Diane Soall

2014-07-19 19:12:00

This is the Blog of St Swithun's Gift Day Weekend held on 5th and 6th July 2014.


During the weekend of Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July St Swithun’s held their Gift Day Weekend Exhibitions.

This year’s exhibitionists included the Rural Arts Group, Pyworthy School, Pyworthy History Group, and showing for the first time were the ladies of the Villavin Quilting Group.  The Sunday School children also exhibited a beautiful display illustrating various stories from the Bible.   The children of Pyworthy School’s were beautiful as usual and Key Stage 1’s entries showed their impressions of cave paintings, Key Stage 2’s were about The Medievals and Key Stage 3’s entries focussed on The Tudors.

Entries from the Rural Arts Group included a myriad of subjects ranging from still life in water colours, much loved pets in oils and charcoal, an autumnal landscape in pastels and two monochrome entries showing the beautiful effects that can be obtained using just one colour.

The History Group displayed a  project portraying the part the five men from Pyworthy played in the First World War. This was thought to be an appropriate subject to commemorate the centenary year of WW1.  Our thanks go to In Remembrance' Holsworthy & District 1914-1918 for their work in preparing this project and we are pleased that they were also able to use it in St Peters Church, Holsworthy during St Peters Fair week.    

The dozens of entries from the Villavin Quilters included appliqued and quilted cushions, wall hangings depicting many different scenes, including a washing line and one embellished with gold foil.   There were Tool Wraps, Armchair Sewing Caddies, Table Runners, many bags and many more Quilts each piece a work of art.  If you fancy your hand at making a piece of work like these join the Villavin Crafts workshop and start off with something small and progress to perhaps a super king-size quilt.   For more information on their workshop visit www.vcrafts.co.uk.

St Swithuns certainly took on a very industrious look and on Sunday the Patronal Service was held and donations were received from villagers. 

Cream teas were served throughout the weekend. 


Jackie Parrish

2014-07-15 21:19:00

An account of the History Group's visit to a Bee Colony owned by Chris Smith of Chilsworthy

Pyworthy Local History Group


During the afternoon of Tuesday 8th. July our group were eager to become closely acquainted with some bees at Chilsworthy. Unfortunately due to adverse weather conditions Chris Smith diverted us to 'The Stables', next to the Methodist Chapel, where he and his wife Elaine welcomed us into the lounge area where we all sat comfortably to listen to Chris give a very interesting and entertaining talk on all aspects of 'Bees and Beekeeping'. Chris is a prominent figure in both the Holsworthy and Devon Beekeepers Associations and his knowledge of the subject is extensive.

He related many interesting facts about the history of keeping bees going back thousands of years. We also heard about how various countries in the world 'farm' their bees and Chris told us about the Association's link with the charity 'Bees Abroad' which works with local communities to advise on a sustainable way to keep bees and produce honey. He gave us an insight into various diseases which affect bees and the varroa mite which attacks them. He went into detail about the life of the honey bee we are all familiar with and how much we as humans are reliant on their health and survival.

Chris explained about the different types of hives used and showed us a 'National' hive which is most commonly used, breaking it down into its separate parts to demonstrate how it works and the importance of each part. He also brought along a 'skep' to show us, which was used as a hive in years gone by and is still used today to gather up a swarm of bees which may have congregated in an inconvenient place! After showing us examples of beeswax and what it can be used for, he explained how the honey is extracted and we were all treated to a sample of their locally produced honey, which tempted a lot of us to purchase some immediately!

Elaine kindly provided us with further refreshments which we were able to enjoy whilst putting our questions to Chris. It was altogether a very pleasant afternoon and we hope to be able to 'visit' the bees at some time in the future when the weather permits it.

Jackie Parrish


Diane Soall

2014-07-13 15:20:00

A short article from Zoe Marshall whose grandparents married in St Swithun's Church and lived in The Villa for 50 years.

“Pyworthy – my memories  - Zoe Marshall

Pyworthy holds many special memories for me.  My grandparents –Mabel (Burrows) and Charles Gardiner lived in  Pyworthy village at The Villa for over 50 years. They lived there with my Grandmother’s parents for many years and then had my mum – Jean Gardiner (now Shipman).

They were married at St Swithins church and my grandma cleaned at the Primary school in her younger days.  During the Second World War they homed several evacuee children sometimes with their parents as well.  They stayed in touch with a few throughout their lives and as adults one of the evacuees ‘Tony’ attended both their funerals.

I remember from my childhood holidays there going to the post office to buy sweets from Mr and Mrs Cook – then from the following owners too from London who were really lovely.  I enjoyed walking through the churchyard with my Granddad and helping him in the lovely big garden which he kept immaculate. There was also the park at Pyworthy which used to have a rather big slide the biggest I’d ever seen!  I can also recall a lot of people from the village and as I got a little older attended the dances at the Village Hall.

Vera and Ted, Bill and Marg (Pooley), Mr and Mrs Bromell, Frank Gliddon the bell ringer, Mr and Mrs Caan.  Joyce and Jim Gardiner, my aunt and uncle, Kitty Slee.  Many many more not forgetting ‘Inky’ the cat who visited the Villa every day for warm milk and biscuits – he lived for over 12 years and was actually Mr and Mrs Bromell’s cat but they didn’t seem to mind! “




Mike Godfrey

2014-06-20 19:17:00

Mike's account of The History Group's visit to Bideford

Pyworthy Local History Group


On Tuesday 10th June a small group assembled on a very pleasant evening at Bideford Quay to meet up with Local Historian Peter Christie for what turned out to be a very informative and fascinating evening.  Peter has a wealth of knowledge about the buildings, inhabitants and the history of Bideford, which he imparted to us with great enthusiasm as we processed around the quayside and many of the adjacent back streets.  We found out how the quayside had originally only extended a few feet in front of today’s quayside shop fronts and had been much lower than the present level.  The quayside has been extended out 3 times, the most recent about 13 years ago.  Each time the height of the quay has been raised to compensate for the effects of narrowing the River.  We were told about the Bridge and the uneven arches thought to be down to the wealth of the particular individuals who paid for each one, although there is no absolute knowledge to confirm this.


