The South Zeal / Duchy of Cornwall stones
|SZ/DC 1 Boundstone near Skaigh Corner|
The law condemns the man or woman
|SZ2/DC2 Stone at Foxes Holt|
|SZ2/DC2 Stone at Foxes Holt|
'THE BATTLE OF BALACLAVA'
The incident made the newspapers, dating to Thursday, 13th December 1883 . The articles make for fascinating reading and what we can glean from them is a more detailed account;
The residents of South Tawton, South Zeal and Throwleigh had long encroached on the Duchy owned eastern slopes of Cosdon, constructing enclosures. The Western Morning News, on 21st December 1883 tells us; ‘The total area of the enclosures, which skirt the three beforementioned villages, amount to between 200 and 300 acres. For the most part they consist of small allotments, many of which have existed for twenty years, and some for even thirty, while others again have only been taken possession of and brought into a state of cultivation during the present year.’
In May 1883, the Duchy Estate decided to address the issue, making an offer which the newspaper article explained was; ‘for a nominal rent of 1s, per acre as an acknowledgment of the Duchy's rights, and it was offered that a lease for 30 years should be given in return. If required, a lease for longer term could be obtained on paying an increased rental - 2s. 6d., for instance, being asked for 60 years. Those, however, who had held possession of plots for 20 years and upwards cherished the hope that they could claim ownership... The Duchy, unlike private individuals, does not lose its manorial rights until after the expiration of 60 years, and none of the "owners" of the enclosures being able to date so far back, all of them will probably find that they have by no means acquired a legal claim to hold the land rent free.’
Suffice to say the offer was treated with incredulity and ignored so seven months later the Duchy acted.
The Royal Cornwall Gazette, on 21st December 1883, reports; ‘EXCITING SCENE AT SOUTH ZEAL - Yesterday (Thursday) week, Mr. Barrington, the Duchy steward, took with him to South Zeal fifteen men, being navvies and quarrymen, one sergeant and six constables for the purpose of asserting the rights of the Duchy, by pulling down the hedges and fences.’
It continued; ‘The men were provided with shovels, digging picks, and similar implements; but the nature of the intended operations does not appear to have been known to them until they arrived on the scene of their labours. In accordance with instructions, although with a certain amount of reluctance, the men commenced by levelling the hedges; but before they had proceeded very far with their depredations, their movements were observed by the villagers, and a general hue and cry was given. Armed with such weapons as were to hand, such as hooks, scythes, and sticks, the people proceeded to attack the invaders of their territory, which is locally known by the name of the "Little Ireland."’
The Duchy retreated and thirteen days later, on the 26th December 1883, an open letter from Geo. Wilmshurst of the Duchy Office was published in the Western Daily Mercury giving their account of the incident; ‘The offers so made having met with no response, directions were eventually given to assert the rights of the Duchy pulling down the fences of certain particular enclosures on Throwleigh Common, and it was while these directions were being given effect to that the inhabitants of the adjoining parish of South Tawton assembled and made their attack on the workmen employed.’
There was support for both ‘squatters’ and the Duchy. The Devon Evening Express gave a critique of the encroachers on 27th December 1883; ‘I say, for a lord of a manor to steal a whole common, it is equally wrong for a villager to steal a little bit of one and for the life of me I can't see that the Duchy authorities have acted harshly in their demand of 1s acre rent on a thirty years' lease.’
THE DEED OF CONVEYANCE
|The Conveyance - 1884|
THE THIRD STONE
|Conveyance map showing 'SZ3/DC3', 'SZ4/DC4' and a 'BS' near Newtake|
THE FOURTH STONE
|'DC 4' inscription|
I look forward to that day immensely!