History Group Talk September 2015

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                          Paul Rendell gave a talk entitled
                       Burrator Reservoir & its Social Impact.

Paul gave us a detailed illustrated talk which looked first at Sheepstor Village, which lies close to Burrator reservoir. Dominated by its Church which dates back to the 1200’s. It is one of the smallest populations for a village on Dartmoor, beaten only by our neighbours, Buckland in the  Moor. At one time the population was 55 but now just 27. A truly small hamlet which did once have five rabbit warrens within its boundary. He showed pictures of the village including the church, tearooms, village cross and the bull baiting ring which is set into a large granite rock.  He mentioned the Elford family who had a lot of influence in the area in years gone by. The fact that it is thought that Yelverton, took its name from them when it was known as Elfordtown (Yelverton) ? A brief mention of the Brookes family and a picture of the family grave and headstone. The White Raj of Sarawak - (we would have liked more details about this man), who went to Sarawak, controlled the piracy of the area and was feted by the locals, but returned home to Devon and was buried at Sheepstor.  He then concentrated his talk on the construction of Burrator Reservoir. He also mentioned Drakes Leat, which was the original water supply to Plymouth, constructed by Sir Frances Drake in the late 16th century. This Leat had to be kept clean regularly, and in the severe winter of 1891 became choked with snow and ice, this problem led to the idea of creating the reservoir. 300 men were working on that project, several were injured during the building of the dam however Paul stated that he has not found evidence of anyone being killed during the work. The size of the reservoir led to two dams being built, the large stone one at Burrator and a smaller one near Sheepstor. The height of the walls of the dams were increased some years later. During part of that construction a suspension bridge was built so that access to Sheepstor was maintained. Many interesting photographs of the area and the work were shown including a steamroller being driven over the suspension bridge to prove its roadworthiness.  This is a talk that needs to be witnessed rather than me writing about it. Paul has built up a very interesting series of photographs and drawings to illustrate his talk. His unique collection is best appreciated when in his company as we were that evening.


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