Capt. Pearce & The Luppitt Artillery: An Extract from the book 'Luppitt: Parish, Church and People'

"We have already had a glimpse of Luppitt men being caught up in the Monmouth rebellion more than 100 years before, now we have been given information which helps to broaden our knowledge of the effect of international tension in our rural area in the very early years of the 19thC. We were taught at school of the great relief to our nation at the naval history which was fought off Cape Trafalgar, when Admiral Lord Nelson and the British ships sealed the fate of the combined strength of French and Spanish vessels, and by so doing led to the breakdown of Napolean's scheme for invading England.

A publication by authors Mary Beacock Fryer and Christopher Dracott, 'A Biography of John Graves Simcoe' tells that these years around the turn of the century were in fact very troubled times, and that as General Simcoe had his Brigade Headquarters at Wolford much activity was centred there. A few extracts from this 'Biography' must suffice here. General Simcoe was commander of the West of England and was responsible for the training of the Militia over a very wide area.

'The Luppitt Artillery under Captain Pearce would meet at the battery on St Cyres Hill, to practice and to fire salutes on the King's birthday.'

A further entry from the Biography is best given as it is written,

'Life in the West of England was reasonably calm, but news from overseas signalled great rejoicing. Lord Nelson had been victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar; euphoria dampened by Nelson's death; John Bailey, (one of the staff at Wolford Lodge) recalled that people within earshot mistook Simcoe's exuberant celebrations for the arrival of the French:

… general simcoe sent to captain pearce to send the Luppitt artulery with thare cannon at the end of St. siruses hill thare to fire a salute it wase then 8 o'clock at night the people of honiton was rather alarmed hearing the cannon so very near them the guns wase herd very plain at axminster and many parts of devonshire general simcoe hade a very grand dinner party all the head gentery of the neiburhood wase present the greet new room wase fitted up buetefule moor than five hundred lamps lighted up in the room …

However in the following year, 1906, General Simcoe was aboard the Illustrious, a ship which was being freshly painted, and was taken ill, and he died on the 26th October. Details of the cortege accompanying the General's body from Exeter to Wonford are given.

'At Honiton, the troops were all drawn out, and minute guns fired. In short, every respect which could be paid to an esteemed, and much lamented commander was shown on this occasion. The body was interred by torch light, about six in the evening.' 'When the procession reached Wolford Chapel, thousands were waiting: the Church field was crowded. The Luppitt Company of Artillery was there with the guns, which were fired when the body was put in the grave, which shook the very house of Wolford.

The above references to an organised military force in Luppitt and also the name of a Captain Pearce prompts me to wonder if there might be a connection with a problem we have for a few years been anxious to resolve. Mrs Jesse Reed informed me that some cast iron slabs were found in a field named Target Moor when they came to Greenway many years ago, and one of them is still at Greenway, thanks to being kept by the present owners. It is about ½ to ¾ of an inch thick and measures six feet by two feet, the top face is divided by neat grooves into six inch squares, clearly numbered one to four across its width, and one to six from the central line to each end. In addition to the squares, it has circles and semi-circles based on its central line; one eight inch diameter circle at the centre, and eight inch semi-circles on the centre of each long side. From the same three centre points of these, other circles and semi-circles of 1ft 9 in and 2 feet are also formed with similar grooves. 

So what were they made for; so elaborately and accurately marked? Six feet by 2 feet would tie up with the dimensions of a man as a target, but why shoot at cast iron; and what of the numbered squares? One would expect a higher score at the centre, wheras the lower one is along the centre line. Perhaps someone reading this could inform us. 

So was the Captain Pearce resident at Greenway? A document dated July 1767 mentions an Edward Pearse of Luppitt, but spelt with an 's' and it seems probable that a family of that name was at Greenway until 1855, when it passed to George Potter Blake, who had married a Sarah Ann Pearse and who was the provider of the land on which the school was built in 1873. Mention is also made of Major General William Goodenough Pearse who died on 11th October 1858. "

© 2000 - J. Sage