Save Manning's Pit Petition -
now closed
About the Exhibition
Colonel and Sarah Hibbert
F R Lee
Henry Williamson

Benjamin Manning
Villagers sledging, Manning's Pit

Manning's Pit Timeline of Significant Events

1605 - 1608 
This is almost certainly not relevant to Manning's Pit, but is important for Barnstaple's cultural history, and would have been of interest to Benjamin Manning, who quoted Shakespeare at every opportunity : Shakespeare probably visited Barnstaple as his company toured the South West while endeavouring to avoid the Plague.


Amelia Griffiths is born in Pilton. Amelia who became known as the "Queen of Seaweed" collected and preserved almost 250 species of seaweed during her lifeteime. She is now recognised as having been one of the most important early woman scientists, in many ways similar to the more famous Mary Anning.
You can read more about her at this link

She probably left Pilton when she married the Rev, Griffiths and they moved to Cornwall, but it is highly likely that as a child and young woman she would have walked in the fields that are known as Manning's Pit.


J M W Turner
 born 23rd April, Covent Garden, parents moved there from South Molton, North Devon,  shortly before.
Turner is considered one of England's greatest artists.

What is Turner's relevance to Manning's Pit?  His Uncle lived very close to North Field, which was the name of the Manning's Pit  field at that time. It is likely that Turner visited him.  Turner himself almost certainly knew FR Lee (see below), and we have uncovered evidence that suggests that he - at least once - collaborated with Lee, as did the other important Victorian artists, Landseer and Cooper.
More to be added on this topic.

Here is a clip of a modern map taken from Google Maps, with the locations of Manning's Pit, Littabourne, where Turner's uncle was to live, Pilton Street, where Banjamin Manning had his home and shop, and Bellaire, where FR Lee, the Hibbert family and Saki's family lived.  It is only a two minute walk from Saki's house to Manning's Pit today, and it would not have taken very much more time to get there across the fields from Littabourne.

Map of Pilton

Turner the artist was the son of William Turner and Mary Turner (née Marshall). His grandfather, John worked at South Molton as a saddler and his father, William, was a barber and wig-maker in the town. The family are said to have lived for at time in a cottage in North Street (then known as Steppa Lane.) William Turner had four brothers and two sisters.
  Joseph Turner's early life was spent at 21 Maiden Lane (Covent Garden) and his father encouraged him in his desire to be an artist, selling his son's drawings at his barber's shop.


Rev Sweete in his tour of North Devon observed a  pillar in the right of the Road (the Longstone) at the junction of Bellaire and Under Minnow Road.  There will be more information added about the Longstone under Sarah Hibbert's details later, but this stone was to become a feature of the garden F R Lee created in 1859 after he moved to Broadgate House. The modern day photograph shows the Longstone as it is now, outside the walls of Broadgate House. This spot was said to have significance as a central point for many ancient routes, and it has been surrounded by Save Manning's Pit posters signs and banners in the last two years.
More information to come also about the ancient routes.

The Longstone 2017

The Longstone in 2017,
with the walls of Broadgate House behind it.


Death of Munrow

Ceramic sculpture in Victoria and Albert Museum

The Death of Munrow

Poor Lieutenant Hector Munroe met a tragic and embarrassing death on the 2nd December 1792, that could have come straight out of one of Saki's stories...
He was attacked by a tiger while answering a call of nature in some bushes. In a world without television or much amusement, ceramic sculptures depicting his gruesome death were all the rage for quite some time.
Whether or not he was related to the family of Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) the story of his death must surely have had an influence on the imagination of the boy Hector as he grew up in Broadgate Villa.

Saki story about a tiger

More about Saki's stories and Munroe's death


Thomas Lee Jnr born at Barbican House, near Trinity Street, his father a successful architect.

Link to Wiki entry for Thomas Lee


Frederick Richard Lee born, June

Barbican House, Barnstaple

F R Lee

Portrait of F R Lee as a youngish man.
This painting is the property of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

Our page about F R Lee -

An important new biography of F R Lee recently published,
by Kenneth J Westwood

www.avictorian.com - short biography

F R Lee on Wikipedia

FR Lee by Margaret Reed, on The Pilton Story website


Turner comes to Barnstaple, on his 1811 tour, perhaps partly to visit his uncle who lives in Barnstaple.

Turner's sketch at the Tate Gallery
  This description gives Turner's Uncle as being called John, not William (see later) and mentions that he was Master of the Poor House, which was thought to be the workhouse on the site that became the modern Barnstaple Library.


