A History of Town Orchard

Many of us are regular users of Town Orchard.  It is generally recognised as a precious jewel in the heart of the village.  Much visited, it is a peaceful green space, used for our traditional May Day festival, outdoor plays and performances and community events such as the old Apple Day and more recently the Wassails held by Beltane Border Morris.  It has been much written about, featured in many magazine and newspaper articles and television programmes.  What about its history?

The name sounds odd to us “Town”, in a village?  But this is a hangover from the medieval manorial system, where the centre of a settlement was always referred to as ‘town’, hence Town Orchard (the village centre is called Town Place). This would indicate the siting of an orchard here for at least 600 years, probably more. An archaeological report from the Dartmoor National Park Authority states there is evidence of earthworks, indicating the existence of old medieval field boundaries in the southern end of the Orchard.   

The earliest record we have is the Tithe Map surveyed in 1837, which shows the orchard as four pockets of land: Apportionment Nos. 477 (Town Orchard), 497 (Clover Field), 498 (West Orchard) and 499 (Town Meadow). Two of these being cultivated as orchards.  By the time of the 1884 survey for the OS 25 inch mapping the Town Orchard is shown as a single entity of 5.078 acres. The maps also show the leat which runs through the Orchard today and which used to supply some of the water to Lustleigh Mill. The land was owned jointly by Thomas and William Wills, who owned three parts and one part respectively.  It formed part of ‘Gatehouse Estate – Including Woodparks and Long Marsh’.  At that time there was no road, garage, hall, Post Office, Dairy or houses on Melrose Terrace and the land stretched all the way up to the road.

In 1907, Thomas Wills mortgaged the orchard for £2000 to Gladys Hill Robinson and Harold G. Michelmore and in 1911, conveyed 20 perches (605 yards) to Messrs Wise, Blakeway and Glanville for £30.  The conveyance makes specific reference to “the right of enjoyment of any buildings erected thereon.” This is the land the Conservative Hall was built on, now rebuilt as our Village Hall.

There then comes a very significant part of the history of the orchard.  In 1923, Wills sold the orchard to Lionel Galton Bennett for £600.  In 1961, Bennett sold a small piece of land to William Howard, together with a right of approach for vehicles.  This is the land that Brent Oliver’s Orchard Garage now stands on, and presumably at some point, further land was sold off to make way for the approach road. 

Lionel Bennett died in May 1965; the executors of his will vested the orchard to Margaret Ellen Bennett who immediately gave it to the Parish Council by Deed of Gift.  The council immediately designated it an amenity for the local population.

The Town Orchard lies within the Lustleigh Conservation Area and contains a variety of apple trees many of which are very old and on the list of heritage apples at risk. The orchard was described in 1993 by Common Ground as the “longest established community orchard” in England.  It is also officially listed as an important site on the Historical Environment Record.

Town Orchard has been used for Lustleigh May Day on an annual basis since 1954 (except during the Covid pandemic in 2020/21).  As per the covenant in the deed of Gift, it may do so “free of charge, for as long as the organisers wish”.  There is a large granite rock bearing the names of all the May Queens in the centre of the Orchard which is used for the crowning of the Queens. A permanent throne was installed on the rock in 2000.   

In 2009, the then Pre-School made a request to the council to fence off a small area of the orchard for “digging and organic gardening”.  This is the area behind Melrose Terrace still used by Pre-School for their play area.

The upkeep of the orchard is partly funded by the picking and selling of the cider apples and mistletoe plus visitor donations. The outer reaches of the orchard are regularly cleared of overgrowth by local volunteers and the grass is often grazed in an environmentally friendly way by sheep.

Lustleigh Town Orchard is a very special place, full of history, a rarity in the modern era and a true community space.  Every effort should be made to conserve it for the enjoyment of future generations.

The History of The Old Manor House

The Great Hall, Mapstone Hill

We now have up-to-date information on the history of the old manor (Great Hall and Uphill), Mapstone Hill, Lustleigh, thanks to research by Dr. Ian Mortimer, a summary of which is reproduced here:

“Now that we know that dendrochronological analysis has dated the beams of Uphill to the early fourteenth century, when we know the lords of the manor were resident, it is possible to see that the expensive building work could be that of William Prouz, who asked to be buried in the church, and eventually was. Certainly, clergymen of the time did not have the income to build such a place. The added interest locally is that an inventory of the goods of Sir John Daumarle, lord of Lustleigh, survives (published in Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries, XXXII, part 3, pp. 79-83).

I am confident that the building now divided into Uphill and the Great Hall on Mapstone Hill was the manorial residence of William Prouz and after him his daughter Alice de Moels and then her son Sir John Damarle, and the inventory relates to its contents at the time of Sir John’s death in 1392. I don’t think the lords have been resident since then, hence the house being given to the church.”

Ian Mortimer, January 2022

Edited by Peter Mason from an email received from Ian Mortimer 26/01/2022

Lustleigh War Memorial – Albert Edward Arnold

It was raw emotion that compelled Albert Edward Arnold to volunteer his services during WW1. At 45 years of age, he certainly wasn’t the typical recruit, but having just received news of the death of his son, the red in his eyes gave him little choice. With anger pulsing through his veins, he stomped to the recruitment office in Stratford, East London, determined to give the Boche a bloody nose. That opportunity, however, was not to come his way.

Albert’s story begins and ends largely in the West Country. He was born on 17th April 1870 in Wear Gifford where his father was a police constable; he was the fifth of nine siblings, all but one of them boys. His father’s job took the family around the county from Dawlish to Appledore and from Buckland Brewer back to Wear Gifford. By 1879, the family arrived in Lustleigh planting roots that would stretch forward one hundred years.

