Our cottage had the centre position in the row of five of similar size and construction. There were, of course, some variations in room layout. At the higher end of the row was my grandfather, William Challice’s business
My family carried on a blacksmithing and farriery business with ‘the associated agricultural engineering. A more modern and substantial house stands on a site between the old pond and the first cottage occupied by the two Martin sisters who were dress-makers.
The cottages all had thatched roofs excepting the Forge, which was slated as a precaution against fire that might result from sparks from the smithy fire. Attached to the Forge building was a large shed, known as the penthouse, in which the shoeing of horses took place. The penthouse had double doors enclosing the front and the floor was of cobbles. There was a loft over, where material for the business was stored, a coal bunker in the side of the building in which Smiths Coal. – known as “breeze” was kept, a well of water in one corner, and a store room and loft at the rear.
In a visit to Lapford these cottages and the Smithy are amongst the first to be seen. Visitors entering the parish if travelling. northward on the Exeter – Barnstaple road (turnpike) will, not far from Morchard Road, reach Lapford’s boundary of the River Dalch at Bugford. Retrace our journey back toward Morchard Road, and near Easton Barton entrance we see the quarry used by the London and South Western Railway for the production of,stane ballast for the permanent way. The explosives store shed was the object of much interest to us trespassing boys. It is providential that the store shed was solidly built and firmly padlocked. Nearby is Easton Barton, one time the seat of the Easton family. Therdlare memorials to this family in Morchard Bishop church, Easton Barton being in the parish of Morchard Bishop. Raman artifacts are said to have been found at the Barton, but as far as I know this has not been confirmed. In a nearby copse, just before Bugford bridge, will be found the Weir across the River Yeo. This weir dams the water of the Yea to form a mill pool, this pool feeds the leat that carries the water to Bugford Mill water wheel. Cut out of the hillside near the Mill house is the quarry worked by the Devon County Council to “rip” out stone for use in the repair of the County roads. The quarry is leased from Richard Stoneman. Where the road turns off right from the turnpike to Bugford Mill and on to Morchard,. were to be seen Bugford Cottages. These two semi-detached cottages were the property of the I.S.W. Railway Company and were occupied by two railway employees. In one lived John Rogers, a permanent way “Ganger” in the other Richard (Dick) Gamer who was a railway “Plate-layer and packer”. These cottages were constructed of timber, with the outside walls coated with tar and with slated roofs. The internal layout was very simple and space limited. Entering the small living room directly via the front porch and door, one could see the coal fired cooking range on thf= right centre. Adjoining this room was a very small kitchen scullery. Two small bedrooms were entered from the living room. In the yard outside was a stone built “wash house” complete with the “copper”. Adjacent to this building was a general utility shed and toilet. Through a door in the wooden fence at the side of the railway cutting and down the sloping side of the cutting bank, using a fairly long and steep set of wooden steps, one could find the well that supplied all the water requirements of the two dwellings. The well was also used as a cool, place to store – on a shelf – certain foodstuffs and milk. Some old records give this area the Saxon name – Bugbeare viz Beare Wooded Place. Bury copse is nearby, possibly the remains of a larger old wooded_ area.
Travelling along the turnpike toward Labour-In-Vain, one notices on the left of the highway the “stone depot” where road stone used to be cracked and stored. A few yards on we see the gateway and drive to Bury Barton – The burh of our saxon forbears – farmed by Roger Densham. Opposite Bury entrance is the stile and path leading to the clapper bridge spanning the River Yeo, and across the field and under the railway arch to the mill leat clapper and prouse fields and lane to exit into the village road near Court Barton and the Church. When using this path, one cannot but notice how the River Yeo meanders through the surrounding fields, and in so doing delaying the merging of its waters with the River Taw at near Chenson.
The winding course that nature has caused the River Yeo to take, makes the Yeo Vale interesting and beautiful. I have spent many happy hours fishing and exploring the waters of the Yeo. A suitable pole cut from the river bank, a piece of string and a penny fish hook gave a surprising amount of . sport and success. On the Bugford side of the river clapper the River Dalch joins the Yeo. At the confluence of the two rivers a solid stone weir has been built to provide a pool to supply Lapford Nill leat with an adequate flow of water to drive the mill wheel.
