Trish, Nick and Pete have been involved with AbbPast since it was formed over 10 years ago. Together with Ann and Felicity the village's history group has been involved in a great many projects, but it is time for change. We are all older and not necessarily living in Abbotskerswell anymore, so it has been decided that this will be the last year of AbbPast in its present form. The talks that are posted on this website are the last series that Trish, Nick and Pete will be organising.
This does not have to be the end of AbbPast; the name will live on from the work that has been done and the Archive of material that we have created. So if there are people in the village who would like to take over from us a create a new version of AbbPast then please contact us. We are particularly keen to recruit an archivist who can be responsible for our Archive in Church House: if you are interested in this please contact Pete Wade.


To commemorate the village Parish Council's purchase of the old Wesleyan Chapel and its renovation by the Abbotskerswell Repair Workshop, AbbPast has produced one of its occasional publications that tells its story from opening in 1852 to the present day. They are available in the village shop and cafe.


The latest in our village history series, 'People & Places' has been released at an event at the Orchard Cafe on Tuesday 15th November. To obtain a free copy visit the Cafe or Model Stores.


After a two year gap whilst we sat Covid-19 out, we are back in action. We have maintained our presence during that time with a series of village photographs on Facebook's 'Spotted Abbotskerswell' page each day in the first lockdown, with our monthly AbbPast Extras page in AbbTalk and even managed to produce a new publication telling the story of "The Lanes & Footpaths of Abbotskerswell (Plus Orchards)" - as usual this is available free of charge in the Model Stores and our new village cafe 'The Orchard Cafe & Crafts'.
Our Meetings have started again and we have our usual mix of local and national speakers.

Also back are the talks that we give to other groups which all help to fund our village history work, we have deleivered the following with more to come.
Abbotskerswell History Walk for Teign U3A 

Rails Through Bishopsteignton talk to Bishopsteignton Probus and Teign U3A's Local History Group
Sister Mary Benedict talk to Arthingworth Women's Institute in Northamptonshire
13th June: The Ventiford Basin - North & South,  for the Professional Engineers Club (Devon)
14th July: The Teignmouth to Newton Abbot Railway, for the Newton Abbot branch of the National Trust


Todd is Devon's leading local historian and has written many books on many aspects of Devon's history. He has written the following piece on the historicial impact of pandemics in the area in the newsletter of the Devon History society, we thought you might  like to read it to help put Covid-19 in its historical conext. Please click on the pdf link provided here -      PANDEMICS__Todd_Gray.docx

As a history group AbbPast is happy to deliver talks to other groups and there a number planned during the year, these are listed below.
January: we delivered the "The Remarkable Story of "The Remarkable Story of Sister Mary Benedict of Abbotsleigh Priory" of Abbotsleigh Priory" twice this month, to Dartington Women's Institute and Abbotskerswell Ladies Group. Fascinatingly on both occasions members of the audience commented that they had been told about her at their Catholic School, one in Clapham and one in Wexford.
February: 13th February Sister Mary Benedict talk to the Friends of Kingskerswell Library at 14 30

On 19th September Abbpast were invited to be the speakers at the first of the Friends new season of talks in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall. Pete Wade delivered a talk on "The Remarkable Story of Sister Mary Benedict of Abbotsleigh Priory" in which he told the story of how her 'Visions' directly led to he construction of The Priory. By using the sources that told the story and the support that the Sister received at first Peter showed how important this story is in the national history of monastic orders. He also showed how eventually the 'Visions' were discredited by the Catholic Church's heirarchy and how after a century of having been forgotten Sister Mary Benedict's importance was revived by AbbPast's research.



On 17th September AbbPast  joined the Tuesday Coffee Morning in Church House to show the complete Abbotsleigh Priory Glass Negative Collection, all 140 of them. A full house enjoyed the coffee and cake and seemed enthralled by the spectacular collection of images taken by Sister Mary Alphonsus Lambert (well probably) in the early 1900s.



