In the 1950's, the Old Scholars Association of the village School ran summer dances and funfairs in the Manor Hall to raise funds to buy every child up to 15 years old in the Parish, a very nice Christmas present.


The little picture shows Muriel Richards, School Teacher, awarding Mrs. Ella Graves a lovely cabbage - her prize for winning the Mrs. Berrynarbor competition at an Old Scholars Summer Dance.

Claude Richards junior is MC having a laugh with Mr. Ward who was the judge. Those were the days!





The Parish of Berrynarbor is one of the largest in Devon. There is evidence that people lived here from early times:



Classes I and II


Photograph by kind permission of Gerald Walters

From left to right:

My aunt, Muriel Richards, went to school at Berry aged 5 and left the school aged 56 when she suffered from a heart condition. She progressed from school girl to pupil teacher under Miss Veale and was recognised as an unqualified teacher in her twenties. She wasn't recognised or paid as a qualified teacher until her forties. Apart from two terms during the war when she went to Instow and Parracombe to relieve the pupil number problem, due to an influx of refugee children, she taught Berrynarbor children to read and write in the infant department.

She had a wealth of local knowledge teaching the children hands on, walking the local lanes and footpaths. She knew every field name and could identify every hedgerow plant. Now I wish I'd paid more attention!





A court at South Molton hears that of the 6 houses at Berry Down Hamlet, "four of them are beer houses and Joseph Huxtable of the Smith's Arms, Berrydown Cross, is fined £1 for allowing police to drink in his house"! The old forge still exists.

My great, great grandfather, Richard Dyer, owned a beer house here. He was also recorded as the Toll Keeper, an auctioneer and maltster. The Dyer family were the millers and farmers at Berry Mill at this time. My great grandmother was born in 'the Old Court' - the old Manor House when local families occupied it.

Lorna Bowden [researched by Gary Songhurst]



The earliest reference to the Hicks family that I can find is the marriage of John Hicks to Tabitha Dennis - July 7th 1673. They've been around a long time! The 1882 Tythe, records William Hicks at Blurridge Farm, Charles Hicks at South Lee and Thomas Hicks at Middle Hagginton.



The first shows Tom Hicks, his wife and son at Whitecote. Later Tom Hicks became Post Master at Langley House. The Post Office then moved to Lower Town, sometimes called Silver Street. The photos of Langley House show the family outside the Post Office.



The gentleman on horseback is Samuel Bowden, Michael's grandfather. His son Ralph married Tom's daughter, Emma Hicks.

They farmed Oakwell at Shirwell. In the photo, Samuel is possibly at Lower Rows, which he farmed before moving to Ruggaton.

Another photo shows him with pony and trap at Watermouth Castle, possibly to pay his rent.



The first of the final two photographs shows Ralph Bowden and Emma [Hicks] at Oakwell Farm, The other, is also from the Hicks album but can anyone throw any light on what/where/who it is and why everyone has a bow on their dress or apron?

Betty Brooks, with her sons David and Kevin, are probably the only people with blood links to the Hicks family today. Bett's great grandmother was a Hicks.


Lorna Bowden


The Tower

My grandfather told me that it was local knowledge that several Berrynarbor cottages were built to house the itinerant stone masons who came to the village when the church tower was built. The old church house, which stood to the right of the lych gate, was probably built at the same time and perhaps the church wall was constructed at the same time.

Lorna Bowden



The tower was built around 1480 and is one of North Devon's very best. Berrynarbor folk, of course, have always insisted that it is the best and it is quite right they do! There are precious few grand towers in this area where good building stone is hard to come by and, therefore, expensive. It may be assumed that Berrynarbor church at that time had wealthy patrons and that the village itself was important and relatively wealthy.

In 1553, at the succession of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary, following the recent 16 year old Protestant King Edward VI, the church in England was suffering a great upheaval. Someone was told to make 'an Inventory of Church Goods' throughout the land. Quite a task, but it is from this document that we have today a note of the number of bells in most churches at that time. Berrynarbor is recorded as having 4 bells, the norm for important towns and villages. Unfortunately, there is no record of the founders or donors of these bells unless the churchwarden's accounts are available for the period prior to this.

Again no sight has been made of the warden's accounts for the period between 1553 and 1722 and it is not known if they survive. Perhaps a local historian could help here? It is likely that the bells were recast as a result of becoming cracked. In any case, the obviously still wealthy parish decided in 1721 to have a new peal of 6 bells cast, with which to grace their fine tower. At that time, few Devon village churches sported a peal of 6 bells, 4 or 5 being the most usual number.

The Wardens and Incumbent of the parish then had to choose a bell founder to provide the new bells. The Pennington family were the principal founders in Devon and Cornwall for over 220 years from around 1600. They had, however, closed their foundry in Exeter and were operating from Stoke Climsland on the western banks of the River Tamar. The Wroth family were working from Wellington but the parish can be thankful that they were not chosen to do the work as their bells were generally very poor in tone.

Perhaps the choice of a Welshman might seem strange at first, but Evan Evans had already been working in North Devon and had set up a small foundry by the church at Braunton in 1713. Following his work for that parish, he went on to cast bells for seven other churches in the area and was, in 1721, casting a set of 5 for Cruwys Morchard. The Evans family bells were generally good in tone and their reputation ensured that many others were provided for Devon churches until 1756, including 4 notable bells for the immense peal at Exeter Cathedral.

So, the peal of 6 bells was made for Berrynarbor and almost certainly made at Braunton. The largest of these [the tenor] is 40 inches [1019mm]ds across the mouth and weighs approximately 11 hundredweights [550kg]. The smallest [the treble] is 27 inches [695mm] across the mouth. In 1893 it became necessary to recast the third bell and this work was entrusted to John Taylor of Loughborough, a company still making bells today.

Inscribed around the top or crown of the treble are the names of Evan Evans and his son William, and the date 1722. The second bell has inscribed the names of two gentlemen, taken to be the donors, John Tucker and Thomas Clark. The third bell had the inscription 'Edw. W. Richards: Wm. Morris Ch. Wardens'. The current third bell has the names for the two churchwardens of 1893, Thomas Perrin and John Jewell.

The fourth bell has the names of two more local worthies, again assumed to be donors: Thomas Lymbear and Thomas Witheridge. The fifth was apparently donated by a wealthy widow, 'Dorothy Francis, daughter of ye late Thomas Berry Esqr.' The tenor bell displays the names 'Joseph Davy Esqr. Lord of the Mannor [sic] and Richard Coffin Esqr. Edward Chichester Rectr [sic]. Presumably these were the two big landowners in the parish and the incumbent.

There is no record of the craftsmen who made the original frame and fittings for these bells, nor if there was any subsequent renewal until the current structure was provided in 1928 by Harry Stokes of Woodbury near Exeter who had been a bellhanger since about l877 and had built up a fine and deserved reputation for quality bell frames. This job was one of the last he completed. His earlier frames were of good oak timbers well framed up, but always open to the latest developments, for his last frames he provided cast iron. That this frame is still in good order is testimony to the quality of his work.

The elm headstocks to which each bell is fixed and from which they swing were also replaced in 1928, along with the bearings, clappers and pulleys. The bearings were replaced with self-aligning ball races at some time during the last 50+ years and the all-important pulleys more recently than that.

On Thursday [bell ringing practice night] the 23rd October 2008 at 8.30 p.m. the stub axle on which the tenor bell swings broke whilst the bell was being rung. Luckily there was no damage to either the bell or the ringer. This was mended by Matthew Higby of Bath, once again with the generosity of the parishioners, and rung again in February of the following year.

Researched and written by James M. Clarke who says that he has rung at many towers around the country but nowhere at a tower with a longer length of rope!


Some 54 years ago, Jim Brooks, Ivan and Bill Huxtable and myself decided 'to learn the ropes' and began bellringing. We had very good teachers - Percy Thorn, Reg Ley, Long Jack Draper, Frank Melhuish, George Diamond and Jack Dummett.

Besides carrying on a centuries old skill and tradition, it gave us the opportunity to ring at many church towers in villages all over North Cornwall, North Devon and North Somerset. In doing so, we met like-minded people, many of whom have remained good friends. We also rang in competitions further afield, using the traditional method of Devon Call Changes.

No two peals of bells are the same. Some are very light, some are very heavy. Then there's the range in between. The draught of rope from the bell to the sally can make all the difference to the ease of ringing. Our peal has one of the longest draughts in the country and is one of the most difficult to ring.

The weather can also affect the ropes. On rainy, damp days, the ropes stiffen and shrink, sometimes rising the sally by a foot, making it necessary for ringers to stand on boxes. When the weather is warm and dry, ropes become very floppy and tend to dance about when being rung. The use of nylon in the modern ropes has alleviated a lot of these problems.

The art of call change ringing is to keep the bells cartwheeling at a constant rhythm and pitch. The ringer should listen to and count each bell. When a change is called, the ringer has to cut, or lie off, so the bell changes place in the sequence without altering the pitch or rhythm of the cartwheel - that's the aim!

Perhaps the most memorable day for me was ringing out the last thousand years and ringing in the next. A thousand years ago there was a little Saxon church in the village and I daresay the folks then were celebrating like us and perhaps the priest was ringing a little hand bell!

Michael Bowden
Remembering good ringing friends, the late Jim Brooks, Ivan [Aggie] Huxtable, Derek Jewell and Walter White.

Michael has been Captain of our bell ringers for about 50 years and he and Ronnie Phillips, who do not like the modern way of 'method ringing', have trained many would-be ringers over the years. They use the call change method which has come down the ages from medieval times. Hopefully this method of ringing will be handed down to future generations.

Lorna Bowden

Bell Diameter Note Weight
Treble 27" E 4 cwt
2nd 29" D 4 cwt
3rd 31" C 5 cwt
4th 33" B 6 cwt
5th 37" A 8 cwt
Tenor 40" G 11 cwt

Finding this article about the bells and ringers fascinating, I thought I really should see if I could take a photograph of the bells. My sincere thanks to Kevin - whose official title is Tower Keeper, and who, with Richard Barrett, was muffling the bells for Remembrance Sunday - for taking me up the tower, in spite of my dislike of both heights and confined spaces! What a privilege.

The photos show:

[1] The tower

[2] the tenor bell and its new stub axle

[3] the tenor bell and to its right the treble and No. 2 bell

[5] the Nos. 4 and 5 bells

[7] the positions of the six bells

[4] The new green, white and black sallys

[6] the clock striking equipment on the No. 4 bell, which is struck to mark the hours


I understand that the No. 5 bell, the tenor bell, treble bell and No. 2 bell swing from north to south, and the Nos. 3 and 4 bells from east to west.

Today, under their Captain Michael Bowden, our team of ringers are: Kevin Brooks, Richard and Geoff Barrett, Michael Johns, Ron Phillips, John and Kay Webber, Bill Huxtable, Elaine Filer, Gerald Walters and Norman Sanders. With their 'L' plates on and learning the ropes are Pat Weston and Debbie Thomas.

Thank you all for keeping our bells ringing - a wonderful sound.




This postcard of an ivy-clad Rectory is as I remember it as a small child. There is a large glass-house in the garden.

The two cottages are Rectory Cottages, now Wild Violets. They are in the area of the original parsonage. The roof in the bottom right must be the old Temperance Hall which was used for social events and meetings before the Manor Hall was built.


There must have been facilities for washing at the Temperance Hall because my great-grandmother and grandmother did the laundry there for the Rev. Churchill's family at the Rectory. In fact the white spots at the bottom of the picture are probably clothes drying on the bushes.

Nanny also did the washing for the Collins family at Widmouth House. Dad and Aunty Lorna had to deliver the laundry to Widmouth before going to school on Tuesday morning, whatever the weather!

Lorna Bowden



This photograph is of John Stewart [2nd left] landing at Ranville, France, to defend Pegasus Bridge. He went in by the third wave of gliders. John was tall but the angle of the camera makes the men look small!

John, who married my cousin Margaret Gove-Price, was born in West Point, Ireland. His mother was determined he should follow her catholic tradition and join the church. John was having none of it and took himself off and joined the Royal Ulsters at the age of 16 years as a boy soldier.

He saw action in China, India and Egypt before D Day. Michael and I visited Ranville some time ago and found the people in the museum there very helpful.

Margaret joined the army at 18 and went into Belgium with Montgomery. She was clerically trained and helped establish hospitals for the war injured. A Berrynarbor girl, she and John married after the war and settled in Barnstaple.

Lorna Bowden



Community - dictionary definition:

Can we please go back to being villagers, parishioners and neighbours - a word with Anglo Saxon origins? I don't want to live in a commune - 'a number of unrelated families and individuals living together with shared accommodation, supplies and responsibilities.' I want to go the village shop, pubs and school and the Parish Church.

I noticed that in her Millennium speech, the Queen didn't mention communities, just neighbourhoods. What's good enough for the Queen is good enough for me!

Lorna Bowden



Things don't change in Berry, do they? This cutting was taken from the North Devon Journal and kept by my grandmother, who must have enjoyed herself.

Berrynarbor's Record Day

"The loyalty of the residents of Berrynarbor was demonstrated in no uncertain manner. The Committee worked hard to achieve success, and had the co-operation of every resident, down to the humblest cottager. Indeed, the spirit of co-operation was never more strikingly exemplified, and it was without doubt the most successful and enjoyable day in the history of this ancient village.