Upon their arrival, five of the children, including Albert, were registered at Lustleigh Board School. Where they lived initially is unclear, although by 1891, following the death three years earlier of father John, the family were occupying Stable House with a practically unified effort to put bread on the table: mother Mary Ann had become a midwife, sister Lucy was a parlour maid, one brother, Edwin, was a Tram Conductor while another, Ernest, was a page – even 11-year old Charles had become an errand boy, perhaps for the neighbouring post office and general store.

Albert, however, had already left home at this point. He clearly had wider horizons and entered the merchant navy and, while his siblings were turning their hands to all manner of trades to support the family, this wanderlust 21-year old had just sailed back from Barbados and was recovering from a sailor’s complaint in the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital in Greenwich. Following his discharge after 73 days, he resumed his seafaring days based in Southampton where he lodged with his future wife and her widowed mother.

Following his marriage to Rose French in 1893, Albert traded in his life at sea for land-based work, becoming a foreman at an iron works in Southampton, and having five children in that city before moving to London’s dockland at Silvertown (although technically in Essex at that time). There, he found work at an oil wharf and went on to have another three children.

One of his sons, also named Albert Edward Arnold, found work at the same oil wharf which, presumably, caused at least some confusion – perhaps even some jollity – among their co-workers; although, with father as a labourer and son as a fitter’s boy, maybe they escaped constant jibing. Any joking, though, stopped with the outbreak of war and the signing up of Albert junior into the Royal Engineers; sadly, his fighting days were cut short when he died of wounds on 9th March 1915.

Despite having a wife and six children at home, the loss of his son and namesake was too much to bear. Perhaps he wrestled with his conscience for a short while, but the following month, on 24th April, he signed up for action. Revenge, though, was not going to come easy as he was deemed too old for front line action and assigned to the 4th Devons: engaged, according to Revd. Johnson’s roll call of all parishioners who served in the Great War, as a “bomb instructor”; the regimental museum, however, believes the likely munitions involved were hand grenades. This is a moot point, though, as the salient fact is that one of these weapons was accidentally dropped by a recruit killing and wounding several, including Albert severely. The date of the incident is unrecorded, but he was discharged from the army on 13th February 1918 and awarded a Silver War Badge.

It is probable that he returned home to London to be with his wife and children which now included a two-year old boy who had arrived during his war service. A year after the repatriation with his family, his wife died; not long after, his health gave way to the wounds sustained in the training incident and he was admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital, where he died on 3rd November 1920.

While his son is commemorated on the Silverton War Memorial, it is in Lustleigh where we find Albert senior’s name inscribed in memory of his war service. This was clearly due to that part of his family which remained in our village, living at Stable House. His mother died there in 1917, but his brother, Edwin, continued in that residence serving the parish, at various times, as overseer of the poor, water bailiff, clerk to the parish council and school manager.

After the war, some of his nephews and nieces (Albert’s children) would often come to stay, including the eldest, Rose, and the youngest, Alfred. When Edwin passed away in 1946, two nieces took up permanent residence at Stable House; Rose Gladys Arnold, Albert’s first-born, died there in 1978 ending the family’s connection with the house. Their connection with the village, though, lives on through the war memorial.

Albert Edward Arnold will be remembered on Tuesday 3rd November 2020, when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour; regrettably, this will be a reduced peel, using only three bells, due to Covid restrictions.

Chris Wilson

This story draws on various other sources including.

  • Keep Military Museum
  • Ancestry, Rootsweb & FindMyPast
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Facebook

Lustleigh War Memorial – Frederick Parker

 For the duration of Lustleigh’s commemorations of those on our War Memorial that gave their lives in the Great War, one man proved elusive with not a shred of evidence to reveal his identity. Then, a letter to our Community Archives from a lady trying to trace her Lustleigh roots, provided a tantalising clue which then led to the unlocking of his story. Too late to mark the 100th anniversary of his passing, it is presented here instead on the eve of his 130th birthday.

With as many children as there are WW1 casualties listed on our War Memorial, William Parker was perhaps a larger than life character: a trait, maybe, that explains how he was able to have the name of a son, who barely set foot in the parish, inscribed on that granite tribute to the fallen.

William was an agricultural labourer in the North Devon village of Dolton, where he married Lucy Dymond in 1874; they had their first child, Mary Ann, the following year and by 1889, May 2nd to be precise, their brood had grown to seven children with the birth of Frederick. A further three offspring entered the world before Lucy passed away in 1892, aged just 36; understood to have been one of nine children herself, perhaps she was predisposed to such productivity!

Fred Parker with his sister Lillie

Suddenly becoming a single parent, in his late thirties, with ten children at his feet, William wasted little time in remarrying, tying the knot with Elizabeth Horrell within a year of becoming a widower. Providing for a hungry hoard was, however, not about to get any easier as Elizabeth was even more fruitful, producing another 11 little Parkers.

Around the beginning of 1897, they moved to Petrockstowe where Frederick, now eight years old, attended the local Church of England School with some of his siblings and by 1900 the family had relocated yet again, this time to Lustleigh, taking up residence at Willmead. Whether this new home afforded insufficient room for this ever-expanding family or perhaps for financial reasons, Frederick did not share this space with his father and step-mother, at least not for long: by 1901, he was living and working at Yard Farm in North Bovey.

Little is known about Frederick’s formative years except that at some point he moved back to North Devon and in 1911 was living with his brother at Little Heale, Ashreigney, continuing to work as a farm labourer. Not long after this, though, he and at least a couple of his siblings decided to emigrate to Canada.

He arrived in London, Ontario in the summer of 1912 and there he married Ada Dennett on 18th September 1913. Their union quickly produced a son, William John, born in 1914 and taking his first name from Frederick’s father. Then war came and interrupted their marital harmony with Frederick, now a boiler maker with The Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada, joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on 2nd August 1915.

