1. The Beginning of the Rushford Works
Rushford Bridge spans the River Teign about half a mile from the centre of Chagford and about a quarter of a mile from Rushford Mill Farm. It replaced the ancient way of crossing the river, which was by means of the stepping stones across the river in front of Rushford Mill. The origins of the bridge are late 15th or early 16th century, and the churchwarden’s accounts show that 10s. were paid for repairs to the bridge in 1559. The bridge has only been slightly widened since then, and in the 16th century was probably the same simple granite structure consisting of the two arches we see today.
The narrow nature of the bridge, in that it restricted the width of vehicles that could pass over it, may have had some influence on the man who was to use the nearby land to develop his new business and livelihood. That man was George Henry Reed, the son of a sea captain from Dawlish, who on the death of his mother and the subsequent second marriage of his father, was cared for, together with his brother, by his Aunt Spencer, before being sent by his father and step mother away to a school in Chichester.
In the 1860s George Reed came to Chagford and began to train as an engineer and machinist, working for John and William Dicker who are listed in Morris’ Directory for 1857 as wheelwrights, engineers, and machinists in High Street (although Billings directory lists the firm as agricultural implement makers). In 1865 he married Susan Aggett, daughter of Henry Aggett, innkeeper at the Three Crowns Posting House and Commercial Hotel, and the following year their first child, Lily Jane, was born. By the end of 1869 he had established a business of his own at Rushford Works and at The Factory, Chagford. This was all by the age of 21.
George Reed leased the buildings at Factory Cross after the closure of the woollen factory, and used them for part of his new engineering and saw mills works, but his main works at that time were in buildings he specially constructed for his business on the fields above Rushford Bridge.
If one looks very carefully at the stonework of the wall, under the eaves of the present building, one can just perceive the date 1872 inscribed on a stone there. On the ground, to the right of the present entrance to Rushford Forge, is the County Stone which marks the 100 yard boundary from the bridge.
The Rushford Works consisted of a large workshop, office, a forge, stabling for horses and a cart, and a partially covered courtyard area for the smaller machines to stand. The water supply was from a well.
In 1875 G.H. Reed took a stand at the Newton Abbot meeting of the Devon County Agricultural Association to display his new, improved iron frame reapers - machines which were displayed with glowing testimonials from those in the area who had used them to gather their crops.
The back page of the catalogue demonstrates the wide variety of machinery being produced at the Rushford works, and with the expansion of his business came the prosperity which enabled George Reed to develop his buildings and provide for his increasing family.
By 1881 he had built his house, which he called Teign View, near Rushford
Bridge and established his family and household there.
There is no mention of the house, Teign View, in the Census of 1871, but the
1881 census records the existence of the house and also that it had a large and
varied number of inhabitants. It is recorded that the head of the household was George Henry Reed aged 33, who lived there with his wife, Susan, aged 34, and their six children – Lily Jane, 14; Emily Sarah, 12; William Henry,11; and George Spencer, 8. The youngest two children, Bessie Spencer, 3, and Ethel Mary who
was just 15 months old, were at home with their mother whilst the four older children were at school.
the household included another seven people who were not immediate family members, but whom, no doubt, contributed financially or practically to the
running of the home and business. These people were George Henry Hurrell, aged 31, who was blind from birth yet a competent organist; Josephine Dash, aged 20, from Ryde in the Isle of Wight; and Leonia Mockridge 21,from Stapleforth in Somerset, who were both employed as school mistresses, and boarded with the Reeds at Teign View.
se who worked in the business and in the house were also accommodated:Samuel Milton, a local man aged 22, was a machinist and servant; two apprentice machinists, George Harvey, from Cheriton Bishop, 19, and 18 year
old Hittisleigh-born James Gregory “lived–in”; as did Mary Weekes, a 22 year old from Meeth who was a domestic servant.
For over twenty years George Hurrell lodged at Teign View with the Reed family.Blind from birth he was an accomplished church organist, and as well as being well known for his music locally, studied to achieve academic recognition,gaining a professorship in music by 1891.
It is thought that he was also responsible for providing parts for the Chagford Silver Band, then in the ascendancy, by dictating the score to be written to an amanuensis. A large number of handwritten band part pieces were found by Jonathan Bint when restoring the building in the late 1990s, along with Hymns printed in Braille, presumably for Mr Hurrell’s use.
