Thursday, 19 February 2009

Hennock, Devon

This little gate is at Seven Lords' Lands, which is a wonderful name and isn't actually a centre where seven Medieval manors abut, but actually refers to the Bronze Age Cairn you can see through the gateway, itself probably associated with the B.A. settlement at Foale's Arrishes. There are seven boundaries which meet in the vicinity of the cairn, and these are Widecombe Town, Natsworthy, Buckland, Bagtor, Halshanger, Great Hound Tor and Dunstone with Blackslade. Wonderfully, in the West Devon Records Office in 1994, a small piece of parchment was found which recorded the Beating of the Buckland bounds in 1683.

'Hoartsberry where the seven Lords meete and seven stones are pitched up together to each Lord a stone, and the stone that belongs to the Lord of the Manor of Buckland is the South Stone save one', (Brown, 1994, p.14).

I discovered all this courtesy of the wonderful Legendary Dartmoor website which I haven't visited for ages, but can heartily recommend. I was trying to remember how many lords it was and now am absolutely fascinated by what I have read about the area through the millennia, and I may be Gone Some Time now!!!

The Dartmoor branch of my dad's family lived in Hennock for 3 or 4 generations, by which time the oldest had died and the younger folk moved away for work, to Plymouth, London or emigrated to New Zealand or America. I have been fortunate this week, in my latest bout of family history research, to suddenly find some new "rellies" which I'm excited about. One, believe it or not, lived within 25 miles of us when we lived in Dorset.

I came from poor stock - "Ag. Labs" - workers on the land until they were too old and infirm to do so - late 70s and early 80s some of them. Then a pauper's grave. The fate of many. My 3 x g. grandfather was a sailor in his youth and indeed was at Trafalgar, aboard HMS Belleraphon and another a branch of the family tree gave me an Adams ancestor on board the Victory itself. Poor William Bolt found himself hoeing swedes with the best of them when he came home from sea though. . .

To say I love Dartmoor is an understatement and I feel the pull to return to my roots getting stronger and stronger with each passing year. Hopefully next year we may downsize there for good.

It will be to a far better house than my ancestors could ever have dreamed of. Even the long-houses mentioned below were something they could never aspire to. Sabine Baring-Gould, in his book "A Book of the West: Devon", writes thus:

An old moorman's home was a picturesque object: built up centuries ago of granite blocks unshaped, set in earth, with no lime or cement to fix them, low-browed, with the roof thatched with rushes, the windows small, looking into a small court-yard, and this court-yard entered through a door in a high blank wall. On one side the turf stacked up, the saddles, the harness; on the other, a cow-house and stable, the well-house accessible from the kitchen without going from under cover, the well being nothing other than a limpid moor stream diverted and made to flow into a basin of scooped-out granite. the door into the house gives admission into an outer chambr, where is every description of odds and ends; where are potatoes, old barrels, infirm cartwheels, and the poultry hopping over everything. On one side a door gives admission to the kitchen, hall, parlour, all in one, lighted by a small window looking into the court-yard. Or again, on the one hand is the cattle-shed, on the other the kitchen, all under one roof, and beyond the kitchen the common sleeping-chamber. Rarely is there an upper storey. The object of making these ancient houses so tootally enclosed was to protect the dwelling from the furious storms. They were castles, but walled up against no other enemy than the wild weather. Nowadays these ancient houses are rapidly disappearing, and new, vulgar, staring edifices are taking their places - edifices that let in wind and water at every joint and loophole.

A view taken from the Churchyard in Moretonhampstead. My g.g. grandfather and his family lived in the town, and he was firstly an ostler at the White Hart Inn, then a postillion and then a coachman, ending up as the licensee of a local pub. He is buried in this churchyard.

The Medieval Clapper Bridge at Postbridge. I have spent many happy weekends camping down here, and walking the moor.

The modern road bridge above the West Dart just upstream of the Clapper Bridge.

On the way to Widecombe - looking back towards the edge of the moor near Postbridge.

Hay Tor in the distance. If I didn't have two copies of Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, and had one and the other one Worth's guide, I could quickly identify the nearer tor.

Can't remember where I took this, but t'was the other side of Widecombe and near Hound Tor I think.

And if you're wondering, 'arrish' is Devon slang for field (elsewhere is refers distinctly to the stubble of wheat or grass) and Foale was a farmer who owned those fields at one time.


Morning's Minion said...

As always, such interesting places to think about. You can't imagine the interest in Britain's geography that you have stirred up. My husband's ancestors were well entrenched in Staffordshire--the name is still common there. It doesn't sound like the lovliest of the counties, but then, most anywhere that isn't a city is a good place to explore.
I often think that if we could be time travelers and were plopped down in the homes of our "greats"--would we wrinkle our noses at their sanitation habits? Would we be astonished at the meagerness of their homes? I'd like to think we could get beyond that and find the common bonds. But then, we only travel back in imagination!

Wild Somerset Child said...

Ooooooh - this takes me back to my visit last September when I went hunting and photographing, clapper bridges. We must have driven the same tracks as you, Bovey.

P.S. You use the same blog template as I do; how do you manage to intersperse your pics with text? if you don't mind me asking.

Bovey Belle said...

WSC - I just load the pics as I am writing my blog and cut and paste stuff my writing in between the pictures. If i need to move the pictures arund, I go onto the 'bck page' (HTML one?) and put them in a different order on there. I may revise this as I shall have to check the veracity of this statement now!

Sharon - I am glad that I have got you and your husband reaching for the Atlas of Britain. Staffordshire has all sorts of merits of its own. It may not have a coastline, but against its border with Derbyshire, it has some stunning scenery. I've only stayed in Stfford town itself - half timbered buildings, and a wonderful old castle. Here's a link:

If you want to know what life was like in the Potteries area, you need to read Arnold Bennett.

Bovey Belle said...

And Sharon - this link should make you hoot! You know my delight in dialects . . . Comedian Jasper Carrot once said, in jest, about the Brummy (Birmingham) accent - "40,000 people with a speech impediment."!

Bovey Belle said...

Doh - link!

Bovey Belle said...

In fact, waste an evening and try the Black Country links:

Greentwinsmummy said...

I loved the bit about the long house,I was in Shaftesbury with Ren today & we saw the diddiest little thatches,E love thatch & spots them a mile off,we walked past & one of them so just so incredibly small!
I was talking to hubby this evening about them & he said & think how many used to live there,huge familes,he then said but they had nothing so thats how they fitted in, I said well I suppose that was the true meaning of having a roof over your head,you had nothing else but you had that & that was so much better than being without it!
In modern times when the luxury of having a roof over ones head is brushed aside & all thougth given to cramming it with as many things & appliances & clothes & suchforth as possible,its good to remember the people who went before,living in simple homes where literally to have a roof over ones head was such a blessing
GTM x x

Goosey said...

I think I spotted you on that hill waving when I went up to Wales! Bit tricky to see you through the snow though! We had lunch in the Ancient Briton at Pen-Y-Cae near you know that place?

Jane Badger said...

My family were ag labs too - but from Bedfordshire!

dunigaj1 said...

Hi Bovey Belle, think we have same ancestors, ostler/innkeeper at M.H. and William at Battle of Trafalgar - my father was born in London after family moved from M.H.