Lapford Grist Mill is operated by the Stoneman family, the head of the family was always referred to as “Miller”. Two sons, Jimmy and Bert, were both working at the mill with their father. An annex built onto the side of the mill house was used as the Post Office, and the Miller’s elder daughter was the sub-postmistress. Bert was also employed – part time – as an’ auxiliary postman. The younger daughter, Ada, taught at the Village school, later marrying Fred Ley of Court Barton. Next on to the Mill house is a Georgian mansion, known as Lowerfield House and a short walk up Mill Hill brings us to Highfield House, another Georgian building.
At the top of, and facing down Mill Hill is a large detached house with stables, yard and kitchen garden at the rear and a small garden at the front. The front garden is enclosed by a stone wall. Known as Barris House, this dwelling was occupied by the Stone family. The father, a farmworker, elder son William Henry was a solicitor and son Frederick a solicitors managing clerk. Both brothers practising at Exeter.
In Stonegate Lane is the Council school, and also a pair of cob and thatch cottages. The stile giving access to public footpaths, backway and shutta park pool is near these cottages.
A few yards up the road from Stonegate was the stone ‘built structure known as “The Pond”. This was an unusual example of rural field irrigation. The pond collected and stored water for later controlled release to two grassed fields across the road, known as Kellands fields. I have no personal knowledge as to when the pond was built, or by whom designed. The parish records might hold the information.
Built of local stone, the walls of the pond were about 4 feet high and 2 feet thick. The tops of the walls were capped with rounded granite blocks. I wonder how many generations of village boys and girls walked around the pond using the granite cap stones as a footpath. The structure was rectangular in form, but with one short wall omitted, possibly to allow horses and cattle into drink, and also to make cleaning out easier. The pond was fed by surface water drainage from adjacent fields. Delivery of water to irrigation channels in the fields was through an under roadway pipe, controllable from the pond end. Across a field entrance the next property is known as “Heathfield”. First we would see an old cob and thatch barn, and then the house itself. This house, almost detached from Martin’s Cottage next door, was well built and commodious.
The three next cottages, again of cob and thatch were reputed to be the dwellings at one time occupied by the local serge weavers, and material such as used by then was found in the roof void.
Commencing with “Heathfield” and ending with the “Forge” there are seven dwellings in this row. Next to “Heathfield” lived the two Miss Martins[i] and Ella their niece[ii]. The Martins carried on a dressmaking business and employed Minnie Beer as an apprentice. Minnie lived at Holywell Cottage with her parents. Next, Samuel and Mrs. Rounsefell with their family, Kate, Ethel, Jane, William, Henry and George. The three sons died in their teens.
My own home and family came next. My parents Samuel and Nellie Challice, my sisters Edith Sybil, Della Mary Cornwall, myself Eric Wm Hy, and my brother Arthur George. My father was the village blacksmith and Samuel Rounsefell was a railway signalman. Mrs. Elizabeth North, a widow, with her daughter Polly were our next neighbours. Mrs. North was employed as a non-resident housekeeper by the Kelland family.
The cottage next on, situated between Mrs. North and the “Forge” residence had been occupied by a number of different tenants. – Mrs. Betty Heale[iii], a widow, with her son, Abram. Abram was a ploughman, and added to his meagre income by haircutting for men and boys. After the death of his mother, Abram moved to Exeter where he had brothers. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence moved in from a cottage at Forches Cross to be nearer their daughter, Mrs. Samuel Rounsefell. Mr. Lawrence had been a farm worker. Mrs. Lawrence before her marriage had been a Challice. On the death of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, the cottage was taken over by Ann Challice, a cousin of my grandfather – William Challice. Ann, a spinster, had been living in Bristol, but in the eventide of her life had come home to Lapford. Ann was the eldest daughter of George Challice – Miller – of Lapford Mill. Ann died the 22nd. Feb. 1907 and-is buried in Lapford Parish Churchyard amongst her family. For some time before her decease, Ann had a niece, Mary Preece, also from Bristol, living with her. Mary, at Anna death, returned to Bristol.
The property known as the “Forge”, comprising of house, smithy and ancillary buildings was owned by my grandfather. He with my grandmother, Mary, and my aunts Ada and Emily lived in the house. My grandfather and father conducted the blacksmithing business until my grandfather retired in 1914 and my father took over. An exchange of residences was made at this time.
Opposite the cottages and the “Forge” are two well-built and substantial detached houses with quite large gardens. One was occupied by Charles Gale, his wife and sons, Jack, Bert and Charles. Charles Senior was a slaughter-man and butcher mainly employed by “Kellands” but also worked on his own account where his skilled services were required.
The other house, “The Manse” was the home of the Rev. John Tudor, his wife and family, John and Eirya. The property was owned by the Congregational Chapel. Before the Tudors the Rev. John Stanton lived there with his wife and son, Archibald. Next to the “Forge” is a detached house with a large garden that was originally the village “poor house”. No longer used or needed for the poor of the parish, the property was occupied by “Thatcher” Northcott, who was also the Sexton at the Parish Church. Son Henry helped his father in thatching, and also at the church. The two upper rooms of the “poor house”; now known as the club rooms, were used by the Parish Council for its meetings. Formerly the, now defunct, Lapford Fife and Drum Band used the rooms for band practise, and the village sick benefit club also held its meetings there – hence “club rooms”. These rooms are entered by a flight of stone built steps built on the end of the house and approached by a narrow uneven surface lane – Poor House Lane. The remains of the Big Drum could be seen on the top of a cupboard for many years after the band had been disbanded.
It must be said, however, that any comment on either the extinct village band and the sick benefit club are not from personal knowledge, but from family reminiscences passed on to me.
