Number 74 High Street, Manning and Sons
The photograph from which this illustration was copied is in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. It shows the butcher's shop at No 74 High Street that was one of the properties owned by Benjamin Manning in around 1850. The man in the doorway is almost certainly Benjamin himself.

Benjamin Manning

Who was Benjamin Manning, what is his connection with Pilton and Manning's Pit,
and why is he such an interesting character?

Benjamin Manning was a man who could be described as something of a "rough diamond", and entrepreneur, a man who came to Pilton as a factory worker but ended up as a well known figure in both Pilton and Barnstaple, with a butcher's and grocer's shop in Pilton. He also became an auctioneer, and opened two other shops, the butcher's shop in the illustration above, and what can be described as the first ever Wine Bar in Barnstaple, "The Bodega" selling Spanish Wines and spirits in Joy Street, where he and son William ended their days. All the enterprises were very much family ones, with William also an auctioneer and John a butcher and cattle merchant.

We will be posting a more detailed history of his life, but to begin with here is his obituary, which gives a real flavour of the the kind of man that he was, and does much to explain why his memory has lingered on:

From the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, Friday 11th May 1883

The cutting was taken from the British Newspaper Archives, who gave us permission to reproduce it.

obituary Benjamin Manning 1883

The full text is copied below, as it isn't so easy to read the cutting:


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."


More about Benjamin Manning

We are now beginning to add more details about his life, and here are links to the next two pages:

Benjamin Manning and the toll bar fine, from the North Devon Journal of 1847

Benjamin Manning's letter to the North Devon Journal in 1849, in regard to his dispute with the anonymous "Tenant Farmer" about pigs.