Unpublished data & maps found recently by Whitten reveal who controlled worked and raised families in the isolated East Webburn Valley (Dartmoor National Park) and changes from earliest times to present. There were dramatic lordship events; general change increased through 19th century until present as reflected by farmers’ families.

The Lords of Widecombe and Farmers of Bonehill Book Cover
The Lords of Widecombe and Farmers of Bonehill Book Cover

The Lords of Widecombe and Farmers of Bonehill: a Dartmoor story from then ‘til now

A book in 14 chapters of x + 150 pages with 55 illustrations (37 in colour)

by E. H. Tim Whitten

Published 4 March 2019 – price £10.

ISBN 978-1-5272-3408-6

This Widecombe History Group book publication is supported by:

Moor than meets the eye logo


Recently-found unpublished data and maps reveal interesting stories about those who controlled, worked, and raised families in the scenic, peaceful, and isolated East Webburn River Valley in the heart of Dartmoor National Park.

Absentee Lords of Widecombe Manor (the Southecote, Cabell, Wotton, Ashburton,… families) traded, inherited, developed, and used huge estates. Bonehill farmers (the Smerdon, Hannaford, Dunn, Beard, Nosworthy … families) nurtured their farms, livestock, and harvests.

Masked by un-hurried tranquillity of the valley, both groups moulded significant changes over the decades. From 1200 to about 1800, absentee manorial lords retained dominating control over most Widecombe farmsteads and people. However, a few dramatic changes punctuated this period.

Rates of change increased through the 19th century and ever since. Huge estates were broken into freehold farmsteads, mainly held for long periods by farmers using horse power and many manual workers. With growing use of internal-combustion engines and electricity in the 20th century, worker and horse numbers were decimated. Working people began travelling off the Moor for employment; families from beyond the valley began settling, largely after retirement. Fewer farmers with larger farms characterised the end of 20th century.

A fascinating story about the Bonehill moorland hamlet in Widecombe -- of interest to locals and visitors alike.

Previously unknown window in a Bonehill barn revealed during restoration in 1991
Previously unknown window in a Bonehill barn

Dr Tim Whitten lives in Widecombe, having had a home within Dartmoor National Park since 1977. Leaving school in Essex at 15 during World War II, he worked for two years in the City of London (when German V2 rockets were arriving). After 10 years teaching at Queen Mary College (University of London) and completing his PhD on Donegal geology, he was later awarded the DSc and was a Chartered Geologist. He spent 33 years in the USA, before retiring in 1989 and settling at Lower Bonehill farmstead (Dartmoor) until 2012. He served on Widecombe Parish Council and as Chair of Widecombe Primary School governors. For 25 years, Tim was one of the Widecombe Fair Board of Directors, being Treasurer for 14 years and President for two years.

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Many people afforded access to new data; their help is gratefully acknowledged. Spitchwick Atlas and Widecombe History Group and Devon Record Office archives were especially valuable resources that made this book possible. Thanks are expressed to National Lottery players and for funding made available through the Heritage Lottery Fund, without which this project would not have been completed. Encouragement and help from Moor than meets the eye Landscape Partnership was also appreciated.

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