CAHMS Annual General Meeting 2015, followed by an "Audio-visual presentation of historic industries & events in Devon & Somerset".
A good turnout of society members attended the Annual General Meeting in October at the Boniface Centre, and afterwards society member Peter Budd gave a very professional slide presentation about bygone industries and events in the Westcountry.
The Brendon Hills mineral line was constructed between 1856 – 1861 to carry iron ore from mines there to Watchet Harbour, and from there to the steelworks at Ebbw Vale. Peter shower slides of the ruins of the industrial workings, railway buildings and workers’ cottages, and other buildings still in use today. Also the 1km long inclined plane and the remains of its winding house.
At the bottom of the incline another stretch of track extended to Watchet Harbour where some of the railway buildings can still be seen, and on the quay itself a section of the original track is exposed to view. The line was closed in 1910 and the rails taken up for scrap to help the was effort.
The gunpowder mills of Dartmoor were remotely located on the road between Postbridge and Two Bridges. For a short period in the 19th century the mills supplied “black powder” to the local mining industry, various quarried and farmers who were clearing their land.
Seven water wheels provided power to grind the ingredients, which were mixed in “incorporating mills” that were well spaced out and had very thick walls and a lightweight roof so that should there be an explosion the roof would blow off limiting any damage!
With the invention of dynamite in 1867 and a decline in mining, the mills closed in 1897.
Granite paving setts were produced at Middle and Great Staple Tor on Dartmoor in the late 1800’s. ther were used to pave the streets of Plymouth and Tavistock that had hitherto been compacted earth. This industry flourished in the 1870’s, and in 1875 nearby Merrivale Quarry opened to increase production. Making setts was backbreaking work carried out using rudimentary tools and men were paid one penny per sett, which in present day terms equates to about £10.50 per day!
By the late 1890’s production of setts had almost ceased because of cheap imports and the increasing use of tarmacadam.
Rabbit warrens on Darmoor. During the agricultural revolutionthat began in about 1750, marginal land on Dartmoor was used for farming rabbits in warrens. Because the thin cover of soil over rock was not suitable for rabbits to burrow it was necessary to create mounds for rabbits to live and breed in, and these were often referred to as “pillow mounds”. There are about twenty sites on Dartmoor, with many in the Upper Plym Valley. Warrens were bounded by rivers and streams, and often by rabbit-proof walls. Boundaries with the open moor were not always fenced since it was felt rabbits would not stray far from their food source. Stoats and weasels that preyed on rabbits were trapped in stone vermin traps, although these were superceded by guns towards the end of the 19th century. Most of the buildings associated with the warrens have long since fallen into disrepair, although Ditsworthy and Trowelsworthy Warren Houses (which were the only warrens to survive into the 20th century as the demand for meat and fur declined) remain, although derelict.
The Prayer book rebellion took place in Devon in 1549. Following the death of Henry VIII in 1547, the Duke of Somerset and the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered than Henry’s 1st Book of Common Prayer (written in English not Latin) be compulsorily introduced on the 9th June. This caused much resentment in Cornwall where many people spoke Cornish, and on the 6th June three thousand disgruntled Cornishmen set out for London to air their grievances, joined by others at Plymouth and meeting at Crediton to make more plans. The introduction of the new prayer book in Sampford Courtenay caused much unrest, that resulted in the death of a farmer loyal to the new book. Fearing retribution, the villagers armed themselves and joined the Cornish rebels who were passing through on their way to Crediton.
News of the unrest reached London, and the Duke of Somerset sent two local knights to put down the insurrection. The townspeople were confronted at a barricade they had erected between two barns on the outskirts of the town, and government forces burnt then down. There then ensued battles between the rebels and government forces at Clyst St. Mary and other sites and villages around Exeter, the massacre of nine hundred men at Clyst Heath and a sige of Exeter when the city was encircled by rebels for several weeks. The unrest finally came to an end at the battle of Sampford Courtenay in August 1549 when the rebels were routed.
Thanks are due to Peter for a very informative and skilful presentation about long forgotten industries and events