Widecombe History Group Minutes October 2004

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A Meeting of the Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 6th October 2004 at 7.30 p.m.

Dartmoor After the Ice Age

Apologies:- Richard & Val Casey, Jenny Pascoe, Audrey & Arch Mortimore, Rosemary Mortimore, Pat Gibson, Jim Churchward, Joyce Heath, Bessie French and Annabel Booty.

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 35 people attended.

Arising:- Drop-cloth fixing, library cataloguing and lead paperweight production needs to be undertaken.


Sept 04/01 Received from ITV1 Westcountry a request for families that are prepared to have a camera team follow their everyday activities for a week, with the aim of producing a TV programme to contact Clare Gilbert on 01752 333333 for further details.

Sept 04/02 Received from Moya Warren (Australia) enquiry about a marriage of a John Caunter of Ashburton to Elizabeth ???? of Widecombe c1825. replied that we can find no such union up to 10 years each side of that date.

Widecombe Parish Social Club are intending to hold a grand Christmas Draw during the week before Christmas to raise funds, tickets and details 01364 621294. Fun-run Day is scheduled for Saturday 9th October.

Community Landscape Project at North Hall. Still awaiting contact from Sean Hawken.

St Antony in Cornwall. John Kimber reported that he has made contact with Colin Edwards of Truro, Archivist to St Antony Estate. He is awaiting for details of the 1640 storm.

2005 programme. Ann & Wendy are well on the way to producing the list of speakers etc and hope to report in detail at the November meeting. Among the ideas being considered is a trip to Morwellham and a talk about Devonport Dockyard with a follow-up trip to the Dockyard as well as a good variety of speakers.

Parish Ducuments and CD. Roger is setting up a Paypal Internet Payment Account for the overseas sale of these CDs. Contact www.widecombe-in-the-moor.com or e-mail history @ widecombe-in-the-moor.com for details.

The fireproof container for the Parish Documents is still being investigated.

The Ponsworthy History Project is continuing and it is hoped that during the winter months ahead meetings will take place amongst members to amend and add to the information being gathered. Meetings will be arranged so that all members willing to take part can be utilised.

Copy of Order of Service for the licensing of Rev’d Preb. Philip W. Darby as Priest in Charge of The Moorland Team Ministry and Rev’d Michael N. Allso as Curate on Tuesday 5th October 2004 to be added to our archives.

A. J. Coles film "All Along Down Along Out Along Lee" produced by Stuart Keen is still being persued.

Mary Pascoe showed several ‘cross-stitch’ portraits of houses in the Parish that had been worked by pupils at Widecombe School about 12 years ago . She is going to try to trace those that did the work in case they would like them as ‘keep sakes’.

Michael Smerdon has decided to do a project of his own, a recording of all the field names in the Parish. This will need a very large map and during discussion it was suggested that he may like to get a map big enough to write in each parcel of ground the Tythe Map numbers as recorded in our 1842 Tythe Map.

Then in table form record them, and the relevant, names as recorded in the tythe settlement book most of which have already been copied by Peter Hirst, and the O.S.Numbers used in the Agricultural Returns of c1960, and the names as recorded by the late Iris Woods in conjunction with The Widecombe Womens Institute c 1960, and the Current 21st Century National Grid Field Numbers, and the names by which they are now known.

The meeting agreed to help him in his quest. We need to search our archives to see if we have a copy of Iris Wood’s work, Peter Hirst will let him have details of his work with the Tythe records, and Michael will have to approach the present landowners for their assistance. Good luck and watch this space!

Cameron and Sandra Zab have given the group’s archives copies of three booklets of papers presented to The Devonshire Association.

  • "A Forgotten Manor in Widecombe-in-the-Moor by Mrs C. D. Lineham" with notes by H. French, 1962, and
  • Field Names in Widecombe-in-the-Moor by Hermon French, 1963, and
  • Deserted sites on Dartmoor by Mrs C. D. Lineham, 1965.

The secretary has contacted them and thanked them for their generosity.

