Sunday, 31 July 2016

Loughborough to Tiverton Pt 1

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I talked about the Ludd Hub, where information about the Luddite attacks of 1816 on Heathcoat's lace factory was presented as a part of this year's Picnic in the Park event? Possibly as a result of the attack, Heathcoat took his business, his expertise and many of his local workers to Tiverton, setting up a business that is still trading today under the name of Heathcoat Fabrics. At the Picnic in the Park we welcomed visitors from Tiverton and cheered them on their way as they re-enacted the 200-mile walk that Loughborough folk would have made 200 years ago when they migrated from Loughborough to Tiverton.

Our annual summer holiday sees us heading to the southern most point of Britain, a journey of some 330 miles, which means a stop somewhere along the way. Usually that stop is somewhere beyond Exeter, and previous stops have included Tavistock, Launceston, Tintagel and Boscastle. This year, the journey was so arduous, with lots of accidents, many, many roadworks, and hence, long delays, we broke with tradition and decided to stop off at Tiverton. I'm glad we did!

Already having made an association with staff from the museum, I knew there were a lot of connections and similarities between our two towns, and I was keen to explore these. Hmmm, it does, however, mean that I may have to split this blogpost into two as there is so much to cover!

So, we headed off to the town museum and were pleased to be so pleasantly greeted and welcomed when we got there. What I hadn't quite realised was that we'd arrived a couple of days before a big Heathcoat 200 exhibition launch, but luckily it was all there and ready to be viewed. As well as this temporary exhibition, there is also a permanent Heathcoat Gallery. Just a quick note here to say how disconcerting it was to hear the name Heathcoat as I would pronounce it, pronounced as Hethcutt!

Anyway, the museum was also choc-full of lots of other Tiverton history, and it was great to see all the things that Loughborough and Tiverton had in common. I suppose when one is looking at the local history of one's own town, it's sometimes too easy to forget the national context, so Tiverton's museum collections reminded me of many things. Let's see, where shall I start?

The populations of the two towns at 2011 are quite different: Loughborough's population was around 59,000 while Tiverton's only 19,500, so Tiverton is about the size of Shepshed and Barrow-upon -Soar combined, and about 6,000 more than Ashby-de-la-Zouch, but 6,000 less than that of Melton Mowbray. 

Both Tiverton and Loughborough are market towns, and their original market / fair charters were granted in the 1200s, during the reign of Henry III. Loughborough's was first being granted around 1221, extended to three days to include the Feast of St Peter (29 June) in 1228, and then shortly after it was extended to include the November fair, to be held around the Feast of All Souls (2 November). The Tiverton charter was first granted in 1257 for a three-day market around the Feast of St James (5 July), starting on a Monday. This was later modified by Oliver Cromwell, changing the first day to Tuesday to avoid market traders working (i.e. preparing their goods) on Sundays. 

This year, the charter market was held on July 16, just a few days after my visit. A copy of the later amendment is available in the museum.

The Cromwell market charter
The woollen trade was extremely important to both towns, and there were several information boards in the Tiverton museum, as well as a cabinet of interesting looking tools. Selective breeding of sheep seems to have started around 1808 in Tiverton, whilst Robert Bakewell of Dishley had been one of the early protagonists of this. 
Sheep and wool production
The woollen trade
All about wool merchants
The tools of the trade

In Loughborough there have been small finds of Roman origin, like pottery, some of which was possibly found in Church Gate. At Bolham on the outskirts of Tiverton (coincidentally very close to Knightshayes Court which is the home of the current Heathcoat family) there was a Roman marching camp, a model of which has been constructed, and sits in the museum.
Model of the Roman marching camp
In common with other towns of the time, both Tiverton and Loughborough have endured fires which had a devastating effect on the dwellings and the people of the towns. Reports of fires in Tiverton were so devastating, the one in 1731 was called the Great Fire, and reports of this, and other fires are covered by Wikipedia. One such fire was in about 1598, which was allegedly started by a frying pan fire, and which destroyed most of the town. There was a further fire in 1612 which was apparently started from a furnace. There were at least five known fires in Loughborough, the first of which was in 1622, and in which two people died. The second fire was in 1666, apparently started from a kiln, and in which 200 houses were destroyed. Then, in 1668 there were two fires in October, and in 1761, 13 houses were affected by a fire which started in a malt kiln. When reports of these fires talk of thatched houses and ricks of barley, furnaces, and kilns, it's surprising there weren't more fires, more buildings destroyed and more deaths.
The Civil War in Tiverton

Both towns were affected by the Civil War of 1642-1651. Royalist Tiverton Castle was under siege from Parliamentarians in 1645, and in December of that year Oliver Cromwell paid it a brief visit. On 17 March 1644 there was a minor battle at Cotes Bridge, just outside Loughborough, when Parliamentarians occupied the bridge. 

Bequests to fund schools are also common to both towns. In 1601 Peter Blundell, a man who had gained considerable wealth during his life as a clothier, bequeathed a sizeable sum of money for the creation of the Peter Blundell School, which is still in use as a school, although I believe the original building was replaced in about 1883. Thomas Burton was an English wool merchant who died around 1495, and bequeathed sums of money to a variety of Loughborough causes. One of his trustees, Ralph Lemyngton, decided that some of the money should be used to create a school, and to this day Loughborough Endowed Schools is still active in the town.

In common with many other towns and cities water was made safer to drink in Tiverton and Loughborough by being brewed into beer. I believe there was a brewery at the end of Market Street, and that it wasn't called Malt Mill Lane for nothing! In Tiverton Museum, there was a fine display of brewery paraphernalia and old bottles, as well as a malt shovel, and an apple press.
The cabinet of paraphernalia
The malt shovel

The apple press
And, of course, townsfolk everywhere needed shoes, so cobblers would have been found in each town
Tools of the trade
Interesting to know that at one time there was a branch of the Leicester firm Olivers in the town!
Olivers, who had a warehouse in Leicester

Oh my goodness, time is running away with me, and I haven't even mentioned all the Heathcoat connections, the iron works, the water supply and drinking fountains, the GWR, the cinemas, the Temperance Society and the United Order of Druids, the brick-makers, the police station, the milestones, the canal, the band, the pubs ...

Better save those for next time!

Acknowledgements: I'd like to thank the staff at Tiverton Museum of Mid-Devon Life, for allowing me to take photographs to use in this blogpost .

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

[Dyer, Lynne (2016). Loughborough to Tiverton. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 31 July 2016] 


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