The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

Jul24.2

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group    aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

Jul24.2

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

Make hay while the sun shines

This old saying is believed to date back to medieval times. For farmers, making hay was a vital part of being self-sufficient and keeping their livestock fed during the bleak winter months. They would spend days cutting, gathering, and drying hay to be stored. It was crucial that the grass was cut during dry conditions because moisture would ruin a crop, hence the saying.

 

Today, many of us use the phrase to mean to take advantage of a good situation whilst it lasts – to see the opportunity and seize it, an alternative to the Latin phrase “carpe diem.”

Make hay while the sun shines

This old saying is believed to date back to medieval times. For farmers, making hay was a vital part of being self-sufficient and keeping their livestock fed during the bleak winter months. They would spend days cutting, gathering, and drying hay to be stored. It was crucial that the grass was cut during dry conditions because moisture would ruin a crop, hence the saying.

 

Today, many of us use the phrase to mean to take advantage of a good situation whilst it lasts – to see the opportunity and seize it, an alternative to the Latin phrase “carpe diem.”

Mechanisation arrives in Ivybridge

This newspaper article from July 1860 describes a trial of a mechanised reaping and mowing machine made by agricultural implement makers Burgess and Key.

 

This machine bids fair to become as well known as the threshing machine; and from recent trials in this neighbourhood, has established its reputation to the satisfaction of everyone who witnessed its performance. It was doubted whether in our Devonshire crops such a machine could be brought into practical use, and therefore to ascertain its capabilities, Mr. H. B. Rivers, of Stowford House, Ivybridge, invited the proprietors to send a machine to prove its merits on his water meadows, believing that such a trial would fully test its powers, at the same time almost fearing whether it would succeed. The first trial took place on Monday the 16th, in the presence of many influential gentlemen and farmers of the neighbourhood, who after witnessing its performances, gave it as their unanimous opinion, that no workman, however skilful, could cut the grass so well, The trial was very severe from the nature of the ground over which the machine had to pass, the opinion being, that if it would cut such a crop, it would do almost any crop of grass. On Wednesday and yesterday, the machine was again worked in a piece of clover on the farm of Mr. Horton, at Fardel, near Cornwood, where it performed its work admirably; cutting an acre in less than an hour, in a very superior manner.

 

Burgess and Key – Agricultural implement makers

The agricultural implement makers, Messrs. Burgess and Key originated when the two partners were introduced to each other in 1849. Their first invention was the American churn, which was exhibited at the Exeter meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1859. This successful venture was followed by a reaper and a grass and clover mowing machine. The design of their reaper was  based upon a similar one exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 by its inventor Cyrus McCormick from America. Their mowing machine was fully tested on several farms and received very favourable reviews, cutting grass and clover both lower and more efficiently than manual methods and of course at a much lower cost, cutting at a rate of around 1 acre per hour.

 

Before mechanisation hay was cut manually using a scythe, an implement with a long curving blade attached to a wooden handle with two grips near the centre which the farm labourer would swing back and forth. Using this motion, the blade would sweep underneath the standing grass, the idea being to cut it as close to the ground as possible. This work was slow and arduous and anyone who could cut around one acre in a day was considered top class.

Henry Bowen Rivers mentioned in the newspaper article was a third-generation family member to occupy the Stowford Estate. He was the grandson of Henry Rivers who acquired Stowford from William Dunsterville in 1794. The neighbouring Lukesland estate was acquired by the same gentleman in 1803. The Stowford estate at the time comprised of upwards of 200 acres of meadow and pastureland, forty acres of coppice, thirty acres of coarse land, two enclosed commons of 250 acres with an unlimited right on Harford Moor.

 

Before coming to Ivybridge, Henry Rivers had been an inn keeper at Modbury. He had married Elizabeth Brutton, the daughter of George Brutton who ran the well-established Exeter Inn which had existed since the fifteenth century.  However, following the loss of his wife, Henry Rivers came to Ivybridge to marry the widowed Elizabeth Byrd, the proprietor of the London Inn on Harford Road. It is believed Henry, with an eye for business opportunities, always wanted an inn on the main road to London and it is thought that he updated the London Inn during his tenure.

 

His ambitious nature however, proved to be his downfall. After purchasing a considerable amount of land and property in and around Ivybridge his finances became stretched, and he was forced into bankruptcy in 1816. It would appear around this time that Philip Bowen, the father-in-law of Henry Rivers The Younger (Henry’s son), purchased Stowford to keep it within the family. This gentleman is recorded as living at Stowford House up until his death. In his will he left all his worldly possessions to his daughter Elizabeth and then to her six children. Philip Bowen is buried in Harford cemetery. When Elizabeth died in 1838 in her early fifties each child’s share was specified. Henry Rivers The Younger managed the barton for his father-in-law and after his wife’s death took his son, Henry Bowen in partnership.

