2013 Meeting Reviews-ABBPAST
January: "The Real Cosa Nostra"
Speaker: Richard Haigh - Studier of Italian Life
Subject Summary: A History of the infamous Italian Mafia, the Cosa Nostra.
For our first talk of 2019, we were very fortunate in welcoming Richard Haigh. Richard, who is well known as an expert on matters Italian, gave us a fascinating and informative talk on the Cosa Nostra, its origins and its continuing impact on Italian society. He also took the time to debunk many of the Hollywood images of glamour and honour.
The Cosa Nostra began in Sicily, in the 19th century, and coincided with the unification of Italy and the transition from a feudal to a capitalist society. Originally the managers and overseers for the estate owning aristocracy, in the absence of effective state apparatus, they became the “protectors” and enforcers, getting wealthy in the process. This continued until Mussolini came to power. As Richard put it, “There was only room for one bully in the playground”. Draconian measures were introduced by the Fascist state and the society lost much of it’s power. This continued until the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. The American OSS, the forerunners of the CIA enlisted their help for this and the subsequent invasion of the mainland.
The effect of the Cosa Nostra and similar family based criminal organisations continues to have a far-reaching effect on Italy to this day. Though Richard ended his talk on a hopeful note. Richard has promised to come back to us next year to give us his talk on the Unification of Italy, illustrated by six different biscuits, which we get to eat; we are very much looking forward to that.
February: "The Clifford Family & Ugbrooke House"
Speaker: Helen Turnbull – former Archivist at Ugbrooke House.
Subject Summary: The story of the 14 Lord Clifford of Chudleigh at Ugbrooke House.
The Cliffords derive from a Norman Conquest family, when Guillaume de Normandie, a cousin of The Conqueror gave him land at Hay-on-Wye as his reward, this is where Clifford Castle was built and where the family name would come from. By Tudors times the family had many estates, including at Kingsteignton and Chudleigh. The first Baron Clifford was created in 1672 and made a great fortunate as the King’s Treasurer, but his Catholic inclination meant he eventually lost his position.
It was the 4th Lord who rebuilt Ugbrooke, which had formerly been owned by the Bishop of Plymouth, with the main house being re-modelled by Robert Adam and with gardens by Capability Brown, who damned the Ug Brook to create lakes. The 6th Lord was created Chairman of Devon Defence Committee to create the plans to thwart any French attacks during their Revolution. The 7th Lord won a VC at the Battle of Inkerman in 1854. After a number of Lord’s who had no children the title passed to less well connected members of the family and by the time the 13th Lord arrived the house was in a poor state of repair, but he and the 14th Lord have returned it, and its splendid Chapel, to much of its former glory.
March: "Abbotsleigh Priory 1861-2018"
Speaker: Peter Wade – AbbPast member and author of The Abbotskerswell Village History Series.
Subject Summary: The launch of the sixth booklet in the series
Abbotsleigh Priory was built in the years after 1860 in the ornate Catholic Gothic Revival style, with architect being Joseph Hanson. The publication tells the remarkable story of how the move from Spetisbury and a teaching order to Abbotsleigh and Perpetual Adoration came about, and an amazing story it is, as well the work of the Sisters and its transformation into a retirement village. Peter did not want to spoil the reading of the story, therefore focused on how the story of the Priory came about, particularly the finding of 140 glass negatives taken by one of the Sisters in the early 20th century which Abbpast have had cleaned and digitised; many of these were shown, giving a remarkable insight into life in an enclosed order. He also related the uncovering of material at the Catholic Archive in Exeter and Abbotsleigh's archive which is now at Douai Abbey. None of this material had been looked at for decades and it was this material that provided the story that unfolds in the booklet.
As with all of Abbotskerswell Village History Series that booklet was funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and is available free of charge and is also on this website as a pdf.
The outcome was a story of remarkable men who fought for their country in countless naval battles across the world, before settling in a small village near the sea and build impressive houses there. The first was Sir Edward Thornbrough, shown here, who was knighted for defeating a French fleet intent on invading Ireland. In the 1810s he built the 10 bedroomed Bishopsteignton Lodge (now Murley House) which was described as ‘sumptuous’ at the time, and housed 2000 bottles of wine. Then there was James Noble, a close friend of Nelson, was twice wounded and considered dying by Nelson. He lived at Clanage in the early 1800s.
