History Group Talks November 2010


 

The Changing Face of Widecombe: As recorded in November 2010
Ann Claxton had scanned in several photographs of "Old Widecombe" (supplied by various members of the group) with the idea of encouraging members to add their memories to the sites depicted. It is well worth noticing the various spellings of Widecombe, (Widdecombe, Widdicombe, Withycombe, Widcum, Witheycombe,) and if any further spellings are found please add. The first picture was of the 'Old Widecombe Village Sign' - this was originally sited at the entrance to what is now the Council Car Park. It was noticed that in our book 'The History of Widecombe Fair', pages 41-42, the details of it are well recorded.   Transcribed from the Daily Mail of the 17th July 1922: "Famous Song Sung at Village Sign Unveiling"   "Awarded a special prize of £50 in the Daily Mail's Village Signs Competition in 1920, the village sign at Widdicombe, Devonshire, designed by Mr, Joseph M. Doran, 152 Finborough Road, Earl's Court, S. W. was unveiled on Saturday by Councillor Charles Stooke, Chairman of the Newton Abbot Rural District Council.   A feature of the ceremony was the singing of the Devonshire "anthem" "Widdicombe Fair". Two inhabitants of the village - Mr C. Churchward and Mr F. Gough - sang through the many verses of the old-world song without a hitch and the Visitors had some trouble in understanding the string of names sung in broad dialect - Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Dan'l Widdon, 'Arry 'Awke, old Uncle Tom Cobley and others, all of whom were pictured on the sign riding on Tam Pearse's old mare that bore the burden patiently - and then died from exhaustion. It is showing no sign of its inpending death in the picture - it had apparently just begun its journey.   The sign is an imposing one and is made from rough-hewn granite from a tor close by. At the top of the column are the name of the village in gold letters and the picture of the mare and her burden in painted tiles. Mr Stooke said it was a happy thought of the Duke of York, at the Royal Academy banquet in 1920 to suggest the revival of village signs, and, the Daily Mail had shown its usual enterprise in giving effect to the suggestion. Obviously, it was an advantage to motorists to know what village they were passing through. This was the first village sign erected in Devonshire." A Plaque on the column read:-     ‘Following a speech by his Royal Highness The Duke of York at the Royal Academy in 1920 on the revival of Village Signs. The Daily Mail organised a Village Signs Competition and Exhibition offering a total of £2200 in prizes. Ten awards were made and the design from which this sign was constructed secured special prize £50.'    On the outbreak of World War II it was decreed that all Village Signs and the arms of all directional signposts were to be removed. This was so that any invading army would not be able to find its way about the countryside so easily. In the process of dismantling our sign it was dropped and shattered beyond repair.    At the end of the war, a local benefactor, Mr Frank Hamlyn of Dunstone Court paid for the new sign to be erected. Lady Sylvia Sayer of Cator designed it. Thomas Nosworthy of Natsworthy did the construction work, re-building the plinth on the opposite side of the road, on the edge of the village green, at the cost of £9.   A. R. Knight of Newton Abbot, monumental masons charged £89. 3s 6d for the making and fixing of the sign. The plaque on the new sign reads: "This sign was presented to the Parish of Widecombe-in-the-Moor by Francis Hamlyn Esquire of Dunstone Court, Widecombe 1948."  

Next a view of Wayside Cafe and a postman removing the letters from the 'letter box' there. Several un-named people sitting in the background. This led to the naming of other places that the village post office had been over the years. Post Offices had been originally at Southcombe Villas, Wayside Cafe, 1 Manor Cottage, and the present site at The Green Restaurant, pictures of all were shown.   

Venton Cottages, once owned by Beatrice Chase and known as St Gabriel’s, St Michael’s and St Anthony’s (previously named The Anchorage as it was there that Beatrice let ex naval men stay). The present day road from Widecombe goes north of Venton Farm. The question arose whether it did originally go south as a very distinct track goes down in front of the cottages swings left-handed and joins into the road towards Chittleford? The middle cottage was once the police station.  

A view of Haytor, (Heytor, High Tor), showing the road towards Widecombe in its original un-metalled state. This prompted the remark that most of our local roads are still not covered with tar macadam (tarmac). Arthur Warren, when he was foreman of the local councilmen, often told that the surface today consisted only of tar and chippings placed on top of the old stone and gravel surface of the old roads. One of the last roads to be surfaced in this way was Southcombe Hill to Dockwell Cross.  

An interesting scene at the top of Southcombe Hill was shown with a gate across the road some 50 yards down from the moor gate.  

Around the village views of the centre showed the old Elm tree in the stone plinth nearest the Churchyard, now replaced by an Oak,

The Old Inn with the wooden steps to the barn opposite the bar. The Brewery chimney at the rear, links the site to North Hall and John Baker who brewed beer at the Church House and cider making in the 1600s.

Sheep for sale on the village green at Widecombe Fair early 20th century.  

The view from the bottom of Bowden Lane towards the village showing the old stream and part of the old pond. 

There is so much more about the village and the district that needs recording particularly from the last 100 years or so!   Perhaps we can expand on this at our February Meeting!

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