Benjamin Manning born, Tiverton

Our page about Benjamin Manning


Turner paints Barnstaple Bridge – another visit to his Uncle?
Link to sketch at Tate Gallery


(possible date)

Frederick Richard Lee has commission in 56th Regiment
and serves in the Netherlands


FR Lee leaves Army because of ill health  and from this time devoted his life to landscape painting


Frederick Richard Lee becomes a student at the Royal  Academy.

J M W Turner was a Member and a Tutor of the Royal Academy, and the two of them are likely to have known one another, especially as they both had family in North Devon.


A Lace Factory is opened at Raleigh Pilton (a branch of Heathcote's Tiverton)
Benjamin Manning moves to Pilton around this time.


Hugh Robert Hibbert born, in Birtles, Cheshire. 19th December:
he is later to marry F R Lee's daughter, and become Mayor of Barnstaple.


Lee paints “The Lane towards Pitt Farm, Raleigh, in Pilton” in July. 
This painting could have been done while he
 was visiting his family in Barnstaple.

Painting by F R Lee


Benjamin Manning marries Elizabeth Gribble (from Parish of Bishops
 Tawton)  23 October


27 Oct   Pilton Parish Church: John Gribble Manning baptised,
 Benjamin Manning's first child.


Thomas Lee Jnr drowned in accident at Mortehoe. He had been a successful architect like his father, and there is a plaque commemorating him at St Anne's Chapel. Among his works were the Wellington Monument and Arlington Court, and also the Barnstaple Guildhall - where Benjamin Manning was  later on to attend Town Council Meetings - and the Town Council in 2017 voted unanimously against any development on Manning's Pit.

memorial plaque -thomas Lee

Thomas Lee Jr may also have been the architect responsible for Broadgate Villa, the house where Saki lived as a boy. This house is directly opposite Broadgate house, which became F R Lee's home in 1858.
One other item of interest - it is possible that Thomas Lee lost his life in a surfing accident. Surfboard riding probably became popular after Captain Cook and his crew witnessed it off the island Kauai in Hawaii in 1778


Pilton Parish Church  4 October William Manning baptised
 - Benjamin Manning's second child


Pilton Parish Church Frederick Richard Manning baptised, Benjamin Manning's third child.

JMW Turner's uncle moves to Littabourne from central Barnstaple. Littabourne is only a quarter of a mile from Manning's Pit, and the about the same distance from Broadgate House where F R Lee was to live later. While Turner died before Lee bought Broadgate house, it is possible that  Lee knew about Turner's uncle, or even had some contact with him in Littabourne while on family visits to Barnstaple..


FR Lee was elected a full member of Royal Academy  in 1838, enjoying great success as a landscape painter, associating with Sir Edwin Landseer and Thomas Cooper.  He is known to have collaborated with them in the 1840s and 50s, Frederick painting the landscapes while Landseer or Cooper added the animals. He settled at Penshurst in Kent with his wife Harriet and daughter Sarah Catherine.


Pilton Parish Church   Harriet Manning baptised, Benjamin's fourth and last child.

Sarah Catherine Augusta Lee born in (London?)  F R Lee's daughter.

Sarah Hibbert

link to page about Sarah Hibbert and her husband Colonel Hugh Hibbert.
Their  granddaughter married Henry Williamson's wife


Broadgate Villa for sale.  This house was later to become the childhood home of H H Munro (Saki)


Hugh Hibbert first enters army as an Ensign in the 39th Foot.

enters Regiment Royal Fusiliers, went with them as a captain to the Crimea. He reached the rank of Brevet Major in 1855 without purchase due to exhibiting bravery and leadership on the battlefield.
More details of his army career ,and a photograph of Hugh Hibbert, can be found here:



Sale of Pilton Estate, including the field known as Northfield (or North Fields)  part of which became known later as Manning's Pit.  As the map makes clear, it was bounded by Northfield Lane, which has not changed its name.

map showing North Field

Benjamin Manning writes to the North Devon Journal during his dispute with "Tenant Farmer" over pigs.
Here is a part of the letter:

"Indeed, I admit the impropriety of keeping pigs in places not adapted for that purpose; but the place in which I store mine is situated at the extremity of a garden 120 feet from the nearest dwelling house. This place is sheltered by a wall 10 feet in height; so that nothing, in the way of mischief, can reasonably be supposed to result from pigs being kept under such circumstances. But one word more – will Mr “Tenant Farmer” be so bold, and so manly, and so honest, as to give his proper name and address in answer to this, that our townspeople may have the opportunity of knowing to whom they must send their wash. I hope he will learn from this that pigs are not the only unclean animals; and that meanness and spleen, grounded on the most fallacious, ungenerous, and unjust principles, as they of necessity be, can never fail to merit the censure and disapprobation of very lover of truth."

