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MEMORIES OF DUNCHIDEOCK

By A.N. Winckworth (1917-1997)

ST MICHAEL'S CHURCH

"One, two, three, four, Mary at the cottage door, eating cherries off a plate, down fell the summer seat". My first memory of a Service in the Church. Having 'sung' the above in a loud voice at the age of three, I was hurriedly taken out of the Church! I have not sung there since!

All waited patiently in the Church for the arrival of Bishop Lord Cecil for the Confirmation Service. Somewhat impatiently Bishop Cecil was banging on the door of the (then occupied) Belvedere.

During Evensong some years ago I was sitting in the family pew in the Lady Chapel, listening to the sermon. The largest caterpillar I have ever seen entered the Lady Chapel and disappeared under the harmonium. A few minutes later along came a hedgehog and also went under the harmonium. After the Service we moved the harmonium and rescued both, putting them in the Churchyard to find other spots for winter hibernation.

Beneath the floor of the Church are the vaults of the Palk's (Lord Haldon) and Pitman's (Dunchideock House 1690 - 1905). The remains of the Palk's were disinterred from the Church and buried in the Churchyard when the tower arch was opened to make the present vestry late last century. At that time the Pitman vault was permanently closed, there being no longer any Pitman's in the area (Dunchideock House was let in 1871 until sold in 1905).

Accounts 90 years ago: - Church collections for the year amounted to £19.16p. Items on the expenditure side were: - 3 lbs candles 12½ p. 2 gallons weed killer 22. Organist's salary for year £5. 9 gallons oil for lamps £2.60. Cleaner £2.60. Insurance on building and contents £1.12½ p. Lamp globe 2p. Firewood for lighting two heating stoves 12½ p. Grass cutting for year 75p.

Two long serving sextons were Samuel Knowles and Charles Beer. A description of the Church and its contents will be found in the free pamphlet available in the Church.

OUR RECTORS

We have had a priest, I suppose, for over a thousand years, we had our own until Shillingford was amalgamated with us almost two hundred years ago. An Act of Parliament dated 1792 (and still in force - Shillingford P.C.C. kindly note) ordered Shillingford to enlarge their church by building a gallery so there would be room for Dunchideock when they walked over to attend the second Service on a Sunday. The Rector, until the amalgamation, lived in the Priest's House, now two cottages; in my youth it was three, the centre one (one down and one up) was called the Reading Rooms. Alas, now plain, pointless Barton Cottages. The building was restored in 1395, and the Bishop of Exeter headed an appeal for funds for this purpose; and the original list of subscribers is still extant in the Cathedral library.

I remember the Rev. Samuel Atkins who was Rector 1888 until 1923. An old man when I knew him, with a long white beard. Even as an old man he always walked over from Shillingford to take our Services (present Rector please note). His annual stipend was £250, on which he kept a maid, gardener, pony and trap. He was a bachelor and his niece kept house for him. When he retired his pension was deducted from his successor's stipend. I attended a children's party on the Rectory lawn at the age of four or five, and won a green rubber ball. I treasured this for a long time, as I did not then know that rubber balls could be green as well as brown.

Atkins was followed by Bucknall, Heal, Munk, O'Ferrall, Hope and Godeck,

Munk was Rector when Shillingford hall was built. He was extremely high church and used incense, and latterly his Dunchideock congregation became nil. We, as a family, used to walk every Sunday to and from Dunchideock to attend matins. Strange notices about popery appeared on the Church door, and on at least one occasion Munk found the Church locked (and the key hidden) when he came to take a Service.

Mrs. Bucknall was an ardent communist; instead of growing vegetables in her garden she would go round village gardens and help herself. If challenged she said God's gift of food was free for those who wanted them. On one occasion when we were driving in a car to Exeter we saw her nephew aged about ten walking to Exeter. We naturally stopped to offer him a lift. The young boy (poor kid) politely touched his cap and said, "thank you, no, I am not allowed to travel except in public vehicles. Only the filthy rich have their own car".

THE CHURCHYARD

The "outer" Churchyard or village green is unconsecrated ground and divided from the burial ground by a stone wall, the whole was separated from the road some thirty years ago by a dilapidated iron rail fence. There is now a hedge.

Shortly after the last War, the mounds of individual graves were removed to enable the grass to be mowed mechanically. At the same time, alas, tall iron railings around two burial plots were removed, being eaten away by rust at their bases. These had been placed there originally to make body snatching more difficult.

When a grave was dug (Stormont) in 1957, the body of a previous Rector was found buried presumably, prior to the amalgamation with Shillingford in 1793. (A layman is buried facing the East - the Resurrection - but a priest the other way, as he has to face his congregation before he faces his Creator).

There are two "altar" tombs near the Church door. The body being buried at ground level, with a tomb of brick or stone built over it. In one lies the body of a Ley (pronounced please, Lee, as should be the Ley Arms, I personally knew Mrs Ley of Trehill, Kenn) and his five children, victims of the plague when it visited Dunchideock in March 1775. The Rev. S. Atkins (Rector 1888 - 1923) had this tomb opened but found the bodies of only three children, not five.

In the extreme southwest corner of the main Churchyard grew a huge cedar, removed when it became dangerous in about 1947 and replaced by a purple maple.

In the Churchyard are many interesting burials. Mention may be made of a few of the more interesting.

