Thursday 27 February 2020

Too Much Gin

From GENUKI provided by Lindsey Withers:
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, Thursday 28 October 1824 - An Inquest was held Monday, at the Black Horse Inn, Tiverton, by C. D. Pugh, Esq. Coroner, on the body of __ WERE, who died on Sunday last. It appeared in evidence that the deceased (a mason's labourer) was employed to do some repairs in the cellar of Mr Boyce, spirit-merchant; while at work, he and his companions discovered a cask of gin, with a common cock in it, and, procuring a cup, proceeded to help themselves. The deceased drank too freely, and forfeited his life in consequence. - Verdict, Died from the effects of excessive drinking.

Fall from the Church Tower

From GENUKI provided by Lindsey Withers:
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, Thursday 22 April 1824 - Exeter, Wednesday 21 April - Melancholy Accident. It has been an holiday custom in Tiverton, for many years past, that the Sexton should permit children to ascend to the top of the Tower of St. Peter's Church, on receiving a small fee from each. A shocking accident which occurred on Monday last, will, it is hoped, put an end to so dangerous a practice. About five o'clock in the afternoon, a fine boy, about 9 years old, the son of MR PERHAM, Brickmaker, was leaning over the battlements, when, by some accident, his hat fell off, and in endeavouring to regain it, he precipitated himself to the ground, and was instantly taken up a corpse. The height from which he fell was upwards of 100 feet, and his body was severely mutilated. A Coroner's Inquest was held yesterday (Tuesday) who returned a verdict of Accidental Death.

Friday 14 February 2020

The Tiverton Castle Tunnels

In various old books, there is repeated speculation about a tunnel running from the castle and terminating in the town, possibly used as an escape tunnel during the civil war. It is interesting how this has persisted through time, but there appears to be little evidence a tunnel ever existed.

Illustration of Tiverton Castle from William Harding's The History of Tiverton, Vol 2
Illustration of Tiverton Castle from William
Harding's The History of Tiverton, Vol 2

From Dunsford (1790), in the part of the book on "Antiquities and Public Buildings" on page 300, the following is written:

Under the round tower, near the drawbridge, were some stone steps, supposed to have led to the entrance of a subterraneous passage, or covered way, beneath the moat and church yard to the middle of the town, by which a communication was preserved with the inhabitants of the town during a siege, supplies conveyed to the garrison, and the means of retreat secured.

Abraham Hurley informed me that his mother had descended many of the steps, and had picked up an old bit of a horse's bridle and some other little matters, but never saw any other part of the subterraneous passage, though there is little doubt but these steps, perhaps to a greater depth, led to such passage, now probably filled up. A report prevailed about twenty years since, that a portmanteau with money or valuables in it, was found by the farmer who then rented the barton and lived in the castle, but the matter was never ascertained to the public.

In another part of the book titled "Remarkable Occurrences" on page 188...

It is probable, that some of the garrison escaped by retreating in the covered way that led from the castle, many feet under ground, to the middle of the Fore-street, in Tiverton, which was wide enough for two men to walk a-breast, and opened at the Red Lion inn. The course of this way is at present unknown; perhaps filled up, or otherwise demolished.

Blundell's¹ and Hewett's Memoirs: Thomas Rodd informed me, that in digging a grave some time since in the church-path leading from St Peter-street to the little door of the church, about five feet deep, a pavement was discovered, which was probably the arch of the said covered way. Another such pavement was discovered by the west wall of the church-yard, which probably covered another way from the castle to the town.

¹ This refers to Memoirs and antiquities of the town and parish of Tiverton in the county of Devon, faithfully collected from ancient records by John Blundell, published in 1712.

And in the chronological events listing on page 254...

1773: In October some Cornish miners, recruits of the 31st regiment being in Tiverton, dug, in the garden behind John Bryant's house, in Fore-street, to discover a subterraneous passage, or covered way, said to have led from the castle to the centre of the town, without success; but at the depth of thirty feet, they took up several lumps of tin ore, which were shewn to many of the inhabitants. They also dug in the round tower of the castle, for the same purpose, to a level with the bottom of the surrounding moat, but did not discover any part of the supposed subterraneous passage.

From Harding, vol. II (1847), he adds on page 102...

