WIDECOMBE HISTORY GROUP Registered Charity 114684

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WIDECOMBE HISTORY GROUP Registered Charity 114684 WW2 Widecombe Roll of Honour Newsletter Volume 35 – January 2017 Contents Committee Members Page 2 Note from Kirsty Page 2 Postcard Entrepreneurs Pages 2 and 3 Roll of Honour Pages 4 to 7 Moustaches! Page 8 Recruiting The Forces Page 9 The First National Park Page 9 and 10 Dartmoor Prison Bicentenary Pages 11 to 16 Lost Devon Pages 17 and 18 Life and Times of 17 th c Mortonans Pages 18 and 19 Tavistock vs Taj Mahal Pages 20 and 21 Stepping Out of the Stoneage Pages 22 and 23 Dartmoor by the Sea Pages 23 and 24 Peter Hirst Memorial Walk Page 24 to 26 Widecombe Fair and Stover Lunch Page 27 Diary of Events Page 28 www.widecombe-in-the-moor.com email: [email protected] Hon Sec.: Margaret Phipps Tel: 01626 834737 email: [email protected]

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Committee Members Page 2 Note from Kirsty Page 2 Postcard Entrepreneurs Pages 2 and 3 Roll of Honour Pages 4 to 7 Moustaches! Page 8 Recruiting The Forces Page 9 The First National Park Page 9 and 10 Dartmoor Prison Bicentenary Pages 11 to 16 Lost Devon Pages 17 and 18 Life and Times of 17th c Mortonans Pages 18 and 19 Tavistock vs Taj Mahal Pages 20 and 21 Stepping Out of the Stoneage Pages 22 and 23 Dartmoor by the Sea Pages 23 and 24 Peter Hirst Memorial Walk Page 24 to 26 Widecombe Fair and Stover Lunch Page 27 Diary of Events Page 28
www.widecombe-in-the-moor.com email: [email protected]
Note from Me!
The start of a new year is just ahead as I put this edition together
sitting here at our home in Montana watching the snow falling. A
huge thank you to all the contributors, without you there would not be
a Widecombe History Group Newsletter.
Postcard Entrepreneurs (my apologies, I did not make a note of who sent
Listening to our speaker Tracy Elliot-Reep at the April meeting, talking about establishing her publishing business in Widecombe, I was reminded of the number of “Postcard” producers the village has had over the years. These local businesses set out to produce a suitable Widecombe souvenir which also had a practical purpose. In Widecombe the following enterprises produced postcards: F.W. Broughton, Old Inn Widecombe Edward Dunn, Widecombe (almost entirely of himself in Tom Cobley
Kernicks Pottery Stores, Widecombe
A Ruth, Photographer, Ashburton.
These small businesses were in direct competition with the large suppliers such as Chapman & Sons of Dawlish, whose card catalogue is stored on the Devon Hertitage Web site. Firth & Co who had at least 80 different postcards depicting Widecombe and District, and Raphael Tuck & Co, who amongst other things published Beatrice Chases “Snapshots of Dartmoor” published in 1931. Set out are examples of cards some of the locals produced.
A R Ruth Owen Harvey
F W Broughton M M Foot
Widecombe Roll of Honour by Peter Rennells
Back in 2014 Anthony, our Secretary, received an invite to the
inaugural meeting of the Devon Remembers campaign in Exeter. We
had, at last, enjoyed the first ‘dig’ of North Hall and thinking I was
now on a ‘run down’ I volunteered to join him. I had a personal
experience of my own family’s involved in WW1.
As far as the campaign was concerned (Devon Remembers) we were
sadly lacking! Anthony, John Kimber and myself attended several
meetings, studying the situation in other villages and our number one
problem soon surfaced. Memorials to those who died were evident in
various forms. However, recording the names of those who served
and survived, we were sadly lacking. Widecombe had a list in the
1920’s but it was neglected and had disappeared. No supporting
records were available from the Church. We had a major problem.