  1. Imprisoned for years for debt of £4
  2. A "Gent of this pish"
  3. Governor of Madras
  4. English international soccer player
  5. Has memorial in Westminster Abbey
  6. Member of parliament
  7. Church organist for 63 years
  8. Direct descendant of Sir Walter Raleigh, died this century
  9. Rector of Dunchideock for 58 years
  10. Coachman this century to three Earls
  11. Nursemaid for 78 years to one family
  12. In his Will left "My beloved wife the bedstead"
  13. When in command of a castle, surrendered it to the enemy for £200
  14. Cut the poles for Marconi's first ever-wireless message
  15. Left her daughter in her Will "My best flannel petticoat and one new blanket"
  16. Designed part of the interior of Washington Cathedral
  17. Corrected the works of Sir Isaac Newton.
  18. Attended Church as a child with a placard on back "Pray for me. I am a liar."
  19. Changed family crest to a two-headed eagle as rival has crest with a one-headed eagle

SPELLINGS AND ORIGINS

1086 Domesday Book DONSEDOC
1187 DUNSIDIOC
1261 DONSIDIOKE
1291 DUNCHIDYOC
1297 DUNSCHIDIOCK
1370 DONSCHEDIOK
1425 DUNSCHEDYOKE
1675 DUNSHERICK
1772 DUNCHIDEOCK
1811 DUNSIDICK

Origin probably fortified village in the woods ("ook" same as oak), Dun, a village (as in Dundee, Dunkirk etc) - all villages were fortified against wild beasts, etc., probably with wooden stake fences.

Horrells Jacob de Horwill 1330
Ides tone Eadwig's tun or Edweyston 1249
Webberton Wibbetone and Wibba's tun. 1304. Wybbeton 1359
Bowhay Bogheweye 1238. Bowaye 1528. Bent or curved way
Marshall's Farm Morces Hille 1050. Morkeshull 1307
Perridge Pirrigge 1314. Pear tree ridge
Clapham Clopton 1330 Clappeton 1547
Lyalls Thomas Lyell 1582
Sexton's Cross Richard Sexton 1678
Shillingford Esselingaforde 1086

LORDS OF THE MANOR OF DUNCHIDEOCK

Dates are exact. Where a date is given in brackets the person was Lord of the Manor ON this particular date but start and end of the Lordship is unknown.

(1066) Ralf (or Radulphus or Radulh) Pagan (or Pagavel or Pagenel)
? Joel de Valletorta
? to 1244 Robert Foliet
1244 to ? Warin, son of Joel above
? Joel, son of Warin
? to 1282 Jointly, Joan Tregoz and Alice de Newenton, daughters of Joel
1282 to ? Joan and Henry Tregoz
(1338 - 1348) Ralph Tregoz
(1361 - 1375) Nicolas de Buddocksydside
(1410 - 1425) William de Buddocksydside, son of Nicolas above
(1447 - 1449) Thomas Buddocksydside, son of William above
(1468) Robert Buddocksydside, son of Thomas above
(1537) (1537) Thomas Buddocksydside, son of Robert above
(1538) (1558) Anthony Buddocksydside, son of Thomas above
(1539) ? Roger Buddocksydside, son of Anthony above
(1540) ? Philip Buddocksydside, son of Roger above
(1541) ? Winifrede Gorges, daughter of Roger, sister of Philip
(1542) (1600) Tristam Gorges, son of Sir William and Winifrede Gorges
(1543) (1630) Gorges
(1544) ?- 1690 Aaron Baker
(1545) 1690-1704 John Pitman
(1546) Lordship of Manor was sold to the Palk family of Haldon House

THE DUNCHIDEOCK ESTATE

John Pitman bought Dunchideock House in 1690 from Aaron Baker. The Pitmans had lived in Dunchideock for many years prior to this. They gradually added to the estate over the years until it was almost 4,000 acres; mainly in the parish of Holcombeburnell and including much of Longdown. At that time Dunchideock House was called Throstle Kennaford, and became Dunchideock House less than 200 years ago.

At the time of the sale in 1905 rents per annum were as follows.

Dunchideock House £167.
Lamb Inn Longdown £30.
Dunchideock Barton with 294 acres and four cottages, £334.
Idestone Farm with 264 acres and four cottages, £200
Copse Cottages (two and orchard) total £9

The Court, East end and sheds (now Throstle Kennaford, Kirk) let to William Thorne £5.

Cottages in village - Samuel Knowles £4. A Tremlett £3.50.

The owner of Dunchideock House had (and still has!) to pay five shillings per annum to the poor of the village (I am not telling you the name as the money has not been paid for fifty years).

The Dunchideock estate at one time exceeded 4,000 acres; the house itself was unusually sited, being at the extreme edge of the estate, consisting of Dunchideock Barton Farm, Idestone, Perridge House, Longdown's Lamb Inn and numerous farms and smallholdings in the Holcombeburnell area.

The house was originally called Throstle-Kennaford, which was probably a hamlet of Dunchideock, and included what is now The Court as part of the house's outbuildings and cottages with no separate name, The thatched part of The Court (Betty Drake) was a barn before being converted into two cottages. These were made into one in 1919 - Betty still has two front doors! Being a conversion within the estate her house is unique in having to this day, no title deeds!

Dunchideock House, which assumed this name early last century, is probably fourteenth century or even earlier. It has been added to twice, being extended westwards each time by almost equal amounts. Three distinctly noticeable sections form one conglamorous whole, which was given a Georgian facade.

