Widecombe History Group Minutes September 2006

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A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House Widecombe on Wednesday 6th September 2006 at 7.30 p.m.

Apologies:- Bessie French, Simon & Annabelle Booty, Roger & Ann Claxton, Arch & Audrey Mortimore, Richard & Valerie Casey, Peter & Dylis Harvey, Fred Daw, Michael & Jenny Pascoe, Dawn Nosworthy, and Barbara Norrish.

Mr Terry French was in the Chair and 39 people attended. A warm welcome was extended to Dr Julie Tolmie from Australia who is looking for information regarding the Widecombe/Widcombe/Widdicombe family. Her visit resulted from an e-mail received by the group on 28th August and in replying the secretary had given information about the births, marriages and burials that he could find concerning her family interest. He invited her to our meeting and she is investigating other Widdicombe families in and around the Totnes area. Contact; julie.tolmie @ kcl.ac.uk

We also welcomed Dr & Mrs John Goodridge of Plympton. John was our guest speaker for the evening and gave a very interesting talk about the Farms, Houses & Cottages of The Bedford Estate with particular reference toTavistock and the surrounding area in the 1839 - 1868 period.

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



The Ponsworthy Book - ‘One Hundred Years and More of Ponsworthy’ is now complete and will be launched at Widecombe Fair on Tuesday 12th September 2006 in The Heritage Marquee. A team of about twelve people have been working hard for two years to get this book published and we are delighted with the result. We thank Alan Brunton of Orchard Publications of Chudleigh for his professional advice and guidance. The Group would like to thank all those who have given help with photographs, items and stories and to all the residents of Ponsworthy for their co-operation and help in compiling this history of their village. We were particularly fortunate in having the assistance of Bessie French, Ena Smerdon and Marjorie Weymouth all of whom have lived in the area for more than eighty years, in fact most of their lives. The team hope that everyone will enjoy reading the fruits of our efforts.

The History of Widecombe Fair:

The working party currently involved with compiling The History of Widecombe Fair, which we hope will be ready for publication at Widecombe Fair on 11th September 2007, reconvene after Widecombe Fair on Wednesday 20th September at 7.30 p.m. We are now desperately making an all out appeal for anything to do with Widecombe Fairs past, that anyone has in their family cupboards or drawers that they are prepared to loan or give us as we are now working in earnest to get material together for this ‘definative’ production. All items will be copied and returned to those kind enough to assist us.


The next project that the group will undertake is to record the history of the Leusdon Area. The church, chapel, school, memorial hall and farms and cottages.

This is at the very early stage of collecting memorabilia etc. and will not get going ‘full blast’ until ‘The History of Widecombe Fair’ is nearing completion. However, if anyone has anything of interest on Leusdon contact can be made with Margaret Phipps on 01364 631421.

Widecombe Fair Heritage Marquee:

Peter Rennells gave an indepth report on what we are planning for Tuesday 12th September 2006, at Widecombe Fair.

A plan of the Heritage Marquee was on show and lists of all those who are prepared to help with the ‘setting up’ on Monday and the ‘manning of the tent’ on Tuesday were displayed. There is a need to dismantle the display at 5.30p.m. on Tuesday, as it would be unwise to leave it over night.

The support promised to Peter was considerable and everyone seemed determined once again to make this a success. Peter has arranged for each display a bag full of photographs and documents etc to fix on the display boards and tables together with a plan of their positions.

Displays will include Old Widecombe, Candy Pottery, Farming Bygones, Widecombe School, Old North Hall, the continuing Research into Widecombe Fair, and Our Mosaic and Folders showing the activities of the group.

The full Documentation of the Research undertaken on Ponsworthy, which has resulted in our latest publication will be on show:-‘One Hundred Years and More of Ponsworthy’ produced in conjunction with Orchard Publications, 2 Orchard Close, Chudleigh, Devon, TQ13 0LR (01626 852714) and priced at £3.95. Copies of this and our other items, will be on sale at Widecombe Fair in the marquee or by contacting the secretary on 01364 621246 for details.

We shall also have on sale:

  • Dartmoor’s Policeman Poet at £4.99
  • All Along, Down Along, Widecombe Way at £3.50
  • Souvenir Lead Paperweights made from lead salvaged from Widecombe Church Tower in 2000 AD selling at £5.00 of which £2.50 goes towards Church Funds.
  • The Guide to the Parish of Widecombe at £1.00
  • Copies of The Widecombe Chronicle & Dartmoor Gazette published in April 1875 now selling at £2.50 of which 50p goes to Widecombe Church Funds.