The Full  Letter

Mr Tennant Farmer's letter

Western Times - November 10 1849
Benjamin Manning stands in Municipal Elections for North Ward as "champion of pig-sties"

Municipal Elections
Cutting from the British Newspaper Archives


Harriet Eves Lee dies in Kent, and is buried there, where she and Frederick Richard Lee have been living.

Manning and Sons butchers shop in High Street, note the sign also says Auctioneers. This shop looks very much the same today. It is now (2016, since then sold again)  a shop by the name of "Saltrock"

Benjamin Manning outside his butcher's
                          shop in Barnstaple High Street

20 June North Devon Journal, notice of Public Meeting,
 Pilton Parish Council. concerning sewers of parish,
 Benjamin Manning one of overseers of Parish.

Hugh Robert Hibbert commissioned Lieutenant in the 7th Royal Fusiliers.


Benjamin Manning, butcher, grocer, auctioneer,  living near 30 Pilton Street with wife Elizabeth and four children, plus wife's father and mother, John and Elizabeth Gribble. John is a Greenwich Pensioner. Also Manning nephew, John.

J M W Turner dies in December
More details from South Molton website:
Turner never married and in his Will he made provision for land for the building of almshouses for "decayed English artists (Landscape Painters only) and single men". In a codicil made in 1848, he left all his pictures to the nation, providing that an Art Gallery, to be known as "Turner's Gallery", was built and maintained at the nation's expense. If it was not built within ten years from the date of Turner's death then his heirs-at-law could claim the entire collection. When Turner died in December 1851, his next-of-kin contested Probate on the grounds that he had been of unsound mind.


North Devon Journal
Benjamin Manning (auctioneer) sells a house owned by a Mr William Turner (Mason) in Silver St.
Probably coincidence but see below, 1856.


Hugh Robert Hibbert serves with 7th Royal Fusiliers, in the war in Crimea, they embark April 1854

From the Macclesfield Express (the story is based on research by Macclesfield historian Dorothy Bentley-Smith)

"Shipped to the Crimea with his regiment Lt. Hibbert was first engaged in the battle of the River Alma, where the French, British and Turkish armies defeated the Russians on 20th September 1854. The Fusiliers had led the storming columns, and young Hibbert suffered a slight but painful wound to his ankle from one of the last shots fired on the battlefield, which lodged in the heel of his boot.

Learning erroneously that Sevastopol was well defended on the northern side, the command was given to attack from the south, which meant skirting around the town. At first, with the peasant farmers gone, there was much fruit and food to be had from the cottages and orchards. However, conditions rapidly changed. Though lame Hibbert refused to leave his men and walked the ‘very severe march’ south to the Crimean port of Balaklava, even refusing a request to complete the journey aboard a British naval vessel."

Read the brief extract in the Macclesfield Express:


The Crimean War
21 April
Hugh Robert Hibbert writes:
We have a new invention to annoy our friends ( the Russians at Sebastopol) in their pits. It consists of filling empty soda water bottles full of powder, old twisted nails....
Read more here

8 September
Major Hibbert seriously wounded (See story based on Dorothy Bentley-Smith's research in Macclesfield Express)


9 April
Declared public holiday in Macclesfield, hundreds line streets, magnificent sword presented to Major Hibbert as town honours him
(See story based on Dorothy Bentley-Smith's research in Macclesfield Express)

Benjamin Manning “wields his auctioneer's hammer with his customary zeal”  North Devon Journal

More details about J M W Turner's will, from South Molton Website:

On 19th March 1856 after long drawn out court hearings, the "charity" money was split between his five cousins or their descendants with the result that Turner's plans for his almshouses came to nothing.

According to a report in the Exeter Flying Post dated March 20th 1856 the agreement reached was that Turner's pictures were to be handed over to the National Gallery together with a sum of £200,000 to the Royal Academy for the encouragement of landscape painting. A large fortune, consisting of about £100,000 in funds and other property was to go to Mr. Turner's nearest relations; Mr. T. P. Turner and Mrs. Matthews of Exeter, Mrs. Tepper and Mrs. John Widgery of South Molton, and Mr. William Turner of Barnstaple. Mrs. John Widgery (Mary Ann Turner Tucker Widgery) was a first cousin to the artist and the daughter of his father's sister Mary.


