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A Brief History

Combeinteignhead is a modest village some three miles west of Newton Abbot. The village hall at Combeinteignhead is a 1920’s building. The photos below probably date to soon after it was built. It is rendered brick construction with a clay tiles roof – a surprising choice of roof materials in an area where cob and thatch or stone and slate are the norms. The first photograph shows its original east elevation with its chimney. This elevation is now hidden by a later addition and the chimney stack has been removed. The second shows the rear and west elevations – a view which has also altered somewhat as now the land to the west is a raised patio area and a carpark and there is a children’s play area at the rear and east of the hall.

Front and east elevation.jpg

The hall was built on land which the 1839 tithe map and apportionment describe as “Home meadow and Shed”. It formed part of the large farm, Westborough Tenement, on the northwestern edge of the village. At that time the tenant farmer was John Rendell and the landowner was one Sir Walter Carew. 

Front and east elevation of Combeinteignhead Village Hall. Reproduced with kind permission of Tricia Whiteaway 1.

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It was Sir Walter’s descendants, Elizabeth Anne ‘Bessie’ and Beatrix ‘B’ Carew, who gifted the parcel of land on which the hall came to be built. These sisters lived nearby at Haccombe House, the Carew family seat for over 500 years. They owned much land in the area. Their estate was broken up after their deaths in the 1920’s.

Rear and west elevation

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The philanthropy of these two ladies was matched by that of Major Edward George Lang Whiteaway MC and Bar who gave the funds to build the hall. The Whiteaway family hailed from Devon, and had many links to the area.  However, Edward George Lang Whiteaway’s (EGLW) links to the village of Combeinteignhead was more somewhat removed as he lived Far from Devon and so it is perhaps surprising that he was so generous to its inhabitants.

Edward George Lang Whiteaway’s father, who was also called Edward, was born in 1851 at Lower Rocombe Farm, about one mile from Combeinteignhead, in the neighbouring parish of Stokeinteignhead. By 1861 the family had moved to Home House, Combeinteignhead, a tenant farm of some 108 acres. At the age of 16 Edward senior moved to London to work in a tailor’s shop. In 1870 he sailed to Calcutta and continued his trade. Here he met his future wife, marrying in 1874. Their first son – EGLW, was born in 1876. Edward senior and partners went on to establish a very successful business of “Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co.” developing stores in several location in India.

Edward George Lang Whiteaway

The family visited England from time to time and came back to Combeinteignhead, to visit parents/grandparents at Home House. EGLW attended boarding schools in England and spent most of his holidays in Devon at Home House.

Home House was shared with Edward senior’s two sisters and thus Edward George Lang Whiteaway’s aunts. They were Mary Anna Lang Cuming (nee Whiteway) known as Aunt Annie and her unmarried sister Mary Sophia Lang Whiteaway. These ladies continued as tenants after their parent’s death, up until the 1920’s when the Carew estate was sold off. At this time, they purchased Home House and its neighbour for the princely sum of £300. Their favourite nephew, the young Edward George Lang Whiteaway, was a frequent visitor to his aunts and he had a great affection for Combeinteignhead.

In the meantime, EGLW father, Edward senior, dissolved the business partnership with Laidlaw in 1896 and returned permanently to England in 1897. He established a new exporting company “Whiteaway & Co.” in London. The family settled in Middlesex. In time his son, EGLW, started work in his father’s business.  In 1914 EGLW was travelling on business to Australia as war was declared. He returned directly and immediately enlisted. He was finally de-mobbed in 1919.

In her book “Whiteway: Roots & Branches” Tricia Whiteaway notes

“At the end of the war and the safe return of Edward, together with most of the men who had volunteered from his beloved Combeinteignhead he provided the money for a village hall.”1

Commemortive plaque inside the entrance

I think it is makes Combeinteignhead Village Hall a particularly interesting building as unlike so many projects which were undertaken at this time, which were memorials to the fallen, this hall was built in thanks for the safe return of the Major and most of the volunteers from the village. The original plaque inside the hall reads “given as a thank offering for God’s mercies in the Great War.”

Commemorative plaque inside the entrance hallway, Combeinteignhead Village Hall.

EGLW returned to his employment and his business trips to Australia and New Zealand and other far-flung corners of the world. He never moved to Combeinteignhead but continued to visit when holidays allowed. Locally it is thought that the two local aunts were instrumental in encouraging EGLW to financially support the building of the village hall.

Since the 1920’s the village hall has continued as a much loved and enjoyed community resource. It has seen a number of changes including an extension on the east but it is still very recognisable as that 1920’s building. The hall’s centenary will be celebrated in 2026.  

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Combeinteignhead Village Hall 2023

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Combeinteignhead Village Hall, west elevation, 2023

References:

1 Tricia Whiteaway, Whiteway: Roots & Branches, (2010) Short Run Press, Exeter.

QV Tricia Whiteaway

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