Returning to the turnpike we soon arrive at Lapford Cross. Turning left at the crossroads and up Kelland Hill we first reach Kelland Cottages, and some way along we see and can follow the roads to Bury and Kelland Barton and farms at Edgerley, Pennycott, Tonyfield and others. The right fork at Kelland Cottages takes one on to the North Tawton district – in saxon times North Tawton was known as Cipping (Market) Tawton. Returning to Lapford Cross, and a short distance alongthe turnpike we come to the Nymet Rowland road turn-off on the left. On past the Yeo Vale Hotel and the Railway yard and station, and just over Lapford Bridge – River Yeo – we see on our right the lower gateway of the Barris footpath that takes one to the village, the higher gate being at the entrance to Stone Gate lane near the school.
The two fine stone built bridges, one each over the railway and river are fine examples of the stone masons craft.
A field opposite the railway yard and the Yeo Vale Hotel was then used for the local cattle market and when the railway track was being doubled, a hutted camp was built there for the “navvies” employed.
The Yeo Vale Hotel clientele were to be found mostly the country sporting and hunting set and, the Eggesford Otter hounds often took amongst farmers and indeed, the meet of place there.
I might mention here that the “Old Malt Scoop” and the now defunct “Railway Inn” nearby were used by all sections of the community and were perhaps more popular public houses than the “Yeo Vale”.
When the bridge was built to carry the turnpike over the railway lines it was, of course, necessary to construct the tunnel of the bridge to a sufficient height to allow clearance for the railway engine and rolling stock. The approach roads to the bridge, therefore were ramped up, and the soil to do this was excavated from a position near Lapford bridge – River Yeo. One of these excavation – between the river and the slip road leading to the slaughter house – fills with water when the river is in flood. This pool of shallow water freezes solid in the winter and forms an excellent ice rink. Hob nailed boots were ideal for this kind of ice sliding. For some reason, unknown to me, this piece of water was always known as the plantation.
The slaughter house facilities at the Railway Station were mainly used by the Kellands, who were wholesale butchers, cattle breeders, dealers and farmers.
A short distance along the turnpike toward Chenson is Popes Cottage, also a bungalow and a pair of houses, the property of the L.S.W. Railway and occupied by railway employees. Overlooking the Yeo vale and also towards Nymet Rowland is a large house known as “Lapford Wood”. Another larger privately owned bungalow and we are near Nymet Bridge, and almost into the parishes of Nymet Rowland and Chawleigh.
Retracing our footsteps to the part of Lapford known as Labour-In-Vain here we see a pair of cob and thatch cottages, the property of Roger Densham of Bury Barton and known as Bury Cottages. These were “tied” dwellings, occupied by Messrs. Gallia and Farley, who were employed at Bury Barton as farm workers. Across the roadway is a row of cob and thatch dwelling in general occupation. The appellation -Labour-In-Vain – is said to have been given to this part of Lapford on account of the local story that when the cottages were being erected the cob walls built by day were each night washed away by very heavy rain – hence Labour-In-Vain.
Pausing for a while on my way to the village I would like to make reference to the tragic accident at Labour-In -Vain in which Mrs. Roger. Densham lost her life. I had been down by the river and returning to the roadway near Burry Cottages I noticed the Densham horse and trap turn in from the turnpike at Lapford Cross. Hugh Densham was driving with his mother beside him. For some reason the horse took fright and bolted. In spite of every effort by Hugh to regain control the horse galloped on toward the river bridge. The nearside wheel of the trap collided with the corner of the bridge and Mrs. Densham was catapulted to the river bed far below. Men working on the nearby railway came very quickly to help and were responsible for carefully carrying a very badly injured lady up to the roadway above. Mrs. Densham died from her injuries shortly afterwards. Apart from Hugh Densham I believe I am the only eye witness of the occurrence. As a memorial to Mrs. Densham, a vestry was built at the Lapford Congregational Chapel at the side of the main building. Mrs. Densham had always worked for and supported the chapel – Ellen Jane Densham – died 10.5.1909 age 64.