Leusdon Church records 6 who died and 47 who served and survived.
Widceombe Church records six who died and had no other
Our first port of call, family and relatives, proved very scarce. It was
only thanks to the memories of Bessie and Terry French, Ena Smerdon
and Geoff Bamsey added to Anthony’s knowledge of all things
Widecombe that we even got started. Our first approach was to get the
details of the men who had died. It took us more than a year to
investigate all 12. Access to national archives is not easy. A wide
selection of history websites are helpful but not cheap. However the
effort and the expense has been well worth it. Two from Leusdon
came to mind with such different stores. The Struben Gold Mining
Family and Sidney West’s death as a POW needed very careful
research. For Widecombe we have the touching story of John Radcliffe
of Bagpark and his groom Henry Broome who both died in France
within a year of each other. Eventually we began to concentrate on the
‘unknowns’ of Widecombe.
Combing the 1911 census gave us a list of names of those who could
have been in the right age group to go to war. Then school records
indicated boys who could have grown into service age. Stephen
Woods’ books on Widecombe referred to ‘ex servicemen’ which a few
clues. Then we had to take a serious look at Beatrice Chase and her
Mr. Blue Jacket. We joined the Newton Abbot branch of the Western
Front Association. John Ellis and his colleagues gave us a lot of
guidance in local sources of information. From here on John K. became
engrossed in the archives of local newspapers, particularly The
Western Morning News and the Mid Devon Advertiser Recruitment
tribunals in Newton Abbot frequently gave us names of farmers and
their employees pleading for a stay of execution. Delays of call-up was
only given in the event of harvesting time. A trecruitment march
through Dartmoor villages earned a bad press particularly from
Widecombe. However as the band had lunch in the village it is safe to
assume that most men were working in their own locality and
nowhere within sight or sound. A nil return was most likely.
Then we were advised by another History Group to get a copy of the
1919 election ‘list of absent voters’. This revealed a few names of men
still serving overseas in 1911. The area included Widecombe, Leusdon,
Postbridge, Poundsgate and Buckland. 29 possibilities. So slowly and
gradually names were found and checked. Our list began.
We put on Recruitment Exhibitions at Leusdon, Widecombe and
Princetown which aroused interest but few names. It soon became
clear that more details records were kept of officers than the ‘other
ranks’. One other source gave us considerable help, Michael
Nosworthy’s careful maintenance of the local British Legion Records.
These dated from the 1920’s and contained the names of all the local
members who had meetings and functions at the Old Inn, also their
family members. Wonderful!
This turned out to be of great value as it contained over 60 names to be
researched. Fortunately David Ashman arrived at this opportune
moment and assisted greatly in researching this vast list of unknowns.
Quite a few names had no Widecombe connection but eventually our
list of names was up in the 30’s. Anthony, so enthusiastic, focussed on
being able to display our list in the Church. From his long list of
friendly contacts he produced Daphne Murphy our calligrapher. Her
enthusiasm for the projects was to gratifying. From her home in
Paignton she made trips to Widecombe, not just to check our list, but
also its final resting place in the Church.
So we have reached the point where we have to bring these lads back
to Widecombe and acknowledge their contribution. We appreciate
how the interest and cooperation of Rev. Geoffrey Fenton, The
Parochial Church Council, the entire membership of The History
Group, the sadly diminishing group of village elders and enthusiastic
leadership of Anthony Beard has made all of this commemoration
possible. However the project is forever open. Once the restriction on
the records of the Home Guard are lifted, more Widecombe and
District names will be available for our research.
What now?
Hopefully Brian will have finished framing the Roll of Honour in time
for its commemoration at the Remembrance Service on Sunday 13th
November 2016 (note from Ed: He did). However thanks to Mary
Pascoe, the project will continue. She noticed in Princetown Parish
Church a Book of Remembrance dedicated to all local residents who
served in WW!. An everlasting account of their service and sacrifice.
