Highampton Local History Group


We were honoured to have the Lord of the Manor of Hatherleigh as the guest speaker at our February meeting. Deborah Laing Trengrove, who inherited the title from her father in 1989, gave a fascinating illustrated talk on the manor and borough, tracing its origins to the present day. We heard how the abbots of Tavistock had held the manor from the late 10th century until the Dissolution. After the Dissolution, the manor and borough of Hatherleigh, according to W. G. Hoskins, was sold by the Crown to the Arscotts, a rapidly rising family of gentry in the West Country.

Her family has held the title and manor since 1791 when her ancestor, Joseph Oldham, purchased the estate from the heirs of the Arscott family of Tetcott.


2016: January to June

Court Leet and Court Baron

The George Hotel on the 24th March 2007

The Lord of the Manor, Deborah Laing Trengrove, flanked by her Reeve, Geoffrey Cleverdon (left) and Bailiff, Jerome Twomey

Previous to that, in 1693, William and Mary granted one John Arscott a Charter to hold a market in the town of Hatherleigh every Tuesday, and a Fair in the month of May, in perpetuity.

Deborah brought along with her a collection of documents collected by her late father relating to the estate, which included a map of the manor that extended up to Pulworthy, as well as the original grant of her family Coat of Arms, seen on the right.


Coat of Arms

The Town Cryer, Ros Chard, with her late dog, Millie


For our first meeting of the year, Maurice introduced Steve Male, a fellow resident of Highampton.  He entertained the group with an interesting illustrated talk about the art, architecture and history of St. Petersburg following his recent visit there with his wife.

He ‘walked’ us through this stunning city, providing beautiful photographs and insightful background information.

(Photographs courtesy of Hatherleigh.net)


In March, our members enjoyed a most amusing and highly entertaining talk by historian and local columnist Mr Peter Christie on Prostitution in Victorian North Devon.  This provided an interesting insight into the plight of many women in that era.  Through his in-depth research, Peter had discovered that Highampton had two ‘ladies of the night’ in the community during those times!


In April, the group’s Annual General Meeting was held in the village hall. The chairman, Maurice Thomas, gave his annual report in which he highlighted another successful year with a number of well known speakers attending, including the Lord of the Manor of Hatherleigh, Deborah Laing Trengrove.

It was with sadness that the chairman had to disclose the sad passing of two of our eminent members, Mr James Varley and Mrs Carole Lawrence; they will be sorely missed.


Photographs and other items of local interest continue to be handed in for inclusion in our ever expanding archives and only recently Mrs Janet Lane Fox kindly presented us with some of her late husband’s family papers and legal documents that relate to Kingsley Mill, Black Torrington. Kingsley Mill was originally purchased by the landed Lane Fox family of Bramham Park, Yorkshire, as their holiday fishing lodge. For further information on this notable family visit www.bramhampark.co.uk  We are extremely grateful to Janet and to the other donors for their kind generosity.

Maurice was pleased to report that the first of two new storerooms has been completed and that we are now closer to having our own secure archive room within Highampton Village Hall.

He went on to thank his officers for all their dedication and hard work over the past twelve months. All officers were later re-elected ‘en bloc’ for the coming months.

The AGM was followed by a most enjoyable and interesting illustrated talk of ‘old Dartmoor’ by Okehampton’s local historian, Paul Rendell. His presentation of old photographs and postcards showed how towns, villages and indeed the countryside have changed and evolved over the years and how the introduction of the railway impacted on industry and affected peoples’ lives.


In June our group enjoyed a visit to Downes House, Crediton, where the guide made us most welcome and showed us around this privately owned historic house that was originally built in 1692.

“Downes is the family home of the Buller and Parker family. It is still lived in by the current generation – Henry and Susan Parker and their children Redvers and Stroma. The attraction of Downes is the way it brings together aspects of the history of our country (particularly as the home of General Buller) and the history of the locality in a family home, still privately occupied and loved by its owners, some 300 years after it was first built”.  

For July, our speaker will be Mr Geoffrey Cleverdon CBE who will give us a talk on “The History of Hatherleigh Moor”. Many members will remember Geoffrey’s previous visit to us back in 2010 when he entertained us with another of his informative talks on the moor and this one is sure to be just as interesting.

As always, visitors are welcome to come along to our meetings but please be aware there is a small charge of £2 per person for non-members, which includes tea and biscuits.

We were shown several rooms with ornate decorative ceilings, beautiful furniture and works of art, which included many fine portraits of the Buller Family.

At the conclusion of the tour, we were shown into a most interesting room, known as the Museum, that holds a number of articles relating to General Sir Redvers Henry Buller VC, GCB, GCMG, including albums and other presentation items together with mementoes from a number of General Buller’s campaigns including the Mahdi’s flag from the Sudan campaign of 1884.

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For our May meeting we were very pleased to welcome local author, Pamela Vass, who had been due to talk at our November 2015 meeting but had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.

She gave a most interesting and thought-provoking talk about her book, "Seeds of Doubt", based on the evening of August 15th 1952 when the worst floods ever to hit the West of England destroyed the beautiful coastal village of Lynmouth in North Devon.  Although this is a work of fiction, the novel is set against the background of actual events of that fateful evening.  Pamela had copies of her novel available for purchase by members.

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