Frederick R Lee remarried in 1857. His new wife owned the Broadgate Estate.

The Royal Academy has a charming sketch of a "sunfish" painted by him in this year, caught by him while on a trip (presumably in his yacht) from Algiers to Gibraltar.



FR Lee returned to North Devon in 1858, when he moved into Broadgate House, Pilton.  His second wife, Mary, sadly died only eighteen months after their marriage.  Having inherited his father’s fortune and being well-established as a major figure in the English landscape painting world, he traveled widely in this country and abroad

This is a photograph from 1858 of Broadgate Villa,  which was across the road from Broadgate House.. You can see two trees on the right on a hill, and the slope of Manning's Pit is almost certainly just beyond them.  The trees would border the field.  This shows clearly how close both houses were to the fields now known as Manning's Pit.
Broadgate Villa was to become the home of the Munro family, and the young Saki a few years later.

Broadgate Villa 1858

There is a photograph of the Desborough family on the Pilton Story website, with more information about them.

Incidentally, on Thursday November 11, in 1858 Mr Manning was involved as auctioneer in a sale of furniture for a Mrs Davis, at Broadgate Villa. We do not know whether that means the Desborough's were there as well, but it certainly is possible that the F R Lee came to the auction, as it was just across the road from his own house.
One other note of interest:  Thomas Lee was probably  the architect who designed Broadgate Villa.


FR Lee makes a new garden and inserts a wall around the Longstone, and from the 1860s spent his time between Broadgate House, his yacht in which he sailed the world, and South Africa, where he owned several farms.    He died in South Africa and was buried there in 1879.


Catherine Sarah Lee marries Col Hugh Hibbert (1828-1895) at Birtles Cheshire – it would be interesting to find out more about how they met.. They were to have five daughters and one son, so although he went to India in 1864,  Colonel Hibbert must have returned to England regularly! It appears that they spent much of their married life in Broadgate house, well before Lee died, as (at least most of) their children were baptised in Pilton Church, and Col Hibbert was a magistrate in Barnstaple.

Benjamin Manning aged 49 and family plus mother in law and three servants now live in Joy Street, he is a spirit merchant and auctioneer.

18 June
Henry Desborough of Broadgate Villa dies. Late of Pilton, formerly Secretary of the Atlas Assurance Company Cheapside to the City of London, left effects of under £2000.

24 December
John and Benjamin Manning refuse to pay for a Prize Pig they had agreed to buy.


Hugh Thomas Hibbert, son of Colonel Hugh Hibbert and Sarah Hibbert, was born on August 5th in Gibraltar.


Egham rail accident
Benjamin Manning in dispute over with SW Rail wants £500 after hitting head in accident in Egham

Court case over Prize Pig, the Manning family lose.

Benjamin meets juror in market a week later, ends up in court,
fined for abusive language.


  On 20th March Hugh Hibbert writes from India to his father
"I am agreeably surprised with India, tho' it is not a place I should like to live in and shall not wish to stay a day longer than was absolutely necessary. "


Victoria Catherine Hibbert, daughter of Hugh and Sarah,  baptised Pilton Church


Court Case
Benjamin Manning's charwoman
details to be added

Nov 1868
Letter to Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Benjamin Manning threatens his milkman with a meat cleaver

Manning threatens milkman
Cutting from the British Newspaper Archives


Benjamin on Town Council (he served three five year terms)

Hector Hugh Munro born in Burma

Our page about Hector Hugh Munro

Hector was to become a world famous short story writer, known under his pen-name "Saki." He spent most of his childhood living with his aunts in Broadgate Villa, just across the road from Broadgate House.


Margaret Dora 4th child of Sarah and Col Hibbert born. She became the mother of Henry Williamson's wife.

There is a record of Northfield, the large field below Northfield Lane that leads down to Bradiford Water,  being leased by Manning from Sir Frederick Williams.


John Manning advert High street

Mary Frances Munro, Hector's mother, hit by cow and dies...
Captain Munro left his children in Pilton, in Broadgate Villa under the care of his two sisters when he had to return to work in Burma.
NDJ Thursday 20th- March

Death of Saki's Mother

Thanks to Bill Greenwell for the above cutting, here is more from his website about Hector Munro's childhood:

No date yet for when Mercer family acquired/leased Broadgate Villa, but it was around this time.