A very helpful records of life in the area, family names, addresses to
guide anyone researching ancestors. We are making a start on our
own village Book of Remembrance. Already we have a lot of family
stories and background, but we also have a lot of almost blank entries.
Still much research to be done. This is not a book that will have a
happy ending, but we will know much more of their lives and that of
their families. We hope to show that they are not just long-forgotten
names on a memorial scroll. We will try to record the stories of their
lives, before, during and after The Great War.
They are not just Servicemen – they are Widecombe Servicemen and
their memories truly belong here.
Have you ever wondered why nearly all the army officers you see in picture
of World War 1 wore moustaches?.
The answer is they were obeying Command 1695 of Kings Regulations which
read “ the length of the hair will be kept short, the chin and under lip will be
shaved but not the upper lip” Failure to comply could have lead to a term of
imprisonment in army custody.
1916 British soldiers serving on the Western Front were issued with “tin
helmets” for the first time. This followed on from a similar issue to French
troops. Therefore when looking at pictures of the Great War if the soldiers
are not wearing tin helmets then the pictures were taken in either 1914 or
In 1916 Tanks were introduced to the battlefield for the first time. The total
number of the British Tanks available was 47 and they were introduced at the
Batlle of Flers/Corcelette on the Somme in September 1916. They were only
limited success militarily but it is believed had a significant effect of the
enemy troop morale.
Picture of Officers of 5th Battalion Devonshire Regiment in camp at Newton
Abbot in 1912
Extract from Western Times, November 1914, found by John Kimber
Whilst researching in the files of local papers John Kimber found the
following article relating to recruitment for the forces during the Great War..
“A meeting for the purpose of stimulating recruiting was held at the
Widecombe Council School room on Saturday. The Newton Abbot band was
in attendance, and rendered selections in the village and at the meeting. Mr
H. H. Hannaford, County Councillor, presided, and excellent addresses were
delivered by Messrs J Cook and J H Dolton. Particulars as to pay and ages of
entry to the various forces were given by Major Bearne. At the close a few
names of recruits were taken………………..
A parcel containing socks, gloves, cuffs, tobacco and vaseline has been sent
to the Mayoress of Exeter for the sailors and soldiers who are fighting for
their country, by the scholars of the Leusdon Council School. The girls of this
school are now knitting socks and scarves in their spare minutes and these
will be forwarded in due course..”
Western Times , Friday 20th November 1914 .
The World’s First National Park
Kirsty Peake took us from Dartmoor National Park to Yellowstone National
Park. It was founded in 1872 for the purpose of protecting the thermal
features. Comparisons were made between the two National Parks. We
learnt that Yellowstone is a super volcano and saw the devastation of the last
three eruptions compared with Mt. St. Helen’s in 1980. Kirsty explained
about the thermal features and that Yellowstone has 60% of the world’s
geysers. Not just geysers but hot springs as well! We saw rocks being
formed, some hard and slow moving and others soft and fast moving. We
explored some of the geology of the Park and saw the wonderful landscapes
it produces. There was an introduction to some of the animals that live in the
Park, bears, bison, elk, big horn sheep, pronghorn etc. and the birds as well.
Dartmoor Prison Bicentenary
Simon Dell gave us a fascinating talk on 6th July on the topic of Dartmoor
Prison. Simon retired after 30 years in the police force and has an extensive
knowledge on his topic.
In 1775 the Turnpike Act saw the start of roads over Dartmoor. In 1785 the
first buildings of Prince’s Town were started. An isolated part of the Moor
owned by the then Prince Regent, who was also the Duke of Cornwall and
Prince of Wales.
The Prince Regent had a friend called Thomas Tyrwhitt (knighted in 1812)
who he made Auditor to the Duchy of Cornwall, among other titles (He
became MP for Okehampton in 1796).