From 1690 the Pitman family owned Dunchideock House. The last Pitman was a daughter, Elizabeth, (large portrait in my hall), who married in 1871, the future Lord Waleran who owned Bradfield Estate. The house was let to various tenants until the whole estate was sold in 1905. The Lucas family, Lieutenant Colonel H.F.C. his wife Kate and their nine children lived there from about 1890 until 1905. Their years at Dunchideock were the ones that they remembered with great affection. Unfortunately both she and then he died and the children moved to Holmbush at Ide. However they retained a strong sentimental attachment to the village and donated both the Altar and the Altar steps in memory of their mother and the rood screen in memory of their two brothers, Claude, who was killed in the battle of Jutland and Harold, who was killed in the retreat from Mons, soon after having married. They are both remembered on the War Memorial in the Church. Their son Charles and daughters Constance and Evelyn Kate are buried with their parents in the Churchyard.

The Radford's were there from 1905 until 1910 and the Rendell's 1910 until 1919. The Rendell son, who changed his name to that of his mother on his parents' divorce, piloted our Queen on her first flight across the Atlantic.

My father purchased the house, two cottages and eight acres in 1919 for the sum of £5,000. In the 1980s two of the Rendell daughters stayed at Dunchideock House, the younger of which was born in the house, as was my brother Douglas who was also staying here at the time!!

THE KNOWLES

Samuel Knowles lived in the village (near the Church) and was the carpenter of the Dunchideock estate until it was sold off in 1905. He then became the village carpenter, but still used the two sheds at the southern end of Dunchideock House barn. He was an excellent craftsman, making the usual farm gates etc. I own a beautifully made oak chest of drawers he made for my parents. He also did some intricately carved oak panelling to match genuine seventeenth century panelling on the walls of my library. He was Church sexton for many years.

His son, Bert, succeeded him as village carpenter. Also an excellent craftsman, but incredibly slow. A card table with a broken leg given to him for repair in 1937 was returned beautifully repaired on his retirement after the war! Bert had spent part of the 1914-18 War in Zanzibar.

When Bert's wife died in 1945, he told me that he had known for months that she was going to die that year as he had heard the deathwatch beetle in the woodwork of his cottage (Copse Cottage, east end). This always meant a death in the house within the year. "But that is just superstition. Haven't you heard it tapping before?" "Yes, every year for at least twenty years. But I heard it this year and Ellen died this year. So, you see, that proves that it is not just superstition but actual fact". After her death Bert retired and went to live in Exeter.

Their only son, Tom, who died before his parents did, was also a carpenter who went to work in Exeter after working for his father for several years.

THE COMERS

They lived at Southview (now enlarged and called The Thatch), which they had bought from the Haldon estate before the First War. He had been the gamekeeper of the Dunchideock estate until it was sold off in 1905. He taught me, as a boy, how to set snares for rabbits. We set them together and the next morning usually his were full and mine empty!

The field across Clapham Lane was known to everyone as Comer's Meadow. (What a lovely name for the modern house built in a corner of it instead of the Croft - a croft it certainly is not!) The 1935 Jubilee afternoon's sports were held there, the location being advertised merely as "in Comer's Meadow". I wonder how many in Dunchideock would now, only some fifty years on, know where to go?

Their only child was a schoolmistress who married Bill Bailey, farmer of Idestone, and later of Horrowmore on the Culver estate. I often went to tea with both the Comers and the Baileys. The Corners sold Southview in 1946 for the quite incredibly high sum of £2,000 in those days, and went to live with their daughter. I was talking to our Rector whose wife was ill, when Bill Comer passed. He politely greets the Rector, saying, "And how is your old bugger today?" In the Devon dialect of the twenties it was a perfectly respectable word.

THE RICES

John Rice who died in 1927 was an old man when I knew him. He was the village cobbler, a slow but a skilled workman. Alas, good leather and excellent workmanship cost money, and some people found repairs cheaper in Exeter, but not of better quality. He worked in a large room at the lower end or the post office, now converted into several rooms with upstairs rooms as well, whereas Rice's room rose to the roof. This room had been the original schoolroom. When one took Rice a pair or shoes for repair it meant at least an hour's talk. I was always fascinated by his untidy and filthy workshop, where I doubt if ever the leather cuttings and old boot studs etc. had been cleared out. He had several cases of stuffed animals and birds, and I particularly envied him a very moth-eaten red squirrel. His father had also been the village cobbler, but had lived near the Church.

John Rice was Church organist for 63 years. Not only did he play the organ at Dunchideock, but also every Sunday at Doddiscombsleigh. He walked up through School wood, crossed the road and followed a path down through the woods to Doddy. His annual salary as organist at Dunchideock was (1902) £5. In his last few years he became very deaf and in winter his fingers were bound with rags as he had numerous chilblains. He could seldom hit only a single note at a time, usually also hitting the one on either side. Being deaf he could not hear the sermon; when he thought the Rector had finished (or had preached for long enough!) he started playing the next hymn to the utter defeat of the preacher! (Will the present organist kindly note?) The organ - in those days in the Lady Chapel - was pumped by hand, a schoolboy being the blower at ten shillings per annum. Being completely hidden from everyone by the organ, he sat between the organ and the east wall of the Church, he could eat sandwiches or read comics or just sleep. He had to pump several times before a sound came from the organ. Rice had the very loud whisper of a deaf old man and the whole church often heard, "wake up and blow harder you bloody young bugger".

