Widecombe History Group Minutes July 2007

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A Meeting of The Widecombe & District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 4th July 2007 at 7.30 p.m.

Apologies: Peter Rennells, Mary & Alan Goodall, Terry & Bessie French, Simon & Annabelle Booty, Margaret Phipps, Rosemary Mortimore, Arthur Johnson, Norma Tempest, Ruth Parnell, Phyllis Pascoe, & Roger Whale

Mrs Mary Pascoe was in the chair and 57 people attended including some visitors to the area some of whom had visited our exhibition the previous Saturday and Sunday and had decided to come to our meeting.

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

Please click here for Phil Newman's talk entitled, "The Archaeology of Quarrying and Mining on S. E. Dartmoor".


We understand that Alan Goodall is in hospital and members all wish him well and they expressed their sympathy to Margaret Phipps at the loss of her sister.

Widecombe Fair Book

This project in now in the publishers hand and in its final stages and well on schedule to be ready by Widecombe Fair September 11th 2007 for its official launch.

Group Banner and our Exhibition

Rodney Cruze was thanked for obtaining our new Group Banner which was used for the first time at our exhibition held on Saturday 30th June and Sunday 1st July at The Church House. Peter Rennells who co-ordinated the event thanked everyone who had contributed in any way to its success. All the exhibits were so good and the visitors were all impressed with the information passed to them by the stewards. Above all Peter felt that the camaraderie, enthusiasm and good humour made it an outstanding success.

Dartmoor Trust & Dartmoor Archives

An invitation has been received from The Dartmoor Trust to attend their 16th July Meeting, however, Anthony Beard & Roger Claxton could not manage that day so they have been invited to the Trust’s meeting on Monday September 24th. This has been accepted.

Beatrice Chase

The stand dedicated to Beatrice Chase at our exhibition created a lot of interest.

This will make a good feature at Widecombe Fair! Some of our recently acquired articles were on view plus several images from the collection belonging to John Walling.

The guided walk arranged for 9th June starting from Batworthy Corner was a great success. Thanks again to Richard for organising it.

The Peter Hirst Memorial Walk

Richard Wells & Mike Jones have arranged this for Peter’s birthday 29th August 2007. Commencing at the quarry opposite The Two Bridges Hotel at 5.45p.m.

Visiting Wistman’s Wood, Crockern Tor and returning to the quarry. A buffet supper will follow at The Plume of Feathers, Princetown. Leaflets were distributed to be returned by Wednesday 1st August, with payment of £8 per person for the supper, at the latest so that numbers can be confirmed with the caterers. Secretary will contact DTRG members so that they can join us if they wish. The walk will be about three miles and next year they are considering a trip around the newly adapted Brimpts Tinners Trail.

The visit of The Devon History Society

This was held on Saturday 30th June in conjunction with our exhibition. A letter of thanks was received from Elizabeth Maycock of the Society for what she described as an ‘outstanding day’. She complimented the Group on the presentations, enthusiastic speakers, the range of interests, the guided walk and the variety of the publications, paperweights etc that the group has produced so far to its credit. Special thanks also for the refreshments at the beginning and end of the visit. The Chairman thanked everyone who contributed in any way towards the success of the weekend with a special thanks to Peter Rennells who co-ordinated the whole event. The exhibition remained open for the following day, Sunday 1st July, and the group has received many other favourable comments. We would like also to thank the number of local people who visited our exhibition and expressed their appreciation.

Macmillan Nurses

Peter Rennells thanked the members for their generosity in their sponsorship of a recent half marathon undertaken by members of his family. £250 was raised by the group at the last meeting and more money was forthcoming from members during the evening. The family hoped to raise £1000 but to date they have passed £1250. He felt he would like to thank everyone for their extreme generosity.

Widecombe Fair

Tuesday 11th September is the date of this year’s Fair and we shall once again be involved with the heritage marquee. We shall have similar room as last year, about two thirds of the marquee and we shall stage an exhibition on the outside of the marquee of various agricultural implements and artefacts to help create the country fair atmosphere.

Annual Outing to Geevor

A vote of thanks was recorded to Roger & Ann Claxton for organising such an enjoyable trip for us all on Tuesday 22nd May.

Guided Walk

Richard Wells agreed to take the group on a walk on Saturday 14th July starting at the Haytor Lower car park at 11.00 a.m. to view the Haytor Granite Railway and the quarry, then on to Holwell Quarry, across the Beckabrook to Houndtor Medieval Village and Houndtor, then back across Holwell Lawns and the Beckabrook and so to Haytor and the cars!

75th Anniversary of Widecombe School

This was great success and thanks to all who contributed. Documents gathered by our Chairman will be added to our archives. Some of these will be exhibited from time to time in our cabinets. A Mary Carter who at one time taught at the school gave our Chairman some information which has been added to our archives.

Stone Working Tools

Amongst the old country items on show at Widecombe Fair will be selection of stone working tools recently donated to the group by Doug & Lynne Pidgeon. These were believed to have been made at Merrivale Quarry.

A ‘Bull Set’ - A hammer-like tool with a wedge shaped edge and a wooden handle which when placed on a rock and hit by a sledge hammer would cut the stone.

A pitching tool used to cut straight edges on rocks.

A set of ‘two Feathers and a Tare’. These are used in conjunction with a row of holes drilled into a rock. Into each hole the two feathers would be placed with the tare being placed between them. Each hole would have a similar set placed into it and by hitting each tare in turn, gradually the pressure built up in the rock would result in it splitting along the line of the holes. There is plenty of evidence of this method of cutting granite on the moors for people to see!