"The Jubilee* spirit was everywhere, and it was a day that will never be forgotten by those who were privileged to take part. On behalf of the Parish Council, Mr. Wm. Draper, the Chairman, sent a message of hearty congratulations to Their Majesties and a gracious reply was received.

"Every seat in the ancient Parish Church was occupied for the morning service, which was conducted by Rev. Cain in the unavoidable absence of the rector, Rev. R. Churchill, the lessons being read by Mr. C. Whale as representing the Nonconformists.

"In the afternoon there were sports for the children, and what a joyous time the youngsters spent in striving for the numerous prizes! The sports were followed by a tea, to which every parishioner was invited. There was happiness everywhere; and outside the flags fluttered in the breeze, giving the whole village an atmosphere of festivity and rejoicing.

Nearly 300 at Dance

"The climax to a wonderful day was reached in the evening, when the Manor Hall attracted a crowd of nearly 300 for the dance in aid of Ilfracombe Hospital. Here again the carnival spirit was supreme, and all agreed that it was a record-breaking function. The decorations were of a comprehensive and charming character. The hall was floodlit, and the fairy lights added to the pretty scene.

"Mrs. Penn-Curzon, C.B.E., looked in during the evening, and during an interval delivered a happy little speech on the significance of the day, saying how thankful all were that King George and Queen Mary had been spared to reign for such a long period. Mr. H. Holbrook, hon. secretary of the Ilfracombe Hospital, in a few well-chosen words, thanked everybody for supporting the hospital funds in such a handsome manner.

"There was also a huge bonfire, which illuminated the whole countryside.

"The following day teas were taken to those who, owing to old age or infirmity, had been unable to attend the festivities the previous day.

"Berrynarbor certainly showed a wonderful spirit in celebrating the Jubilee.* "There was not a single hitch, and all pulled together for the good of the whole," remarked a member of the Committee."

* Silver Jubilee of King George V, May 1935.

The First World War broke out in 1914, during which the King made several visits to the front line in France and Belgium. He was a war casualty himself: during a visit to France in 1915, his horse rolled on him and he received serious internal injuries from which he never fully recovered. The 1914-1918 war enabled the King and Queen Mary to come into close contact with the mass of their people, to an extent unknown since the seventeenth century.

Lorna Bowden



This postcard of an ivy-clad Rectory is as I remember it as a small child. There is a large glass-house in the garden.

The two cottages are Rectory Cottages, now Wild Violets. They are in the area of the original parsonage. The roof in the bottom right must be the old Temperance Hall which was used for social events and meetings before the Manor Hall was built.


There must have been facilities for washing at the Temperance Hall because my great-grandmother and grandmother did the laundry there for the Rev. Churchill's family at the Rectory. In fact the white spots at the bottom of the picture are probably clothes drying on the bushes.

Nanny also did the washing for the Collins family at Widmouth House. Dad and Aunty Lorna had to deliver the laundry to Widmouth before going to school on Tuesday morning, whatever the weather!

Lorna Bowden





When Sue and Eric Longstaff lived at Venture Cottage in the 1960's-70's, they had a problem with an old crumbling fireplace. In the process of renovation a silver ring fell out from amongst the old masonry.

The ring, made like a miniature belt, is stamped 'Persian Silver'. I should love to know how old it is as it could possibly have been lost in the original structure. On the other hand, it may have been hidden there to ward off evil spirits and witches, a common practice in Medieval and Tudor times.

Barnstaple Museum was unable to help with dating the ring. But as Peggy and Laurie Harvey have traced the origins of Middle Cockhill to the early thirteen hundreds, it is feasible to date Knacker's Hall, Venture Cottages and Lower Cockhill's origins to a similar date.

These dwellings are built along the ancient Parish Road which was the only way through this part of the Sterridge Valley until the late 1800's. It was long established when John Jewell and his family made their way along it to church in the early 1500's.




We have been looking through the 100 year old Visitors Book belonging to Mrs. Bray who was Landlady of The Globe, Berrynarbor, at this time. On the 23.12.1916 we found signatures and writings of two Australians who were attached to the Royal Flying Corp.

One man, Charles Kingsford Smith, turns out to be quite famous. He joined the Australian Forces in 1915. Initially he was sent to Gallipoli as a motorcycle dispatch rider. He then transferred to the Royal Flying Corp earning his wings in 1917. On the 23.12.1916 Charles and a friend 'flew off course' and landed up in The Globe. They were probably patients or visitors at Watermouth House Hospital which the Book records opening on 21st November 1914. His friend wrote the following poem in the Book.

"Oh ship me somewhere south of Suez, where the best is like the worst
Where there ain't no Ten Commandments and a man can raise a thirst
For the kangaroos are calling and it's there I would be
On my good old stock-horse Possum, neath the wattle tree."

Charles Kingsford Smith turns out to be a real son of Australia taking aviation to new heights for his country.

  1. 1.4.1918 he, with others, joined the newly established Royal Air Force
  2. 1919 he was demobbed in England. He joined Tasmanian Cyril Maddox forming a flying Joy Ride service in N. England using DH6 trainers and BE2's
  3. Went to the USA as a Barnstormer
  4. Returned to Australia in 1921 continuing the Joy Rides and forming a flown Air Mail Service. He began planning his record breaking flight across the Pacific
  5. He gained his commercial pilot's licence and became one of Australia's first airline pilots.
  6. During the war, Carl Richards had been observer in Smith's 'plane while flying over France. In 1922 Smith flew off Cowra in his Avro plane to visit his friend. They flew under the Cowra traffic bridge and attempted to fly under the railway bridge, but noticed telephone wires and pulled away only seconds from certain death.

1928 Trans-Pacific Flight

Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm arrived in the USA and bought a Fokker FVII/2M aeroplane from Sir Hubert Wilkins, the famous Australian Polar explorer, which they named The Southern Cross. Kingsford Smith and a 3-man crew left Oakland, California, to make the first successful trans-Pacific flight to Australia. Aviator Charles Ulm was relief pilot, American James Warner the radio operator and Captain Harry Lyon the navigator and engineer. From here the tale goes on:

1928 Flight across Australia from Point Cook-Melbourne to Perth. 2nd Sept from Richmond near Sydney to Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand

1930 Following numerous other flights including England to Australia. A postage stamp featured his name in 1931 and a 20 dollar note had his name and photo printed on it in 1932. He was included in the King's Birthday Honours List then Knighted on 3rd June 1932 by the Australian Governor General, Sir Isaac Isaac for Services to Aviation. Later he was appointed Honorary Air Commodore of the Royal Australian Air Force.

1935 When trying to break the England to Australia speed record, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge flying 'The Lady Southern Cross' disappeared over the Andaman Sea in the early hours of November 8th 1935. They were never found. 18 months later Burmese fishermen found the under carriage, leg and wheel with its tyre still inflated. These were washed ashore at Aye Island in the Gulf of Martaban. They are now on public display at the Power House Museum, Sydney.

A very sad loss to both families and the whole of Australia. Time for us to remember all men who came to our assistance in our time of need and our brave forces of today.

It is great to think Charles Kingsford Smith and his friend chose The Globe at Berrynarbor as one of their 'missions'!


On a local note, the following entry was made in The Globe Visitors Book:

3.8.1919 BOYS OF THE WEST -


Mr. H. Down RF
Mr. A. Baker MT
Mr. W.W.J. Darch ASCTS
Mr. E. Down PW
Mr. C.W. Latham MG
Mr. J. Gubb DSO
Mr. F. Huxtable CO
Mr. Horace Baker HMS Dauntless

Shammock = Combe Martin

Most of these men have families living in the area today. The picture shows Alf Baker messing about with his friends at the Victorian Water Fountain at Sawmills - probably taken on the same day as they had visited The Globe.

Thanks to Gerald and Ena Walters and family who helped with the research on Charles Kingsford Smith.

Lorna Bowden



It was the mis-quotation in the Journal's article about Ron's book naming Jan Bragg's Hill as Yan Briggs Hill that prompted me to write in the last Newsletter. The interviewer couldn't have been tuned into Ron's rich Devonshire accent!

To correct myself, this is Michael Wharburton's copy of the 1842 Tythe Map showing Rectory Hill and the footpath that runs through The Lawn. The hill is part of the ancient Parish Road system lellading from the village to the Valley and Ruggaton Lane. The older map shows the road travelling around Rock Hill past the Old Parsonage.

Jan Bragg was born about 1795-6. The 1841 census records him as a quarryman living in Berry Village. The 1851 census records him as blind. I think it is feasible that he was working on the widening illHill and improvement of Rectory Hill when the accident occurred. Hence the local name Jan Braggs Hill.

On a personal note, my granfer, Dick Richards, as a young man working in Bament's Quarry, was caught too near a blasting explosion. As a child I was fascinated by the blue gunpowder spots that peppered his forehead. He always said he was lucky to be alive and not blinded.

Judith Adam kindly solved my problem with the word 'knap': Knap, Knapping and Knapping hammer = a dialect word meaning to hit, hammer or chip. History - 15th Century'. Funnily enough, Bament's Quarry lies above the Sawmills in an area known as The Knapps.

"The 1555 Highways Act made each Parish responsible for its own roads and local people were expected to work on the roads for 6 days each year. This was unpopular and the roads were neglected, especially in Rural Devon. Wheeled traffic was consequently both difficult and rare. There were few new roads built and the road network changed very little between the Iron Age and the mid-18th Century. An Act of Parliament in 1706 permitted Turn Pike Trusts to build roads and charge tolls."

My thanks to Gary Songhurst who, knowing my phobia with the computer, prints off any local history material which he finds on the internet. Also to Michael Wharburton who was brought up at Hammonds Farm and has an in-depth knowledge of the history of mining in the locality.




Jan or Janny is a local familiar name for John and is still used today.

In the 1800's an extended family of Braggs lived in the village. Of these, I think Jan Bragg senior was the man who lends his name to Jan Braggs Hill because he was a 'quarry man'. As such he would have been experienced in the use of explosives and stone-knapping. This was the term used for breaking up large stones into small ones used to dress roads. I think it must be a local word because I can't find it in the Oxford Dictionary. There are many old quarries in the parish.

During the late 18th Century and into the 19th, the Industrial Revolution was changing the face of Britain. There was extensive building of new roads, railways and bridges. During this period most of our ancient Saxon lanes, which criss-crossed the parish interlinking farms, villages and towns were being improved. Many were widened, levelled and hedged with high wide banks, which are a feature of our countryside today.

The old ways were only suitable for walking or riding on horseback. They were the routes of the pack-horse trains carrying goods - the original door to door salesmen. Drovers followed these ways taking all kinds of livestock to markets near and far.

Jan Braggs Hill didn't exist on the 1842 Tithe Map. Just Blind Lane and the track across Little Oaklands, which led into the valley around Rock Hill via what is now the main drive to Wild Violets and the drive from Orchard House. Rock was probably already partially quarried for its slate. Neverthelessill was probablyt already partially quarried for its slatewas , the cutting of the road through was no mean feat with a pick and shovel. The Reverend Chichester in 1727 wrote in a terrier to the Bishop of Exeter about his 'necessary house' [toilet] being 'covered and slated with ye Berry Flat Stone'. As Rock Hill was on the doorstep of the original old parsonage, it must have come from here.

Jan Bragg died a blind man and in poverty and is buried in the churchyard.

I think it would be fitting for a little memorial to Jan Bragg to be placed at Turn Rounds. It would remind us of how much was achieved by the men of his generation by the strength of their arms and the sweat on their brows for little return.

Lorna - with help from Garry S and Micky W

Illustration by: Peter Rothwell



Before the BBC were the Berrynarbor Village Players. This photo is of some of them, raising funds for their next production. The event is a Summer Dance to choose 'Mrs. Berrynarbor' in 1958/9?

  • Left to right - Ella Graves, Silvia Berry, Don Ward [Producer],Muriel Richards and Rita Smith
  • In front - Sonia Stoddart [Duckett] and Elaine Crighton [Fanner]

Lorna Bowden



I'm often asked "Why the fox weather vane on the church tower?" The original traditional weather vane was damaged beyond repair in the gales before Christmas 1981.

Rachael and Wendy with Bobbie

John Barten of Lydford Farm offered to replace it. The fox has had its nose to the wind ever since. It was no mean feat to take on this task. John has not been very well lately and we wish him well. John is the brother of the late Sally Barten who so often entertained us with her beautiful voice. She was the mother of Wendy, Rachael and Janet Fanner. They ran the Manor Stores when it was a shop. Wendy and Rachel emigrated to Australia about twenty years ago.




Not being over fond of the traditional turkey, we thought this year we'd support the local farmers and treat ourselves to a prime cut of Devon Ruby Red beef.

I thought you might be interested in the following extract from 'A History of North Devon' written by the Rev. Richard Polwhele in 1797.

  • "Whether the famous breed of cattle in the North of Devon are indigenous or not, is not easy to determine. They are in many respects superior to any other breed in the kingdom, and those around South Molton, North Molton and Barnstaple excel most other in the North of Devon. These are the finest bullocks in Smithfield markets. They are a very healthy breed and easily fed. They are fleshy with small bones and they bear the best weight on the most faleable parts. They are cherry colour or bright red.
  • "Farmers chuse to breed only one colour and are as particular in the points of a bullock as those of a horse. A small defect or disproportionate horn will depreciate a bullock twenty shillings.
  • "Here breeding bullocks are the farmers chief dependence, which they generally part with at about 4 yrs old, about half fat, when the Somerset graziers come down and buy them, work them for two years or three, then fat, drive them to London.
  • "Numbers of bulls are bought at a high price and sent even to Jamaica. A heifer was bought lately for 30 guineas."