Fred, wife Ada and their son William

It was some months before he was mobilized with the 33rd Battalion setting sail from Halifax on St. Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1916, leaving behind several feet of snow in exchange for rough seas which caused widespread sea-sickness. Their home for the next eight days was SS Lapland, an 18,565-ton passenger ship which a few years earlier had been making a journey of a very different sort, having been hired by the White Star Line in 1912 to take surviving crew from the Titanic back to England.

On this occasion, with its CEF cargo on board, the ship docked in Liverpool on March 25th; once disembarked, the soldiers continued their journey by train to the Army base at Shorncliffe, Kent and then by foot to their camp at St. Martin’s Plains. A few weeks later, Frederick received news that he had become a father for a second time with Lucy Ada (named after her mother and grandmother), a daughter, tragically, who he would never see. Three months after his arrival on this side of the Atlantic, on 28th June 1916, Frederick was transferred to the 4th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry, although it was another couple of weeks before he was alongside his new unit on the French battlefields.

 It would be an understatement to say that this was not good timing for Frederick: only a few days earlier had begun what became one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, The Battle of the Somme. Although the Canadian forces were not engaged from Day One of this campaign, in fact not entering the fray until September, they were certainly going to be involved in many of its major actions including the Battle of the Ancre Heights which took place to the east of Thiepval. Disastrously for Frederick, he was to become not only a participant, but ultimately a victim, of an event within this battle which became known as the Regina Trench Disaster.

 The Regina Trench was a major feature of this battlefield: indeed, it was said to be one of the most formidable defensive positions on the Somme and, at nearly two miles, one of the longest trenches on the German Front during the whole of the war. Being positioned just over a ridge, it was almost untouchable to allied artillery which would normally focus a barrage of fire on wire defences ahead of an attack.

 The Allies’ first major assault on the trench began on October 1st but met with abject failure. Paul Reed wrote in Courcelette: Somme that although the trench had been entered, it was not held “and many of those who succeeded in this never returned alive to submit a report on the nature of the defences”. Lessons, however, had been learnt and prior to revised orders being issued for a second assault, the 4th Battalion engaged in two days of rehearsals. However, despite attacking with twice the strength of the previous attempt, by now “the wire and the weather were more formidable antagonists than the enemy”.

This second assault began at 4.50am on Sunday 8th October in cold rain. Despite the usual opening artillery barrage, the wire defences largely held firm with only small breeches being achieved, the effect of which was to cause bottlenecks. The 4th Battalion’s Lieut. W.H. Joliffe said that his men were like sitting ducks as they bunched up in the congestion and succumbed to an endless rain of bombs. The ensuing losses equated to the virtual destruction of three battalions; Joliffe’s unit alone is reported to have lost between 480 and 510 out of 600 men of all ranks.

 During this battle, Joliffe was actually by Frederick’s side when he was fatally struck. He wrote to his widow, Ada, that on that morning “we made an attack which was one of almost unequalled intensity… in the face of heavy fire”. They made their objective and held it all morning, but then suffered a terrific counter attack: “the huns attacked fiercely and at the time your husband was at my side. I noticed he was firing his rifle and a moment later he fell at my feet with a bullet through his head. I can safely assure you he suffered no pain whatsoever. The time was about five minutes to two”.

Lieut. Joliffe finished his letter by saying that “Fred Parker was a very good soldier and was an example to the rest of the men… I sympathise with you deeply for your loss but I assure you your husband died a hero”. Despite such tragedy, there is some comfort in noting that Frederick’s sacrifice was not in vain with Regina Trench finally falling into Canadian hands three days later and remaining in their possession until the end of the war.

Ada Parker with her children William and Lucy

In addition to his place on the Lustleigh War Memorial, Frederick is ‘Remembered with Honour’ on the Vimy Memorial, Canada’s largest overseas National Memorial commemorating more than 11,000 men from the CEF who lost their lives in the Great War.

 Frederick Parker will be remembered on Thursday 2nd May, his birthday, when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Chris Wilson

This story draws on information provided by two of Frederick’s great, great nieces and from various other sources including.

 Library and Archives Canada

  • “Courcelette: Somme” on Google Books
  • “Canada in Flanders, Volume III” on gutenberg.org
  • “First Canadian Division, C.E.F., 1914-1918” on www.collectionscanada.gc.ca
  • com
  • com
  • guelphmercury.com
  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Wikipedia


Lustleigh War Memorial – William Willman

William James Willman was not fighting fit when he signed up to play his part in the Great War; sadly, too, it was his health that played a large part in his discharge less than a year later. It is only a hypothesis, but perhaps he was not best suited to life outdoors.

William was born in Satterleigh, North Devon to George and Elizabeth Willman on 25th October 1879, no doubt a very welcome arrival, both for them and their two daughters, following the death of their first son four years earlier aged just nine months old. Both parents were incomers, being born in neighbouring counties but choosing Devon to build their family life.

George was a farm labourer and it is perhaps no surprise that William followed in his father’s footsteps. Over time, he gradually moved southwards through Morchard Bishop, where he went to school, and later to Stoke Fleming where he worked as a day labourer on Woodbury Farm. It was in this coastal village that he met his future wife Sarah Jane Ball, whom he married, rather hurriedly it would seem, at Kingsbridge Register Office on 25th March 1903, just two months before the arrival of a son, Charles William Willman.

Insufficient records survive to indicate as to the root cause of William’s poor health: perhaps working on the exposed hills above Dartmouth didn’t suit his constitution. However, his living conditions were clearly found wanting too, causing him to spend six months in bed with scarlet fever in 1914 when the cottages, in which he was living, were declared uninhabitable: the medical officer of health instructing the rural district council to ensure that the well, from which drinking water was obtained, to be freed of pollution.

William upped sticks once more, finding a new home for his family at East Wray Farm, where he continued working as a labourer. If his intention was for an inland setting to be more conducive to his health, it was not entirely successful: when William reported to Newton Abbot recruitment office on 24th July 1917, he was assigned the medical category B2, indicating that he was not sufficiently fit to take up arms on the front line. He was, though, deemed to be capable of undertaking supporting duties overseas and, accordingly, he was posted to the 13th Labour Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, such units being reserved for those of William’s restricted ability.