 

Henry was not your typical gentleman farmer but managed the estate himself and the farm prospered. In 1838 Henry managed about 462 acres of land including 212 acres of arable land, 48 acres of meadow and pasture and 40 acres of coppice, His four main interests being wheat, barley, potatoes and wool.

 

Henry Rivers the Younger lived at Stowford House until his death in 1868. His son Henry Bowen Rivers continued farming the estate.  Whilst he remained a bachelor, he had the company of his sisters Augusta and Mary and Mary’s husband William Mathias at Stowford House (1861 census). 10 years later, another sister, Sophia was also living at Stowford House. She had married William Alwyn Stubbs in 1841 and one assumes he had died before 1871.

 

Following the bankruptcy of Henry Rivers Snr., Lukesland was sold by the creditors to Richard Adams. It consisted of a newly built farmhouse and around 127 acres of orchard, meadow, arable land and woodland and extensive right of pasture on Harford Moor. This gentleman also bought the adjacent Darts Farm, the combined land was let to a tenant farmer, George Luscombe.

What are water meadows?

 

Water-meadows were irrigated areas of pastureland alongside a river or stream. Channels were excavated so that a thin sheet of water flowed steadily across the meadows for set periods at prescribed times of the year. Care had to be taken so the wet soils properly drained before the process of irrigation could take place. The land, once improved by irrigation, would be placed in a state of perpetual fertility without the aid of manure and was known to yield the largest amounts of hay during the summer. Furthermore, it supported ewes and lambs along with other livestock in the vacant spring months when winter feed reserves had all but been consumed and before grass in the summer grazing fields had come through. After the hay harvest these lands also offered a liberal supply of after-grass for cattle in the autumn, who in turn, naturally manured the land.

 

Water-meadows were gradually phased out during the Victorian era as farming practices changed, brought about largely by increased mechanisation and the introduction of chemical fertilisers.

Making hay in the nineteenth century

Making hay in the nineteenth century

The swathes of grass and clover left by the mechanised mowers had to be sufficiently dried to produce hay.  Labourers following the mowers would separate the blades of grass and spread it out using pitch forks. This process would aerate the mown grass and greatly assist the drying process under the summer sun and was called ‘tedding’. Turning the drying grass would be repeated several times with the object to present fresh surfaces to the influence of the sun and air.

 

Once sufficiently dry, labourers would rake the grass into what was called ‘windrows’, narrow rows around four feet apart. The idea was that currents of air could flow between the loose ridges of hay, so it was important to form the rows pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind. The last task of the day was to gather the windrows into hay-cocks. This would protect the hay from any rain over night and permit the dew on the ground the following morning to evaporate quickly. The next day the hay would be spread out once more to continue the drying process before being heaped up again.

 

Generally, by the afternoon the hay was raked into double windrows by two labourers raking in opposite directions towards each other. Later these would be raked into large conical shaped hay cocks. The person building the cock stood in the centre of the circle and placed layers of hay on the ground. They continued to place layers on top of each other, all the time narrowing the circumference of the layers to end with a narrow-rounded top, approximately six to eight feet from ground level.

 

The process might entail a further day of drying before the hay could be carried off to the hay -yard or mowey (a fenced off area away from livestock) to create a hay-rick. The rick was built in a rectangular shape and the trick apparently was to place twice as much hay in the corners of the rick to ensure it did not sag and fall over, a task requiring great skill and manual dexterity.

 

To protect the hay from the rain, the rick would incorporate a pitched roof which in some cases was thatched or covered in canvas, but it was essential to allow moisture to escape from the slight fermentation of the hay which ensued.

 

From this period onwards farming witnessed a steady move towards mechanisation. A farm sale in 1880 at Fardel Barton gave an insight into the equipment already in use just twenty years after the trialling of the reaping and mowing machine.

 

Amongst the equipment within the sale was a reaping and mowing machine by Harrison and McGregor, another manufacturer of agricultural machinery who were based at Leigh, Lancashire. Other equipment included a hay turner and a hay gatherer, all of which were of course horse drawn at the time.

A hay turner replaced the manual practice so was called a hay tedder. Using rotating tines this machine would aerate the hay thus speeding up the drying process before a hay gatherer would form the windrows. Original tedders had two wheels and were pulled by a single horse.

 

The hay rakes used to create the windrows were eventually developed so the farmer could sit on a seat, guiding the horse. The curved rakes behind him dragged along the ground, picking up the cut hay. When they were full, the rake could be lifted to drop the hay into windrows.

