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Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 15:07 UK
Images capture Dartmoor's past
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

 Widecombe Fair in 1901
Widecombe Fair in 1901, can you provide any information ?

The song goes that a picture paints a thousand words.

If that's so the online archive of 9,000 historic photographs of Devon has quite a lot to say about life on the moors over the past two centuries.

Two pictures donated by BBC Radio Devon's Tony Beard have now been added to the collection and your help is needed to identify them.

One image is from Widecombe Fair in 1901 and the second is a group of farmhands posing for the camera.

You can see both of these images and more by clicking on The Dartmoor Archive website and you can add any information about their origin too.

The Dartmoor Archive was initially developed 10 years ago thanks to a donation to the Dartmoor Trust - an independent charity which grants aid to projects that help the Moor and its people - and since then work has been ongoing to source images for the collection.

Troops on moor. Picture courtesy of Dartmoor Archive
Troops training on Dartmoor taken in August 1888

Part of the archive is made up of the Taylor family's collection of thousands of photographs taken by several generations of the same family.

"They are an excellent portrayal of life on the Moor and how it has changed throughout the early 1900s," said Jamie Dunbar, manager of the archive.

"The Burnard collection dates back to the mid 1800s and contains hundreds of hugely important photographs taken by one of the South West's pioneer photographers."

As well as those two major collections there are also smaller sets of pictures which have been donated by local heritage groups and individuals.

With so many pictures to choose from, BBC Devon website set Jamie the tricky task of selecting three of his favourite images.

His first choice was taken in August 1888 and shows troops using the moors for training.

The British Army has used Dartmoor as a military training ground since 1870 and the troops may have been training before being sent to South Africa.

Meanwhile the second picture captures an incredible scene.

"This photograph records the fateful journey of the 6.34pm Princetown Train on March 9th 1891," said Jamie.

Stranded Princetown train. Picture courtesy of Dartmoor Archive
The stranded Princetown Train on 14 March 1891

The train apparently departed with six passengers on the evening of 9 March.

"As the train was nearing Horsford Farm, it became stuck in a snow drift caused by a massive blizzard.

"The six passengers were left stranded until help could get through, some three days later, on the morning of the 11 March. The train itself was not freed from snow until 19th!

"This photograph shows the state of the train on 14 March."

It was arguably the worst blizzard of the 19th Century in the South West - 220 people died, mostly at sea where 65 vessels were lost in the English and Bristol channels.

And this was not the only train to be stranded in snow drifts during March 1891 - in Devon 14 trains became stranded and about 6,000 sheep perished.

Jamie's final selection was donated to the Dartmoor Archive by the Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust.

"It's one of a series of professional shots taken to document the work at the Bovey Pottery Kilns.

Bovey Pottery. Picture courtesy of Dartmoor Archive
This image was donated to the Dartmoor Archive

"I have chosen these three as some of my favourites as they show the depth and breadth of the Archive and they document the way life has changed on the Moor in the past 120 years.

"The clothing, modes of transport and types of industry have all changed but the character of the people who choose to live in this wonderful part of the world remains the same.

"When we add images to the archive we return the original item to their owners, nothing is kept by the Dartmoor Trust," said Jamie.

"We have over 9,000 amazing images each with their own stories to tell, all online with more being added every single day."

And anyone who wants to contribute their time or to help the project or thinks they have photographs which would be at home in the archive can contact Jamie at manager@dartmoorarchive.org.

Can you help to name that image?
14 Sep 09 |  History



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