It is said that the band ceased to exist after a drunken brawl in Chapel Lane when its members were returning to Lapford after playing at Morchard Bishop and also drinking cider too freely! Fifes were used as weapons, and the big drum was kicked over the hedge into a field opposite the Chapel. Next day when the drum was recovered it was found that the parchment “heads” were broken. The drum was never repaired.
The Sickness Benefit Club was probably superseded by other sickness benefit societies like the “Rational” and the National Deposit Friendly Society. The Old Club must have had considerable support in the village. I have been told that the club members used to march through the village on St. Thomas-a-Becket Day – Lapford Revel – with the fife and drum band playing. A steward or officials controlled the march, and I remember that Mr. Leach of Labour-In-Vain was known as “Pricker”, on account of his office of “Pricker In”, when he used a pointed staff to “prick in” any member out of line when on the march.
“Thatcher” Northcott used the spare ground beside and behind the “Poor house” as a working and storage area in connection with his thatching business. I have often watched • him splitting ash sticks and making spar gads. Both ends of the split sticks were sharpened to a point, and then the stick was twisted at the centre of its length and then bent to form a kind of wooden hairpin. These spar gads were used to fasten down the thatch. Adjacent to the “Poor house” garden we find a complex of building, previously Lapford Collegiate School, at one time known as Clarks academy. This was a privately owned boarding and day school, catering for Farmers’ sons and also a number of boys who were sons of families living abroad, such as planters, military and civil service personnel. The school had a distinctly non-conformist bias in its religious teaching and those boys who were boarders were escorted to the Congregational Chapel for Sunday services.
William Clark, the principal and proprietor of the school gave one the impression of being austere and strict. Qualified teaching staff were employed, and Mr. Clark also took his place in the classrooms. I remember a Mr. Johnson and later Mr. Alexander Snape. Mr. Snape took over the ‘school from Mr. Clark and there were thirty or more pupils, day and boarders. Anyone interested in the identity of these -pupils can find their names recorded in the census returns for Lapford, which returns can be seen at the Western County Studies Section at the Exeter City Library, Castle St. Exeter When an act of Parliament imposed higher building and educational standards on privately run schools, many such establishments, being unable to conform, closed down. Lapford Collegiate was one of such schools to close down. Mr. Alexander Snape entered and studied at the Bristol Congregational Institute and was later ordained and ministered at a Congregational Chapel in the midlands.
William Clark, now left with the buildings on his hands, employed a firm of builders from North Tawton to convert the property into three separate dwellings. After the conversion, Edgar Clark, who had married Minnie Densham of Bury Barton, occupied the larger residential part. This part fronts on to the Village road. The central detached house, formerly ore of the classrooms was let to Captain Binney, Royal Marines (Reserve); and the other detached cottage was occupied by Fred and Ada Ley. The only part of the school buildings completely demolished were on the site between Binneys and Leys and contained the boys’ dormitory on the first floor, and the ground floor was used for class rooms. Bare wooden stairs led up to the dormitory, the floor was also of elm planking and without any kind of carpeting or other covering.
To me the dormitory seemed cold and comfortless, perhaps spartan, or “cold as charity” would be an apt description. Such conditions were not unusual in many of the cottages in the village, and as such were accepted as normal.
I understand that on the end outside wall of Ley cottage may be seen the initials, scratched in the wall surface, of boys who over the years had been sleeping in the dormitory.
It is recorded in a gazeteer of 1850 that the Clarks were blacksmiths and agricultural machinists. Their forge was situated in the part of the main building abutting the “Poor house” garden. A silent witness to the existence of the forge was once the stone stepped mounting block (now demolished). My great grandfather, George Challice was at one time employed as a blacksmith and farrier by John Clark, and I believe he later took over the business. This, I understand, was the forerunner of the blacksmithing business carried on by my grandfather, William, and my father, Samuel, at the premises opposite the “Manse” and known as “The Forge”. Near the “Forge” is one of the village pumps, positioned in a stone built alcove at the bottom of the “Poor house” garden. The activity at the pump when, usually in the evening, the men folk collected the water supply for their households was something of a social occasion. A daily opportunity to exchange news and views.
Across the road from the pump site is a barn like building, built of cob, once owned and used by my grandfather and later by my father for purposes in connection with the blacksmithing business. The building housed the stock of iron and steel bar tinplate in sheet form, spare parts for farm machines and other uses. A metal bending machine, hand operated, was mainly used to shape flat bars of iron into the circular or hoop shape for cart wheel tyres, usually known as bonds. This bending machine, of heavy construction is permanently fixed to the floor of the shed as is an ancient hand powered lathe. More often than not I provided the hand power, having been “pressed” into service, and during the years I must have rotated the heavy driving flywheel many thousands of times.
My father also used the shed for bicycle repairs. When the annual check and testing of the accuracy of weighing machines, scales and weights and measures was carried out by the Authorities the shed was made available to them.
Apart from a small fee for the use of the building, a small amount of repair work was a “spin off”. This building was known to us as the upper shop. The sizeable plot of ground next to the upper shop is divided into two equal size garden plots used by my family and the Collegiate school. There were poultry runs and houses, a woodrick and shed, an earth closet and also a small shed housing my grandfather’s ferrets.
The gated lane between the manse and the upper shop led to fields stretching down to the mill leat. In the hedge dividing the first and second fields are a number of apple trees and at bottom of the lower field and bordering the mill leat is a small orchard. My grandfather rented these fruit trees from the owners and the apples were carefully gathered and stored, or as we say locally – hoarded – to become the supply for our family. The gathering in of the apples was an annual family occasion, with a picnic tea provided.
Across the village roadway and opposite the Collegiate School complex is a fine detached house known as “Saxons”, solidly built and much superior to many of the nearby cottages. The house is secluded from the public gaze by a high cob wall and also by the farm buildings at the entrance to Prowse lane, these buildings being a part of Court Barton.