Despite his shortcomings, it would appear that this 37-year old man was determined to contribute to the war effort to the best of his ability, his military character being classed as “good” with William being further described as “hardworking, willing and temperate”.

William’s battalion was formed the same month in which he attested, with the unit stationed initially at Cosham in Hampshire before being mobilised to France towards the end of September. Just a few months later, however, he was lying in a hospital in Dunkirk, probably Queen Alexandra Hospital at Malo-les-Bains, having gone sick with bronchitis and emphysema. His medical records suggest that his condition was expected to improve but, instead, he grew weaker and weaker.

Due to the gravity of his condition, he was repatriated and sent to Edmonton Military Hospital (now the North Middlesex Hospital) where, according to the Mid-Devon Advertiser, he was “lying very ill”. Indeed, on admission there, he had been additionally diagnosed with myocardial deprivation, a serious heart condition which was said to be “not the result of, but aggravated by, ordinary military service”.

Although he rallied sufficiently to be discharged from hospital, he was clearly severely incapacitated by his illness and was discharged from the army on 28th June 1917, “no longer physically fit for War Service” after just 340 days of military duty. Either immediately on his return to Lustleigh or shortly thereafter, William lived with his wife at Lussacombe until the 17th January 1919, when he died suddenly, “having never been able to resume work owing to serious heart disease” as recorded by Reverend Herbert Johnson.

Private William James Willman 30273 was buried in Lustleigh Churchyard on Tuesday 21st January, his grave being particularly notable, being the only one in the main graveyard marked by a distinctive Commonwealth War Graves headstone. As well as the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, he was awarded the Silver War Badge which had been instituted by King George V for all those men who had been discharged due to wounds or illness: it bore the inscription “For King and Empire – Services Rendered”.

William James Willman will be remembered on Thursday 17th January when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Chris Wilson

This story is drawn from various sources including.

  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Greatwarforum
  • The Long Long Trail
  • Forces War Records



Lustleigh War Memorial – Stephen Voaden

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

Taken from the poem by Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, these words speak of the horror visited upon soldiers exposed to gas attacks in WWI.  Such was the dread, that the mere whisper of an imminent gas attack injected fear and panic into the front lines.  Indeed, the psychological impact, it is said, was in many ways as great as the physical effects.

 “A cynical and barbarous disregard of the well-known usages of civilised war”, was how the commander of British Expeditionary Force, Sir John French lambasted the first gas attacks by the Germans. Just four months later, however, he felt “compelled to resort to similar methods” owing to “the repeated use … of asphyxiating gases in attacks on our positions” and so it became a part of everyday warfare in WW1.

Some 30,000 troops, it is estimated, were killed by gas, among them was Stephen Voaden who fell victim to this most inhumane weapon just two weeks before war ended. It is even more sad to recount that the news of his death was just one of many to shatter the Pinkhurst Estate in Lustleigh during the war years.

Born in the summer of 1883 to William and Ann Voaden of Wonford, in the parish of Heavitree, Stephen was one of four boys in a family of nine children. Very little is known of his early life except that “he had been of athletic habit” according to Reverend Johnson in his roll call of all those who served in the Great War. He certainly won several prizes for walking including The Saunders Cup which he was allowed to keep after successfully defending his title in 1908, completing in the two-mile course, on behalf of Heavitree Football Club, in 17 minutes and 6 seconds.

Stephen’s father, William, commonly known as John, was employed as a gardener in Heavitree and several of his sons followed in his footsteps, including Stephen, and it was this aspect of his life that brought him to Lustleigh, arriving in this parish in 1913 to tend the grounds at Pinkhurst, now known as Coombe Hill. He was in the employ of Brigadier Raymond Williams CB, a distinguished military officer who had just retired to this residence following four years as Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General at the Gibraltar Garrison. Perhaps it was shortly after settling into his new home that he spotted the Situation Wanted advertisement that Stephen had placed in the Devon and Exeter Gazette promoting himself as a “Gardener (single-handed) or Groom-Gardener, married”.

Stephen had married a lady by the name of Mary Jane Webber, also the issue of a gardener, in the early days of 1906, being blessed that summer with the arrival of their first-born, who was to bear his father’s name, but answer to Steve. Two years later, another son, Leonard, enriched their lives, then a third and then a fourth; but, then tragedy struck when Leonard died, aged just five years old. Whether or not that advertisement was deliberately designed to force a change of scenery later that same year, that was indeed its outcome as they swapped town for country.

Unfortunately, it was not to prove a happy move. In 1915, a fifth son arrived, only to be snatched from them some nine months later. Happier times may have seemed on the horizon as Mary Jane was eight months pregnant with yet another boy, but he perished just one day old. Their bad fortune continued the following year when another son died not long after his fourth birthday.

Against this backdrop, it is hard to contemplate Stephen’s state of mind when he joined the army just two months later; harder still to place oneself in Mary Jane’s shoes having lost four children in as many years and now waving goodbye to her husband unsure of what the future would hold. Her world was rocked yet again later that year, when her brother-in-law (Stephen’s brother, Richard), a private in the Devon Regiment, was killed in action. Through all of this, she presumably had the moral support of her husband’s employer, but then the Brigadier was to experience his own grief, the following year when his son, Charles Ellicombe Williams, was killed fighting the Bulgarians in Salonika.

Perhaps Mary Jane would have also been comforted by the odd letter home during Stephen’s two years in France with the Royal Field Artillery. Being a gunner (in ‘B’ Battery, 156th Brigade) and therefore grouped under ‘other ranks’ in war diaries and other despatches, it is hard to trace his movements and know precisely where he served and in which battles he fought. Enlisting at the end of July 1916, he would possibly not have been ready for mobilisation to witness The Somme which ended that November; it was probable, though, that he saw plenty of action the following year during the many phases of the Third Battles of Ypres.