Admiral Goodall won fame at the Battle of Ushant in 1779 and was involved in the court martial hearing of Captain Bligh of the Bounty. Although he actually lived in Teignmouth he chose to be buried in Bishopsteignton. Cornelius Quinton served aboard the Levithian during the war with America and in 1811 bought two cottages in the village which he turned into Seymour Cottage (now Friston House), an impressive Arts & Crafts Movement house in the Nash style. As if four Admirals was not enough there were also the stories of John Rhodes and Edward Young. Rhodes was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy but was invalided out as it was thought he was dying (he actually lived for 40 more years); he bought the grand Teignlawn and worked tirelessly with the local Vicar to build a church at Luton village and the school and its house. Rhodes fame came from his nine years in the Navy in the 1820s when he kept an illustrated journal which charted his experiences. During WW1 Admiral Stoddart also lived in the village at Wood House.
September: Campaigns You've Never Heard of
It was the turn of AbbPast member Nick Nicholson to entertain the group once again this month, using his own experiences in the Devonshire & Dorset Regiment to tell the story of two of the lesser known campaigns of the British Army since WW2.
Peacetime military history is really about the effect that the army has on people was how Nick began his account of the British Guiana in 1964 and Libya in 1967 campaigns. Until recently there have been few years when the British army has not been active somewhere in the world, and as a signaler in the D & D’s Nick witnessed a some of these.
He related the political situation that saw an 18 year old arrive in the tropical heat of British Giana, when the army had been called to the South American colony to restore order following race riots in the country’s second city Mackenzie. The country is a mix of peoples, with immigrant Asian Indians and ex-slave Afro-Caribbeans being the largest groups in a country known as ‘The Land of Five Peoples’. Following an ‘unsatisfactory’ election that gave power to a group considered too left wing, by the USA, the British Governor had taken control, but politically motivated race riots saw the Indian population targeted with beatings, rapes and destruction of property. Nick’s ‘C’ Company where sent to help restore order, which they did. Nick’s description of this and the life of a soldier at the time provided an evocative story. His description of entering a bar just after an explosion and being a lone 18 year trying to restrain the locals was fascinating.
Having returned to their base in Northern Ireland and then Germany his next story was of the Devons involvement in Libya during the 1967 ‘Six Day War’ between Israel and Egypt. The D & D’s were in Libya on desert training and, when Israel launched its attack, the other Arab nations joined Egypt’s cause. The European and American oil workers and their families, the teachers and security forces were in danger. Nick described the 230-mile cross country journey his Company made to reach Benghazi and secure the safety of the ex-patriot people there, following anti-Jewish and Western rioting. They brought them all into the army base for security before things settled down and a few weeks later and Nick’s unit was relieved.
Nick’s personal accounts of involvement in history, that many members will remember, were really interesting, with photographs and stories of the everyday events of campaigns that have quietly slipped away as the British Empire has disappeared from memory.
October: "The Bovey Tracey Heritage Centre"
AbbPast welcomed Viv Styles from the Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust for this month’s meeting. When Viv moved to Bovey in 2002 she thought it would be good to become involved with the Heritage Trust, and as is often the way, it has taken over her life.
The Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust was formed in 1995 and set itself two tasks; to collect and preserve evidence of Bovey’s past, and to display it in their own building. Now this is quite an undertaking, AbbPast just opted for the first, but with a population of 8000 Bovey Tracey believed it could do both. At first they obtained a building up some stairs behind a bakery, which, unsurprisingly, did not really work very well. However, they were then offered the old railway station by the Town Council, for the princely sum of £1 a year. But of course the bills add up and the initial renovation cost £100 000; a Heritage Lottery Grant was awarded to cover this problem and a great deal of effort has gone into creating the excellent Heritage Centre. It is always a huge undertaking to maintain an old building, and certainly a worthwhile while one, as the costs have to be raised every year.
The Trust has gathered a huge amount of pictures, documents, and reminiscences which they have displayed and are working hard at collating and digitizing. The railway and pottery works have been great sources of material, and have both been feature displays in their Centre. Since 2014 they have had an ongoing WW1 display and each 100th anniversary of a Bovey man’s death is marked by sticking a poppy to their wall display, trying to find a family member or person whose work was the same to add the poppy. They have meetings, talks, organise walks, as well as opening the Centre daily from Easter to the end of October.
