A Note from Dr. Todd Gray

A message from Todd Gray for everyone - hope you are all keeping well, 

Good morning, Would it be possible to draw to the attention of the
society’s members (by email or on your website?) the following two

Thank you, Todd

Dr Todd Gray is currently broadcasting 15 minute pieces on aspects of
Devon history every weekday on BBC Radio Devon at 1.10pm.  These will
run through June, and possibly July, and while all of our societies have
stopped meeting for lectures these are meant to help alleviate the sense
of isolation some of us are feeling.

The Devon & Cornwall Record Society is sponsoring a series of daily
blogs by our leading heritage specialists (historians, archivists,
archaeologists, librarians, writers and curators) in Devon and Cornwall
on how life in quarantine has made them reevaluate history.  These are
running through June and July and can be found on the society’s
Facebook page.  The society exists to publish original documentary
material and this year’s volume is a facsimile reproduction of
Devon’s only woollen cloth collection - from the 1760s.  It comes free
with this year’s membership (at £16.50) or on publication later this
year (at £30).  Details can be found on our website.

VE Day 8 May 1945 to 8 May 2020 --- 75 Years

I have been trying to glean notes on this day relating to the mood of the village.

I imagine the news would have reached the rural areas by wireless. Speeches from the King and the Prime Minister were broadcast.

There must have been a mixture of joy and sadness for the families who had lost loved ones and many were still fighting abroad.

The newspaper of the day gave the two reports:

  Feniton had lost four of its sons.
 The men are commemorated on a stained glass window in Feniton Church.

Gordon Channon
Sgt Air Gunner
Paul Clifford
Flt Lt
Ernest Lovering
Petty Officer Regulating
Frederick Woodly
Cadet (Radio)

Today the country is in lockdown due to the Corvid - 19 so the villagers marked the day by having  a cream in their front gardens, keeping the prescribed 2 meters distance.  A Willey's Jeep was driven through the village, a vehicle well know in the day.

Our Daughter in Law and Grandsons sent over a lovely VE Day tea.

The children are not at school due the virus, doing their school work remotely. William has made this wonderful model to mark VE Day with a Spitfire flying over the White Cliffs of Dover.


Sadly I have to notify our Group that there will be no more meetings until further notice.

Please take care and stay safe .

Feniton History Group held the 103 meeting in the Nog Inn

7th November 2019

Geoff welcomed all to the meeting.

Bob informed us that he was going to emigrate to Spain and was busy packing. He expects to move during the New Year. We are sad that he is leaving us but wish him the very best for his new life in Spain. We shall miss him!
David had been studying his research on the church which he has been gathering over the years and he brought some snippets to share with us.

He began by saying that when we look at the church, we tend to think it has remained the same over the centuries; however, it has changed significantly over the years.

There were some deanery reports, dated 1674, which tell us that the South ile (sic…old spelling) required paving, that the roof over part of it was defective and leaked while the windows needed glazing. The seats in the main body of the church were stated as requiring boarding while the belfry had lost all of its boarding.

According to another report dated 1737, the pulpit and other parts of the building were described as being decrepit. A later description of 1757 written by the dean following his visitation of a number of parishes around Plymtree stated that none of the adjacent parishes, including Feniton, were ‘presentable’. By 1759, the roof of the north side of Feniton church and the porch, in addition to a number of other parts of the building, were in need of repair.

David told us that about one hundred years later, in 1874, that not only was  the tower reported as being cracked and in need of restoration, but the  steps were unsafe, the floor of the bell chamber almost gone, and the three bells, of which more were added later, required re-hanging.

Jackie asked when was the church originally built and David said it dated back to about the 12th century. He showed us on a drawing where some of the original parts remain and where there were later additions, mainly in the 18th century. We wondered if there was any evidence that Cromwell’s troops had damaged the church, but David thought not. If Cromwell had come to Feniton his troops would most certainly have destroyed the transi tomb.

George told us about an old map he had been examining which showed that the course of the River Otter was further west than where it is today. He asked if it was possible to view the original plans of the railway. Alan queried when the weir was first built across the river to divert some of the water into the Vine. Geoff suggested that maybe the weir was built when the mill was constructed or perhaps the railway moved it.

David then asked does anyone know anything about a person called Fulford, Geoff suggested to look in the records office

Peter mentioned that when he was standing by the lych gate on Sunday he was trying to work out by which route Uncle Tom Cobley, as described by Dr Todd Grey in his talk recently, had made his way to the church. Note we don’t think that Uncle Tom Cobley came to the village, just the song!!

