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On 5th September  2013 the new £2.1m Gem Bridge for walkers and cyclists was opened across the River Walkham. Well .... if they hadn't knocked this one down they could have saved themselves the trouble.
The original GWR railway bridge, initially with a superstructure of wooded trestles, was constructed in 1859. The replacement structure shown in the photograph survived until the Beeching cuts of the early 1960s.

Harmless Fun? –
Gerry Woodcock
The children of Tavistock had a narrower range of pastimes
and amusements than their successors in the next century were to enjoy.
Involvement in organised games and competitions was limited by lack of
amenities, while the world of gadgets, toys and playthings offered only a
narrow range at high prices. This was the do-it-yourself world as far as entertainments
were concerned.


What then could be the harm in the youth of the town
indulging in some fun with homespun equipment, particularly if the activities
were ones that had long traditions stretching back many centuries in England and
beyond? Surely they should have been commended for keeping alive the spirit of
our great heritage of sports and games and healthy outdoor exercise.


Two such exercises were particularly popular in the
Tavistock of the 1880s. One involved catapults, where the competition covered
both construction and performance. The history of the catapult stretched from
the military device used by the Greek and Roman armies and in medieval warfare, through to the teaching-aid in science and engineering lessons in schools.
Hoop-trundling had an equally long history, with a number of descriptions,
going back to the fifteenth century, of the making of wood or metal hoops and
the skills involved in trundling them.


The problems arose because both these activities took place
in the town’s streets. Catapults fired stones, which were readily to hand, and
stones too often hit windows, whether accidentally or not. This explains why in
so many early photographs of properties and street scenes the windows display
protective covers. The danger with hoops was that they more difficult to
control than many people imagined, with the result that they scared
pedestrians, and caused many accidents by frightening the horses. It is natural
for older people to feel nostalgic about a subject like children’s games, but I
wonder whether our Victorian forebears would have seen it in quite the same way.


The following pieces appeared in the Tavistock Gazette of 20 March
1913, immediately following the arbitration decisions relating to property
previously owned and controlled by the Bedford family from the dissolution of
Tavistock Abbey in 1539.


The paper quotes from the Municipal Journal of the day, a journal
for professional civil engineers


“From the position of a town almost entirely
devoid of municipal undertakings, Tavistock has become possessed of waterworks,markets, slaughter-houses, shops, public baths, open spaces, a town hall,council offices and a wharf. The circumstances of the conversion of relatively so much private into municipal property are probably unique in the annals of local government in this country.”


In the same issue Mr J J Alexander, Chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, headmaster and local historian, comments


“The control of a single landlord has been beneficial in some ways, for it has preserved some of the monastic features associated with our medieval history. From the spectacular point of view the centre of the town
is admirably planned, far better than an early Victorian body with crude ideas
of local architecture would have done it. Many of the streets are of good
width, and present an appearance of cleanliness. But it is idle to affirm that
the Bedford regime has been altogether conducive to good citizenship. Instead of managing our own concerns we have been busy looking for favours, and the result has been that the majority of the inhabitants of the town consist of two classes, those who took up in all public matters an attitude of abject servitude to the Bedford Office, and those, probably the more numerous, who have been entirely apathetic. With the new conditions under which we shall manage our own affairs without help or hindrance, a more sturdy type of citizen may develop.”


Reminiscences of
Events Chiefly connected with Tavistock in the Fifties of the 19th Century


In 1916 a Mr T Vanstone wrote a series of six articles with the above title.
Article No5, below, was published in the Gazette of 6th of June 1916. Thomas Vanstone was born in Buckland Monachorum c1839. He married Tavistock born Elizabeth Ann Foot in Tavistock in 1864 and was a grocer at 22/23 King Street in 1901. He died in Tavistock in 1918 aged 78 and his wife in  the same year aged 79. They lie together in Plymouth Road cemetery.


“The Rev O J Tancock - In 1857 the Rev O J Tancock
was presented to the vicarage of Tavistock and he had for his senior curate the Rev W E Hadow. Dr Tancock came from Truro.