Stones in the Parish

A note was given to the group that stated.

In 1963 the local Devon County Council Roadmen, Arthur Warren, Fred Leaman, Johnny French, Henry Brown & Leonard Norrish while widening the cross-roads between Jordan and Dockwell found the head of a cross in the hedge. A new shaft was made and it was erected at the crossways. An old type of gatepost was also found and it is still there to be seen.

The Cross at Oldsbrim, near the top of Dartmeet Hill was returned to its original site, from Lowertown by the same team, where it was being used as a gate post

Widecombe Church

One of our visitors, John Griffin of Bridgewater, Somerset, who had visited out exhibition on Sunday, gave us food for thought with an insight into what he saw when he visited our Church. He has considerable knowledge on biblical affairs and he was fascinated by some of the items he saw in the Church.

He began by saying that most of our churches are built on what were previously religious sites of earlier civilisations, and Widecombe could well fit that pattern by being at first a ‘pagan’ site, pre Christian, then possibly a Catholic site before becoming Church of England as it is today. The possibility of perhaps a wooden church on this site could account for the fact that to enter our Church one has to go down steps into it as the floor lies below the exterior ground level. After that would begin the process of building a more substantial building on the site which would be added to gradually over the centuries.

When standing under the tower facing the four boards that describe the great storm of 1638, behind you will find two paintings, these were mentioned in previous editions of the church guide and described as possibly 17th century and representing Moses & Aaron, but in the 2006 revised guide there is no mention of them, or the painting attributed to Abraham offering up his son Isaac for sacrifice, and the ram which can be found behind the south door. The late Mr Middleweek is reputed to have presented this one to the church from where at some time in the past it had been removed.

Mr Griffin stated that the two pictures are of Jewish origin but there should be a group of three. The middle one of the three is missing and should be a purple robed prophet....Haggai (prophetical).The first one on left represents Regal, robed in red and carrying a staff......Zerrububel.

The third one on right represents the High Priest, dressed in blue (sacridocal)......

Joshua son of Johosadec.

He posed the question of why are these two Jewish images in Widecombe Church? Where did they come from and when were they placed there? Where is the missing middle one?

Another piece of Widecombe history that needs recording!

There is need to search the book of Kings in The Old Testament to confirm the spellings.

Mr Griffin went on to inform the meeting that there is no doubt in his mind that the present 14th century Church stands on the site of previous churches. A religious site of pre-prehistoric times, after which possible Celtic use, then a wooden church at some stage hence the fact that the body of the church is below the surrounding ground level. The church would then have been gradually built and possibly rebuilt, added to and altered over the years till reaching the building we see today. This interpretation met with general approval.

He then enlarged the discussion by mentioning a papal investigation that took place in Britain in the 1950’s when a Vatican envoy was looking into the archaeology of the belief that after the crucifixion, Joseph of Aramathea visited Britain as did Mary the mother of Jesus and Widecombe is said to have featured in his research. There is belief that Mary was said to have died in The British Isles. In 1952 the Pope made a ruling that Mary had in fact ascended to heaven. There is a strong belief that there was biblical contact 2000 years ago between Britain and Egypt and their use of bronze, a mixture of tin & copper. Certainly the Romans had lead mines near Wells.

One more query added to our intrigue was that there is a trend of thought that Mary had a connection with Widecombe or may have visited this area and a mention of Elton Manor at the end of his brief talk stirred memories of a place which came up in conversation many years ago with a Margaret Tummings and even Conan Doyle. Thanks to John Griffin for his impromptu address!

Elfords of Sheepstor and Widecombe

A contact with Mr & Mrs Elford of Buckinghamshire recently, who are relations of the Elfords of Sheepstor, a plaque relating to their ancestors is on the north wall of Widecombe Church, has led to the group receiving from them a copy of the Elford family tree. This is another piece of history connected with our Church that could do with further investigation.

Tetra Mast

Notification has been received from Widecombe Parish Council that there is a fresh application before The Dartmoor National Park Authority for the erection of a Tetra Mast in the Widecombe Valley near Bowden Barn. Anyone that wishes to make any comments on this planning application can write to D.N.P.Authority by Friday 13th July 2007. Leaflets giving details were available for people to take and read.


The local school fete is scheduled for Tuesday 10th July at 2.00 p.m.

The Ladies Social group meet at The Passage House Inn on Thursday 12th July at 6.30 p.m.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday 1st August at The Church House at 7.30 p.m. when our speaker will talk about the Tamar Valley and the Tamar Protection Society.

Princetown Local History Group have a guided walk around Princetown at their next meeting scheduled for Tuesday 7th August at 7.00 p.m. starting from the Princetown Primary School.

Chagford LHG have tour of Uppacott Longhouse scheduled for Friday July 13th at 2.30 p.m. this is for members only.

Leusdon Memorial Hall have their monthly coffee Morning at 10.00 a.m. on Wednesday 1st August.

Leusdon Church have their Annual Fun Day on Widecombe Village Green on Tuesday 14th August from 10.00 a.m.

Emails and letters.

There are some emails received in June that need answering.

Notification that The Totnes Image Bank & Rural Archive, housed at The Tourist Information Centre, Town Mill, Coronation Road, Totnes has a great deal of information available to local researchers.

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The information on this page was last modified on March 18 2013 12:55:50.

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