The entry in Kelly’s Directory of 1893 lists George Henry Reed merely as an
Engineer, millwright and machinist; thrashing machine and traction engine proprietor; and manure merchant -all this from the Rushford Works; and as having sawmills at The Factory.But at this time he was already involved in developing an exciting new enterprise
at his Factory site. The parish magazine of 1891 expands on the entrepreneurial nature of the man as follows:
There has been much talk lately about the electric light, which it is proposed to introduce into Chagford. Mr Reed has been showing off the light in the old factory which he has taken, and many people assembled on two occasions to see it. The question of conveying it underground or overground by poles, has been considered at a meeting of the ratepayers of Chagford. Some were in favour of wires being carried underground and not overhead. It was pointed out to insist on this would practically defeat the scheme. On a show of hands being taken 25 voted for the wires being carried overground and 14 against. We hope that the electric light may find its way into Chagford, as there is such excellent water power existing, it seems a pity not to use it. We wish the promoters all success.
Thus Chagford, through the efforts of George Reed, and the harnessing of waterpower, became the first place west of London to light its streets by electricity.
The census of 1891 plots the development of members of the household over ten years. George Hurrell, the blind organist, had also become a professor of music; Two of George and Susan’s older children, William and George Spencer had become involved as machinists in their father’s business; the two young school mistresses appear to have been succeeded by a young schoolmaster, John Courtney, and there is a live-in traction engine driver as well as a general labourer and a young female servant, Lucy Endacott.
William married Alice Scott, of Hole, and had two children : Dorothy, later married to Hedley Milliman who became Rector of Meavy; and Gwen, who married Albert Belaires and subsequently moved to live in London.
Lily and Emily, the two older daughters, do not appear on the census of 1891.
Lily, the oldest daughter had married George Harvey and was by this time living in Dartmouth where George worked for Phillips, the marine engineering company on the estuary of the River Dart. Their daughter Ivy, the infant on the lap of her mother on the left of the family photograph and with her father standing behind her, grew up in Dartmouth but, sadly, died at the age of 19.
Emily must have been a frequent, if not permanent, resident at Teign View over this period, as she fell in love with and married the young Charles Bartlett, an electrical engineer whom her father had invited down from London to employ him with work on the electricity station. Their son, Cyril Bartlett was born in 1886, and their daughter Winifred some eight years later. Winifred was later to become Winifred Osborne, whose husband Frances researched and published, with her help, the historically valuable book , Churchwarden’s Accounts of St Michael’s Church Chagford 1480 -1600 .
Ethel also married an engineer – William Elliott, who came from Devonport, Plymouth, and whom she had met when staying with her sister Lily, in Dartmouth. William was training as an engineer at the engineering college in Devonport. They made their married home at Barrow-in-Furness where William was a ship trial’s engineer with Vickers. Ethel is pictured standing third from the left, between Charles Bartlett and her brother George. Emily and William had two daughters, Joan and Marjorie, the latter born in January1909,
George Harvey Charles Bartlett Ethel Reed George Spencer Reed Bessie Spencer Reed Henry George Reed
Lily Harvey Emily Bartlett George Reed Susan Reed Alice Reed (Henry’s wife)
Cyril Bartlett Dorothy Reed( later Dorothy Millman)
Nipper the dog Ivy Harvey
So, not only was George Reed an energetic and successful businessman, but his wife Susan too, had the ability to make the most of the resources available at home and use the space to provide accommodation for pecuniary gain to help her family. By 1891 she is listed in Kelly’s directory, under her own name, as providing a lodging house at Teign View, and over the coming years and into the early twentieth century, was to provide for many visitors, among them artists and writers who were discovering the delights of the Dartmoor scenery.
W.S. Morrish became a friend of the family, and frequently came to the house when painting his watercolours of the moor and the rivers.
“W. R. Sickert stayed at Teign View in 1915, and painted scenes around the town, including Chagford Churchyard, Rushford Mill, The Post office and “The Blasted Tree,” of which he wrote in a letter “The subject was certainly a beautiful one … the rooks in the blasted tree in front. If only the painting could give a tenth of the charm of that quiet village.” Eden Philpotts also stayed at Teign View, and his book “The Children of the Mist” describes the local landscape, and the characters he met whilst staying in Chagford, and Rushford Mill where the story was set.”