Alan then told us about a family puzzle.

While researching the name of Powell in West Dorset in an area that stretches inland from Charmouth, he had visited some of the Powells in that area. He said that the unusual name of Bento was used throughout three generations of the Powell family. It was a common name in Europe and he wondered if one of the ancestors of the West Dorset Powells may have been shipwrecked along the coast there and that the family had kept the name and passed it down the generations.

As always, we thoroughly enjoyed out meeting.

Our next meeting is on the first Thursday in December at 8 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join us.

Feniton History Group held the 102 meeting in The Nog Inn

The meeting was started by Christine who welcomed everyone.
The meeting started with David telling u s that he has been looking at the Pring’s tomb near the
church door . H e noticed that the ends did not appea r to fit in with the overall de sign of the tomb.
 H e thought they gave the appearance of having been stuck on rather haphazardly while t he slab on the top looked like it may have been an alta r stone i n the past which had possibly been r emoved from the church when they had to be replaced by a wooden one c. 1550 The inscription on the tomb,
Prepare for Death , was possibly chosen because the village was experiencing an outbreak of plague
or smallpox at about this t ime. Since the meeting, Jenny has since read the parish registers in the
museum which reveal that the Pring family had lost four children and their mother in 1551 and
another four children who lived in Thorne in 1591. 1591.) This gave rise to a discussion about the plague hospital which was situated in Owl Lane at a safe distance from the village. It was not known when this was built. People from the village and surrounding neighbourhood would be taken there when in fected with the plague or smallpox in order to reduce the spread of the disease.

David also told us about the dole cupboard where bread was available for the poor out side the
church door. This gave rise to the word ‘dole’ today.

Christine talked about the lake a t Escot and the flooding that occurred when it swept through
property and fields as it headed for Sidmouth. No one, however, had been able to find a written
record on it and the story has only been passed on by word of mouth. Meanwhile, it was m entioned
that Escot House, prior to the fire faced the other way towards Clapperentale, but others disagreed
and pointed out that contemporary records show that it was facing the same direction that it does

Brenda reported that she had been researching the land lord of the Greyhound Inn who lived there
during the Second World War Years. The family were called ‘Parsons’. In 1939 there was a mention
of a Lillian Parsons and in 1945 there was a reference to a Mr Parsons.

Brenda also told us that she has published a beautifully presented book let which starts with the
mystery of a bigamous marriage which took place in Feniton church before the couple moved to
Sidmouth. See Brenda if you would like a copy of this fascinating story.

Alan said he had been thinking of the battle of Fenny Bridges and the previous discuss ions of the
river c hanging its course. He thought that the rive r and main road bridge had possibly been two
hundred yards to the West. If you look at the present road it is raised up over the surroundi ng
ground which suggests that the river had made a sign ificant change of course with the bed probably
being where the cars are sold today. We queried whether the mill had therefore also been in a
differe nt position to where it is located now. Jenny mentioned that nearly all the archaeological
discoveries , particularly the peasants’ weapons, were found close to Bloomfield House, and not on
what is normally considered the main battlefield site. This suggests that the main battle was fought
closer to Bloomfield. (Did Bloomfield change its name from Bloodfield, perhaps?perhaps?) Just as had happened further downstream at Cadhay, the old river bed would have become filled in. It was also mentioned tha  flat bottomed boats use to sail past Fenny Bridges from Budleigh Salerton.

Peter informed us that it was Poetry day and he entertained us by read ing two of the poems he had

RoseMarie said she had been to Sancreed church and seen the painting of Munnings the Horse

Lionel, our new member, said he had only recently moved and we were pleased to welcome him.
He said that his particular interests were the history of Honiton, where he now lives, and Penzance,
his former home.

George said that Christine had sent an email out about a very important find on Dartmoor and he
told us about a BBC programme about the discovery which he had seen. He offered to lend the
guide book and the recording of the film to whoever was interested.

We also discussed the meeting in the church with Dr Todd Grey when he told us the story behind
Uncle Tom Cobley and its relevance to Feniton which had its own, and much earlier version. No
one, however, could identify the names in Feniton’s version with local names at the time from the
old records. We concluded that the names were imported from elsewhere or purely fictional.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the event and we were pleased it had raised so much for the church.

Christine thanked everyone who had worked to make the event so successful.

Date of next meeting is the first Thursday in November, the 7th November at 8 p.m.