Part of Marldon Local History Group Social and Oral History Archive
AS MENTIONED in our introduction on the Social History Page, the Group has been fortunate to acquire several written memoirs, some made many years prior to the Group's formation. These are being transcribed to enable them to be made available on our website in due course. It is also hoped that other Marldon residents can be encouraged to commit their memories to paper.
Memories 1 are the memories of Mrs. Sheila Maureen Ward (nee Carey) formerly of Singmore Cottage, Five Lanes, (c.1918 to late 1920's) and Singmore House (1953 to 1962) followed in Memories 2 by the memories of her son Peter Ward, well know in the Village and very active in the community.
The next two items emanate from tape recordings made by Alan Brockhurst, who lived at Brock’s Barn next to the “Olde Smokey House Inn”. The recordings were made in 1957, and are referred to on the original transcriptions as "Brock's Tapes".
Memories 3 is a transcript giving the recollections and memories of several villagers about various aspects of Marldon’s everyday life and events and its recent history as they recalled it.
Memories 4 is a precis made some years later by Peter Fillan, then Headmaster of Marldon Primary School, in which he extracts information from the tapes for use in lessons, giving the children some insight into what life was like in their village within living memory. Peter recalls taking, in the 1960’s, a group of children to see a lady living in one of the cottages in the old part of the village who showed them how she still cooked and heated the house on an old iron range and about living without electricity, getting water from a well and using a privy in the garden. The children found it all amazing as they all came from the “new” bungalows in the village!
Memories 5 is a short memoir by Roy Underhill, who sadly passed away in 2009. Roy was born and lived all his life in Marldon, and was well known and very involved with various village organisations. With others, he was responsible for the revival of the Apple Pie Fair in 1958, and the formation of Marldon Gardening Club as successo to the very popular Marldon Flower Show."
Memories 6 is a transcript of a talk given by local farmer Frank Palk to the Group.
“......... Some of you may have belonged to Marldon even more years than I, but most have only become acquainted with it since it became a modern developed area, and may be interested to know just what conditions were like when I came with my parents to live here nearly 55 years ago.
The reason for doing so was that my father was taken very ill just prior to the First World War in 1914, and was ordered by the doctor to get away from the fog and cold of the Midlands to a kinder climate, at least during the winter. Each autumn he came to Torre in Torquay and stayed until the Spring. During that period he would get comparatively well, but as soon as he returned to Birmingham he had a relapse.
Once again he was advised to return to the soft, kind climate of Devon, at least during the severe Midland Winter months. This arrangement went on during the war years. My mother was unable to join him as she had to keep the home going for my three sisters and for when my three brothers came home on leave. In due course the war was over, the older members of the family got married and there was nothing to keep Mother, Father and me (a school girl) in Birmingham any longer. In fact, the Doctor told my father it would be only 6 more months for him to live if he returned to city life.
During his long spells in Torquay he used to ramble in the countryside through Shiphay round to Paignton, and it was during one of those walks he came across Marldon. He decided that this was the ideal place to try to prolong his life, and I must add now that he had 34 more years to live! He found tiny Singmore Cottage and then arranged for my mother and I to join him here. Neither of us had seen it or had any details, but to a schoolgirl the idea of leaving school and home town seemed a great adventure. However when Mother went to tell the Headmistress I would have to leave school as we were going to live at Marldon, Devon, the Headmistress said “ You mean Maldon in Surrey”. We had to explain it was near Paignton in Devon, and she admitted she had heard of Paignton (which at that time was a small select holiday resort) then insisted on producing a map for us to show the exact location. Alas! No name of Marldon was to be seen, although it was a fairly detailed map. Marldon just wasn’t there!!
Eventually our house in Birmingham was sold, good-byes said and we journeyed to Paignton and came out of the station looking for transport to our new home. There was one solitary horse cab and when we told the driver our destination was Five Lanes, he said “Dusn’t take the hoss up that hill with passengers and luggage”. So thinking it wasn’t very far we started the trek up Marldon Hill with what luggage was essential for immediate needs. Little thinking that we should walk that hill many times during the next few years until buses came along. Of course there were a few privately owned cars at this period, but no buses, taxis, coaches or tradesmen’s motor vehicles. When we did at last reach the cottage, we were in for a terrible shock. We had left a large house with all mod. cons. And here there was no gas, electric, tap water, bathroom or main drainage. Our water was obtained from a pump outdoors and there was no flush toilet. How like a man not to consider how these primitive conditions would distress my mother. However my father assured us that he would arrange for all these improvements to be started without delay.
During the next few days we learnt the worst!!! Upon general enquiry we found that this couldn’t be done as no gas, water or electricity had yet been brought to Marldon (and in fact did not come until middle 1920’s). The fact that we were no worse off than any of the farmhouses or other dwellings in the area was a slight consolation, as all these also had to use pump or well water and had no flush toilets. There were, however, three exceptions to these conditions, The Vicarage, Weekaborough and Cross Cottage (now Linden Lea), as these had been built within the previous few years. Each had their own large water storage tank which was filled by a hand pump, daily or as required, and this supplied running water indoors for all purposes, including the luxury of a bathroom which no other home possessed. Also these new dwellings had their own drainage of septic tanks, which was quite an innovation. Even these new premises had to depend on either oil stoves or were equipped with kitchen ranges for all cooking and hot water, and candles and oil lamps for lighting.
It was quite understandable that the authorities did not feel justified in the expense of bringing amenities to Marldon as there were so few houses in the area. Apart from Toll Cottage at Five Lanes, the whole stretch of land which now comprises Belfield, Nether Meadow & Devon Oak were merely fields, the first building one way was Mrs. Stuart’s “Whitehayes”, which was then a farmhouse, (now Millmans Farm - MLHG) and the other way was Marldon House and then came the few houses and cottages in the main village Street. From Five Lanes to Marldon Cross was yet another field and the first building to be erected there was Mrs. Holman’s house after which the various bungalows were built. Later still came Bampton Close.
In July 1919 the village were planning a Peace Celebration Day. We had no Village Hall at that time so the party was held in the barn belonging to Whitehayes which has now been converted to “Greystones”. A piano was brought in, someone had a concertina , others mouth organs and altogether the locals went quite gay with singing and dancing. Although rationing was still in force in England this did not prove an obstacle to the self-supporting farming community and all the farmer’s wives contributed cakes, pies, ham etc. Not forgetting barrels of cider, and the whole affair was truly memorable.
During those years the Apple Pie Fair had lapsed and the great Annual event was Marldon Flower Show & Sports Day. This used to be held in the large field at Five Lanes adjoining Occombe. Folk came from the outlying villages, also from Paignton, Preston and Torquay for the occasion, either by pony and trap, cart, bicycle or walking. In fact the attendance put our present day Apple Pie Fair in the shade with the numbers of people.
Early in 1920 another Norman Invasion occurred when a French Vicomte, realising the potential of the district, purchased Moor Tor cottages (now Mrs. Lucas’s) and had them made into one residence. Naturally this turn of events was a source of great interest to locals, but as time went by quite a number of properties were bought and converted by newcomers to the district, and gradually various pieces of land were bought and developed into building sites on which small bungalows were erected. This was before the Government or local Planning had any say in the indiscriminate use of farmland and Totnes Council wasn’t concerned in how or what went up, but they did become aware of the necessity to provide Gas, Electricity and Water for the growing community. There was at last a communal water tap in the village, and one by the Smokey House and gradually water supplies could be installed in our homes. But we still had no main drainage, and this didn’t arrive at Five Lanes until 1952, but was brought to the village with building council houses in Furzegood.
However about 1924 a once monthly refuse collection was started. Prior to this each household had to burn, bury or otherwise dispose of all refuse, which really was a problem indeed.
Until about 1922 there was no shop at Compton or Marldon and our nearest source of supplies was Paignton or Preston, and we had to carry most of our shopping from there. Although Evans the baker & the Co-op baker delivered twice a week, and Dellers Grocers also brought up orders. A Fishman came from Brixham and a Butcher from Paignton each week and these were all horse drawn vehicles. There was no milk delivery and we had to get it from nearest farm each day and before the days of fridges it was quite a problem keeping food in good condition with such infrequent supplies and deliveries.