From a History of Chagford by Jane Hayter-Hames
When carrying out extensive renovation work Jonathan Bint, who currently lives at the property, which was called Teign View and now called Narrow Bridge, recalls finding evidence of a well which must have provided the family and the business with water from the original building of the property. The Parish Council records of 1904 show that an application was made from Mr G.H. Reed to be allowed to tap the main at Glendarah so that he may get his house supplied with water from the Chagford water supply:
“On motion of Mr Collins seconded by Mr Smith that with present supply and frequent lack of pressure we cannot entertain the application. An amendment by Mr Jeffery seconded by Mr Painter that Mr Reed’s application be granted – For: Messrs Painter and Jeffery- Against: Messrs Pearce, Ball, Scott James and Smith. The amendment was lost. For the motion: Messrs Pearce, Ball, Scott James and Smith. Against: Messrs Painter and Jeffery. The motion was carried.”
In 1903 the death occurred of Sir Henry Stanley, the explorer famed for his greeting when first meeting the missionary David Livingstone in west Africa - “Doctor Livingstone I presume?”
His widow decided, in late 1904, that his grave at Pirbright in Surrey, should be marked with Dartmoor granite and her representative came to Chagford to ask for help to “find a stone up to six tons in weight, fashioned by time and untouched by the hand of man.”
The stone was found in a field wall at Frenchbeer, and along with five other smaller, but not insubstantial, stones were somehow to be transported from the edge of the moor to Moretonhampstead railway station, thence to be taken by rail to Woking, and on from there to Pirbright cemetery.
George Reed was asked to undertake the transport of the stones, which were loaded onto a wagon and thus pulled with relative ease by his powerful Marshall traction engine, stopping in the Square at Chagford for photographs of the historic event!
George Reed stands in front in a straw hat.
MR. WALLACE J. PERRYMAN, of Yeo Mills, Chagford, has an interesting story to tell or how 50 years ago a massive granite boulder was taken from Dartmoor to become a memorial to Sir Henry Stanley.
Sir Henry was the man who coined the celebrated phrase, " Dr. Livingstone, 1 presume." when he found the great missionary in West Africa.
Mr. Perryman says that it was at the beginning cf 1904 that his father, the late William Perryman. received a letter from Lady Stanley, Slr Henry's widow, asking it he would be willing to find a memorial stone on his farm. It was to be up to six tons in weight. fashioned by time and untouched by the hand of man.
Stanley died in 1903 and was buried in Pirbright Cemetery near Woking. It was in August 1904 that his widow sent a Mr. Edwards. of the East London Monumental Works, to accompany William Perryman round the farm to see if there was a suitable stone, but there was none acceptable to Mr. Edwards.
Then they went to Frenchbear Farm and down the road towards Mr Perryrnarns farm, and on the right-hand side of the road, in a field wall, Mr. Edwards saw the stone he wanted and asked it he could buy it.
The landlord of Frenchbear Farm at that time was Robert Stark, of Ford Park, who said that Lady Stanley could have it.
Mr. Edwards wanted five smaller stones more—three to be placed at the front of the grave and one each side the large stone at the rear. So he went with William Perryman to Shoveldown Farm in the parish of Lydford. and selected the five stones there.
Later, a man with two horses and a wagon was sent from Yeo to bring them to the site of the large stone.
Next Mr. Edwards was introduced to Charles Painter, a Chagford monumental mason, and arrangements were made to get the stones to Moretonhampstead station. Mr. Painter negotiated with George Henry Reed, of Rushford Works, Chagtord, for his steam traction engine to do the job.
A wagon was placed alongside the six-ton stone, which was fortunately set high in a bank on the same level as the top of the wagon. Slowly, checking it with jacks and timber, workmen turned the stone over on to its side on the wagon. Then the smaller stones were placed with it, and the journey began.
It was easy for the traction engine to pull this load even over the rough roads and down the steep hill into Chagford.
Photographs were taken and in the Square at Chagford the worthies of the parish posed round the traction engine.
Otherwise the journey was uneventful. - It continued to Moretonhampstead station then by train to Woking, and from there the last two miles on another wagon to Pirbright Cemetery.
There the Dartmoor boulder stands unchanged except for a cross and a simple inscription to Sir Henry Stanley on it and with the five Lydford stones grouped about it.
In 1906 George Reed continued to be listed as an electrical engineer, mechanical engineer and traction engine proprietor living at Teign View, and Susan, his wife was by then letting “apartments” at Teign View, but this is the last listing we have of his wife. His oldest son, William, has taken a job as an electrical engineer with the Marconi company in Cornwall, leaving the family business. In later years he returned to live in Chagford, at a bungalow in the grounds of Gidleigh Park, where he died in 1932.