Ivan and Bill Huxtable's Red North Devons.

Sterridge Meadow Bountice Lane

Ivan and Bill Huxtable were the third generation to breed Red Devons at Woolscott, following their father Jimmy and grandfather Alfred. Bill says the Woolscott herd would be housed during the winter and fed home grown swedes, rolled barley and hay with a supplement of essential minerals. In the spring they were turned out to 'green pastures' in the Sterridge water meadows. The bullocks were sold at 2-21/2 years and the heifers at 12 months at Hatherly Market.

Sadly it is difficult to find a Devon bullock in a field in the Parish today.

Lorna and Bill

The photographs show some of the Woolscott herd in Venture Meadow, so named in the Estate Sale of the 1920's. I love the use of natural resources in the unique gate post.

These meadows, hedged with stone walls from Woolscott Quarry are a feature of the Sterridge Valley from Harpers Mill to Barn Cottage. Sadly, from neglect, they are disappearing in places. Bill says the meadows were rich in nature's herbs and were excellent for fattening bullocks.




A photograph of Westaway, Pilton, was recently featured in the 'property for sale' section of the North Devon Journal. It is situated behind the tall garden wall, on the right, when approaching the traffic lights by North Devon Hospital. It was formerly one of the Bassett estates.

It wasn't the price tag that motivated me but the porch covering the main entrance. I visited Westaway some years ago and remember the porch decorated with initial plaques of the Berry family, identical to those surviving in Berry today. In 1889, following a fire in part of our old Manor House, the porch was dismantled and rebuilt at Westaway. I have also read 'To that place also were taken the arms of Plantagenet and Bonville and other families, with carved work'.

The stones shields either side of the lower windows of the the Manor Hall, reading from left to right : IBHB

The Name Berrynarbor is derived from:

  1. HEORTS BURH - Heort's farm of homestead. It is an old English name from the Bronze/Iron Age people who lived here - the ancient Devonshire DUMNONII tribe. He must have been an important or remarkable man for his name to survive down through the ages. It is interesting to note that cremated human bones were excavated about 1840 from one of the 9 round barrows located in the Century Lane- Berry Down, area. The bones were covered with an inverted clay pot decorated in the style of the Celtic Beaker People. Thankfully, now these burial mounds are protected from being ploughed out.

    Heort was probably familiar with the ancient white, ceremonial standing stones erected at Stonelands, now called Maddox Down, on Long Lane. Sadly, the last surviving stone was shattered by lightning not very long ago. I think it's fitting that our famous parishioner, Damien Hirst, has placed two large white stones at the entrance to his home at Yellaton Farm. Michael Johns dug them out of a neighbouring field with his digger!

  2. HURTESBURY - in Saxon times. Before 1066 it belonged to Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor. William gave it to Walter of Douai following the conquest.

  3. HURTSBURY, BERIE, BYRIE, BURY - early Norman spellings.

  4. BERRY YN ARBOR - BERRYNERBERT - Welsh and Norman

  5. Relating to Phillip and William de Nerbert = Narbeth, the ancient county town of Pembrokeshire. Yn Arbor was its old Welsh name which translates to 'by or near the trees'. Nerbert was the Normanised version.

Edith Penn Curzon
[From the Manor Hall]

There is quite a long list of Knights holding our Manors, either in their own right or from another person or in the honour of various religious establishments [the feudal system in action]. This is not surprising considering the life span of an active knight was about 30 years. It is feasible that many arrived from Pembrokeshire. Historians all agree that access to the South West from the rest of England was very difficult over land. In Pembrokeshire the Knights Templar had built hospitals or hostelries at Slebech and Templeton, where knights returning from the crusades or disturbances in France [sounds familiar!] could rest and heal.

When recovered they would make a pilgrimage to St. Davids to restore their souls. They then needed to get literally fighting fit again and find somewhere to invest their spoils of war. Travel through Wales was very dangerous as the Welsh were far from subdued. A ship from Milford Haven or Tenby would have been the easier option. As there was a jousting school, for training and practice at Pilton [see The Knights of Raleigh by Pat Barrow], Barnstaple would have been a convenient destination.

Perhaps it was by this route that the knight Ralph and his son Richard arrived in Berrynarbor in the early 13th century. Ralph took the name Berry as a surname [various spellings]. His descendants survived here for 500 years through the reigns of 17 monarchs and off-spring can still be found in the area today. They would have benefited from the growth of the lucrative wool trade. They replaced the old Saxon Manor House with a much grander one built in stone in medieval times which they decorated with rich carvings. They oversaw the change from the old feudal system and the Saxon method of open-strip farming by enclosing smaller fields with hedges. They encouraged the rights of yeoman farmers. In 1540 they witnessed the building of the new church tower.

They were both Catholics and Royalists, not always the safest of choices. In 1641 Richard Berry Esq., John Sampson and John Humphrey did not assent to the Oath of Protestation [a public oath supporting the Protestant religion in England]. 127 men in the parish did - women didn't get the option! And Bishop Jewel must have turned in his grave.

His Royalist sympathies would have put him in a peculiar position during the Civil Wars, 1642-46. The majority of people in the South West supported Parliament, so he probably kept his head down. On the other hand, was he involved in the skirmish at Stonelands, which involved Colonel Maddox? The Royalists were chased to East Down where some took sanctuary in the church. Local people remembered the Colonel's efforts by renaming Stonelands as Maddox Down.

1861 drawing of the Manor House

Under the stewardship of the Berry family, Berry Narbor flourished and grew. In 1708 Thomas Berry died without an heir. His estate was sold to Colonel Bassett of Heanton. They probably put a bailiff here, but never lived here themselves. They enlarged the estate by buying out most of the freeholders in Berry.

Subsequently Francis Bassett, the last of the line, died and his wife's nephew - Davey of Northam - inherited and took the name Bassett in compliance to his uncle's will. It was Joseph Davey Bassett who built Watermouth Castle which was completed about 1850 and is so well maintained by the Haines family today. By now the Manor House in the Old Court had been stripped and local families were renting it. The 1861 drawing, which we own, shows it in its dying years. Soon part of it will be ravaged by fire.

The East wing was rebuilt as a large hall which the parishioners were allowed to use for meetings and social functions. Previously the Old Temperance Hall had been used, the remains of which still stand in the grounds of Orchard House.

The Bassett's lived in Berrynarbor for just three generations. It was the incident of the ferris wheel and a very expensive law suit that was probably the reason. The estate was sold off in the 1920's. Funnily enough, many local people bought their own farms - what goes around, comes around!

What appear to be spaces for missing decorations on the Manor Hall
Diamond shape to the left and square frame to the right.

The Old Court and its new Manor Hall was purchased by BerryNarbor parishioners in about 1946. I'm not sure if the Parish Room was included. This was made possible with a loan from Alderman Fred Richards. Lizzie Toms was one of the first trustees, but I'm not sure who else. Local men set-to and built a skittle alley where the Bassett Room now stands.

For about a century, Edith Penn Curzon has been a silent witness to concerts, whist drives, dances, public meetings, lively political meetings, harvest suppers, the Parish children's Christmas party, play schools, youth club, dramatic productions, Revels, the W.I., jumble sales, the Horticultural Show, farmers' markets and recently school lessons, private functions, exhibitions, keep fit and craft classes.

Coincidentally, Edith's son Charles Penn Curzon went to Pembrokeshire in the 1920's to invest in the fishing fleet at Milford Haven. He built a lovely new house on a small estate in Hakin and called it Westaway. My father left Berrynarbor, aged 19, as his gardener. I was born a stone's throw away from Westaway.

Next time you visit the Manor Hall, glance up at the Berry Family Plaques and remember it was they who sculpted and nurtured the unique agricultural landscape we enjoy today.




When walking in the Sterridge Valley, do you stop on Riversdale Bridge and watch the stream gush over the rock-step to the pool below? Even when not in spate, the power of this tiny waterfall is quite awesome.

In these difficult times, do you wonder why water-power is ignored as a source of energy? We have plenty of rainfall feeding our rivers and streams. Surely, small unobtrusive turbines along the length of our stream would go a fair way to supplying our local electrical needs.

There are many streams and rivers in North Devon which over the centuries have driven water wheels, benefiting the welfare and industry of local people.

Our own little stream, which rises above Ettiford Farm and is fed by several tributaries on its way to Watermouth, powered at least three mills along its course. I also know of three farms, and suspect that there were more, that used their own waterwheels for 'drashing', milling their corn and shearing sheep. One at Stowford, another at Wheel Farm and Uncle Jimmy, Ivan and Bill Huxtable were still using theirs at Woolscott in the 1950's. The alternative was horse power in a 'round house'. A lovely example can be seen from the road at Widmouth Farm.

I don't know how old our mills are. They were not listed in the Domesday Returns 1085. We know the Normans were master builders in stone and as the country settled down under their control, the old Saxon wooden buildings would have been replaced in stone. Hele Mill, according to an ancient deed, was operating in the early 1300's in the reign of Edward III. As our own Manor House, sometimes referred to as 'The Old Court' was built about this time, when the Berry family was established here, it is feasible to assume that Berry Corn Mill was built at the same time. Also, with the coming of the Normans, the sparse rural population of North Devon in Saxon times, expanded. The growth of the cloth trade gave farmers a market for their wool. More and more pasture fields were being created by clearing woodland.

Whereas previously local people would card, spin, weave and tuck cloth for their own needs, they were now making cloth for a wider and lucrative market. Because our 'roads' were no more than rough, ancient, ridgeway tracks, most of the cloth was exported from Barnstaple and Bideford by ship.

Tucking is an old Devonshire word for processing woven cloth. Elsewhere it was known as 'fulling'. Lengths of cloth were soaked in vats or urine to shrink it. Next it was trodden by foot to raise a close nap on the surface. Finally it was washed and hung out to dry in the 'Tucking Meadows'. With the growth of the cloth trade, this process was soon being performed by 'tucking mills'.

Of our three mills, I think Harper's Mill would have been a tucking mill. It lacks the tall stature of a corn mill and its enclosed position, at the head of a steep valley, doesn't lend itself to dealing with long lengths of timber.

I have read that where there was a tucking mill, a family of Tuckers lived nearby. 'Tucker' is a Devonshire, occupational surname, e.g. Richard le Tourkere recorded in Kentisbury in 1332 - so I went searching!

I found the Tooker family well established in the 1500's suggesting a much earlier settlement here. Several were church wardens which indicates that they were educated and held in high esteem by fellow parishioners - take a look at the plaque on the lych-gate commemorating its reconstruction in 1671. It records George Westcott [Rector], Thomas Tucker and John Reed [church wardens]. N.B. John Reed farmed at Ruggaton.

The Tuckers were yeomen farmers. Men who owned and worked their own land. They paid tax to the Crown, 1/10th of their income in tithes to the church and were beholden to the lord of the manor to serve as foot soldiers in troubled times. One branch of the family farmed at Bowden - '1706 Dorethy daughter of John Tucker of Booden was Christened'. It is possible that this family followed the Jewell's occupation of Booden. They would have been familiar with the Bowden Farm Screen! My father always referred to the farm as Booden.

Berry Corn Mill is a special place to me. I write this in memory of a remarkable woman, Jan Dyer, my 3 x great grandmother who worked the mill in the 1840's and '50's. She lost her husband John soon after taking over the mill, then her eldest son died. She soldiered on, raising her family and keeping the mill going with hired help. Her daughter Mary Ann married Benjamin Richards of Hammonds Farm in 1843. All the many descendants of that union share her genes with me.

The last miller at Berry Mill was Ernest Smith. The photo shown here belongs to his grandson Robin Kiff. Robin's mother, Evelyn, would be one of the children near the water wheel.




Bobby and Scat [1964]

Scat, as he was affectionately known, never succumbed to mechanised farming. Everything was done by man and horse power.

He was very fond of little children and always found time for a natter. Our boys loved to feed bread to the glennies [guinea fowl]. They perched on top of the farm gate and set off an awful rattle when anyone approached.

On New Year's Eve, Scat would keep up an old local tradition by carrying a faggot of wood, on his pony, from Rowes to The Globe. At the stroke of midnight, it was placed on the dying embers in the Kitchen Bar to light in the New Year. When the bells finished ringing,he would lead the gathering with his lovely, clear voice in singing traditional songs.

In spite of his hard physical life and his commitment to nursing his sick wife for many years, he always had a twinkle in his bright blue eyes and a quick witted sense of humour. Fondly remembered.

Michael and Lorna

The ringers would like to thank everyone involved in providing such a pleasurable evening at the Harvest Thanksgiving and Supper - a simple, meaningful service, good company and lovely food.

The Harvest Supper is an old nationwide country tradition. It brought the whole parish together to celebrate, catch up on news [or gossip] and exchange ideas.

In times past, in Berry, each farmer's wife 'took a table'. She sat at the head of the table and served tea from the family silver teapot which she brought with her. I'm not sure if she provided the food or whether this came on a 'bring and share' basis, as is the case in many surrounding parishes today. [I must ask Ron and Aunty Ivy.]