About 1923 we heard the joyful news that a privately owned one man bus was to operate between Compton and Paignton. There was great rejoicing and even if the bus did have hard wooden seats it proved more acceptable than a Rolls Royce would be in these days, and the service was more convenient and regular than that of today and cheaper !!!
Previous to this bus service there was a great problem in people getting employment from the village. If they did work in shops in town, it meant an early start and late home, walking in all weathers, though there were a few intrepid cyclists who did more pushing bikes than riding up and down Marldon Hill. Consequently most of the young girls went into domestic service to “live in”, whilst the lads usually worked on the farms. With the coming of a bus there was wider scope for jobs and schooling.
Mention should be made of our postman who for 40 years had trudged daily up and down from Paighton P.O.. He was often laden like a packhorse especially at Christmas times with parcels strapped to his back. He would call at all outlying farms when there was mail to be delivered as he would not entrust letters to be handed from one person to another even if it did entail another couple of miles walk.
Of all the changes through the years, the oldest building to remain unaltered outside must be “Churscombe”, as this farmhouse was built in 1640 and is structurally the same now. However the barn and cider press ( which was still used up to 1928 ) has now been converted by Mr. Brockhurst and you all know it as Brocks Barn.
Another farmhouse built about the same period was Occombe, and until it was bought by the Singer family in 1925, remained a farm. Singers had another wing added and what was the cobbled farmyard was incorporated with the house and made into the entrance hall. No expense was spared in the conversion, a Minstrels Gallery, stone fireplace and floor tiles were imported from Italy to make it a millionaire’s country home.
That wide road between Occombe House and Eastdown was built as Singer’s private road with gates each end and the narrow lane to the left of this was the public one. However after a few years when Singer’s sold the place and returned to America, Totnes council acquired that stretch of road and it was made public.
In two respects we were better off then than now – we had our resident policeman who lived in house near Tor Field. Maybe in those days more discipline was needed. I wonder!!
I think back on Marldon as it used to be, narrow lanes, high banks with primroses, honeysuckle, dog roses and the sweet scent of newly cut hay. Lanes that were quiet and safe to walk along with no cars or petrol fumes to pollute the air.
Marldon so primitive and inconvenient, but so beautiful and serene, which at least helped my father to have 34 years more to live. If there are “Many ticky tacky boxes just the same” they did bring all the amenities to make things easier for we old Marldon residents...... "
You may have read how my Mother, Sheila Maureen Carey came to live at Singmore Cottage in the 1920’s. Later she married my father, CPO Geoffrey William Ward, RN in Birmingham and then went to live in Plymouth, where he was an Instructor on HMS Defiance. I was born in Devonport , Christened in Marldon Church and visited Marldon regularly with my Mum, to see my grandparents who still lived at Singmore Cottage. It was easy to travel by bus to come up to Paignton and get back home in one day quite comfortably.
When the War broke out in 1939, Dad decided that the Dockyard would be an obvious target and moved us (for Safety??) to Birmingham. He died on active service in 1941. I received the rest of my education in Brum, served an apprenticeship at ICI Witton for 5 years and then went for National Service.
Whilst I was away, Mum moved back to Marldon and with two of her brothers and sister-in-law bought Singmore House to run as a B and B, and to use the cottage for the family Summer holidays. When I came home I worked for a short while at a local garage before applying for a job at STC in the Rotunda at Oldway. I was asked if I would go to Ilminster until the move to Brixham Road took place. I did this for 18 months travelling weekly (meeting David Best, we were surprised to find we both came from Marldon!) before returning to Oldway and then the factory, where I worked until I retired in 1997.
That is the dull bit as to how and why I finally came to settle in Marldon early in the 1950’s.
At that time Marldon was still a village, a few bungalows going up from Five Lanes to the (Marldon)Cross. This piece of road was supposed to be widened on the right hand side even as early as the start of the Fifties. We are still waiting! The Ring Road was just an idea, what is now a footpath was the road, all traffic coming up Shiphay Rd and on through Five Lanes past the Smokey and down to Tweenaway. You can probably imagine the noise, confusion and smell. Holiday makers thought once they had reached Exeter that was it. It was usual to see steam coming from under bonnets. Moor View was still Smallwell Lane, where the Top Shops are was allotments, Cox’s garage was the field where Donkey Daniells overwintered his Beach animals, much of the Belfields was fields, as was the area opposite the School, Singmore Road and most of the houses and bungalows on the left hand side between Five Lanes and the Smokey. Now I was on home ground, got married and started married life at Singmore Cottage, and lived there for four years, when we moved to Furzegood in 1962 when our second child was born on Dec 31st. It was an interesting trip to Paignton Hospital due to the snow !!!.
The Marldon Village Players was a drama group putting on plays twice a year. They were short of men, I was coerced into joining, and took part in plays by various authors, well known and not so well known. We had several producers such as Marlow Heath, Violet Purry, John Bennett and whoever wanted to try their hand at producing. This was in the OLD village hall, scenery store being the air raid shelter. Cramped conditions for dressing room and make up were alleviated when the new kitchen was built onto the side and nearly up to the quarry wall, Max capacity was approx 100, seats being fold-up wooden, for an extra 6d cushions available for the first few rows. Later on Health and Safety got involved and demanded rows of seats had to be joined together. This was done with J bolts and pieces of 2x1. With so many of the cast dependent on Summer jobs, plays fell off to one and a panto, the last being a bit of a job on the small stage, using the Billiard table suitably covered made a useful stage apron. I took part in most of these, then when the NEW Hall was built, carried on until I had to give up due to Shift work. When that finished I rejoined the group in Cinderella as an Ugly Sister, (type cast?) and played various parts in subsequent shows.
An off shoot of being in the Marldon Village Players and pantos, I was asked by Miss Clarke if I would help in a fund raiser for the King George V Fund for Sailors she was arranging. This was to be in the Old Hall, to take the form of a “Lord Mayor’s Banquet”. I was to be the Mayor (type cast?), with a “wife”, a visiting Russian dignitary, Trumpeter, Mace bearer and pages. Miss Clarke had borrowed the real Robes and Chain of Office as well as uniforms etc. This was to be followed by an entertainment. The Mayoral Party entered the Hall to applause and after the Banquet sat down in front of the stage for the entertainment which was by the Evening WI. The curtains opened - “My Lord Mayor, This is Your Life”. I had been well and truly set up by my wife and her friends. Although one of the participants was wearing my scout uniform and another one of my sweaters, I had no prior knowledge of what had been planned. It was said that I had been found under a gooseberry bush in Nether Meadow, had a liaison with a luscious blonde who came to confront me with offspring, you name it, I had done it before reforming! It was a success but could only be a one -off to work. ( Names can be found if required and a photo I think)
APPLE PIE FAIR.
The Apple Pie Fair was restarted in 1958 as a Village “Do” to raise funds for the Village hall and for a new hall. Children from the School were chosen from the top form for the Princess and the other forms for attendants. The first few years were simple, pies made by the WI, Bingo, second hand books, Baby Show, Ram roast and a Mouse Race, a draw for which mouse went in which maze on the course and the winner was the first to reach the middle. The mice were changed at regular intervals to give them a rest. Probably not allowed today! The present Fair (2010) is much more commercialised but the increase in Stalls all helps the Hall funds.
My son started School when it was opposite the Church, Miss Dunthorne was the teacher and they all moved to the New School when it opened in 1964 ( I think). When my daughter started School, Mr Fillan and Fiona both started on the same day. Originally the School was built to take only the existing number of pupils (80), despite the fact that the Village had increased in size and it would be obvious it would have to be enlarged to cope. I was the Parish Council representative on the Managers (which became Governors!). The 111 Club was formed to help pay off the Diocesan Loan for the extensions to the School and as enlargements became necessary. It still plays a valued part as a fund raiser. We helped with the digging of the Swimming Pool, to “drown-proof children” its aim, and I was the first person to use it. Members of the PTA acted as supervisors during the holidays. The PTA also ran Firework Displays to help raise funds for the School. We had two very successful years, then other schools caught on, prices rose, Health and Safety was a problem, and we gave up. The same sort of safety snags arose with the swimming, now the pool is gone and the space a quiet area. The School still retains its excellent scholastic record as witness the enlarged attendance of 180.