Tyrwhitt had a vision to commercialise and make land suitable for agriculture.
As Prince’s Town started to expand the Plume of Feathers was built in 1785.
Sadly, Tyrwhitt’s vision didn’t work. He needed another vision.
The war with France gave him that opportunity. French prisoners were held
in prison hulks on the Tamar. Concern was raised about the possibility of a
French force liberating these prisoners and then invading Britain as well as
carrying contagious disease on to the mainland. Tyrwhitt put forward the
suggestion of a prison on Dartmoor.
Daniel Alexander was the architect and, most importantly, Samuel Prout
drew a social record of the construction. The prison was started in 1806 and
finished in 1809. Capt. Cotgrave was the first Governor, from 1809 to 1812.
He was followed by Capt. Shortlands. On his arrival at the prison he was
appalled at the large amount of human bones lying in the surrounding
countryside. These were all gathered up and split into two piles. One was
designated French POWs and the other American POWs. Dartmoor Prison
has the only American Cemetery in this country. There is also a cemetery for
the French POWs.
Over the entrance is the quote “Spare the Vanquished”. Water was supplied
by Walcombe head waters which became known as the Prison Leat. The
prisoners were marched from Plymouth to the new prison. Many died on
enroute. The POW officers were housed around Devon in villages. They
could only walk one mile in any direction from the centre of the village.
As the Americans were trading with France and did not stop just because of
the war, their ships became targets as well and many Americans were
pressed into the British Navy and many were sent to Dartmoor. At its height
Dartmoor had 15,000 prisoners in a prison designed to take 1000. In 1812
war with France ended and the French sent ships to take their fellow citizens
home. This left the American prisoners, now American Citizens, still in
Dartmoor. 1815 saw the Dartmoor Prison massacre. Many citizens of the
USA were killed and 65 were injured. After this they were repatriated with
the black citizens having to wait for the whites to be repatriated first. 1846
saw the Penal Servitude Act which stopped the transportation of prisoners.
Dartmoor Prison has the only American Cemetery in this country. There is
also a cemetery for the French POWs.
In 1850 Dartmoor became a convict prison. Prisoners would have to break
rock from a cubic foot to gravel, they pulled ploughs and made pastures.
The prison closed at the outbreak of WW1. In 1916 it was opened again to
house Conscientious Objectors, they were released in 1919 and the prison
became a convict prison again.
1932 saw another prison riot and all records were destroyed. Escapees were
tracked by Mrs. Blakeston’s Bloodhounds. Frankie Richardson, part of the
Kray’s gang, was sprung from Dartmoor and rumour has it he is now part of
the foundations of the Chiswick Flyover! A riot in 1991 resulted in the death
of one prisoner.
The review of the prison has been decided and the lease from the Duchy of
Cornwall will not be renewed. Inevitably this will lead to the closure of
Dartmoor Prison in the near future.
A question after the talk was: When did Prince’s Town become Princeton?’ It
was felt that was with the arrival of the railways.
Simon’s talk was followed by a visit to Princetown which included visiting the
Church, the Prison Museum and the French and American cemeteries.
We met in the Fox Tor Café for a bit of a warm before setting off to explore
Princetown on a decidedly chilly day. Rain threatened, spattered a bit but no
real downpours. Simon took us first to where the railway station had been
and explained that Princetown had also had a horse drawn tram. He showed
us the GWR boundary markers. We were able to inhale the fumes from the
Dartmoor Brewery as we listened to him!
Walking up the road to the Church, Simon pointed out the old barracks
building (Grade II) which is looking very sorry for itself. He also pointed out
masonry work done by the prisoners as they built the walls.
The Church is seeped in history and there is a distinct atmosphere as you
enter. Before entering we wandered around the graveyard, many of us
remarked on just how young many were. Simon told us the tale of Mr.
Palmer, a prison officer who was in charge of working parties outside the
prison. Mr. Palmer would take the prisoners out, sit on a rock and fall asleep.
