John Burnard, Our Chairman

2016-04-01 18:30:00

John's account of the History Group's visit to Greenfield Engineering in Holsworthy

History Group March Meeting



The March meeting took the form of a guided tour around the Greenfield Engineering business at Holsworthy Industrial Estate by kind invitation of Mr Gary Burnard and Greenfield Engineering.

Gary explained that the business was begun in 1987 at Bradworthy in one industrial unit and having outgrown the premises there moved to Holsworthy Industrial Estate where they now operate two sites.

The current workforce is around seventy making it one of the larger employers in the town. Many of whom are local people who have learned their skills with the company.

Gary explained that they did not have their own brands but were able to manufacture components needed by many of the big companies around Britain and also export goods of high quality to very a high standard and work to demanding deadlines regarding delivery.

The machinery involved in their work is mind bogglingly sophisticated, also very expensive, and running into hundreds of thousands of pounds and sometimes millions! Many are imported to their high specifications.

These machines are capable of, Automated Punching, Panel Bending, Robotic Bending, Stud Insertion, Fabrication, Powder Coating etc.

Gary explained that the plans for a component would be received on a flat piece of paper and his computer technicians would draw out the final plans in 3D to very exacting tolerances.

 Greenfield run an apprentice scheme and are keen to work with the local schools to provide work experience on the shop floor for 14 to 16 year olds.

A very interesting evening was had by all and a welcome cup of tea was provided by Mum Sandra Burnard. Many thanks to Greenfield, Gary and Sandra.

Perhaps the last word should go to one of our members who E-Mailed me this note.


I guess the impressive thing was the large investment in clever machines and technology , and the human energy it must require to do this and keep them going. It is wonderful that Holsworthy can be the location for such a not so small manufacturing company. It is a little frightening to think how short the lifetime might be of these machines as technology keeps changing.


Hats off to Greenfield.”


Mr John Burnard

2015-11-22 20:50:00

John's Blog on the talk given by Mr Mark Thomas and his appointment as a member of The Princes Council of The Duchy of Cornwall.

The meeting held at Cornerstones on 10th November was addressed by Mr Mark Thomas of Launceston.

Mr John Burnard introduced Mark and his wife Jenny.  Mark resides at Treguddick Launceston where he farms with his sons keeping pedigree South Devon Cattle and Polled Dorset Sheep. He had been a tenant farmer at Treguddick with his father from 1970 until 2012 when the family had the chance to purchase the farm. He explained that he had been a tenant not of The Duchy Estate i.e. (Prince Charles's Lands) but of another estate based in Cornwall.

A few years ago Mark and Jenny began to get invites to receptions sent out by The Duchy of Cornwall. They were a bit mystified as to why, as they were not tenants of the Duchy Estate, however as good Cornish people they went along.

After a time Mark was taken aside and asked if he would be willing to serve as a member of The Princes Council of The Duchy of Cornwall.

All became clear then as they realized that they had been being vetted.

Mark explained to us about his work and about the Estate, the land owned by the Duchy which is mostly in the south west counties extends to 54,000 hectares plus some 37,000 hectares of moorland and moorland farms on Dartmoor.

The Council is composed of nine members and Prince Charles, who chairs the meetings. Other members who sit include such people as The Duke of Westminster and others with financial expertise and from such walks of life as high ranking lawyers and solicitors.

The Duchy also owns many properties throughout the Country which are let as homes or for holiday homes.

Some of you may have seen the new town near Dorchester called Pound bury, Built by the Duchy with Prince Charles having a large input regarding the architecture.

All this is overseen by The Princes Council of The Duchy of Cornwall.

Mark gave us an informative view into a part of life that not many people are aware of, how he finds time to farm as well as the many other committees he is involved with I am not quite sure.

John Burnard


Diane Soall

2015-09-11 18:42:00

A short account of a talk given by Hilary Vivian, a freelance reporter on the Western Morning News, of her visit to India

The group were very fortunate this month to have Hilary Vivian, a freelance reporter on the Western Morning News, come and give a talk about her visit to India.    She travelled to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Mysore, Kodaikanal and Hill Station in the South-east province and had a wide variety of photographs showing all aspects of the Indian culture highlighting the extreme differences in this culture ranging from the very poor people who live and sleep on the streets to the very rich with luxury apartments.  One thing was very evident and that was that most of the people that Hilary met were very happy about having their photographs taken.   Hilary is a keen bird fancier and had some really beautiful pictures of the birds from the areas she visited.

