Highampton Local History Group

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2017: July to December


For our July meeting, Charles introduced Mr Paul Rendell who entertained the group with an interesting and informative talk about the role of the pony on Dartmoor.

Pony's have been living on the Moor for many hundreds of years but their numbers have declined from around 150,000 to just a few thousand today.  There are just a few dozen thoroughbred Dartmoor ponies left and these are being conserved and hopefully their numbers will increase.  The decline of the pure Dartmoor pony was due to the introduction of other breeds, including the Exmoor and Shetland pony.  The inter-breeding created a stronger breed of pony to work on the farms and also in the quarries, Dartmoor granite being quarried and transported to barges at Newton Abbot and other sites to be shipped to destinations including London for use in the construction industry.

Paul explained that Dartmoor ponies have now acquired a new role on the Moor - helping children and young people who have difficulty in engaging in society, creating a relationship with them – the young people caring for the ponies and engaging in walks and treks on the Moor including Ten Tors thus enabling the youngsters to gain self esteem and confidence and to re-engage with society.  A highly informative look at the various roles the Ponies had, and still have, on the Moor.  


The evening closed with the usual refreshments.

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Our speaker for August was Mr. Marcus Vergette who gave an engaging, informative and entertaining talk on the history of ‘Bells’.

The Chinese were the first to create the bell as we know it today.  Bells have always been considered to have a spiritual aspect and have been used in religious ceremonies for many hundreds of years.  The three bells in Highampton's Church tower date from between 1400 A.D. to 1550 A.D. and Marcus commented that this was highly unusual for them still to be in existence.  The first European bells were made by itinerant Italian craftsmen travelling around Europe and were made of 20% tin and 80% copper.

Highampton's millennium bell, which is situated in the grounds of the village hall by the entrance to the school, is the first bell that can be rung by anyone; most bells are rung by someone in authority i.e. a Church or School.

An interesting journey through the history of the ‘Bell’  


The evening closed with the usual refreshments.


For our September meeting, Charles introduced Deborah Laing-Trengrove – Lord of the Manor of Hatherleigh – who gave an interesting illustrated talk on the lost smallholdings and farms within the Manor of Hatherleigh.

She has researched over 20 farms and smallholdings which are no longer in use.  Her starting point was the Tythe map of 1841.

Smallholdings no longer in use included:- Holsditch, Rooks, Part Earls, Pressland Down, Cross Park & Birchinbeer.  Larger Farms no longer in use included:- Hannaborough, Velliford, Monks Mill, Arnolds Fishleigh, Middledown &Jackmans.  

Deborah informed the group that further research will be undertaken to establish who lived in these properties and what trade and/or job of work they did.   

An interesting look at how land use has changed over time.

The evening closed with the usual refreshments.

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Charles introduced Tony Dumpleton who gave the group a very detailed and interesting illustrated talk on Meldon Quarry (the highest quarry in England with a railway), describing the geology of the quarry, the granite which pushed through sand and grit approximately 320 million years ago.

Meldon Quarry is almost 1 kilometre in size and is part of the mass of granite found within Dartmoor which measures approximately 30 miles across.  The stone quarried at Meldon was used to help build the railway network from the 1860's, the main railways to benefit from this stone being The Great Western Railway & London South Western Railway.

Tony gave the group an in depth look at the life of the Quarry during his time there, how it evolved and grew over the decades until its closure due, in main part, to the privatisation of British Rail.

The evening closed with the usual refreshments.

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Charles introduced Tony Hill who gave the group an interesting and informative illustrated talk on the Dartmoor Railway, which was opened on 30th August 1871 and the main line to Exeter closed in 1972.

With the help of several volunteers from Dartmoor Railway, Tony was able to bring to life the value of this line to the area and its importance for both freight and passengers during its lifetime.  The Beeching cuts in the mid 1960's hastened its demise.  Pleasure trains now run during the summer months and there is much speculation that the line from Okehampton to Exeter will be re-established in the very near future.  A fascinating and entertaining talk.  

The evening closed with the usual refreshments.

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