The front of the house is positioned to give a very open and pleasant outlook down over prouwse fields. At the period of which these notes were written, Saxons was in the occupation of Mr. Henry John Beare and Mrs. Beare. Henry John, as he was usually referred to, was the headmaster at Council. school. Mr. and Mrs. Beare were very highly respected and liked. Those of us who were his pupils have much to thank him for. It is probably not generally known that Mr. Beare made his own considerable contribution to the provision of munitions for the Great War 1914-1918. He purchased and installed in his house a small foot-treadle operated, screw cutting centre lathe of a design and capability as used by professional engineers. He obtained from the Ministry of Munitions a supply of shell nosecaps in rough steel casting condition. These, on his lathe, he machined to closely controlled requirements, turning, and threading so that the cap could be screwed into the nose of an artillery shell after the explosives had been inserted. This operation was by no means an easy _one, technically or physically, and for an amateur engineer quite remarkable. This work was unpaid and without much thanks or recognition. Many medals and honours were awarded for much less war effort.
On retirement Mr. and Mrs. Beare moved to Beacon Lane in Whipton village – Exeter. They both died at Whipton and their grave may be seen near the church door in the Whipton village burial ground.
Between Saxons and the previously mentioned gardens, is a small plot of land that was developed and used by the Collegiate school as a rest and family area.
I can just remember that there were vestiges of old cottages there. Just over the hedge and adjoining the gardens was a similar enclosure to the “pond” at Kellands fields. The shape, an open ended rectangle, like the pond, but the banks were of earth and stone and not mason built. Probably it was at one time an irrigation pond, but then a rubbish dump.
Next on from Saxons, on our way up the village, is Court Barton Farm, farmed by the Ley family. This farm is I believe, one of Lapford’s larger properties, arable, with the general layout of farm buildings.
Court Barton also had threshing and other machinery in the large barn. The floor of the barn, had in earlier times, before the advent of threshing machinery; been used for hand-threshing by the use of flails. I remember seeing flails being used, and realised the degree of skill necessary. To allow fully laden waggons, with their “lades” in position, to enter the barn, the doorways were built quite high. The machinery in the barn was driven by a horse wheel which was in situ outside and close to the wall of the barn. Built against the wall was a structure consisting of a number of support posts of timber holding up a conical thatched roof, leaving the sides open. An umbrella shaped wheel, timber built, was fitted with shafts for the harnessing.in of one or two horses, and was in the centre of “round house”. By walking around and moving the wheel, motion was transferred through shafts, gears, pulleys and belting to drive the machinery in the barn. Court Barton had its own pound house and cider was made for family and worker use.
In the past the manor court was held at Court Barton, . hence the name “Court” and “Barton” is derived from the Saxon “Beretun” viz Bere Barley and Tun = Enclosure. Many “Bartons” carry the names of families such as “Easton” “Reiland” and of places viz Nymet (Celtic – Sacred Grove) “Court” farm house is well built and in the small front lawn is Lapfords only monkey puzzle tree. The iron railings and gate enclosing the small front lawn were made by my great grandfather – George Challice.
Nearby Prouse Lane is a very rough and stony cart track, but apart from being the entry to a footpath across prouse fields, mill leat and the River Yeo and on to the turnpike, it also gave access to several fields and also to an old barn of cob construction that was largely in ruins. Even though the barn was partly roofless and with sections of the walls missing, it was nevertheless used by Thomas Woolway, Wheelwright and Carpenter, to store sawn timber. My grandfather, William Challice, stored bales of straw in the remains of the barn tqllet, for later use in the pig and poultry houses.
A small overgrown plot of land opposite the barn was the site of a sawpit, now disused, and some of the old wooden frame for carrying the tree trunks for the hand sawyers to work could still be seen.
Next to this plot and sawpit was a small field with a pig and poultry house and also a number of beehives. This plot was used by my family. Down in Prouse fields we boys were allowed to play football and the Village Cricket Club had a portion of one field railed around to protect the grass surface of he rolled and mown pitch. A large wooden storage box was fixed at the side of the field, under the hedge, to store cricket gear.
Returning up Prouse Lane to the village road we see opposite “Court Barton” a row of cob and thatch cottages with gardens at the front and protected by wrought iron railings and an ornamental entrance gateway. Eliza Burridge later Mrs. Horwill, told me that my great grandfather, Georg had made the railings and gateway.
The cottages were occupied by “Tom” Littlejohns and his wife and daughter, Ivy. “Tom” was a railway signalman. Next door Thomas Heard, wife and daughter. On Mr. Heard moving to railway crossing gates near Crewkerne – Somerset, Mr. “Bert” Lugger and family took up residence. Messrs. Heard and Lugger were railway (L.S.W.R.) Porters.
The end cottage nearest the road was occupied by Eliza Burridge and her mother, Eliza, soon after her mother’s death, married “Butcher” Horwell and moved to one of Prospect Cottages. These two cottages, situated opposite the Parish Church were built approximately 100 years ago.
Probably because of the position of these dwellings they are now known as “Church View”. It is such a pity to discard old names.
Between the Church and Poor House Lane is the only general grocery and provision shop. It also had haberdashery and kindred supplies. John Davy, Charles T.B. Sanders and Robert Goddard were successive shopkeepers.
Charles Sanders built the Bakery in the garden of the shop property. Apart from being a general storekeeper, Charles Sanders was a master baker and previously at his Pinhoe Road, Exeter, bakery, he had won in competition many cups and prizes for his bakery products, bread and confectionery.
Adjacent to, and at the rear of the shop premises, and approached from Poor House Lane is a well built property comprising house, garden and outbuildings. This property was owned and occupied by Thomas Tucker, a general building contractor including repairs, alterations and complete house building. Sons George and Percy and daughter “Kitty” (Kate).