Before the Manor Hall was available, this would have taken place in the Old Temperance Hall, the ruins of which still stand in the grounds of Orchard House, and would have been part of the original Rectory.




In the June issue, Linda Melhuish was seeking information about the Vaggas [Ackland or Cutcliffe] family and Richard Sloley his Sloley relations. Lorna and Marlene have kindly come up with the following information which makes interesting reading.

"Burial of George, son of George and Sussanna Vaguires 31.8.1761".

The Cutcliffe's were an important family in Berry and Combe Martin and were some time landowners.

From Baptisms:

  • 1550 - Elizabeth daughter of John Cutcliffe
  • 1553 - Johan daughter of John Cutcliffe
  • 1567 - Matthew Cutlie [?] of Yellston [Yellaton Farm]
  • 1568 - Joane Cutlyfe
  • 1571 - Julian Cutleth ye daughter of Robert Cutleth
  • 1572 - Humphrey Cutfly ye son of John Cutley?
  • 4.3.1824 - Elizabeth Richards m. John Cutcliffe

Joyce Songhurst also tells us that her mother, Ivy nee Adams, who lived at Knackers Hole, married Frederick Ackland. I have found a little more information about the Sloley family that Richard, from Tavistock, is researching. Church records show the Sloley family have been in and out of Berrynarbor for a long time.

The farm, I think, is an ancient homestead. Like Hammonds and Chichesters [next door and opposite] it seems to have taken the name of ancient occupiers, who probably farmed these places for generations. Until fairly recently, my own Richards family farmed Hammonds for well over a hundred years. Moules Farm has been in the family for over two hundred years through the Draper/Richards line.

In the church records previous to 1746, there are entries where the writing is difficult to read but could be that of the Sloley line. The first clear name is that of Henry Sloley who married Mary Clark on 11.2.1746. In 1752, a Catherine Sloley died.

The 1861 census records:

    William Sloley   HeadAged 44   Cattleman on farm   born Berry
    Ann SloleyWifeAged 44born Berry
    Mable A.Daughter   Aged 9born Berry
    Richard J.SonAged 7born Berry
    AlfredSonAged 5born Berry
    EdithDaughterAged 3born Berry
    WilliamSonAged 1born Berry

The inscription on the grave near the top gate in the churchyard reads: "In loving memory of William Sloley died Sept 1946 aged 90".* The dates do not tally with the census, but census record dates were not always correct. This William Sloley was Bet Richards grandfather and her father was called Alfred. Alfred's brother moved to near Tavistock.


Richard has confirmed that the Sloley who moved to Tavistock was his great-grandfather, Dick. He remembers him as a small child as a very tall, former Royal Marine. Marlene, Ivy White's daughter, also has connections with the Sloley family. From her research:

William and Ann's Diamond Wedding was recorded in the North Devon Journal on 16th May, 1940:

William died in September 1946 and Ann in January 1949. 61 The Village is where Bet Brooks lives today.

William's sister, Mary Ann, married Charles Harding Huxtable and their daughter, Rosie, married Fred Bray. Their daughter was Ivy White who was my mother. So, William Sloley was my Great Great Uncle!




Our website has, over the last few years, attracted people who are researching their family trees and who know their ancestors were born, lived or are buried here in our village. Thanks to Lorna, it has been possible to help them in their quest.

One recent enquiry came from Helen Lawrence in South Wales who was 'Looking for Leworthy's' as reported in the August 2008 Newsletter.

Once again Lorna has come up trumps and a wealth of information has been sent to Helen:

Betsy and her Donkeys at Watermouth
[from the Tom Bartlett Collection]

The known story starts with John Leworthy, the son of Thomas and Grace born in 1841 and very probably the great-grandson of Thomas and Prudence Leworthy who were married before 1770. In fact it was Betsy Willis, John's colourful wife from Combe Martin, who inspired the stories my grandfather told me when a child. Betsy Lewrdy [local dialect] and her donkeys were quite famous throughout the area.

John married Betsy in the 1860's. He was a blacksmith journeyman and she owned a coal yard business. She used her donkeys to cart coal from Watermouth, where the Welsh colliers landed, back to Berry. When not carting coal, she would ferry Victorian visitors around the BerryNarbor lanes and beyond - quite an entrepreneur!

There could have been several children but I only know of their son, Alfred Richard Leworthy. He was born in 1866 and married Annie, the daughter of John Rook, in 1887. He was head gardener to the Bassets on their Watermouth Estate. They lived in the Manor Cottage which was probably built as a dower house for the Manor. Their first child, also called Annie, lived in the cottage all her life although she told me she had been born in what is now the Men's Institute Room in the Manor House.

I've always understood that John and Betsy lived in the Manor House which had been deserted by the Bassets. Sadly, there are no Leworthys in the village today. After at least 250 years, I can think of no one of the blood line living here. The only representative of the family is Alice Dummett, wife of the late Leonard Dummett, who still lives in Wood Park. There are, however, many descendants of Louisa and William, two of Annie's siblings, living in Combe Martin and Ilfracombe.


* With lots of help from John Tossell and Jenny Stuckey [great-great-great grandchildren of Thomas and Grace Leworthy] and the late Ivy White.

More recently, Linda Melhuish from Bath, Ontario, Canada, e-mailed:

Although information can be found on the 1851, 1871, 1881 and 1891 census records, is there anyone descended from the family that can help Linda personally? If you can, please contact me on [01271] 883544.

Unbelievably, whilst typing this another e-mail has come in! It reads:

Once again, if anyone can help Richard please contact me on [01271] 883544 or e-mail me on



Originally from Sussex, the family bred many heroic sons. Sir Richard de Chichester accompanied Richard Coeur de Lion on his crusades 1189-1199. His descendant, Roger Chichester, was knighted at the Siege of Calais 4.9.1346 by Edward III and was mentioned at the battle of Poitiers 19.9.1356.

The family arrived in North Devon when Roger's son, Sir John Chichester, married Thomasina Raleigh of Raleigh Manor, Pilton, in 1385. From this union descended different branches of the family, many of whom held high office, including High Sheriff of Devon. His own son, Sir John, was named in the list of lances in the retinue of Seur de Harington at Agincourt 1415 - Henry V.

In modern times, we are familiar with the exploits of Sir Francis Chichester and Gypsy Moth, of the Youlston Park family who is buried in Shirwell churchyard. Rosalie Chichester of Arlington was the last of her family and left her estate to the National Trust in 1949.

The little farm in BerryNarbor named 'Chichesters' [Easter Court] opposite Hammonds Farm,possibly derived its name from

[25.10.1674 - 1714]

[1714 - 1735]

Edward was Henry's second son and was 27 when he succeeded his father. Between them, they held the living for 61 years.

In 1727, Edward received a questionnaire from the Dean of Exeter which asked every parson in the diocese to complete a 'terrier' or report on his church and lands, including the nature of his tithes.

The original rectory stood somewhere behind Rectory Cottage [Wild Violets]. Joyce and Gary have a photocopy of the old terrier but the original had been torn and damaged and made little sense. They kindly let me have a go at deciphering it and after much pen sucking and head scratching, it came together, giving a fascinating picture of life in Berry 300 years ago.

It is too long to copy verbatim so I shall try and precis the contents although I shall copy entry 35 as written, because it gives an insight of a man with a 'modern' outlook but being aware of the need to manage and conserve the land of which he was custodian.

"Ye timber to ye parsonage is very considerable, ye present incumbent having been obliged to take down ye greater part thereof for ye necessary repairs of his house, much dilapidated at his first coming to it and erecting ye edifice as mentioned above* but in ye room he has planted a walk of trees in a field leading up to ye church called Oakland to ye number of fifty and about twenty ash; plants around ye churchyard and other plants of ye Globe, which are all in a flourishing condition."

*The edifice mentioned was 'an Anti-Hall which is floored with Bristol slate over which is a chamber floored with deal built by ye present incumbent from that harvested." He also built new stables and a Necessary House covered with Berry flatstone.

Edward's 'walk of trees' still lined the footpath across Little Oaklands in the 1980's. The powers that be deemed that they were dying of heart-rot and cut them down. After felling, it was proved that only one ash was affected, the others were perfectly healthy - a sad day.

The parsonage appears to have been as large as the original Manor House. On the ground floor was the anti-hall, little parlour, great parlour, 4 chambers, the stair plot and little room, kitchen, larder, pantry, dairy, a brew house, ale house, a chamber for keeping apples and wool, a malt house chamber and 4 cellars. Upstairs there were 6 chambers.

The doors were wainscoted, the walls all built of stone except the little parlour which was cob. "Ye house is rough casted after a handsome manner, covered with Berry slate stone". The malt house was thatched. All the rooms were clay [presumably plastered] except for the kitchen.

Around the parsonage were many outhouses including "a gate house with a chamber above", a pound house [could be round house], a barn, stables, a cow shipping, a dove house and 4 thatched pigs' houses.

"There are seven little orchards containing about 2 acres of land, some made by ye pore, some made by ye present incumbent viz Ye Easter Orchard, Ye Alder Park, Longmeadow, Rockhill. Barn(?), Little Meadow and Kitchen Orchard." He made two little walled gardens adjoining the house and also "Ye Kitchen Gardens taken out of ye bottom of a field called Oakland containing about half of one acre of land". This lovely old garden went on to provide for subsequent clergy including those later housed in the grand, new Victorian Rectory. It was still a very productive garden in the 1960's when Les Bowen's parents worked it for their market garden business. All that remains now is the crumbling wall and a lone pear tree defiantly displaying a wealth of beautiful blossom.

The Parsonage land totalled about 76 acres, some as far afield as Bitadon and Combe Martin. The large fields are named and familiar to us, such as "Peter's Meadow containing two acres and eight yards, bounded on ye west with a river and a meadow in ye possession of William Vellacott, on ye north with a little meadow of hempland in ye tenure of John Gold and a hempland in ye tenure of John Hicks and another part with Centuryland; which said meadow is watered with ye water yt runs from Berry Town."

The channels for this water are still visible following the contours at the top of Peter's Meadow. It was known in my family as the Water Meadow. I don't know what the term centuryland means - it could possibly mean the Parish Road or any land not belonging to the church.

There are many little unnamed meadow and closes listed, quite a few of which are hemp or hopland. Hemp was used to make rope and string and needed soaking or retting when harvested. "There belongs to this Parsonage two Hemp Pools, one of ye lower end of Oakland and Little Oakland, ye other at ye lower end of ye little meadow next the house" Hops were quite common in the hedgerows when I was a child.

Much of the land was occupied by tenants, but the land around the Parsonage, Edward farmed to provide for his own household.

Besides land, the Parsonage owned [1] a dwelling house of a hall and 2 chambers with a 2 acre close bounded by a little river, 2 orchards, the highway and Peter's Meadow - possibly Bet and Kevin Brooks' cottage. [2] A little thatched house adjoining the Church House [right hand side of the Lych Gate] containing 1 under room and a chamber having 2 little gardens - still there in 1861.

Church Fees

  1. Easter Offering 16 yrs + 2d. A tradesman 6d.
  2. Marriage by Banns 5s.6d. By licence 5s.
  3. Churching a Woman after childbirth 6d.
  4. Nothing for burials
  5. Breaking a grave in the church 6s.8d.
  6. Leave to make a grave? in the chancel £1.1s.
  7. Mortuaries are paid according to Status
  8. "All tithes are due to ye Rector, in kind if he pleases to take them so"

The parishioners repair the church and churchyard fences. "Ye minister ye chancel which is handsomely ceiled overhead by the present incumbent."

"The Clerks wage is £3 per annum, the Sextons 10s, paid by the Parishioners but appointed by the Rector."

John Hicks was Churchwarden.


  • The Knights of Raleigh Manor - Pat Barrow
  • History of Georgeham - Lois Lamplugh


  1. The cutting through Rockhill had not been made.
  2. I think Orchard House was built on the site of an old building.
  3. The Temperance Hall - still standing - was probably the barn belonging to the Parsonage. It was still being used for social and meetings when Aunty Lorna was a child.

Illustrations by: Peter Rothwell

Lorna Bowden
Re. Gary and Joyce Songhurst



The beautiful Sterridge Valley is the upper reaches of a long combe running from Watermouth Harbour southwards to the foot of Hempster Farm. Sterridge officially begins at Riversdale Bridge.

A very ancient parish road runs through the valley, once the way for drovers and pack-horse trains, vending their wares. It was the important link between cottage and farm to the village, church and beyond.

The road has been improved and re-routed in places, probably in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At Rock Hill, a cutting was made through the hill, most likely blasted with gun powder and finished with a lot of 'pick and shovel'! This by-passed the old route around the original Rectory [Wild Violets] and Orchard House.

A new road was made between Lower Rows and Venture Cottage, avoiding the steep rocky lane through Lower Cockhill to Knackershole. The track to Harper's Mill was improved and a new road cut from the mill to Berry Down via Smythen Farm - quite a feat with its steep gradient and hairpin bends. The old road went along Bountice Lane towards Bowden Farm, branching right up along the side of the ridge, through Smythen then on to Hempster and Berry Down.

