An Enumerator and a List of Houses – 1939 Register

As family historians we usually think of the census records and 1939 England and Wales Register as lists of people. However, several censuses and the 1939 register also give us a list of farms and houses – very useful for One-Place Studies and indeed house histories. The 1939 register is an unusual source in that changes have been made at a later date, usually to show a married name, as it was a working document for National Health Service registration. The enumerators varied in their knowledge of the local area and accuracy, so it can be useful to know a little more about them. Accuracy in terms of coverage can be considered by comparing the registers across the years and trying to explain any discrepancies.

1939 Register image accessed July 2022

Sticklepath in 1939 was part of 3 Parishes, this focuses on the Sampford Courtenay enumerator district. The man in charge on 5th October was Ralph Finch (1891-1979).

Ralph the middle of 3 sons to James and Ellen Finch, had two older sisters. Photo c1905 by Lugg & sons of Okehampton.

He was born and brought up in the village, spent most of his life here, and was the last ‘Finch’ to work at the Finch Foundry.

Finch Foundry Workers, Ralph with hand on hip, 4th from the left.

Ralph was the sort of person who was called upon to be the Presiding Officer in the Polling station for Parliamentary Elections too. Here seen in Sticklepath School polling station alongside the younger Roger Bowden his first cousin once removed.

Polling station at Sticklepath County Primary School 1950s or 60s? Who is casting their vote? (Do let me know!)

There were some new residents at the time of the 1939 Register, evacuees, and I think Ralph, who always had a twinkle in his eye and a kind word, will have used the opportunity to say hello and ask both the children and their host families how things were going. With so many families to visit in one day I don’t think he will have accepted many cups of tea on his was around though!

Ralph with Lynette (Violet) his first wife. ‘Tea’ in the 1960’s always included a saucer with the bone china cup and a teaspoon each with lumps (cubes)of sugar. Thinly sliced bread and butter too. I associate this gold hostess trolley with Auntie Lynette.

Whilst there are redactions in the 1939 register for people who may still be living, most heads of households in 1939 would be over 100 today, so it is likely the vast majority of house names will not be redacted. The Schedule helpfully numbers the houses and subjects (people) within so it is clear if a house is fully redacted or not legible. Note may have less redactions than

Example from Sticklepath village 1939 Register accessed via July 2022

Some houses have changed name (or numbering in areas elsewhere), and quite a few small houses have been incorporated into larger ones either with extensions, or two or more houses later made into one. Several of the larger houses in the 1911 census and 1939 register were split into several households. Unfortunately there is nothing about numbers of rooms like 1911 census, but together and alongside random addresses from records of life events, wills, directories, newspapers etc, we can start to create a database, a useful list of houses and their occupiers at various points in time. Deeds and newspaper reports of auctions etc. can help with names of owners.

The database of Sticklepath Houses is in its early stages, starting with a list created in 1983 from people’s memories (especially Muriel Ching Bowden nee Finch) now slowly adding the 1939 register houses to the database and the occupants to the SticklepathOne ‘forest’.

If anyone is willing to share any photographs or information about their Sticklepath house with the Sticklepath Heritage Group or on the website please contact us. Similarly if anyone would like to know if I have information about their sticklepath house, do ask.

Sticklepath Houses: No. 2 Ska View (again!)

On 24th December 1927 Maria Palmer bought No. 2 Ska View Cottages Sticklepath. The previous owner, her father, Mr James Neill had died in February. Sadly his other daughter Beatrice had died in the interim. (Will dated 7 April 1927, she died on 26 May 1927). Frank Richards, her husband, was the sole Executor and Beatrice left her estate (which included a half share of No 2 Ska View) to her nephew Bernard William Palmer aged 13y, the son of Maria and John Palmer. The conveyance therefore became a little complex legally, with John Palmer representing the ‘infant’ son Bernard in the transaction.

Frank Richards was the headmaster of Sticklepath School and his wife’s death is noted in the school records, just to say that he took a half day because of her death!

Frank Richards, WW1 uniform. Details seen of cobbled path, granite pillars and ‘trellis’ porch.

No.2 was valued by Mr Arthur John Powlesland of Okehampton, a duly qualified valuer, who fixed the price as £320. The current tenant was a Miss Cann.

I have at this time no evidence to suggest Maria Palmer ever lived in Ska View Cottages. She wrote her Will 12 June 1958. Her son Bernard became a Chartered Accountant, and at the time of Maria’s death lived at 22 Mill Lane Felixstowe, Suffolk. Maria was said to be of the same address and formerly of ‘Kolar’ Okehampton. Maria died at The East Suffolk Hospital, Ipswich on 24th October 1958. She left everything to her son, Probate was granted in Exeter to him 9th January 1959. Assent to the vesting of Number 2 Ska View Cottages from Mrs M Palmer deceased to Bernard William Palmer is dated 22nd April 1959.