Then we come to the Parish Church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, – Saint Thomas a Becket – with its burial ground fronted by enclosed greens, known locally as the big green and the little green, both enclosed by post and chain fences.
Adjacent to the Church and Yard are the old farm buildings and yard of Lower Place Farm, the entrance being between the two greens. The farm house had been destroyed by fire and never rebuilt. Richard Challice, a cousin of my great grandfather was the last occupant. The surviving buildings are still in use.
In the field next to the farm yard and also abutting the church yard, the sawing of local grown timber was carried out by Frank Tucker of Chenson, who was the owner and operator of a racksawing outfit. He used to position and set up his steam traction engine and sawing machinery just under the churchyard hedge. As this method of timber sawing is now not often used I will try to give a short description of this operation. The steam traction engine is used to haul the equipment from village to village as timber is available for sawing, and the engine also supplies the motive power through belting, pulleys and gearing. The racksaw bench is a heavy piece of machinery to move, and is mounted on heavy duty cast iron wheels for transport from place to place. When the bench is extended to its full working position, it is about twenty feet in length over all. For transportation the bench is folded, in sections, on to itself and is therefore shortened for road travel. The frame of the bench is fitted with rollers along its entire length to support and facilitate the lateral movement of the table of iron plate that support timber being sawn. This iron table is in two sections with space between to allow for the rotation of the circular saw when the timber is being sawn. A supply of timber from local woodlands will have been delivered to the sawing site previously by horse drawn timber wagons. The tree trunk is hoisted, up skid poles to the table top and firmly secured by use of attachments known as “dogs” or “cleets”. This operation calls for much manual effort, and for some of the larger and heavier tree trunks horse power is used through suitably attached chains and hooks. Skids are also used.
The sawyer, by making use of the various pulleys, levers and gearing, when power is applied, can cause the sawing table with the tree trunk in position, to move forward on to the revolving saw. After the cut has been made, the table returns to the start position ready for the next forward motion on to the revolving saw and the next cut, and so on until the tree trunk is cut into shape and size material required by customers, builders, wheelwrights, farmers and others.
To digress for a moment — Mr. Frank Tucker was the son of Giles Tucker — farmer of Chenson. Although of farming stock, Frank had an inclination and aptitude for things mechanical. He took over an old corn (grist) mill at the village of Exton near Exmouth and together with his brother—in—law, a Mr. Nicholls, installed suitable electrical generators in the mill, using the existing mill wheel to provide motive power. They then provided Exton with electric light and power until taken over by the National Electricity Board.
Returning to Lapford affairs, Mr. Tucker also owned and operated a mobile threshing set, and the steam traction engine was also used to haul and provide motive power to operate the threshing machine, the straw baler and the reed comber. This machinery, plus the wheeled water tank, occupied considerable road space when being moved on the public highway, but the sawing machinery and the thresher were essential parts of country life. The threshing machine may be described as being similar to a heavy and strongly constructed caravan mounted on heavy cast iron wheels, four in number, with wide treads. Wheels of this type were necessary, first to carry the weight and secondly to be able to negotiate farmland. Whilst the working parts, pulleys and belting to be seen on the outside, seemed to be fitted at random, their connection with the internal working machinery is to a plan. The sheaves of corn, wheat, barley, oats or dredge corn, are conveyed to the top platform of the thresher, and fed in by hand, ears first, into the rotating threshing drum where the grain is taken out of the ears, sifted, cleaned and sized and passed to the rear of the machine into sacks. The straw is also passed to the rear where it is tied into bundles and ejected. The chaff is ejected on to the ground under the thresher.
Some straw is passed through the reed comber to make “reed” for the thatcher for use on roofs and ricks. The foregoing is a very simplified account of the threshing process, a visual demonstration is really necessary, but the opportunity to do so is very limited.
Leaving Lower Place farmyard and crossing the roadway we come to the complex of buildings more or less based on the “Old Malt Scoop” Public House. Generally referred to as “The Scoop”, this pub is an old established entity and must be well into its second centry as an hostelry. It is recorded that in the year 1830 a ball was held which was most numerously and fashionably attended, all the rank and beauty of the place were present”.
A tradesmens’ ball that followed, on the Monday following, is reported as taking place at the Maltsters Arms Inn.
Thomas Howard Woolway, the owner and licencee of the “Scoop” also carried on the business of a wheelwright and general carpentry in premises which are a part of the complex.
A lane next to the Prospect Cottage occupied by Mr. Adolphus England, an accountant practising at Exeter, leads to the wheelwright’s shop and timber yard with its sawpit. Three or four wheelwrights were regularly employed ‘ in making carts, waggons and farm, building and domestic woodwork. Repair work of all description was carried on involving woodwork or vehicles.
Whilst most of the timber used had been machine sawn, a certain amount was still produced by Hand—Sawyers at the timber yard sawpit. While it was a long time ago that I watched the sawyers at work, I will try to describe their work and equipment.
A large rectangular pit has been dug out in the ground in the timber yard, say four feet wide, six feet deep and about fifteen to twenty feet long, the pit sides being cut verticullarly down to the squared level floor of the pit. A firm and roomy pit floor was very necessary, so that the sawyer working underneath the timber being sawn, could have a firm footing and work safely and with freedom.
On both long sides of the sawpit, several stout timber posts were fixed in the ground vertically, these posts were small tree trucks, say ten inches in diameter. Rising some four to six feet from the ground level of the yard, these posts supported lengths of timber longitudinally. This makes two identical structures on which moveable pieces of wood, of suitable size and strength are laid across. The tree trunk is laid on and supported by the cross pieces of the “horse”, and is now in a suitable position for sawing lengthwise.