The meadows along the valley from Saw Mills to Ducky Pool and Riversdale to Harper's Mill were re-enclosed with a new wall, surely using the stone from Rock Hill. Old photographs show this wall quite clearly but sadly, through neglect over the years, some parts have all but disappeared. Saplings root, grow into trees whose roots push out the stones in the wall.

The valley meadows were some of the best meadowland in the Parish. It was always a joy to walk in the spring at lambing time, or watch the hay harvest or try to outstare the lovely Ruby Red Devon Cattle. They were always clear on intrusive weeds but rich in wild flowers, especially the tiny indigenous wild daffodils. With the demise of farming and the fragmentation of farms into the ownership of non-farming families, these meadows are now struggling against the encroachment of bracken, bramble, thistle, hemlock, ragwort and dock. It is heartening to see that some work is being done to redress the problem.

The valley is richly wooded. Ruggaton is a mixed woodland holding a large copse of hazel, a lovely stand of beech and mature wild cherry make a lovely show in spring. Woolscott Cleave was partially felled during the First World War. Besides the 1960's planting of larch and fir, many mature oak, ash and sweet chestnut survive. Smythen wood must contain a fair amount of beech for in autumn it glows like burnished copper. Some small fields which border Smythen Hill are now overgrown with young trees.

Smallacombe is no longer the large, grassy space rising to the horizon. It fell into the category 'too steep to be viable' and has been planted with trees. As much as I love trees and woodland, too much in the wrong place can prove oppressive and enclosing. I hope this new wood doesn't prove to be so.

Along the stream beyond Harper's Mill Bridge, the Bassetts raised pheasant. It is possible the derelict cottage on the road above once housed the gamekeeper.

Most of the larger farms encircle the valley on its surrounding hill. I think as homesteads they are very old even if their buildings are more modern. The Bronze Age tumuli at Berry Down and Lynton Cross are evidence of an old English Settlement in the area. Our two manors are definitely pre-Norman and have OE names, even if they were occupied by Saxons at the time of the Norman Invasion.

Smythen was certainly thriving in 1333 when Thomas de Smethenyston paid 1s 8d tax. The Withie family are recorded in Ruggaton in the 1400's. The family of Bishop Jewel, born at Bowden 1522, certainly didn't give it its name - Bowdens are recorded living in the area in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Harper family [OE hearpere] were well established when Church Records began in 1540. Three Harpers were assessed for goods and in 1641 Richard Harper was taxed £4 on his land. Also in 1641, six Harpers assented to the Oath of Protestation in the reign of Charles I. I think the mill must be as old as the surrounding farms.

Lorna Bowden


[6th March 1904 - 9th January 2006]

Aunty Lorna was born at Widmouth Farm, the third child of Edith and Dick Richards, who was shepherd for Harriet Basset on the Watermouth Estate. When she was two, the family moved to 22 Henton Hill where she spent her childhood, playing in the woods with the numerous other children living on 'the hill'.

No. 24 Henton Hill, 1908

Holding Arch   Florrie Ley & Ada Toms
Under ArchMarjorie Jones & Cecil Toms
Left to rightAlbert Latham, Doris Richards, Fanny Toms, Freda Ley, Lorna Richards, Edie Toms & Polly Latham
WatchingMrs. T. Toms & Leonard, Mrs. Ley & Johnnie, Emily Ley

She loved school at BerryNarbor. At the age of 11 she moved to the Hermitage School in Wilder Road in Ilfracombe, walking via Goosewell, in all weathers, with other village children including her elder brother - my dad.

She thrived on hard work. Apart from the six years of her married life, she worked looking after people and serving the public from the age of 14 to 74, as well as bringing up her little daughter. The last fourteen of these years she worked in the village Post Office for Keith and Margaret Walls and only gave up then because she broke her arm.

Gardening was her favourite hobby and she was turning and tilling the garden at Wood Park until well into her eighties. To most families of her generation, the garden was the main provider of vegetables and fruit but she also created a lovely cottage garden from virgin field with just her energy, a spade and a fork.

Her sense of humour was apparent to all who knew her. There was always a twinkle in her eye and the ability to see the funny side of any situation.

She loved children and children loved her. She spent hours occupying and entertaining my boys and later my grandchildren, who thought the world of her. They never thought of her as an arthritic old lady but their story-teller and playmate.

She has left an inspirational legacy to us all.

Lorna and Margaret

Lorna [with the cake] celebrating the Community Shop's 1st Birthday with Ina and Ron, and Hazel, the newest villager, with her mum Kate

My aunty would want me to mention a special thank you to her friends - Ivy White for her neighbourly kindness especially when she was so poorly with cancer; Mary Tucker who rarely failed to visit her each week and chat for ages; Judith Maunder, her carer, who looked after her so well and Judie for popping in and out and collecting her library books.

Bless you all.




This year, the European Parliament will be voting on the new REACH legislation - REGISTRATION EVALUATION & AUTHORISATION of CHEMICALS - and now is the time for people to get themselves heard, by writing to their M.E.P., urging them to vote to toughen up the legislation, including doing away with the worst chemicals.

Over the past 50 years, 80,000 new kinds of man-made chemicals have been created. As many as 300 of these have been found inside human beings. Unborn babies and animals are affected by their mother's contamination.

I am not a political creature but like the majority, do worry about the way our planet is going. I must admit to being ignorant of how, when and where most of these chemicals are used. A campaign of greater awareness should be forthcoming from those who represent our well being in govemment.

Locally, I am aware and saddened that my grandchildren, unlike their parents, can find no trout in our river, do not see the evening sparkle of glow-worms in the hedgerows or the heron nesting in Ruggaton Wood. Has anyone heard the cuckoo in recent years? Is the hedgehog still about? I've not seen or heard one for three years.

If you are concerned you can write to your M.E.P. demanding a safer future. They are:

  • Con - Mr. Neil Parish, Dr. Caroline Jackson, Mr. Giles Chichester
  • Lab - Mr. Glyn Ford
  • Lib - Mr. Graham Watson
  • UKIP - Mr. Jeffrey Titford, Mr. Tom Wise

and the address is:

    FAO (whoever you are writing to) European Parliament
    Batiment Altiero Spinelli 13G 305
    60 Rue Wiertz

Information has been sourced from The World Wildlife Organisation and Green Peace. I have left the WWF material at the Post Office if you would like to see it.

Lorna Bowden



Claudiu Bichescu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you, like me, look at the above photograph and think - Watermouth Castle? In fact it's Caerhays Castle near St. Austell in Cornwall, where the Williams family have lived for many generations. It featured in a recent edition of the Western Morning News, with an article about the threat of 'sudden oak disease' to the rhododendrons in its beautiful gardens.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that our Castle is so similar. The Bassett family had mining interests in Cornwall and certainly knew the William family. In 1858, Arthur Davie Bassett's daughter, Harriet, married Charles Henry Williams, son of William Williams of Tregullon.

When Arthur Davie inherited his Berrynarbor Estate, he was obliged to change his name to Bassett. He forsook the old Manor House in the village, for the house at Watermouth, which he greatly enlarged in the style of Caerhays, finishing it in the 1850's.

When his son, the Rev. Arthur Crawfurth Bassett died in 1880, Harriet inherited and her husband 'assumed the name of Bassett in lieu of that of Williams' 11/10/1880. Her son Walter died young, leaving the estate to Edith Pencurzon, Harriet's daughter - the lovely portrait in the Manor Hall. When the family fortunes declined, it was she, about 1920, who had the east wing of the castle pulled down.

As a child, friends and I would wander through Northfield Wood and the Castle grounds [as children would and could in those days]. I remember very colourful rhododendrons growing tall and profusely in the wild chaos. The Castle was empty and neglected. We never saw anyone, although we half expected to see the ghost of a child in the Rose Garden. We never did see her, but there was always a definite 'aura' in that place.

On my next trip to Cornwall I should like to visit Caerhays Castle and refresh my memory of the beautiful rhododendrons and see how things may have been at Watermouth.

Lorna B

With help from her Aunt Lorna, 101 years wise on March 6th and still as bright as a button - bless her!



During the 1914-18 war, an appeal went out for pit props to strengthen the trenches. Many people left their farm work to join gangs of wood-fellers during this period. My grandfather, Dick Richards, was one. He worked for Mr. Ellis of Ilfracombe.

Ullscut Clayve [Woolscott Cleave] was cleared and suitable wood was cut into lengths and shipped off to France.

Next they moved to Swimbridge. Nan would pack Grandfer up with enough food for a week - excluding bread and potatoes. Very early on Monday morning, he would walk to Iron Letters, where he was picked up in an early type lorry and taken to lodgings at Swimbridge. They were housed several to a room and probably shared one bed. They returned late on Saturday.

Reading the article about Bert Gear, Aunty Lorna thought he may have worked with her father at this time. [Sadly, this was not the case nor have we been able to track down Yolanda's 'Gears' further. Ed.]

I remember my grandfather as an old man with bright blue twinkling eyes and a peppering of blue spots over the top half of his face.

As a young man, before his marriage in 1898, he was blasting lime rock from a quarry at Sawmills on the Old Coast Road. He lit the fuse which ignited the dynamite sooner than anticipated and he caught the blast in his face.

Lorna B.

Richard John Richards [Dick]


Left to right:

  • Jack Joslyn, who married Ethel Toms and went to Ilfracombe to live.
  • Albert Jones, who married Ivy Trump, was the church verger for many years and lived at Croft Lee.
  • Dick Richards, who lived at 22 Henton Hill.




Narberth Town Hall - Pembrokeshire
Alan Hughes / Narberth Town Hall / CC BY-SA 2.0


What has a quaint, busy little town in mid-Pembrokeshire got to do with us? Well, we inherited its name as part of our own, following the Norman Conquest. ARBERTH was a Welsh settlement before the Romans, Saxons and Vikings invaded our shores. It features as a 'LLYS' [a hall or court of a king] in the 'Mabinogion'. This is a book of magical deeds, myths, tales and legends from ancient Welsh history. ARBERTH is derived from the Welsh word PERTHI meaning 'a slope clothed in bushes or trees'. YN is the Welsh equivalent of AT or IN. Yn Arberth became anglicised to NARBERTH.

In the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the manors and lands of BerryNarbor were granted to Phillip de Nerebert and William Nerbert. In 1196 William Nerbert was in dispute with William de Poniard over certain lands in BerryNarbor, while in Pembrokeshire, in a charter relating to St. David's 1176-1198, a grant was made by William of Narberth - a figure of obvious status. It was during this period that the Domesday name for BerryNarbor - Hurtesbury, was simplified to BURY, BERI, BERY or BYRI [depending on the spelling by various scribes] before gaining the suffix Nerebert [also written in various forms].

Who were these knights? We can only speculate. Why BerryNarbor? Perhaps granted to them for service against the warring Welsh princes, or for brave deeds on Crusade, through inheritance or marriage. Did they ever come here or were they absent landlords?

There was one very famous knight, probably one of the greatest knights of this period [c1146-1219]. He was William Marshall 1st Earl of Pembroke. He married Isobel of the wealthy de Clare family in 1189, so acquiring vast estates in Britain and Ireland. He certainly acquired Narberth! Could he possibly be our William de Nerbert?

Pembrokeshire is a beautiful county. Its coasts are straddled with sandy beaches comparable to those of Cornwall and North Devon. It is steeped in antiquity from prehistory relics to numerous Norman castles. The unpretentious cathedral nestling in its hollow at St. David's would bring solace to any pilgrim, ancient or modern. Should you pass that way, try to visit the little town of Narberth. You will not be disappointed.

Lorna B.



This photograph was taken from the old stone-faced bank, bounding the lane from the Valley to Woolscott. One of the old parish tracks linking farm to farm, village and town.

I've chosen this view because, sadly, it is one that is fast disappearing. The woodland, recently planted on Smallacombe, will curtain this prospect for ever.

Berry Narbor has a beautiful visual aspect, not only due to its quaint cottages, ancient buildings and proud church, but also for its situation in the natural landscape which over thousands of years man has modified to meet his needs.

In the photograph there is plenty of evidence that we were still a nation of gardeners. Many households relying on their garden produce to feed their families.

Tractors and machinery were just coming into common use but the carthorse and pony still played a part in the farming year. People who worked the land still retained the manual skills necessary to maintain a good field system. Keeping the fields clean and in good heart, the hedges, stoned banks and stone wails in good stock-proof order was the sign of good husbandry, of which they were rightly proud and still are.

When hedge growth is allowed to escape into large trees, they shoot up high competing for light. Their roots push out the old ditched banks and stone walls and their shade discourages the rich diversity of hedgerow flowers, indigenous to this area, which need sunlight and space to flourish. And they rob us of the view!

I am sure I'm one of many who have seen the gradual transformation and sympathetic restoration of the old garden at Harper's Mill. Thank you Tim and Tim for the pleasure in watching your labour progress. More power to your elbows!

Lorna B.



The picture on the rear cover of the June issue has stimulated interest and intrigue!

The watercolour card was published by Salmon c 1922, entitled 'Cottage and Roses', and Tom says in his article that H. Hughes Richardson may have made use of an earlier Garratt postcard view c1904 [No. 38] to paint his picture.

Looking closer at the picture, this could well be the case, for with the exception of the bearded gentleman, the pictures are identical, even to the plants growing in the wall and the outline of the trees in the background.

