Chope, Richard Pearse

President of the DA 1926–7.


Published in Transactions, 1938.

RICHARD PEARSE CHOPE, J.P., B.A., the eldest son of Thomas Chope, yeoman, was born at his father’s farmhouse, Farford, 21st September, 1862. He came of a family of merchants which had settled in Bideford from the Sixteenth Century, and Farford had been bought by an ancestor in 1721. His earliest schools were at Hartland, and Lapford, and he became head boy at West Buckland School at the age of fifteen. There he stood first out of 2885 in the Cambridge Local Examination. In 1881 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, with a major scholarship, was bracketed 20th wrangler in 1884, and took his degree in the same year. He entered the Civil service by competitive examination, was appointed an Assistant Examiner in the Patent Office, and in 1903 rose to be Deputy Examiner and Principal of Abridgements. He had charge also of the printing branch of the office, which was known as ‘Chope’s Branch’. His work there consisted in editing and supervising specifications, publishing, and indexing. On his retirement in 1922 Mr. Chope received presentations of plate from his colleagues, and from the London Devonian Association, the gift of the last named coming from the hands of Colonel (afterwards Sir) Charles Pinkham, M.P., who is the subject of another obituary notice below.

Mr. Chope joined the Devonshire Association in 1896, and wrote his first paper for the Transactions in 1902, on The Early History of the Manor of Bideford.

He served on the Council continuously from that date; he contributed a valuable series of papers extending over many years; he edited the Transactions from 1928 to 1930; and in 1928 brought out a most useful Key to the first sixty volumes. Though nothing Devonian lacked interest in his eyes, he gave most of his attention to the folklore of the county, and prepared the Reports on that subject from 1925 to 1936.

But this Association was not the only recipient of his great output of literary work. For many years he edited the Yearbook of the London Devonian Association, a body which he helped to found in 1910, and he was a constant contributor to, and sometime editor of Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. In 1891 he wrote The Dialect of Hartland for the English Dialect Society, and assisted in the production of the English Dialect Dictionary. On the speech of his native county he was admittedly the foremost living authority. In 1902 he wrote the Story of Hartland, printed it on a wooden press of his own making, and published the book himself. The original edition and a reprint are both scarce. Among other important works were papers on the Early History of the Manor of Hartland, appendices to a new edition of Hawker’s Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall, a transcript in collaboration with others of the Pipe Roll of the Bishoprick of Winchester 1208–9 and an interesting account of Hartland called Farthest from Railways, the proceeds of which were given to the restoration of the parish church, as part of his long-continued and generous support of that fabric.

He contributed a series of monthly notes to the Hartland Chronicle, extracts from which appear in his last paper in this volume. In his younger days he collected and organised a company of amateur actors in Hartland; he was a Governor of West Buckland School; a President of the Old Boys’ Society; a churchwarden from 1932 to 1935; and a magistrate for the county from 1924. Good health remained his fortune till the last three or four years, when it became a source of concern to his friends that advancing years had greatly reduced that activity which had been the admiration of younger men. Infirmity compelled him to retire from much of his public activity, but his kindly hospitality never failed, and he received and enjoyed visits from old friends till the end of his life.

He lived a bachelor for many years at Fosfelle, a farmhouse close to Farford, which he bought with other land to make an estate of some thousand acres. Fosfelle was the home of his early friend, John Lane, the publisher at the sign of the Bodley Head, who had done so much for the young and lonely student who went to London in 1884. Mr. Chope developed Fosfelle with extreme care and thoroughness; his garden and grounds were the source of justifiable pride to the owner, and the seat of much hospitality. Till the end of his life he continued his interest in Devon, and had heard with pleasure of the recent discovery in Germany of a life of St. Nectan which he expected to throw additional light on the early history of Hartland. A posthumous paper on a subject dear to his heart, Devonshire Calendar Customs, Pt. 11, appears in this volume. After a long illness he died at Fosfelle on the 8th February, 1938.

Papers published in DA’s Transactions

Year     Vol. Pages
1891 R. Pearse Chope The Dialect of Hartland 23 420-429
1902 R. Pearse Chope The Early History of the Manor of Hartland 34 418-454
1911 R. Pearse Chope “Lord Dynham’s Lands” 43 269-292
1912 R. Pearse Chope The Aulnager in Devon 44 568-596
1913 R. Pearse Chope A Dialect Letter, with Glossary 45 276-301
1917 R. Pearse Chope New Light on Sir Richard Grenville. I. The Projected South Sea Voyage. II. The North Devon Fleet Against the Armada 49 210-282
1917 R. Pearse Chope The Book Dialect of North Devon 49 320-340
1918 R. Pearse Chope Some Old Farm Implements and Operations 50 268-292
1918 R. Pearse Chope The Last of the Dynhams 50 431-492
1926 R. Pearse Chope Hartland Abbey (Presidential Address) 58 49-112
1929 R. Pearse Chope Frithelstock Priory 61 167-191
1932 R. Pearse Chope A Supplementary Glossary of Devonshire Plant Names 64 325-377
1933 R. Pearse Chope Devonshire Bird Names 65 237-292
1934 R. Pearse Chope Devonshire Animal and Insect Names 66 327-355
1935 R. Pearse Chope Devonshire Fish Names 67 421-433
1936 R. Pearse Chope Devonshire Calendar Customs: I. Movable Feasts 68 233-259
1938 R. Pearse Chope Devonshire Calendar Customs: Fixed Festivals. Part II. Fixed Festivals 70 341-404