Mrs. Rice kept the Post Office at the top end of the cottage. This she was still doing when she died at the age of 92 (1930). The phone mouthpiece was fixed on the wall and the earpiece was on a cord. The Post Office sold nothing other than post office items but was a sort of gossiping center, there were always several customers there who had come perhaps to buy a stamp but stayed an hour or more. I was there when the first telegram for over a year came on the phone. A great event. Mrs. Rice refused to accept it on the 'phone until she had made sure the outer door was firmly closed and locked. "Telegrams are highly confidential". The six or so of us in the Post Office at the time did not matter, and we discussed with her the telegram after she had written it down to await the school children passing up the hill so that one of then could deliver it to Underdown. Although I must have been only five or six at the time, I remember the exact wording of that telegram. "Mother fell down well. Dead". The general opinion of our group was that the sender should have written "into well" and not "down well".

Mrs. Rice had been schoolmistress of the school, which was held in what was now Mr. Rice's cobbler's workshop. Two of the original benches are now in the Church at the back, and a printed bound copy of the school rules was recently found at a Tavistock auction and placed by the purchaser in a glass case in the Village Hall.

Their daughter, Lillian, was also a schoolteacher at the more modern and at one time rival (free) school, which is now the Village Hall. She resigned from the school in order to run the Post Office and included stationery for sale there, Her nephew, Jack Whittard, was then a middle-aged bachelor and at times lodged with his aunt. They had many quarrels and from time to time she threw him out but after a few months he would be back again, thrown out by landladies who thought he ought to wash at least once a month. Lillian played the organ after her father's death for 27 years until her own death in 1954.

EDWORTHY

Percy Edworthy built the Butts and Hillside for my father in 1926 on what had been the sawmill site of the Haldon estate. One vast deep sea of sawdust. My father, to prepare the site for the building, walked up every morning before breakfast with paper and a can of petrol to burn the sawdust. The moment he was out of sight down the hill, Miss Rice rushed out, filled buckets of water from the tap at the side of the drinking trough (her only supply of water) and rushed to quench the smouldering sawdust before it could be blown onto her thatched roof. Known to everyone except my father this pantomime continued for many months. Both the Butts and Hillside were just about identical and built at the same time, there was a government subsidy of £150 at that time provided that they were completed by a certain time. There was great discussion as it was doubtful if both could be completed in time to get the subsidy and which one would be finished first!

Percy Edworthy married Tib, who was our parlour maid and youngest sister of Jessie and Ann who were Nanny and Cook at Dunchideock House from 1919 until their decease in 1968 (aged 87) and 1957 (aged 78), Percy Edworthy was killed in a motorcycle and sidecar accident on the 9th of May 1930 aged 29- he used the sidecar for carrying his tools, building materials etc.

THE FARMERS

The Ellis family is a Dunchideock institution; at least five generations at the Barton. I used to make a formal visit there every year to say thank you for my Christmas present always a book (and the choice was always most acceptable to me as a young boy). The donor was the wife or Percy Ellis and grandmother of today's Roger. Her brother, Mr. Snow, lived with them and whatever the weather did his same daily walk, circumventing the School Wood by road. She was indeed house proud; when the sitting room had its weekly clean (besides of course a daily dusting) before it was started every chair leg was carefully wrapped in dust cloths. Percy used to ride around his farm on horseback, and from Watchet field (field on left up Holcombeburnell lane) he could see the whole panorama of his farm and watch his many employees in the distant fields, a large dairy herd and corn were the mainstay of the farm.

The Baileys farmed Idestone. I knew them well and sometimes went to tea there as they had an only son, Cyril, who was my age. A big boy who was too delicate to go to school ("Rubbish" my mother always said), who was taught at home by his mother, a retired schoolmistress. She was a big, jolly woman (neé Comer) who kept fowls separately from her husband Bill's farming activities so she could have some pocket money from the sale of eggs, which she took to Exeter market every Friday. She was also a great butter maker. He was famous for his home-made cider into the making of which he always put some meat; dead pigs from farrowing time and (it was said) any rats he caught. As a child I went for a daily ride on my pony and I knew the road to Idestone very well. I was always accompanied by the groom, (Fred Lang) riding my father's horse; and passing Idestone Farm meant a glass for him of their cider. The big cider maker was Bastin at Yeo's farm. He had a large trade in home bottled cider.

The Hawkins, brother and sister, farmed Home Farm. When he died she rented the lower end of Rice's (Post Office) and when she died she left to the Church, the lovely old clock, now hanging by the vestry door.

OUR BUILDERS

Now Bond is Dunchideock's only builder. In my youth there were four building firms (Gale, Wright, Thorns and Edworthy) and one carpenter (Knowles). The Gales lived at Underdown and the Wrights in the Priest's House and later moved to Doddiscombsleigh where they celebrated their golden wedding.

The Thornes lived at The Court (Throstle-Kennaford today, Kirk) and had four sons in the firm. The old Thornes were regular Churchgoers and he was people's warden. They often went for walks, he always a few paces ahead of his wife. Just too far ahead for any conversation. How she managed always to keep the same distance behind him was a miracle as her corns were terrible! Old man Thorne had a white horse who would not go up the steep hill at Ralifee cottage pulling a cart unless backwards!! Charlie Thorne lived at Southview (now the Thatch), Bill built and lived in the bungalow at Dunchideock Orchards, and Harry built for himself what is now Mikindani. Fred lived in the western end of The Court with his wife Ivy. Fred had been born next door, on the second bottom step of the staircase! She started her working life as a housemaid at Dunchideock House about 1916. On her weekly day off she always visited her parents at Longdown, walking both ways across the fields, following the River Kenn between Idestone and Horrells.