Two sawyers, one standing in the pit underneath the tree trunk and the other sawyer standing on the top of the “horse”, proceed by using a sawyers cross cut saw, or whip saw, to saw the trunk into such sizes as are required. The work of a sawyer is hard and demanding, yet records show that boys of thirteen years of age were working as sawyers.
In positioning a sawpit, ample space was allowed around it so that sawyers could handle timber to be sawn with safety and convenience.
In the field next to the timber yard was the rifle range used by the village Rifle Club and also by the Royal First Devon Yeomanry.
The wheelwright’s workshop was at the end of the large house occupied by Mr. Stock and his family, and later by Sidney Snell and his wife. Mrs. Snell was “Lottie” Horwell, the daughter of “Butcher” Horwell, who had his butchers shop at the end of the house near the village road. This house was a part of a block of property comprising the “Malt Scoop”, skittle alley with rifle range, stabling, and old cottage used as a wheelwrights store, a slaughter house and Horwell’s Butchers Shop. The yard in the front was used to accommodate horses and traps of customers, and at Lapford Revel the Morchard Bishop Band played there. A trademan, also from Morchard would set up his stall, or standing as we called it, and sell fairings to the children.
This property was mainly owned by “Tom” Woolway. Next on from the Malt Scoop was a small garden with a skittle alley along the far side. This belonged to the “Railway Inn”. The Railway Inn had its licence withdrawn and became a private residence owned and occupied by Mr. Joseph Goodenough and his family. I well remember the old bar parlour of the “Railway”, The Goodenough’s kindly allowed the National Deposit Friendly Society to use the parlour for the annual concert choir practices, with Mrs. Goodenough playing the piano. Across the roadway is the entrance way to the site of the Lower Place Farmhouse. The foundations of this farm house, which had been destroyed by fire could still be seen, also the small orchard. Lower Place Farm was the home of Richard and Anne Challice, ancestors of mine. Richard died 1871 and Anne 1898. Both lie in the Lapford churchyard. I have in my possession a large jug, once the property of Richard, dated 1857 and decorated with farming motifs and verse. It is probably a harvest jug.
When the Railway Inn ceased to be a public house, the skittle alley as such was closed down and the skittle players moved to the Malt Scoop alley. The alley at the Railway Inn was a separate building, whilst at the Malt Scoop the alley is an integral part of the “pub” buildings. As the name denotes, the alley is a long narrow enclosure with a hard beaten floor usually of earth, a long wooden chute for the return of the woods (or balls) to the players. The skittles and the large woods were made by the local carpenters, usually of apple wood. When games were being played, boys were employed to “set up” the “pins” and to return the woods down the chute to the players. Unpaid, of course, but the job passed some spare time away. No need to be bored, always plenty of things to do in the village.
The skittle Alley was also used by the local Rifle Club for indoor target shooting.
At the end of the Railway Inn outbuilding, and the bottom end of Chapel Lane, stood one of the village pumps. If my memory is correct, this well used to run dry before the village pump and well at the bottom of the Vestry House (poor house) garden.
At the old Bible Christian Chapel, now the Congregational Sunday School, the village roads divide. The right fork leading to Hill House and to the Congregational Chapel and burial ground, and also to Holywell Cottages, Eastington, Cobley, Calves Bridge (over the River Dalch) passing Frost and up Red Hill to Morchard Bishop.
The property known as “Hill House” is a large residence and gardens with a commanding position in the village, occupied at one period by William Clark, previously of the Collegiate School and later by William Drake – Yeoman. The Congregational Chapel and its burial ground was built in the year 1848 on land given by a Mr. Croote senior of Lapford.
The village road to the left of the Sunday School is the main artery of Lapford and proceeds up the hill through a built up area and on to Forches Cross and Filleigh, with Chawleigh, East and West Worlington and Witheridge not far distant.
Next to the Sunday School lived John and Emma Crocker and their family. Emma was the daughter of George and Mary Ann Challice. Their neighbours Mrs. Sarah Rowe – a widow, the White family with sons Frederick and Reginald and also two daughters. Mr. White was employed by the Rector – Rev. C. W. Wilson – at the Rectory as a gardener – coachman.
The next cottage in the row is situated in a corner and is approached by a series of long cobbled steps and is occupied by Mr. Jerrett – a farm worker. The Jerrett family are of old Lapford stock, there was a Jerrett occupying Barris House in 1832.
The large cottage facing down the hill, its rear wall to be seen in the cross road to chapel lane from main village road, was at one time occupied by the local Police Constable – Mr. Tuplin, and was the local police station, easily recognised by its prominent sign – Devon Constabulary – over the doorway.
Turning into the cross road to Chapel Lane the first residence on the left, at the corner, was for some time occupied by the Rector, the Rev. C. W. Wilson and Mrs. Wilson. This property was purchased by the Church Commissioners to provide a residence for the rector, and replaced the Old Rectory, which was sold. The old rectory had become too costly to maintain and to occupy. The Rector was a very generous and caring gentleman, and he consequently impoverished himself. I understand that after the Rector’s death Mrs. Wilson moved into a home for clergy widows, established and maintained by the Church of England.
In a fairly large house next to the Rectors and along the lane, lived Mrs. Cook, a widow, reputedly of private means, also her daughter and her mother – Mrs. Dart.
On the opposite side of the road and of the Rectory is Prospect House, its name taken from Prospect Fields adjacent. This is a sizeable detached house with garden, that was for a period in the occupation of Mrs. Laura Cornwall, widow of Andrew Cornwall late of West Farm. Laura was a daughter of Richard and Mary Delve – farmers of Lapford. Andrew Cornwall was born at Filleigh Downes Farm, and also lived at West Farm. He and Laura moved to London where they married.