On 22 June we held an Open Day at No. 3 Rose Cottage. The cottage which was actually four cottages for most of the last 150 years has recently been renovated and AbbPast had been given the opportunity to present No. 3 to the village. We told the story of the cottages, and the people who lived there, in a short history which is now available as a pdf in the publications section of this website. It was a lovely sunny day and a great many people took the opportunity to attend, including at least three people who had lived in the cottages.
We would like to thank the cottage's owner for allowing us such fantastic access to this amazing group of cottages that he has renovated so impressively.

Once again we are very pleased to announce that we have been awarded a third HLF grant to complete our work of telling the village's project. The grant of £5 500 will allow us to meet our 2018 targets.


On Sunday 9 December we  launched the fifth publication in the series; 5 The Era of World War 2 whichtells the village's story from 1930 until 1950, charting life in the village at this time as well as the stories of the men and women who served their country during this period. We  chose a very public launch outside the Model Stores which was a bit wet and windy but gave us the chance to meet the villagers and present them with the latest. Many were pleased to add it to their collection of our previous publications. The pdf of the booklet is available in the Publications section of this website. As usual  volume is free to villagers.
The last book in the series, 6 Abbotsleigh Priory, was launched at the monthly meeting on 11th March 2019. A large audience of invited guests, members and interested visitors were shown images of the Sisters at work and play inside the convent, many taken by one of the the Sisters around 1907. The remarkable story of Sisiter Mary Benedict is told in the publication and the audience were shown how her story unfolded by as the reserachers unearthed a long forgotten and buried account of the events.



On Tuesday 10 July we unveiled a board that tells the story of the village. Abbotskerswell Parish Council have been very supportive of the project and provided the land on which the board is situated; this is in the historic heart of the village next to Church Path. As Chair of the Parish Council, Wendy Grierson had the honour of unveiling the board; also present were Councillor Ann Allen, with the AbbPast Committee and members. The board was designed by Kingfisher Design & Print of Totnes, and produced by South West Colour Labs of Paignton and tells the story of the village through ages with old photographs and text.



Another part of the project is to make the amazing collection of village photographs that we have gathered available to be seen in all their glory. Consequently we are proud to announce that our AbbPast ‘Flickr’ account, that at present contains 80 of the pictures, is live. You can access this via the AbbPast website, in the page labelled The AbbPast Photographic Archive.


Photographs like this one of Town Farm in the late 1890s, from our ‘Wheeleker’ Collection, are really evocative, and those in our ‘Elliott Collection’ tell a fantastic story of village life. We thank all those who have provided us with photographs for our Archive. The Archive will continue to evolve, and you will not want to miss the amazing ‘Priory Collection’ when that is added later in the year.



On 26 April 1929 Arthur Dence unveiled two plaques on the newly opened Abbotskerswell village baths. His father, Rev A T Dence of Court Grange, had paid for the installation of two enamel baths and a hot water system, so that the villagers of Abbotskerswell could have a proper bath instead of using the small zinc baths that houses had in those days. The baths were in use until 1940, by which time many of the council houses had been built and which had bathrooms.

Rev. Dence was a philanthropist who considered cleanliness to be important for the villagers. He donated Court Grange to the Sunshine Homes for Blind Children in 1929 after their home in Chorleywood was destroyed in a fire. At the ceremony, attended by the Bishop of Exeter, the brass plaques were unveiled; one commemorated the event, the other was a biblical text.

The plaques ‘disappeared’ several decades ago but AbbPast, the village history group, has had them replaced with exact replicas. It was the idea of villager Mike Williams, who arranged for the replacements which were kindly produced and donated by his son Robert. Robert’s company ‘Williams & Triggs’ are monumental stone masons in Newton Abbot, and they crafted the two replicas in granite. The former baths are now The Parish Rooms and AbbPast are very grateful to Mike and Robert Williams, and The Parish Council for making the reminder of a lost piece of village history possible.

A reinactment of the unveiling ceremony 87 years later, shown below, was organised with Rev Dence’s grandson, Tim Key, doing the honour this time.


