Tales from Brampford Speke Parish Council records

1894 to 1967

The first meeting of the Parish Council was held on December 4 1894.  No venue is given but later meetings were held in the schoolroom.

Councillors elected were William May, Thomas Batting, John Davy, John Hosegood, Richard Southcott, John Osmond and John Caryl.

Cllr May was elected chairman, Davy vice-chairman and Hosegood treasurer.   The clerk was Charles Staddon.

The only item discussed was whether anything could be done to prevent the removal of Brampford Speke station.  The chairman was to write to the Great Western Railway “but thought this had better be delayed until after Xmas”.

The Council met again in February and then in April for the annual meeting when the three officers were re-elected.  The only item for discussion was a letter received from Stoke Canon Parish Council regarding the footpath between Brampford Speke and Stoke Canon.  No more information except “it was decided to having nothing to do with it”. 

At the May meeting the clerk’s wage was set at £14 a year, which also covered his role as assistant overseer. 

The Council had two overseers who appear to have been responsible for collecting money from villagers to pay the council’s expenses ie the rates.  The total amount was £2 and remained at that level for many years.

The Council did not meet at set intervals and according to the minutes its activities were mainly confined to appointing the officers.

In May 1896 the future of the station was again discussed and a committee formed to make representations to GWR about its closure.  A letter received in July said, in view of the representations received, the GWR Board had decided to arrange for the station to remain open.

In September 1898 a petition from 21 villagers was received asking for a fresh allotment field – the current one not being suitable, no details of its location are given.  It was agreed that Stoneyland owned by the Glebe be acquired.  But when a survey was made asking who wanted land, only 6 people applied for a total of 170 poles and the Council decided new allotments were not necessary.

In January 1902 a letter was sent to St Thomas Rural District Council (a predecessor of the current Exeter City Council) about the closure of the bridge over the Exe and fears that the station would close.  The councillors asked that it remain open until a new bridge could be built by the district council.  At the next meeting in April it was agreed to seek subscriptions from villagers to collect £100 towards the cost of a new iron footbridge.  There wasn’t another meeting till April 1903 and no further mention is made of the bridge.

The condition of footpaths was frequently discussed at parish council meetings, particularly the path to the station which was frequently damaged by flooding.  It had its own caretaker who was paid an annual fee to keep it in good order.

In April 1908 the cost of paying for the lighting of the lamps on station path for the past two years was discussed and it was agreed to have a collection among villagers.

The village appears to have had a large population of ex-military men – the councillors elected in 1910 were Captain Arthur Bramwell, Colonel Frederick Davies, John Hosegood, George Nelson, Henry Porter, Richard Skinner and Major Arthur Spratt.

Royal events feature in 1911 with councillors being given collection books for the King Edward Memorial Fund and a special meeting being held to decide how to celebrate the coronation of George V.

In 1914 understandably most of the military men cease to be parish councillors and the council agrees to put up a notice asking for subscriptions to the Patriotic Fund. 

The state of the road from the top of Burridge Hill to the village in 1923 occupies councillors.  The minutes state that it is in a disgraceful and dangerous condition caused by “the constant hauling of refuse from the City of Exeter by the City Council’s traction engines and trucks.”

The parish council agrees to write asking for this nuisance to be investigated “as it is not only injurious to health – the refuse is dumped only 100 yards from the highway – but it is doing enormous damage to the roads”. 

The site of this refuse dump is understood to have been in the first field as you follow the footpath to Upton Pyne, where the copse of trees now stands in the dip on the left.

The village hall, known then as the parish hall, opened in 1925.  It was built by AH Carnell, builder and decorator, of Payhembury at a cost of £426 on land given by Lord Iddesleigh.  It was improved in 1977 with the creation of new toilets and kitchen and again in 1987 when the entrance and steps were created plus numerous other improvements. 

The minutes of the Parish Hall Committee reveal a hectic social schedule with dances, whist drives, a Men’s Club, billiards, fetes etc.

April 1927 saw the council agree to pay for a telephone to be installed in Mr Western’s shop.  The connection charges were £2 3s 7d.

Water supplies feature in 1934 with the council deciding that all wells which supplied more than one cottage should have pumps.

A special meeting was held to decide how to mark the King’s Silver Jubilee in 1935.  It was agreed to have a tea and sports with a social in the evening.  An 18 strong committee was formed to make the arrangements.  A church service was also to be held and every child under 14 was to be given a mug.

The possibility of street lighting is raised in 1936 with a letter being sent to the Exe Valley Electricity Company enquiring about the cost.  At a special meeting villagers were told the cost (not recorded) and that they would have to meet it through a special rate.  It was agreed to have 10 lights.