Viv was wonderfully enthusiastic, showing us a number of the Trust’s books, that they have produced and describing their vision of their local history. It is great that each community comes up with what suits them and is therefore different, and hearing about it is something our members enjoy.
November: “Remembering World War 1 Through its War Memorials”
Speaker: Peter Wade - local historian and AbbPast Member
Subject Summary: with the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War having been the day before Peter choose to end AbbPast’s ‘Role of Honour Project 2014-2018’ with a talk that explained how war memorials came about and used photographs of local examples, such as The City of Exeter Memorial shown below, to describe some of the styles that were created.
War memorials have existed since before WW1 with examples from the colonial wars such as the Boer War and Indian Wars being commemorated. Peter explained how the earliest post 1918 memorials were individual ones or ones created by companies such as the GWR. Next came the creation of Rolls of Honour/Duty often placed in churches such as at Luton and East Ogwell. Perhaps the most important name in war memorial design was Sir Edward Lutjens, and his Cenotaph and the Thiepval Memorial on The Somme were hugely significant in creating the climate for the war memorial movement to grow.
The styles of memorial that we see locally are crosses, Latin and Celtic, ornamental styles such as at Denbury and Shaldon, or the obelisks at Teignmouth and Paignton. Peter also told the stories of our own memorial in the church and the one in Newton Abbot; these were examples of the upset that could be caused by the creation of the memorials.
December: "Elizabethan Name Calling"
Speaker: Todd Gray – well-known local historian and author
Subject Summary: whilst researching the Church Papers of Exeter Todd discovered perhaps the best example of Devonshire conversation that exists, the slanderous remarks that were reported to the Church Courts in the 16th and 17th sentences. This is his study of language.
Todd was at great pains to point out that this talk would contain some serious bad language, because to prove a person had been slandered the Church Court needed the exact words. As an academic exercise Todd had been warned may years ago that this was difficult territory for the Historian; in fact his doctoral supervisor warned him off saying “it will kill your reputation before you have one!” But eventually Todd produced two books, the serious study, shown here, and the light hearted “How to Swear Like an Elizabethan in Devon”.
The talk focused on the nature of bad language and the range of words that often seemed to be unique to a Devon and even a particular village. One example, which is printable was a woman complaining that it had been said that she had been “occupied under a furze bush in the snow”; meaning she had had sex. He found this expression nowhere else in Devon, and particularly liked the precise detail of furze, not a more general gorse bush. There were lots of examples like that and as he explained it is a real insight into language at that time. So in one village alone a “mooncalf” meant an illegitimate child, and so it went on with words for men and women of low morals, intellect, credibility and honesty. .
January: "Un-earthing a Dartmoor Copper Mine"
February: "The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight"
March: "The Birth of the Tank"
January: "AGM & The New Newton Abbot Museum"
February: "The Great Blizzard of 1891"
March: "Here's a Howdy Do- Coleton Fishacres & the D'Oyly Carte"
April: "Raleigh and the Gilberts of Compton and Greenaway"
May: "Kents Cavern & the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark"
June: "A Famous Farsley Family"
July: "3000 years of History from the Sea - The Salcombe Wrecks"
September: "Sabine Baring-Gould"
October: "Newton Abbot's Railway History, 1846 to the Present Day"
November: "Fieldwork and Excavations at Ipplepen 2007-2017"
December: "Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey & Coifs: the lives of our 17th Century Ancestors"
January: "Mutiny, Mobs and Mayhem 1793-1867:
was Devon on the brink of revolution ?"
February: "The Lost Mine of Landscove and the Lost Canal at Littlehempston"
March: "Devon Place Names"
April: "The Aller Vale Pottery"
May: "Roman Devon"
June: "The Code Breakers of Bletchley Park"
July: "The German Refugees who Fought for Britain in WW2"
August: "The Coming of the Railways"
September: "All the way from France"
October: "Slavery in Devon"
November: "Photographing Torquay in 1850 - 1870"
December: "Members Quiz Night"