As a small boy I was always given a bag or toffees to keep me quiet in Church. I remember once coming out of Church and walking down the path with old Mr. William Thorne. There were four toffees left in the bag and I offered him one (I admit my mother must have prompted me to be so generous!) and he took the whole bag. I cried all the way home.

Percy Edworthy had his own two-man firm. He was an orphan brought up with his sister by the Carpenters at Mill Cottage (it never was The Old Mill Cottage). After he had married the parlour maid at Dunchideock House, they lived in the Reading Rooms (now, alas, pointlessly called Barton Cottages) and then at Ralifee. Then he built for himself Hillside (now Hunter's Lodge - what hunter?). He was killed in a motorbike accident in 1930 at the age of 29. Two years ago I visited his great grandchildren in Scotland. "I was not at your parent's wedding, or at your grandparents' wedding, but I was at your great grandparent's wedding". Sometimes I do feel ancient!

The Butts was built by Percy Edworthy, costing exactly £300, being built in 1926 entirely from secondhand materials from Haldon House demolitions - bricks, floors, woodwork and even the bath. It was built on what was the sawmill site of the Haldon estate - on sawdust. It took its name, Butts, from that of the adjoining field, which was, in the middle Ages, where archery practice took place on Sundays - the equivalent of modern practice by the Home Guard or Territorials. The Butts' Charity had an income of £10 per annum levied on the two adjoining fields, granted by Lord Haldon when he ceased to allow archery there.

This charity was distributed every few years when the accumulated income was sufficient to allow the payment of five shillings a head to every employed man and each member of his family. A strict rule was that each had to call in person at a fixed time one evening, at the village school to collect his or her five shillings. Even if an infant was only a few weeks old, the money had to be placed in its own hand by one of the two charity trustees. Anyone who was self-employed or unemployed was not allowed to participate unless a member of a man at work's family and living in the same house. Recently this charity ceased and was amalgamated with others.

THE VILLAGE SCHOOLS

The little village of Dunchideock at one time had two schools.

The first school was in the lower end of the old Post Office. A copy of the printed rules of this school was recently found and purchased at an auction, and is now in a glass-fronted case in the village hall. There was a weekly charge for attendance and strict rules about cleanliness dress and behaviour. The school was under the patronage of Lady Haldon, and Mrs. Rice was the schoolmistress.

Lady Waleran (neé Elizabeth Pitman of Dunchideock House) started a rival in a building she built for the purpose, now the village hall. There was no charge and this became the council school, the older school soon closed for lack of pupils as it was not free. Children attended from a wide area; from beyond Underdown, from Lower Shillingford (now Shillingford Abbot), Higher Shillingford (S. St George), Idestone and Clapham. A long walk each way for five year olds. The schoolroom was in what is now the main room of the village hall, which was divided into two by a movable partition. Adjoining was the four-roomed house (two up and two down) of the schoolmistress. The boy's lavatory was a bench with holes in it below which ran an open channel.

Until her retirement in the twenties Miss Radley had been schoolmistress for many years. She was strict but efficient and kindly. Other headmistresses followed, Mrs. Ball, Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Thornton. Miss Rice and Miss Greenslade were two notable assistants.

Two samplers done by children while at the old Post Office school have been "found" and presented to the village hall where they now hang.

THE 1939-46 WAR

Someone else can write of this far better than I can, as I was overseas for 4½ years of the War. (I won it before coming home!).

We were valiantly protected by our Home Guard. Please, please, will a member write about this for a future generation? Their headquarters was the old cart shed in the extreme southwest corner of the field behind my garden, across Clapham Lane. Previously it had no doors (cart sheds never had) and a barn owl nested there annually. The Home Guard renovated the shed and after the War, for many years, continued to use it for darts (and beer!) as the Dunchideock Rifle Club's headquarters.

We had regular troops stationed in Dunchideock. A searchlight site in the field on the right of Ralifee (Blacksmith's) Hill, about a third of the way up the field alongside the road, the concrete steps are still in the bank but are now almost hidden by earth, and you have to know where to look. Their water was brought from Exeter in barrels, and they came for baths at Dunchideock House.

Fortunately the authorities did not requisition Dunchideock House for any purpose. It was occasionally used as headquarters during military exercises lasting a day or more. One very wet night, 27th January 1943, the house was occupied by officers of the Canadian Army, and the various outbuildings bulged with troops - even the hens had to share their henhouse with tired, sleeping men.

The nearest bombs were dropped on Alphington, and one was jettisoned on the extreme top of Haldon,

The following parishioners served in the forces: -

C Cann, J Cann, C Ireland, R Ireland, A Johnson, C Johnson,
L Johnson, S Johnson, C Medland, J Morgan, P Morgan, C Tancock,
A Thorne, E Tucker, R Tucker, Roy Trucker, A Winckworth,
D Winckworth, C Wren.

Miss L Medland, Miss J Bowden, Miss F Medland, Mrs. C Agnew, Mrs. J Hithersay.

