Huntsham Society was founded in 2001 with eighteen members as a history/conservation society. One of the first projects we decided to do was to update and widen the scope of a little-known historical booklet on Huntsham by Olive Greenslade, a couple of dozen pages written in 1981. In addition to describing the environmental setting we particularly wanted to record all the dwellings and their occupants as a snapshot of the village at the start of the 21st century. It was only after beginning our research in the village area that we realised the historical significance of Huntsham Estate, and that without it there would be no village. The book, therefore, became the story of the Estate and the Village and our area of research became the Huntsham Estate at its most extensive, around the turn of the 19th century.
Four years later, with the aid of a grant from Local Heritage Initiative, we published a 262-page, A4-book printed in colour entitled The Huntsham Book. It contains five parts and ten appendices:
Part One describes the environment (landscape, climate, flora and fauna)
Part Two, the history from mediaeval times to the present
Part Three, the farming and the countryside
Part Four comprises a description and photo of the 125 dwellings (some long-abandoned) together with a time-line of past inhabitants and a photo of the current occupiers
Part Five describes the village today
The book concludes with a comprehensive alphabetical index of the more than 2,300 people mentioned in the book, and several appendices including well-researched lists of flora, bird, butterfly and fauna recorded in the area. There are also lists covering the clergy who served at All Saints church, head teachers at Huntsham school, tradesmen visiting the village between 1940s and 80s, and of Huntsham postmasters and postmistresses. Finally, there is a list of the many maps referred to during research and of the 70 references used.
We published 500 copies of the book and, to our astonishment, sold out (at a grant-subsidised price) six months after publication.
Thanks to an overwhelming response from former and present inhabitants of our area we collected a huge amount of material, far too much to be included in the book, and it keeps coming in! We have now annotated and digitised much of this material for Huntsham Society’s archives and made it available on-line at https://www.flickr.com/photos/hsoc-archives/.
For people wanting their own copy of the book we offer a black and white photocopy (printed to order for £20) or a full-colour CD in PDF format to read on computer for £10.
The society received in 2003 a generous donation from an Acland-Troyte descendant, June Rosevear. This is a collection of letters written to Katherine Acland-Troye, the wife of Charles, written in the second half of the 19th century by her husband, children and relatives and some she wrote herself to her parents. There were too many for our small society to transcribe and store properly so they are now on permanent loan to the Devon Record Office and can be accessed by the public.
In 2014, Huntsham Society decided that some of the archive material not in the book could be put in the public domain by producing a series of small booklets – Huntsham Notes. So far we have produced five of these and another three are being prepared. The titles so far are:
No.1 After Many Years by Angelina Anne Dyke Dunn (24 pages, £3)
Angelina wrote this lively memory of her childhood in Devon in about 1910. Not only is it an interesting comment on social history of the mid-nineteenth century but it is also a revealing insight into the character of her father, Arthur Acland-Troyte, who inherited Huntsham Estate in 1852. Some extracts from this are in the Huntsham Book.
No.2 A Missing Church Cross by David Wall (6 pages, £1)
A written record was discovered about a churchyard cross at Huntsham. This was recorded in 1937 by the Mason Phillips Survey, published by Devon Association. We also have a wedding photo from 1963 showing the cross. This is the story of trying to find it.
No.3 Emily Josephine Schnitzer by Juliet Lunn. (16 pages, £3)
Huntsham Society was given permission to print this intriguing early 20th century family mystery, involving life and indiscretions at Huntsham Court.
No.4 Huntsham’s Curious Granite Wheel by David Wall (14pages, £1)
This strangely shaped coarse granite millstone was found half-buried under a rhododendron near the grounds of old Huntsham Court. It has since been erected in the centre of the village as a ‘talking piece’. This Note tries to explain its probable use.
No.5 The Old Parsonage by Peter Thompson and Roy Arnott) (30 pages, £3)
This is a detailed account of the history of one of Huntsham’s oldest remaining buildings researched by two of its former residents.
The next three titles will include a history of bellringing in Huntsham, the story of Katie Troyte’s European honeymoon in the 1860s from her letters, and a story of traditional farming methods as remembered by a resident.
One useful spin-off from researching The Huntsham Book is that it allowed us to produce a set of historical maps of Huntsham Parish to hang up in the Village Hall, alongside a modern Ordnance Survey map for comparison. The most informative of these is the 1840 Tithe Map that we digitised and adjusted to fit a current OS base map. From this and the tithe Apportionments we have produced a composite A2-size sheet with maps showing the distribution of Land Owners, Farm Occupiers and Cultivation, with the 1841 Huntsham Parish census results to compare.
We are aware that family researchers increasingly use the internet for finding information so have provided http://genuki.cs.ncl.ac.uk/DEV/Huntsham/ with Roger Sellman’s transcription of Huntsham Parish register, and Huntsham Court Game Book that lists Shooters and Guests from 1882-1969 with a commentary on the game shot.
The Huntsham Society, as well as researching the local history, also fosters interest in local flora and fauna and conservation issues. We have been conducting annual hedge surveys on sections of our notably species-rich hedgerows, the results going to a national website. Twice a year we involve over 40 families in a volunteer litter pick round all the local lanes.
We have also been clearing overgrown areas of the small village park, once part of Huntsham Court’s garden, and have put up birdboxes among the trees there. We have quarterly meetings to discuss current issues and although small in numbers (12 paid-up members this year, about 10% of the parish population) are full of enthusiasm for our lovely village.
Two years ago we became an associate member of the Devon History Society. We have enjoyed the various activities that it organises and appreciate the exposure to wider Devon issues and research.
Lindsay Wall, Secretary