Coming of age of Mr John Carpenter - An interesting event, which although not in the fifties, was very close to that period, took place in February 1860, namely the coming of age of Mr John Carpenter of Mount Tavy. The event had been anticipated for some time previous to its occurrence, and considerable preparation had been made for carrying the celebration out in a manner characteristic of the generosity of that good lady, Mrs Carpenter, the mother of the gentleman who was to legally become a man, and take possession of the large estates which had been so well managed for many years. As a memorial of the event Mrs Carpenter distributed 250 blankets among the poor of the town and neighbourhood, a similar gift to that which was made when Mr Carpenter’s father reached his majority, so it was stated. In order to show sympathy with the Mount Tavy family the shops were closed in the afternoon and the town was en-fete the whole day, bands of music enlivening the streets from early morn till late at night. Mount Tavy house and grounds were open to all comers; presents were made to Mr Carpenter by the tradesmen of the town, and school children were regaled
with tea in the Corn Market and the Butter Market, the inmates of the Workhouse were given a substantial meal at Mount Tavy, while the tenantry partook of dinner at the Bedford Hotel. The town was freely decorated with flags, and the day’s festivities closed with a fine display of fireworks by Mr W Monk, on the Mount Tavy lawn, where dancing was kept up until the small hours of the morning.


Mr Carpenter was the captain of the Tavistock Volunteers for
some time but on the death of an uncle in Hampshire he had to take the name of Garnier in order to possess the estates in that county. In consequence of this change he severed his connection with Tavistock and settled at Fareham, and the Mount Tavy estates were disposed of.


The Mechanics’ Institute
- In connection with the Mechanics’ Library an institute was formed for the
purpose of  improving the literary taste of the inhabitants, lectures
being given by leading men on various subjects occupying the public mind. These included practical lectures on chemistry with illustrations; but such strides have taken place since then, that today the chemical teaching in the elementary schools is far in advance of anything which at that time was considered wonderful. Musical evenings also formed part of the winter programme, and professional ladies and gentlemen were engaged, the whole winter course costing about 2s 6d for each member. For a time the Guildhall was well filled, but after a few seasons the public lost interest in the lectures, notwithstanding the fact that discussion was encouraged, and the institution ceased its usefulness.


Among the literary celebrities who visited Tavistock during
the decade was Elihu Burritt, the American blacksmith, who while working at the forge, became master of several languages. He delivered a remarkable lecture on “Peace” in the Guildhall, and Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot, lectured in the Assembly Room on “Nationality a Providential Dispensation,” dwelling largely on the struggle then going on in his native home.


The Tavistock Volunteers
- Notwithstanding that we had recently been the ally of France in the Crimean War with Russia, the fact that the French Emperor was increasing his army to apparently an unreasonable extent, caused an uneasy feeling among our authorities at home; so much so that an Act was passed to promote the formation of a Rifle Volunteer Army, as a reserve for the regulars. A song published at the time, “Form, Riflemen, Form,” was doubtless a means of adding to the panic, so that in a very short time volunteer corps sprang up all over the kingdom.
Tavistock entered the field early and within a very short time a fine body of
men were at drill, physically and intellectually second to none in the West of
England. Devon Consols contributed a section, composed of captains and workmen, most of whom were on the border of six feet in height, and with a few from the town, formed the grenadier platoon of the corps. A fine section of men also came in from Princetown, consisting of warders and prison guards, and these, with men of the town and adjacent villages, soon filled the ranks and reached two companies. Capt Baring-Gould, an ex-military gentleman of Lewdown, was placed in command, and within a short time, under the tuition of a sergeant just returned from India, the men were enabled to appear in public in marching order, without uniform, to the admiration of the fair sex and the youthful population. The preliminary drills were held in the schoolroom, Kilworthy Lane, then known as the “Barracks” now the Hall of the Salvation Army. The uniform was a light green with a peaked cap, surmounted with cocks’ feathers The corps were sworn in at the Tavistock Guildhall, in April 1860.