Hay balers did not appear until the late 1800s. The first models required labourers to bring hay to a static machine with the motive power being supplied by horses. Later, steam traction engines replaced the horse before the internal combustion tractor became the norm. By the 1930s, balers were attached to tractors, allowing them to pick up hay from the ground.

Jun24.5

Locally, many of you might recall Western Machinery at Cantrell on the outskirts of Ivybridge which supplied agricultural machinery to the local farming community. The business was originally established by Ken Watkins along with his brother Leon when they took over the old china clay drying sheds in the late 1930s to sell tractors which included makes such as Allis Chalmers and Marshalls. Later with partner, Mr Roseveare, the business became Watkins and Roseveare Tractors.

Henry Bowen Rivers died on 21 December 1877 at the age of 63. Stowford House was then sold, and the new owners were James and Barbara MacAndrew who had purchased neighbouring Lukesland only a couple of years previously in 1875. They let the farmland to eight separate tenants whilst the remainder of the barton was added to Lukesland Farm making a holding of 202 acres.

 

The MacAndrews were influential in the development of the village, constructing several houses bordering the turnpike road, which is Exeter Road today. Mr MacAndrew died in 1915 and his widow remained until her death in 1929. The heir, a nephew, was not interested in returning to Devon, so the estate was split up and sold.

 

Portions of the Stowford Estate comprising of Stowford House and Farm, Stowford Cottage and around 90 acres of land were acquired by the Rev. Charles Robert Patey and his wife Mima Constance Patey who had been tenants since 1920. Various other plots of land which made up the Stowford Estate were acquired by local men including Mr Burls, a baker, and Mr Mattacott a farmer. Three cottages on Exeter Road were acquired by local builder Mr Blight.

 

The Rev. Patey died within a few months of purchasing the property, but Mrs Patey remained at Stowford House until her death in 1940. During her time in Ivybridge, she contributed greatly to community life. The Boy Scouts and other young people were encouraged to use the gardens at Stowford, and she even constructed a tennis court for them.

 

The new owners in 1940 were William Ryan, a former British naval officer and his American-born wife, Louise Ryan, an ex-Wren. Mr Ryan died only two years later. Mrs Ryan eventually gifted the property to the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1969. The primary objective of this society was the continued improvement in agricultural practices including the study of farming technology, management and marketing.

 

In 1973 Louise Ryan wrote ‘An obscure place: A history of Stowford in the parish of Harford, Devon’ which is a valuable reference to the history of the local area from early times.

We now have a selection of booklets on various themes. These are available for purchase at The Watermark in Ivybridge. Each booklet is priced at £3.

Sept23.11

Ivybridge Explored – this 28 page booklet provides an historical review of the churches, public houses and infrastructure of Ivybridge including the Ivy Bridge from whence the town derived its name.

 

Ivybridge Researched – this 28 page booklet provides a review of some of the notable events, people and businesses which have shaped the history of this town.

Sept23.12

Stowford Paper Mill 1869 – this 20 page booklet is composed of a series of three newspaper articles published in 1869 which provide an insight into the workings of the paper mill at this time, describing the equipment and the methods used in manufacturing paper.

 

Stowford Paper Mill Ivybridge 1787-2013 – this 28 page booklet provides a chronological history of paper making at this historic site in Ivybridge from the once privately owned mill to the later one which was part of a multi-national company.

Sept23.13

Ivybridge and the American during World War II – this 28 page booklet provides a wealth of interesting facts regarding the American servicemen who were billeted in Ivybridge from 1943 in the build up to D-Day.

 

The River Erme and its Industries – this 22 page booklet describes the path of the river through the South Hams to the sea together with lots of interesting facts regarding the area along the way.

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Devon County Council - Copy

The History of Ivybridge

The remains of stone-age hut circles can be found on Harford Moor, above Ivybridge, but the ivy-covered bridge, after which the town was later named, was first recorded in 1250; it is possible that it existed as a river crossing prior to the Doomsday Book of 1086. An early ‘King’s Highway’ from Exeter to Trematon Castle near Saltash, the 12th Century crossing may have been constructed by the monks of Plympton Priory (founded in 1121) to give them access to their lands at Wrangaton, Dean Prior and Buckfastleigh.

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HERITAGE DONOR CARD

To help preserve historical documents, objects and photographs, we have created a Heritage Donor Card for individuals to make donations of such items to Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group. Please go to our ‘Links’ page for further information.

COPYRIGHT

All rights, including copyright, in the content of these pages are owned or controlled for these purposes by Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group.

IHAG2021

HERITAGE DONOR CARD

To help preserve historical documents, objects and photographs, we have created a Heritage Donor Card for individuals to make donations of such items to Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group. Please go to our ‘Links’ page for further information.

COPYRIGHT

All rights, including copyright, in the content of these pages are owned or controlled for these purposes by Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group.

IHAG2021