Peter is a member of the Bideford Bridge Trust, which funded the bridge upkeep and repairs.  The money for this work came from investments, mainly buildings in Bideford, which were bequeathed to the Trust in past times by wealthy people.  Following the collapse of the two westerly bridge arches, the repair costs almost bankrupted the Trust and the Bridge was taken over by the Department of Transport.  However with true Government incompetence they didn’t take over the buildings or the income there from. This has meant that the Bridge Trust has become very wealthy and is able to fund many charitable projects, as well as develop and renovate many of its buildings within Bideford, with the aim of encouraging more people to live in the town centre to help rejuvenate Bideford.


We learnt that the road that leads North West out of the town was originally a large River tributary stretching from the red brick Art College building on the corner, right across to the Park railings on the other side.  Peter suggested that the Vikings got into the River and this tributary but that this was one of the few places where they were beaten and repelled.  At this point the quayside extended in a westerly direction from the River front with the road known as the Strand forming part of the northerly edge of Bideford.  Small roads such as Rope Walk stretch for several hundred yards into the town and were used as the name implies to make very long ropes for the sailing boats.


Bideford has a wealth of architectural interest and we were encouraged to look upward at the buildings throughout the tour to take in many interesting features that adorn the buildings and reveal clues as to their past uses, many as warehouses for the extensive quayside trade.  Bideford originally had some 52 pubs, many were side by side as were what are now the quayside fish and chip shop and the two or three buildings either side.  Nowadays there are only about 12 pubs left.


During the evening we learnt very many interesting and surprising historical facts about Bideford, too many to mention in this article but all in all it was a very enjoyable evening and was rounded off very nicely with fish and chips on the focus of our visit the Quayside.


Mike Godfrey              


Diane Soall

2014-05-26 14:14:00

Our Group's Visit to Pyworthy Primary School

Our Group's Visit to Pyworthy Primary School

On Thursday 22nd May about a dozen or so of our group spent a very interesting afternoon being shown around Pyworthy Church of England Primary School by some of the Year 6 students.  We arrived at 2.00pm and were greeted by the Acting Head Teacher, Celia Luff who suggested that we split up into two groups to make it easier to move around the school.

Each group was shown around by two of the Year 6 pupils who explained which rooms were being used by which pupils.  They have a quite large Art room in the extension, the walls of which contained some very impressive samples of their work. One of the two main classrooms is used by Key Stage 1 students and has groups of tables around which the children work together.   They also have a very impressive Interactive whiteboard which is linked to a computer – so all the class is able to view what is on the computer.      In the similarly equipped Key Stage 2 classroom the children in years 3-6 are taught.   They also have a beautiful light and airy classroom in the conservatory which accommodates the early years’ children. 

Upstairs is a very spacious library, which had just received a new consignment of books and was in the throes of being reorganised.   Off this room is the Staff room.  

Two of our Group, Jackie Parrish and John Burnard, had both been pupils at the school and after being shown around we were all taken into one of the classrooms where the children asked our Chairman questions about what the School was like “in their day”.   Did they wear a School Uniform?  What were their favourite subjects? What were their teachers’ names? …. and many more.  They were all very attentive and extremely polite.   I think the children realised that they are a whole lot better off now than the pupils were in the early days, especially when Jackie explained that they had no central heating in the school when she was there, and that two of the older boys would have to fetch the logs and coal in from the shed to keep the fire burning in the big cast iron stoves which were in each classroom.   Jackie also explained that in contrast to the new toilets now incorporated in the school building, they had to go outside to the toilets which were non-flushing and contained sand and which had to be emptied every so often.  

After question-time, we were all taken into the art room and were served cups of tea or coffee with cake and chocolate biscuits.  For those of us who have only ever seen the school from the outside we were really surprised at how big it is and how many well equipped rooms it contains. Rather like a tardis.

We’d like to extend a really big thank you to Celia Luff, her staff and all of her students for a very enjoyable afternoon.


Diane Soall 


John Burnard

2014-05-26 10:02:00

Dr Few's talk on "What our Ancestors would have died from"

On 8th April we were fortunate to have Dr Janet Few give a talk on


She began with the sixteen hundreds and The Great Plague and diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid etc.    In the eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds one of the great killers was of course Tuberculosis and also the childhood scourges of Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, Measles and Polio which were only brought under control in our lifetime when vaccines and antibiotics came on the scene.

This may sound like it was a dreary evening but with Dr Few’s knowledge of her subject and her sense of humour it was anything but. 


She will be coming to speak to us again in the near future on a different subject and we look forward in anticipation.

John Burnard


Janet Few is now in her fourth decade of family and community history research, specialising in the south west of England.  She is working on the community history of several North Devon parishes and is the project manager of the Clovelly Community Archive Association.  Her particular interest is in how emigration impacted upon these communities and the role of the Bible Christian church (a Methodist offshoot) in emigrants.  The topic of this lecture was the subject of her doctoral research and Janet is extending this by compiling a series of emigrant biographies for future publication.

Janet also works as an historical interpreter, spending a few days a week living in the C17th as her alter ego, `Mistress Agnes’.

Janet lectures regularly on family, community and social history within the UK and has also presented papers in Australia and New Zealand.  Recent speaking engagements include Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012.

The Guild of One Name Studies Annual Conference 2012.

Devon Family History Society Summer Day Conference 2012.

Further information can be found on her website http://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/