The postcard [No. 37] with the two little girls [reproduced in Tom's June article] was obviously taken at a different time of year since the roses are not in bloom and the trees are leafless. Speculation as to the actual location of the cottage has also been rife, with various suggestions being made.

In his article, Tom says that he believes it is near the bottom of Hagginton Hill, although at one time he was sure it was Whitecote, 33 Pitt Hill. Some agree with this still, whilst others have different ideas.

    Congratulations to the Editor for the June issue No. 84, the colour photographs were lovely and caused considerable interest in our household, as the back cover did look remarkably like Devon Cottage, which is our home on Hagginton Hill.

    As years have gone by, many changes have been made. The wall has been built up and is now covered in ivy, but the wall in the small postcard picture [reproduced above] to the right is still in place, as are the steps - or were they used as a mounting block? as there is a small stable which is out of the picture.

    The lean-to at the southern end of the cottage still remains and is now our kitchen, but we do think at some time in the past small animals were kept there.

    Some artistic licence may have been used as the pink roses in the picture show, because I have tried to plant the same thing without success as there is no earth to use, only hard rock. It would be lovely to have roses round the door to make the cottage complete, but roses don't like containers - any suggestions?

    Finally, when we showed our American friends the stable, they sent back a card from Berrynarbor to the States telling their daughter that one of the rooms in Devon Cottage had a dirt floor!

    Linda Brown - Devon Cottage


    The cottage on the front cover of the last issue of the Newsletter is 29 Henton Hill, the first cottage at the bottom of the hill.

    James Richards built it on a 99-year lease agreement with Squire Bassett, in the years before 1821 when he married Mary Draper of Moules Farm. James took over the tenancy of Moules about 1840, leaving the cottage free for his eldest son, Benjamin Richards, who married Mary Ann Dyer, the miller's daughter, in 1843.

    The cycle repeated itself when Benjamin's eldest son Richard Dyer Richards took up residence with his new bride, Elizabeth Pile, in 1868, following Ben's move to Hammonds Farm. And so it would probably have gone on, but tragically Richard died in 1875, at the age of 26 years, from pneumonia following a soaking in the fields.

    Elizabeth was left a widow, with four young children and a baby on the way. "Granny" Richards lived in the cottage until the lease ran out and it was sold by the Estate. She died in 1936 aged 89 years. They were my great-grandparents whom I share with Johnny Huxtable and Bet Brooks.

    We have always understood that the second cottage - on the rear cover - is Whitecote, and the old man siting on the wall was Will Richards. If it is Whitecote, the children in the other view would be the Toms children who were photographed playing 'oranges and lemons' on Henton Hill where they lived prior to this time.

    Pastel drawing of Richard Dyer-Richards probably done after his death from a photo of his wedding in 1868.

    A wedding photo of Granny Richards 1868.

    Granny Richards c1876/7 with Richard, Polly, Ernest and Benjamin

    An early postcard view of cottages on Henton Hill

    Lorna Bowden

My thanks to Lorna for including these lovely old photographs. Due to age they do not reproduce well and apologies to readers if the quality is poor.



Tom's postcard view of Bowden's, South Lee Farm set us reminiscing about Uncle Will Bowden. He was a tall, kindly gentleman with smiling, brilliant blue eyes. He farmed the Glebe and South Lee from 1899 to 1965, when he died aged 86 years.

Born at Rows Farm in 1878, he moved to South Lee with his new wife Blanche Brooks in 1889. Tragically she died the following year, aged 19 years and twelve days after giving birth to his only child, Blanche. His second wife, Florence Watts, would have been the lady who plied visitors with her cream teas. She also died at an early age. Will was in his seventies when he married his third wife, Evelyn.

What I find fascinating is that he was related to every Bowden and Richards [through mother Mary Richards] in the parish.

  • His father Joseph farmed Sloley.
  • At Hammonds was cousin Ben Richards [jun.]
  • At Moules was cousin Jack Richards and sons Ronald and Ivor.
  • At East Hagginton [Henton] was uncle Tom Richards and his son Bert.
  • At Cockhill was sister Alma and husband John Huxtable.
  • At Lydford was niece Ettie Bowden and husband Bert Watts.
  • At Higher Rows his brother James [Jimmy].
  • At Lower Rows, and later Ruggaton, his brother Samuel.
  • At Newberry his uncle William Richards.

The Blacksmith, Sam Harding, was married to his cousin Ellen Richards. All the Draper family were also related through his grandmother Mary Richards [nee Draper].

I think a D and A test of all the indigenous stock of Berrynarbor would come up with some very interesting results!!

A house with trees around it

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Bowden's South Lea Farm, Berrynarbor

Edward Bowden [1680] m. Thomasin Dennis, February 1703
John Bowden [1717] m Mary Norman, May 28th 1744
John Bowden [1745] m Elizabeth Hartnoll, October 10th 1779
John Bowden m Sarah Grimshare, March 28th 1812
Joseph Bowden [1836] m Mary Richards, April 2nd 1859
William Henry Bowden [1778] & William's Brother Samuel Bowden
Leonard Bowden
Michael Bowden
Bobby, Christopher, Richard
| | |
Samuel & Anna, Christopher & Jonathan, Thomas & Tyler

James Bowden and his wife Mary [nee Tucker] at Higher Rows


James Bowden with his son Lyster delivering milk and sweeping hay

William and his third wife, Evelyn, on their wedding day. Blanche and her husband, Sidney Dummett, are on the right.

Lorna B.



The evening with the Elderly Brothers in January was a great success and congratulations to Jane Jones [contestant No. 2] who fought off stiff opposition to become the latest Miss Benynarbor, 2003 fashion!

Memories were stirred of previous occasions and the following photograph in a paper cutting from the North Devon Journal of 28th September 1989, was sent in by Bobbie Hacker - thanks Bobbie.

    "This line-up takes us back to September 1957, when the tiny village of Berrynarbor staged its own competition at a dance in the Manor Hall. Winner was 15-year-old llfracombe schoolgirl, Yvonne Richards of Moules Farm, Berrynarbor, surrounded here by her smiling rivals - all 12 of them. It was indeed an impressive entry."

Miss Berrynarbor, 2003

1957 - Reprinted with thanks to Graham Andrews and the North Devon Journal

Following the very enjoyable village dance in January, thanks to Gary and Neil and their supporters, I thought the following photographs would be a little tribute to those of earlier times.

From about 1950, each village organisation held a dance every Tuesday evening from mid June to the end of August. They engaged Denzil Butler and his three-piece band, whose versatility ranged through the waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, square tango, barn dance, valeta, dashing white sergeant, heel-toe polka, military two step, gay gordons, etc. - you say it, they'd play it, including the rock and roll beats of the early sixties, when Gerald [Nipper] Bray would clear the floor with his jiving routines!

The two busiest weeks of the summer were reserved for the Miss Berrynarbor and Mrs. Berrynarbor competitions. Everyone paying admittance was given a voting slip and each entrant had a number card. The decision was made by popular vote which stimulated some banter between the locals and visitors!

The hall, tatty by modern standards, was decked with flags, bunting and flowers. The rough planked floor was doused with French chalk. The chairs were lined around the walls and tea, sandwiches, sponge cake and cut-rounds with jam and real cream were on offer during the interval.

The MC was usually young Claude Richards [Claude's Garden] or Percy Thomas, whose command and usage of the English language left me in awe!

Came 12 0'clock, the lanes of Berry rang with the cheerful laughter of 'vox' making their way home or to their lodgings.

Dedicated to my aunt, Miss Muriel Richards, village teacher for forty years and one of the band of dedicated workers who made these events possible. She had the foresight to collect and preserve so many photographs which are part of our heritage.

Lorna's Memories

This second photograph of 1957 shows the Manor Hall full of familiar faces, sadly not recognisable printed at this size, and decorated with bunting. Only 3 of the contestants were 'local': Yvonne in the centre with Lorna Richards [now Bowden] on her right, and three to her left, the late Rita Smith.

This final photograph, taken it is believed about 1956/57, shows the newly crowned Mrs. Berrynarbor, Sylvia Berry, with [from left to right], Sonia Stoddart [Duckett], Helena Graves, Mr. Ward, Elaine Crighton [now Fanner], Muriel Richards and Rita Smith.

Lorna Bowden


A Prayer for the Stressed

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I cannot accept, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those I had to kill today because they got on my nerves, and also help me to be careful of the toes I step on today as they may be connected to the feet I may have to kiss tomorrow.

Help me always give 100% at work: 12% on Monday, 23% on Tuesday, 40% on Wednesday, 20% on Thursday and 5% on Friday.

And help me to remember ... When I'm having a bad day and it seems that people are trying to wind me up, it takes 42 muscles to frown, 28 to smile and only 4 to extend my arm and smack someone in the mouth!

Given to me by a good friend during a particularly busy time at work.

Lorna Bowden



Following the War, the Association was formed to raise funds to provide a Christmas Party for the children of the Parish, including those school children who came in every day from East Down.

A hardworking committee of parents and grandparents, aunties and uncles, organised funfairs, dances, whist drives and jumble sales. The proceeds from these bought every child a present, a slap-up jelly and cake tea - including the traditional cut-rounds, jam and clotted cream and plenty of prizes for the following fun and games.

These photos of Christmas Parties Past, are from the collection of my late Aunt, Muriel Richards. 

The first photograph the Boys! - was taken 1949/50 and shows, left to right, Theodore and Malcolm Chalmer [twins], Michael Bowden, John Vallance, Charles Leigh, Henry Hill?, Bill Huxtable and Richard Armstead. Seated in the background are Vera Newton and Doreen Spear, and standing, Victor Harding and his wife.

The second photograph, probably 1951/2, shows standing: Fred Richards and his family - his son Claud holding his granddaughter Cheryl [Layton], his daughter Vera Sidebottom with John, his daughter Brenda Layton and his daughter Noel Richards. Standing on the end is Ivy Richards. Seated in front are: Marlene Bray, ? Adams, Janet Harris, Eileen and Gordon Stanbury, Billy Brown and Michael Warburton. Behind Fred are Brian Smyth and Ronald Cook.

The picture above shows Muriel cutting the cake at a Christmas Party in the 1950's. To the left seated are: ?, John Sledman, Raymond Thorne, Larry Bray, Nicholas Crighton, with Chris Smallridge behind. Standing, L to R: ?, Michael Mitcham, Linda Thorne, and Jennifer Stuckey. Behind them are: unknown small boy, Lorna Sledman [nee Draper] holding ? Butcher, me [Lorna] in my pinnie, and Pamela Thorne [Brookman]. At the very back are Heather Jones and Lilly Huxtable [nee Richards]. To Muriel's right are: seated ?, ?, Cheryl Layton and Alastair Crighton. Standing: Ivy Richards with Yvonne, Phyllis Dummett, Brenda Layton with Michael Richards and Rita Smith.

[If anyone can help with the dates, the '?'s' and any other information, it would be lovely to hear from you. Please get in touch with Lorna or Judie. Thank you.]

Lorna Bowden



There is nothing new about our weather extremes as the following excerpts, kindly extracted by Lorna Bowden from The Lost Chronicle of Barnstaple 1586-1611, Adam Wyatt, Town Clerk, show.

  • 1586 - "On Michaelmas eve this year the weather being very fowle, ther arose such a tempest of winde, that it made the water at the kay so arise, that they, that were upon the kay and saw it, could not see the marsh: it went upward and ripped diverse houses between Mr. Wourths lane and the fish-shambles, and so in that breadth in it went east through the towne blowing downe much covering of houses: it was 4 of the clock in the afternoone. "
  • 1587 - May "little or no raine hath fallen for vi or viii weeks"
    August "plenty of new corn" - good summer
  • 1588 - "Fine weather in March" Autumn "continual rain"
  • 1589 - March "About this time a great wain of rain - none in vi weeks"
  • 1590 - Good summer "masers [mazzards] and cherries very plenty: diverse have cut corn before St. James Day [25 July]. Harvest ended in many places midst August". PLAGUE RIFE
  • 1591 - "watchmen continually to prevent suspected folks of the plague from coming into town."
  • 1592 - Good weather "corn is viiid a bushel"
  • 1593 - "... long drieth this yere", But "later end of September the river at Bradiford was frozen over"
  • 1594 - "Rain and violent winds every day in March, the shyppying cod. not go to Newfoundland or Rochelle or those at Rochelle come home"
  • 1595 - "By reason of rayn and foul weather wheat is viiiis a bushel"
  • 1596 - "All this May has not been a dry day and night" August: "By reason of the continual rain there is a great leare of all sorts of corn. wheat xis a bushel" Before Christmas: "continual rain day and night"
  • 1597 - "now in July by reason of continual rain wheat sold for xxs a bushel"
  • 1599 - "A better Harvest never heard of than this. wheat iiis iiiid"
    "xiiii December this year a violent tempest of wynde"
  • 1601 - xiiii day of December at night some of the castle wall was blown down and blown into the castle"
  • 1602 - "Great Thunder and lightenynge in June the beacon of Mattynhoe was brent"
  • 1606 - Tuesday 20th January "a very great floud - damage £1,000 - water came up in Southgate Street above the pump to the higher end of Thomas Harris house, and in Wilstreet upp that way untill the widow Taylors window, it come to Appleys fore door and run out thro the house into the garden there and made great spoyle. The water flowd up more than halfway Mayden Street and then went into there houses. also it came upp at the lower end of Crockstreet [Cross Street] so far Mr Takles hall door. The Tombestone on the Kaye was covered clene over with water by report it was higher by v or vi foote than ever remembred by those now livinge."
  • 1607 - "about fortnight before Xmas began the hard frost wch continue v weeks - the victuals bought in the market was so frosen it would take no salt. The cold meat after it was dressed and kept one night was so hard that it could not be cut to be eaten for I had a piece of beef that was roasted the Day before New Years day and kep untill the thursday following and then I was driven to take a spit and put the end there of into the fire and heat it redd hot and so got him in the flesh and new rosted it by the space of an hour and half before it was thorough hot and then used the same"
    "On Tuesday being the 19th day of may between sixe and seven of the clock in the forenoon ther was a little earth-quake perceived and seen within this towne that both the earth and houses did quiver and shake, for a small time, yet no hurt done."