It was a lovely, entertaining evening, enjoyed by our group and our thanks go to Stella and John Burnard, once again, for their hospitality in hosting this event and for the lovely refreshments.



Diane Soall


John Burnard, Our Chairman

2015-07-20 18:41:00

A short blog on The Court Leat, held during St Peter's Fair Week in Holsworthy.

For the July meeting the history group attended the meeting of the Court Leat. This as usual proved to be a very entertaining evening. Subjects that were discussed were as always, a chance to poke fun in an innocent manner at the Court Leat members. If you wish to know more about the goings on of this great and serious seat of justice there is no better place to find out than the report in the Holsworthy Post of 16th July 2015.                                                                                                                   John Burnard


Diane Soall

2015-06-09 18:37:00

A short report on the History Group's Visit to Hartland Abbey, North Devon

This month our group finally paid our long awaited visit to Hartland Abbey in North Devon. There were 25 of us this time and we were lucky to have a beautiful day to make this visit.

Two of our Members, Marzi and Tony Fiske who live in Derril have known Lord and Lady Stucley for many years and we were very fortunate in having them there during our visit to take us around the Abbey and give us a very interesting account of the history of this very interesting building.

The Abbey was built in the 12th Century and remained an Augustinian monastery from 1160 to 1539 when it was finally dissolved, having survived longer than any other monastery in the country.

Henry VIII made a gift of the Abbey to the Sergeant of his wine cellar, William Abbott and Lord Stucley gave a very interesting potted history of the Abbey and its owners to the present day.

For those who have never been, the Abbey is well worth a visit.    The gardens are extremely beautiful and well maintained and there is a lovely tea-room with an extensive tasty lunch menu and very efficient staff.    I speak for us all when I say we had one of the most enjoyable visits the group has had and I am sure many of us will be returning to revisit this interesting ancestral home.    


Jackie Parrish

2015-04-26 10:30:00


The History of Pyworthy

     On Tues 14th. April our Local History Group met at 'Court', the home of John and Penny Weighell, to be entertained by Mr. Michael Heard of Kilkhampton. He is well -known in local history circles for his enthusiasm for the history of West Devon and North Cornwall and has had a long connection with the Cornwall History Society.

     Michael gave a very interesting talk in which he 'placed' Pyworthy in different ages of history from pre-history through to the present day describing typical features of a West Devon village like Pyworthy and how it would have functioned during each historical period. He also brought maps, photographs and artefacts to illustrate aspects of his talk. We will all be looking at our village through different eyes from now on.

     Thanks to Michael for a very enjoyable evening and to John and Penny for their generous hospitality (and cake!)


Diane Soall

2015-03-16 18:55:00

A short account of the talk given by Rupert Kirkwood on his kayaking experiences around the coast of Great Britain.

Readers of the Pyworthy Post will have seen Rupert Kirkwood’s accounts of his many kayaking trips around the British Isles.  The History Group this month were fortunate in having Rupert give us a very entertaining and enthusiastic report of his trips together with some astounding photographs.  Rupert not only kayaks around the unpredictable waters of our island, he takes his kayak into every inlet and river on the way.    Last year he was even able to kayak on the largest lake in the West Country when the Somerset Levels flooded. He had some impressive photos of his attempt to break the 40 mph speed limit along one of the flooded roads onto the levels. 

Rupert’s photographs included close-ups pictures of basking sharks, dolphins, porpoises, sun-fish, seals, and a host of birds the like of which most of us only see in wildlife programmes on the television.    His enthusiasm for his sport and the wildlife he encounters is to be envied.  

Our thanks go to Rupert for a most entertaining evening.  Our thanks also go to Stella and John for hosting the evening and providing excellent refreshments.

We are hoping to invite Michael Heard along for April’s talk. This will be on 14th, venue to be announced later.  

Diane Soall  



Chairman's Blog on February's talk

2015-02-20 13:56:00

John Burnard's blog on the talk given by Captain Colin Darch about his ordeal when captured by Somali pirates.

