Monthly Archives: Dec 2019

More Postcard Images

A small selection of postcards images from the 1930s.

The Archive is keen to add to its collection of postcard images, so please contact us if you know of any more.

Salmon Swimming at Broadhempston?

The following article, written by local history researcher Hilary Sutcliffe, was first published in the Broadhempston, Landscove, Staverton, and Woodland Parish News, November 2019.

It’s based on a report of the case in The Western Times: Exeter, dated Saturday 29 January 1849.

Subsequent research has failed to confirm either defendant as a resident of Broadhempston, nor has it established exactly where the “Havre” is located. If you know more, then please contact us.

Did the gamekeeper have some inkling, some inside knowledge that they’d be out this day, or was he just lucky. He left the family, his wife and their two little ones, on that Christmas day in 1847. He’d probably enjoyed his festive meal and perhaps it was dark when he set out from North Tor cottage at Berry Pomeroy, on horse back or in a trap or a dog cart perhaps, and he came to Broadhempston. He went along a tributary of the dart there, and he saw two men walking by the side of the Havre. One of them was carrying a spear, of a type used in killing salmon; it was probably a curved gaff. The gamekeeper challenged the man and he admitted straight away that they were attempting to catch a salmon and had failed to get one.

The two men were from Broadhempston, the one carrying the spear was Thomas Stephens, and the other was Thomas Bartlett. Both were poor men, labourers with large families. The newspaper told the tale. They were charged by the gamekeeper, Joseph Burgess, on the instruction of the land agent, Thomas Michelmore, of Berry House, Berry Pomeroy. He in turn, was probably acting for the Duke of Somerset, who owned much of Berry Pomeroy at that time and presumably had fishing rights on the Dart and its tributaries, and he wanted those rights enforced. Joseph Burgess advised the men to plead guilty and ‘throw themselves upon the mercy of the bench’.

The case of salmon poaching was heard on 28 January 1848. At the court hearing Mr. Michelmore stated that he did not wish for a severe penalty, but just wanted the poaching to stop. It was the accuseds’ first offence and they were given the minimum fine of 40s each and costs of 15s. Labourers’ wages at that time were about 7s a week, so the penalty represented about 8 weeks work, – all their income for that period. How could they possibly manage to pay!

The article continues with reports from other local cases reported in newspapers of the time.

There were others in Broadhempston who were struggling to feed their families, running up bills in the local shop or stealing vegetables.

In 1849 in Broadhempston, a shopkeeper named Jane Hamlyn, brought an action for a debt of 10s for grocery goods, against John Holmes who lived at Waytown cottage with his wife and 4 dependant children. He was an unskilled labourer. The same year, Robert Browning and William Pollard, cordwainers (shoe and boot makers) of Broadhempston, were charged with stealing a quantity of turnip greens valued at 4d from John Blackler of Broadhempston. The defendants admitted the offence and were fined 2s 6d each, with costs of 6s 3d.

Poverty and hunger were widely spread; the Corn Laws might have been repealed in 1846 but the tariff hadn’t finally come to an end until 1849. The 1845 harvest was poor, and as well as the famine in Ireland, people in Devon and elsewhere were hungry. In 1847 there were reports in the local press of food riots in Cullompton and Exeter. “A great scarcity of provisions in this city has at length driven the people to desperation…. Mobs of famished-looking females with children in their arms … dealer in potatoes charging double or treble.” Mr. Selwood in Cullompton was rumoured to be witholding corn and a mob attacked his house, destroying ‘upwards of 200 panes of glass’. (All as reported in the Berkshire Chronicle 1847.)

Times were hard, and were salmon swimming at Broadhempston?

Hilary Sutcliffe