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Broadwoodwidger in Song and Verse

Broadwoodwidger is a distinctive name. When one gives it as part of one’s address, it will always elicit a comment or a smile and initiate a conversation. People are surprised that it is all one word and then there is the final section – what on earth is a ‘widger’. Is it someone who makes widgets? Or was there an ancient Devon rural craft of widging practised in the locality? No-one, of course, ever guesses the correct derivation – that it relates to a local landowning family from the late thirteenth century called Wyger, who were of German origin. So, we are rather fond of our name, albeit it is a bit of a mouthful and often gets shortened to Broadwood in conversation.

However, despite the attractions of the locality, it is not a name that has inspired many bards over the years. This is unsurprising, given the emphasis placed on each of its three parts, which would not fit neatly into any tripping metre, and then what would one rhyme it with, other than, say, codger! However, Sabine Baring Gould, the famous Vicar of Lewtrenchard and author, when he was making a compilation of folk songs of Devon and Cornwall, did find one song in which Broadwoodwidger featured, albeit the abbreviated form of the name was used and it was not terribly complimentary, the villagers being labelled ‘naughty’. However, given that it appears the only occasion that a bard has mentioned the village, it is reproduced below, for it also gives a lovely snapshot of Jubilee celebrations and local rivalries in days gone by. An article by Claude Smale in the June 2017 issue of the Ashwater Newsletter recorded that he felt the song had been written by Mr D.A.Roderick-Evance, FRGS.

The Bellringing

One day in October,

Neither drunken nor sober

O’er Broadbury Down I was wending my way.

When I heard of some ringing,

Some dancing and singing

I ought to remember that Jubilee day.

Refrain: ‘Twas in Ashwater Town

The bells they did soun’

They rang for a belt and a hat laced with gold

But the men of North Lew

Rang so steady and true,

That never was better in Devon I hold

‘Twas misunderstood,

For the men of Broadwood

Gave a blow on the Tenor should never have been.

But the men of North Lew,

Rang so faultlessly true

A difficult matter to beat them I ween

They of Broadwood being naughty

Then said to our party,

We’ll ring you a challenge again in a round.

Will give you a chance

At St Stephens or Launce-

ston the prize to the winners a note of five pound.

When the match it came on

At good Callington,

The bells they rang out o’er the valleys below.

The old and young people,

The hale and the feeble

They came out to hear the sweet bell music flow.

Those of Broadwood once more,

Were obliged to give o’er,

They were beated completely and done in a round.

For the men of North Lew

Pull so steady and true

Than no better than they in the West can be found.

In February 2018, ‘Dartmoor Bill’ Murray mentioned during his performance for the Society that a Broadwoodwidger man, John Woolrich, had supplied Baring-Gould with a number of local folk songs and that these are listed on the site of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Titles include:

The Contented Farmer’s Son (several versions)

The Constant Farmer’s Son

Aaron’s Home

Aaron’s Lovely Home

Erin’s Lovely Home

Miss Betsy Watson (several versions)

The Isle of France

There was also a song Wrestling and Ringing which had been performed by a John Dingle (which can be found by searching under Broadwood Widger).

Feeling that this sole reference to the village in song and verse was rather underwhelming, Chairman David Tovey threw out a challenge to members to come up with poems in which the delights of Broadwoodwidger and its name were better extolled. Below are some of the entries received, with Pat Brown trumping all others with her wonderful account of the Society’s first Christmas party at The Old Vicarage, at which our Treasurer, Marion Perkin, shortly after her arrival, fell badly and suffered serious cuts to her hand. It wasn’t at all funny at the time and she has endured, stoically, considerable pain and discomfort since, but even she was amused by the poem.

The Christmas Party

Twas party night at Christmas time

The History Group had dressed up fine

Broadwoodwidger was the place

Old Vicarage where we’d set the pace

The hosts were there to welcome all

For food, and drink and stories tall

To tell of things from long ago

To talk, and laugh, and Yo Ho Ho!

We wandered in and took some wine

The house looked grand, all decked out fine

The time had come, we all were ready

To party on, but take it steady

Then came a sound, a mighty crash

Some soul had fallen, glass was smashed

She hurt her hand, was sad to watch

She said she hadn’t touched a drop!

The cat ran out with a scary yelp

The guests all gathered, keen to help

A kindly man then got his car

To drive to Derriford afar

The guests then rallied one and all

And carried on, despite the fall

They all enjoyed a lovely night

With food and drink, but none were tight

Back home the patient went, for care

Her dressing came from who knows where

Is it a puppet, a club or a jack

Don’t make her cross, she may hit back

She’s carried on and done her best

To cook and clean, and all the rest

We had a meeting, it was funny

With just one hand she took our money

So bottoms up and raise a cheer

She’s on the mend, we’re glad to hear

And raise a

glass, shout Hip Hooray

To toast a very brave lady.

Pat Brown


Broadwoodwidger is a distinctive name

For a village that really has seen little fame.

Whilst attractively sited ‘midst lakes and moors,

it is rather long when filling in forms.

And it also proves difficult to fit into rhyme,

So poets and song-smiths don’t give it much time,

And it gets shortened to Broadwood in local diction,

Which rather removes its inherent distinction.

David Tovey


The Farmer’s Lad

I be a lad who farms the land

I milk and plough and yaws are lambed

From dawn til dusk tes a blemmin race

I bain’t been fur from this yer place

But Toosday tes a different matter

Tis Lanson market, to sell and natter

I loads the stock and drives it in

Yon markets busy, what a din

The pannier market sells our milk

And Mither’s asked for flour and silk

So down I goes to buy er things

And what a mazing sight it brings!

I seed a milkmaid, fair and true

I asks er name, she says tis Pru

And then I asks where she was bred

Why Broadwoodwidger Sir she said

I larffed and larffed fair split me sides

What sort of name is that I cries

Why Sir tis such a purty place

Green fields, and hills, a church of grace,

A forge, a shop and saw for wood

Do come and see it if you could

Well, off we goes to ev a peek

My eyes growed round my legs growed weak

What a wondrous place to rest me ed

So I asked young Pru if we’d be wed

Us went away and called the banns

St Nicks the church where us eld ands

Er Faither said we must decide

Where we do work and we do bide

So we was wed, and found our home

A farm, and stock, no need to roam

And if you asks to where us came

Why that ansom town with the bissly name.

Pat Brown


There was a young fella from Broadwood
Who spent most of his time doing no-good
Whilst pretending to work
He did nothing but shirk

That lazy young fella from Broadwood!
Ann Odroft


With ‘Broad’ and ‘Wood’, the meaning is clear,

But what is a ‘Widger’, do you think, my dear?

Tis a puzzle, she says, what they do in those parts,

Perhaps widging is one of Devon’s dark arts!

Yet, Wiger is just an old family name

– one that, surprisingly, from Germany came –

And us villagers, once ‘naughty’, are really quite nice,

With cream teas and rich cakes our only vice,

So join us at Broadwood, with its views of the Tors,

and have fun and frolic on our lakes and our moors,

And as ‘widging’ is something that doesn’t exist,

it’s one sport that, sadly, you’ll have to miss!

David Tovey