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                               LATEST NEWS FROM ABBPAST

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 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, www.abbpast.co.uk. 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.


The last two volumes of our history of the village will also be produced this year. These will cover the village during the 1940s & 1950s and tell the whole extraordinary story of The Priory.





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

 The four volmes 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.
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