The Widecombe Fair History Project is still gathering pace. Margaret Phipps has loaned a book produced in 1900 with reference to the Fair in it, Liz Fursdon has offered the sight of a print in her possession and Simon Booty has a record player that will play the old 78 rpm record that has come into our possession. Please continue to search out anything about Widecombe Fair of bygone days and contact the secretary on 01364 621246.

Guided Walk: A very interesting and enjoyable guided walk was lead by Len Copley on Saturday, 4th September, meeting at High Down car park, Lydford. The walk included visiting Widgery Cross and Doe Tor Brook. Only a few members managed to turn-out this time, but it was a lovely day with wonderful views of the Tors and Rivers.

It was noted that The Devon History Society and The Friends of Devon’s Archives are both holding their A.G.M’s on the same day at Exeter, namely Saturday 30th October 2004, this appeared to our members as a rather pointless act.

The Next Meeting will be held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 3rd November at 7.30 p.m. when the speaker will be John Allen.

Members who have collections of artifacts found in and around the Parish are encouraged to bring them to The Church House between 6.30 and 7.15 that evening for John Allen to see, prior to the full meeting. At the full meeting he will talk about the collections shown to him, he will give advice and identify items and also suggest how they can be best cared for and recorded.

The December Meeting will be addressed by Dr Todd Gray on the subject - "Historical Images of Dartmoor".


Dartmoor after the Ice Age

By Roger Claxton

Please also see here for more detailed notes on Roger's talk

Roger has during the past couple of years attended several courses on archaeology. Most of these have looked at the last Ice Age, the effect that it had on the geology of Britain, the type of animals that inhabited The British Isles at that time, and the ‘tell tale’ signs that are here today for the keen observer to interpret concerning that period.

He has read a great deal on the subject both in heavy theoretical books and lighter pamphlets and magazines. His findings and understandings of the period from 20,000 B.C. to 5000 B.C. were passed on to the meeting that evening. By the clever use of graphs, simulated diagrams and photographs of the Arctic and ‘near Arctic’ regions of today, he gave the meeting an insight as to how Britain was 10,000 years before ‘present’.

Historically there appears to have been an Ice Age about every 100,000 years, so it means that we shall not be about, when the next one comes! The sequence seems to have included a period of increased warmth between these eras. We hear a great deal today about ‘global warming’ and it is believed that man’s consumption of fossil fuels is adding to the problem. In past milleniums man’s contribution has been negligible so the circle of events has been a natural phenonomen.

Where and what is there to be seen?

It appears that up to 20,000 years ago we were part of the European continent, the last ‘bridge of land’ joining northern France ‘disappeared’ about 8000 years ago. The ice cap did not quite reach Devon or Dartmoor but the influence of the ice created a ‘tundra’ similar to that in Northern Canada today. It is this comparison to North Canada and parts of Siberia today that helps the archaeologist to work out the effects that the Ice Age had on Britain. Interesting finds from places like Kents Cavern, where the bones of Woolly Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros and the remains of various members of the Deer family and other mammals have been found, all help to formulate the image of those times. Another good source of information is pollen. A wide variety of pollen and seeds have enabled researchers to appreciate the vegetation of that period - Birch and Hazel, to mention but two. As the ice cap melted the resulting water flooded the lowland plains, and the main ones are now referred to as The North Sea and The English Channel.

It is interesting to find that the English Channel is no more than 600 feet deep at its deepest point. When realising that the highest point on Dartmoor is about 2000 feet above the present sea-level, it is possible to appreciate that the plains between Britain and Europe must have been the fertile area of the then continent. This must have been the route for seasonal migration for all the animals that at one time inhabited our Island.

It has been calculated that as the water level rose by about 8000 B. C. we became an Island and it is only in recent times that discoveries of prehistorical sites in the North Sea have substantiated the fact that the fertile plains that join us to the rest of Europe were inhabited by our ancestors prior to the ice cap melting.

Roger’s talk has without doubt stimulated many of us to read and understand the vast implications of our last Ice Age and contemplate what the future may hold for us and future generations as the cycle of Cold & Warm continues to effect our planet.

Thank you Roger for making us all think of the past as well as looking to the future.

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