Welcome to the Hatherleigh’s History Project. The purpose of this website, is to share ongoing research regarding the town’s history, to allow everyone access to the many documents and photos concerning Hatherleigh and to provide information relating to the Hatherleigh History Society’s meetings.

Approaches to the research

On the shore where time casts up its stray wreckage, we gather corks and broken planks, whence much indeed may be argued and more guessed; but what the great ship was that has gone down into the deep, that we shall never see.[1]

Professor Trevelyan’s analogy communicates to us all that is wonderful, exciting and yet at times painfully frustrating about historical research. Local History is not simply a case of listing events that have happened in a specific area; it also involves analysis of objects, landscapes, buildings, place names, geology, personal testimonies and documents. This is best done by using what Kate Tiller describes as a ‘shared agenda of questions that has developed in English Local History’.[2] This is not always easy. Yet, this form of historical enquiry is the most rewarding and provides us with a better understanding of the human experience of living in a specific location.[3]

Throughout this project some of the enquiries concerning Hatherleigh will include:

  • What does the area’s geology and topography tell us about issues such as settlement patterns and land use?
  • How have population numbers varied and why?
  • How has human agency affected the landscape and conversely how has human agency changed Hatherleigh’s landscape?
  • How have power structures developed during the town’s history?
  • What has made people want to live here and what has allowed continuous habitation for so long?
  • What work did Hatherleigh residents do?
  • How have social relationships and attitudes developed?
  • What kind of groups formed in Hatherleigh (e.g. unions, guilds, churches)?
  • What role has religion played in people’s lives?
  • Is the story of Hatherleigh typical of Devon and where does it sit regarding the national picture?
  • What established views do the available evidence support or challenge and does the story of Hatherleigh provide us with any new insights concerning the big picture (whatever that is)?

The Digitising of evidence

In addition to studying the numerous sources that tell us something about Hatherleigh’s history, such as documents, maps and recordings of oral histories, this project will also endeavour to digitise them. This will ensure we don’t lose the information they can provide and, by putting them on the website, allow everyone the opportunity to use them.

The Hatherleigh History Society

Hatherleigh History Society was founded in 1981 when the Town was celebrating one thousand years of recorded history. Its purpose is to research the Town’s history and build up a permanent archive of photographs and documents. Monthly meetings are held with visiting speakers and notes of history as it happens recorded in the minutes of these meetings. In 2013 the Hatherleigh History Society’s members decided to set up this website with additional funding provided by the Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee.

[1] This is quote taken from Professor Trevelyan’s 1927 inaugural lecture in Cambridge referred to in H.C. Darby and R. Welldon Finn (eds), The Domesday Geography of South-West England (Cambridge, 1967), pp. ix-x.

[2] K. Tiller, English Local History: An Introduction (1994, Stroud, 2001), p. 1.

[3] For an excellent assessment of the development of local history see J. Beckett, Writing Local History (Manchester, 2007), pp. 1-7.