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Newsletter No 59 – Spring 2017

April 1, 2017

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Newsletter No 55 – Spring 2015


Tavistock LSWR viaduct early C20. The main features here are two-fold. First, the conglomeration of old buildings between Bannawell Street and Drake Road (bottom right), the vast majority of which have gone and been replaced, mostly by characterless 1960-plus housing; and the fencing today is an all-sorts of bits and pieces. Secondly, the lush green hill in the background, is now covered with modern dwellings. Who says things get better? Still, the viaduct looks as if it means to stay put - might even get trains running across it again - and pigs might fly.




Programme 2015


The remaining meetings of our 2015 programme are as follows - please note highlighted change


Apr 14         Power in the Peninsula - Clive Charlton (Tavistock Parish Hall 7.15pm)


May 12        A private visit to Kelly College, Tavistock - John Killingbeck (Meet at Kelly College for 7.15pm)


Jun 09         All day outing to Prideaux Place, Padstow, and private guided historic town walk (Coach departs from outside the                            Bedford Hotel at 0830h - see details below)


Jun 23         Private visit to Cotehele House - Rachel Hunt (Meet at the entrance to Cotehele House at 7.00pm - numbers are                                            limited and it is important that you see details below)


Jul 14          Private visit to Walkhampton Church House and Church - Sue Andrew (Meet at Walkhampton Parish Church at                        7.15pm)


Aug 11        Private visit to Colcharton - Ann Cole and Tom Greeves (Meet at Colcharton Farmhouse, SX 4518 7290, off A390,                           at 7.15pm)


Sep 08         The Whitehorse Hill Cist - Jane Marchand (Tavistock parish Hall 7.15pm)


Oct 06         Plague and Pestilence - Dark days for Devon - Jill Drysdale (Tavistock Parish Hall 7.15pm)


These talk dates have been altered from those given in your printed Programme


Nov 10        The East Cornwall Mineral Railway - Vic Harman Tavistock Parish Hall 7.15pm)


Dec 08         Christmas Social evening (Tavistock Parish Hall 7.15pm)


Visit to Padstow


The Society annual coach outing this year is a private visit to Prideaux Place, in Padstow, followed by a guided tour of Padstow town. Seats must be booked (ring John Davies 01822 612546) and the cost inclusive of coach will be c£20, excluding victuals.


Prideaux Place is one of the very brightest jewels in Cornwall's heritage crown; one of the West Country's oldest houses remaining in habitable condition, visually and essentially Elizabethan yet with a wealth of Strawberry Hill Gothic interiors. Fourteen generations of Prideaux have lived here and each generation has added its own contribution to the house and its historic garden. This beautiful mansion sits on the hill above the busy harbour of Padstow and the grounds boast some of the finest views over its ancient Deer Park and the Camel Estuary to Rock and Bodmin Moor beyond.


The Prideaux Family can trace their ancestry back to the 11th Century when they were Lords of Prideaux Castle at Luxulyan. The family moved to Devon for 200 years and then returned to Cornwall where Sir Nicholas Prideaux purchased the land in Padstow and built his mansion here, completed in 1592. The house is a treasure trove of Cornish life and history and contains a particularly fine collection of furniture, porcelain and paintings. It still remains very much a family home and not a museum and members of the family are very often around to greet their visitors.


Much restoration work has been done in the garden here over the last few years. When Peter and Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune came here in 1988 much of the landscaped grounds had disappeared under sycamore saplings and overgrown laurels but they are gradually being cleared and new planting put in their place. The Victorian Formal Garden has been restored, the Woodland Walks retraced for the first time in 60 years, an 80 tree Lime Avenue planted down either side of the Green Walk, hundreds of trees planted as well as a shelter belt put in last year to help protect the garden from the elements for future generations. A decorative garden was planted by the 17th Century Temple in 2009 as well as 3000 more spring bulbs in. The next project is to plant up the Woodland Walks.


The grounds also contain many unique buildings such as the beautiful Gothic Double Dairy, the 18th Century Temple built of Bath stone (the first use of it outside Bath), now fully restored, and the 18th Century Stable Courtyard has survived remarkably unchanged.


In the afternoon the Society will be escorted around historic Padstow by local historian John Buckingham, or members can spend free time on their own wanders. There will be time for afternoon tea and a visit to the Museum before returning to Tavistock to arrive c6.30pm.  


Visit to Cotehele


This visit is strictly limited to 15 persons maximum as we are being shown around some places (small) not normally seen during public open days; this visit is therefore restricted to Society members only. The visit starts at 7.00pm in front of the house (the grounds are open until dusk so go straight to the house). Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis (ring Stephen Docksey on 01822 834454 to book). In the event that we have an overbooking a second visit can possibly be arranged for a later date this year.