BITS AS THEY COME BACK TO MIND.
My son-in-law was a RN Observer, flying from HMS Osprey at Portland in Lynx helicopters. On one occasion Plymouth Navy Days coincided with the Apple Pie Fair, so on the way back from taking part in the flying display, they went back to base via holding over Compton until 3pm then flew over the Meadow streaming the White Ensign. He also had to train Photographers, flew up to Marldon, photographed the Church where he married (this went to Fr.Grant) then went on to take shots of the work on the Ring Road construction (1990) which have been on show at an MLHG meeting. (MarldonLocal History Group)
After Toll Cottage and the end of Singmore House were demolished, a pair of mini-roundabouts were painted on the roads at Five Lanes, many were the “just in time” brake applications!
The bell ringers re-formed under Fred Westaway as Captain. My son Geoffrey came along as a teenager, and gave up when he went away to University, after which he got married and eventually went to live in North Yorkshire and took up the hobby/pastime/exercise again. He is now Tower keeper at St John Baptist in Knaresborough, and still rings down at St John Baptist, Marldon when visiting.
Mobile tradesmen were common. We had two milkmen, a baker, butcher, grocer (Lionel Garrett from Compton), who doubled as a paraffin salesman once a week when not delivering groceries, fish merchant, greengroceries (Jim Furze). There was coal, coke from Preston Gasworks, (also could supply creosote) and when civilization (television!) reached Marldon, a Video rental service and competing Ice cream salesmen. There was also a Post Office down in the Village, and I can vaguely remember as a small boy when visiting Grandparents before the War being taken to Bridgeman’s shop to be bought sweets. Can’t remember where it was.
Vague memories of a story when living at Singmore House that during the War a barrage balloon had broken free and had got snagged around the chimney pot, and another tale from my Mum when the Ring Road was being constructed, she had a visit from a man enquiring if she knew anything about the Americans leaving an Army Tank buried in the field opposite the Cottage either when they left for D-Day or closed the Camp down. Any takers for either of these stories?
Mr Bridgeman “The iron foundry was at Compton, which was started by my father, and carried on ‘til the last war by myself when I succeeded my father in the business. When the war came I was left with one man and myself, and it was too hard work for he and I do the foundry and I finished with that. And there’s been no foundry since, and it doesn’t look to me as though there’ll be any other foundry there because I’ve sold the business, sold the property, and I understand there’s an artist living there now, so he isn’t likely to make castings.”
“What did he make ? When the foundry was started by my father, we made Lowcock’s ploughs, pulled by horses, and that was from a patent of a man who lived in Marldon, and all the castings and all the ploughs were made in Compton. At that time there was three smiths, four forgers and the foundry.”
“At that time there was no wheelwrighting done, but father started that. And we made a lot of wagons to go in various parts of the country and in various counties; and if I might let you know an interesting little bit to me, when I was married and like the rest I wanted a little holiday my wife and I went to Bournemouth for a week, and we were waiting outside the station there at a place called Hook, Winchfield, when I said to my wife, “Look out there!”, and there was a wagon there – Bridgeman, Compton, Devon – in the railway yard.”
“Some ploughs were sent to Australia. But the ploughs didn’t last long. They began to use a balance plough around here.”
“We made scores and scores of little cottage stoves 30 inches long or two feet six – there’s plenty of them about now in old cottages.”
Mrs Shepherd “I’ve got one of them now and it works beautiful. I don’t want to turn it in to cook. I can cook on an open fireplace.”
Mr Bridgeman “Manufacture of these stoves came to an end when the bigger foundries in Scotland made it and we couldn’t compete with them for prices. But they weren’t so thick, they was thinner. When I left school at the age of sixteen father told me to put some stoves together. We had a chap who’d been there for years. “Come on”, he said “We’ve got to do this in a day!” Well, I’d only just started. You’d get all the castings put out on a bench and you’d trim’ em up after coming out of the sand, and put your stove together. Day’s work!!.” (Chuckle).
THE FIREBACKS IN THE GREAT HALL AT COMPTON CASTLE
“Commander Gilbert came to me and said, ‘ Do you think you could make some firebacks?’. We had three. He gave the patterns which were in plaster, and we moulded them. George Counter and I – if this ever goes out on history George might read it one day – and me moulded them, and each of them weighed two and a half hundredweight. And we hadn’t got such a thing as a crane to carry the metal around in the foundry. We had two ladles which held one hundredweight and a half of molten metal. Well, I had three men working for me and my brother. My brother and I carried one ladle and the other two chaps carried the other ladle, and Counter with the one leg, he skimmed the scum off both ladles before we poured it. And that’s how that was made.” (Rope was used to form the pattern of the scroll round the edges.)
APPLE PIE DAY
Mr. Rendell “Yes, it was a huge apple pie. It was drawn by donkeys on a little flat cart. The pie was made in five or six different sections, and was made to look like one in the cart. It was taken from the bakehouse up to the field, and there they had a general holiday you see. It was in September.”
Mr. Bridgeman “I can tell you the last apple pie that was carried about in the village was drawn by four donkeys because I rode on one of them, and their harness was of straw ropes. That was the last apple pie that was made in Marldon. There was an old gentleman by the name of Hill. He was the instigator of that. There was a general sports and so on, and people came, and you’d buy six penneth of apple pie. I don’t know if there was any Devonshire Cream.”
Mr Rendell “Oh, yes there was!”
Mr Bridgeman “There was a room in the village that was used for dancing, and the only musical instruments they had was fiddles. My father played one and it was in that room – you know, where Arthur Heath lives - that was the dance hall. We hadn’t a parish hall then.”
Mr. Rendell “I was too young to remember dancing. I was like Mr. Bridgeman, I rode on one of the donkeys at that show. It used to start at two-o’clock. The pie was baked at what they used to call The Royal Oak. That’s where the blacksmith is now. It was loaded up there, and there was a procession with the band in front to take it up to the field.”
Mr. Bridgeman “Yes, we had a show here:- Marldon Sheep-Shearing Horse Show and Athletic Sports, and I was the Secretary for that for eleven years, and there was sheepshearers from all around the various parts of the county. For there was several good sheepshearers in this parish and they won prizes at the County Shows and so on. And the horses were shire horses chiefly, or farm horses, and after that jumping horses – hunters. And after that athletic sports for those who liked to take part in it, and a dance after that I believe.” * MLHG has in it's Archive the Programme for the 1913 Show (described as the 18th Show) which confirms all of the above, and also refers to "Spear making, best horse & cart, and potato picking (on horseback) Events.
Mr. Rendell “There was, for certain.”
Mr. Bridgeman “I can remember going to a show at Blackawton where the village was no bigger than Marldon.”
Mr. Bridgeman “Before I left school, all the fellows that were on the wheel were cut out by hand, and the belly as they call it – the inside of the fellow – was cut out by an adze. I cut out scores of fellows with a bandsaw that was driven by a steam engine, and after that we had an oil engine. And when the oil engine was wore out we got on to electric. And all the gear I had when I went out of business – it was all electrified. We had a special tool for making rings, in cast iron five feet high, all tapered. The blacksmith would weld his ring and turn it on the beat of his anvil and weld it and put it on his mandrill to round it up properly. For the wheel-write business I used to buy the plank. Father bought the trees, and we had a sawpit and two sawyers to cut the plank by hand. I did have two old pit saws hanging around for a long time – but I haven’t got them now. We used barkers or strikers for sharpening scythes and so on – they were round, tapered towards the end.”
Mr. Rendell “At the foundry we made our own chisels and punches. ‘Tweren’t no good buying punches, they wouldn’t stand up to anything. You’d break them or bend them.”
MRS. SHEPHERD’S COTTAGE
Mrs. Shepherd “It was a man called Mortimer, and he made it for himself, and he stole every stone he had in the house. And now it’s falling down – so it’s many, many years ago. I don’t know how many, but it was many, many years ago. How was it nobody stopped him? But then, my dear man, nobody wasn’t there then, and he’d just hop over and pull down a stone or two and throw them in over. He was all right. There’s heaps of stones.”
