Manning's Pit People
The people whose names have come up as we have
researched the history of the field and its
Benjamin Manning, lace machinist,
butcher, grocer, auctioneer, proprietor of the
Barnstaple Bodega, Spanish wines and spirits, also
three times Town Councillor and a prominent Liberal.
He lived in Pilton and then in Barnstaple and it is
believed that Manning's Pit was named after him and/or
Above is a copy of a photograph taken
outside one of Benjamin Manning's properties in
Barnstaple, a butcher's shop, No 74 High Street. The
actual photograph is in the Museum, but unfortunately
it is in poor condition.We are almost certain that the man standing
in front of the door of the shop, looking as if he has a cigar
in his hand, is Benjamin himself, and the
children could be his as well. No 74
High Street still exists as a shop (it is now
Saltrock) but the Barnstaple Bodega, at No 29 Joy
Street , where Benjamin lived with his son William in
his last years, was demolished years ago.
More information about Benjamin Manning here.
Frederick Richard Lee, R
A, a famous Victorian landscape artist. He owned
Broadgate House and the Broadgate Estate, and lived
within three hundred yards of Manning's Pit. He
especially loved painting mills and rivers, and would
almost certainly have walked through the Manning's Pit
fields, which led across the bridge to the six mills
of the Bradiford valley. He was a very prolific artist
and it is possible that there are paintings of the
field that became Manning's Pit among his undiscovered
Sarah Catherine Hibbert,
Frederick Richard Lee's daughter, and her husband Colonel
Hugh Hibbert, who fought in the Crimea,
and was Mayor of Barnstaple in 1893. After F R Lee's
death, Sarah inherited Broadgate house and the fields
adjoining Bradiford Water would have been a natural
place for the family to walk or fish.
Henry Willliamson, author
of Tarka the Otter and husband of Sarah Hibbert's
granddaughter, Ida Loetitia (their children were F R
Lee's great-grandchildren). He was very fond of Sarah
Hibbert and is said to have walked all the
tributaries of the Taw, while researching for Tarka
The Otter and Salar the Salmon, and that would include
going up Bradiford Water by Manning's Pit and beyond.
Both otters and salmon are known to have used the
Hector Hugh Munro (Saki)
short story writer, and his sister Ethel M Munro.
They lived across the road from the Hibbert/Lee
family, and were known to socialise with them. Ethel
talks of “the countryside we loved” and we can be
virtually certain this included the fields behind and
below their house, with a footpath leading up the
Manning's Pit bridge.
It is extremely likely that the
bridge in Saki's story of Sredni Vashtar was inspired
by the one in Manning's Pit.
Hector Hugh Munro was also a keen
naturalist and his collection of bird's eggs is said
to have been given to either Bideford or Barnstaple
Museum. As of yet it has not been discovered, but
could be somewhere in the attics of one of these
Like Colonel Hibbert, Munro was
in the Royal Fusiliers.
Did Lee, the Hibberts, the Munro
family and the Manning family all know of one another,
and which of them socialised together?
While he was very unlikely to
have socialised with Lee, the Hibberts and the
Munros, Benjamin Manning was such a well known local
character that they would certainly have known who he
was, if they passed him in the street or saw him at
local events. They are also likely to have read about
him in the local newspapers! They may also have come
into contact with him in his role as auctioneer. They
all attended Pilton Church, at times anyway, so would
have seen each other there, as well.
The Munro aunts did their own
shopping, so may have frequented the Manning's butcher
Lee went to Spain a number of
times on his yacht – and it remains an interesting
fact that Manning opened the Bodega selling Spanish
wines. Could Lee's trips to Spain have triggered
Benjamin's interest? He also called one of his sons
Frederick Richard, but that is probably coincidence.
Others who had local connections:
Allan Smith, well known
He painted Manning's Pit bridge
in around 1912- 1919. His work was featured in an
earlier Exhibition at the Museum.
by Allan Smith
Turbeville who lived in Bradiford, very close
to Manning's Pit, and was the brother of R. D.
Blackmore, the author of Lorna Doone. He became
famous after his mysterious death, from suspected
author of the poem, “The Battle of Manning's Pit”
about a battle between gangs of boys back in the
twice Mayor of Barnstaple, one of his Manning's Pit
paintings is in the Exhibition. His wife Margaret took part
in the famous 1977 Women versus Men Football match
in Manning's Pit.
Martin Kemp, Film Director, has
produced many documentary films for BBC and
Channel Four, most recent being “Sicily: Wonder of
the Mediterranean” (BBC2) which was shown in
January and February this year. He lives in Pilton
and made the two films that are shown in the
Exhibition, both about
also known as Zodiac Mindwarp of Zodiac
Mindwarp and The Love Reaction (the hard rock band
with a top twenty hit in the 1980s) also now a very
successful artist. He lived within a hundred yards
of Manning Pit in the late 90's and used to take his
son down to play in the river by the Manning's Pit
by Mark Manning
We also have found
connections to :
W. M. J.
Turner, RA, the artist, who may have taught F
R Lee when he was a student at the Royal Academy, or
possibly collaborated with him. It is known that
Turner visited Barnstaple in 1811 and 1814, but not
known whether he visited it later, when his uncle
moved from central Barnstaple to Littabourne in
Pilton, also close to Manning's Pit.
quite often with Sir Edwin Landseer and Thomas
Sidney Cooper (who may also have visited Broadgate.)
At the sale of the Broadgate Estate in 1918 a
painting titled “Burning Mill at Yeoford” was sold.
It was described as being by F R Lee, R A, and also
“touched in” by J M W Turner,
who is said to have visited relatives in Bradiford
at various times.
More pages are going to be added.
The Exhibition was set up by Tim Saunders
and Christine Lovelock. We both live in Pilton, and
have exhibited paintings of Manning's Pit for many
years. We organised the last two Friends of
Manning's Pit Art Exhibitions (2016/2017) which
included paintings of the fields by eleven artists,
one of whom was Peter Squire. His painting of
Manning's Pit bridge from 1980 shows the bridge as
it was in earlier years.