The Devon Historian Volume 89, 2019


The Legend of Saint Budoc, Dave Wildman

The various accounts of the legend of the Celtic Saint Budoc are examined, especially in relation to his alleged founding of the ‘little wattle church’ at St Budeaux – a settlement which still bears his name. An investigation is made into the veracity of several aspects of Budoc’s life and activities, and into the very origin and perpetuation of accounts surrounding such semi-historical figures.

The Classification of Devon Roodscreens: A Re-Assessment, Michael Aufrère Williams

If, as Isaac Newton is reputed to have said, that we (in this case historians of Devon roodscreens) ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’, then the shoulders upon which we stand are those of Frederick Bligh Bond and Dom B. Camm, whose two-volume Roodscreens and Roodlofts (London: Sir Isaac Pitman, 1909) is unlikely ever to be surpassed. This article recognizes the greatness of the work but nevertheless attempts to augment but not contradict their system of classifying Devon roodscreens. Differences of interpretation have led to an expansion of the details of Bond and Camm’s twelve types, while certain questions arising from these differences have been answered.   The importance of fieldwork (that is, visiting, measuring and photographing all 120 extant medieval screens in Devon) cannot be over-stressed.

A Hydraulic Landscape in Branscombe, John Torrance

Beginning with a description of the obvious man-made elements of the watercourses in and around the South Devon village of Branscombe, this article traces their origin back to medieval times. The detective story involves the use of a variety of documentary sources dating from recent Ordnance Survey maps, back through the Tithe Map and Apportionment, and an eighteenth century estate map, to fourteenth and fifteenth century rentals of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter. Fieldwork and observation supplement the information obtained from documents, and all together form an interesting and revealing history of the development of the watercourses.

The Boundaries of the County of Devon, J. W. Hart

Following on from his published work on the history of the boundaries of Somerset and Dorset, the author traces the changes to Devon’s county boundaries – chronicling the alterations made from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, and, importantly, giving references to the laws and regulations that imposed the changes. The picture that emerges is one of almost constant change: what we usually assume to be the longstanding boundaries of the ‘historic county’ of Devon, in fact lasted for just three decades.

‘Honiton Has Swallowed All’: The Escot (East Devon) Estate and the Yonge Family, Philippe Planel

This article is based on details contained in a mid-eighteenth century management survey of the Escot Estate, comparing them with descriptions made in the following century, during which time the ownership had passed from the Yonges to the  Kennaways. Valuable evidence is given of the farming practices of the time, and, as the purpose of the survey states, these details are Remarks for Improvement and future management of the land.

The Life and Tragic Death of Simon Levy, a Silversmith from Georgian Exeter, Ian Varndell

The random killing of an Exeter man in St. Helier, Jersey, on 9 January 1846 has been investigated using contemporary accounts of the murder. In this paper evidence is presented that the innocent victim was Simon Levy, a respected member of Exeter’s Hebrew Congregation who was a business visitor to the Channel Islands, and who is still well known as a talented silversmith some 170 years after his death.

The Bridestowe Peat Sett, Michael Messenger

Many attempts have been made to exploit the peat deposits of north-west Dartmoor  but none have been successful. One in particular was embarked on with great publicity and much capital but was still a spectacular failure. The West of England Compressed Peat Company Ltd was formed in 1878 and spent some £50,000 acquiring leases and patents and in building a lengthy railway to overcome the problem of access to the peat beds deep in the heart of the moor. It collapsed in 1882 having utterly failed to meet its expectations.

The 1929 Plymouth Drake Election Petition, Jonathan Wood

In 1929, a parliamentary election petition claimed that the election of Jimmy Moses as Labour MP for the Plymouth Drake constituency was null and void because of corrupt and illegal practices during the election campaign.  The article examines the election campaign and the controversial role of Albert Ballard, who supported Moses. The charges contained in the petition, the highly-publicised trial which ended with the dismissal of the petition, and the public reaction to these dramatic events are described, and the article discusses the allegations that Lord and Lady Astor, prominent local politicians, were involved.