Daniel Radford [Obituary]

Trans. Devon. Assoc., vol. XXXII, (1900), pp. 43-44.


Rev. W. Harpley M.A.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The obituary was read at the Association’s August 1900 Totnes meeting. A photograph of Mr Radford’s impressive gravestone in the churchyard at St Petrock Church, Lydford, is available at Billion Graves. The obituary, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. 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.

Daniel Radford was born November 17th, 1828, at Plymouth, where his father had settled on his return, invalided, from the Peninsular War. He was a native of North-East Devon, the family having lived for generations at Okeford, near Bampton. Educated in Plymouth, Daniel Radford, in spite of delicate health, displayed great aptitude for figures and a marvellous power of concentration. In 1849 he went to London and became one of the pioneers of the Welsh coal trade; but the claims of business, though ever increasing, did not occupy all his time: he was ever ready to help in the improvement of others, his advice, experience, and charitable assistance being always at the disposal of the suffering.

He returned to Devonshire in later life, loving his native county, and, above all, Dartmoor, which he knew better than most men. His house at Lydford was built in 1872, and he did much for the villagers, by whom he was beloved. Mr. Baring-Gould, in his book on Dartmoor, says, "With Lydford the name of Daniel Radford will be indissolubly connected; one of the noblest and kindest of men, and one of the most modest. He cut the way up the ravine by which the gorge was made accessible. When I was a boy the only method by which it could be explored was by swimming and scrambling in summer when the water was low. Mr. Radford built Bridge House and restored the church. It was due to him that I undertook, in 1888, to collect the folk-music in Devon and Cornwall; and it is in Lydford churchyard that he lies awaiting the resurrection of the just. Not without deep feeling can I pen these lines to commemorate one of the best men whom it has been my happiness to know."  (Kindly communicated by Mrs. G. Radford).

Mr. Radford read two papers before this Association, of which he was a life member, one being on "The Natural Storage of Water on Dartmoor” in which he set forth the danger to our rivers of attempting to drain the bogs on the moor; and the other "An Account of Workmen's Cottages at Exeter," which he had built.

In his later years he lived entirely at Tavistock, where his beautiful gardens were a continued interest and delight to him. It was here that he entertained the Association on its visit to Tavistock in 1889. He took part, as long as health permitted, in all local affairs, being the founder of the Tavistock Cottage Hospital, a valuable and much-needed institution. He also endowed a ward of the South Devon Hospital in memory of his brother. He was a justice of the peace for Devon, a trustee of Kelly College, and was the first representative for Tavistock on the Devon County Council, a position which he took at the urgent request of the late Hastings, Duke of Bedford.

Daniel Radford died at Mount Tavy, Tavistock, January 3rd, 1900, and was buried in Lydford churchyard, in a spot he had himself chosen covered with moorland grass and heather.