Captured by Somali Pirates! 

The February meeting was held at Cornerstones on Tuesday 10th  our guest speaker was Captain Colin Darch from Appledore .

Captain Darch is a Master Mariner, now retired; he has spent the latter part of his working life delivering ships around various parts of the world whilst working for a Danish Company.

In 2007 he was asked to deliver two tugs from St Petersburg in Russia to the south coast of Africa.

Each boat had a crew of five including the captain, a chief engineer, and three other men.

On Captain Darch’s boat this meant him, one Irishman and three Russians who spoke very little English.

Once they were at sea the Captain asked who the cook was. They replied that no one was so he told the Russians they would have to fill the role.

When the first meal was ready it became clear that none of the Russians had a clue how to cook. Their cooking was basically to get a big pot and put it on the stove and throw in whatever they had to hand, give it a stir and leave it until it was cooked.

Not a very exiting prospect when they had thousands of miles to travel and most of it on the open sea.

On the way down the other tug had developed a fault so it had to call in to have some repairs done to it, this meant that Captain Darch had to continue the journey alone

He had been told not to venture closer than fifty miles from the Somali coast. 

When they got near to Somalia they saw a very fast skiff bearing down on them.

Our Captain took evasive action, this tugboat had six thousand horsepower engines and while it was not built for speed and could not outrun the pirates it did punch hard. Also it could manoeuvre sideways so when they got near he put the thrust motors to smack into their boat. There were about five of the pirates on board their boat armed with machine guns.

This went on for quite a time and things got a bit dangerous when they began firing over the heads of the crew on board the tug.

The men on the tug had no armoury so felt it was time to give up, the pirates came on board and told the crew that they were now in charge and would be told what to do.

They instructed Captain Darch to contact his Danish Company and tell them that they wanted a ransom for the ship and crew of 2.5 million euros.

When the Captain had a chance he checked his position and found it to be seventy miles off Somalia.

When the pirates first boarded they kept the crew in the wheelhouse and of course they had to steer and run the boat. After some time the leader said that the crew could go to their cabins and get some sleep.

When Catain Darch went down he found that that they searched his cabin and it was a real mess. Seven hundred pounds of company money was gone along with two hundred of his own, plus laptops etc and his watch.

He went back up and told the leader that he did not mind the money being gone but he did want his watch back. After a while back came the pirate leader with his watch and he gave it back to him. The pirate then said, “You should be more careful captain there are thieves on this boat.”

The pirates held the boat for a total of forty-seven days, but finaly an agreement was reached with the insurers of a ransom for 670,000 euros, a far cry from their demands at the beginning of 2.5 million euros.

As the pirates had no bank accounts the money had to be sent as cash, they did not want it sent overland as this might result in them being robbed so it was sent up from Mumbia by boat.

They then released the hostages and they were allowed to continue on their way. 

It was an interesting evening and a look into a world far removed from ours.

Our thanks go to Captain Darch for making it so interesting.


Diane Soall

2014-12-12 16:44:00

Shawn Dymond from Holsworthy Museum gave a talk on World War !.

Continuing with the Commemorations of the start of World War I, the History Group this month were fortunate in being able to arrange a visit from Shawn Dymond, from Holsworthy Museum who gave a talk about the project that the Museum are currently working on. The Project, ‘In remembrance’ was originally an idea simply to research the 36 men whose names appear on the Holsworthy War Memorial.  ‘In Remembrance’ now covers the 22 parishes that comprised the Holsworthy Union, the administrative area which existed at that time.

Forming the foundation of the WW1 Centenary commemorations planned by Holsworthy Museum, the project focuses on the part played by the men and women of the Holsworthy area during and after the war.

The ‘In Remembrance’ project, whose slogan is “Honouring the sacrifice, preserving the memory” was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabling the ideas to become a reality.  In accordance with the requirements of a Heritage Lottery Grant, projects must encourage the involvement of the local community and the dissemination of information to the wider community.  Details of how ‘In Remembrance’ will do this are contained in their leaflet on the project, a copy of which is available to see on our website: on our Diary of Events link.