“Us used to go up and tease him, you know. Tap to his window, knock to his door, put reels on the handle of his door. What would he say? 'Twouldn’t do for me to repeat He used to have a pip of cider out in the back kitchen and he got a pipe that came in through and he used to sit by the fire and his ashes used to come up over his knees; and he used to sit there and drink ‘till he couldn’t drink no more, and then he used to go to bed I suppose. But we children we used to go up and we used to terrify the life out of him.”
“Yes, I remember Apple Pie Day. We used to think it was a fine holiday – used to like – bit of apple pie. You see my mother she had thirteen children, and we didn’t often get that luxury, you know.”
Mr. Bridgeman “About Marldon Church music and the choir. Before the organ was installed in Marldon Church they had the orchestra. My father played the violin, my grandfather played the cello, my uncle played a flute, and there was two or three others from Paignton. That orchestra was about six or seven; and then they decided to play an organ, and when the organ was installed the orchestra struck. They’d never go to church any more and they went to chapel – that was true. They gradually came back afterwards, but that’s the history of the music at Marldon. Up at the Chapel at Marldon they had an old gent with a fiddle, called Wills.”
“For other affairs my father played, and there was an old man called John Neck – he’s got a son living in the parish now. He was a fiddler. There was another old gent from Little Hempston every Sunday, and I forget what instrument he played – but he did come. When somebody played a false note he’d call out, ‘Stap, stap, stap. You’m wrong!’”
“What happened when the organ came? Well, my grandmother was the wife of a farmer and they had a tea party in one of the fields near the house when the organ was played first. Those who had sixpence paid for it, and those who hadn’t paid threepence.”
Mr Rendell “There used to be what they called ‘waywardens’; there was two waywardens appointed every year. They had to look after the roads, make the rate, what they used to call way-rate. They’d go right around the parish, so the roads was always kept up because each waywarden would look after his own roads, you see. The roads were mended with cracked stones, cracked by old men, something like I am now. They wouldn’t get two pounds a week – they might get half a crown. Well, you see, they couldn’t live on that, so they’ go crack stones for ninepence or tenpence a day. Most of the stone came from the parish quarry, what they call Poorland; some from Compton and some from Aptor.”
Mr Rendell “He drove a milk cart to Torquay when he was ten years of age – right past Torre station to the Strand. Torquay was then mainly a winter residence for the rich. Village children never spent a day at the sea, never went away from the village.”
“Some of the farmers would have a harvest supper – that would be a sing-song when the harvest was finished up. ‘Twouldn’t be anything very great. I remember the first self-binder that came in this parish – in’87 on Stantor; a man called Mortimer used to live there then – in a field called Crockett Wood. Down in a dip – fine place to try him. Took five horses to work him.”
EARLY FARM MACHINERY.
Mr. Bridgeman “I remember the first mowing-machines. They had trouble. There were men that were so bitter against it ( they used to do them out of a job ) and they put iron stakes in the ground. Men who sold the machines would work it and the farmer provided the horses until such time as their own men learnt to use the machine. They drove iron stakes in the ground and of course that broke up a knife or two and so they tried to stop that game.”
Mr. Bridgeman “There was five lime kilns in Marldon. Farmers had the use of one, or small farmers would share. The first one on the right was worked by Compton Barton, a biggish farm down to Compton. Mr. Bridgeman’s father rented one and employed a man to burn the lime. The limestone was in pieces about nine inches square. They used culm for the burning; it was a kind of coal that was mined in Wales. That would hold the heat, and that was what burned the lime.” ( Mr. Rendell recalled that lime and dung were the chief manures. “Nitre was used for lifting things – for forcing things on. There wasn’t much else.”)
M. Bridgeman (Speaking of the quarry rented by his father.) “That same quarry – the stone was ripped in big lumps. Some weighed five tons, some weighed seven and eight tons. My father was renting that quarry then, and it was used on the sea-wall at Torquay. A man drilled his hole in the rock – the jumper – put down his gelignite or whatever he used, and blew it out. Horse took it down on low wagons. They had their shearlegs to load ‘em. And also I don’t suppose you all know in this room that the stone and the stuff mixed with the cement was out of the quarry to build the reservoir that’s on top here to supply Paignton. Father had horses and carts to do it.”
(Splitting stone) “The man who had any brains at all or who knew what he was doing would find out the grain of the stone, and he would have gads – sometimes called flies. Those little tools was made of steel, four or five inches long, and you’d use two, you’d drive them down. You’d drill your hole and then put your gads in; you’d split it if you got in the right grain.”
Mr. Rendell “Well, if a farmer was going out to fetch his cows in at any time he’d go to the gate and he’d call. ‘Hoi, hoi, hoi’, and each of the herd would come up, and they’d come away to him. When a man was driving his horses if he was ploughing or doing anything at all, if he wanted the horse to go the right he’d say ‘Wug’, and if he wanted him to go to the left he’d say ‘Come here’. ‘Come hither’ some of them used to say.”
Mr. Bridgeman “The first carts that were made you couldn’t tip them, not to tip your load. Their shafts were bolted to the body. They’d shovel the load out of the cart or take the horse out of the shafts. Tip the cart up, shafts in the air.”
Mrs. Shepherd “At Littlehempston I had a sister there and I used to see twenty or thirty children down there having a cup when they were cider making. They used to drink it up with a straw sometimes. They used to have a fine time there.”
Mr Bridgeman “On Occombe Farm they used to have their own pound, and they used to make their own bottled cider there. That’s lovely stuff, you know, it glints like champagne. Well, I’ve made or helped to make, cider presses, and repaired them. Six inch round cast-iron screw; some of them were not like that; some were a double screw, three inches or three and a half steel.”
WHEELWRIGHTS AND MILLWRIGHTS.
Mr. Bridgeman “The gear wheels in the mills are made with wooden cogs and apple-wood is chiefly used for that. I’ve cut out on a bandsaw hundreds. And help fix ‘em – that was a job. And then you’d trim them to get the right pitch. You’d trim them with a hand chisel. Hours and hours at it. I helped do one in Totnes. A man asked father if he’d do this job at Totnes Mill. I don’t know if any of that gear is there now – down near the bacon factory. And father had a millwright from a firm in Exeter to come down and help him do that, and I was with him for three weeks, and that’s where I picked up a bit of knowledge about millwrighting.”
Mr. Rendell. “In the old days two main roads went through Marldon – one from Dartmouth to Exeter, and the other from Paignton to Dartmoor. You see, there’s two turnpike houses here, one at the bottom of Marldon Cross and one at Five Lanes, you see. Up at Smokey there’s a place called ‘The Stable’ now where they used to stable the horses for the stage coach from Dartmouth to Exeter.”
Mr. Bridgeman “There was a skittle alley in the old days – a popular game that was. My grandfather carried on that and brewed his own beer in that Royal Oak Inn.”
“There were choir outings to Slapton, in a brake pulled by four horses. Every third year the choirs from Ipplepen Deanery went to the Cathedral in Exeter to attend the annual Choral Festival We had to go away early in the morning in a charabanc for that, say seven o’clock, get up to Exeter, have a practice in the morning and sing the service in the afternoon. That was our annual outing. I went with the Old Age Pensioner’s outing on Saturday and we were singing from Plymouth to Yelverton, all the way, and there were such songs as ‘John Brown’s Donkey, he had a wooden leg’ and that sort of thing. Well, that was the sort of sing-song we had. ‘Twas amusing and it helped to pass away the time, if you didn’t want to look at the country.”
“When the choir wanted an outing they’d get some subscriptions out of the people that went to the church and if you hadn’t enough money to have a good two feeds – that’s dinner and tea, well, carry pasties.”
“We used to walk sometimes and go away with sixpence. You used to think then you’d got a fine lot to play with. Walk from Compton to Goodrington Sands before any houses were built down there and that was a little outing, but wasn’t much swimming attached to it. You might go in and paddle a bit, but they didn’t learn the way to swim then, the way boys do to-day. People thought it dangerous. Might get washed down to Dartmouth got in at Totnes, mightn’t you?.”