As the war drew towards its conclusion, the autumn of 1918 witnessed victories in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line, described as “among the greatest-ever British military achievements” and The Final Advance in Picardy, said to be “the hardest fought of the final offensive actions”. It would have been during one of these operations that Stephen was dealt his final blow, succumbing to a gas attack. His demise, though, wasn’t instantaneous. He was possibly evacuated to a specialist gas unit which had been established in Boulogne, but he contracted pneumonia and was sent back across the channel. Sadly, just two days after reaching home soil, he died at the Western Height military hospital in Dover.

Stephen’s repatriation was complete when his body was returned to Heavitree for burial in St. Michael and All Angels churchyard, just a short walk from where he started married life and where his first son and namesake was born and who went on to live three-quarters of a century in Lustleigh, seeing out his last few years at Woodpark, directly opposite the War Memorial bearing his father’s name.

Gunner 163784 Voaden posthumously received the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service. As well as Lustleigh’s granite tribute to him and his fellow fallen warriors, Stephen is also listed on a memorial panel in St. Michael and All Angels Church.

Stephen Voaden will be remembered on Sunday 28th October when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Chris Wilson

Sources used include:

  • The War Poetry Website
  • co.uk/news/magazine
  • The Western Times
  • The Long, Long Trail
  • Lustleigh Parish Magazine
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • Wikipedia

Lustleigh War Memorial – James Ernest Hine

When armistice was declared on 11th November 1918, the country erupted in a sea of celebration. Across the land communities united in their euphoria that the end of the war had finally arrived. Everyone emptied into the streets to share in their collective relief that the Great War was finally over. Well, not quite everyone.

It wasn’t yet over for Eliza Hine. Behind the doors of Kelly Cottage, shut away from the joy & revelry, surrounded by three of her four children, she yearned for news of her eldest son, Ernest, who had been taken prisoner earlier in the year. Although he had written “a good account of himself from his captivity”, she was desperate to hear that he was still safe, well and soon returning home. It was news that she was never to receive.

Ernest Hine pictured with his mother Eliza

Eliza had given birth to James Ernest Hine, to give him his full name, in Torbryan on 28th March 1899 where his identically-named father worked as a farm labourer. They already had a daughter, born 15 months previously in Ilsington, and the family was further expanded a few years later, while living in Broadhempston, with the addition of another boy and girl.

Towards the end of that decade, around 1909, work took the family to one of the cottages at Moorhouse Farm, Hennock where Mr Hine was in the employ of a Mr John Isaac of Hawkmoor. It was not to be a happy move, though, as tragedy struck two years later during a violent thunderstorm. According to a newspaper report, “the thunder was the heaviest and most continuous remembered in the district for many years, and houses were shaken as if by an earthquake”.

The report recounts that James Hine had been toiling in the fields and was leading his pair of horses to the stable, when “just as he reached the door, he and the horses were killed, the lightening being attracted, it is thought, by the steel harness on the horses”. Although the cottage in which the family were living was not affected, it went with the work: so, as well as losing a husband and father, they were also about to lose their home.

Through connections, perhaps, Eliza found a new roof at Kelly Cross, possibly the same connections that found her work in the laundry at Hawkmoor Sanatorium. Now the man about the house, Ernest had to support his mother and after leaving school, he found work at Kelly Mine. Much as he appreciated his family role, when he reached the requisite age in 1917, he could not resist the call to duty and journeyed to Newton Abbot to enlist in the army; his place, both in the home and at the mine, being taken up by his younger brother, William.

Ernest spent ten months in one of the battalions of the 22nd Training Reserve Brigade at Chiseldon Camp in Wiltshire, said to have been an ideal training ground for trench warfare by virtue of the surrounding downland “providing some imitation of the battlegrounds of Belgium and France”. Following his preparations, he was drafted into the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (DCLI) as a Lewis machine-gunner and he crossed with his regiment to France on 2nd April 1918, a very significant time in the course of the war.

Just the previous month, prime minister, Lloyd George, had decided that more men would be needed if disaster was to be averted and took charge of the War Office to rush all available troops to the front line. As a consequence, shipping capacity was dramatically increased from 8,000 to 20,000 men per day. During that first week of April, when Ernest went to war, a total of 73,618 men were sent to France.

The timing was crucial as the German Army had just begun its Spring Offensive, a concerted push to win the war by cutting off the British supply lines from the Channel ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne. The second major operation of this campaign, known as The Battle of The Lys – also as the “Fourth Ypres” – began on 7th April, with Ernest and his comrades of the DCLI, arriving four days later to reinforce the front-line south of Merville. It was a desperate time with the allies on the back foot: indeed, the picture looked so bleak that Field Marshall Haig issued his “Backs to the Wall” address in which he declared that “There is no other course open to us but to fight it out.  Every position must be held to the last man… believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.”

Despite the rapid deployment of troops to the area, the German Army continued its push with the British Army constantly having to fall back. On 12th April, our forces were so surprised by the speed of the German advance, that the gunners became the front line and in the scramble to escape some guns were lost. By that evening, the 51st Division (of which the DCLI was a part) ceased to exist as a fighting force. More significantly, in our story, Ernest had been captured, just ten days after landing in France.

News slowly filtered through and the June issue of the parish magazine announced “the sad news that Private Ernest Hine is reported missing. The best that can be hoped for is that he may yet be heard of as a prisoner of war”. An update, that he was indeed a POW, appeared the following month and, in September, our village journal was pleased to tell its readers that Ernest Hine “writes a good account of himself from his captivity at Sprottau. His wounds were not serious and have healed.” A silence then fell, and it was not until after the war had ended that news finally reached Lustleigh that Ernest had sadly died in captivity on 24th September, the cause being inflammation of the lungs.