Visit to Colcharton


Colcharton Farmhouse was originally an Elizabethan longhouse, dating back to the 16th century with many original features such as original bell pulls, granite steps and a Bible cupboard in the kitchen. Francis Drake visited and took tea at this 16th Century Farmhouse in the late 1500s. Stone figures taken from Tavistock Abbey adorn the impressive entrance. It is a family home and the Society will be the guests of the current owners but under the tutorship of our own Ann Cole and Tom Greeves.


From the Chairman – Alex Mettler


Whilst it has been possible to organise a Committee for 2015 it remains disappointing that so many of this Committee have been around since the age of Methuselah. However, we welcome Claire Morris and Adrian Lee as new volunteer Committee Members and Barbara Watson has kindly offered to organise the pre-meeting teas. Our Committee now numbers nine members out of a possible 14 and we are still seeking volunteers please as some members have volunteered simply to assure a quorum and would prefer to 'retire' and make way for new blood. We do have a specific problem in that our Treasurer of 26 years, John wishes to step down; we, therefore, urgently require a volunteer for Treasurer - please.


An important 'event' in Tavistock's this year is the establishment of a Heritage partnership in the town based on a rejuvenated Guildhall complex - see below. Such a centre for inhabitants and visitors alike offering an expansive interpretation programme

and training for some skills associated with our heritage, offering a variety of facilities for young and not so young alike.

Our membership numbers are reasonable for February but we still require that past members rejoin and we all need to do our best to secure new members and visitors. We have started the year in fine fettle and look forward to the remainder of the programme. See you there.


Tavistock Heritage Partnership - Alex Mettler


At the January Committee meeting members were updated by Andrew Thompson with respect to the Tavistock Town Council HLF application for funds to upgrade the Tavistock Guildhall complex and the proposed establishment of a community based heritage partnership located in these buildings. This project is an excellent opportunity to get funding not only to upgrade the Guildhall complex but also to offer to societies such as ours, and the public at large, training opportunities and further partnership in the heritage affairs of Tavistock.


The possible receipt of funding for this project hangs on community support, without which HLF funding will not be given, and, within such support, that of the Museum, the History Society and the Subscription library is vital. The Society has members who sit on the Tavistock Townscape Heritage Partnership and on the Tavistock Key Centre Steering Group. The present proposed HLF bid, together with the successful THI bid securing just short of £1m, have been proposed and guided through these two partnerships during some five or six years and the possible use of a rejuvenated Guildhall housing the present Town Council offices and a complex for heritage related activities is a wonderful opportunity.


We are not being asked to provide any funding towards the project. The Society has, however, provided £500 towards the preparation of the Interpretation and Learning Strategies, essential tools in the process. Members are already active in providing community activities such as walks etc, the 2014 Tavistock Heritage Festival and Tavistock Heritage Open Days. We are already involved and committed and should continue to be so if we are worth our salt.


Your Committee has sent a letter to the Town Council giving the Society's full support for this project.


NB - Members can get an update of the project by looking at Tavistock Town Council website (click on Tavistock Guildhall and WHS Gateway Centre).


Tavistock Museum – Roderick Martin


The museum will re-open on Saturday the 28th March 2015 and remain open daily until the 31st October 2015.


In the 2015 season the museum will aim to achieve its target of 8,000 visitors.  The two main exhibitions will be ‘The Challenging Road to Peace Since WW1’ (Tavistock Peace Action Group) and ‘Traders in Tavistock’ (Linda Elliott).


Key objectives next year will be to recruit new stewards and to make the photographic collection much more accessible.  Some work has already been progressed to refurbish the two smaller rooms on the first floor of the cottage in order to create a new computer point and photographic image store.  Other objectives this year will be to erect a new museum sign above the front doorway, to install a new mining heritage display board in the geology room, to broaden the museum website, to improve the welcome area lighting, and with grant support to have a short film made of the museum artefacts for the benefit of disabled visitors and others who cannot manage the stairs.


Our manager Sue Davies is currently in currently in Tavistock Hospital after a fall.  All involved with the museum send her their good wishes.


