| 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
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
The cutting was taken from the British Newspaper
Archives, who gave us permission to reproduce it.
The full text is copied below, as it isn't so easy to read
"DEATH OF MR BENJAMIN MANNING -
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: