Office.


Sept E/01 Through June Kernick we have details of a Mrs S.E. Perrault looking for connections to the Smerdon family. Contact address 4310 Lakeridge Drive, East Sumner, Washington 98390-9135, USA. E-mail:- perrault@blarg.net

Anyone interested contact her direct.

Frank Hext reported that he has done some research regarding Albert John Hext, August E-01, and will contact Joanne Mackey as soon as the secretary gives him her address.

Halsgrove Press are producing a book titled:- "Dartmoor Farm". This is written by Stephen Woods, who has connections with this parish and the book is based largely on The Southcombe Diaries of the Hannaford family, of 1896-1968. It will be priced at £24.95.

Our book "All Along, Down Along - Widecombe Way" is selling well. Price £3.50 plus 50p p&p from 01364 621246 or 01364 621220. Copies are on sale at most shops in the village and around the district.

With regards to last month’s discussion and the write up, the following observations were made.

a) In the Western Morning News of Wednesday 3rd September 2003 there is a photograph of a ‘Lysander Aircraft’. The comment was - ‘a two seater aircraft that had a particularly short take off and landing requirement’.

b) Two ladies that could relate to the part that women played in WW 1 were suggested as worthy of interviewing. They were Mrs Ann Belam and Mrs Dorothy Batey(nee Miners). Dorothy drove a tractor for her father Bill Miners and did a great deal of agricultural contracting for the local farmers.

c) The hand grenade dug up at Dunstone Court/Manor was in September 1998.

d) The date of the death of Clifford John Riddaway is recorded on his headstone in Widecombe Churchyard as 5th August 1942.

Roderick Newbolt-Young of The Widecombe Parish Council raised the problem of the proposed "Tetra Mast" for which a planning appeal is scheduled soon. There is a genuine fear that this could pose a health problem, however it appears that this is not something that the planners can take into consideration. It appears that if this fear becomes a reality in say twenty years time, as is the case with ‘organo phosphates’, - then it will be a case of too bad!

The need for this mast is called into question. This valley is a special case, and surely ‘satellite communications’ should be considered first, this seems a reasonable and logical suggestion and the correct way forward. The present mast, erected solely to improve television reception, could soon become obsolete, as more people turn to satellite television. To add to it now, making it far more obtrusive to all those living in the district will have a very detrimental visual impact to this area of outstanding natural beauty, and there is no way that it can be successfully concealed. Those attending the meeting were urged to write and object and/or sign a petition which will be available at The Post Office.

Secretary proposed a vote of thanks Ann and Roger for all the hours that they must have put into ‘transcribing onto a C.D.’ all the information copied from the Apprentices Indentures, Removal Documents and much more, held in the Parish Chest. Thanks also to the team of volunteers, that had done the ground work in gathering this information from the original documents. A copy of the C.D. has now been loaded into three local computers and the process of checking the details is now under way. So much detail is cross referenced and for certain this will be of considerable use in the future.

The remarkable effect of the lightening of October 1638 in Freda’s talk led to one or two other stories, could this be a subject for a future discussion evening, to record the extent of damage done over the years to buildings, livestock, people and the countryside?

Anthony remembered a case of ‘Ball Lightening’ coming into his home, the effect it had on ferns on Pudsham Down and Freda mentioned a similar event on ‘Dags Hills’, where the ferns took several years to grow back.

Watch this space!!

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 1st October when the Speaker will be Derek Gore on the Roman Conquest of the South West. He has also agreed on the following Sunday, October 5th, to give the Group a Guided Walk along the Roman defences in Northernhay Gardens, Exeter, commencing at 10.30 a.m.

The meeting closed at 10.10 p.m.

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