Widecombe History Group Minutes February 2004

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 4th February 2004 at 7.30 p.m.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 34 people attended. She began by thanking everyone for bringing so much food to our party last month and making it so successful.

Click here for the talk on the Community Landscapes Project.

Apologies:- Tony & Joyce Heath, Val & Richard Casey, Arch & Audrey Mortimore, Audrey Lamb, Jenny Pascoe, Phyllis Pascoe, and Bessie French.

The minutes of the January meeting were read and signed as correct.


There is an urgency to get the drop-cloth saga resolved, as Rev Derek Newport will be leaving the Parish soon. The Librarian and Lead will then need sorting. Half term would be an ideal time to deal with these items.

Future Programming:-

John Allan of Exeter Museum will visit the group at our November 3rd 2004 meeting when it is hoped that he will examine some locally found articles.

Shovel Down. (see June/July August minutes 2003)

Further to our visit to view ‘phase I’ of the project on Shovel Down, Chagford, on 16th July 2003, Joanne Bruck, University of Dublin, coordinator of the archaeological dig, has informed us that there will be a ‘phase II’ in July/August of 2004. She would like us to visit the site again and perhaps offer some volunteers to assist with the excavations. There is a possibility of a talk to the group on 4th August 2004 about their findings so far. More on this next month.

Sylvia Needham thanked all the group for their best wishes and cards and gifts received while she was in hospital.

Neighbouring Groups:- Nothing to report.


Feb ‘04/01 - From Matthew Casey. Trying to trace the whole of the poem that begins:-

‘Thar be piskies up on Dartymoor

And ‘tidn’t no good you say thar baint

I’ve felt um grauping at my heart

I’ve heard their voices calling faint’

It was suggested that perhaps Jonas Coaker (The self-styled Dartmoor Poet) was the author.

Research shows Ruth St Leger Gordon in her ‘Witchcraft & Folklore’ lists two lines and states it as anonymous.

Feb 04/02 - From Brian Bartels concerning Heathercombe Brake and the staff and pupils there 1950s-60s. Mentioning :- Miss Elizabeth Quantick, Roy Bishop (dec’d of Saltash?), Mr & Mrs Puddicombe & Miss Collins. We shall try to find out more. Suggested contact Deborah Hannaford.

Devon Records Office Newsletter 32 Nov 2003.

Arrangements should be made to ensure that all pre-1837 baptism, burial records etc are deposited with them. In the case of Widecombe this was done years ago. Some Parish Records from other parishes have been mislaid and have not been microfilmed. DRO are hoping to be relocated to Great Moor House, Sowton, Exeter during the summer of 2004. This could take up to four months and during that period special arrangements will be made for researchers. Michael Nosworthy (Parish Councillor) thought that due to our wonderful collection of Parish Documents, the idea of whether a fire proof container should be purchased, or as suggested by Peter Hirst, could they all get microcopied and the copies stored away from Widecombe thus safeguarding their contents for the future. This will be considered by interested parties.

Widecombe Holy Well:- Nothing to report.

Peter Hirst brought to our notice an exhibition of old Exeter being shown at Exeter Museum, this could be of particular interest to all those who enjoyed Derek Gore’s talk and the subsequent walk around Exeter Walls given to the group last year.

Widecombe Parish Social/Entertainment Club:- We are still awaiting details.

Fiery Ball - St Antony, Cornwall:- John Kimber is waiting for contact information from Curate Jackie Johnson of St Antony.

Dartmoor Trust:-

The meeting was disappointed by the reply from The Dartmoor Trust to our December correspondence. The Trust chose to completely misunderstand the points we raised. It has to be realised by these ‘academic groups’ that ordinary people value their privacy and independence and the correct way forward for any exploration of private property must be done with the landowner’s prior permission and then ultimate cooperation.

The eight suggested lines of research from the Trust puts the ‘three most important objectives in our opinion’ last:-

  • Locate all leats within the Parish
  • Research and produce a short history of each one
  • Identify length and location
  • Identify specific historical features
  • Locate all archaeological sites within 25m of the banks
  • Establish ownership
  • Identify land use and designation
  • Identify access

They seem also to assume that most leats are on common land, like the Devonport Leat. Are they unaware that with Mills, the leats to them, would more than likely cross several different private properties? There are also leats for water meadows, tin works, farm and cottage drinking water supplies, the more we think of this subject the wider is its implications.

It appears that The Trust are not even prepared to do the initial contacts and ground work themselves but expect this too to be done by local bodies. Perhaps they need to review their approach procedures and get them more in line with the style adopted by our February Meeting’s Speaker, Mr Sean Hawken and his team!

A most interesting illustrated talk was given by Sean Hawken entitled -

"The Community Landscape Project".

The meeting was impressed by the way that those involved with this project first identified the owners of the fields that they wished to survey, then approached them to gain permission of access. In spite of some negative response at first, they achieved full cooperation in the end, due to them visiting and explaining the aims of the project to those concerned. The local support group were then able to get involved.

Next Meeting:- It was decided that the subject for discussion on Wednesday 3rd March 2004 should be Ponsworthy and the immediate area. Peter Hirst agreed to get as large a copy of a map of the village as he could, ready for the meeting. The secretary will get the subject announced in the Parish Newsletter.

As there was no further business the meeting closed at 10.20 p.m.

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