Manning's Pit People

The people whose names have come up as we have researched the history of the field and its associations.

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 his family.

Manning and Sons shop in High Street

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.

F R Lee

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 works.

More information about F R Lee can be found here:

Sarah Hibbert

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 Williamson and Ida Loetitia Hibbert

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 river.

H H Munro

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 buildings.

Like Colonel Hibbert, Munro was in the Royal Fusiliers.
Link to Saki page coming very shortly!

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 shop too.

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 Barnstaple artist.

He painted Manning's Pit bridge in around 1912- 1919. His work was featured in an earlier Exhibition at the Museum.

Manning's Pit by Allan Smith
Manning's Pit
by Allan Smith

Henry John 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 poisoning.

Brian Norman, author of the poem, “The Battle of Manning's Pit” about a battle between gangs of boys back in the 1940's.

Ian Scott, 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
Manning's Pit.

Mark Manning

Mark Manning 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 bridge.

Childhood's End by Mark Mannning
Childhood's End
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.

Lee collaborated 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,
R A.

Ian Dury, who is said to have visited relatives in Bradiford at various times.

And of course, we must not miss out, the actual people who use and love Manning's Pit today!

Here are some of their stories:

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. 

Manning's Pit bridge by Peter Squire