The name “Halsbeer” has its origin in the Saxon “Halh” meaning a remote recess, nook or valley and “Beuru”, which is Anglo-Saxon for a wood or grove so Halsbeer literally means “remote wooded valley”. It’s not quite as wooded now but we hope to re-dress that over time by planting an orchard and coppice. I like to think of Halsbeer as a “hidden” or “secret” valley waiting to be discovered by our guests.
Halsbeer (or Halsbeare as it was previously spelt) was for a long time connected with the Frost and Broom families. A fascinating account of Frost family history records John Frost and his wife Diana Leddon living here in 1752. John had to travel to London to clear his name after being accused of being complicit in allowing smugglers to hide barrels of brandy in the Halsbeer Farm pond (take a look at my blog for more on this). Another Diana Frost (nee Mortimore – was she from Mortimer’s Farm which is our nearest neighbour I wonder?) wrote a ballad recounting the events. In 1753, John and Diana had a son, also called John, who married Joan Starke and lived for a while at “France”, presumably what is now nearby France Farm and was in the Domesday Book a manor called ‘Freschic’.
See Frost family history for the full account of the Frosts of Halsbeer.
Diana also wrote of Christmas at Halsbeare in 1753 which sounded like a rather jolly event with family, friends and workers all invited “to celebrate the burning of the great ashen Christmas faggot”. This is a “Christmas tradition from Devon and Somerset, similar to that of the Yule log… A faggot is a large log or bundle of ash sticks, bound with nine green lengths of ash bands or ‘beams’, preferably all from the same tree”. It was burnt in the hearth on Christmas Eve while the people sang carols. (Source Wikipedia) We are looking forward to re-igniting (excuse the pun) the tradition this Winter.
Census records of 1881 and 1901 record a Henry Broom living at Halsbeer, in 1881 with his wife Louisa and three children, but curiously none with the same surname. Louisa’s absence from the 1901 census is explained by a gravestone in Kentisbeare churchyard which gives the date of her death as 1886. It seems she was married before Henry to Edmund Frost who died in 1876 aged only 44. This explains the connection between the Frost and Broom families, perhaps the house moved from the Frosts to the Brooms at that time? One of the children, John Frost, aged 9 at the time of the 1901 census, was presumably Louisa’s child from her first marriage. I’ve not yet managed to understand the relationship to the other children, Georgina Doble (15) and Esau Rugg (17) although I did discover that a Robert Doble was farming at Butsons in 1894. There is an Old Butsons Farm House on Fore Street in Kentisbeare. Perhaps Georgina was a maid servant at Halsbeer and Esau a farm labourer?
My researches continue…