“There is much that is especially lamentable about this”, recorded Lustleigh parish magazine. “But his short life was a blameless one. And now there is peace.” His body was laid to rest in a churchyard at Ebersdorf, close to the POW camp at Chemnitz in which he died, with some of his comrades taking part in the funeral. Today, his remains lie in Berlin South-Western Cemetery where graves from 146 burial grounds across eastern Germany were brought together during 1924-5.

Of course, his loss was lamented by his mother, and also by his siblings, his younger brother honouring his hero by giving his son, born in 1932, the middle names, James Ernest.

For his part in the Great War, James Ernest Hine was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. As well as being listed on the Lustleigh War Memorial, he is also commemorated on the memorial in Bovey Tracey; and by virtue of his previous residence (and school attendance) in Hennock, he is also listed in that parish’s Book of Remembrance.

James Ernest Hine will be remembered on Monday 24th September when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Sources used include:

  • Lustleigh Parish Magazine
  • Western Morning News
  • “The British Army on the Defensive” by Geoffrey David Blades (accessed on nickpowley.com)
  • “Smitten Down yet Not Destroyed”, Bovey’s WW1 book
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Swindonweb
  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • Wikipedia

Lustleigh War Memorial – Frank Lake

In July 1918, Lustleigh Parish Magazine reported that four men were prisoners of war, three of them barely more than boys who had been captured within days of their arrival in France. “Could not Lustleigh, as a parish, do something to relieve the hardship of our friends in their captivity”, pleaded Revd. Herbert Johnson, although precisely what he had in mind is difficult to fathom. Two of the four survived the war, the other two died in captivity including Frank Lake.

Frank was considerably older than the other three men, having been born in 1884 in Cheriton Bishop. He was the only son, among ten children, of Jeremiah and Ellen Lake, both of whom hailed from agricultural stock, although Jeremiah took a break from the soil for a few years around 1890 to run the New Inn at Cheriton Cross.

Frank, himself, was not averse to turning his hand to different professions. In 1901, he was working in a bakehouse in Cheriton Bishop, while at the time of his first marriage to Ethel Maunder, he was living in Newton St. Cyres working as a groom, only to change again a few years later to become a gardener.

At the time of their wedding, on 9th July 1910, Ethel was working alongside her mother, at the Confectionery & Lozenge Works located just behind East Street in Crediton, where they were living cheek by jowl with many of their co-workers. The factory was that of Ernest Jackson & Co Ltd which produced a range of medicinal sweets, pastilles and lozenges and was first founded to develop ‘something effective but soothing for a troublesome sore throat’. Sadly, Ethel died little more than half way through their first year of marriage.

Frank was working, at this point, as a stableman groom in Newton St Cyres. Precisely where is unknown, but a few years later, he was earning his living as a gardener at the prestigious Newton House, home to Lady Audrey Buller, widow of General Sir Redvers Buller, the decorated British Army officer.

Newton House was once the seat of the Quicke family, founders of the eponymous cheese brand. While they relinquished Newton House in favour of Sherwood House, the Quickes continued as Lords of the Manor and would occasionally hold tea parties for their tenants. At these events, it was not unheard of for Lady Buller to offer the services of Frank Lake to decorate the room with evergreens and flowers.

Frank remarried in 1914 to Eva Lowton, a milliner from the St. Thomas district of Exeter. This time it was war that interrupted his marriage and in September 1915, he enlisted in the Army Service Corps at Aldershot. The following year, he was mobilised to France and was transferred, first to 11th Battalion (Finsbury Rifles) London Regiment and later to 1st Battalion of the 20th London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich).

Little has been found about his movements in France until we reach March 1918, a peaceful time being had at the beginning of the month spent in rest and reorganisation with the odd gymkhana and boxing match thrown in for entertainment. Then came a massive assault on the allies known as the German Spring Offensive.

Opposition forces had just been boosted by Russia’s withdrawal from the war, giving the Germans the ability to redeploy some 500,000 troops to the Western Front: this was their chance, they felt, to push for victory; they were particularly keen to do so before American troops arrived on the scene in significant numbers.

On 21st March, the German’s launched a massive offensive against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army, the gap between the two being covered by the 47th Division of which Frank’s regiment was part. The assault began with a heavy bombardment of high explosives and gas shells, the Germans later using the ensuing smoke screen to launch its large-scale attack. The operation saw the deepest advances made by either side since 1914 and at the end of the first day, British casualties amounted to over 7,500 dead and 10,000 wounded, and by the following day the Fifth Army was in full retreat.

More significantly, in this story, is that by the end of the first day, 21,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner. Whether, Frank was one of the first wave of our men to be captured, or whether it happened over the following few days, is of little consequence; what does matter is that he fell into enemy hands. Frank had been wounded in the leg and how badly he was treated or how poorly his injury was attended to is not known, but it is well documented that the German captors had little respect for their prisoners. “The likelihood of dying in a camp during the First World War was higher than the likelihood of dying in battle”, wrote John Lewis-Stempel in “The War Behind the Wire: The Life, Death and Glory of British Prisoners of War 1914-1918.

Frank Lake died in captivity, in the Alexandrinenstrasse Lazaret, a special military hospital for POWs in Berlin, on 9th September 1918. Revd. Johnson noted that he died from his wounds although one of his POW index cards says that death was the result of exhaustion: perhaps both are true. The precise cause may be unknown, but his resting place is: he is buried in Berlin South-Western Cemetery alongside 1,175 other fallen comrades.

“There is a special pathos attaching to those who, like him, have been called away just at the end, when the fighting had almost ceased, and the Victory almost ours” wrote Revd. Johnson in the parish magazine in December 1918. Interestingly, Frank never lived in Lustleigh, so it is the residency of his parents at Brookfield before and during the war that earnt him a place on the war memorials of both Lustleigh and Bovey Tracey.