Oral History Project  - Angela Hilton


The Oral History Group presented their project to the Society's October meeting.  Established in November 2012 the group is currently comprised of 4 interviewers and 1 transcriber.  We have undertaken more than 20 interviews and recorded 25 hours of interview in total.  The equipment, kindly initially loaned via Sue Spackman from the Quarries project, has now been purchased by the Society.  The project emphasizes the importance of giving a voice to ordinary people who have seen and done extraordinary things, stories that would not normally appear in the historical record.  Interviews to date have covered lives in the farming community, social history, living and working in the area, and experiences of war and the group hopes to co-ordinate the storage and access of the recordings in collaboration with TASS Tavistock Lives Oral History Group and although the project has made slow progress over the past year due to other commitments of the interviewers, there is still the capability within the group to do more.  So if you, or someone you know, has an interesting experience to share, or if you wish to join the group as an interviewer and/or transcriber, please get in touch with us.  Angela Hilton 07791994427 or"


The face of local history? – Kevin Dickens


Two faces here, both intimately connected with recent local history.  The rather more ... senior face, you probably know well. He is the eponymous first source of the Thorington Archive. As for the younger man - no, he's not a member of the Tavistock and District Local History Society. He's not stewarding at the museum. He does not have any official role, but he is making a huge difference at this very time to local people's perceptions of their past.


Some while ago someone suggested that the Thorington Archive could display photos on Facebook for a wider circulation. I duly started up a Facebook page and quickly realised that this was going to be more than I could manage, so I put out an appeal for help with managing things. Dan Gloyn was the man who responded and who has been running the Jim Thorington Facebook page now for a couple of months. Dan's enthusiasm and hard work, together with the propitiousness of the moment has engineered  a huge success. Over 1300 people have now attached themselves to the page and the initial hum of approval is now turning into a roar. The impact of the Jim Thorington Facebook page is such that we have now even been on the telly!


Well, the Thorington Archive represents a narrow stratum of local history, but it is valid and relevant nonetheless and the numbers flocking to associate themselves with the Facebook page - somewhat disconcertingly - dwarfs the total membership of our society.


We don't know where this is all going to go, but the quiet efforts of many scanners over the years are now reaping an extraordinary harvest and all praise to both men in the photographs, but in this context the younger man especially, for helping to redefine for people in this area what local history means.



Ward and Chowen Archive - Ann Cole


Thanks to the grant funding that we have received the Ward and Chowen Archive project is now up and running.  The book scanner has been purchased and the documents removed from Church Lane to the rear of the Ward and Chowen office in Plymouth Road.  We are working in close conjunction with the Devon Record Office who are giving us advice on the best way to proceed.


Our volunteers are busy cleaning, sorting into both classes and sizes, before the documents are scanned.  Depending on the type of document up to 1,000 images per day are being scanned and we already have thousands of images on file, although they are not available yet for you to access.


There are some little gems of information that are coming out and because we have only just started on the project we do not know what more there is to come!  Suffice to say that there are many, many thousands of documents still to be done.  We would welcome more volunteers, because the sooner the project is completed the sooner you will be able to access the information.  If you feel that you would just like to come along and see what it is all about before committing yourself to helping please contact Ann Cole on 01822 810213.




The curse of the Charabancs – Gerry Woodcock


Solomon Warne ran a temperance hotel in Postbridge. In January 1930 he applied to the local bench for a licence for a further hotel in the village, the 'East Dart Hotel' that had been recently built. Knowing that there was considerable local opposition to the plan, Mr Warne ensured that he was legally represented at the hearing at which the issue was to be decided. Meanwhile a significant number of local residents had signed a petition expressing the hope that the bench would not permit "anything in the nature of a public house" in Postbridge. Mr Warne's intention, in seeking a licence, was to provide "excisable beverages" for two groups of people, those who were staying at the hotel and those, calculated at about a hundred, who lived in the immediate area. Anyone else who asked for intoxicating liquor would only be served if they made it part of a meal. Such an arrangement embodied a compromise usually referred to as "on-licence". For many of the petitioners this solution was one that they could tolerate since it removed the spectre of "charabanc people" lining the road outside the inn. The example of the Warren House Inn was quoted as providing a warning. On some days, it was said, there could be between thirty and forty charabancs parked outside that hostelry.


Differences of opinion continued as to whether there was a need for a further hotel in the Postbridge area. The compromise of granting Mr Warne an on-licence rather than an off-licence finally prevailed. The magistrates decided that the overwhelming local opposition to an off-licence should be respected. The two factors that led them to grant the more limited right were the acquiescence of the police and the favourable image that Mr Warne projected.


