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Discussion:

Devon's history

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Message 1 - posted by Ozzie Exile, Feb 20, 2006

Every Grockle knows about Plymouth’s Mayflower steps, Drake playing bowls on the Hoe, and Princetown Prison on Dartmoor. However Devon has a much richer history than this, and there are a number of aspects of it that are not well known - even by native Devonians. This forum might help rectify this.

For example, how many know about Devon’s Mining industry and Devon’s own Stannary Parliament.

Devon had dozens of tin and copper mines, many with the prefix “wheal” such as Wheal Maria near Tavistock, Wheal Betsy on Dartmoor, Wheal Margaret near Braunton or Wheal Emma near Ashburton. DGC (near Tavistock) was one of the largest mines in the world in its era.

Devon also had a Stannary Parliament dating from 1305 (prior to this there was a joint body covering both Devon and Cornwall). The Devon Parliament survived for many centuries and sat in open-air session at Crockern Tor on Dartmoor (the building remnants survive today).

The Parliament was composed of ‘stannators’ appointed by each of Devon’s stannary towns and it was a proud and powerful authority with a ruthless reputation, its powers were equal to those of Westminster and it reported directly to the Crown (through the office of Lord Warden of the Stannaries). The Parliament actually once gaoled Richard Strode the (Westminster) MP for Tavistock in the Stannary gaol at Lydford for three weeks for supporting a reduction in the Stannary Parliament’s powers.

The Devon Stannary Parliament fell into ‘disuse’ in the nineteenth century when large deposits of easily accessible tin were found overseas and most of the local mines became unprofitable and had to close. The Devon Stannary Parliament last convened in 1748 (the meeting reputedly adjourned to a Tavistock pub), and the Cornish equivalent was suspended in 1752.

Like its better known Cornish equivalent, Devon’s Stannary Parliament never had its legal authority revoked, and the tinner’s rights remain (theoretically) extant. Tin was mined in Devon (on and off) until as recently as the 1980’s and even today Plympton regularly appoints a stannator.
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Message 2 - posted by U2379384 - alt id 3, Feb 20, 2006

So?
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Message 3 - posted by Plymouth Exile, Feb 20, 2006

So?

Quoted from this message



JannerMaid,

So what Devon history do you know? I bet you didn't know anything about Devon's tin extraction industry.

If you stick around, you might actually learn something.

Bob
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Message 4 - posted by funnyBracken, Feb 20, 2006

Living in Plympton I have wondered, in passing,what the Stannator is. Does he/she have an actual role?
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Message 5 - posted by U2379384 - alt id 3, Feb 20, 2006

You're right not much. My late teenage boyfriend was involved in the ressurection of Morwellham Quay, I spent my first University vacation assisting in an excavation of the Devon Great Consols site, my present partner is involved in a post-doctoral thesis on the effects of heavy metal pollution in the higher navigable reaches of the Tamar and my late uncle was involved in the legal case against the self proclaimed cornish 'stannator' from St Austell who failed in his fanciful claim to be immune from UK taxation by being outside the jurisdiction.But as a 'janner maid' I am by definition a yokel airhead.
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Message 6 - posted by U2426416 - alt id 6, Feb 20, 2006

I think that the topic is a cross between a tourist puff and an anorak distraction akin to train spotting. But it does no one any harm. Otherwise these folks would be in the pubs or wandering the streets in aimless groups with too much time on their hands.
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Message 7 - posted by U2448401, Feb 20, 2006

Talking of tourist puffs and things like the Mayflower steps weren't the steps built in the 1929's or 30's as part of a general redevelopment of that end of Sutton Harbour? There is no historical evidence that the Mayflower was grounded there or in Mill Bay for repairs.
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Message 8 - posted by Plymouth Exile, Feb 20, 2006

You're right not much. My late teenage boyfriend was involved in the ressurection of Morwellham Quay, I spent my first University vacation assisting in an excavation of the Devon Great Consols site, my present partner is involved in a post-doctoral thesis on the effects of heavy metal pollution in the higher navigable reaches of the Tamar and my late uncle was involved in the legal case against the self proclaimed cornish 'stannator' from St Austell who failed in his fanciful claim to be immune from UK taxation by being outside the jurisdiction.But as a 'janner maid' I am by definition a yokel airhead.

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JannerMaid,

I must congratulate you on your knowledge, but if you do know so much, what was the point of your earlier message that consisted of one word: "So?"

Had you not considered that many Devonians may not have known what you know?