Post office records
Manning and Sons Spanish Wine Stores, 29 Joy Street,
Manning John and Son, butchers and cattle dealers, 74 High Street.

In November 1873 a letter from Frederick Richard Lee to his Barnstaple relatives was reported in the local paper which stated that, at the age of seventy, he had just completed a voyage around the world in his yacht ‘Linda’, and was then engaged on another trip to remote parts.  The message concluded ‘we are all well and hearty, and have no fear for the future.’


George Frederick Hibbert, son of Colonel and Mrs Hibbert, is baptised in Pitlon Church, 14 September.


"Wanted an active and intelligent lad"
 Mannings advertises for help

Mannings advertises for help
Cutting from the British Newspaper Archives

9 June
An auction held in Manning and Sons Auction Rooms, above the Bodega.

Advert for auction at Bodega
Cutting from the British Newspaper Archives


FR Lee dies in S Africa
Sarah inherits Broadgate House and Estate.


At Broadgate Villa, Pilton.

Lucy E Munro aged 73, widowed
Charlotte M Munro aged 50, "Tom"
Augusta J Munro aged 39
Ethel M Munro aged 12
Hector Hugh Munro aged 10
Leah M Hepper servant aged 27 born Morchard.

Hector Hugh Munro attends the 1888 By Election

The above link takes you to a full report from the North Devon Journal of the exciting events that took place that day. As Ethel Munro, Hector's sister, related in "The Square Egg", the Munro family watched events from a room above what is now Youing's sweet shop. Benjamin Manning was ill around this time, but his son William nominated Lord Lymingotn, who won the Election. Col Hibbert was one of those who nominated his opponent, Sir Robert Carden.

Sarah Hibbert commissions window in St.Peter's Church, Barnstaple, as a memorial to her father, F R Lee.
More about this here.


Hector Hugh Munro as a boy.

Hector Hugh Munro 1891

29 Joy Street
Head of house:
Benjamin Manning, widower
Licensed Victualler and Auctioneer
age 69
Other Household Members
Willaim Manning 45 Auctioneer
Amelai Pinkham 55, servant, bar maid
Mary Baker 28 domestic servant
Frederick Mogridge 16
John Phillips 14...waiter?


Benjamin Manning dies age 72, obituary

Friday 11 May 1873, from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, details taken from from the British Newspaper Archives


"The death is recorded of Mr. Benjamin Manning, of the Bodega, Joy Street, and chief of the firm of Manning and Son, auctioneers. The deceased, who died at the age of 72, has led an active and a useful life, and at one time took a prominent interest in local affairs, having been elected for three terms of three years each to the Town Council. He was Liberal in politics of the old school, always expressing his opinions fearlessly, but sometimes with an amount of vehemence which made it rather unpleasant for an opponent should he be close at hand.

He was a self-made and self-taught man. His knowledge of Shakespeare was considerable, and we never recollect hearing Mr Manning speak on political matters, either in public or private, without illustrating his argument with some apt quotation from that poet. He established the Bodega wine and spirit vaults, and for years he made it the head centre of Liberalism in the town. His strong convictions and his love of expressing them always drew to the house the principal men of his party, who now regret his decease. Mr Manning had been failing in health for the past few years, taking to his bed three weeks ago."


William Manning dies 


Allan Smith born

Probably this year:

Margaret Dora Hibbert marries Charles Robert Hibbert, against family wishes. He was twenty years older than her, and her cousin.
  They live (impecuniously) in White House Abbotsham...


  Francis Hibbert born, Charles and Margaret's first child.


Artist Joseph Kennedy dies

Col Hibbert Mayor of Barnstaple


Col Hibbert and Sarah entertain Duke of Cambridge
Col Hibbert dies - buried in Pilton Churchyard.

sale furniture Broadgate Villa
Cutting from the British Newspaper Archives


Dogged" a short story, appeared as written by H H Munro, in St. Paul's, 18 February


Augusta Munro dies, Hector's Aunt.
The Rise of the Russian Empire, by H H Munro, is published ( a history.)


Ida Loetitia is born - daughter of Margaret Dora Hibbert and Charles Robert Hibbert, granddaughter of Sarah and Hugh Hibbert, and great granddaughter of F R Lee. 


The Woman who Never Should (political sketch) by H H Munro, plus other publications.
 The Not So Stories and The Westminster Alice.


We do not know -yet - when the bottom part of the field known as North Field first became known as Manning's Pit. We have however spoken to locals whose parents said they played in Manning's Pit when they were children, back in around 1904, so it was known by that name then.

