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Mrs Burgess was born in 1890. Her father was Herbert James Mansfield who, a few years earlier, had bought the shop in West Street opposite the bakery from the Misses Comins, Harriet and May, grocers and drapers. (See Morris's Directory for 1870.) Her mother was Miss Frost who was born at Coombe (the same Directory shows Charles Frost, farmer, Coombe). Her mother had two sisters, Harriet (who married Mr Amos Maire) and Kate (who married Mr Charles Partridge), who, before their marriages, took on the Mitre as a dairy with their brother Charles (whose name appears in Kelley's Directory for 1893) who had a club foot. The Mitre, at the time, belonged to Rev. J.P. Benson. H.J. Mansfield's uncle was the "John Mansfield - National Schoolmaster, assistant overseer, clerk to the magistrates and vestry clerk" of Morris 1870 Directory. H.J. Mansfield was, in addition, to being a grocer and draper, agent/manager for Fox, Fowler and Co. before their bank was taken over by Lloyds.

Mrs Burgess went to the Lower School at the age of 5, and left at 12 to go to Exeter Middle School. At the Lower School she remembers being set, with others in the class, the task of writing a letter to say that the Rev Benson was arriving by train and was to be met. The letter also had to describe him so that he would be recognised. She cannot what she wrote but it made the Rev. Benson laugh. She recalls being well taught by the schoolmaster, Mr Andrews, and that the cane was used only "a bit." She also remembers the fleas on one particular family that used to sit next to her. She used to go home to dinner, but those from a distance bought "three halfpenny busters" from Whitfields. The schoolmaster at Higher School was Mr Carter who lived in a house in Fore Street that had one of the first electric doorbells worked by a bell push and Mrs Burgess remembers a young lad at Mr Carters door as she was passing unable to understand the bell push and saying to her "help us with the bell, us can't catch hold to 'un." Mrs Burgess estimates that the first car seen in Witheridge must have been in about 1902. Her father used to run out to see a car pass. Talking of cars reminded Mr and Mrs Burgess of their wedding day of which they have cuttings from the Western Times in a scrapbook.

Mr Burgess came in a car from Exeter with his best man, his brother, but at Tridley Foot, the car broke down half way up the steep part and "steam came out of it." The two of them walked on through Thelbridge Cross to Witheridge and arrived in time in spite of the roughness of the roads and not knowing how far it was. The car was repaired and got to Witheridge in time to take the bride and groom to Tiverton Junction to catch the train to Bath for their honeymoon. They went to live at 119 Alphington Road, Exeter, where, after over 60 years, they still live there in 1980. Mrs Burgess's interest in bees began one day when she and her husband were taking the children on a trip to Ide and they came across a swarm of bees. They went and got Mr Burgess's brother Percy who took the swarm and bought it home. Mrs Burgess was so interested that she stayed home to watch the bees and Mr Burgess went on to Ide with the children. By 1922, she was Bee-Keeping officer of the Eastern Division of the Devon Beekeepers Association and, later, she held the same spot for the whole of Devon under the County Council until 1950. During the Second World War, she received a special petrol ration to continue her work. For her own bee-keeping, she rented ground at Stoke Canon, Thorverton, Copplestone, Broadclyst, Peamore. The rent was paid in honey at the end of the season. She used to visit the hives every ten days in summer. She also kept at 119, Alphington Road and a "Beeway", the acre of ground near Westway Cross, Thelbridge which she bought from the owner of Westway for £100 during the second world war.

Mrs Burgess mentioned her brother, Comins Mansfield, M.B.E., the author of books of chess problems. She remembers a little boy coming from Selley's, the butchers next door with "Mr Mansfield brains" and "Mr Mansfield blood." She joined the staff of the Lower School at the age of 19 and taught the infants (up to age 7) of whom there were about 40. Attendance was good and she recalls no problems. She remembers the disused turnpike also cottage opposite the school but can't remember no trace of a turnpike cottage by Chapner Cross. She remembers that Mansfield's great rivals were Pullens. She remembers that once her father had an advertisement in the shop front which read "Don't go to bed without a cup of tea" and one passing youngster said "Oh but us got to go to bed." Once her father heard some boys who were playing with her brother Comins say to him "What'll 'ee give us if us don't knock 'ee?" and Comins paid up. Her father was much in demand for speeches and also did Devonshire readings. In St Thomas, if you leave a door open you get asked "Born at Topsham?"

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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