Widecombe School 75th Anniversary:

Items and information collected at Widecombe Fair will be passed on to The Friends of Widecombe School so that they can create an exhibition relating to the school’s history when they celebrate in April 2007.

Further details can be obtained by ‘phoning 01364 621 260.

Widecombe Fair Company Ltd:

Mr John Mc Gregor is continuing to find items on the Fairfield and passing them on to the group. Current money is being passed to the treasurer of Widecombe Fair to be donated to charity.


Richard Wells has now got the contents of our various chests catalogued and items are availabe for research by contacting him.

Guided Walks:

Richard Wells will lead his next walk on Saturday 16th September starting from Cross Furzes near Scoriton at 11.00 a.m. This will be a circular walk of about 5 to 6 miles. Bring a picnic lunch and be sure to wear sturdy footwear.

Sincere thanks were expressed by the Chairman to Richard Wells and Mike Jones for arranging The Peter Hirst Memorial Walk on Peter’s birthday 29th August. 57 people attended including members of Dartmoor Tinworkers Research Group, Widecombe Fair and of course The Widecombe & District Local History Group.

We met on the road to Sherberton and visited Gobbit Tin Mines and Swincombe Farm and the Swincombe Valley, after which we returned to The Forest Inn for refreshments. Thanks were also expressed to Dr Tom Greeves for his help in explaining the activities that took place in the area when tin mining and farming were the means of employment. There was an Inn there at one time!

Aileen & Peter Carrett produced a montage of photographs of the event, a copy of which will be sent to Peter’s family.

A request was made for any photographs of the scattering of Sylvia Needham’s ashes, for our archives.

The visit to Bovey Tracey Heritage Centre was a success. An excellent introductory address was given by Joss Wills, Mike Lang and Margaret Wright. The exhibition was very enjoyable with refreshments which included homemade biscuits.

It was reported that the Coffee Morning held earlier today in aid of MacMillan Nurses at Leusdon was a great success.

E-mails and correspondence:

Sept 06/01: From Dr. Julie Tolmie of Australia has been dealt with as referred to earlier in the Minutes. She is coming to Widecombe Fair to look at our Census Lists.

Sept 06/02: From Simon Dixon, in which he listed the names of people from Widecombe who swore allegiance to George I in 1723. Secretary will find out more from him as to what he would like us to do.

Sept 06/03: From Wil Walker regarding information on Eden Philpotts. Replied suggesting he read ‘Eden Philpotts on Dartmoor’ by Kenneth F. Day, published by Forest Publishing, contact on 01626 821631.

Sept 06/04: Roger Paul of Princetown informed of contact numbers of some of our Speakers.

Sept 06/05: Details sent to Bruce Kitchen regarding Hannaford ancestors

Sept 06/06: Thunder storm of 1638, suggested Michael Ford obtains literature from Church when he visits Widecombe.

Sept 06/07: Received from Richard Casey concerning parcel delivery service scam. If anyone receives e-mails or cards, pretending a parcel needs to be claimed and asking them to call 0906 6661911, do not reply as this is a premium rate number. It is a scam!

The Secretary has replied to a letter from Mrs.P Armstrong of Yorkshire, who ordered two lead paper weights and requested details of the Withycombe family.

The Dartmoor Society is holding its annual debate at Meldon Village Hall on Saturday 23rd September.

Totnes archives at The Mill joining Morrison’s carpark.

A letter from Jeanette Stuart Lurde of Norway seeking information on relatives. Secretary will reply.

A reply is needed to the letter received in August Meeting from Jeffrey Wilson regarding Holne Moor and Hameldown wartime activities.

The next meeting is on Wednesday October 4th, when the Speaker will be Paul Rendell. The subject will be ‘Stone Men on the Moor’.

Wednesday November 1st, Discussion Evening.

Wednesday December 6th, The Wren Trust Singers will give a talk with Folk Songs inspired by The Rev. Barring-Gould Collection.

Wednesday 3rd January 2007 will be our Annual New Years Party Evening when members are requested to take part in a ‘bring & share buffet’, the liquid refreshment will be supplied by the group.

The 2007 programme of events and speakers is being prepared.

The Meeting closed at 10.10. p.m.

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