153rd Annual Conference, Tavistock 2015

The Devonshire Association’s 153rd Annual Conference and AGM was held over three days, commencing Friday 5 June, at the Bedford Hotel in the centre of Tavistock, attended in whole or in part by 115 members. The Hotel is a reminder of the town’s strong connection with the Duke of Bedford and the influence of the family on the appearance and life of the town and surrounding area, a connection that was highlighted in a number of the presentations that took place during the conference.

The specialist Sections of the Association started the conference with presentations on the ‘Distinctiveness of Tavistock’ (see below). Helen Wilson of the Buildings Section used old postcards of the town to enliven her presentation. We heard from the Botany Section of two Hawkweeds that occur nowhere else in Britain and from Entomology of the incidence of nationally threatened Fritillary butterflies. Paul Wilson of the Music Section made particular mention of the folk song tradition in the area and ended his presentation with one of the songs!

Tavistock town centre, Drake Road

Tavistock town centre, Drake Road

Local archaeologist and historian, Andrew Thompson, gave a short presentation on the history and physical development of Tavistock as a precursor to the Town Walk. The walk was particularly popular and resulted in two groups taking part with Tavistock Branch John Killingbeck being called in at short notice to lead the second party.

In the evening, outgoing President Chris Cornford hosted a reception for delegates which was followed by the Public Lecture. Former Transactions Editor Mark Brayshay had accepted an invitation to present the lecture but some weeks before had suffered a severe injury to his foot and was unable to proceed. The Conference organisers were most grateful (and relieved!) that Dr Ann Pulsford agreed to step in and she gave a copiously illustrated talk on John Taylor and the Tavistock Canal. Her presentation was notable for the strong representation from members of the public with a total audience of around 100.

Saturday’s proceedings commenced with presentations from a number of authors whose papers would appear in the 2015 edition of the Transactions. As usual the subjects were wide ranging and included the following topics: the regeneration of Plymouth’s waterfront, Beardown Rock inscriptions and their spiritual significance, and attempts to establish a Cistercian Monastery in South Tawton. Some authors were unable to be present and Transactions Editor Malcolm Hart provided a succinct summary of the content of their papers.

DA Presidents, Dr Chris Cornford and Dr Tom Greeves

Outgoing President, Dr Chris Cornford (left), with the incoming President, Dr Tom Greeves (right)

After lunch it was time for the formal business of the Conference with the Association’s Annual General Meeting, chaired by outgoing President Chris Cornford, and the installation of the new President, Dr Tom Greeves. The Association’s Chairman Peter Beacham made particular mention in his report of the Review which was being commissioned by the Executive and urged the membership to support and participate in this initiative. He paid tribute to Geoff Bulley, who was to retire from the post of Registrar in September 2015, and the work that Geoff had done for the Association in the 14 years that he had held the post. Geoff was presented with the gift of a golf cart. The Chairman also introduced newly-appointed Registrar Dr Bridget Gillard.

The Rev Peter Beacham OBE, Mrs Helen Harris and Dr Gerald Boalch

The Rev Peter Beacham OBE conferring life membership on Mrs Helen Harris (left) and Dr Gerald Boalch (right)

Peter Beacham expressed his particular pleasure in being able to offer Life Membership, on behalf of the Association, to Helen Harris and Dr Gerald Boalch. Helen is a long-standing member of the DA, a former Chairman of Tavistock Branch and Vice Chairman of the Association for 5 years from 2008. She is also widely known in Industrial Archaeology circles having been an author when study of the subject was in its infancy. Gerald Boalch has been a DA member for over 60 years and was Transactions Editor for 22 years; this whilst he maintained his full time work as a scientist at the Plymouth based – Marine Biological Association.

Treasurer Colin Turner outlined the background to the Executive’s decision to increase subscriptions for the DA from 2016 in order to maintain the financial viability of the Association. The election of Executive members brought one new member, Dr Sue Andrew, following the resignation of Geoffrey Harding on grounds of ill health, and the re-election of our Publicity Officer, Professor Antony Buller.

Following his installation as President, Tom Greeves delivered his Presidential Address entitled ‘Dartmoor and the displacement of culture: analysis and remedy’. His thought-provoking address, passionately delivered and drawing on a lifetime’s study and love of the Moor, was a sustained and critical analysis of the impact of its official management. Members have the opportunity to make their own assessment of Dr Greeves’ views now that his address has been published in the Transactions. Saturday’s proceedings closed with a dinner hosted by the Chairman. Registrar Geoff Bulley and his wife were the Association’s guests for the evening.

Kelly House, Kelley Lifton

Kelly House, Kelley Lifton
Photo: Robin Wootton

On Sunday, members had the opportunity to participate in a wide range of visits including the properties of Collacombe Barton, Kelly House and Bradstone Manor. Natural history at the Old Railway Reserve at Lydford, a tour of Lydford and a ‘Dartmoor Excursion’ led by the President gave opportunities for those who preferred outdoor visits.

Brendan Hurley

(originally published in DA News, Autumn 2015)


Reports from the Sections

As usual the Sections were invited to submit reports on their specialist interest related to the area around the conference’s location. These were presented at the conference on Friday afternoon.

Photo gallery

All photos on this page courtesy of Antony T. Buller, except where stated. Click on them to see larger versions. Conditions of reuse are here.