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Lorna Doone - RD Blackmore

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      22.03.2002 18:22
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      • "Very hilly"

      The object of this opinion is to clear up several misunderstandings concerning Lorna Doone. For some extraordinary reason the basis of the tale, the correct siting of places in the book, the ancestory of the Doones and the existence of John Ridd, had never been fully researched. Sir Atholl Oakeley was once a champion wrestler like Lorna's John Ridd, lived in Lynton, Devon and the world's premier "Doonaphile". He produced a booklet "The facts on which Blackmore based Lorna Doone", and some of my research has been conducted with this help. On the cover of his booklet is a copy of a famous picture of Lorna Doone painted by W. Wontner, R.A., 18 years before the book's publication. Surprisingly most visitors to Exmoor are not very concerned with the region's most appealing story, which does however attract thousands of visitors from all over the world to Porlock and Lynton's gift shops, restaurants and hotels. Although the waitresses have long since objected to dressing up in Lorna Doone clothes I recently took up the challenge. The Ordnance Survey heard of the work of Oakeley, and in 1969 sent a team of researchers. The team was instructed to examiine the fact that the Doone Valley was by the book cited in Lank Combe whereas due to an error in 1919 they had cited it in the adjoining Valley of Hoccombe. In 1809 the old one inch Ordnance Survey was so full of errors and omissions it did not mention the Doone Valley at all. A pre-war guide book also noted this, and said "In the last edition of the Ordnance Survey the Valley is called Hoccombe Combe". The presence of Hoccombe Water in the next combe to the south should have made them think of course. THE ORIGINS OF THE DOONES OF EXMOOR The family of Stewarts, now extinct, came from Scotland. In 1563 Sir James Stuart was created the first Earl of Moray. He married Agnes Keith on the 10th February , 1561 and had three daught
      ers, and one of these, Elizabeth married into the Doune family in 1580 when she married Sir James Stewart, Lord Doune. The records show he had a brother, Ensor. Ensor had a son, named Ensor also and James I created this son a baronet and he changed his name to Doune. He went to London to see the King, who wasn't interested, so Ensor proceeded on to Exmoor, and ended up in a ruined farmhouse near Oareford. As Warren farm was not then built, this would have been the farmhouse at Hoccombe in the Badgeworthy settlement built 500 years before. Sir Ensor saw that Lank Combe, a valley in the Bagworthy Forest encased by mountainous hills over 300 feet high on each side, together with overgrown and easily defended entrances at each end and Bagworthy Water flowing out of it was an ideal place to build houses. There is also a pistol marked C. DOONE on one side and PORLOK on the other, and a portrait of Sir Ensor Doone, 1679 as proof of this. Sir Ensor died in 1684, being buried in Hoccombe, and was succeeded by his son Charles Doune, the Carver Doone of the book. There is a lot more family detail I can't really go into here, but this seems indisputable as to who the Doones really were. THE DOONE VALLEY One of the most memorable parts of the book must be the famous Waterslide, and although it is extremely interesting and I have many pieces of evidence I must precis my findings as follows :- 1. There is no Waterslide out of Hoccombe. 2. The Badgeworthy Water did not and does not run out of Hoccombe. 3. It did not run out of Lank Combe. 4. Measured on an altimeter no hill in Hoccombe reaches 300 feet above the valley as do the side hills in Lank Combe. In Hoccombe the Seven Rooks' nests would be invisible from the hill above Oare House because of a fifty foot contour obscuring them. In the official guide book of the Lynton Urban District Council many years ago there was an interesting advert for the Lynton Fo
      ur in Hand Stage Coach which states that the coach, which went from Lynton to Malmesmead would leave daily at 11 a.m arriving back at 5 p.m, allowing three hours to visit the Doone Valley. No coach can reach the Doone Valley, so much walking is envisaged. The booklet produced by Sir Atholl Oakeley reproduces about 8 photographs in support of much of the above. There are firstly a couple of Lynmouth as it was, before the disastrous flood of 1952, and one after it had been wrecked by a forty foot high wave. In the early part of the century quite large sailing ships used to enter and moor up in the harbour and, in the seventeenth century, John Ridd would no doubt have bought the spy-glass through which he saw the seven rooks' nests. There is a photo of Malmsmead where Farmer Snow lived, and this was renamed Lorna Doone Farm at the beginning of the century. Oakeley stayed here in 1920 for 4/6 bed/breakfast and an extra charge of 1/6 for a four course farmhouse dinner. The Western section is 1,000 years old.. Also photos of :- 1. The Grass Sward at the top of the Lank Combe Waterslide where the 14 year old John Ridd met the 9 year old Lorna on St. Valentines Day, 1675. 2. The Lank Combe Waterslide running out of Lank Come. It is easy to ascend in summer time, but in winter there is a considerable volume of water. 3. The site of the Doone Gate. R.D. Blacmore the author is obviously referring to it as a Gateway to the Doone Valley, one of three entrances. 4. The remains of Carver's house which bridged the stream through the Doone Valley. This was the largest of the Doone houses, which were all burned and thrown into the stream. OARE CHURCH It is important to remember that Oare Church in the seventeenth century bore little resemblance to what is is today. The eastern section was non-existant, there was no tower. The western end, where the tower now stands, was open to the public was from where Carver Doone sh
      ot Lorna. Now, we have just visited this church and it must be one of the smallest in England anyway. Blackmore states also that it was here 300 years ago that Lorna married John Ridd. JOHN RIDD This part is about wrestling !! John Ridd was one. There was a match at Bodmin between J.Ridd (Holder) Champion of Devon and the Challenger A. Page, Champion of Cornwall. This must be the match Blackmore describes in the book. Tony Page was a giant of thirty-seven stone and was seven feet eight inches tall Sir Atholl was a wrestler and knew of Kurt Zehe, 50 stones and 8 feet 4 inches. John Ridd carried sheep, one under each arm in the snow.. Well, before this review becomes too long can I say to those interested :- A. Read the book, Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore, there are many versions and can be picked up for as little as £1. B. Get the leaflet by Sir Atholl Oakeley, only 75p. C. Most importantly, visit the Doone Valley near Malmesmead, Oare and Lynton in Devon and have a brilliant day enjoying the wonderful scenery. I can willingly provide more details for anyone interested, this is indeed a very interesting and beautiful part of North Devon.


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