Mr. Rendell. “The allotment rents were paid at the Castle. You’d simply go into the Big Hall, and there’d be bread and cheese and cider on the table and you’d pay your rent and you’d stop as long as you like. You’d just have a chat around and then come away. There was nothing laid out at all. That was all that ever I saw of the Castle. Blankets were given away every Christmas Eve to the poor of the parish. You wouldn’t get them every year. You’d simply take it in turn.”
Mrs. Shepherd. “Yes, all my blankets come like that. About every two year they used to send for me to come and get one. Course I hadn’t a particularly large family neither, but they always used to send for me.”
“There was a lady that lived up to Marldon House that was very good to the poor. Well of course I had two little children and our wages was only nine shillings a week at that time. Well she used to allow my children a pair of shoes or of boots every twelve months, so I was all right in that respect. Cos, of course, on nine shillings a week you couldn’t do it. (This lady was a Miss MacKenzie ) She knew everybody in the village, and I used to live just down under where their big house was. She often used to come down and see me. If they’d got anything left over from their dinner they’d bring it down.”
Mrs. Shepherd. “You’d drive the cattle on, and when you got them to a corner run and see they didn’t go the wrong way. At Newton Abbot you’d put them in the market and then go and have something to eat. One cow got hanged halfway over a gate. You know, one half inside and the other half out. I had to wait till somebody came to give me a hand. I was there for nearly an hour waiting. The farmer and his wife would ride to market and if you were going a bit quick they’d stop ‘ee.”
Mrs. Shepherd. “Cattle men and horse men would work six to six. But what you used to call ‘stand-to-work’ men – that’s men living away from the farm – they’d be seven to five, you see.”
Mr. Bridgeman “At the iron foundry they’d leave off Saturday two o’clock and that was a wonderful job – sixty hour week. I know father never paid more than sixpence an hour in his life.”
Mr. Rendell. “What I remember of gleaning was before I was six years of age. We was living at a village called Rattery then, near Totnes, and we as children used to go out with my mother.” (No local memories of gleaning).
Mr. Bridgeman. “In the house where I’m living now, where I was born seventy-eight years ago, when that house was built – it was built by a butcher –there was no such thing as water by pipes through the village then. They had to trust generally either to a pump to pump the water up to them from a well or had plenty of rain water. And under my backyard I’ve got a tank that holds 7,000 gallons of water in that old tank. And I know when we lived there we had to go down to one of the farms and get a bucket of water to make some tea with because that water wasn’t always so well. It was all right perhaps if you boiled it. And I was telling someone only last week ‘If you like to come and look in that old tank there’s stalactites hanging six inches down from the roof, something like Kent’s Cavern’. I ought to charge people to come and have a look at them.”
HOUSING OLD AND NEW
Mr. Bridgeman. “Do you know what a man said to me the other day? ‘Bungalows do you call it? I call it rabbit hutches’. And he said, ‘Your house has been up some years, and your house will be standing when they’m tumbling down.’ Now then, mine’s and old fashioned house I know, but the walls is of limestone, eighteen inches thick, some parts are more than that – two feet. (Masons preferred 18 inches to 2 feet because it was easier to find stones to cover the whole width and tie in the wall.) D o you remember the town-planning people came to Marldon once and they said they’d never build in the village, they’d built around the village, they didn’t want spoil the old village appearance.”
“I was talking to a man on Saturday that came from Sheffield. I said to him, ‘Do you like Marldon?’ He said, ‘Yes, and I don’t want to go away again’. But another man said ‘This one-eyed show, I wouldn’t come here if I was going to die!’ That was another yarn. 'Tisn’t all that one-eyed show. There’s a lot of parishes that isn’t as well fitted as Marldon is.”
“A man said the other day, ‘We were a happy family before the up-country folks come here, they’ve upset all the lot.’ Well that was his idea, but 'tisn’t true. In country villages you know everybody and you know when they’ve gone out to tea, but down to Paignton they don’t even know their next-door neighbour.”
Mr. Rendell. ( He remembers the Torquay Fire Brigade coming over when Lower Westerland Farm was burnt out. He was working at Stantor Farm then – about twelve years of age.)
Mr. Rendell. “Bidham’s. Yes, I took out the stone from the foundations there. I picked up a bit of a chain there that was very old. Well, it was all jointed up with sodder so you can tell it was very old. I don’t know how many years that went back. One of those neck-chains you know, and it was formed of links, but every link was joined up with sodder. So worn you could hardly see it without glasses.”
Mr. Bridgeman. “Well, father went to school there you know, and he didn’t go to school after he was eleven. Father went there, it was the only one. But mother went to a little school in Compton, where the old man Crutch lived – that’s where she went to school.” (New Church School replaced one that was over the archway that went into a farm.).
MARLDON HISTORY TAKEN FROM ‘ BROCK’S TAPES ‘ by Peter Fillan..
LIME KILNS IN MARLDON
Sea sand was used for fertilizer, for it’s calcium content. By 1770 farmers wanted lime.
Lime kilns. Look out for keyed entrance, height, diameter and shape. Packhorses could go to the top and walk round to allow stone to be unloaded direct. Wells were packed with alternate layers of small coal and limestone, and above kiln (sink ? as burnt.)? Into the eye or grate was pushed furze bush burning birch twigs. Door shut fast and sealed (for slow and thorough burning). Half burnt or overburnt lumps angered the farmer. 1 ton of limestone = 11cwt after 8 hours burning. 3 to 5 tons per acre. Busiest times were Autumn and Spring. Heat and fumes. Drink included in the cost to the farmer. Cold and wet weather, the kilns were social places and keep dinners warm. Tramps would often climb to the top of the kiln and fall asleep. (11/2 cwt bushel was used. )?
Pembroke – Survey 400 years ago.
Local limestone. Red sandstone doors. Beer stones for arches. Granite for windows has been replaced, once had wooden frames.
Organ 1880 -- before there was a string orchestra in the Tower gallery. Bert Bridgeman sang in it. Uncle , the flute, 6 or 7 in all. Orchestra went on strike and went to the Chapel ( on the hill?). Choir outings in four-horse brake to Slapton.
Bells go back to 1553, (recent 1636,1639,1885).
Clock – modern, 1914-1918 Great War memorial.
Floodlighting – 1939-1945 War Memorial.
Frederick John Bridgeman (85 years old), Born in Torhill House in 1882. He remembers :- the Castle in ruins, caretaker in charge. The estate owned by the Buse family. Items in the castle made in the foundry. Gilberts 1930? Cast iron firebrakes, wall brackets, agricultural work, ploughshares. Cooking ranges in the local cottages, with the name ‘Bridgeman’ on the doors.
4 wheelwrights, 4 smiths, moulders and machinists employed. On the top floor by wheel provided power. Horse shoes. Washtubs. My brother and I paddled down main road. My uncle owned the “Roal Oak “ pub. Ropewalk close by. Dame school run by Otway at Compton. Mr. Grey was the headmaster at Marldon, 3d. a week for children, 1d. for villagers.
MRS.MOORE – MISS BAWDON. (80 years old)
She went to Sunday School at the age of three in the Old Chapel by Compton shop, then the new chapel (now old house at Compton). 96 children in Sunday School.
Blacksmiths shop on both sides, double doors for the smithy are still there.
Walked to Marldon School – home to dinner and back again. Home at 4p.m.
3 cottages and later 7 cottages pulled down. Floods.
Marldon Congregational Church. Miss Parsons. The building was opened in 1864. Rocky room underneath opened in 1964.
Employed at Foundry in 1916. Fixed all sorts of things. Waterwheels maintained at Bickley Bottom to send water to Bulleigh Barton. Tom did gardening for 6d. an hour. Never allowed to smoke except when firing wheels, - took a long time to get a pipe going. The brook goes under the foundry. Culvert closed the stream and made the water flood over water meadows on the other side of the road.
(Talking about 1912-1913). Sheep shearing, horse races, Smokey House cider and ginger at 6p.m. (Smokey-Ship Inn, (Sheep Inn)). Marldon sheep shearers were famous as far as Plymouth.
ERNIE HARVEY (60 years old)
Born at Rookery Cottages, remembers – Horse carriages outside the pub on election day. (no date). At age of 4 invited to Compton Castle which was owned by Mr. S Hellier of Brixham. The castle was all in ruins.
