This page will have all of the written reports that have been generated on topic discussions and topics of interest.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on September 8, 2015

The Bedford Hotel

The Bedford Hotel features strongly in Tavistock’s history and it was a delight to hear this month’s Probus Club talk detailing the history of the hotel. Alex Mettler has spent many years researching this history and he provided members with a life story of one of Tavistock’s architectural centerpieces.

Abbey House, part of the Tavistock Abbey complex, was converted into the Bedford Hotel in 1822. Five years later, a stable block was added to the east and in the early 1830s a new ballroom, designed by John Foulston, was built to provide Tavistock with an elegant venue for social events. Around 1900, a third floor was added and over the following 100 years, the fortunes of the hotel varied greatly.

In 1910, the hotel was taken over by William Lake who added the veranda and a billiards room and subsequently converted the ballroom into bedrooms, losing Tavistock its historic public meeting place. During the following war years, Lake, who was a rather stern gentleman, suffered the indignity of a £2 fine for allowing lights of the hotel to be shown in the blackout.

In 1986 the hotel became part of Trust House Forte whose notable achievement was the closing of the Bedford Bar to the anger of many locals. THF was later taken over by Granada and a period of decline ensued until the Bedford was rescued by its current owner Philip Davies, heralding a new and promising future for the hotel.

Our talk included many anecdotes and old photographs of the hotel taken throughout the 1900s to the present day and gave members an insight into the history, the ownership and the development of this much-loved building.

Mike Edmonds thanked Alex for his fascinating story.  The subject of the October meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “Developing Ethiopia”.  

If you are interested in joining Tavistock Probus Club, please contact the secretary on 01822 615669.


Posted by TPC-ADMIN on August 8, 2015

Tavistock Canal

Tavistock meadows are pleasant and peaceful but how many of us know the history of the canal which borders those meadows? Dr. Ann Pulsford gave Probus members a fascinating talk on the construction and early use of the Tavistock canal.

By the turn of the nineteenth century, the mines around Tavistock were producing 25% of the world’s copper ore and the only way to transport it to the port at Morwellham was by packhorse – an expensive and slow process. The solution was to build a canal connecting Tavistock to Morwellham and a young and very talented engineer by the name of John Taylor was put in charge of the project. Taylor’s chosen route was 4½ miles long including a 1½ mile tunnel under Morwelldown.  Water for the canal is taken from the River Tavy at Abbey Weir where a filter prevents salmon from entering the canal. On its way to Morwellham, the canal drops at a rate of one foot per mile creating a flow which powered waterwheels along its route and is still used to produce hydro-electric power at Morwellham Quay. The ores were carried to the quay in wrought iron boats which were then used to bring imported goods back to Tavistock.

Wheal Crebor Mine was successfully developed from the tunnel exploration and contributed to the canal’s running costs. The canal was profitable for some 40 years until the arrival of the railway. It was eventually sold to The Duke of Bedford.

Peter Lane thanked Ann for her colourful and informative presentation on this important aspect of Tavistock’s history. The subject of the September meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “The Ghosts of the Bedford Hotel”.

If you are interested in joining the Tavistock Probus Club, please contact the secretary on 01822 615669.


Posted by TPC-ADMIN on June 8, 2015

Devon Castles

What do we know about the history of nearby Lydford Castle? It certainly gained a grim reputation as a judicial centre and jail for the Forest of Dartmoor and the Stannaries.

Devon offers many interesting attractions, and its castles feature high in that list. Probus members enjoyed a fascinating and wonderfully illustrated talk on the history of these castles by Robert Hesketh, the author of many books on Devon, its countryside, towns and colourful history.

Following their conquests in 1066, the Normans built castles to subdue the turbulent English. Rougemont Castle was built in response to the Exeter rebellion in 1068 and hilltop castles were established in Lydford, Okehampton, Totnes and many other towns and cities. Their most important resource was clean water, without which the garrison’s only option was surrender. Robert used his many photographs to illustrate the ingenious external fortifications and the baronial opulence of the accommodation in later edifices.

Over the centuries, warfare technology developed and this required major changes in castle design. The arrival of explosives and heavy shells was a good example. Castles became a major expense for the country’s rulers.

Robert’s talk ended with views of Castle Drogo which was the last to be built, being completed in 1930. Castle Drogo is the most romantic of all the castles and was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens for the grocery tycoon Julius Drewe. It is currently undergoing a major refit by The National Trust.

Peter Lane thanked Robert for his most interesting presentation saying he was surprised how many castles there are in Devon. Probus holds its Club Lunch in the Bedford Hotel in July.

Anyone interested in the Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on May 8, 2015

Human Reproduction Technology

The talk this month was on Human Reproduction Technology and was given by Dr. Peter Robert Brinsden MBBSMRCSLRCPFRCOG. Peter was appointed Medical Director at Bourn Hall ClinicCambridge in 1989. Since his retirement in 2006 he has been the Consultant Medical Director at Bourn Hall and, among his many other appointments, he is the President of the British Fertility Society.

In 1978, after 12 years of research, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards achieved the birth of Louise Brown – the World’s first test tube (IVF) baby. In the thirty-five years since this momentous event, IVF has become a ‘mainstream’ treatment for many forms of infertility. During this time, however, there have been many developments within the specialty of IVF, or assisted reproduction, many of which at the time were – and some still are – considered to be highly controversial. Peter’s talk was indeed to be both controversial and provocative and allowed members the opportunity to express their views and concerns. “It can be done – should it be done?”

Peter’s presentation provided a brief review of the early days of IVF as pioneered by Steptoe and Edwards (both Fellows ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)) and then looked at some of the most controversial issues that have arisen since 1978. These included such topics as surrogacy, oocyte and embryo donation, intracytoplasmic injection, mitochondrial DNA transfer, treatment of single women and same-sex couples (male and female), cloning, stem cell technology – including the creation of gametes from somatic cells – and other ‘treatments’ which are presently being developed.

The Chairman of Probus, Ray Hurle, thanked Peter on behalf of members for his presentation of this very thought provoking subject.

The subject of the June meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “Devon Castles”. Anyone interested in Probus may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.

Anyone interested in joining the Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.


Posted by TPC-ADMIN on March 8, 2015

French Inland Waterways

There are many French towns which one would love to visit and enjoy their quaint historic buildings, delightful restaurants, and excellent local wines. Alan Davis gave members a colourful account of the three seasons spent visiting these towns in a talk entitled “ French Inland Waterways ”.

Alan’s first requirement was a boat. Being an experienced sailor and an accomplished engineer, he acquired an old London Port Authority boat and set to work refurbishing it ready for the adventures which lay ahead. The boat was aptly named “Perseverance”.

Alan and his wife set out from Salcombe in June 2006 heading for Cherbourg and on to Honfleur where they joined the inland waterways starting with La Seine. Alan’s talk was generously illustrated with photographs of the many places they visited including Rouen, Caen and the Bayeux Tapestry, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Monet’s lily pond in Giverny and many others. The photographs gave the feeling of the tranquility to be found in these places.

There were numerous anecdotes included in the talk describing their experiences of French canal locks; trying to wake up the lock keeper or climbing up one of the huge lock gates which had jammed. French lock keepers compete to see who can create the most attractive setting using imaginative floral displays, adding to the pleasure of the visit.

David Wixon thanked Alan for his brilliant photography and talk saying “It was great to sail with you”. Probus holds its Annual General Meeting in April following lunch in the Bedford Hotel. Anyone interested in Probus may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.

Anyone interested in joining the Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.