Their eldest son Ernest became Chief General. Manager and Director of the National Provincial Bank of England, and Edwin Andrew the second son was knighted and raised to the Baronetcy. As Sir Edwin Cornwall, he was at one time the deputy speaker of the House of Commons, MP for Bethnel Green London, Privy Councillor, deputy Lieutenant, the first Mayor of Fulham, Chairman of London County Council, Controller of His Majesty’s Household etc. etc. Andrew was-buried at Sidmouth Cemetary, and Laura lies in Lapford Chapel yard – Andrew died 1903, Laura 1909.
Between the Rectory and Rattle Street are three dwellings, the larger of the three was occupied by a Miss Lovibond. This lady, was, I believe related to the Drake family -farmers – once of West Filleigh. Miss Nellie Drake, the author of a book about Lapford Life entitled “A North Devon Village”, published in 1950, and also her sister Jane, were regular visitors at Miss Lovibonds. Miss Drake’s book, now out of print, but may be seen at the West Country Studies section at Exeter City Library. I, also, have a copy. Miss Drake’s narrative, in the main, concerns her own family happenings and also general historical notes on Lapford and neighbouring villages as recorded in Devon Reference Books. This book is readable, but unfortunately not always strictly to fact.
In the first cottage on the right in Rattle Street, lived “Daddy” Palmer, a friendly elderly gentleman, who had quite a collection of grandfather clocks in his living room. He gave one of these clocks to my father, and its removal was hardly noticable.
Rattle Street is practically a cul-de-sac, except that at the far a five barred gate gave access to Park Field.
On the left hand corner of Rattle Street, on entering from the main road, is a fairly extensive property, comprising of a shop, bakery and residence. Mr. Harry Barnes lived and conducted his bakery business here.
To again digress on a family circumstance – I have always understood that at some period during the years 1860 -1880, my grandparents, William and Mary Challice occupied the above mentioned premises and while my grandmother conducted the bakery business, my grandfather operated his Blacksmiths Forge across the road in Rattle Street. The premises that housed the smith are still existing as a store or coach house.
Seven of my grandparents family were born at the Bakery House. My father – Samuel – being one of them.
The ovens at the bakery in the early days, and indeed into Mr. Barnes’s time, were of the old type “cloam” or brick lined type. This type of oven was heated by the insertion of faggots of wood and browse into the interior of the oven, and then set on fire and allowed to burn completely. Ashes were then removed,. the oven cleaned and the bread dough in loaf shape inserted for baking in the residual heat. The bread dough was made by hand in large wooden troughs, but later Mr. Barnes installed a rotary drum mixer, but this had also to be rotated by hand. However the making of the dough was expedited. The ovens were also converted to burn coal or coke.
I understand that my father, when a boy, helped his mother in the bakery whilst also learning the trade and skills of a blacksmith and farrier at his father’s forge across the way. An unusual “duo” of activities.
For many years, long after the family connection with the bakery, my father went to the bakehouse on Good Friday eve and worked through the night helping to make hot cross buns. We were, as children, assured of our buns being hot on Good Friday morning.
Among the families living in Rattle Street were the Voddens, “Joe” Rice and his daughter Jane (Jinny), Richard Delve and his wife, and there were others who I can no longer remember.
Directly across the road to Rattle Street is. West Gate. It is interesting to note the “Gate” in this context means,. from the Icelandic “gata” – a way – a road – a street. Lapford being a saxon settlement the use of the word gata -gate is, perhaps, understandable, as the anglo-saxon word is, I believe, “teat”. We at Lapford have also Stone Gate, Blackberry Gate and Barris Gate, all ways or road. Blackberry Gate is atone end of the way – footpath – to Cobley (Cobeleghe =.Cobbals Clearing A/S). West Gate is an enclave of Workers’ cob and thatch cottages, very similar to many other village dwellings. At the entrance to West Gate the cottage on the left is occupied by Faith Brewer, opposite John (Jack) Edworthy and his wife and also their grandson “Willie” Edworthy. The Edworthy cottage built on substantial stonework heavily buttressed at the front, uneven stone steps and the back of the cloam lined bread oven to be seen protruding from the front wall, the thatched roof, and the quaint and rustic appearance, makes the dwelling an artist’s dream.
Other families resident at West Gate were Mr. and Mrs. Knott and Peter their son, Charles Gibbings, his wife mother-in-law and daughters Elsie, Hilda, Mildred and Norah, school contempories of mine. Mrs. Gibbings was the caretaker at the Council School, and Charles (Charlie) who, I understand had been an army boot repairer, had a small workshed in his garden where he carried on his trade. I used to like to sit in his workshed and watch him at work anti often held a candle to provide him with light.
Mr. Gibbings, later, secured a position as an instructor at the Starcross Institution and left Lapford.
West Gate Lane narrows to a field footpath, known as “Backway”. This path is a “short cut” to the junction of Popes and Stone Gate Lanes. Both these lanes have fairly rough surfaces.
From this junction and through Beara Field, is a footpath leading to Shutta Park spring and pool. This short path allowed the villagers to obtain water from the pool in times of drought.
My grandfather, William Challice, owned or rented a small field in Popes Lane, in which he grew dredge corn and potatoes. Sufficient corn to feed the pigs and poultry and potatoes for the family for the year. Some of the corn was sent to Stoneman’s Mill to be milled into meal.
The field is still known as Challice’s Plot, but it has been absorbed into Beara Field by removing the hedge.
Returning to West Gate. Sharing the corner with John Edworthy’s cottage, are a pair of very old cob and thatch cottages, one showing evidence of a bread oven in a corner by the front entrance. Occupied by George Moore and his wife, Matilda (Tillie) and Tillie’s mother. Eliza Bradford lived next door. George Moore, with his horse and cart was in business as a general haulier, but was mainly employed by the roads department of the Devon County Council. George was a quiet, very well .liked and respected man. I would, however, with respect and kindly memories, say that Matilda and her mother – Eliza – were much more turbulent. Eliza, for slights or injuries, imagined or real, would wait her opportunity to “fall aboard” the supposed offender and deliver a virulent tonge-lashing. On occasion Eliza received a physical response from her victim and then she would loudly proclaim her indignation to anyone who would listen.