A silent picture was made at Compton Castle called “The Silver Bridge” with Madge Tree, George VI, as a cdet told to put out fire or his pants would be --------?.
Cider press in farmyard. (Peter Farm)
Chapel Sunday School outing (all day) to Teignmouth in farm wagons. 4 in --- carriage from Torquay called at Marldon church.
End of 1918 War. Barn at Peters Farm for celebration. * This is now the private house known as "Greystones". See the reference to this celebration in Mrs. Wards Memoirs.
Old quarry now the village hall. Water came from Clappps Well. Water piped across field.
Ford Tin Lizzy into Paignton once a week, getout and walk up Marldon hill.
Big garage near the shops for the first chassis bus*. 1924 first buses from Palace Avenue to Compton Castle, return via Preston down road. * This was the original large garage (replaced 2009) adjoining "Springwater Cottage". The MLHG has the original large enamel tinplate sign.
MR. GEORGE WHITE
Independent hall (from Church school) Quarry sold for 1s. A year, Hall cost £525.
BENNETT OF FURZEGOOD
Council houses built in 1928 in Furzegood. (Land) belonged to Revd. Trewelvyn(?), he kept a part for a garden (near Smith’s house). 16 originally on one side. Furzegood was a private road with big white gates – closed for 1 day a year. 7/6 a week rent until 1965. Light allowed for 1 room upstairs and 3 downstairs, but not connected. Baths in wash-houses – cold tap. Hot water from boiler and ladled out. No refuse collection, tins and bottles over hedge. Many trees gone in school field.
The W.I. was started in 1934 by Mrs. Edwards or Edmonds ? of Cross Cottage ? Mr. & Mrs. Hiley came to Marldon in 1932.
MRS. B. (BROCK?)
“Downalong” was Club Cottage – medical dues paid for free treatment. Alice Westaway’s son cut his head and she had to ask for a medical letter and then she pushed her son down to Paignton Hospital, he got stitched up and then she pushed him back up the hill again in the pushchair.
First sewage system laid after 1945, before that there were earth closets.
Compton Castle 1329. Saxon family (William de Compton) over 7 generations held from the Bishops of Exeter. Re-owning – get rid of ivy and then consider how to restore to modernrequirements – no passages. 3 0f 5 towers have sanitary shafts – still used for soilpipes and water pipes. Old kitchen.
MRS. SID MILES
Lived in cottage near chapel – now pulled down. Went to Aptor to get milk. School – infants tiered by steps? Boys and girls separated by big curtain. Lime kilns were in constant use (Underhill) Kids would warm up. Worked for Singers at Occombe House and then Oldway. 1915.
"marl" - soil consisting of clay and lime, with fertilising properties "don" - to put on.
Well known for our red soil, it would seem appropriate that the name of Marldon should be associated with the clay type soil and the limestone quarries in the village where limestone was quarried and burnt for the benefit of the local agricultural and farming population. Visitors to the area are greeted with the changing colour of the soil as they approach Marldon, and it will probably be one of the features they will remember about Marldon.
I am putting these memories of Marldon on paper while I can remember them, and hope to speak to several Marldon residents and perhaps former residents who have moved away, to help in compiling details and facts which I think should be preserved for future reference.
One of the most important happenings of the time in our village history, occurred on Wednesday 9th. September 1931 at 10:30 a.m. at the Globe Hotel in Newton Abbot , when there was an auction of the Compton Castle Estate. 1538 acres of land were sold, comprising seven capital dairy farms, the Historic Remains of Compton Castle, two residential properties (i.e. Marldon House and Rose Cottage Compton), together with numerous small holdings, accommodation land, full bearing orchards, allotments and woodlands, delightful Building Sites with Company’s water mains and electric lighting and 28 cottages in Marldon and Compton villages.
Just imagine what interest there would be if anything of this scale came onto the market today! The sales brochure described Marldon ‘In delightful undulating country within three miles of Tor Bay’. I still have the original catalogue for this sale, but without the plan, showing the fields and position of the properties. I understand there is a copy somewhere in the Village. (MLFG has a complete copy of the catalogue including the plan).
Many of us know, and have enjoyed for years, the pleasant village life that has been a feature of our lives. This event took place two years before I was born and was brought to Marldon, where I have since lived.
Going back to what must have been the origin of the name Marldon, it is natural that it was the Limestone that was the feature of the area. I can remember talking to Mr. Sam Plymsol about the time when limestone was quarried at the quarry where ‘Marcom’ in Kiln Road now stands, and was burnt in the kiln there, which was known as the first kiln. The works were closed in about 1929 when it was discovered that the limestone could be quarried easier, because of the way the stone was lying, at the quarry further along Kiln Road, (where the current Marldon Parish Council still has a piece of land), which was known as the third kiln. The second kiln was situated, and is still in Kiln Road. There is a further kiln at Aptor; you or someone else may know of others.
Mr. Plymsol told me how they burnt the lime and that once the kiln was lit, it was very important that it was not allowed to go out until the burn was completed. Quite often he would have to go to the kiln during the nights following the lighting to ensure everything was going O.K.. When the limestone was burnt the rocks would come out the same shape as they went in only they would be white, from which the lime for spreading on the land would be used, after it had been hauled by horse and cart to the fields, placed in heaps to let it slake down, whereby it would be spread by hand.
Apart from the farming, which was the principal activity in the Village, there was a thriving agricultural maintenance business at Compton, which was run by the brothers Fred and Bert Bridgeman, opposite to what was then the village shop. There was a wheelwrights’ shop where my father worked for many years, a blacksmith shop which was the responsibility of Mr. Syd Tuckett and a foundry where the foundryman was Mr. George Caunter. Fond memories of seeing the sparks fly in the blacksmith’s shop where horses were shod, and wooden wagon wheels tyred, together with all the repairs to the agricultural equipment. And of course the foundry where moulds would be made for replacements and on foundry day everyone would lend a hand to get the cast iron melted to fill the moulds, and with the ever changing times there was a petrol pump (and I mean pump, whereby it was delivered manually by means of the pump handle) on the wall opposite the wheelwrights’ shop.
There was a village shop opposite the foundry which was operated by Miss Fawden for many years and was for many years latterly by Mr. And Mrs. Garratt. Eventually the shop was not a viable business and was closed down and is now a family residence. There was also a village shop in Marldon, now Tor Hill House, the home of Dr. Carr, which was run up to, during and after the war years by Mrs. Bridgeman (wife of the aforesaid Mr. Bert Bridgeman).
Our first Village Hall was built during the 1920’s on its present site and was for many years the meeting point in the village, as is our New Village Hall.
Our Church is the main building of any kind in the parish and has a very long history. One of the features I can remember is when the Bells were removed from the church tower and a new sixth bell was presented to the village by Commander Gilbert of Compton Castle. This type of event may only take place once in a century or one’s lifetime. It was a rare occurrence to see the bells laid out on the path leading up to the church door, awaiting collection. They were then taken to Leicester for re-tuning to match the new bell that was being cast at the same factory; the installation of the new bell was quite a feature.
My earliest recollections were when I was about six years old, 1939, at the outbreak of World War II. Marldon was one of the villages chosen away from London to which children would be evacuated, and I can remember numerous children coming here with name labels, suitcases and gas masks, to be met by host families who had been asked to provide homes for the children.
Marldon School was very much overcrowded in the following months and years. There were two classrooms, one of which had a large dividing screen which was put in place to make the third classroom. We also had to make use of the Village Hall for extra classes. Our then Headmaster was Mr. A.E.Harris, who lived in the house attached to the school, our other teacher was Miss J. Coathorpe. Village school life in those days was very much different from the schools of today. Being wartime most things were in short supply and many of our activities involved collecting such things as scrap iron, books and anything to do with saving.
There were no Biro type pens in those days. We had pens and nibs with the old type ink-wells. Mr. Harris actually had two fountain pens, one black and one red, which he would fill from large bottles of ink. School radio was in its infancy then, the radio teaching was something of a novelty for us.
During those war years many local organisations were formed, the Home Guard (Dad’s Army style), Red Cross, Woman’s Royal Voluntary Service, Local Defence Volunteers and the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precaution).
