TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK GIVEN BY MR EDGAR BRAGG AT THE BYGONE DAYS EXHIBITION IN THE VICTORY HALL ON FRIDAY 21ST JANUARY 2000.
I was brought to Lapford when a very young child of twenty months and have lived either at “Kelland Barton” or “Easterpark” for over seventy years.
Some of my first memories of Lapford are when I first went to school, it was the Old School, now the Youth Club. My first teacher was Miss Daisy Arscott. Daisy lived at Barris House. Her mother kept the little shop which is now the hairdressers, very convenient for the children for the penn’orth of sherbert or a gobstopper.
The first day I attended school, a bigger boy made me cry. My six years older brother soon made amends by giving the culprit a hiding.
During my time at Lapford School, there was quite a contingent of children who used to converge on Lapford Cross, all walking on their way to school. The Howard’s from “Stopgate”, the Leach’s from “Pennycotts”, the Riddaway’s from “Fursdon Farm”, the Bragg’s from “Kelland”, the Luxton’s and the Buckingham’s from the “Kelland Cottages”, we all came to school via Kelland Hill. Then there were the Bater’s and Gilbert’s from Bugford who we sometimes met up with between Lapford Cross and the school. Two of the Gilbert boys were better known by their nicknames. There was Ping Pong and Ghandi.
All the children living on “Kelland” including those living at the Kelland cottages were boys, a total of twelve, enough for a football team. Of course we wouldn’t all have been at a suitable age to play in a team together.
I am amazed at the changes there have been during my lifetime. One thing in particular being the methods of transport. The horse and cart was in common use. There were a number of farmers who used to take their milk to the factory by horse and cart, one or two churns each. Sometimes when there was a horse and cart travelling in our direction, when we were able to cadge a lift on our way to school. I remember once when John Riddaway from “Fursdon Farm”, after having been late for school for a few days, Mr Widgery our Headmaster thought he must reprimand him. He said “You’re late again this morning Riddaway, have you got any excuse?” “Yes Sir, Father layed abed again Sir”. Horses were used for many other purposes including all the work on the farms, ploughing, planting, harvesting, etc.
There is one thing I vividly remember, that is the two millers who regularly operated their water driven mills. Mr Farley of “Nymet Mills” and Mr Stoneman at the “Lapford Mill”. Mr Farley used to employ a man, Mr Sidney Rookes, who lived here in the village, to drive his horse and cart. I understand he used to deliver regularly to a farmer as far afield as Black Dog.
Mr Bert Stoneman used to drive his own horse and cart. He would often be seen sitting on the front of the cart holding the reins and singing heartily in his own happy way. I remember one of the ditties he used to sing was “You’ll die if you worry, you’ll die if you don’t, so why worry at all”.
The Mill was quite a source of interest to us boys, passing on our way home from school. We sometimes used to call in the mill to see if it was working and if we thought there was no one watching we used to give each other rides up on the chain. Mr Bert Stoneman would sometimes catch us at it. I remember him coming dashing through the main entrance door shouting “come down, come down, you’ll kill yourselves.”
Mr Jack Hine from Nymet Rowland used to deliver milk through the village with a pony and trap. He used to bring two churns with him to the bottom of Mill Hill. He would offload one churn to make it easier for his pony, then proceed to distribute the other churn from door to door, measuring out the milk with his pint measure into the customer’s own utensil such as a milk can or a jug. When one churn was completed he would come back for his second churn and continue his milk round.
I was recently looking at some old records of the building of the Main Road Chapel in 1931. It was recorded that local farmers used their horses and carts free of charge to convey hardcore from Bugford Quarry and sand from the river at Nymet Mills to the site, the materials also having been given free of charge.
A Sunday School was commenced at the chapel in 1932. I believe I attended the first school and I have been in attendance at the chapel ever since.
I well remember the building of the new County Primary School, completed in 1935. As soon as the new school was completed we children were transferred. Up to the time of transfer I had been in the infants room, but at the time of change I was promoted to standard two which was in the middle classroom.
I was still at school when the war started. I well remember our headmaster, on the first schoolday after war was declared, coming into the classroom with his daily newspaper and discussing the headline news. I remember him making a statement saying “there are some of you here today who could well be called up to fight in this was before its all over”. He was right, there were.
I well remember the evacuees arriving at Lapford. They were mainly from the Rayne’s Park area of Surrey. We Lapford children thought this would be a major upheaval, but we soon all settled down together. I think in a way their presence enhanced the life of the school. We boys mixed and got on very well together and there were some very attractive girls in the company.
There was the episode of the barrage balloon (see separate article)
I remember the Army Searchlight Unit taking up residence in Lapford, first occupying the Victory Hall, then afterwards having their own Nissan huts in Mr Clarke’s field, now Moorland View. The ATS girls had similar accommodation in Park Meadow.
There was a small RAF unit who used to encamp at Edgerleigh Cross in the field just opposite the entrance to the football field. They came there periodically with a beacon light, which was used as a decoy to confuse German air pilots – to make them think they were seeing a lighthouse out at sea I suppose.
The Lapford Farmers Market at the Yeo Vale Cross was still in operation until well after the war. The market was held monthly on the third Wednesday of each month. Local farmers brought their cattle and sheep for sale, livestock dealers used to attend for their purchases, agriculture merchants attended to take orders for feedstuffs and to purchase grain, hay and straw etc. They would also receive their payments for goods previously delivered to the farms. Sadly the market gradually dwindled and died.
Bugford Quarry was a source of employment for several workers until the time it was closed. I think I can remember a steam driven lorry used at the quarry to haul their stone. The quarry was operated by Devon County Council.
The big blow for Lapford came about 1971 or 72 when it was announced that Express Dairy were going to close the Ambrosia Factory and build elsewhere. There was a great fear of unemployment in the Parish. I was a member of the Crediton Rural District Council at the time and there was great concern there that the factory closure would cause an unemployment blackspot and also that there would be a considerable loss of revenue for the area.
Express Dairy was intent on building a new factory. The site available at Lapford wasn’t big enough for the proposed new one. The company insisted on having access to a river where they could extract 1,000’s of gallons of water a day for cooling and cleansing purposes, so after considering a few other sites they eventually built at North Tawton nearby the River Taw.
Lapford developed quite fast in the period after the war until the end of the Millennium. If you were to shut your eyes and imagine Lapford without houses at Moorland View, without the Barris bungalows, without Prospect Way, without Highfield, without the developments in Kelland Hill, Park Meadow Close, Eastington Road, Mill Hill, and the bottom of Popes Lane, without the whole of Orchard Way, without the garage and the industrial units at Yeo Vale Cross, and without the car park and toilets, you would see Lapford as it was in about 1950. All this within my adult lifetime.
As we go forward into a new millennium my hope is that Lapford will continue to be a very desirable place to live.
I’ll finish by saying “God Bless the Parish of Lapford and all those who live in it”.