When it was time to return to the prison, the prisoners would wake him up!
One day Mr. Palmer did not wake up, he died on his stone while asleep. The
prisoners returned to the prison with Mr. Palmer’s body. Such was their high
regard for Mr. Palmer that they received permission to go and bring back the
rock Mr. Palmer had sat on for all those years. They rolled it, levered it and
pushed it back to the prison. There they put a commemorative plate on it
and it stands at Mr. Palmer’s grave in the Church yard. At the other end of
the graveyard are uniform lines of identical gravestones. These are prisoners
who had enough to pay for an individual burial rather than in the mass grave.
There is one separate and on its own. This marks the grave of a young lad
who died in Dartmoor Prison when it had a Borstal section.
Inside the Church the first thing that strikes you is the magnificent window,
donated by the USA organisation ‘The Daughters of 1812’ The Union Jack,
Tricolor and Stars and Stripes flags all hang in the Church. The walls are
granite but from rocks found on the ground and therefore have algae
growing on them. This gives an incredible range of colours to the walls.
Moving on from here we headed for the Museum. It really deserves a long
time for a visit. There is so much information that it is difficult to take it all in.
It is well laid out and lots of examples of what the prisoners do while they are
incarcerated. Visiting the cells in the museum is something else. Quite
uncomfortable really with all the written comments from prisoners printed
and fixed to the wall. The visitors toilet is an old cell and it was quite
worrying being shut in there! There was a big section of the museum
devoted to the workings of the Prison Farm, no longer there. In fact that is
housed in what was the cow shed.
From here our guide, Brian, who had been the Farm Shepherd for 20 years,
took us down to see the French and American graveyards. This involved a
walk around the perimeter wall. At one point we stopped at what was an old
entrance to the prison but was walled up in 1999. One of the escapes
happened through this entrance when three prisoners hijacked an oil deliver
truck and drove it through (literally) the gates and made it to the main road
before hijacking a car and driving off. The car ran out of petrol and they were
soon recaptured.
This was the end of our trip to Princetown, some of us went home and some
went back to the Fox Tor Café for a late lunch.
Lost Devon, Felicity Goodhall
Felicity has written a book called Lost Devon because she wants to keep lost
trades and stories in people’s mind.
She gave us snippets from the book and started with Bishop Leofric in 1016.
He had combe from Crediton with 60 books which grew in number to 100.
One of these books became the ‘Exeter Book’ which is incredibly rare. There
was a translation of the book from the medieval English and it was realised
that the book mostly contained riddles (not always clean!). The book
survived because it was not read often. It was used to store leaves of gold
and the outside cover (wooden) shows signs of being used as a cutting board!
A large number of Bishop Leofric’s books went to the Bodelian Library.
Moving on to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign Felicity pointed out that in the
Queen’s Salter there is reference to rabbit warrens in Devon. These were
artificial rabbit warrens with stone chambers. The first warrens were
mentioned in the 13th century. Records show that during this time at one
King’s court during the Christmas period they consumed 1000 rabbits.
Charles Kingsley was the next snippet. He wrote the book Westward Ho! and
when people turned up to see the town there was next to nothing there.
Westward Ho! was then built. One of the buildings was the United Services
College formed by Capt. Molesworth as a school for the brightest and best
sons of officers in the colonial forces. One of the students was Rudyard
Kipling and he started and wrote the school newspaper.
Industry featured next. Felicity started with the Devon Great Consols Mine.
The biggest copper mine in Europe. The seam was found in 1844. Copper
from the mine was transported from Morwhellam Quay to South Wales for
smelting. When the copper ran out arsenic was mined. They produced half
the world’s supply of arsenic. Rodney Cruze commented that apparently you
could see the arsenic miners in the dark as they glowed. Their lives were
short, most dying in their 30’s.