Bob
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Message 9 - posted by U2379384 - alt id 3, Feb 20, 2006

Simply because these are message/chat boards not sub-O level newsy information sites. They are for topical debates not for geeks sounding off about local history.No offence intended but you did ask!This one is quite mild but for your worst nightmare just cast your mind back to the Devon Flag debate which after it had achieved its initial goal of launching a questionable county banner then sank into such mindless interminable esoteric debate that it must nave catapulted its regular or even passing contributors towards early graves.
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Message 10 - posted by U2426416 - alt id 6, Feb 20, 2006

Well said.
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Message 11 - posted by John of Paddington, Feb 20, 2006

Devon is full of History going back to the Stone Age and beyond as a visit to Kents Cavern, Torquay will show. I like to recommend Americans to visit Princetown and see the place their predecessors built in 1812. It's also a nice place to send the French. Not only Tin was minned, Copper, Silver and even Gold has been found and mined in the past. Did you know Devon men were in North America before Columbus? The trouble is, talking to the children these days, they have no idea of the rich history of their Country, let alone their County.
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Message 12 - posted by U2379384 - alt id 3, Feb 20, 2006

Shouldn't we start with the brutality of our part in the slave trade, the appalling moral code of Drake and the other pirates,the questionable sexual habits of the local aristocracy and the coverup of the panic and pillage of the blitz? If we have to wade through the local history sludge lets liven it up!
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Message 13 - posted by Plymouth Exile, Feb 20, 2006

Living in Plympton I have wondered, in passing,what the Stannator is. Does he/she have an actual role?

Quoted from this message



funnyBracken,

In the days when there were convocations of the Devon Stannary Parliament, the Stannators were effectively members of the Stannary Parliament. As there have been no convocations of the Devon Stannary Parliament since 1748, the election of a Stannator is now more of a continuation of an ancient custom, than having any meaningful significance. Having said that, as Stannary Law has never been abolished, it is theoretically possible (although highly unlikely) that a Stannary Parliament could be convened, so a Stannator is always elected whenever any tin extraction or prospecting work is undertaken.

As you live in Plympton, you will have noticed that it is described as an ‘Ancient Stannary Town’. It was one of four in Devon, the others being Tavistock, Ashburton and Chagford. These were the towns where the tin was weighed and stamped. A tin ‘tax’ or duty (known as ‘coinage’) was paid on all tin extracted, which went to the Crown. There were also Stannary Courts, which had jurisdiction over all matters concerning the tin (and later all metal) extraction and processing industry, and even extended to other matters where a ‘tinner’ happened to be involved, so if a tinner had a dispute with his local butcher, the case would probably have been heard in the Stannary Court. Anyone unlucky enough to be sentenced to a prison term by the Stannary Courts would have served his sentence in the dungeons of the Stannary Jail, now known as Lydford Castle.

Bob
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Message 14 - posted by skipster2k2, Feb 20, 2006

Jannermaid, surely a message/chat board can be used for talking about local history just as much as any other discussion? You may be the fountain of all local knowledge but for immigrants like myself from the far distant shores of bristol this is all news to me and mildly interesting, just because you have no interest in the topic being discussed does that mean you have to add your negative and rather pointless views?
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Message 15 - posted by U2379384 - alt id 3, Feb 20, 2006

Looks as if the Stannary thread is going to be the latterday flag board.Why don't they exchange email addresses and arrange a regular monthly meeting at a convenient Bernie Inn (or I suppose these days a Travel Lodge or theme pub) and wonder alomg in their Parkkas with their box files so that they can put the world to rights and produce the definitive book on the Stannaries. It should take the well into late retirement, produce endless hours of harmless fun and who knows, lay down the bedrock of amateur local history study for future millenia.
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Message 16 - posted by U2448401, Feb 20, 2006

When I was at school in the early 70's there was a tortuous pair of books by Robert Pilkington (or Pennington) which did the subject of the Stannaries to death and beyond. There's little interest or millage in a repetition!
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Message 17 - posted by U2426416 - alt id 6, Feb 20, 2006

It was Pennington,they were published I think in about '73 probably by David and Charles in its very boring heyday when anything with a local link got the full technicolour treatment.I've seen them in the local history section of our library but I doubt that they've been taken down for thirty odd years.
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Message 18 - posted by U2448401, Feb 20, 2006

Is it right that Drake and his mates didn't play bowls on the Hoe which wasn't flat but over on the green at Hooe next to where the fleet was anchored in the Cattewater and higher up the Plym estuary?
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Message 19 - posted by U2379384 - alt id 3, Feb 20, 2006

Surely Drake a mans' man if ever there was one would have been playing bowls closer to the pubs and whorehouses of the Barbican area?
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Message 20 - posted by U2487692, Feb 20, 2006

I have both Pennington books beside me now in the school history library. Don't waste your pocket money.
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