Widecombe History Group Minutes October 2007

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A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 3rd October 2007 at 7.30 p.m.

Apologies: Bessie French, John Kimber, Peter & Dilys Harvey, Fred Daw, Phyllis Pascoe, Derrick & Lyn Hext, Rosemary Mortimore, Andrew & Sue Hamlyn, & Norma Tempest.

Mrs Mary Pascoe was in the chair and 59 members attended.

Please click here for Tess Walker's talk entitled, "Something In Common - A Talk on the Dartmoor Commons".


The History of Widecombe Fair Book is selling well. Over 200 were sold at Widecombe Fair. Sales have begun to be made as a result of advertising on our website.

Doug & Lyn Pidgeon brought some details of the RAF Sharpitor Mast for Mike Wright who raised the subject at his talk in September. A good article on the subject can be found in The Dartmoor Magazine number 83, Summer 2006 written by Bill Wilkinson.

Meeting with The Dartmoor Trust held on 24th September:

Roger Claxton & Anthony Beard reported on their very interesting and enjoyable meeting with The Trustees where details of The Peter Hirst Legacy were aired.

It has to be understood that The Trustees of The Dartmoor Trust, which is a registered charity, run The Dartmoor Archives from their funds. So in reality it is The Dartmoor Trust’s Dartmoor Archives. They have experienced a great deal of expense during recent years in doing this due to paying for facilities at Exeter University and the cost of a Project Officer, rent, and equipment for the scanning and digitalisation of thousands of photographic images of Dartmoor from the very earliest up to the modern day. The Trust’s funds have shown a considerable reduction recently but with the £300,000 legacy from Peter Hirst, which is restricted to being spent on The Dartmoor Archives, they hope that in the future The Archives will be self-financed from those funds. While the Trust can continue to manage the Archives and its finances as a separate entity, there is a need to build up the Trust’s own funds.

Several suggestions have been made to the Trust as it is evident that they will need continual funding if they are to continue in the future and achieve their aims. Possibly the most important is the necessity to raise more funding for the Trust itself. There is need to raise its profile to encourage further funding, whether it is legacies from estates, corporate funding from businesses and organisations with an interest in Dartmoor, or private individuals. We suggested that there could be quarterly or half-yearly open meetings to promote the Trust with newsletters to local history groups and local publications and the press, open evenings to show images of what has so far been archived. Two other points raised to The Trustees were whether a website could be developed where researchers could gain information of where Dartmoor related items (documents, books, records etc.) are stored, including their availability of access and the necessity to make more people aware of the Trust’s aims, requirements and achievements. We hope that this is only the beginning of an association that will benefit many Dartmoor enthusiasts.


Some more books and literature has been added to our archives.

2008 programme of meetings, speakers and events:

Ann Claxton asked for details from anyone of suggestions of speakers for our future programmes. Her aim is to organise the type of programme that will satisfy all interests. Our outing for Saturday 6th October is fully booked. She is organising a group visit to Buckfastleigh Railway for a Carols and Mincepie excursion on Thursday 6th December limited to 40 (this will be on a first come basis).

Old Sale Posters of the area:

Chris Mayhead has scanned all the posters loaned to the group by Sawdye & Harris Auctioneers of Ashburton on to CD and copies can be obtained of any that interest members particularly if they refer to their present homes. Terry French has also contacted Rendells Auctioneers of Newton Abbot and they are going to let Terry have a look at what they have stored away.

The 1842 Tithe Map:

Secretary has written to Widecombe Parish Council regarding conservation of the map and we await a reply.

North Hall:

Intense interest is being shown in surveying the North Hall sites. The first two fields have shown up some interesting points, and as a result two further 20 metre square grids have been geophysically surveyed there.

In the field that the ‘crop marks’ showed up in about 1947 there has now been a site survey which will record the hedges, ditches and water courses. Six 20 metre square areas have now been scanned geophysical and the results will be made available to us in a few weeks time. We await with interest this insight into "The Historical Past of North Hall". We appreciate the support being shown in this project by the owners, Michael & Lorna Skinner and family.

Penny Cunningham and Sam Wall, the archaeologists involved with this project have arranged a visit for our members to The Devon Records Office for Saturday 24th November. Penny will confirm the time and date and the number that can be accommodated. Those interested please notify the secretary it will be on a first come basis.