From mining to shipping and in 1798 HMS Foudroyant was built in
Devonport. She was Nelson’s favourite ship. At the end of her life she was
sold to a German breakers yard but funds were raised to keep her in the UK.
Unfortunately in 1896 she was driven on to the North Pier at Blackpool
during a hurricane. It was decided that she could not be refloated and much
of her woodwork can be seen in buildings in Blackpool.
Tuckenhay Mill started as a woollen mill but was changed to a paper mill.
Tuckenhay became a centre for paper makers as Devon was ideal for the
supply of rages to make paper because of its sails etc. from naval yards. The
paper was hung on cow’s hair rope to dry as this didn’t mark the paper.
Mourning paper for Buckingham Palace and stamp albums for King George V
were made at Tuckenhay Mill.
A book on Devon has to have something in it about Isambard Kingdom Brunel
and Lost Devon is no exception. There is the story of Brunel’s Atmospheric
Railway, known as his ‘folly’. This was based around Starcross.
Felicity regularly visits Burma and teaches English at a small monastery
school. Fees from her talks are donated to this cause.
The Life and Times of 17th C Moretonians – Bill Hardiman
Bill gave a very interesting talk on Mortonhampstead (longest place name in
England) which started out as Moreton in the Moor. The Alms Houses were
built in 1450 in the Italian loggia style and had a ‘make over’ in 1637. 16
families lived there and they became the work house. They nearly fell down
in 1939 and the National Trust took them over in the 1950’s.
Mortonhampstead is made up of several Manors. One of which was the
Manor of Doccombe owned by one of the knights involved in the murder of
Thomas Beckett. As atonement it was given to the monks of Canterbury.
Mardon, another Manor, has the largest hut circle in England. Moreton is
mentioned in the Exeter Book and was a Royal Manor.
The W.H. Smith family owned 5,500 acres and what is now Bovey Castle
Bill gave some interesting dates. One of which was 1310 when the Courtenay
family took over as Lords of the Manor and remained as such for 600 years.
Sir Simon Leach was given Moreton as security on a loan of £3,000 to
Courtenay, who was his God son. He was the son of a blacksmith from
Crediton who apparently bought some iron bars which turned out to be gold.
He trained to be a lawyer as they were the ones who made the money
(nothing’s changed there then).
There was no rector in Moreton before the 17th Century and in 1672 a non
conformist chapel was built, one of the first in the country. During the Civil
War Moreton was for the Parliamentarians and Chagford for Royalists.
Customery Tenants were governed by Manorial Laws and could hold the
tenancy for ‘3 lives’ (a ‘life’ is 33 years as Christ lived for 33 years).
Wool was the main source of income and in 1698 wool merchants petitioned
against Irish ‘imports’.
The population of Moreton grew between 1544 and 1861 because of the
wool and tin and then declined.
The Manors carried on until the 19th C and even in 1920 they still had control
over woods.
Tavistock vs Taj Mahal by Andrew Thompson
The question is: Why is Tavistock so significant to have World Heritage
status? It is Devon’s only World Heritage site.
Andrew went on to explain why professionals in world heritage feel justified
in making this claim. He gave us an insight into the process of how a site can
gain the title World Heritage.
The word ‘heritage’ has to be broken down into ‘tangible’ heritage which is
the physical remains of the past, i.e. Cotehele House and ‘intangible’ heritage
which is customs and behaviours, i.e. Widecombe Fair. On many occasions
these two join by using the past in the present.
The values/significance of ‘heritage’ are listed as:
Nominating a site for World Heritage status follows a process of:
Tentative list
Nomination file
Advisory body
Selection Criteria
A nomination must have outstanding universal value plus meet at least one
of ten of the selection criteria. The significance of the site is so great that it
transcends political and religious status.
Andrew gave a brief outline of the Cornish Mining World Heritage explaining
that Tavistock matters as a product of mining. Tavistock has the best group
of surviving foundry buildings in the world.