Lorna Bowden



In 1921, Mr. and Mrs. Parry and their daughter, Joyce, came to live at Beech Lee. Mr. Parry was a retired army chaplain, who found Mr. Churchill's ministry at Berrynarbor far too 'low' for his taste. Each Sunday he worshipped at Combe Martin Parish Church.

Early one Easter Sunday morning, he set off on his motor cycle to attend the 8.00 a.m. service. As he rode along Barton Lane, approaching the entrance to Home Barton Lane, he saw some people walking in the road. They were dressed in long, hooded cloaks. He slowed down to avoid a collision and was amazed to see the figures fade into thin air.

Being a 'man of the cloth', his account of this strange incident was taken seriously, especially when Miss Thomas, the church organist, had a similar experience on the site of her new bungalow, being built in Barton Lane. Such was the impression of this ghostly encounter upon her, that she named her new home 'Monk's Path'.

Not many years ago, a family of visitors were driving down Hagginton Hill, when a hooded figure suddenly appeared in front of the car. Badly shaken, the driver got out of the car, convinced he had knocked someone down. He found nothing - the figure had, yet again, mysteriously disappeared.

During my childhood there was a well-established path which bypassed the village. It cut across Pugsley's Meadow, from the gate on Pitt Hill, across Birdswell Lane, over the field and into Barton Lane. The monks were obviously as familiar with this path as I was!

Footnote: Mr. Churchill was succeeded by the Rev. Hignell, who was of a 'higher' persuasion. Soon the simple bare altar table of Mr. Churchill's days was covered with a fine altar cloth and adorned with a lovely new cross, presented by Mrs. Parry. Mr. Churchill had been guardian of his flock for half a century and old habits die hard. Many parishioners were not impressed and some never set foot in church again.

Memories of Aunty Lorna - 95 years lovely on the 6th March.

Lorna Bowden



Tom's article in the February Newsletter stirred memories and it was lovely to hear from Audrey Tucker and family. Audrey writes, "We were so pleased to see the photograph of, as we knew it, 68 Sterridge Valley, the home of our grandparents, Thomas and Bessie Toms. We used to walk there from school to have lunch with them, as with the limited time, it was nearer than No. 8 Goosewell our home.

"We remember our grandfather and Uncle Walter working the big garden behind and at the side of the house, and right at the very end, next to the Street's house [now Vi Kingdon's], they kept poultry for fresh eggs.

"Bali Hai [Eunice and Bernard Allen's] was built on all the garden, and in the hedge dividing the garden from the field, double daffodils would appear - no one knew how they got there!

"Mr. Dan Jones lived at Riversdale and the cottage in the middle had a number of residents, namely Gilbert Dyer, Mr. and Mrs. George Johnson and Miss Jones, a school teacher at Hereford House, Ilfracombe. Miss Jones painted a beautiful picture of our grandmother stood at her front door - they used it as a summer holiday cottage.

"We used to collect water from the tap on the opposite side of the road, by the side of which was a large, mock orange tree, and the perfume was overpowering! To the side was a small garden which we entered by a little gate in the road, and down at the very end, by the stream, was an earth toilet. Further up the road, adjoining this garden, was another small building, which was our grandfather's tool shed. This has all gone now, but happy memories.

"Further along the road, going towards the village, was my grandfather's place of work - Mr. Ellis's sawmills. The four terraced houses, always known as the 'council houses', are built there now. Our Uncle Leonard used to drive the steam engine to work belts for sawing the wood, and there was a dear old gentleman, Alf Brooks, who worked at the sawyard. We children spent many a happy hour watching this working being done. Our father, Jack Joslin, together with Albert Jones and Dick Richards [Lorna Price's father], used to fell timber for Ellis, going away on Monday mornings and arriving home on Friday nights."

[Thank you for sharing your memories. We do hope that Mildred's health continues to improve and that you will all be able to visit the village again before too long.]

Ivy White and her daughter, Marlene, have thrown light on the mystery building adjacent to Riversdale. It is believed that the original 'Bridge Cottage' was demolished probably in about 1927. Later, a rather 'jerry-built' dwelling was erected on the same site by Dan Jones and Stan Toms, and this was occupied by a Mr. and Mrs. Orrin. The properties Riversdale, Brookvale and Woodvale were owned by a Mrs. Perry, who rented them out. When she died, Marlene and Dave bought Riversdale and in the late 1960's they knocked down the remains of the adjacent dwelling.

* Returning to the postcard view, the land on the left of the photograph, approximately where the entrances to Holmleigh and Chicane are, belonged to the Revd. Reginald Churchill, who in 1926 sold it to James Bowden of Higher Rows. He in turn sold it to Percival Altree, who had moved down from Coventry during the War. In 1961 Mr. Altree sold the parcel of land to the north to Kathleen Lancey [Stella Bowen's mother] and in 1965 the parcel of land to the south to Colin and Doreen Harding. Following his death and the building of a new bungalow, a final parcel of land was sold in 1969 to Roy Evans, builder for Ken and Judie Weedon. Thus Cherry Dene, Valley View, Chicane, a new Holmleigh and Glenbridge were put on the map! *

This photograph of Bobby and Michael taken outside Riversdale in 1964 shows the little cottage by the bridge. It was built on the ruins of a much older cottage by Dan Jones, probably in the late '30's. He was a master good chap at gardening but not too hot as a builder. The cottage was let out until it was condemned as unsafe in the '50's. The last people we remember living there were called Orrin. Dave and Marlene Yeo pulled it down about 1966 and built the wall enclosing the pavement.

Lorna B and Lorna P

Dan Jones and his parents, Daniel and Loveday Jones, lived in Brookvale and Riversdale. Daniel's brother, Bert, lived at Bess Hill at the top of 'Henton Lane'. I thought the following might be of interest. It's an extract from his daughter's account of her childhood memories.

"Dad wasn't a very big man, under 6ft but strong. Straight in all his dealings he was called upon for a few unusual tasks. He worked as a carpenter/wheelwright for Mr. Ley, the farmer at Hole Farm. One corn harvest time, one son became mentally disturbed. Father sat up with him all night until the next morning - Mr. Bussell of llfracombe arrived in a pony and trap to take George away to the asylum at Exminster - and he never returned.

"And father did the same when Jack Ford 'went off his head'. It was always - get Bert - no one else would do it and risk possible danger. "The most unusual night was when the constable arrived with a prisoner and asked Dad to keep him locked up until morning. The policeman, Mr. Martin, lived further down the road.

"In our cottage in the back kitchen there was a large cupboard used for a spare bag of coal, brooms, etc. A chair was placed there and a bucket - for needs - and the door shut and buttoned by a largish wood button - about two inches had been cut away from the top so the air could circulate. The poor man sat there all night and Dad sat on a chair on the other side of the door until the next morning, when PC Martin arrived to take the man off.

"Poor Keeper Darch drowned himself in the pond near the Mill, and again Dad was called in, first to search for the missing man and then to get him out of the pond. Mother was the last to see the poor fellow as she sat by the bedroom window rocking baby Stanley off to sleep and he passed the gate and I was with her and saw him, slow and bowed in his old felt hat.

"Harry Slee, deaf as a post and next door neighbour, died suddenly out in the 'privy' around the side of their cottage, with a very narrow path leading to it. He was an elderly, big, heavy man, yet had to be brought in - for that Dad must have had some help. But whoever it was for, Dad made the coffins, not as they are done today, but from lengths of elm and oak, soaked in scalding water to 'turn' the wood one end and 'pitched', then planed and glossed, and walk to Combe to get the brass handles and soft pleated linings and cotton wool to 'lay soft' and a brass name plate which Dad took hours to inscribe - in copper plate,

"For all the members of the Ley family who died, Dad was the undertaker wearing his hard hat, brushed to a whisker, and gloves and arranged men to bear the coffin - walking funerals always except the Castle gentry who went on one of their wagons dressed in greenery."

Gladys Nunn nee Jones
Albert Jones born 1879, married 1904, died 1933

Lorna Bowden



I don't know how the name 'Ruggaton' developed. It has a Norse/Viking flavour, as does Hagginton. The suffix "ton" indicates an early settlement.

Records show the Withie family "at Ruggaton, Berry Narbert" in the reign of Edward III [1312-1327]. They were landed gentry and married into some of the oldest Devonshire families. About 1498, John Withie married Elizabeth, daughter of the Lord of the Manor, Nicholas Berry. 150 years later, his descendant, Robert Withie, married Agnes, daughter of John Berry, Lord of the Manor 22/6/1656. In 1548 John Withie of Ruggaton married "Johane Juell" of Bowden, whilst his brother, Anthony, married "Christian Juell" in 1556. They were Bishop Jewel's sisters.

Ruggaton evolved at the junction of two ancient tracks which were part of the old cross-country routes. These were the main 'highways' before the construction of the new 'toll' roads in the middle of the last century. Many of these lanes still exist, though overgrown, others are reduced to bridle ways and footpaths.

The 1809 Ordinance Survey shows 5 buildings grouped around the junction. This is borne out in the 1839 Tithe document which lists 5 dwellings serving 3 farms:

1.Little Ruggaton20 acresThomas Huxtable
2.Clark's Ruggaton33 acresHugh Clark
3.Great Ruggaton79 acresJames Watts

Because the map accompanying the document is very difficult to read on microfiche, the boundaries of each farm can only be guessed, by the field names. Little Ruggaton is probably what we call Lower Court - Marcus and Sheena's cottage. The fields would be those fronting the cottage and stretching down to the valley.

The 1841 Census shows five families living at Ruggaton - a total of 31 people. In 1861 there were still five families, including Thomas Huxtable [aged 70 years] and the Clark family.

When Sam Bowden went to Ruggaton earlier this century, the three farms had become one.

Lorna B.

WANTED - John Weaver is anxious to obtain a 40 gallon steel drum in order that he can remake the Bar-B-Q, used at village functions. If you can help, please contact him on 882301.



"I was interested to read the report in your Newsletter of August re Cock Hill and its occupants. Richard Clogg was my mother's father. There was my mother, Winifred, and her two sisters, Mary and Evelyn. My grandmother, being in ill health, was unable to help, so my mother, as a young girl, took over with her father, the tilling of the fields and walking behind the horse and plough. She would also go with the pony and trap to sell produce at Combe Martin.

"My grandfather is buried at Heanton Punchardon, and I went many a time with my mother to visit his grave. Had she been living now she would have been 109, but sadly we have lost her. She had a very hard life and occasionally she would talk about it to us.

"Perhaps you can find space to put this in the newsletter, as I am her son, living in Ilfracombe. My mother was a Berrynarbor lady and I married a Berrynarbor girl."

Tom Tucker

Cockhills of Berry

The Cockhill family was here when church records began. In 1584, John Cockhill married Jane Halse. The last record I can find is that of Anne Cockhill who buried her husband, Mr. Cockhill, in 1704. The title "Mr." was only given to gentry. In 1641, a John Cockhill was taxed two pounds against his land, and in 1638 he was church warden - an important position in the community.

My sincere thanks to the Rector and Church Wardens for allowing me access to the Church Records. Also, thank you Nigel for capturing the true, rural character of our beautiful old village - not a flower tub in sight, thank goodness!

Lorna B.



Place names are a fascinating link with our past and often a memorial to those who walked this land before us. Many places in our Parish relate to family names. The Moules, Hammonds, Morris's, Hills, Holes, Hodges, Roves, Thorns, Chichesters, Sloleys, Cockhills, Stowfords, Vellacotts, Somers and Bowdens are all commemorated by their farm names. Some have been swallowed up by larger farms, such as Howards Vellacott and Morrishes and another, Somers, has been changed [Castle Hill]. Many of these families were well established when church records began in 1540, and some survive today. The Harpers bequeathed their name to the old mill under Smythen, and the Sterries will always be remembered through Sterridge Valley.

In the last century, Census Returns record cottages with family names, such as Hick's Hamlet, Pile Cottage, Flemming's Tennement, etc. Pink Heather was known as Blindwill's. What problems he must have faced negotiating the steep path to his front door - bless him!

But what of BerryNarbor? Whose history stems from this name? In 1085 the Domesday Book records it as Hurtesberie, derived from HEORT'S BURH, the Old English for "the place of Heort" . How long ago did he live here? Probably in pre-Saxon and maybe pre-Christian times. The Saxon Queen Edith [wife of Edward the Confessor] held the Manor before the conquest, when Wulfric and Godric were the Saxon owners of Hagginton. William the Conqueror bestowed them on Walter of Donai, who was followed by Robert de Backentune. By the late 12th Century, they had passed to the de Nerberts, from whom the suffix Narbor originated.

