Widecombe History Group Talk on Old Ashburton Part 2

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Part II of Wendy Major’s Illustrated Talks on "OLD ASHBURTON" took place at our March 2007 meeting

On January 7th 2004 Wendy Major gave the group a very interesting illustrated talk on "Old Ashburton". It was enjoyed so much, so it was an added pleasure to welcome her back to give us part II of her lectures.

Again this proved to be a very interesting insight into our nearest town of Ashburton. Once a thriving market town with some amazing architecture, industry and businesses. Quite a lot of Old Ashburton is still recognisable on the wonderful selection of old photographs and postcards that she has transposed onto slides for the purpose of her talks.

The first picture shown was of the middle of Ashburton with the old market hall, with packhorses and their panniers, so much a typical scene of the 19th century. What makes Wendy’s talks extra interesting is the fact that around each of her illustrations she weaves a story. In so many cases she is able to name several of the people in the frame. With the older pictures it is often, that is ‘so & so’s’ mother, father or grandparents, ‘so & so’ being someone still living in and around Ashburton - quite brilliant!

The characters of old Ashburton, the gentry and the working classes of the time feature in so many photographs. She relates what they did, where they lived, all adding to the ‘feel’ of the town and the immediate area.

The buildings, fortunately many still there today. The Town Hall, Saint Lawrence School/Chapel, well worth a visit says Wendy, the recreation ground, swimming pool, schools and institutions.

The businesses of bygone years also featured. The wide variety of shops and businesses, garages, tea-rooms, shops that sold everything anyone ever needed, timber yard and railway buildings. This town was so self sufficient. The wool industry brought wealth, the umber mines producing a soil based powder that was exported all over the world, the quarries all giving employment and each with a story to tell. The floods that have affected the town, the fires in the timber yard and the demolition of many quite unique buildings in the name of progress. These images bring to life Old Ashburton

The many celebrations held in the town, from coronations, V.E.Day, weddings, carnivals and pageants, all survive in this vast collection of photographs and cards. One particular photograph caused much hilarity it showed a pony painted with white stripes to represent a zebra and it took several weeks for the paint to wear off much to the consternation of all involved.

The cottages in North Street now replaced by Cleder Place, the Old Pear Tree Cafe, Pubs, Banks, Garages and Shops many no longer be there and many with the Old Family Names now replaced by entirely different types of businesses. All in all a very enlightening talk that to some in the room brought back memories of a bygone age - it is surprising what 50 years can do!

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