Tavistock has three key attributes for World Heritage status:
Mining settlement (best example of metal mining town in Europe)
Transport infrastructure (canal – global firsts in building the canal)
Foundry buildings
On Saturday, following the talk, 27 of us enjoyed exploring Tavistock with
Andrew as our Guide. Andrew produced maps of 1750 Tavistock and using
those he then took us around to show just how much history still can be seen
and how much is now hidden underground. A really interesting 2 hours.
Stepping out of the Stone Age, Nick Powe
Nick gave an interesting talk on the history behind Kents Cavern. Kents
Cavern is a Unesco Global Geopark, one of 30+ in the UK. It has the world’s
only geological themed children’s park. It was back in 1825 that Fr. John
MacEnery started to explore the caves. His interest having been sparked by
studying the ruins at Torre Abbey. It was William Pengelly who started the
Great Excavation. This started in 1865 and carried on until 1880. Pengelly
and his team removed the 1st floor which was 12,500 years old and then the
2nd floor which was 430,000 years old. They discovered that three species of
man had used the Kents Cavern. In 1926 the Arthur Ogilvy Excavation
discovered a human jawbone which was 41,000 years old. It still had three
teeth in it. This proved to be the oldest human bone in NW Europe.
Over 1 million years two important ice ages impacted Kents Cavern, the
Devonsian and the Anglian. It is possible to see evidence at Torquay of
changing sea levels. Near Berry Head sea shells can be seen in the rocks.
Berry Head was such an important headland that the guns based there during
the Napoleonic wars pointed inland to stop Napoleon capturing it, had he
landed in England. Caves underneath Berry Head have stalactites and
stalagmites. These can only form above water level.
Kents Cavern was never ‘discovered’ it was always there. Roman coins from
21,000 years ago have been found. The oldest inscription dates from 1571.
Kents Cavern formed 2.5 million years ago and a river ran through it.
Agatha Christie mentions Kents Cavern (under another name) in her book
The Man in the Brown Suit. Nick Powe felt that originally the name would
have been Kentis Cavern and over the years it has become Kents Cavern.
On wednesday 16th November 2016 thirteen members of Widecombe
History group stepped into the Stone Age when visiting Kents Cavern. Its
one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe. At a constant
temperature 14degrees the caves were once the home of ancient humans
sheltering from the extreme weather, making fires and carving tools for
hunting the wild animals. Remains of bears, hyenas and woolly rinos have
been found within the caves and we were shown what total darkness was
like in the bear’s den.
The Victorians excavated the caves taking 15 years to removed 9000 tons of
rock and soil finding 80,000 artefacts. Rock 400million years old producing
some beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.
Kents Cavern is run by the 5th generation of the Powe family who are a direct
decendant of a George Smerdon from Buckland in the Moor. George
Smerdon’s daughter married Francis Powe who became the owner in1903.
A cream tea followed a wonderfully educational tour enjoyed by everyone.
Margaret Phipps
Dartmoor by the Sea, Tom Greaves
Dartmoor by the sea was the title of Tom Greeves talk, in actual fact the
Isles of Scilly was the subject. Both Dartmoor and the Isles of Scilly are owned
by the Duchy of Cornwall. Many similarities could be found mainly the type
of rock, granite being very prominent in both areas. The Old Man of Gugh is a
prime example of the type of standing stone found on Dartmoor. On Scilly
the Tors are called Carns and there is much evidence of Neolithic people,
excavation findings show an entrance grave as early as 2nd millennium BC on
Buzza Hill on St Marys. Cist excavation has produced many treasures
including pottery from as early as 2nd millennium BC. A sword and mirror
from c.100BC . 100s of broaches from the Bronze age to the Romans used as
offerings. Many other signs of Dartmoor are the standing stones, stone rows,
gateposts, plug and feather stone cutting.