Marldon was bombed twice, once at the beginning and once near the end, probably bombers unloading after bombing trips to Plymouth, which was a main enemy target.
The following is a transcription of Ray Bond's audio tape of a talk given by Frank Palk, Farmer entitled "Farming In The Area Over The Past 40 Years"
First of all I'd like to tell you that I have no experience in public speaking whatsoever. I expect some of you would say what a lot of rubbish and I expect some of you will fall asleep while I talk.
Born at Avonwick, I was taken to Tedburn St Mary when I was 3 months old. I left Avonwick in the January and went to Tedburn in March. I went to school at Tedburn St Mary, an old Parish Council School. I learnt my ABC, I learnt my timetables, inches, feet and yards, how many yards in a furlong and apart from that very little else! In those days they just taught you what you needed to know to get through life. The master would go up to the blackboard with a cane in one hand and a piece of chalk in the other. There was no vandalism, bad behaviour, bad language it was as you wanted it to be.
Anyway moving on from there (about 1939) farmers had a concession to get their sons off school to help with the harvest during the war and we thought that was a fine job. In 1940 my father was taken ill and as special release I was able to leave school and come back and work on the farm at the age of 13. During the early part of the war we had people coming to the farms who knew nothing at all about it. They made my father plough up some old pasture and marshy land that should never have been ploughed. It was either plough it or you lose your farm. He agreed to do it and because he agreed to do that they sold him a tractor (you couldn’t buy them). The Ministry got hold of these tractors and placed them where they thought they would get most benefit. I learnt to drive this tractor at the age of 13 and I did a lot of work with it. My father's health deteriorated and it was 1940 (Sept. ?) when he died. There were 8 of us in the family, Mother with all the pressures of the war didn’t think we would be able to carry on. We left September 1942 and originally the tractor list price was £126 but by the time the farm sale had come the price had risen to £190, but they weren't allowed to auction it. So all those interested in the tractor had their names put in a hat and the lucky one had the tractor. Because if it went to public auction the Ministry thought there would be profiteering involved. Anyrate that's enough about Tedburn St Mary.
We moved to Cockington to a cottage in 1942 and I went out to work as a farm labourer. The second day I was at work the horseman went sick and the farmer said to me you can take the team and go up to Ash Barton and carry on ploughing where Walter was yesterday. I was 15 and I had to do it and I done it! Since then the 12 acres I bought the field and ploughed it in a day. And on that particular day when I had the horses, I struggled to plough an acre because the fields were so steep the poor horses were absolutely worn out at the end of the day. And that's what they called progress!
Anyway moving onto working on the farm I did all the usual things that you did on the farm but I was getting fairly disgruntled, I was getting nowhere. In December 1944 at the age of 17 I heard on the grapevine that Stantor Barton's tenant was quitting and the farm was going to be let. I went straight to the Estate Office in Cockington and saw the boss man in the office, apparently he used to live in Millman's Farm here in Marldon. He was evacuated from London, he was a speculator and then he came here to the safety of farming and that if anything happened he would O.K.. Before my 18th birthday a message came from him to come and see him. I couldn't wait to see him irrespective of the result and he asked me into his office and said I’ve decided that I've left the farm to you if you're interested. I put my hand out and said "yes please"! I went home and told my mother and she burst into tears crying and cried all night. She said you will never make it do. Whatever are you thinking about. Now you stop crying.
We moved in on the 29th September 1945, we bought some cows in outgoing tenant’s sale, and milked them by hand, me and my brother, and on the 1st October we bought an old car from Jack Ackro ?(or Ackroll?) for £126.00 up at xxx anybody remember him? We made up a trailer and took it down to the dairy at Preston, I forget how many gallons. He wanted the milk by 8 o'clock in the morning while it was still warm because he had customers coming to his dairy begging for warm milk and that continued and we increased our herd. At the time I think we were getting three shillings a gallon for it and we were buying petrol from Bridgeman's down at Compton for one and ten pence a gallon. Wind it up by hand, half way (mimes). Today I think petrol is round about 70p a litre and milk is about 18p a litre. I think it was in 1954 the newly formed MAFF implemented different roles and restrictions etc.etc. and all milk had to be pasteurised so they came to the farm, tested our water - we had marvellous spring water. When we went to Stantor there was no electric, no mains water and no drainage system at all, all very basic. They tested the water and they said it's not up to the standards, it's alright for you to drink it but you won't be allowed to wash your dairy with it". Anyway by the time they brought the restrictions into being, and they did some estimates regarding bringing the dairy and the shippons up to scratch we decided to give up milking and with all the restrictions that have been introduced since, it was a very good thing.
My first appreciation with Compton was taking a harvest wagon there from Cockington and the wheel came off and I was going down Widdicombe Lane and one of the iron bonds had come off and the wheel was jogging along on it's axle. When I got down to Bridgeman's, I was only a boy in those days, "What do you expect us to do with this heap of junk" he said. "It's not my junk" I said, I was only told to bring it here. I think at the time he had 5 men there working and he mended the harvest wagon. And when I went to collect it the new combine was all painted up smart and he'd done a first class job. It's a pity he's not still down there, I'm sure there would be a living still there for his descendents if there are any. His wife used to keep a shop up here.
The chairman mentioned bell ringing - it's a disappointment really because our road lengthsman used to do our roads around Stantor, and at that time the boundary thataway was Gallows Gate. He used to walk through the farm to the top of Scadson and pick up his length to come back and he used to walk through the farm and have a chat and tell us how to do our job and he said I'd like you to come bell ringing. You look a strong chap so we came and this was about November time with the dark evenings and we used to walk there. We were just getting the hang of it when the Spring came and the days got longer and there was a lot more work to do on the farm and sadly we had to stop, we couldn't find the time to do it. That was the bell ringing enterprise that came to an end unfortunately.
Another little story I'd like to tell you was in 1947 when we had a bad winter, we didn't have many sheep of our own up to then and we took in a lot of sheep to keep for the winter and I think it started snowing Boxing Day and there was snow drifting at Stantor (12 feet high?) and these ewes that we took in to feed were due to start lambing 1st February. We didn't have any buildings, we had hundreds of sheep and made shelter with straw and galvanised sheets we done all we could to save as many lambs as possible. The owners were on Dartmoor, they couldn't get them back, we did our utmost to save them and we did. But when it started to thaw we had 5 days of east wind and rain and that was a killer. I went around one morning with a horse and cart and picked up a cartful of dead. That was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life regarding farming, I remember drilling the corn in one of the fields there in April, driving around in drifts of snow that hadn't melted in April. That's the worst of it.
Moving on now to a flock of sheep. Our forefathers always said that sheep have golden feet, they fed you and they clothed you. And I've always been a stockman more than a mechanic. I've always enjoyed looking after stock although machinery did come into it as it got more modern as there was more work to do and less staff on the farm. In those days on a Saturday morning we often had 2 or 3 boys ( 13 or 14 yrs. old) knocking at the door "have you got any jobs we can do at weekends?" We took on several who came holidays and evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, and really into it some of them went further and done farming. But today, the last 10 years, we haven't seen anybody and if you ask anybody to do anything on the farm it's getting now a dirty word to work at farming, but I've got a feeling it will alter.
Moving on now to 1956 I started growing vegetables to supply at local shops. I worked hard at it and I was quite successful. I came here with 16 acres of potatoes, 7 acres of cauliflower, sprouts and cabbage, put them all into an old van and sold them round the corner shops; and I'd never leave home half full and never get home half empty. I used to try and leave home full and come home empty. It was quite successful until Mr Tesco and Mr Sainsbury came along and they killed the corner shop stone dead, and they killed me with it. A sad thing really because the farms are lending themselves to doing it . We used to get quite a lot of callers coming to the farm for veg. and plants, but then they put the ring road through and they'd go straight past us. We hardly got anybody down to the farm that was the reason for that. As we expanded to add a bit more land here and there, I had a sheep flock and cattle, lambing 600/700 ewes and 394 cattle( that's 100 cows). As for staff one man's been with us for 28 years, and 2 casuals, since then I've become a casual worker, I don't know so much about it these days .