Widecombe Fair Heritage Marquee of 11th September 2007:

Peter Rennells expressed his delight with all the help he received from members in the setting up of the exhibitions on the Monday 10th September, all those who helped man them in the marquee on Widecombe Fair Day and to all those who assisted in the dismantling of the displays on the Tuesday Evening. He reported that the marquee was full for most of the day and it created much interest.

Several people had raised questions about the area and possible contacts for future shows were also noted. There is a possibility that more material will be forthcoming in the months to come regarding the parish and its activities of the past.

Sue Booty has produced a list of the various enquiries received on the day, these included an old recording of Widecombe Fair, two CDs of photographs taken in 2005/6, a Thomas Cobley family tree of a Thomas Cobley of Brixham brought by John & June Robinson of New Zealand, enquiries about the potter Will Young, a member of the Axford family of Ponsworthy, members of Widecombe Parish offering memorabilia in their possession for the group to copy, including paintings by Beatrice Chase and other interesting stories appertaining to the Fair and the Parish.


Anyone who has suggestions or ideas of what we can do for next year’s exhibition should pass their thoughts to Peter. We shall keep in contact with The Widecombe Fair Committee Company Limited during the year and as our plans become clearer we shall negotiate with them for 2008.

Correspondence and e-mails:

This past month we have received several contacts raising questions and asking for information. Many have been dealt with by the secretary and details were presented to the meeting.

  1. enquiry about ‘Seven Lords Land’ the cairn near Hemsworthy Gate. There are neighbouring manors including Ilsington, Manaton, Ashburton, Bagtor & Halshanger all close by as well as some of the Widecombe Manors this we believe has resulted in its title.
  2. A Judy Rowse enquiring of Grace Rowse. Replied that she was baptised at Widecombe on 22nd August 1756. She was the daughter of Matthew & Elizabeth Rowse. Secretary has sent some further information about other ‘Rowse/Rouse’ births, marriages & deaths.
  3. Enquiries of Hannaford family have been passed on to June Kernick for answers.
  4. Very favourable comments coming through on our Widecombe Fair History Book from many sources.
  5. Replied to query on Brian Harris Transport.
  6. There were no volunteers to digitally photograph the graves in Widecombe Churchyard.
  7. Andrew Hamlyn is dealing with the inquiry about the Hamlyn Family Tree.
  8. Letter from Henry Harris of Totnes suggesting we send copy of book to The Countryman in the hope of a favourable review. Secretary asked to do this.
  9. Notice of events associated with cider making ‘Cider With Roadies’ being held at several venues in the county. A group named "The Common Players" are involved with this, contact on:- www.ciderwithroadies.org for more details.
  10. Notice of The Annual Funding Conference on 14th November at The Riviera Centre Torquay was received.
  11. Saturday 27th October....Grand Whist Drive at Leusdon Memorial Hall at 7.30p.m. admission £2 including refreshments.
  12. Saturday 3rd November...Spectacular Firework display at Great Close gates open 6.00p.m. Display at 7.30 p.m. admission adults £5, children £2.50 tickets available at the gate on the night. There will be a bar and BBQ.....details 01364 621 294.
  13. There will be an illustrated talk on the Mines of the Ashburton & Buckfastleigh Areas by Phil Newman at The Buckfastleigh Town Hall on Thursday 8th November admission 50p All Welcome!
  14. The AGM of ‘Friends of Devon Archives will be held at County Hall, Exeter on Saturday 20th October from 10.30 a.m.

Members were made aware of a scam asking for banking details.....never give these over the telephone and do not reply to telephone calls asking you to press #90 or #09.

The question of insurance for exhibitions, meetings and events was discussed. Pat Watson has come across The British Local History Group who have an insurance policy built into their annual membership fee. Pat Watson and Roger Claxton have agreed to look into this and report back.

Aileen Carrett has made enquiries about the cost of obtaining sweatshirts or polo shirts with a History Group Logo. These are available in either blue, green, burgundy or grey and in sizes S, M or L at the price of £12.

It was decided to discuss this at the next meeting on Wednesday 7th November. The speaker on November 7th will be from Exeter Archaeology Society and the subject will be "The latest finds at The Princesshay Project Site at Exeter".

At the December Meeting on Wednesday 5th the speaker will be Ted Parrott and his subject will be The South Devon Railway.

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