The second son, George Spencer, continued to assist his father in the family firm, whilst his sister, Bessie Spencer, helped her mother in the house with the boarding accommodation. Susan died in 1909, and by 1910 Miss Bessie Spencer Reed had taken charge of the Teign View apartments whilst also caring for her father, who continued to employ several men and run his engineering business and the electric generating station with the help of his second son, George Spencer Reed, now married to Lillian Mary Ellis and living with their baby son, Henry George Spencer Reed, at Ingledene in New Street. The family had a second child, a daughter - Edna Mary, later Edna Rowe.
In the years following his wife’s death the engineering and traction engine business was gradually wound down. The introduction of farm owned tractors was gradually replacing the use of traction engines, and new agricultural engineering companies, such as Saunders and Rowe at Easton, later C.J. Saunders of Easton and at Whiddon Down, and James Osborne, being set up in the area provided greater competition. In addition, his son was spending the greater part of his time maintaining the electricity generating station, During the 1920s what remained of the engineering business was sold to William Denham of Swindonia, in The Square, who ran the traction engines with Fred Denham, his brother.
The hydro-electric company was sold during the late 1920s to a Mr Heath of Plymouth and was later absorbed into the national grid.
George Henry Reed died at Teign View in 1930, but his daughter, Bessie, continued to run the house until in 1950, at the age of 72, she decided to sell.
During their last years Bessie, and the now widower, George Spencer, shared a home at Fernleigh in Chagford.
She died in 1965, aged 87, and her brother in 1966, aged 92.
Teign View was sold in 1950 to Mrs Caine, who brought Harold Trent and his wife to Chagford to run the house and care for her there.
Mrs Trent was in charge of the domestic arrangements of what now became a private house, whilst Harold saw to the garden and general maintenance.
The workshops were used as outhouses and storage areas, and the gardens and field were tended for growing vegetables and keeping poultry for household consumption. There was a greenhouse situated in the sheltered angles of the walls of the vegetable garden in the field, which protected a grape vine, whilst outside it raspberry canes cropped heavily every year beside the asparagus beds.
Teign View was sold by Mrs Caine to Mr Tom Bint in 1960. Tom Bint had farmed at East Underdown, near Drewsteignton, but had been badly injured in a tractor accident, which ended his career as a farmer. He moved with his wife, Beryl, his daughters Susan and Jennifer, and Beryl's daughter, Joanna to the house he was to re-name Narrow Bridge.
At Narrow Bridge Beryl and Tom raised their children from their previous marriages, and the children from their own marriage - Jonathon, Kate, Tim, Tamsin and Annabel.
Sadly, Tom and Beryl’s marriage was not to last, and in the 1980s Tom was left to care for the older children when Beryl left Chagford. Increasing health problems made life difficult for Tom, but he had the support of several of his children who lived with him at Narrow Bridge, caring for him as best they could. Tom died in 1992 leaving the property to be divided between six of his children.
One of the original windows of the Reed Works, undergoing a transformation to become part of Ruth and Jonathan's family home.
The diggers remove the remains of the forge and dig below the road level to provide foundations for Ruth and Jonathan’s living room and kitchen.
The stone which denotes the distance to the bridge can be seen still standing amid the earth moving process in the middle of the photograph.
The division of the property has been a family tour de force. Jonathon and Ruth, with their children Joseph, Morwenna, Holly, and Gabriel live in the part of the building they have converted from the Reed workshops and forge. Tim owns the house at the front, next to the road, and Jennifer the next house along. Kate, her husband Mark and their children moved to live in France in 2005 and for the first time in almost forty years part of the divided Narrow Bridge passed out of the Bint family. However, The Radford family (Tamsin nee Bint) still live in the house next along the frontage, while Annabel, owns the house at the far end of the building.
Ruth and Jonathan's home on the left, converted from the forge and workshop; Tim’s and Jenny’s houses in the middle and a-joining the main house.
The restored and extended Teign View - now Narrow Bridge - from the rear of the property.
Together, this family has worked to build on and improve the property, and has built garaging and parking space - essential for living in the 20th and 21st century - at the bottom of the garden below the house.
The field by the river remains a place for the children of the family to play. Chicken still have a place in the field, but are now fenced off in their own run, close to the public footpath which runs across the field from the road at the bridge to the main B3206 road into Chagford. And, although the name has been changed, it remains a house with a view of the Teign.