Captain Baring-Gould retired after a short time, and Mr Carpenter, of Mount Tavy, readily accepted the position, and held it for some years, until he left for Fareham.


In order to help the funds of the corps a Bazaar was held on Mount Tavy lawn, in July 1865, when a good sum was realised. A small brochure
of eight pages was issued in a tent on the lawn by men of the “Gazette” Office, containing interesting matter, humorous and historical, chiefly contributed by members of the corps, a copy of which may now be seen at the “Gazette” Office.


The Old Bowling Green
- The bowling green, at the top of Kilworthy Lane, was well patronised in the
early part of the century, but the last time any public use was made of the
green was when a feat of strength was exhibited by an ex-lifeguardsman, who severed the carcase of a sheep with one stroke of his sword, as witnessed by the present writer. The old game of bowls has now been revived on the new green at Fitzford.


Clocks and Watches
- Clocks were evidently considered a luxury in the early part of last century,
as a Mr Barnett, a watchmaker of the town, let out clocks to persons of
substance on hire, undertaking to keep them in repair during the time of loan, and a Mr Jessop, another watchmaker, who had his shop and dwelling at the top of Higher Market Street, won renown for his substantial work in the production of watches, some of which are keeping good time today.


Defunct Business Houses
- Numbers of business houses, with the members of their firms, have long ceased to exist; these were doing a good trade in the ‘fifties’ as the result of the prosperity of the mines of the neighbourhood. Among them may be mentioned


Solicitors – Messrs Bridgman and Son, Mr R Robins, Mr S E S
Carpenter, Mr G Willesford, and Messrs Cornish and Chilcott

Medical Men – Mr T B Harness MD, Messrs Pearse and Northey,
Mr G Mitchell, Mr R West, Mr Pryce Michell and Mr R Sleman

Auctioneers - Messrs Davis and Son, Mr J Vosper, Mr W Monk,
Mr D Ward and Mr E Turner

Chemists - Messrs Edgcombe and Stannes, Mr Bolt, Mr Gill, Mr
W Willcock, and Mr S Perry; the two latter combined grocery with chemistry

Drapers  - Mr C H Daw,
Messrs Westcott and Stapleton, Mr J Flamank, Mr Paddon, Mr C Bawden and Mr Trehance

Grocers - Messrs Gribbell and Criper, Messrs Nicholls and Hearn, Mr H Penwarden, Mr Hamley and Mrs Prout

Ironmongers - Mr W Pearse and Mr J M Arnold

Hatters -          Mr T Doidge and Mr Colwill

Printers - Miss Feaston and Mr J L Commins

Builders - Messrs Maker and Knight, Mr R Walters, Mr J Goslin, Mr Yelland, Mr R Martin and Mr May 

Watchmaker - Mr W Davy

Painters and House Decorators – Mr W Robjohns, Mr H Allen and Mr Mallett


The Bedford Foundry of Messrs Nicholls and Mathews, and the
Tavistock Ironworks were busy constructing and erecting Cornish Engines for the local and foreign mines. The former has now become the home of Messrs Morris Brothers Posting Establishment, and the latter a woollen factory for preparing wool for the Bradford looms.”

Jim Thorington


The Thorington Collection – Kevin Dickens

Ever had to slow down going through Horrabridge on the main road? Well, there is a speed limit – and a speed camera. But it might take something like this to bring you to a dead halt. Does anyone reading this remember this event?  You would need a memory stretching back
forty-four years to a rather grey morning in 1968.

The sequence of pictures – of which this is just one – suggest that it is a working day with a large group of schoolchildren on the other side of the tree, waiting, presumably in vain, for the school bus. The body language of the people in the foreground of this picture suggests that the tree has just, quite suddenly, come down. In fact ropes had been attached to it and it was pulled down, though rather hurriedly it seems. The building behind the tree, once a livery stable and hotel, then Manor Garage and in 1968 already with over a century of history behind it, has survived. to prosper to this day.  It would be interesting to know what the owner of the house in Manor Estate, into whose front garden the top third of the tree fell, thought about the day’s events.

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