Reginald (Short Stories) H H Munro,


Reginald In Russia - H H Munro (short stories)


The Chronicles of Clovis published (short stories) H H Munro (Saki)


The Unbearable Bassington (novel) published, H H Munro (Saki)


When William Came (novel) published, H H Munro/ Saki.


Beasts and Super Beasts published H H Munro Saki.
These short stories include The Lumber Room.
Also The East Wing (Short story) published.

1912 - 18

Allan Smith paints a set of painting now in Phillip Boadens' possession,
including one of  Manning's Pit, shown below

Manning's Pit by Allan Smith


Hector Munro's other Aunt. Aunt "Tom" dies in January - Hector and Ethel have to dash down to Barnstaple.


Hector Hugh Munro is killed by a sniper's bullet in the trenches, on November


Broadgate Estate sold - catalogue on Pilton Story website.  Sarah Hibbert is forced to sell the Estate and many possessions in order to settle the debts of a wayward son.  One report in a newspaper mentions a painting of F R Lee's that was "touched in " by J M W Turner, RA.  The sale includes the portrait of FR Lee (shown above, earlier) which is now in Barnstaple Museum.


The Toys of Peace (short stories) published posthumously, H H Munro (Saki.)  Interestingly, the boys in the story have a great uncle who fought in the battle of Inkerman (as did Hugh Hibbert)
After a short stay in Ebberley Lawn,  Barnstaple, Mrs Hibbert moves back to Pilton and lives at No 2 Bellaire, opposite Church Lane, and almost opposite Broadgate House.


Allan Smith is Art Master Barnstaple Boys Grammar

The Square Egg and Other Sketches, by Ethel M Munro, Saki's sister, published.
This includes mentions of walk in the countryside that they loved,
and a description of Hector's interest in the 1880 By Election.


Henry Williamson marries Ida Loetitia Hibbert

Our Page about Henry Williamson

Henry Williamson and Ida Loetitia Hibbert


Tarka the Otter, by Henry Williamson published

While writing this book, Henry Williamson is said to have walked up and down all the streams and rivers in North Devon where Otter Hunting took place. He became very close to Sarah Catherine Hibbert and visited her at No 2 Bellaire Cottages.  She is the first person to be sent news that he has won the Hawthornden Prize.


The Village Book by Henry Williamson is published,
with a dedication to "Grannie Hibbert", Sarah Catherine Hibbert, Ida's grandmother. You can read more about Henry Williamson's feelings for Sarah Hibbert at the link above. We are grateful to the Williamson family for information that they have given us about the link between the Williamson and Hibbert families.

Sarah Hibbert


Sarah "Grannie" Hibbert dies. She is buried in Pilton Churchyard alongside her husband.

Grave of Hugh and Sarah Hibbert


On Foot in Devon by Henry Williamson published.
This book describes walks around the North Devon Coast, and there is a mention of Saki in the portion dealing with the route from Braunton to Barnstaple. We have been told by the Williamson family that the Hibbert and Munro families did indeed socialise. It is often said the Munro children were kept apart from other children and society, but they did in fact mix with their neighbours, the Hibberts. This is not surprising considering the two families had much in common, with their connections to both Kent and India. Both families also attended Pilton Church.


Salar The Salmon published by Henry Williamson
HW knew all the rivers of North Devon and it is highly probably that he visited the Bradiford Valley and the Manning's Pit area, either when researching for his books, fishing - Bradiford Water is a known salmon river - or in earlier years visiting Grannie Hibbert.


A battle between the Pilton and Bradiford boys around this time was
 to become the inspiration behind Brian Norman's poem," The Battle of Manning's Pit.":

The poem.

Brian Norman and his cousin John recite the poem on film,
 in support of the campaign to Save Manning's Pit, in 2017.


Boys snowballing Manning's Pit, 1951
Snowballing in Manning's Pit,
photograph from Pilton Story Website


Allan Smith retires from Barnstaple Grammar.
he also taught at Barnstaple Art School in the High Stree


Old Postcard

The Manning's Pit fields from Tutshill Woods,


Allan Smith dies


Pilton Longstone Excavation - more information to be added.

Barnstaple Art School closed, building demolished, now Waterstones.
Pilton Art Group formed, purchase old Pilton School Building. and continue as an Art Group up until the present day.
Many members have painted Manning's Pit.


Lynbro road built, Manning's way constructed, original footpath from Northfield Lane, into Manning's Pit.