In the 1990s we had the BSE and that was a catastrophe. The price of beef hit the floor, stock values fell by half and it became difficult to pay bills. A lot of people went to the wall, a lot of people couldn't sell anthing, but sat it out and just when things were improving a little bit and could see light at the end of the tunnel a terrible thing - foot and mouth - arrived last year. And this was a nightmare . Some of the forms we had to fill in you could never believe, worded them the way they are and made them so difficult to fill in. In one of our farming magazines there was a farmer write in who had an up to date fax machine and he applied for a licence to move some cattle across a 15' highway and the length of the paper which came out of his fax machine giving him permission to do it was 18 feet long. It is unbelievable what this government has done regarding the paperwork!
Now I haven't got a lot more to say but I would like anybody who has any questions to ask some.
I could elaborate a little bit more on prices regarding livestock. Off the top of my head, I haven't got my figures written down, the cheapest price I sold was £5 and my dearest price was £270. So you can see how farm prices fluctuate and high prices bring low prices and low prices bring high prices. So you have got to stick it out and take a level average. As regards the cattle prices when we started in 1942 our chairman picked up one for £52 and that would be over £1000 now. £52 in 1942 would be over £1000 now. Well it would be impossible to do that at today's market. Regards the sheep, back in 1970 I started a new enterprise breeding rams for stock breeders. And I continued with it and they're still doing it, and it's turned out to be quite a successful enterprise. But until this year and then it was a disaster because if you bought anything or sold anything you were on a 3 week standstill and if anything arrived on the farm or if anything left the farm -- a complete disaster you had to have a veterinary inspection on and off on the farm they would come and inspect the stock and sometimes they'd look in the mouth of every animal and sometimes they'd go over to the pen and say "That looks a nice lot of sheep, boss what do I want to come here for?" And that was the difference in different vets, there was no continuity at all.
Regarding the sheep, I have always been interested in sheep and asked to judge shows and next year all being well I've been asked to judge at the Devon County Show. I hope the show will be held and that the sheep will be there and I hope to be there.
As regards the cattle, my son's the mainstay at that and he's always been keen on calving cows ever since he left school. If they had a difficult calving, they called in the vet and they weren't getting on very well. My Andy said "do you mind if I have a go"? The vet stepped back and said "yes have a go". And he done it, and I have a lot of admiration for that. And since then I'd put him beside any vet to take a calf or lamb from mum. And they say it goes in generations, I was at the farm a week or two ago and my grandson will be 9 in January I said "what's on today then George"? Oh he said "I did pick a lamb Granpy". I said "what did you get"? "I put my hand in and I got him" he said. He said "I've been trained". Little George, the farmer for the next generation.
As regards my family I said to you I lost my father in 1946, my mother died aged 50 of cancer and my dear wife died at the age 55 of cancer - so I've had a bit of a bellyful really. But I hope the Palk family will continue at Stantor Barton for many generations to come. Since we went there, we've bought it, we've put in mains water, we dug most of the trenches by hand from Gallows Gate to Stantor, and put in electricity in 1954. We modernised the cottages, got them on mainstream, there's 3 cottages there, and a few years ago I've done a barn conversion. It was a very old barn that was hopelessly out of size and shape for modern equipment that was used. Very nice barn, walls were very thick, made a good solid home.
Ah footpaths! When we went to Stantor first there were four or five men that went through from Marldon to Cockington to work. They would go past us about quarter past seven in the morning and back about quarter past five in the night, they kept the footpath clean and tidy, no problem at all. Since then we have had additional footpaths, five in total, we've had problems with vandalism, dumping rubbish, dogs, gates left open; the public have no respect for farm property but we have tolerated it. But we have three people who come through quite regularly and if they can't find anyone to speak to walking through the farm to say how nice it is looking, what are you doing there, the cattle are looking nice or whatever - they go home disappointed. Its because they are interested in what we are doing and they don't want to interfere with the work but they just like to know what's happening. On the other hand we have people walking through, they cover their head and they look at you as if you're raping the countryside and that's annoying more than anything. They think that, because you're farming it!
From 1945 onwards the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged you to produce as much food as you could to keep the 'balance of payments' right by export. Now, that's gone out of the window. Where's our balance of payments today? Those of you that read the Financial Times .....
If you cannot recognise it, it’s best not to eat it, I won't eat anything unless I can recognise what it is and I wish other people would do the same.
Supermarkets run by the Mafia - definitely. There are a lot of farmers who in a big way supply to the supermarkets but unless every cauliflower and every cabbage is exactly the same size with a bar strip on them for pricing them they do not want to know. How many families go into buy a cauliflower and each time want one the same size - it doesn’t work like that. You know yourself in the garden you put in a row of cabbages, there may be 20 in a row but there wouldn’t be two the same size. But if you sell them to the supermarket you sell three and sling the rest. Full stop. So that's why you don't sell to the big supermarkets, the wastage is colossal.
The Chairman mentioned the Marldon Show, well for me, Marldon Agricultural Show was First Prize with a horse and that was in 1948. The same horse at the Harvest Field, Stantor Barton . You are quite welcome to look at some of my 'photos.
(He showed photos at this point whilst he was talking. The show was held in the field at the end of Singmore Road, on the 3rd. Saturday in June.)
The talk was followed by 'Question Time'
Q. "I have always been fascinated by markets, markets have always been part of farming, do you have any stories about how Newton Abbot market changed"
A. Yes, well Newton Abbot market was our market and I used to go to market every Wednesday. There was always news to get regarding what’s happening in the farming area, prices to keep in touch with, and years ago there used to be a lot of food at the market and a lot of business used to be done there. I can remember going into the Bradley Hotel to find Bert Bridgeman to pay his bill, he had a little corner with a table where we could pay his bills but I also heard my Father say "business done in a pub is no good to nobody". I never had a drink in a pub on market day. I would go to market, do the business and come to work. If you came home smelling of booze, working with staff, that’s a disaster. That doesn’t go together. Boozing, working on a farm doesn't go together and there you are. And years ago there was a lot of farm cider made on the farm but that was part of life to have cider on the farm, it was part of their wages but the market was an important place. I always needed to know about price fluctuations and have contacts. I went to market one day and heard a whisper that somebody had a flock of sheep for sale and I couldn't believe it. When I got home I picked up the telephone, I was asked how did you get to know. Within an hour I had bought that flock of sheep because I knew they were alright and had I not gone to market I'd have missed a very valuable flock of sheep that I wanted to get hold of. Answer your question?
Mark Westaway talks - I'd like to tell people about Frank Palk that he wouldn't admit to. When I came to Love Lane (Farm) in 1952 from a 44 acre farm I had not got enough gear to really farm the 170 acres or whatever it was. Frank and his brother lent me a lot of machinery that I hadn't got and helped me a lot. I only wish that Tony Blair could have been here to hear Frank and he'd learn a little about farming.
( Mark spoke very warmly and emotionally about Frank)
Q. "Stray dogs, what is the actual ruling?"
A. To be quite honest I'll answer your question. A few years ago we were having a lot of trouble and we did educate people by shooting them! I think there may be people in this room who may think I should be tarred with a black brush for shooting dogs, but I educated them and luckily now we don't get very much trouble. I'll tell you a story that’s true. Over at Cockington, near Broadley Drive my son Andrew went over there on a Saturday morning, saw the sheep everything alright. Afternoon the 'phone rang, dog worrying sheep, we picked up six or seven over there, though some had gone too far, but the sad part was we didn't know exactly how many sheep were there - we thought we had it right. About a week afterwards the 'phone went, sheep in a field pecked to death by maggots. We warned the RSPCA, Trading Standards, Torbay Council and they wanted to summons us. And if it wasn't for our vet who got them together and said "now look" and he explained the situation and got my Andrew off or else he would have been summonsed, no doubt. No, we don't get the trouble we used to get, to be quite honest about it. And people now, they do keep them on the leads. And down at Cockington, now Dominic Ackland was here the other night, well I wouldn't say we work together but we do go down the same road put it that way. He has fenced some of the footpaths so people can go down the footpaths, there's the field and there's the fence and instead of people letting the dog wander the dog can only go down the path, straight down!
Marldon Local History Group : Life in a Devon Parish