Highampton Local History Group


The Group’s vice-chairman, Charles Dumpleton, gave an interesting and amusing talk on his 50 years in farming which commenced with his time at Agriculture College in the early 1960's, and his farming experiences at Town Barton Farm, Highampton, since 1966. Amongst the photographs he used to illustrate his talk was one of a 1914 tractor then at the college but now part of the Shuttleworth Collection in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.

After college, Charles arrived at the farm with his parents with the aspiration of running a mixed farming enterprise consisting mainly of cows, beef and sheep and, at one stage, trying his hand at turning some of the land over to arable crops.

The talk, which was well attended, was illustrated with contemporary slides that showed just how much farming has altered over the past five decades, with today’s modern machinery taking over much of the hard work from days gone by.

As a matter of local historical interest, the Assize Rolls of 1244 show that Town Barton was most likely occupied by Adam de la Tune in the 13th century. The present farmhouse, originally a Devon longhouse, probably dates from before the 18th century. The parish church of the Holy Cross, with its original Norman arch and west tower built in 1489, stands adjacent to the farm.


History as it happens

The first edition of the parish newsletter, Highampton Messenger, was published and delivered to all households in the parish.  Thanks to Michelle Ody were recorded for her taking on the role of editor.

Maurice Thomas, Chairman, then presented a film depicting the aftermath of Foot and Mouth in 2001.  This gave a moving insight into the terrible impact the disease had on the local community.

Subsequently whilst enjoying the usual refreshments members were invited to inspect a number of old photographs from the archive to hopefully provide some detail of the subjects to be recorded.


The members were treated to a slide show of photographs that were taken by Henry Westlake back in the 1960’s.  The photographs depicted Dunsland House as it was before the property was tragically destroyed by fire in 1967 and some of them are displayed on our site with his kind permission.

The slides were accompanied by an original tape recording of the Rev Bickford H Dickinson giving a commentary about his old home in Bradford.  The members learned from this that there had been a house and estate at Dunsland for hundreds of years and remarkably had only been sold three times - once in 1428, again in 1945 (having passed through inheritance in the intervening years) and in 1950 - before it’s final sale to the National Trust in 1954. The original Tudor house, built no later than 1500, stood close to the later house and contained traces of a much older building.

It was clear from the photographs shown, and the commentary, that Dunsland previously had had a fascination of its own both architecturally and historically and its destruction by fire was a great loss to the neighbourhood.  Members were told that Dunsland was in the Domesday book and had had an interesting history spanning some 900 years.

For more photographs please see our Dunsland House archive photos page



Members of the Highampton Local History Group enjoyed a memorable visit to Locks Park, Hatherleigh, where they were kindly shown around the grounds by their hosts, Rob and Paula Wolton, on a very warm sunny June afternoon.

It was pleasant to find that the land has a diverse mixture of habitat ranging from culm pasture to mixed woodlands that the owners manage in a sustainable way that encourages wildlife of all kinds - from the largest of animals to the smallest of insects.  A particular feature of the farm is its hedgerows, which are well known in the area, and are cared for in a traditional way from times past.

The group was shown that by good husbandry, using the conventional axe on a rotational basis, an excellent habitat, with care, can be created for small mammals such as dormice that appear in good numbers along the extensive meandering lane that leads down to the picturesque cob and thatch longhouse that is believed to have stood on this isolated site since Tudor times.

It was here, at the end of the walk, that Mr and Mrs Wolton kindly entertained their guests with a sumptuous cream tea and a brief history of the house that was very much appreciated by all.

The following month members joined the Petrockstowe Local History Group for an illustrated talk by George Copp on the history of the North Devon Clay Works and its associated Railway. Afterwards they were able to view the various maps, documents and publications out on display. The pleasant evening ended with refreshments provided by the Petrockstowe members.

Our next meeting will be in the Village Hall on Wednesday August 18th when a talk on the history of Hatherleigh Moor will be given by Geoffrey Cleverdon, CBE.


At the Annual General Meeting of the Highampton Local History Group held in April, Maurice Thomas was re-elected Chairman, Charles Dumpleton Vice Chairman, Simon Ward, Treasurer and Maureen Morel, Secretary. The chairman reported that the Group’s first year had been an important and busy twelve months with the attendance of several guest speakers , a selection of film/slide shows; and an enjoyable trip to Buckland House by kind invitation of Mr and Mrs Ralph Nicholson.

The archives have also been substantially increased with several donations which includes a copy of the Baptism Register for Highampton for the period 1814-1916 together with various documents relating to the village.  In addition, Hatherleigh History Society has also kindly passed on various items pertaining to the parish for safe keeping.

Our treasurer Simon Ward was warmly thanked for creating the successful HLHG website, which has received much acclaim from here and overseas. All the members in the group were thanked for making the year such a success; and special thanks was paid to Mrs Mary Dayman for being on hand to provide the welcome tea and biscuits at the end of each meeting.



The meeting following the AGM was overshadowed by the sad announcement of the unexpected death of our treasurer, Simon Ward, after a short illness.  Simon was just 65.  Simon died on 12 May after a short illness in North Devon Hospice.  In him there has passed away a very remarkable man - one who in his short four years at Highampton made a mark in the affairs of the village by becoming a founder member and first treasurer of the local history group, and responsible for creating the notable website that highlights its past history.

The advertised talk relating to the production of the textiles had unfortunately to be substituted at short notice, and an illustrated talk on the history of Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life was given instead by Rev Leach, who was the curator of the Museum prior to his entering the Methodist ministry.  Members learnt how the museum was formed at a public meeting in 1959. After periods in premises on Angle Hill and in the Chilcott School the Museum opened in St. Andrew Street in 1967 in a former redundant National School building dated 1841.  The social history collections are said to be the finest in the South West and, together, they form the fourth largest assemblage of historic objects in Devon, of which the collection of agricultural farm wagons and carts is of national importance.

Revered Leach explained that during his time at the Museum he raised well over one million pounds in grants and other fund raising activities to facilitate the Trustees to create a modern reception area, exhibition hall, a shop and fifteen individual galleries to exhibit the many items collected over the years, which include a collection of mantraps, household goods and, of course, the ‘Tivvy Bumper’ steam locomotive that had been rusting away over the years but has now been restored to its former glory.

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Copyright © site designed by the late Simon Ward and managed by his wife Carole


2010: January to June