Maning's Pit Bridge
Manning's Pit Bridge from old photograph


Women versus Men football Match, barbecue in the Pit

Football Team in Manning's Pit


Peter Squire paints Manning's Pit

Manning's Pit by Peter Squire


Egg rolling in Manning's Pit

Egg pacing, egg decorating in Manning's Pit, events organised by Vicar

Local children on Manning's Pit bridge in
Local children on Manning's Pit bridge in 1980's

Sledging in Manning's Pit, probably from 1980s

Sledging in Manning's Pit


Pilton Green Man Festival founded.


Zodiac Mindwarp, a hard rock group set up by Mark Manning,
have a UK Top 20 hit in May 1987 with Prime Mover.


Zodiac Mindwarp/Mark Manning


  Mark Manning (Zodiac Mindwarp) moves into Windsor Road and often
 takes his son down into Manning's Pit to play by the bridge.


James Lovelock visits Manning's Pit along with other family members when his daughter and grandchildren move to Windsor Road, Pilton, close to the fields, and opposite the house where Mark Manning lives. During the next twenty years many of his family come to know Manning's Pit well.

2004 - 2014

Countryside Stewardship scheme in Manning's Pit fields.


The Unbearable Saki
A biography by Dr. Sandie Byrne is published

Who Killed Mrs De Ropp
Drama starring Ben Daniels, Gemma Jones, Julia Joyce
based on Saki's stories

Playwright Henry Lewis walks in Manning's Pit
(photo Tony Gussin, North Devon Gazette)

Henry Lewis in Manning's Pit


Artist Ken Doughty dies (1930-2009, lived very close to Manning's Pit, (not yet known if he did any any paintings of Manning's Pit)

Sledging in Manning's Pit 2009

Families sledging in Manning's Pit - whenever it snows,
 it seems like all the families with children in Pilton are out in Manning's Pit

The Pilton Story founded.


Mananng's Pit by Tim Saunders
Manning's Pit by Tim Saunders

Exhibition by Tim Saunders and Christine Lovelock includes
paintings of Manning's Pit by both artists.


Snow on Tutshill, from Manning's Pit
Snow on Tutshill, from Manning's Pit

Exhibition of Paintings of Manning's Pit
 by Christine Lovelock

Museum Exhibition of 5 Barnstaple Artists includes work by Allan Smith

Mark Manning has an Exhibition of his Paintings
40 works bought by Damien Hirst.


Sketch of Manning's Pit bridge by Margaret
Manning's Pit bridge by Margaret Reed

Pilton Arts Group - The First Forty Years
published by Margaret Reed


Manning's Pit sold at Auction to Summix Ltd, speculators from London.
The Friends of Manning's Pit is formed but tragically is not able to raise the funds
 to bid for the land at the auction in the short time available.
The Friends of Manning's Pit Campaign Group launched and the community response is magnificent.


People in
                            Manning's Pit
The people of Pilton come out into Manning's Pit

This was a small march organised with very little notice, but good photographs

Protest March in Barnstaple Town Centre,
at least two hundred people attend despite dreadful weather
 unfortunately link to NDJ report and photographs no longer works.


First Friends of Manning's Art Exhibition - five artists exhibit

Martin Kemp a film director who has produced films for BBC/Channel 4 etc joins the campaign
and starts filming in Manning's Pit.

Public Exhibition held by Summix's agents to show plans for development, but of the hundreds who attended' most preferred to go upstairs in the same building to see the official launch of Martin Kemp's wonderful film
"The Magic of Mannings' Pit."

Friends of Manning's Pit hold numerous events in the community.
Save Manning's Pit posters and signs appear spontaneously all around Pilton, creating a visual demonstration that is to last two years.
A page of posters

Save Manning's Pit petition launched,
those who sign it include
 James Lovelock, the world famous environmental scientist

 Jonathon Porritt, former Director Friends of the Earth

others to sign include:

Julia Bird, poet and author of "Hannah and the Monk" and "Twenty Four Seven Blossom," 

Welsh landscape artists and authors David Bellamy and Jenny Keal

 Trevor Beer (naturalist who won the Gavin Maxwell Award for the Conservation of Otters)

 The leaders of all the main political parties in North Devon  and almost all the population of Pilton, with the exception of those who do not sign online petitions but preferred to sign a paper one.
The politicians to sign are:
Sir Nick Harvey (former Liberal Democrat Government Minister and North Devon MP)
Peter Heaton-Jones (present Conservative North Devon MP)
Steve Crowther (UKIP Party Chairman)
Ricky Knight (Former Barnstaple Town Councillor and former Lead Candidate for the Green Party at the European Elections)
Mark Cann  (Labour Party Candidate at the last General Election)
November 2016