The mulctation of Mr Charles Craze


"Mr Charles Craze has become a veteran - not in His Majesty's service, but in the still larger army of drunkards. On Wednesday he appeared before "his betters" and was mulcted in the penalty of 10s for being drunk for the sixteenth time! This we should say is a record for the Tavistock Bench, and the fact deserves a passing notice. The magistrates were told that every landlord in Tavistock hated to see him inside their doors. It would be more to the point if every landlord were to refuse to supply him with liquor after he had "toed the line", or better still, had refused him admission to their premises when he was in a state of inebriety. A landlord may well run the risk of being summoned for not supplying liquor to a doubtful customer. We have never heard of such a case and if there has been any, it is far more to a publican's credit that he should be charged with supplying too little, rather than too much, drink. Craze gets more than he can carry, and then is turned out of doors. Why take the man's money when he ceases to know right from wrong? He is a well-known character to every publican in the town, who, it is said, hates the sight of him, and yet there are some who ply him with drink until the last farthing is spent, or until he can drink no more, and then "out you go." This is rather ungrateful. The publican should restore him to the bosom of his family, or at least see him out of harm's way until the ubiquitous "bobby" has passed. He is always found on the door step, and just when he has had too much. Never before! But what is to be done with the man himself, who has become a pest to society. Is there no hope of reclaiming him? The bench benevolently expressed the hope that reformatories would soon be established to deal with such a case, and until then, what then? We sincerely hope that Mr Ritchie's new Bill will be competent to take hold of such a victim, both in the interest of the publican and the sinner."


From the Tavistock Gazette, February 14th,1902


How to really let your hair down Mr Craze


Parties laid on by the directors of companies were very common in the past - even the Editor can remember them. However in Tavistock to cheer up the gells 'n boys the staff of the Model Laundry, in Parkwood Road in Tavistock, were treated to a real rave up.


""The Model Way" of organising a party was demonstrated on Wednesday evening by Directors and Staff of The Model Laundry (Tavistock) Ltd.


Scene of this enjoyable function was the Tavistock Church Hall, and proceedings commenced with community singing led by Miss Peggy Glynn, piano-accordionist. Mr Fred Cavendish was a popular entertainer, and after more community singing, he gave a conjuring display, concluding with a "recipe" for removing ink-spots from silk handkerchiefs! This was watched with great interest by staff of the Laundry. After refreshments had been enjoyed, chairs were removed and the floor was cleared for games and dancing. Mr Fred Cavendish was an able MC, San Juan Orchestra gave rhythmic tempo.


Miss Ethel Stanbury proposed thanks to Capt the Hon E A Nicolson and the Hon Mrs Nicolson, and all who had assisted in the evening's enjoyment.


Mrs A Mill seconded amid hearty acclamation..


Capt Nicolson said he needed no thanks. He had spent a most enjoyable evening and, he added, "had not laughed so much since the beginning of the war.""


From the Tavistock Gazette, January 17th 1944


Ed - Sounds like a real wow.



A true wordsmith


The Editor, not being a person who normally reads that many novels, recently read The River, written by Eden Philpotts in 1902, and rather liked the descriptive prose of this Victorian master of words. A sample here is the opening chapter of Philpotts' long description of the delights of Dartmoor and its name giver, the River Dart.


"From the rapt loneliness of her cradle, from her secret fountains, where the red sundew glimmers and cotton grasses wave unseen, Dart comes wandering southward with a song. Her pools and silent places mirror the dawn; noontide sunshine glitters along the granite aprons of her thousand falls; the wind catches her volume leaping downward, and flings it aloft into rainbows by day and moonlit veils by night. Beneath the echoing hills she passes, under the grey rain or silver mist she takes her musical course; and presently, the richer by many a little sister river, grows into adult beauty of being, swells to the noblest stream in all the West Country, descends from her high places and winds, full fraught with mystery and loveliness, into the lives of men. Thereupon legends arise from her crystal depths; stories, sinister enough, are whispered; romance awakens to brood by her deep reaches and hanging woods. Henceforth humanity grows concerned with Dart, and, even as man pollutes her current with drosses and accretions from cauldron or vat, so by him is her character clouded, her fair name maligned."


Nice that.


Nothing changes - Income Tax in 1842


The Income Tax Act 1842 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, passed under the government of Robert Peel, which re-introduced an income tax in Britain, at the rate of 2.9% on all annual incomes greater than £150 (£116,000 in 2008). It was the first imposition of income tax in Britain outside of wartime. Although promoted as a temporary measure, income tax has been levied continually in Britain ever since. In a letter from John Benson, the Duke of Bedford's agent in Tavistock, to Christopher Haedy, the Bedford Estate auditor in London, Benson seems to be having trouble with the paper work.  


"I have done nothing about the Income Tax yet. I have just had the papers brought to me by Phillips - they appear intricate and nobody seems to understand them, I hope and trust we shall never hear more of them - there will be no end of trouble and difficulty. I am going to set myself about it as well as I can - but in accounts there will be errors without end I am satisfied - from not taking the tax from the people who ought to pay - how as to tenants who are not under our agreements? But on looking through the papers delivered I cannot see anyhow to make them up & I do not think I shall - let the Tax people do their own work."


Nothing changes - except, perhaps, prices





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