FIRES AND OTHER DISASTERS

1922 is famous for its long and severe drought. The two semi-detached cottages built of cob and thatch on the site of the present Mill Bungalow caught fire. Someone ran all the way to the nearest phone at Dunchideock House. My mother then phoned for the Fire Brigade, which refused to come unless the houses were insured! She immediately said they were but nothing was left except part of the walls. At the age of four and a half I saw the blaze from my nursery window. The Lovegroves lived in one of the cottages and the young son; Joe had started the fire by secretly smoking in the lavatory. So I was told, but do not know if it was a fact or invented as a warning to me! Rosie Lovegrove had come to us one day a week to do scrubbing. One morning she fainted from "overwork" and was sent home in the car and paid for the whole clay. This fainting became a weekly habit, and that was the end of Rosie at Dunchideock House. My mother always said Rosie knew a good thing when she saw it!

That same summer of 1922 the top of Haldon caught fire and was ablaze from near the racecourse to the Belvedere. Bus loads of troops from Exeter barracks came out to fight the fire, it being feared (such was the state of everything in the drought) that it might reach the houses on the northern slope and even as far as Haldon House itself. Marshall Water (such a pretty and appropriate name compared with today's Westbury) was a cottage within living memory, though personally I only remember the cob wall of the linhay alongside the main road. Lower Horrells (Raddons - he was the retired woodman) was burnt down at a later date.

A friend of my mother's stayed with us in 1928. During the Great War he had come home unexpectedly and found another man actually in bed with his wife. He shot him dead and immediately reported his action to the police. He pleaded guilty in Court but acquitted on the ground of self-defence as firearms were in the possession of both parties. This case got much publicity in the press at the time. Husband and wife lived happily together again.

During the 1939-45 War, first aid classes were held in Dunchideock and all women were keen attendees and each was issued with a first aid kit in a box. They were all itching to use it. The occasion soon arose when a lady cyclist lost control and crashed into the Victoria jubilee lime tree at the junction of School Lane. She lay in the road badly injured. Every woman in Dunchideock, complete with her little first aid knowledge, large first aid box and enormous enthusiasm, broke all running records to be first at the scene, My mother got there among the first (the accident being just below our gate), and having a fully competent knowledge of first aid, brought with her only a walking stick. She always said she saved the woman's life by standing astride the body and swinging her stick round and round and daring anyone to approach until the ambulance arrived.

TREASURE

The Dunchideock Treasure is buried in the second field on the left up the Holcombeburnell lane under a millstone.

Now, please, no letters visits or phone calls asking me for further details. Everyone in Dunchideock knows the above facts, but not what the treasure is, or why or when it was buried. Before I continue, may I make it perfectly clear that the legal owner is my brother, Douglas, resident in South Africa. Finders will be rewarded, but thieves relentlessly prosecuted in the Courts.

The field is of some 8½ acres that have been permanent pasture. When it was being ploughed in the last War for the first time, the plough struck a huge boulder. The millstone itself? The Klondike Gold Rush was a tame affair compared with the Dunchideock stampede. Within minutes, and for the only time in history, the entire village arrived on the spot. All armed with spades, forks, crowbars, etc - even infants in their prams wielded teaspoons or dinner forks. Alas, it was no millstone, and the village removed a large natural boulder.

In the Fifties my brother ordered me to obtain the treasure for him. He made out a legal document via his Solicitor giving me full authority to act on his behalf. Firstly I purchased the treasure from the legal owner of the field, Clifford Ellis (Rogers father). I offered him 10% of its value payable when found. He was far from pleased at my offer, as he was certain the treasure existed!! I had eventually to double my offer before it was accepted. If you see Roger in a new open Bentley and Mary (muffled in priceless mink) in her chauffeur-driven Rolls, you will know the treasure has been found and the 20% paid.

Next I visited Professor Hoskins (well known Devon writer on ancient British sites) to ask his advice. He said an area covered by a millstone was too small to show in aerial photography, even in a severe drought. Mine detectors were the answer. I went to Lympstone Marine camp and saw the Camp Commandant. He was delighted to hold a mine detecting exercise in the field - practice at last with a real and exciting object, and if successful, a donation to Marine Mess funds. Alas, he phoned the next day regretful that he must cancel his offer. He was afraid of adverse comment about the use of official troops in a private enterprise. He had been kept awake all night, imagining the headlines in the News of the World.

A couple of months later I was a guest at a dinner party in Chudleigh. A man next to me at dinner said he was very tired, " I am a professional treasure seeker and have had a long day at work digging on Woodbury Common". Needless to say the pretty girl on my other side was rudely neglected while the terms of agreement were arranged.

It was a cold, winter's morning. A biting wind and showers of snow and sleet. Two well wrapped up figures, the partner of the treasure seeker and I, ran ("yes, ran!) for two hours behind the expert who traversed the field holding a knitting needle in each hand well out in front of him (if only there had been a fourth person there with a cine camera!) Suddenly the two knitting needles went berserk! They almost literally left the hands that held them, and twisting madly they pointed. We followed their indicated direction as they rotated and "pulled" the holder along. Through hedges barbed wire and brambles, wading through knee-deep mud, we crossed several fields and then the needles suddenly became still, pointing downwards. The treasure had been located at last! The field was the one across the Church path from the school (now village hall), across the little stream and fifty yards up the opposite slope.

Next morning the expert said he had worked out the depth of the treasure. 14 feet! The dig started. Little normal work was done in the village that day, all were at the spot. In order to wield a spade or pick, the hole had to be of reasonable diameter. Everyone was keen to do the digging. As the hole got deeper a ladder was necessary, and a system devised for hauling up the soil in buckets on ropes. Eighteen feet and no treasure. Fifty or more exhausted souls went home to supper and bed.