Matilda held and expressed very strong political views and was a staunch supporter of George Lambert, the Liberal member of Parliament. “Tilly” on one occasion, in political argument with a local Tory farmer, pressed home her opinion forcibly. This led to the aggrieved farmer taking court proceedings for assault. This affair became Lapfords “Cause Celebre”. On the day of the Court hearing at the Chulmleigh Magistrates Court, Lapford was almost in carnival mood. Horse transport of various kinds, such as brakes, traps, carts and individual riders were used by rival supporters and witnesses for the journey to Chulmleigh. The departure of the cavalcade and the general enjoyment shown by those participating suggested an outing, rather than a court appearance.
The case was duly tried by the Magistrates and “Tillie” was found guilty of the assault, but probably to register their opinion of the charge being brought to court, the bench ordered “Tillie” to pay the assaulted farmer, one farthing damages. Lapford folk laughted for years at this verdict and “Tillie” became to her contempories almost a folk heroine. My mother who was called as a witness to the assault, thought her time had been wasted on such a petty matter.
Moving on up the village road we see a detached house of good appearance and structure, owned and occupied by Thomas Coneybeer and his family. Mr. Coneybeer was a bespoke tailor by trade and was also the village postman, and for many years made the round journey, Lapford to Morchard Bishop sometimes staying overnight at his brother’s home at Morehard. Mr. Coneybeer’s Morchard brother was in the bakery trade and traded in Lapford one day weekly for cakes and confectionery. Thomas Coneybeer’s two sons Ernest and Francis were killed in the 1914 – 1918 war. A row of three cottages are next and are occupied by the Andrews, Hunt and Rice families. Mr. Andrews is a Wheel-wright and carpenter, employed by Thomas Woolway, Harry Hunt is employed on the railway permanent way as a packer. John Rice, for some years in the employ of Thomas Woolway, is now in business on his own account as a carpenter and joiner. A good example of John’s craftmanship can be seen in the quality of work performed in the making and fixing of the pulpit and stairs at the Congregational Church. The curve and finish of the stair handrail are particularly noticeable, John’s skill at his trade is of a very high standard. His workshop adjoined his residence.
Across the road at Town Farmhouse are Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Pridham who farmed adjoining land. Mrs. Pridham is also the organist at the Chapel. I regularly, daily, collected milk from this farm for the Chapel Minister, the Rev. John Tudor. For this service I received sixpence weekly. Opposite this Farmhouse and next on from John Rice’s workshop is the residence and business premises of Kellands, who are farmers, cattle dealers, wholesale butchers and slaughtermen. The residence is a large well built building of stone construction, standing well back from the village road. Kellands also have a registered slaughter house as well as the usual farm buildings.
Up the hill, next to Kellands is a fair sized property in which my friends and contempories, Constance and Victor Elworthy lived with their aunt. We now pass one or more properties of which I have no specific memories and on to the rough lane leading to the farms named “West” – “Rensey” and Bowerthy. The two last named farms are occupied by Snells, not related I believe.
West Farm of about 65 acres, has particular significance for me, as my great grandparents Andrew and Joan Cornwall farmed this property from 1843 to 1863 when their son George took over to about 1866, the tenancy then passing to Thomas Heard. My grandmother Mary Challice – nee Cornwall, lived at West Farm from 1843 until her marriage in 1858 to my grandfather, William Challice – blacksmith and farrier.
Bowerthy is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and the name is from the Saxon Bowewurd = “farm by the curve”, referring to the contour of the hill there. As witness to our Saxon past we find Cobley = Cobeleghe meaning Cobba’s Clearing and Eastington Estynton = East End of the Parish. However I digress.
Between Pridhams and the Forches – West Road Fork are several cottages. Three in an enclosure, one of which housed Police Constable Webber, his wife and son, Frank.
My memory of P.C. Webber is that it only needed his presence to maintain law and order. He was strict but fair, and rarely took a person to court. Minor offenders were more likely to receive attention from the stout blackthorn stick he sometimes carried. Two more cottages before Town Place Farm, in the first “Keeper” Greenslade and his family; and his neighbour “Shoemaker” Northcott and his wife lived in the last cottage at the top of the village.
Mr. Greenslade was the gamekeeper for the Lapford Wood Estate – Major Dunning Lapford Wood House.
Mr. Northcott is the village bootmaker, cobbler and harness maker. It will be noted that I have not included shoe making in Mr. Northcott’s trade activities. Very few villagers wore shoes, probably because the road conditions were poor, rough and muddy, and also the fact that boots stand up much better to country working conditions. The women who required shoes, and could afford them would have to shop at Exeter or Crediton.
Mr. Northcott made a heavy type of boot to suit each individual customer’s requirements. Made to measure of real leather, a pair of Northcott boots would last for many years of hardwear. When Mr. Northcott died, Mrs. Northcott carried on the business of boot making, harness and saddlery making and repairs. Every pair of boots that I wore when a boy came from the Northcotts.
Town Place Farm, occupied by the Saunders family is situated at the road fork and the position is generally referred to as ‘hip the top of town”. Near Town Place is the entrance of the road leading to the Rectory (Rev. C. W. Wilson) and to Parsonage Farm (Mr. Vicary). Near the Rectory entrance and through Parsonage Farm yard one can “pick up” the public footpath that runs from Lapford Church, across the field from Parsonage Farm, over the stile, across Eastington – Forches road, through Great Hole Farm, past the site of Filleigh Downes farmhouse and on to Filleigh.