When Henry III favoured his knight, Ralph, with the Manor, he took the name of his new home. Ralph de Biry's descendants succeeded until 1708 - followed by the Bassett family.

Names ending with "ton" are usually of Saxon origin, meaning a hamlet or village, such as Stapleton, Yellaton and Ruggaton. The remains of several cottages at Ruggaton certainly bear this out. There is little documentation of these early homesteads, although a law suit entered into in 1196 between William de Poiniard and William de Nerbert resulted in de Nerbert giving up his claim to East Hagginton and de Poiniard giving up his claim to "Yellaton, Indicknowle, Hempster, 2 ferlongs in Stapleton and the mill with the road in Hagginton, with the hamlet that is between Bethune Mill and the old ditch" . This hamlet must be Hele and the old ditch the ancient earth fort on Hillsborough.

I feel strongly that places should retain their old names, and perhaps in the future we can name somewhere Heort's Burh or Edith's Place, and please forget about Rectory Hill and call it by its "proper" name - Jan Bragg's Hill. Perhaps I'll even try to persuade you to revert to the local version of Hagginton - always known as Henton Lane, Henton Farm and West Henton. Why Henton, I don't know, except that a hundred years or so ago, many of the population were still illiterate. They used the names as passed down by their forefathers and when they did learn to read, they chose to stick to the "old way". I hope we all know where Knackershole is?

Lorna B.



When time allows, I enjoy visiting the obscure little churches scattered around our rural parishes. Places like the compact little building at Trentishoe or Challacombe, where the belfry is so damp, ferns festoon the internal walls, lending an unique atmosphere to this simple church. At Loxhor, the little church shares its space with a beautiful old farm. The church at East Down hides itself within rhododendron hedges, and here, in the churchyard, stands brave, even if dilapidated, an old church house.

At Kentisbury and East Down, the 'houses' consist of stabling for horses on the ground floor, with a single room above, complete with an open fireplace. The origin of such houses dates back to Saxon times, when various kinds of guilds were established, within the parochial communities, each with its own object and charged with the duty of making collections for that purpose.

Guilds raised their income in various ways, consequently they needed a meeting place, equipped for brewing ale and baking, for one such guild would be responsible for public entertainment and games. Wrestling contests, we know, existed well into the 19th Century in connection with 'parish' revels.

In our own churchyard, bowls and other games were Played on the flat area north of the church, much to the displeasure of the Arch-deacon, who, following his visit In 1829, publicly denounced the activity. Squire Bassett defended the age-old tradition, which continued until late in the 1800's.

The old Church House in Berrynarbor probably passed from Church to Manorial ownership following the Reformation, for in 1697 John Berry Esquire gave the house to the parishioners under the trusteeship of Thomas Limebeer and William Morris. The house to be a dwelling place for the poor and the chamber to be used for holding court and parish meetings "as had been accustomed". In 1765, William Morris passed on the stewardship to newly elected trustees, but by 1824 these had died and not been replaced. The house was now being "repaired at the expense of the Parish and inhabited by poor persons placed there by the Parish Officers, except for 1 room, formerly used as a vestry room and now a school room for the poor children of the parish." It was probably pulled down prior to 1862 when the Rev. Furzden records that 20 ilex and yew trees were planted in the churchyard. Most of these are growing still, several where the old Church House stood.

Lorna Bowden


  1. Sketch from an original drawing found by the late Claude Richards in his cottage attic
  2. Account of East Down Church - Henry Ayre, 1971
  3. Parish and Church Records and 4. Family knowledge


Churchwarden - overseer to the poor

James Richards was the third son of James and Elizabeth Richards [nee Rattenbury], who were married at Pilton Church on the 27th March, 1789. There is no record of James Snr. being born in Pilton, but there are family ties with Berrynarbor. As the Bassett family still held Westaway Estate in Pilton, if you worked for them movement between the parishes would be allowed. No parish would accept you unless you had work there or relatives to support you.

James married Mary Draper in Berry Church on the 4th November 1821. His father-in-law, Benjamin Draper, farmed Moules. James leased a piece of land at the bottom of Kenton Lane (Hagginton) and built a cottage, where his eldest children were born. The cottage remained in the family until 'Granny' Richards gave it up in the 1920's.

By 1839, Benjamin Draper had died and James and Mary were installed at Moules [Tithe Record 1839/40] where the family has remained ever since.

James's brother, John Richards, farmed and burnt lime at Henton [East and Middle Hagginton - 1839 Tithe]. He married Honour Popham, the daughter of an old Berrynarbor family and their only son, James, tragically took his own life so the farm passed down to their daughter, Fanny, who married her cousin Thomas Richards - James's youngest son. The Thomas Richards who farmed Hole at this time wag probably another brother.

James Richards is my great, great, great grandfather and Michael's great, great grandfather. All members of the Richards and Bowden families in Berry share a little of his genes.

He is buried, with Mary, beneath the holly tree near the priest's door.

Lorna B.


1913 Choir Outing to Woolaconbe with the Rev. Churchill

  • Back Row: Dick Richards, Jack Bradford, Mrs. Neals [Organist], Emmie Hicks, Bessie Harding, Rev. Churchill, Ettie Bowden, J. Goss, Rosie Bray, Glyn Toms, Tom Ley, Ernest Richards
  • Middle Row: Lorna Richards, Lilly Richards, Maud Pearce, Blanche Bowden, Dora Bradford, Lizzie Rice, M[?] White, Lilly Bowden,
  • Front Row: Mr. Neals [Choirmaster], Jack Brooks, Sidney Dummett, Will Bradford, Jack Richards, Ernie Leworthy, Percy Jones

Dick Richards is my grandfather; Aunty Lorna and my father, Jack Richards, are also in the photograph. Dick's brother, Ernest, was the Churchill's chauffeur and his daughter, Lilly Richards, is the mother of Joyce, Bet and John Huxtable. Only two members of the outing are alive today - Lorna Richards [Price] and Blanche Bowden [Dummett], who married Sidney.

Reginald Churchill was the son of the Rev. William Churchill of Dorchester. He had ten brothers and sisters - Cameron, Melville, Stuart, Setan, Orford, William, Mackenzie, Louisa, Caroline and Julia! The first three boys were also priests. William died in 1907, and it is possible that he is the brother who died in Berrynarbor on a rabbit shoot [Page 8, Newsletter No. 21].

Reginald was an engineer before taking Holy Orders and his wife found it very difficult to accept the life of a parish priest 's wife and opted out of public duties and rarely socialised. Her daughter, Elsie, took her place and was very well thought of. Elsie's cousins, Reggie and Roberta Hutchinson, were brought up in the Rectory as part of the family. Elsie never married and retired to Braunton with her father. The family are buried at Berrynarbor.

The Rev. Churchill was very 'low' church and would not allow a cross on the altar. He was a very tall man who dressed in knickerbockers and hose and a curly brimmed trilby hat. On Sundays he wore a suit, but never a clerical 'dog' collar. He was a Rechabite and his choir and Bible class members were expected to take 'the pledge'.

He owned the first car in the parish and one of his hobbies was photography. Many village families have large, family portraits taken by the Rev. Churchill, a lot of them taken in the Rectory drive.

Family information from Mrs. J. Minns of 30 Elizabeth Road, Chichester, PO19 4JF, who would welcome any additional information/ photographs of her great uncle Reginald Churchill.

Lorna B.



No. 11 - April 1991 The old barn referred to in 'Local Walks' in the view from Buddicombe, is the remains of Limpet Cottage at the end of Limpet Lane.

When my grandfather was a youth in the 1890's, an old couple called Nichols lived there. He used to love to tell the story of how he and some other young men in the Village blacked out the windows of the cottage whilst the couple slept. When old Mr. Nichols finally arose and opened the door, he shouted "Mary, Mary, the world's coming to an. end, the sun is rising in the west!

Lorna Bowden

No. 7 - August 1990 Looking back through the Newsletters I came across Tom Bartlett's account of Capel Cottage. It brought back childhood memories of how important the gentry's "dirty linen" was in supplementing the family income. Although in this instance, Mrs. Snell would not have been washing for the Rev. Churchill's family at that time. The job of laundress to the Rectory was tied to the tenancy of Rectory Cottage [Wild Violets) where in April 1904 my family came to live.

The laundry was an outhouse attached to the Temperance Hall, the ruins of which still remain behind Orchard House. It was here that social 'bun fights' such as the Harvest Supper, were held. Water for the tea was boiled in the laundry's copper boiler having first been pumped up from the well.

Mother was well qualified for her job as she had come to Watermouth Castle in 1897 from Lerryn in Cornwall, to take up the position of head laundress.

During this period, the Bassett family were still enjoying their heyday and parties of up to 20 house guests were a regular occurrence. It was the custom to change clothing according to the activities of the day, often three times a day - one didn't shoot in one's sailing garb! [Squire Bassett kept his own yacht in Watermouth Harbour.]

It was small wonder that the Castle laundry [the modern-day restaurant] was kept very busy six days a week and mother's skill with the goffering iron was in constant demand.

Lorna Price



Leonard Edward Bowden was born at Ruggaton on the 24th March, 1906, the youngest child of Samuel and Martha Bowden. His grandparents, Joseph and Mary Bowden, farmed Lower Rows and his great-grandparents, John and Sarah Bowden, farmed at Court Bowden. Before them was John and Prudence, and so the Bowden line goes back over the centuries into Berry Narbor's history.

At the age of five, Leonard went to school at Berry, where Mr. Brown was Headmaster. He left at the age of eleven to attend Ilfracombe Grammar School, walking the five miles, with other village children, via Henton and Hele. He was proud of having an article printed in the first edition of "The Old Issians" magazine.

When he left school, Leonard joined his father on the farm and in his milk retail business. He was a familiar figure around the district delivering milk with his trap and pony, Little Doll.

Relaxation from work in those days was a game of bowls on the little green below the Rectory. When it was decided to close the green and join the larger club at Combe Martin, Leonard, who deeply opposed the move, put away his woods and never played again.

When Edith Penn Curzon gave her permission for the upper rooms of the Old Manor House to be used as a social venue for the men of the parish, Leonard became one of the founder members of The Men's Institute. He served on the Committee for many years, working for the improvements that the club enjoys today. He loved a game of snooker and was proud to be the Club's President for many years.

During his life, Leonard served the community in many ways. He was a Parish Councillor for nearly fifty years and was one of the enthusiastic team who raised the funds to purchase the Manor Hall properties. He was a founder member of the Management Committee and worked with them, over the years, raising funds for the upkeep of these properties.

He was always very proud of the Parish's contribution to the Lynmouth Flood Disaster Fund, when councillors made a house-to-house collection.

He served on the Barnstaple District Council and was a governor of Combe Martin Secondary School. During the 1950's and '60's, he took an active part in the productions of the local drama group - The Village Players.

Perhaps he will be best remembered for his service to St. Peter's Church. He was a faithful member of the congregation, as well as fulfilling duties as Treasurer to the P.C.C., Sidesman and Church Warden. He was recently elected Church Warden Emeritus, a deserved recognition of over forty years of service to the Parish.

Valerie & Lorna Bowden



When walking in the Sterridge Valley, one cannot fail to look in awe on the majestic beasts grazing on Smallacombe or the meadows below.

Sadly, the indigenous breed of North Devon cattle with their curly red coats and long horns, are becoming a rare sight in the area.

They were probably being bred at Woolscott in 1797 when Rev. Richard Polwhele wrote, "they are In many respects superior to any other breed in the kingdom... breeding bullocks are the farmers chief dependence, which they generally part with at about 4 years old, about half fat. Somersetshire graziers come down and buy them, work them for two or three years, then fat, drive them to London. Numbers of bulls are bought at a high price and sent even to Jamaica - a heifer lately sold for 30 guineas."

May this herd flourish in Berry Narbor for many years to come. They are part of our heritage.

Lorna Bowden


If you were in the village on Wednesday, 20th February, 1924, you may have attended the Whist Drive and Dance organised by the Liberal Association, when a profit of £1.15.9 1/2d was realised.

Apart from the usual arrangements for such a function, coal had to be purchased for the fire, oil for the lamps and "a band and/or singers" were to be engaged. The piano had to be brought from the Parish Room, probably on a hand-cart, for which a hiring fee of 10/- had to be paid. Mrs. Brooks received 2/6d. for services that evening, which included lighting the fire and tending the lamps.

The Liberal Association, 1924

President :
Mr. Samuel Bowden
V-President :Rev. Hayter
Chairman :Mr. Fred Rice
Secretaries :Mrs. Lizzie Bowden
Miss Audrey Richards [Mrs. Bill Willis]
Treasurer :Mr. Reg Huxtable
Committee :Miss Bessie Bowden
Miss Emmie Hancock [Mrs. J. Huxtable, Woolscott]
Miss Lilly Bowden
Miss Polly Huxtable
Miss Lillian Veale [Headmistress]
Miss Alice Huggins
Mr. R. Richards [my grandfather, Dick]
Mr. Fred Richards
Mr. Lyster Bowden
Mr. Claude Richards [Senior]
Mr. Len Bowden

Lorna Bowden