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Widecombe History Group Talks
The talk this month was given by Gerald Quinn on the subject of Kingskerswell Manor and the Church.
Gerald Quinn has spent the last seventeen years researching the history of Kingskerswell Manor. The ruins of which are still very evident for all to see standing quite close to Kingskerswell Parish Church. He explained the geology of the area and how the village stands on a limestone plateau divided from St Marychurch by an old river valley that was likely to have been the old course of the river Teign that originally flowed through that area on its way to Torbay. With the aid of a projector he demonstrated how the Manor House developed from an early ‘Long House type of building to a substantial Manor Building with a large curtiledge of land and buildings. He began by showing an aerial view of the site some twenty years ago and it showed how the area was covered in a considerable number of substantial trees with large girths. These had to be cleared before any work could be done to the site. An old photograph of c1914 showed a young lady sat on what appeared to be some steps. When the site was cleared these steps could be seen as the lower part of a staircase that led up to a second floor of what had once been a substantial building. The earliest record so far seen dates from c970AD. A Charter permitting a market to be held at Kingskerswell dated 1264.. John, Lord Dynham III of Kingskerswell was held in high esteem. Graham then showed a series of plans that demonstrated how the buildings had developed. First a kitchen was added to the site but this was a free standing building. ‘It appears that kitchens were always built as a separate unit, possibly safeguarding other buildings in case of fire!’ Over a period of centuries a buttery, pantry, large hall, chambers and a chapel the remains of which are quite obvious when standing on the site. The construction fits well in comparison with other Manor Houses. The steepness of the roof can be recognised when looking at some of the remaining walls, calculated at 57 degrees. The stone used to construct the buildings was primarily limestone but there is some granite, red sandstone and green sandstone.
The Manor House Trust, which Graham and his group have formed has obtained considerable grants and this has been spent well in clearing, researching and conserving the site. He is so enthusiastic in his presentation even to the point of having made a model of how they believe the site looked at its peak. They have only cleared the area of fallen masonry and rubble but to date have not done any excavations. Some of the buildings have been used over the years as farm buildings and that is why they have been partially preserved having had roofs on them thus avoiding some deterioration. Windows, arches, doorways and the roof line are there to see today. Many well known families appear to have had connections with the Manor, Arundel, Zouch, Fitzwarrens, Dynhams and Carews. The Brown’s of Silverton still have connections. The church is one of only eight mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
The long history of the area can be appreciated by what has been found in the area. Such as the Roman Coins which have been found on Kerswell Down. Aller Cross is worthy of a mention. Very large prehistoric field system in the Parish, Bronze Age sword moulds and some very interesting ‘currency bars’, one metre in length and much more. Connections also with St Marychurch, Wreyland in Lustleigh and Diptford were mentioned, and the possibility of there being a Saxon Minster Site was raised.
A disappointing ‘history as it happens’ saga recently took place on the site. a bee keeper who had a couple of hives of bees on the site to benefit from the wild flowers growing there, had her hives burnt down by some misguided youths.
The talk was very interesting and well received. Graham’s enthusiasm for the project has given rise to several questions which will be answered when we visit the site with him on Wednesday 20th July at 7.00 p.m.
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