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Brian Abel on Churchwardens and other Notables of St John’s Church Hatherleigh

[Jane Fawcett] (0:01 – 0:31)

Hello, I’m Jane Fawcett and I’m interviewing Brian Abell in The Old School’s Hatherleigh. This is a Heritage Lottery funded oral history project and we’re talking today about Brian’s knowledge of the history of some church wardens and other notables associated with Hatherleigh Church, most particularly his own family association. So the first question I’m going to ask you Brian is how far back is your family associated with the church?

[Brian Abell] (0:32 – 1:01)

The first mention of Henry Abel was in 1631 when he married Elsa White. We don’t know where Henry actually came from, possibly Okehampton, but we’ve never been able to find his date of birth locally, but Elsa White was daughter of a Hatherleigh family going back into the 1570s.

[Jane Fawcett] (1:01 – 1:06)

That’s very interesting Brian. Do you have any other information about Henry Abell?

[Brian Abell] (1:07 – 1:40)

Yes, as I say he was married in 1631 and by 1641 he was involved in the protestation return of 1641-42 when everybody had to swear an oath of allegiance to Charles I and by that time he was church warden and everybody had to sign an oath in front of the church warden and the vicar.

[Jane Fawcett] (1:41 – 1:44)

Could you tell us a little bit more about your family history?

[Brian Abell] (1:45 – 2:05)

Yes, well after Henry all generations right through until my generation all lived in Hatherleigh and didn’t move away until my father got married in 1921.

[Jane Fawcett] (2:07 – 2:11)

Could you tell us a little bit more about Frank Dann, your grandfather Brian?

[Brian Abell] (2:12 – 3:23)

Yes, well he was born in Kent and moved to Hatherleigh when he’d trained as a pharmacist and came to Hatherleigh in 1893 and worked as a chemist in the old post office in Hatherleigh and then set up his own shop next to the George Hotel in about 1901 and he then went stayed there until he died in the early 1940s and he became church warden in 1907. He was the people’s warden at St John the Baptist Church and he also became Portreve of Hatherleigh which was rather like the old-fashioned mayor from 1910 and continued for the rest of his life in those roles.

[Jane Fawcett] (3:24 – 3:28)

Thank you Brian. Did you know him personally very well?

[Brian Abell] (3:29 – 3:47)

Not really although we did stay with him at the chemist shop when I was about four so I can remember going there and staying and also going for some walks around Hatherleigh when we were staying down here.

[Jane Fawcett] (3:48 – 3:53)

Lovely, so he was quite prominent in the church at that time?

[Brian Abell] (3:54 – 3:57)

Apparently yes, he was church warden for all of that time.

[Jane Fawcett] (3:58 – 4:06)

Wonderful, thank you. I understand Brian you have personal experience as a church warden.

[Brian Abell] (4:06 – 4:30)

Well just for a short time when we moved back to Hatherleigh when we retired in we moved back in 1996 and they were short of a church warden and I think I was persuaded about two or three years after we moved to become church warden and held that position for about four or five years.

[Jane Fawcett] (4:30 – 4:37)

And I understand Denise Herod-Taylor was your other serving church warden?

[Brian Abell] (4:37 – 4:43)

She was, somebody else was eventually to start with and then Denise Herod-Taylor was.

[Jane Fawcett] (4:44 – 4:55)

Lovely, thank you. Can you tell us a little bit about your knowledge of Craddock Glasgow and his reign over what was one of the most thriving times in Hatherleigh church?

[Brian Abell] (4:57 – 5:16)

Well it was certainly very interesting because he got so many people involved and got the church involved in so many other activities and it’s said that the seating in the church would allow for 600 people.

[Jane Fawcett] (5:17 – 5:31)

Goodness, when we were preparing for this interview you mentioned some particularly fine gravestone carving which is visible for everybody to see. Could you tell me a little bit about this please?

[Brian Abell] (5:31 – 6:07)

Yes well there’s some excellent gravestones and carvings done by William Hooper who was a master letter carver and lived in the early 1800s and worked producing excellent easily read stones and he was also a very good builder and produced many of the finest buildings in the area including the old schools in Hatherleigh.

[Jane Fawcett] (6:07 – 6:15)

Wonderful so there’s a connection with that and I believe you mentioned he also constructed the old rectory?

[Brian Abell] (6:16 – 6:27)

Yes he included building the new Hatherleigh Vicarage and the Lord of the Manor’s house at Strawbridge and the National Schools building in the square.

[Jane Fawcett] (6:28 – 7:01)

So he has connections with the church obviously but it is worth looking out his carvings which are just on the vestry wall so look out for those and thank you very much Brian. Is there anything more you would like to add to this interview at this point? I don’t think so.

Okay well thank you very much for your insight and knowledge. There is so much more we could talk about but we will move on. Thank you very much.