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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!