Frank Lake will be remembered on Sunday 9th September when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Chris Wilson

Sources used include:

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • “Smitten Down yet Not Destroyed”, Bovey’s WW1 book
  • Lustleigh Parish Magazine
  • historylearningsite.co.uk
  • telegraph.co.uk
  • Wikipedia


Lustleigh War Memorial – Hugh Douglas Livingstone

Glasgow, Lustleigh and Toronto have rarely, if ever, been written in the same sentence, but they form the backdrop to the story of Hugh Douglas Livingstone who perished on the French battlefields on 27th July 1918. It is also a story which throws up some tantalising questions which, for now, remain unanswered.

Douglas, as he was commonly known, was born in Glasgow in 1885 and moved to Lustleigh with his family, probably when he was just two years old. It is believed to be the shiny ore mines of the Wrey Valley which lured his father, Alexander, south of the border: by 1892, he was Chief Agent at Plumley Mine, but he may have been involved in Kelly Mine when he first arrived. It has been suggested that the relocation was through a connection with Scottish businessman, James Dick, who had an interest in Plumley Mine, and perhaps Kelly too. It was very likely a strong connection, possibly even a close friendship, considering that when Alexander’s 6th child was baptised in Lustleigh church in 1894 he was given the name James Dick Livingstone.

Hugh Douglas Livingstone, in front of his father, and with the rest of his family at Shaptor Rock, c1895

Douglas attended Lustleigh Board School where his father was clerk and he was clearly a star pupil, reaching the unusual heights of 7th Standard before moving on to Torquay Grammar School. Perhaps this is not a total surprise considering that this was clearly a very bright family as is suggested by Alexander’s profession and the role of Douglas’ elder brother William during WW1 as an intelligence officer in Africa.

Sadly, Alexander was struck down in 1897 following a long illness, possibly pneumonia or ‘miner’s lung’, which were occupational hazards in his line of work. Suddenly, his wife, Margaret, found herself as a single parent with six children to care for. One daughter, Annie, just short of her tenth birthday, moved to Scotland to live with her eldest brother and aunt while the rest of the family moved to Bovey Tracey where accommodation was found in the Town Hall, and where Margaret became caretaker of the armoury for the town’s Territorial Force soldiers (part of the 5th Devonshires).

It is likely that Douglas remained in the family home for a while to help his mother look after his younger siblings, but when they became more self-sufficient he moved to London and became a civil servant. It is here where two of the most intriguing aspects of his life remain unanswered.

In the November of 1911, in the parish church of North Brixton, Douglas married Margaret Macaulay Gray. Sharing, as she did, the same middle name as his mother, it is highly likely that they descend from the same clan. Certainly, his family has a proud tradition of retaining family names: Douglas, himself, taking his mother’s maiden name. There was also another child, born in Lustleigh, but who died aged just 5 months who had been baptised Macaulay Livingstone. It is almost inconceivable that there wasn’t a link between the two women in his life, but it is a conjecture which remains to be proven.

The second puzzle about this stage of Douglas’ life was his decision in February 1914, less than two years after the birth of his first son, Alexander Douglas Livingstone, to set sail for Halifax with the view of settling in Canada. Although his travelling alone could be explained by going ahead to prepare for the intended later arrival of his wife and child, why did he want to exchange a stable, well-paid job to become a farm labourer? Or was this simply a clerical error in the ship’s passenger log? With the First World War interrupting his plans, we shall never know his original intentions.

On 20th January 1915, Douglas presented himself at a recruitment office in Toronto to sign up for service in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, disclosing on the attestation form that prior to leaving England, he had seven years’ experience with the London Rifles.

Initially appointed sapper in the Canadian Engineering Training Depot, he was soon on a ship back to England and found himself moving around various locations including Tidworth Barracks near Salisbury Plain, but principally Shorncliffe Army Camp in Kent.  During his first month, he was made Acting Lance Corporal and in May he was promoted to 2nd Corporal Orderly Room Clerk. In October, he was mobilised to France and by the end of the year he had been elevated to the rank of Sergeant as Engineers Clerk in the 4th Field Company, Canadian Engineers.

Douglas’ service record indicates that he was regularly being moved around to different parts of the Canadian contingent, sometimes in France and other times back in England, such as a few months in the middle of 1917, when he was stationed at the Canadian Military School in Crowborough, East Sussex. The birth of a second child, David James Livingstone in 1917, suggests that he was occasionally granted leave; it was certainly recorded that he had 14 days leave to the U.K. in March 1918 which lead to the birth of a daughter, Margaret, five months after his tragic end.

It is unclear precisely when Douglas returned to France, but in July 1918 he found himself at Anzin; by now, he was a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment) and was making preparations to advance to the front line.

On July 23rd, his battalion travelled by train to Neuville-Vitasse on the outskirts of Arras, the following day proceeding to the trenches at Wailly Wood Camp. They experienced low levels of activity over the next few days, with very little shelling and aerial activity hampered by the weather, so their efforts were mainly directed towards repairing and deepening trenches and other defences. In such mundane circumstances, it is particularly unfortunate that during one of the tours, while in charge of a wiring party, Lieut. H.D. Livingstone received a machine-gun bullet to the chest and right arm at 1.30 in the morning, with his death being reported 45 minutes later.

Today, his body rests just yards from where he fell, in the Wailly Orchard Cemetery which was started in May 1916 by the Liverpool battalions of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, as a front-line cemetery, but considerably enlarged between March and August 1918 by the Canadian and other units defending the Third Army front. He is, of course, remembered on the Lustleigh war memorial.