The expert worked on his calculations all night. He had made a mistake in his previous reckoning - a mistake with the decimal point. The depth was 140 feet not 14! But he could explain how the treasure could be at this depth. It was a tunnel, which he now traced with his knitting needles from my back door to the Church. He would dig at my back door and enter the tunnel at that end. I insisted (very wisely) on £100 in actual cash being first deposited with the Rector to cover any damage he might do to my drains or water supply. He decided instead to dig for the tunnel where it came nearest to the surface - in the field across the River Kenn from Throstle-Kennaford and about fifty yards from the river.

We all started to dig, but after a couple of feet down we reached the water table and the hole became flooded. He hired a pump (I ensured it was at his expense) and after an hour or two it was obvious that it was unable to cope with the quantity of water. Next day he hired a huge earth-moving machine from Exeter. Alas, it was unable to dig more than six feet below the surface, being designed for shovelling earth by the ton onto lorries from ground level. No news has been heard of the expert since. He had spent time and money, I am convinced he was genuine and not perpetrating a hoax. Probably he is now in an asylum happily playing with his knitting needles!

A final warning. The treasure is privately owned and the owner's rights protected by the Laws of the Realm. We old folks of Dunchideock KNOW the Dunchideock treasure exists.

WILD LIFE

Fifty years or more ago mushrooms were much more plentiful. Or, as a pupil of mine once wrote, "mushrooms were mush more plentiful" I wonder if the scarcity of horses today is the true reason for their decline. Not common were giant puffballs, but even today I occasionally find one. Bigger than a full-sized football, they are delicious when fleshy and fried with bacon (poisonous when ripe and smoke puffs out).

Blackberries were, and still are, everywhere. On the slopes of Haldon and at Windy Cross we used to pick whortleberries (bilberries) in quantity, wild strawberries on the roadside banks, hazel nuts and sloes in the hedges and walnuts from a clump next to what is now Webberton Meadows - fewer trees there now. A massive Spanish chestnut grew near the top end of the stone bridge over Webberton Lane, always with a fine crop of eatable-sized nuts.

Two huge cedars grew on the edge of Webberton Lane just above Mr. Ouseley's front gate - cut down about 1925. On these I once saw my only Dunchideock red squirrel. We still have grey squirrels, deer, otters, badgers, foxes, stoats, weasels and rabbits. There used to be quite a few wild pure black rabbits in the fields. Toads, frogs, grass snakes, slow-worms, lizards and the occasional adder.

I could have picked for you in Dunchideock bunches of wild white violets (no longer there as sheep have replaced cattle), daffodils (School Wood), orchids, bluebells, spindle (North Wood), wild cherry, marsh marigolds (Idestone) and mistletoe.

There were several rookeries in Dunchideock. An annual rook shoot was held as soon as the young left the nest. By using breasts only, rook pie was an annual delicacy. A pair of peafowl, probably on a visit from Peamore, used to build a nest annually in a cedar in the centre of Witchams field (behind Ralifee).

TRANSPORT

The first bus was run by the younger Mr. Tribe of Underdown. It was a covered lorry with loose forms down either side. Previously the women used to walk to Exeter and back on Fridays to do their shopping. At the tram terminus at the foot of Dunsford Hill where Cowick Street began was The Falmouth Inn (now, alas, with a new name), and here was left the day's shopping. On Saturday morning the Kennford carrier would deliver the shopping to its owners

Trams were the City's form of transport. In 1924 my father bought a baby Lagonda (two-seater with a dicky seat outside at the rear), which the firm only made for two years. It had four narrow wheels, (only two or which had brakes) which fitted exactly into the sunk tramlines. Twice we got our car wheels into the sunken tramlines and were unable to get out. We just carried on until we met a tram, which disgorged its passengers who lifted the car bodily out of the lines. On the other occasion we proceeded uninterrupted into the tram depot, which was where the Paris Street swimming bath now stands.

The first car ever seen in Dunchideock was driven by the famous Marconi when on a visit to Haldon House. From near the Belvedere he sent the first ever wireless message over the air. I knew an old man who, as garden boy at Haldon Gardens in his youth, had cut the bamboo to make the poles for this purpose.

Roads were very different in those early days. Only our "main" road to Exeter was tarmaced (not until about 1925). All lanes were merely stones rolled into the mud. Webberton Lane (Old Post Office to Underdown) was a road privately owned by the Haldon estate. Haldon House owners used their private drive from Clapham to their house, and Webberton Lane had remained untouched since pre First War days. Without the side drains being cleared, it became a sea of mud for much of the year with the mud many inches deep. Carts but not cars could get along it.

When, in my very early teens, I was being driven by our chauffeur along the top of Haldon to the racecourse, on one occasion he reached the phenomenal speed of 40 M.P.H. I was made to promise not to tell my parents as a speed over 30 M.P.H. was considered dangerous and indeed unforgivable, and reckless.

One evening around 1924 a man came to the door to ask for help. He was very shaken and completely exhausted and on the point of collapse. He had left London at 7 am, to drive to Plymouth in one day for a £5, bet. But he had failed as the effort was beyond human endurance. He parked the car in our drive, walked to an Ide pub for the night, and continued his journey the next morning.

Whenever an aeroplane was heard, everyone immediately rushed out of his or her houses to see it. The greatest excitement was on the day when an RAF Wing Commander, a friend of my mother's, circled low over the house and dropped a message of greetings in a special official bag (with parachute). Perhaps it was as well he was not trying to bomb a specific target as the bag landed at the top or Witchams field, behind Ralifee.

