History Group Minutes August 2011


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A Meeting of The Widecombe History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 3rd August 2011 at 7.30 p.m.

Apologies:        Barry & Tanya Welch, Dougie & Lynne Pidgeon, Carl Heywood, Ann & Roger Claxton, Roger Whale, Dot Jones, Ruth Parnell, Joy Routley, Barbara Norrish, Joan Brookes, John Kimber, Patrick Garvey, Rosemary Wrayford, Rodney Cruze, Mavis & Richard Clipson, Jo & Syd Pontin, Alan & Mary Goodall, Ann Murphy, Rosemary Mortimore and Derek & Lyn Hext.

Mrs Sue Boustead was in the chair and 27 members attended.

The minutes of the July meeting were read and signed as correct after three minor amendments.

Arising:    Widecombe Fair Tuesday 13th September 2011:     Aileen & Peter Carrett gave a full appraisal of their plans for the Heritage Marquee at Widecombe Fair for this year. They passed around a list for members to sign, signifying the extent of their being able to help with the setting up of the exhibitions on Monday 12th, help on the day, and a commitment to assist with the dismantling of the exhibition at 5.00 p.m. on the Fair Day.  Lace making, trace your family tree, census forms from 1841 onwards, Devon Moor Pottery, Uncle Tom Cobley mechanical model, a model waterwheel, kitchen memorabilia and local public transport of years gone by, will all feature in the marquee.   They produced a plan of the interior of the marquee, and reminded members that have promised old kitchen memorabilia, and others that may have items to loan, to please let Mary Pascoe know, and to bring them to the field, on the Monday evening.   The model of a Dartmoor Longhouse created by one of our founder members Mrs Freda Wilkinson was on show at the meeting, and thanks to members of her family we will also have that on show at the Fair.  Aileen has made contact with a member of the 'Potter' family, Mrs Bunclarke, and she is hoping to gain more information on the Tor Buses from her, and information on Beard’s buses will be sourced from their past drivers. Liz Routley will also be interviewed regarding the French family connection.  The secretary reported that through the cooperation of Roger Grimley, the author of the two books on Widecombe public transport, he has found out that the old 'Sentinel' Tor Bus, that was restored several years ago, is now in Holland, and is therefore unavailable for exhibition on Fair day.  Three Devon Lace makers will be with us demonstrating their art and Mary Hyland will be encouraging visitors to take an interest in their family trees. 

North Hall:   Peter Rennells gave a report on the latest developments with the North Hall site.  The meeting at The Green Cafe, on Wednesday 13th July, went well.   As a result of Ross’s geophysical survey and his interpretations of the evidence, there is still a great deal of research ‘in the pipeline’. The new owners of the site have given the group copies of the plans that Ross has produced. On the site of the 'Old North Hall' significant possibilities have shown up. In particular there appears to be a reaction which has been interpreted as to the possibility of the existence of a rectangular structure buried there, this really needs further investigation. It is to be hoped that The Dartmoor National Park Authority may try to organise an exploratory dig at some time. This could substantiate much of Peter's research.   The 'crop marks' showing in the old aerial photograph of December 1947, in the adjoining 'moor', are still a mystery and Peter is now getting the advice and interpretation from some eminent archaeologists on what these could be.  It was suggested that we should try to get a more modern aerial photograph of the same area to see if anything still shows up from above.  Contact will be made with Roderick Newbolt-Young and Mark Wilkinson, two local aviators to see if they can help.  Peter will attempt to view two books in The Westcountry Library:  a. Page’s - exploration of Dartmoor & its Antiquities. pub. 1895. &  b. Letters & Papers of John Shillingford 1447 - 1450. pub. 1871. There is a possibility that they may contain items of interest about North Hall.   Peter was congratulated on the vast amount of research that he has done on the history of North Hall since he instigated it ten years ago. Recognition of this must be recorded, because without his devotion to the subject, none of the present interest in the site and its history would have happened. He is now concerning himself with tracing the people who lived, worked and owned the site during the past five hundred years and more.  

Dartmoor National Park Authority:   We understand that 'Park' have a quantity of old agricultural implements etc, that need a new homw. If anyone locally can assist them with this, contact should be made direct with Sue Goodfellow of DNPA. 01626 832093. 

Archives:   Richard Wells, our archivist, is still collecting material. We do need more storage capacity and a place to exhibit some of it. Mary Pascoe has drawn up three catalogues listing all the books and publications in our archives, these books are available to members to borrow. Members are encouraged to look through the catalogues, then source the books through either Richard or Mary. Details regarding the Hameldown War memorial have been archived.

Widecombe Heritage and Educational Centre:  We are still working, with the encouragement of the members of Widecombe Parish Council and our Rural Councillor, towards our aim for a Heritage and Educational Centre in the village.

History as it Happens!   a. The 60th Anniversary of the creation of Dartmoor National Park has been celebrated recently. Several walks across various areas of Dartmoor took place as a celebration.   b. DNPA are considering selling off some small parts of land in their portfolio, including the old ‘North Hall Cafe Site’, which is now our local sports ground.  Widecombe Parish Council will no doubt look into this.   c. We need to find a copy of the photograph of the Cartwheel Rolling at Meltor c1963.

Digitising the Parish records:     This has made good progress and will continue for some time yet!