Supported by the HLF our illustrated history of Abbotskerswell in four volumes is now available from the Model Stores and Orchard Cafe.

 The four volumes in the series are: Industry & Commerce Book, Houses and Housing, Religion and Education and Pubs, Clubs and Governance.

 Each volume was launched at a special 'Book Launch' events.

Industry & Commerce - we choose Babbinis Cafe as the venue since it began life as a Co-operative shop. The day long event attractive a good deal of interest with former shop owner Mrs Holmes being the guest of honour. On display were Mr & Mrs Holmes' salver given to them by the cricket club and the original post office post box front from 1872.
Houses & Families- this time we chose to have the launch at the Tuesday Coffee Morning in Church House, with Tim Key, Grandson of Rev. Dence, doing the honours.

Religion & Education- the launch for the third book was at the Village School, which is still housed in the original, if radically amended, 1875 Board School whose story is told in our publication. We are very greatful to the children and the staff at the school for their fantastic support with this project.  

Pubs, Clubs & Governance- the last event in the Project was held at the Court Farm Inn, with support from owners Heavitree Breweries. Thanks goes to Landlady Debbie King for hosting our event.


We are trying to put together a complete set of ABBTALKS and are a number missing, can anybody help? We are missing the following editions.

105, 131, 136-7, 160, 178 – 246

Please contact any Committee member if you can help.


The members who went on the August visit to Cotehele House were blessed with glorious weather for looking round the gardens and Cotehele Quay, with the Tamar Barge Shamrock, built in 1899 moored there. Looking around the house first, in the Great Hall was the "Look Sharp" event, where you could handle several enormous swords and battle weapons. Perspiration tarnishes and actually erodes the metal of these old artefacts, which is why now you have to wear gloves. One surprising thing was an iron arm, dating from the 17th Century, that could be bolted on to armour as an artificial lower arm, and with various studs and slots, the fingers could be locked in position allowing the wearer to hold reins or maybe even a weapon!


The House belonged to the Edgcumbe family, and from the mid 1700s they developed it as an antiquarian repository for many of their possessions, which they would then take visitors to their main seat, Mount Edgcumbe to admire.


Our project is to be featured on the HLF website as an example of the kind of project that can completed with their funding.


We have been reviewing the AbbPast membership and for 2016 have made a few changes. It still only costs £7 for a year's membership, saving a £1 for each meeting attended. However, we have now added a membership card containing a list of the meetings during the year and also 'The AbbPast Chronicle', our newsletter that will contain various historical pieces of information; you really must join.


At the bottom of Priory Lane where it meets the Kingskerswell Road was an old toll-house, which was built in 1765 by the Keyberry Park to Kingswear Turnpike Trust. These trusts took over poorly maintained roads, improved and the charged a fee or a toll for using the road. Our toll-house, at Langford Bridge, has been dis-used since the late 1970s and is in a poor state of repair. As part of the Kingskerswell Relief Road the road from Decoy to Kingskerswell is being widened and the toll-house demolished.

AbbPast and the Parish Council were working to try to prevent this and the PC  were trying to get the toll-house listed by English Heritage; interesting the actual Langford Bridge is listed. Sadly all our efforts failed as it appeared that Teignbridge DC were determined to go ahead with the scheme at any price, and English Heritage were inept in their reviewing of the house using inaccurate old maps and failing to visit the site.



4th August, 2014 - 100th Anniversary of the Declaration of World War 1
On this auspicious day we launched our research booklet "Abbotskerswell During World War 1" and the renovated graves were rededicated in a moving Church Service in which the tolling bell was rung 18 times, 1 for each of the men who died from the village. At our exhibition/book launch and in the weeks since we have distributed nearly 500 copies of the book, which is free thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund. We are very grateful for the hard work of Lynn and her assistants in the Model Stores in the distribution process.
It is exciting to note that we have been approached by the families of a number of the men who we had not contacted before who were keen to learn about their family member. One lady was so enthused that she has gone over to France to visit the grave.