Although ‘In Remembrance’ primarily focuses on those who did not return from the Great War, other aspects will consider the role women played; the experiences of those who remained at home, including those who refused to fight on the grounds of conscience; and the survivors, many of whom carried the scars of war – both emotional and physical – for the rest of their lives.

Shawn’s talk was totally enthralling, informative and thought-provoking.  It served to remind us how important it is to remember these brave people and the sacrifices they made;  and to conserve the family and local history of them and the times they lived as well as the events that helped shape the world in which we now live.     The statistical breakdown of the numbers of casualties from Holsworthy clearly indicated that not all those that died were engaged in enemy action.   Some died from illnesses such as diphtheria and influenza, others died from their wounds after returning home and some died from accidents such as drowning.  

Many thanks to Shawn and also to John and Stella Burnard for their kind hospitality in hosting this event.


John Burnard, Our Chairman

2014-11-25 11:44:00

John's blog on the talk given by Brian Wonnacott on his forty years as a Penbode Vet.

The November meeting of the group was held at the newly refurbished Bridgerule Hall on 12th Nov when the guest speaker was Mr Brian Wonnacott.

His subject was “My Forty Years at Pebode Vets” and gave us his memories of those past years leading up to his recent retirement from the practice.

Begun in the mid 1800s by the Penhale family it continued to be run by family members until after the Second World War.

Brian explained how he had joined the practice in the 1970s and how it had grown over the years to be one of the largest in England.

Also how vets now tend to specialise in Farm Work, Pets or Equine.

When he joined it was mostly large animal work and this is what he did during his time there.

He explained how things had changed over the years and how the use of vaccines had helped control certain diseases, which were now preventable.

Antibiotics had made a great difference to treatment although some had been withdrawn to prevent a build up of resistance in the human population.

He also explained how he had been involved in the B S E scare and in the 2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak.

An experience he did not want to go through again.

Thanks were expressed on behalf of the members.


Jackie Parrish

2014-09-19 17:54:00

Jackie Parrish's Blog on Terry Faull's talk on The Agricultural Worker's Strike of 1830 and what led up to it.

On Tues. 9th. Sept. the History group met at John Burnard's home to listen to an entertaining presentation given by Terry Faull from North Petherwin. His subject was the Agricultural Workers' Strike of 1830 and what led up to it.

He began by giving us an insight into life in the countryside and in our villages prior to this.  It was very different from the images often portrayed of an idyllic country lifestyle.  Life was very hard, especially for the agricultural worker.  We learnt that every parish was responsible for its own poor people and the Churchwardens were the administrators of the 'Poor Laws'.  People would strive to keep themselves out of the Workhouse where conditions were very harsh.  Terry showed us pictures of workhouses in our local area, including the one at Holsworthy (off Trewyn Rd) which has now been turned into living accommodation and explained that a lot of them became hospitals as did  Holsworthy in the interim period.  Many of us will remember it under the name of Dawfield Hospital.

Terry explained that the agricultural workers and other poorer people needed to boost their wages in order to make ends meet.  One of the main chances for workers' wives and children to earn extra money was by hand-thrashing corn in the winter months.  He showed us pictures of very distinctive barns which were used for this purpose and of the hand-held tool used.  However the introduction of the mechanical 'thrashing machine', invented in Scotland in 1792 and used throughout Britain by 1808, meant that this work became harder to find.  This was the reason for the so called 'Swing Riots' across the country.  Devon and Cornwall were not affected as much as other parts as wages were better here and people were not so reliant on this winter working.  However some riots did occur in places as close as Exeter and Launceston.

To conclude he explained to us that as a result of these riots the Poor Laws were investigated and many village Friendly Societies sprang up.  Also as a direct result 'Primitive Methodism' was started, the forerunner to the Methodist movement as we know it today.  He was also able to tell us that in 1829 a man with the surname 'Oliver' from Pyworthy asked John Hewson, a Primitive Methodist, to come to the village to preach, and was probably the first Methodist to do so in Pyworthy.  This was an interesting local anecdote with which to end his talk.

Terry is obviously very knowledgeable when it comes to rural history and we all learnt a lot from him.  Refreshments were provided by John's wife Stella and her helper Maisie which rounded up a most pleasant evening.            

Jackie Parrish