Correspondence, emails and other Information:  Stover Canal Restoration Group have Open Days on Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st August. No need to book, just turn up.  Phyll's Follies of Postbridge, are staging a summer show at Postbridge Village Hall on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August. This includes a two course meal.  Tickets £10 obtainable from 01822 880386. Advance notice that The Dartmoor Society's Research Lecture is scheduled for Wednesday 23rd November at The Dolphin Hotel, Bovey Tracey, 7p.m. till 9p.m. Light buffet and tea/coffee available.  Subject:- 'Environment, Tradition & Adventure - Metal Mining on and around Dartmoor in the 18th & 19th centuries. Book by 16th November 01822 617004.   Arthur Wrayford reported that the Devon History Society’s meeting at Lustleigh on 23rd July was most informative. There is a chance to visit Kelly Mine, Lustleigh, in early September, attempt will be made to confirm the date. He stated that Kelly Mine will feature in a programme “Digging For Britain” on BBC II Television, in late August, it should be well worth watching. 

Visits from other groups:  Friday 16th September we shall host a visit from The Plympton Civic Society. Meet them at 11.00 a.m.   Thursday 22nd September we shall host a visit from The Exeter Red Coats. Meet them at 12.00 noon for a visit to our church.   (There is the possibility of a reciprocal visit to the Exeter City Walls).

Diary Dates:     Saturday 13th August, and Saturday 20th August visits to Sharpham Estates, Ashprington, Totnes. Be there by 10.00 a.m. each day. Particulars from Wendy on 01364 621246.  Monday 29th August. The Peter Hirst Memorial Walk. Meet at Haytor Lower Car Park at 11.00 a.m. Bring a picnic lunch. Visit to Haytor Quarries, the Granite Railway and perhaps Stover Canal. This will be led by Mike Wright & Richard Wells.  Tuesday 6th September Princetown LHG, will have a talk by Mary Hyland entitled 'A Light-hearted look at your family tree'.  Wednesday 7th September a coffee morning at Leusdon Memorial Hall in aid of McMillan Nursing Charity. 10.00 a.m.  Wednesday 7th September our September Meeting at 7.30 p.m. when we shall have an illustrated talk by Sue Andrews on 'Roof Bosses of Devon Churches' this will include our church.  Saturday 24th September. A coach trip has been arranged to Honiton to visit The Lace Museum and then on to Lyme Regis. Depart Widecombe 8.30a.m. Cost £18. Contact Ann Claxton 01364 621232.  Wednesday 5th October. Our monthly meeting when Tim Berry will give an illustrated talk on Ancient Tramways.  Saturday 8th October. The Devon History Society AGM at St Luke's Campus, Theatre G18, Exeter University 10a.m. till 4.00p.m.  Wednesday 2nd November. Our monthly meeting when Dr Tom Greeves will give an illustrated talk entitled "Four Willsworthy Farms" from Medieval Times to the 20th Century.  Wednesday 7th December. Our monthly meeting when Dr Todd Gray will give an illustrated talk on 'Christmas in Devon - Traditions & Customs'.

The Meeting concluded with Mike Wright & Richard Wells giving us a preview of what we can expect to see when we do 'The Peter Hirst Memorial Walk'  on 29th August.

After Peter died, our secretary was given a box of coloured slides that Peter had collected and taken during his years of walking Dartmoor. Anthony passed them on to Pat Watson and Mike Wright who are members of The DTRG, a group of which Peter had been an active member, in case any of them would have been of interest. Some of these were used by Mike to illustrate the proposed walk and they proved very interesting. One or two actually showed Peter when he was about 45/50 years old. The first slide was an example of the old 'Sett Makers Bunkers' where men worked summer and winter cutting and shaping granite stones in situ on the moors, as cobbles, quoins, and paving stones. There are several places where these can be found.  A sketch of the village reputed of being at Haytor showed a distinctive tor in the background but the actual site is debatable. Mike showed where he thought it might be, with reference to the tors in the background. The remains of the winch and beams of the old derrick are still visible, and Richard produced a painting of the winch, that he had painted a few years ago and once exhibited at Ashburton Art Exhibition. It is intended that we should have our picnic lunch at the Quarry, then follow the granite railtrack as it heads for Stover Canal, over Haytor Down. When we get into Yarner Woods, where we hope to see the old copper mines, we shall follow the railtrack, after which we may head for the Stover Canal and thence the river Teign.  As well as the railtrack itself, there will be many other things to see on our walk, relating to the workings of the quarry, including the mile stones, (alas numbers one and two no longer exist). Granite stones that have been worked on by stone masons of years gone by, troughs and millstones etc, discarded because of faults in the stones. When being worked on, some of the stones had broken before being completed, and examples of ‘feathers and tares’ being used to cut the rocks and much more will be seen. A ‘beehive hut’ near the Holwell Quarry is still there to this day to be seen and admired. The history of the Haytor Granite Railway, which took the stone to the canal and ultimately to Teignmouth and thence to London and beyond, is well documented in books. Richard gave the meeting a résumé of the Templar family and its involvement. From 1820 - 1828 in particular, thousands of tons of granite were transported along this tramway, and in 1829 The Duke of Somerset bought the Stover Estate. But by 1858 work in the quarry had ceased, we are so fortunate that there is so much  still here to see, enjoy and appreciate.

We look forward to an interesting and informative

“Peter Hirst Memorial Walk” once again.

Monday 29th August, Haytor Lower Car Park, at 11.00 a.m. see you there!

                                                              The meeting closed at 9.55p.m.


The information on this page was last modified on March 14 2013 08:58:36.


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