In the Lumber Room with Saki

 A programe on Radio Four Extra by Shuan Ley

One hundred years after Hector Hugh Munro was killed by a sniper's bullet on the Somme battlefield, Shaun Ley, who also grew up in Devon, returns to Saki's childhood home to explore the environment that made the author.
During the three hour programme, well known actor Ben Daniels read one of Saki's most famous short stories, the story of Shredni Vashtar.

Home of Saki

This, above, is the house (as it was when Shaun Ley visited it to make the programme)) where Hector lived as a boy.
In his day, the fields behind his house led down to Bradiford Water, perhaps 200 yards away. It was a short walk up the river bank to the little bridge that crossed the stream at Manning's Pit.
These words come close to the end of the famous story:
"The great polecat-ferret made its way down to a small brook at the foot of the garden, drank for a moment, then crossed a little plank bridge and was lost to sight in the bushes. Such was the passing of Sredni Vashtar."

Was Hector thinking of Manning's Pit bridge when he wrote those words? It seems very likely.  See our Saki page for more information


Michael Morpugo
sends a late Christmas Card, and message of support, saying
"Of course I support your brave and important effort to stem the tide of intrusion into our precious places."

Second Friends of Manning's Pit Art Exhibition
North Devon MP gives out prizes at Children's competition
11 artists exhibit, including former Mayor Ian Scott.

Manning's Pit by Ian Scott, former Mayor of

Save Manning's Pit Banner has a star turn in the
Pilton Panto

                            Manning's Pit banner in Pilton Panto

  For more about the Pilton Panto, go to this link

.Planning Application for 41 houses on the Manning's Pit field is submitted in February.  
North Devon Council receives hundreds of letters of objection.

The Life and Times of Manning's Pit

Museum Exhibition Poster

An Exhibition at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

This includes paintings by F R Lee, Alan Smith and Mark Manning, among others.
Also exhibits relating to Benjamin Manning, HH Munro (Saki)
and  Henry Williamson.

Childhood's End by Mark Manning
Childhood's End by Mark Manning

Christmas Exhibition at Burton Art Gallery, Bideford -
three works depicted Maning's Pit are exhibited there


FR Lee's work included in Exhibition in Exeter Museum

A new biography of F R Lee published.

Ken Loach signs our Petition with these Comments:

‘People need homes - but they also need green spaces. There is no conflict between a properly planned housing programme‎ and the preservation of historic open land. I strongly support saving Manning's Pit for future generations to enjoy.’

Richard and Anne Williamson,

Henry Williamson's son and daughter in law, sign our petition, and tell us that Henry Williamson visited Grannie Hibbert in her cottage in Bellaire, as well as the Manning's Pit area.

Pilton Panto 2018

Our banner makes another appearance!

March 2018

The application by Summix to build on Manning's Pit is withdrawn

Dr Sandie Byrne signs the petition.  She is the author of "The Unbearable Saki" and visited Broadgate Villa during the making of Shaun Ley's Radio Four Programme.

June 2018

Satish Kumar signs our petition.

August 2018

The Inaugural Manning's Pit Poetry Competition is launched.

October 2019 Note

More to be added here, but for the moment you can find out all that has happened since August 2018 by going to our Campaign Page.

Please Note:
This Timeline is a work in progress so apologies if any links are not complete, etc, and any attributions missed. We will also be producing a more simplified Timeline with only the main events recorded.
We are still researching this History and will be grateful for any contributions or corrections if anyone would like to send them to us.

Our sources and people we would like to thank, in no particular order:

The British Newspaper Archive
The Pilton Story Website
Margaret Reed
Bill Greenwell
Anne Williamson
 Henry Williamson Society
Michael and Lyn Essery
Peter and Sheena Ferguson
The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
The Athaneum at North Devon Library
Dorothy Bentley-Smith
The Macclesfield Express
Mark Manning

We also believe that that Ian Dury had a family  connection with Bradiford, and may have known Manning's Pit, only about a quarter of a mile from Bradiford Hill.

The research for this Timeline and the Life and Times of Manning's Pit was undertaken by Christine Lovelock and Tim Saunders.

  Please contact manningspit@gmail.com if you have any information or corrections you would like to send us.