A Brief Visit to Devon

March 1946

This visit to Devon by Treeby Watson Hingston and James (Jim) Andrew Hingston to discover more of their family history took place just after Jim had been demobilised from the Navy. it is a charming reminder of the days long before computerised indexes, when most parish registers were kept in the church, and family research consisted in sitting in a cold and unheated vestry, or looking up distant relations. This is the diary that Treeby kept at the time.

Andrew Hingston

On Saturday March 2nd. Jim and I left Slough for Paddington, and I missed the 10.40 there so Jim went without me; I followed on the 1.30. It was vile weather in the Home Counties, but we ran into glorious sunshine in Somerset and it was wonderful by contrast. Jim was waiting for me on Totnes station at 6.50 and we walked to the hostel at Week had some supper and went out for a drink. Sunday dawned beautiful. We got breakfast about 8.0, and went out walking at 10.0, and found primroses. Mr George Hingston came at noon, and took us in his car to Totnes where we had a good chat. He met his lady friend, and we all went to lunch at the Royal Seven Stars. Then we drove to Aveton Gifford and found the church bombed out, but we went round the graves and found a group of Hingston ones, that of our great-great-grandparents having the top knocked off, but the names were all right. We drove on and asked our way to Ashford, and the jovial country woman told us she was a Mrs. Hingston, a widow from the first war. She also referred us to a Mrs Edgecombe who was a Hingston. Then we found Ashford farm where the old folk lived, and went over the hill and had a look at the old building which is Hingston Borough. George told us it was very old, and the thatch was 20 years old he said, patched two years ago. Then he brought us on to Bigbury-on-Sea and we parted. We dumped our bags at the Hostel and went out for some tea, and a gentle walk before a roast beef dinner at 7.30.

I went for a short walk before breakfast on Monday, and we did a few jobs about the house and set out for Holbeton at 10.0 am. We left the road and took a footpath to Kingston but it would have been quicker by road. Then we were tempted by a ford across the estuary of the Erme, marked on our maps. So we went that way to save a long walk by the bridge up river, and we had a lot of fun getting across. Then we were soon at Holbeton, had each a pint of cider with our sandwiches at the George. South of the church we found the grave of Andrew and Honor well preserved, and the grave of Brother William by the path, almost illegible with lichen, and it took us half an hour to read. By this grave is the little stone over his baby daughter. We searched the churchyard but found no more Hingston graves, so we called at the Vicarage and Mr Brealey kindly came with us at once to the church, and. in the vestry we spent two hours in a hurried perusal of the Parish Register, copying particulars of baptisms 1659-1785 and burials 1743-88. We also confirmed the marriage of William to Amy Algar on April 29 1733, we had not time to do any more. We walked back to the Hostel taking one short cut, had a pint of beer in Ringmore and. were back in time for dinner. Today was not so cold, but visibility was poor.

Tuesday was dull and rather hazy. I set out for Bigbury at 9.45, and found some graves in the churchyard. Jim caught me up there, and the Sexton came and spoke to us. Then we walked to Aveton Gifford, calling to introduce ourselves at Hingston Borough and Ashford on the way. There is no vicar at Aveton Gifford, now, and the sexton was not very encouraging, but after lunch while Jim went to meet Mr Yabsley at Ashford, I looked with Sexton through baptism register 1830-1900, and the marriages 1760-1900. None of our family married, but six other Hingstons were named, in 1785 Nethaniel Hingston signed as a witness, and in 1794 Sarah Hingston signed: nearly all the parties married in those days were unable to write their name. Our grandfather's baptism is recorded: Feb. 14th 1840 Henry, son of Andrew and Mary Hingston, of Baileys, Yeoman; also Henry's brother and sisters. Just for interest glanced in the burial register of ancient date, but it was hardly legible; however a glance showed ten Hingstons buried between I690 and 1717, so obviously there were lots of them when our family were at Holbeton. Jim came to join me, and we walked back by the Avon estuary, and Parsonage Stakes Lane. I went to Ringmore, but found no Hingston graves, so I had tea there and came back to the Hostel at dusk. We spent the evening cogitating over our researches, and got some good results.

I left Jim on Wednesday morning. I took the Plymouth bus at 8.45 from Bigbury-on-Sea, to the Lodge about three miles west of Modbury, and walked to Holbeton from there. I bought some picture postcards, and wrote to Mary Carruthers her first birthday. Mr Brealey gave me the volumes of the Register I asked for, and left me to work in the vestry. I studied the records from 1620, and looked for one or two points we had missed last time, but I could not do much in three hours, and I got very cold. I had my lunch at the George Inn, and walked round the country, Luson, Gnaston, and Yealmpton. A lorry gave me a lift to Plymouth or what little is left of it after the bombing. I got a bus from there to South Brent, and called on Mr G H Coleman, my father's cousin, where I was very well received. I walked in the dark to the Youth Hostel 3 miles away, and arrived late for supper. Mr Coleman was expecting me on Thursday morning, and we had leisure to discuss matters, and I learned a bit. I had my sandwiches at a pub where I got genuine rough cider. It looks like orange juice and tasted like vinegar: I didn't like it a bit, Then I got a train to Exeter and explored the Cathedral and enquired where to find the pre 1620 records from Holbeton so I shall know where to start when the time comes. I left a message for George Hingston that I would see him Friday, and walked to Countess Weir after tea in Exeter. I was the only one there that night, and the place was upside down with repairs, and decorators in.

I got a lift to Exeter in a car Friday morning, and left my rucksack at the station. Then I went to Heavitree and met George, and he took me to meet his brother. We compared notes, and promised to meet again. Then George and I had a drink, and picked up Chips at her office and took her to lunch. Then in the few minutes at our disposal they showed me some of the relics of Exeter before I caught my train at 1.55. It was a good journey, and I was home just after six.

[Treeby Watson Hingston]