Heart of the South Hams, Devon

Soar Mill Cove Beach
Meetings Reports 2012

We had some wonderful speakers this year:

THE JOY OF ARCHIVES  --  Felicity Goodall

Felicity Goodall regaled us with local stories and tales of local people who have featured in history, the sort of stories you can dig up and where, using examples from her “Lost Plymouth” book and other books, as well as mentioning some stories she came across when doing a local archive audit.  Felicity is an extremely knowledgeable lady and she made the subject fascinating!  She made the point that there is a lot of information available if you are prepared to look for it - a thing a lot of us ignore these days.


Reg and Betty Sampson showed us some marvellous archive film footage they made in the 1960’s, edited and put together onto DVD, entitled “Bygone Trades and Industries in the South Hams” .  Reg introduced the DVD by showing us the collection of video cameras he and Betty had used for the filming – a bit different from the tiny little things we use nowadays! The reels of film they used were very short, too, giving only 4 minutes of screen time per reel, which had to be turned over half way through.  A lot of hard work, but resulting in a fascinating evocation of times past, showing local industries and events including stone being extracted in Torr Quarry, some fantastic floats in the Kingsbridge Fair Week Quincentenary procession, harvest at Loddiswell vineyard, a trip on the South Brent to Kingsbridge railway and the local Loddiswell baker making Devon Tuffs (apparently they’re like Devon Splits and go beautifully with clotted cream and jam!).  Copies of the DVD are available from the Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum or from Loddiswell History Group.

Note:  We are very sorry to report that both Reg and Betty died later this year.  Our thoughts are with their family.


On one of the few dry evenings in early June, the members of Malborough History Group were privileged to be given a guided walk around South Milton village by Janet Turner, who grew up in the village. 

We began at the church, with its ancient stone font, beautiful old screen and, in the Lady Chapel, a tiny crucifix found in a local field.  Walking uphill, past the site of the old Blacksmith Shop at Kerse, we were led along the back lanes of the village, stopping from time to time to admire thatched cottages, 13th century Feoffee houses, and a line of ‘New Buildings’ from 1834, built with gardens at the front and a pig house at the rear, with a row of 4 earth closets on the corner of the lane, shared between 8 families!  Nowadays these are only visible as bricked-in doorways in the stone wall but they seem to have sprouted an abundance of very colourful wild flowers!

Next we came to Shute Farm, a beautiful old 17th century farmstead, covered in roses and wisteria and surrounded by the original old stone and cob farm buildings, with chickens wandering around the yard.  Janet spent her childhood there and the owners kindly allowed us to walk through to their back garden to have a look at the old ‘bee bole niches’, beehive-shaped alcoves in the stone wall where bees were kept during the summer for their honey.  Janet also showed us “Primrose Cottage”, a pretty outbuilding which used to house the communal privy, a long board containing 4 large and 4 small holes!  All this talk of earth closets and privies made us realise how much we take modern plumbing for granted!

There followed more thatched cottages, a butter well, the old school, the old post office, the village pump (beautifully renovated as the village’s Jubilee project) and the characterful Collacot, a 13th century multiple dwelling house which, over the years, has served as housing for farm workers, a school and a house for monks.

Janet’s tour was full of historical information, stories and anecdotes and it made for a wonderful visit.  To complete the perfect evening, the South Milton team treated us to tea and biscuits in the Village Hall while Tim Burr kindly set up a showing of his DVD of photographs of parts of the village ‘then and now’, with clever fading between the old and the new so that you hardly knew whether you were looking at the original photograph or its modern equivalent, skilfully taken from the same angle.

It was a fantastic evening and we hope to reciprocate by giving members of the South Milton history group a guided tour around Malborough – anyone know of any old privies around here?!


The Malborough History Group was delighted to welcome back Roger Barrett to its meeting in October.  His subject this time was ‘Guarding the Coast between Start Point and Salcombe Bar’ and it was a fascinating evocation of how local people have sought over the years to defend this coast against the threat of invasion, piracy and smuggling and safeguard the lives of those in peril on the sea. 

Roger’s illustrated talk guided us through the Spanish Armada, the Barbary pirates and the Napoleonic Wars, with one contemporary illustration showing Napoleon being greeted in Plymouth Sound by a flotilla of small boats filled with swooning ladies!  The next picture purported to show Napoleon contemplating suicide, which doesn’t say much for the ladies of Plymouth at that time! 

Over the centuries, and through the two World Wars up to recent times, there were many tales of disaster and of great bravery, not to mention a few describing the ingenuity shown by local smugglers in evading the Revenue men.  Last, but by no means least, Roger gave us a potted history of the National Coastwatch Institution and the great accolade it has recently won, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.