Filleigh Downes was a small holding of just over fourteen acres and in 1840 paid tithe to the Rector of Lapford of E1-5-8. The property was owned by Thomas Tucker of Great Hole, and was occupied from about 1835 to 1843 by my great grandparents Andrew and Joan Cornwall. Only the foundations of the farmhouse now remain with the land absorbed by West Filleigh farm.
Great Hole Farm derives its name from the fact that it was the residence of Richard-De-La-Hole in the year 1249 A.D.
During the occupancy of the Rectory by the Rev. C. W. Wilson, the Eggesford Otter Hounds would sometimes meet on the lawn, with the accompanying master horsemen and huntsmen. As is traditional on such occasions, The Rector, as host provided the Stirrup Cup to the hunt.
We ordinary folk did not, however, share in Rector’s hospitality. We followed the hunt on foot, and as a matter of fact an otter hunt would not function successfully without its pedestrain followers “manning the stickle” to prevent the otter escaping from one deep river pool over the shallow stickle to the next deep pool.
Manning the stickle involved standing in the shallow water and vigorously moving a wooden pole – broom handle size – to and fro to scare the otter and to keep it in the deep pool.
Returning to the description of the topography of the parish, situated on or near the boundaries of the neighbouring parishes of Chawleigh and West and East Worlington is the Filleigh and Forches Cross area. A number of chiefly farm workers cottages and a number of farms viz -West Filleigh, Lower Filleigh, Filleigh Moor, Filleigh Barton and Great and Little Hole.
I particularly remember the fire that destroyed Great Hole farmhouse and it is, perhaps, worth writing down my memories of the occasion. Lapford was dependant on the Crediton fire brigade and the brigade was manned by part time volunteers who had to leave their regular employment, drop the work in hand and man the fire engine at short notice. Contacting the brigade at Crediton was difficult and time consuming. A telegram through the Post Office was not suitable, as the Captain of the brigade had to be personally contacted at his place of Work. In the case of the Great Hole fire, first Mr. Tucker, who farmed Great Hole, sent one of his sons on horseback to Lapford Railway Station. The Station Master or the Booking Clerk then sent a message in morse code to Crediton Station, where someone, probably a porter, would find the brigade Captain and inform him of the place of the fire. The Captain then had to muster his scattered crew, and arrange to borrow horses to haul the engine the ten miles to Lapford. By the time the brigade arrived the farmhouse was almost destroyed.
Meanwhile at Lapford the Police Constable had to find and in effect conscript enough men to man the pumping handles of the manual type fire engine. A certain ritual procedure was followed by the Constable when conscripting the menfolk. He would place his hand on the man’s shoulder and in the name of the law call upon the individual concerned to work on the fire engine pump as long as required by the Brigade Captain. A payment of one shilling was made to each man pumping, irrespective of the hours worked. As the only supply of water was from the farm duck pond, the farmhouse was totally destroyed. A new house has been built on a higher site nearby. A fire like the one at Great Hole was the reason for many of us boys ‘”witching” from school, we thought any penalties resulting worth risking.
Lapford, fortunately, has not suffered much from fire, but the action of time and change can be seen all around. Heaps of old cob and thatch mark homes long gone and here and there sites where long forgotten cottages stood. While Great Hole was rebuilt the farmhouse at Lower Place was not.
The farmhouse was situated in the centre of the village quite near the Parish Church and was burnt about 100 years ago. Now the farmyard is partly built over by cattle sheds in the occupation of Mr. Manning.. Returning to the occupation of the farm by Richard Challice and his wife, Anne, nee Northcott, a few more details may not come amiss. Richard occupied the farm from about 1840 and probably until his death in 1871, when he was 60 years of age. There were four sons and three daughters. The old hand pump and trough that still exist, are, to me, a silent reminder of a family long gone. It is of particular interest to me to see in the corner of the yard, the old forge trough from my family smithy. It is now being used as a drinking trough for cattle. The village car park and Prospect Way Council Estate are occupying some of Lower Place land, as is the Victory Hall.
Like Lower Place farmhouse, other properties have disappeared either by clearance or natural decay. At Porches Cross a heap of cob mud marks the spot of a cottage and the site and garden is all that is left after fire destroyed the property once occupied by the Lawrence family. Demolition has taken place in Rattle street and West Gate and of three reputed weavers dwellings near the Old Forge. Holywell Cottages have gone, also Bugford Railway Bungalows. Much of the above is forgotten, as is, I believe the routes of the many public footpaths provided by our ancestors. I have mentioned the path to and from Filleigh, but others shown on an old map are from Holywell, passing the Rectory across fields to Blackberry Gate; – Filleigh Barton to Cobley, Eastington- Holywell – Chapel Lane to the Chruch. Prouse Lane – Bugford – Bury Barton. Lapford Bridge (River Yeo) crossing Iron Railway Bridge, fields and through farmyard to Nymet Rowland. Turnpike near Lapford Wood House, across field, railway, clapper bridge, lane and through Bele farmyard to Nymet Rowland.
In her book “A North Devon Village” Miss Nellie Drake suggests the Pope’s lane was a path to Nymet. I quote “….Pope’s Lane, and ancient, rugged bridle path that led originally straight to Nymet Rowland, but was cut in two by the modern turnpike and now at the Nymet end is partially lost”…. However Miss Drake has apparently ignored the river to be crossed. There must have been a reason for the lane, but what? Since we have Pope’s Cottage and Pope’s Wood in the vicinity, perhaps Lapford Wood House was at one time the seat of the “Pope” family. The Barris footpath from Stonegate to the turnpike near Lapford bridge is probably the best known and most used path in the parish, leading as it does to the railway station and connecting with the footpaths and road to Nymet Rowland as well as the turnpike Chenson and beyond