Hugh Douglas Livingstone will be remembered on Friday 27th July when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Chris Wilson

As well as particular thanks to Nick Walter of Kelly Mine Preservation Society, who provided much information, other sources to be acknowledged include:

  • In the Footstep of the Victorians
  • The Clan MacLea/Livingstone Forum
  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • Kelly Mine and the ‘Shiny Ore’ Mines of the Wray Valley
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Lustleigh War Memorial – Leonard Wright

The summer of 1913 has been written up, by various columnists and others, as the last golden summer; with the horrors yet to come furthest from most people’s minds, attitudes were carefree and good times were had by many. They were certainly had by Leonard Wright who, alongside Percy Brimblecombe (see last month’s issue) enjoyed the glorious September weather at camp on Berry Head, Torbay with Lustleigh Scouts.

A “most enjoyable week’s camp” was had by all involved: taking part and winning their rifle match against the Torquay Scouts; being shown over a newly-built Brixham Trawler; enjoying evening songs and yarns around the camp fire; being treated to a display of rocket and life-saving equipment by the Brixham Scouts on the last evening. No doubt, Leonard was pleased to be sharing the moment with his cousin, and possibly best friend, Percy Bunclark, the Scout’s Patrol Leader.

Lustleigh Parish Magazine recorded the event, saying that it will “be long remembered by all who were fortunate enough to take part in it”. Less than a year later, though, Leonard and his cousin were at a camp of a different sort – on Salisbury Plain readying for war.

Leonard had been born in Lustleigh in March 1897; originally, the family was living at Brookfield, but by the time Leonard entered Lustleigh Primary School in 1900, they had moved to Moorwood on the Moretonhampstead road. At this point, Leonard had only one other sibling, Bessie, who was two years his senior; four years later, brother Cecil arrived on the scene.

The family unit was due to swell again in 1907, but his mother died, quite possibly in childbirth as new brother Reginald is recorded as being born and dying around the same time. It would appear that Leonard’s father, William, at least initially, tried to continue to raise their three children on his own, but found himself increasingly unable to cope. First, he sent Bessie to live with her aunt who ran a lodging house in Bovey Tracey; then, the following year, Leonard was being schooled in Drewsteignton while perhaps living with his cousin, Percy.

When he left school, Leonard was temporarily re-united with his father, working together as gardeners in Pethybridge. But then the call of war came and arm-in-arm with his cousin, Percy, he went to Moretonhampstead to enlist into the 1/5th (Prince of Wales’s) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. In October 1914, following the training camp on Salisbury Plain, they were sent to India where they spent two years at Multan. In March 1917, they left for Egypt and in June they crossed into Palestine where General Allenby was planning to capture Jerusalem by Christmas.

By the time the battalion was ordered to France in May 1918, Leonard’s battalion had encountered many ferocious battles, losing significant numbers of men; unfortunately, the change of theatre was not to bring about a change in fortunes.

The 5th Devonshires’ route to the Western front was a long one, working their way back through Egypt to Alexandria, then setting sail for Marseilles, landing there on June 1st. Following a train journey across the length of the country, they joined the 185th Brigade, 62nd (West Riding) Division at Mondicourt in the Pas-de-Calais department. The Battalion saw some comparatively light engagements during June before receiving the welcome relief of two weeks training at the beginning of July, but it proved to be the lull before the storm.

Orders then came to take part on what was to become one of the battalion’s most important actions in its Great War history: along with the rest of the Brigade, it was to join the French Army on the front line at Marne, to deal a blow to the enemy which proved to be the last major German offensive on the Western Front. The ensuing victory marked the start of the relentless Allied advance which culminated in the Armistice with Germany about 100 days later.

It was at 8pm on July 19th that Leonard’s battalion commander received his instructions on their tasks for the following day. By 8am, they were on the move encountering heavy enemy barrage as they made their way through the woods south-west of Reims. Although they reached their objective by 11.30pm, it was at the cost of over 200 casualties including the loss of 2 officers and 34 other ranks; as the battalion commander recorded “the operation was a good deal hampered as the enemy put down a hostile barrage, mistaking our stretcher parties for attacking troops”.

Unfortunately, Leonard was one of those stretcher bearers and was killed by an explosive bullet while carrying out his duty, thereby falling in similar circumstance to another cousin, George Bunclark (Percy’s brother) in Salonika the previous year. Percy, who was also a stretcher-bearer, mercifully survived this action, although he was gassed about a week later during the same campaign, but not before attending Leonard’s burial, possibly at Ecueil Farm Military Cemetery.

Such was the significance of the action at Marne, that the commander of the 5th French Army wrote a letter thanking the British army for their part in the “victorious counter attack which had just stopped the enemy’s furious onslaught on the Marne”. Paying his own tribute the following month, the commander of the 62nd (West Riding) Division wrote to the Devonshire Territorial Association in Exeter to record the worthy part that “the men of fine physique, soldierly bearing and splendid courage” played in the Great Battle of the Marne.

When the tragic news of Leonard’s death reached Lustleigh, it must have come as a particularly hard blow to his father, who was instead expecting news of Leonard’s return home for his first leave since departing for India four years earlier. Although not immediately, but perhaps later, his father was able to take comfort in the knowledge that his son had played a role in one of the turning points in the war, the beginning of the end, as Churchill would have put it.

“He was but a boy when he left Lustleigh to fight as a volunteer for his country”, recalled the Parish Magazine of September 1918”, “but all who remember him speak highly and with feeling of him. May he rest in peace. His record on earth is all honourable.”

Leonard rests in peace in Jonchery-sur-Vesle British Cemetery, west of Reims, where his body, along with many others, was reinterred after the armistice. His part in the war, and his sacrifice, is of course also remembered on the Lustleigh War Memorial.

Leonard Wright will be remembered on Friday 20th July when the Bell Ringers will sound a half-muffled peel in his honour.

Chris Wilson

 Sources used in compiling this story have included:

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Ancestry & FindMyPast
  • Wikipedia
  • Lustleigh Parish Magazine
  • Lustleigh and the First World War
  • The Keep Military Museum