Horses were the main means of transport and it was not unusual for guests coming for a meal to arrive on horseback. We often went locally by pony and trap for a picnic on Haldon or at Windy Cross. It was great fun for a young boy to be allowed to hold the reins when driving along.

All farm work - ploughing, carting etc., was of course done with horses. So both horses and workers (ploughmen) were numerous on the farms. In my lifetime on three occasions, horses have been killed coming down Easy (Biddypark) Lane. The heavily laden cart took control and the horse was unable to hold it back in spite of iron "shoes" being placed on the cartwheels to act as brakes.

Once in the field behind the Post Office a carthorse got its hindquarters stuck down an open well. Cliff Ellis, the youngest son of the farmer (Percy Ellis) had just got his first motorbike. He set off for Horrells where there was a long chain with which to hoist up the horse. On his way back up Ralifee (Blacksmith's) Hill the chain got caught up round the wheels of the bike and both rider and bike landed in the ditch. He had to wait there for the ambulance, and the horse for its chain.

The blacksmith's shop was next to Ralifee, a wooden structure at the upper end, (Upper Ralifee, built in 1926, now stands in this spot). This closed in about 1925 and horses had to be taken to Shillingford to be shod on the site of the present village hall.

ENTERTAINMENTS OF YORE

Even in the days before radio and television, and when any visit to Exeter was on foot or horseback, village entertainments were few. The only building of any capacity was the barn at Dunchideock House.

Before the First War the barn had been well fitted out as a theatre. Stage, gallery, (removed by me when it became unsafe) etc, all complete with stage lighting and benches. A few of the benches still exist, with A.R. for Radford owner of the house 1905 - 1910. The stage switchboard is still in place on the wall. Electricity was home made - the mains arrived in Dunchideock during the first months of the 1939-45 War. I assume various amateur stage productions took place there.

After the first War, the barn was occasionally used. I remember a political tea party there, all welcome, addressed by the Conservative member of Parliament (Acland-Troyte) about 1925. A sumptuous tea, for which I collected one penny per head as the law considered free meals as political bribery! In about 1920 my mother gave dancing lessons (the Waltz) to villagers. Various W.I. Parties were there; some whist drives, the occasional dance and Jumble sale. Teas in the barn at national Jubilees, coronations etc, and the party there in 1946 (October) to thank the 24 men and women who had joined the Forces in the War.

The barn was, for many years, used as a miniature rifle range by Dunchideock Rifle Club, and for a few years by Shillingford Youth Club and for tea at biennial Church fetes.

For a few years, up until the opening of the village hall, Betty Drake and I held regular winter whist drives alternately in our homes, numbers attending varying between twelve and twenty-four.

The Christmas Dunchideock House staff party was an annual event in my early youth. The "staff" added their relations and friends, and over 40 sat down to a cider supper at trestle tables in the drawing room. Dancing in the library followed the meal. Jim Moore (The Court, West end) with his accordion provided the dance music. Jack Whittard (Post Office) gave us the occasional song

HALDON HOUSE

Built about 1717, and soon afterwards sold to the Palks, later Lord Haldon. They sold it to the Bannatynes from Ireland who left, the last occupiers, immediately after the Great War. I attended a children's Christmas party there in 1919, and must therefore be one of the last survivors who went to a party before the main house was demolished.

When unoccupied, from 1920, the theatre was loaned to amateurs for a performance of a charity play. My parents took minor parts and lent a few items of stage furniture. Fred Lang, our groom, and I, at the age of about six, went up the next day in the pony and trap to bring back the furniture. The doors were locked and we had no keys, Lang, with the help of his pocketknife, forced a kitchen window and we managed to get the items of furniture out through the same Window. I was thrilled at my first (and I think last) successful attempt at burglary.

The house had six reception rooms (sizes 30 by 20 feet, 22 by 30, 50 by 17½, 28½ by 18½, 22 by 22½ and one other). 38 bedrooms, ballroom and theatre. Chapel to seat 100. It was described in the sale catalogue as "A medium-sized mansion"!!! Together with the gardens and five-acre field it was withdrawn at £1350.

The final sale of the last of the estate was in 1925. Ralifee and smithy (Upper Ralifee was built later, on site of the smithy) fetched £130. The Post Office was sold for £120.

At the demolition sale the furnishings of the Chapel were mostly bought by Clifton College for its Chapel.

ODDS & ENDS

In pre-war days (1938) Dunchideock (then a smaller parish) had only three bathrooms between the 45 houses. I knew a man in my youth who remembered when there were no bridges in Dunchideock, fords at the foot of Ralifee (Blacksmith's) Hill and between the village hall and the Court, just fords. There was a long ford at Idestone in my youth. I remember, about 1925, when our car was loaned to an elderly couple in Kennford, parents of our housemaid, to take them to St. David's station, as they had never seen a train before except in the distance. The first dog to be buried in the dog cemetery on Haldon top was owned by the Knight family (who lived in Hillside---now Cresswell-Jones'). There was a drastic shortage of petrol in the last War, Percy Ellis, (retired) Roger's grandfather was terminally ill and wanted to see Tommy Tancock his cowman before he died. Tancock who drove the milk van daily to Exeter (Dunchideock Barton had cows not sheep then) was only allowed petrol for this journey and purpose. He therefore went by train to Exmouth---there being no buses because of the petrol shortage, his first journey ever in a train. He was so terrified that he waked all the way back from Exmouth rather than enter a train again!

Brian Randell, 10 Dec 2002

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