Highampton Local History Group

2016: July to December


For our July meeting, the Group was pleased to welcome back Mr Geoffrey Cleverdon.

Geoffrey gave us an engaging, amusing and informative talk on the history of Hatherleigh Moor from the Reformation through to the present day.  The use of the Moor by the Potboilers, its traditions and and its requisition during World War II for the growing of crops were explained.  Many of the traditional practices still take place today.

A most enjoyable evening closing with the usual refreshments.



For the August meeting, the Group was entertained by a talk given by new residents in the village, Mike and Eleanor Paddock from Hitch-In Farm on the Northlew Road.

Mike was the first apprentice at British Horse Loggers CT and has worked at Highgrove for HRH Prince Charles and also in the USA using heavy horses for logging.  He gave us a most interesting talk on the use of real horsepower in farming, using slides to illustrate the different tasks for which horses have been used over the years, not only on the farm but in mining and in everyday life.

At Hitch-In, they try to keep costs as low as possible and use heavy horses, particularly gypsy cobs which are very cheap to buy, for all farming tasks and they aim to be self-sufficient, growing food for themselves and for the horses.


For the September meeting, we were treated to a talk on the narrow gauge railway and the clay works at Peter’s Marland given by Mr George Copp.  George worked there in various capacities for several years and he told us how the railway came to be built.  He told how rolling stock was adapted to cope with the twisting track and the needs of both clay works and the villages which the line served.  The line was expanded to standard gauge with a third rail to allow the narrow gauge to continue to service the clay works.  

This was an interesting and personal illustrated talk giving us a fascinating insight into how large quantities of clay were extracted and moved around the country before road haulage become the main means of transportation.

The meeting closed with the usual refreshments.

They buy plastic harnesses from the Amish in the USA as these are considerably cheaper than English leather harnesses (about £800 as opposed to around £4,000) and can be adapted to fit a number of horses by use of a removable vinyl pad fitted into the collar; also spare parts are readily available if the harness breaks.  Their horses are not shod because they are only very occasionally taken on the road and it is beneficial to the long-term health of the horses for them not to have shoes.  It is also very expensive to shoe a heavy horse and can cost as much as £120 for a set of shoes every six weeks, always assuming you can find a farrier to do the job.


Pneumatic tyres are used on all their farm machinery to avoid ground compaction which can cause injury to the teams of horses.  Also, traditional cartwheels of wood and metal get hot and must be cooled with water, are easily damaged and difficult to get repaired.  The painting by John Constable, The Hay Wain, probably depicts the damping and cooling of hot wheels.

On the farm they rehabilitate horses.  They also break and train their own without using blinkers as Mike believes it is better to get them used to whatever is around them so they are not frightened by what they are pulling.  He does not use Dartmoor ponies as they are too small although they have bought and re-homed four.

Mike is interested in introducing mules which are used extensively in America where they can be as big as 19 hands.  Mules have great strength and single-mindedness.

The convivial evening closed with general chat about farming with horses while everyone enjoyed the usual refreshments.


Charles welcomed back Simon Dell to HLHG.

Simon gave a highly entertaining and informative, illustrated talk entitled – The Fair Arm of the Law – the history of Women Police Officers from their early incarnation in the early 1800's through to the present day.  A thoroughly enjoyable walk through history taking in important landmarks which impacted on women's role in society from WW1, the Suffragettes and through to the Tottenham riots of the 1990's.

The meeting closed with the usual refreshments.


Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding over the date, our speaker for the November meeting did not appear. He was due to talk about archaeology and the planning system.  All was not lost, however, as we were able to delve into the archive room and view recently deposited maps relating to the village and other items of local interest.

The meeting closed with the usual refreshments.


As in previous years, we combined with the Highampton Community group for a gathering at the Golden Inn, in which members of both groups brought along a plate of festive goodies for all to share. This proved to be a most enjoyable and convivial evening with family and friends joining together at the commencement of this most festive period of the year.

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