Under the Castle wall on the west is the entrance to a covered way supposed to pass under the town and terminate in Gold Street near the Red Lion. Others have imagined it extends to Blundell's School; but not with much reason, as an underground passage would hardly have been formed a century after much of the Castle had been removed and it had ceased to be a baronial residence.

In the rather odd comedic novel that features historical elements, A Pedestrian Tour of Thirteen Hundred and Forty-Seven Miles Through Wales and England, published in 1836, reference to the tunnel appears in a fictional passage...

Wherever there is a castle of any antiquity, and which is known to have experienced the vicissitudes of fortune, fertile brains, a love for the marvellous, or the power of superstition, generally create some mysterious legends respecting it, which are to be found in the mouths of the inhabitants in the vicinity. The most usual and favourite place of security (in romance) is undoubtedly a dungeon or subterranean passage :- what castle is without it somewhere (though no one can find it?) - and who is it that has ever been to Tiverton and has not heard of the "dungeon," that passes from the castle the whole way under the town? To resort thither with half a dozen candles "to explore," has often been the frolic of a holiday afternoon among schoolboys. 

There is an article on the BBC site from 2001 by local resident John Wright, who owned a house in Gold Street that he claims was linked to Tiverton Castle by the legendary tunnel.

The Heritage Gateway, which searches 60 separate resources, has an entry for Tiverton Castle that includes the following reference(!):

The Society of Moorland Dowsers, 2002, Untitled Source (Worksheet). SDV345512. Identified the possible site of the Norman keep, twin moats and a tunnel system linking the castle with the church and town.

But most damningly, in Thomas Webster Rammell's catchily titled book, Report to the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage, and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary Condition of the Inhabitants of the Borough of Tiverton, published in 1851, he undertook a comprehensive drain and sewer survey of Tiverton, and this makes no mention of a tunnel, only a 15" drain.

So other than the grave digger's find, there seems to be little else to support the existence of a tunnel. Have you heard any rumours or have any anecdotal evidence?

08/11/2021 Update: Recent evidence unearthed (quite literally) indicates the grave digger's discovery was likely just the top of a brick vaulted crypt.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Illustration of Collipriest House

Illustration of Collipriest House (1832)
By Thomas Allom, part of the
Devonshire Illustrated in a Series of Views
series printed in 1832

Illustration of Tiverton Castle

Illustration of Tiverton Castle (1847)
From The History of Tiverton in the County
of Devon, Vol. II
 by William Harding
published in 1847

Illustration of St Peter's Church from the Bridge

Illustration of St Peter's Church from the Bridge (1832)
By Thomas Allom, part of the
Devonshire Illustrated in a Series of Views
series printed in 1832

"Tiverton Traditions" from 1910s-1920s

In this compilation film from the Huntley Film Archives, there are six different parts (with time jumps provided for convenience):

00:00 Point-to-Point Steeplechases (1913)
08:25 Perambulation of the Leat (1926)
11:10 Badger Catching (1920s)
12:10 Tiverton Scouts Camping (1920s)
13:43 Bampton Market Day (1920s)
14:30 Blundell's School Sports Day (1920s)

Moving the Tivvy Bumper to the Museum

This 15 minute film shows the Tivvy Bumper being moved from Blundell's Road to its new permanent home at Tiverton Museum in 1978 by local specialist movers W.J.Balsdon & Sons Heavy Haulage.

Heathcoat's Production

Here is a short film showing nylon production at the Heathcoat's factory in the 1950s.

Tivvy Bumper in Action

Here is an undated amateur film of the Tivvy Bumper in action. The GWR locomotive 1442 was used on the Exe Valley Railway from 1934 until 1965.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Film of Bickleigh in 1923

Here's an early film of Bickleigh from a 1923 British Pathé reel titled "Discovering England - Glorious Devon". In the first scene, you can see Bickleigh Cottage on the left and the old railway bridge in the distance. The next shows Bickleigh Cottage again in the centre, with the Trout Inn on the left. I can't place the third scene - any ideas?

The Register of Blundell's School - Part 1. The Register, 1770-1882

Author: Arthur Fisher
Published: 1904
Provider: Internet Archive

The Register of Blundell's School - Part 1. The Register, 1770-1882

The Ancient Sepulchral Effigies and Monumental and Memorial Sculpture of Devon

Author: William Henry Hamilton Rogers
Published: 1877
Provider: Google Books

The Ancient Sepulchral Effigies and Monumental and Memorial Sculpture of Devon