The history interpreter works with children and animals

Ok, so I didn’t actually work with animals but they do come into my recent adventures. Palm Sunday and we attend church at Clovelly. This is a wonderful service when the village’s historic reliance on the donkey is celebrated. The donkey is blessed and we process down the cobbles following the donkey, waving what this year were rather recession hit palms. This was followed by a couple of hymns near the Methodist Church and St Peter’s Chapel in Clovelly (also near the New Inn!). This year, in temperatures that rivalled Lapland, we were accompanied by an accordionist. What possessed me to volunteer to hold the music? The wind meant that this was a two handed job. Bit difficult, I found, to get through seven verses in a cold wind without the ability to wipe ones nose.

From the historical viewpoint of course donkey transport was vital in Devon. The state of our roads (some would say nothing’s changed) made wheeled transport a rarity until the late C18th, so it was donkeys and panniers, sledges or horse (or donkey) drawn contraptions, a little like American Indian travois.

3849 Buckland Brewer burials now indexed. Some checking to do before these are unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Not sure the team can face going straight from this to baptisms or marriages so we are considering working on the IR58s. Regular readers will know that these 1910 Valuation documents are a great favourite of mine. The 1828 list of Clovelly poor is now indexed and more documents are being distributed  – volunteers welcome.

Some time in the C17th too – Great Fire of London with year 1. I’m trying to get over the lack of career choice for C17th women. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I ask the girls. No footballers’ wives – you need year 8 for that response but I thought ‘a cooker’ and ‘a princess’ were sweet.

A full day’s history yesterday with more discussions about how heritage can be used to enhance the experience of visitors to Clovelly Methodist Church, which has a high tourist footfall. Still at the brainstorming stage this one – unfortunately one of the brains involved is mine – not sure how much storming it can take. Also some possibilities for celebrating the bicentennial of the founding of the Bible Christian Church. Next a discussion with a journalist about Clovelly Community Archive.

In the evening, a return to the scene of my Who Do You Think You Are? experience at High Bickington Historical Group to talk about the day and the research behind Gregg Wallace’s Bible Christian story. We left early as we had to find the venue and daylight seemed preferable. We were not surprised to find the hall still locked but gradually more and more of my audience arrived and began queuing outside. Someone is sent for a key, by this time it is snowing. No way am I getting out of the car until the door is open. The key arrives, now the problem is using it to open the door. Chris has ‘handling keys’ high up on his CV so I send him to assist and we are in! This is a very impressive new hall for a small community and is part of a much wider housing development. It has been established by a trust on the site of Pincome’s Farm. I give an account of my Who Do You Think You Are? experience and it is well received. I have brought with me brief family trees of the Gill and Leythorne families. Coincidentally the Leythornes lived in a cottage on Pincome’s Farm. As this venue wasn’t completed when I was booked to do this talk and this is one of the first meetings the society has had in their new venue, this is somehow very fitting. Gregg’s great great grandmother has had her story told because she has a famous descendant but we should tell our ancestors’ stories too, not just collect their names and dates. It isn’t their fault their descendants aren’t famous!


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