February 1937 saw another special meeting, this time to discuss celebrations to mark the King’s coronation.  The men were to have a meat dinner at 1.30pm, the ladies a meat tea at 5pm and the children a tea at 4pm.  Why they had to have separate events is a mystery – perhaps someone can explain?  Sports were to be held at 2.30pm.  Children under 14 were to receive plates and all the expenses were to be met by public subscription.  Another large committee of 21 people was formed.

There are no details of where the allotments were in 1937 but in September it was reported that they were infected with Potato Eel Worm.  A lecture was to be given about “this evil” by a Mr Westcott from “The Devon Agriculture”.

Preparations for World War 2 began in May 1938 with Captain Landon RN, Aid Raid Precaution Organiser for the Exe area, offering to give a lecture.  This took place on June 8 and 45 villagers attended.  An Air Raid Precautions Committee and ARP officer were appointed.

In April 1939 the council was told that its request for a public telephone box had been successful.

The Government’s Evacuation Scheme was discussed in June and councillors were told that 7,700 women and children would be evacuated to the St Thomas Rural District Council area.  None would come to Brampford Speke immediately but about 50 would come later.

It appears from the minutes book that few meetings were held during the war.

Fences, footpaths, drainage and allotments continued to pre-occupy councillors.  In 1945 councillors considered re-introducing street lighting, which had not been permitted during the war, and started trying to get a water supply brought to the village.

In May arrangements were made for a special service to mark VE Day.  In August arrangements were made to mark VJ day which included a tea, sports and a bonfire in Stoniland ‘by kind permission of Mr B Frankpitt’.

There are several mentions of places and lanes which don’t exist anymore – Winson Lane “leading from the council houses to the allotments”, Lears, The Bungalow and Bootham Lane for example. 

The first women parish councilors were elected in March 1946.  They were Mrs D Annett and Mrs M Bennell.

An interesting item in the minutes for December 18, 1946 is “another gift parcel from the Colonies had been received”.  The gifts were to be distributed to those over 70 and those living alone. 

1947 saw problems with the iron bridge over the Exe and a wrangle between Devon County and St Thomas Rural District Councils about which was responsible for maintenance.  Two years later the matter was resolved with the county council carrying out the work.

Flooding was a continuing problem and in 1949 the council agreed to have gauges installed at the bottom of North End hill to show motorists the depth of water. 

The steep hill down towards the station was also causing concern and the council agreed to install a handrail.  This was to be 180ft of secondhand one and a quarter inch pipe at a cost of £23 10s.  A few months later a tarmac surface was laid and the council agreed to contribute £10.  Villagers were asked to give at least a shilling (5p) each to meet the cost.

Speeding traffic became a problem during 1950 and the council applied for a 30mph speed limit.

In August 1952 an emergency meeting was called to respond to a call for donations to the North Devon Flood Distress Fund – presumably set up after the terrible flooding of Lynmouth.  At the next meeting it was reported that £41.3s.6d had been collected.

A celebration of the Queen’s coronation was discussed at a special meeting in October.  Once again separate events were agreed – a meat dinner for the men, tea for the children and a meat tea for the ladies.  It was noted that Mr H Walker had offered to lend his television set for use in the church so people could watch the events.  Another large committee of 18 people was set up to carry out the preparations.

March 1953 saw the parish council asking the Devon General Bus Company if it would run a weekly service to Exeter.  Up to then the only public transport was by rail.

The £14.14s.2d balance left over from the cost of the Coronation celebrations was to be spent on a new handrail on Station Hill.  Sleepers for the posts were donated by villagers.  From the description this would appear to be the same handrail which exists today.

Plans for a public sewerage system were announced in 1959 but the parish council objected to the siting of the disposal works.  At a later meeting it was reported that the cost would be £42,900.

In March 1962 the council wrote asking British Railways to re-consider their decision to close the Exe Valley branch line as there was no other means of transport and children going to school in Tiverton and Exeter traveled by train as well as people going to work.  The reply, reported at the next meeting, was that the line did not pay its way.

An emergency meeting to formulate the village’s objection was held in August.  Later the parish council sent representatives to meetings of the Tiverton Railway Action Committee.

In March 1964 the parish council decided to begin holding its meetings in the parish hall instead of the schoolroom.

The clerk Mr AE Philp applied for a wage increase in November 1965 pointing out that he had been in office for 25 years and the salary of £10 a year was totally inadequate.  The councillors agreed to raise it to £20 a year.

The allocation of housing in the new bungalows and houses being built in the village was discussed in November 1964 and the parish council put forward its proposal that the development be named Stooks Close.

In December 1965 the council considered a proposal to build 14 more dwellings and they agreed that the tenants of Croft Cottages, soon to be demolished, be given priority. 

Plans for a swimming pool at the school (now removed) were discussed at the January 1967 meeting.  The council supported the idea but said it could not contribute towards the cost.

Street lighting became a hot topic later that year with the county council as highway authority taking over some responsibility.  As a result the council decided to apply for more lights and to get the power increased from 40 to 100 watts.