At some point Bernard moved to 19 Goyfield Avenue, Felixstowe. 11 December 1959 the cottage was sold again to Mr Charles Bowden, haulage contractor of Cleave House Sticklepath for £550. Witness to the signature was RK Barron of Foundry House Sticklepath, Tool Maker. In March 1965 a further valuation, by Anthony Wonnacott, likely for re-mortgaging purposes shows the property to be valued at £1,500.

A Memorandum appended to the conveyance shows that 26th October 1992 Charles Bowden gave the garden by Deed of Gift to Charles Roger Finch Bowden (his son) in fee simple. Charles died 20 March 1994 and Probate was granted (Bristol) 16 Nov 1995. The property assented to Charles Roger Finch Bowden and his wife Ann Rosalie Lloyd Bowden 28 January 1997. Land Registry Official Copy of Register of Title in 2008 valuation was £140,000 (without the detached garden). The type of joint ownership was amended 12 Dec 2012. Marketing websites show it sold in 2018 for £150,000.

In 1975 plans were submitted to make an interconnecting doorway between No.1 and No.2 Ska View Cottages. At that time Miss Phyllis Finch lived in No. 2 and the doorway and firecheck door enabled her to visit her sister in No.1 without venturing outdoors in the final weeks of her life. Planning was approved 17 October 1975. She died in March 1976. The doorway has since been blocked up.

I have not included much detail of the owners themselves, and even less of other occupiers. Perhaps another time. I am also aware that there may be other connections – I spent many hours in the Ska View Cottages as a child, visiting relatives or with my ‘child-minder’ after school, which is of course not documented. Nor do the papers survive to tell us how the houses were financed, how much mortgage was payable. I do not have any insurance documents for No. 2. ‘Official searches’ in 1959 do not add anything specific. Several documents declare no land tax was payable on these small properties.

It is interesting to see the increasing valuation or sale prices:

1890. £100. Sale

1924. £380 Sale

1927. £320 Valuation/Assent

1959. £550 Sale

1965. £1,500 Valuation

2008. £140,000. Valuation

2018. £150,000 Sale

One might surmise that the assent value in 1927 was on the low side but market fluctuations may mean it was accurate, and there was a tenant in situ.

Perhaps equally interesting is to understand the size and type of housing of a headmaster and mine manager in the 1920s, perhaps some of the better off villagers, with a total floor area of 56.5 sq m . The plan prepared for Stags estate agent Okehampton 2017 shows there were two downstairs rooms and two upstairs.

There was no bathroom in their time. It is not clear when a bathroom was added to No. 2, planning was sought for indoor bathrooms in other cottages in 1972. The outdoor toilet across the yard was certainly in regular use in 1960s. They did not have covered sewerage or electiricity, so no electrical appliances. (Details of how the drains were ‘flushed ‘ see Ladywell).

The open drain can be seen just infront of the wall with a step from each Cottage bridging the gap. (Chapman of Dawlish Postcard)

The detached garden was a small allotment used to grow vegetables, a necessity not a hobby. Compare that to expectations of families today both in terms of space, amenities and services.

The row of 4 Ska View Cottages with stone outbuildings behind. The Old Cottage and Village Hall are seen to the right. Between these two the Back Lane leads to the electricity sub-station (black)and just past this, off the picture would be the garden allotment.
Tiled roof and chimney detail No.1 and No.2

Sticklepath has several small terraces of houses running parallel to the road. The cottages are well built of solid masonary. Originally they had a shared roof space – as with many old rural houses this has provided a roost for bats (myotis sp.).

Stone built out-house believed to have stabled a pony at one time. Later W.C.(water closet or toilet)

During renovation work in 2017 a small Victorian range was found in No. 2 kitchen. The plaque above suggests it was made or at least sold by an Okehampton firm. It was in a poor state and Okehampton Museum were not interested in preserving the remains. It seems very likely Captain Neill and his family would have benefitted from food cooked in such an oven, on the hob, a fire in the grate and bread from the bread oven. A family with these facilities may have made extra to sell to other villagers.

Times change and No.2 is now a holiday cottage, no longer accomodation for local residents. The railings and matching porches (also seem on Farley Cottage and previously on Effra, opposite the Methodist Chapel) give some character and unity to this row of cottages.


Here endeth my Easter Housing Mini-Project.