Bovey Tracey


Hunt, W. The History of Teetotalism in Devonshire, Devonport & London, (1841), pp. 47-48.

Provided by Michael Steer

Hunt's book is a rather polemical account, often in florid prose, of the early years following the founding of the first Total Abstinence Society at Preston, Lancashire, in 1833. In the West Country, there were a number of organisations including the County of Devon Temperance League and the West of England Temperance Association. A legacy of the 1841 meeting recoded in this excerpt is the old Temperance Hall, still a feature of Fore Street in Bovey Tracey. In 2011 it houses a number of small businesses, The book from which this extract is taken was produced digitally from a copy held in the Bodleian Library collection that can be downloaded from https://books.google.co.uk/books, with a search by either author or title. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

It was not until 1841 that the seeds of teetotalism were sown in this thriving little village, when a few friends from Newton called a public meeting for the purpose of advocating the noble cause of Total Abstinence from every beverage of an intoxicating nature, as well as urging the claims of their society upon a Christian public. This meeting was productive of very beneficial results. For although this place is surrounded by fruit gardens like city walls, planted with malt houses like orchards and interspersed with beer shops like apple trees; and though to support these establishments, the people have acquired an ungovernable desire, and for whose uninterrupted reign, they manifested a loyal and patriotic attachment, yet this first exposure of the great delusion, had the effect of arousing many to their duty, by opening the eyes of the blind, and teaching the unwary the lesson of guarding against deceit, while it left an impression upon the inhabitants generally, not easy to be obliterated. In fact so great was the excitement produced by this first visit of the Friends of Temperance, that it was found necessary to carry out the principle, to have this meeting followed up by another, which was held in the month of September following, when several speakers appealed to the audience in a powerful and affecting manner, on the vast importance of their embracing the subject in hand, and the advantages to accrue to all who should adopt such a system. At the conclusion of the meeting, as small society was organised, which has since been repeatedly addressed by various travelling and local advocates and notwithstanding it has had to struggle against a good deal of that interested opposition which too frequently marks the progress of societies formed in the heart of cider gardens, it has continued as a spark of genuine fire, by the application of the blower to grow brighter and still more bright, amidst the clamour of prejudice, the bickerings of custom and the thunder of selfishness. And all the blustering persecution it has had to contend with (which by the way has been mostly from professors of religion, shame upon them), has only tended to add fuel to the flame of Teetotalism already kindled; so that the society is now in a very flourishing condition, and bids fair at no very distant date of occupying a prominent place in the Teetotal History of Devonshire: for although its members are so far few in number they want nothing of the philanthropic spirit which animates supporters of the cause in places where the value of the principle is truly appreciated "to deeds of noble daring". There are two remarkable instances of reformation connected with this prosperous little institution. The society now numbers between forty and fifty members and is managed by a Treasurer, (Wm ELLIS) and a Secretary (Wm SELLICK). A public meeting was held in the month of September, 1841, which was addressed by Messrs TRELEAVEN and BROWN, at which the Society evinced its determination to move onward - May its future course be clear as its labour is love; and may its efforts be crowned with abundant success.