Sea levels have rissen over the years and the Islands have shrunk, maps
showed a very noticeable shrinkage between 200BC and 200AD. A lighthouse
was built on Bishops rock in 1850 as the Western rocks were notorious for
shipwrecks having claimed countless ships and lives over many years.
Evidence of early Christianity showed a Roman altar stone now on Tresco.
The priory church of St Nicholas was administered for 400 years by Tavistock
Abbey in the 12th -16th century. On Tean there is evidence of an early
Christian church and cemetery and on St Helens evidence of an 8th century
AD complex.
Many other items of interest were shown from the Romans to 20th century
and obviously the Isles of Scilly are steeped in history.
Margaret Phipps
Peter Hirst Memorial Walk
On the 29th August, 22 Widecombe History Group members and 3 dogs met
in Bel Tor car park to walk to Bel Tor to see the rock basins. Terry had kindly
been able to ask the landowner for permission to access this private tor. The
panoramic views from the top of the tor were spectacular. We then followed
the stony track to Bel Tor rocks and Terry was able to tell us about a tawny
owls nest that was there many years ago. Next we looked at some hut circles
just off Dr Blackalls Drive. From our next position Mel Tor, views extended to
the River Dart and Venford Reservoir and on to Hunter Tor. On Mid Summer's
Day there was a tradition of rolling cartwheels down the hill. There were also
some rock basins to view at Mel Tor.
We walked down the road towards Simon's Lake, and just off the road we
were able to see a new dedication inscribed on a granite gate post that had
been laid down reading 1910 CNG 1999 with BELOVED underneath. This
took us near Simon's Lake, many of us had never visited this feature of
Dartmoor. The first time we visited it was teeming with tadpoles but this time
the water was lower and Ann and Roger's dog took a fancy to a mud bath.
On our walk towards Eastercombe we saw more stone circles and then the
ruin of a homestead that Aileen's relations lived in many years ago. Not all
the group visited the ruins so we joined the rest of the group again at a site of
probably one of the largest stone circles in the area. From this point we
walked to Oulds Cross and then onto the reservoir that feeds Widecombe
with water.
The last interesting feature Terry pointed out to us was the Widecombe
3 Mile Stone which unfortunately has become very eroded and is hard to see
the inscription.
It was a lovely day and we all agreed it was a great walk, with many
interesting features that Terry was able to point out to us. Dartmoor always
gives up surprises at each visit.
Mo Wright
Widecombe Fair
The History Group’s involvement in Widecombe Fair was, we think,
pretty good. The Heritage Marquee had a constant through-put of
visitors all day. The wide range of subjects seemed to hold something
for all. Regular and local visitors found something new, it is hoped,
and visitors from far and wide possibly learned of something our
county holds of which they had had no knowledge.
The Stover Canal Society, who we welcomed this year, had a very
good presentation and its members were there in strength to talk to
visitors and answer question.
Our members with specialist interests, the tin industry and World War
One research and the intriguing story of the World War Two Hampden
bomber which crashed on Hameldown, were also on hand all day.
On the lighter side, the £1 mystery jars caused amusement and many
pleasing surprises. The model of The Old Grey Mare and her riders
were regularly out for her outing and usually it too attracted an
audience and a bevy of photographers.
All in all everyone, visitors and members alike, enjoyed a very full day,
only made possible by the many members helping each in their own
Widecombe History Group Lunch
Peter Carrett organised the second excellent lunch at Stover Golf Club.
It was well attended. The food was excellent and the company
stimulating. Thanks Peter and here’s to the next one. It is worth
noting that non members can use Stover Golf Club for coffees and
February 1st Dr. Robert Wolton, Devon’s Amazing Hedges
March 1st Ann Widdecombe – Life and Times
April 5th Bob Mann – The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (a man of many
May 3rd Annual General Meeting, to be followed by Simon Dell’s
presentation on Dartmoor’s Sett Makers’ Bankers