IN July, and within eight days of each other, Nymet Rowland lost two of its oldest and most respected residents.

On August 10, many said farewell at Allerbridge Gospel Hall to Stanley Victor Rookes, and on August 21, were gathered at Nymet Church to bid farewell to Arthur Percival Westacott.

Both Stan and Arthur’s lives had been centred in this area, both were lifelong friends and neighbours in Nymet for 65 years.

Stan was born at New House, Coldridge on January 25, 1921, moving later to Thorn Corner and was the oldest of six children born to Charles and Ruth Rookes.

Arthur was born at Hele Cross, Nymet Rowland on November 2, 1926, and was the oldest of four children born to Percy and Ethel Westacott.

Both families lived in tied agricultural cottages until in the early 1930’s, Arthur aged around four and unwell at the time, was wrapped in blankets and carried to his long-time home, Broadgate, which was the home of the Church Sexton and caretaker.

Arthur’s family were regular Church members and served Nymet Church with loving care for many years and Mona and Roy were born at Broadgate.

Rural life in those days was very different from today with no mains water, just the springs and wells and only one farmhouse – Barton – had electricity in Nymet. Everyone else had candles, oil and Tilley lamps in their homes.

Both Stan and Arthur attended Coldridge School and later North Tawton “Higher” School.

Stan would walk three miles to Coldridge School, which he did not start attending until he was seven-years-old.

School days were not Stan’s favourite, he was not keen on reading and writing and often his dislike of school would result in his books ending up in the duck pond on the way home.

To the best of our knowledge, Arthur never threw his books into Diddy-cum-Dandy as he crossed the clapper bridge on his way home and he even chose to stay on for an extra term when he left school at Easter 1941 – the same day as Stan’s wife, Winnie. At School, Arthur was caring towards his beautiful sister Doreen, who had poor eyesight and sadly died at 12.

Arthur worked firstly as a gardener for Mr Molland and then for the Dairy owners, Mr Hines and then Mr and Mrs Gough.

Arthur is remembered for wearing his cap back-to-front while doing the milking and coping with the milking machine.

Later he worked on other farms before he set up as a self-employed market gardener, working land in Higher Ley and buying Broadgate and the adjacent Rectory kitchen garden. 

Stan left school at 13 and would cycle from Frogbury Cross to Brushford to the Tapp family farm where he lived in at weekends.

He later worked at Westacott and Rawleigh Farms before joining the workforce at the Ambrosia Factory in Lapford.

He was called up for National Service at 19 and was initially based at Swindon, where he worked in a munitions factory and later made wheel parts for steam trains at GWR. 

Stan was then posted to Palestine where he was a lorry driver, transporting bananas and oranges through the desert and delivering oil to the Suez Canal.

At 26, Stan was discharged from the Army. He continued to work as an engineer and foreman at Ambrosia for more than 30 years until the factory closed. His skills then took him to Korab Engineering in Crediton.

Stan married Winnie in 1949 and they moved with their oldest daughter Marion to their new family home in Nymet in 1953 where Gordon, Graham, Marina and Mary were born.

The Rookes family, like many of their neighbours, were brought up on Ambrosia rice and macaroni milk pudding as many “dented” cans found their way to Nymet. This was sometimes a bit of a lucky dip as the labels were not stuck on – some days you could end up with a surprise custard!

On some occasions when there was a machinery breakdown, Stan would take his four youngest children with him, sit them down in the corner with a spoon and an open can of hot milk pudding each, straight off the conveyor belt – no health and safety in those days!

He loved Nymet Rowland, working tirelessly for the Village Hall and enjoyed the beautiful view and stunning sunsets from his seat in the conservatory, right up until the day he was admitted to hospital on June 17.

From an early age Stan attended Allerbridge Gospel Hall and in his teens, he committed his life to Christ, being baptised in the river just down the road.

Stan was a lay preacher for more than 60 years, and a teacher at Allerbridge Sunday School, for over 40 years. He drove the children of Nymet Rowland to Sunday School each week. 

Stan was always happy, had a wonderful sense of humour and always had an encouraging and comforting word.

He was a humble and gracious man, who shared his wisdom and knowledge to many. Stan was very proud of his family, always showing a keen interest in everything they did.

He enjoyed watching snooker and cricket on TV, he mastered the video recorder but didn’t believe in modern IT – although if he needed anything ordered he would soon ring the grandchildren and it would be sorted.

Despite giving up work, an engineer never lays down their tools. Many have had a lawnmower or strimmer fixed or a part hand-made by Stan in his favourite “hiding hole”, where you could find him, whatever the weather, with his cap on and his hands covered in grease.

Across the road, Arthur was also a family man caring for his parents and younger brother and sister, a caring friend and neighbour, quiet and discreet, wise and with a deeply established faith who loved the local Church building and the seasonal church rituals.

He listened to the BBC Radio Church Services whilst working and loved Gospel and Folk music.

He was most often found in his polytunnels or with his tractor, rotovator or van: planting seeds, growing on vegetables and flower plants, creating beautiful hanging baskets and tubs and memorable Christmas wreaths. Throughout his time as one of Devon’s best plantsmen, he was helped for 38 years by Joan who worked unstintingly in the garden and tunnels in all weathers. Joan said they never fell out, just disagreed about some things like white begonias which Arthur didn’t like and the position of the red berries on the wreaths – Joan opted for the variegated holly but Arthur the dark holly leaves – but the Boss’s word was final.

Arthur became a legend in his own lifetime and had so many outlets for his plants but was particularly renowned for his Tuesday stall at Hatherleigh Market.

The local press featured him and two other veteran stall holders and an artist painted their portraits as a result.

He never wrote orders down but never did he forget an order. Such was his great knowledge and understanding of horticulture that he was in great demand as a judge at Flower Shows.

He had a keen eye for colour and the shape of plants and even after February 22, 2012, when a stroke robbed him of his independence and the use of one arm, he still won first prize each time for flower arrangements at the local Day Centre. 

Stan enjoyed excellent health until he started to lose his sight at 91 when he made the decision to give up driving – is his words “he passed things he never saw, not a good advert for safe driving”.

From this time, he kept up-to-date with the local happenings via the Crediton Talking News, which is read from the pages of the “Crediton Courier”.

For more than 20 years Stan was the main carer for Winnie, always keen to do everything he could for her and believed that he was privileged to be able to do so.

He learnt, after several attempts, how to do the washing and hang it out correctly! Stan was never a flower gardener but walked many miles following the lawn mower.

All their hard work was offset by a more sociable side. Bell ringing was Arthur’s great interest as he rang at Lapford for nearly 70 years and at Chawleigh.

George Tucker, Captain of the Tower at Lapford remembers how in 1944 Lapford bells started to ring again and he and Arthur began their ringing careers.

After 60 years, Canon Michael Hall presented them both with certificates to mark this achievement.

Sunday bell ringing gave access to Ringing Festivals and outings to other churches which were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone especially with the liquid refreshments on the way home.

Bob Cann’s Square Dance at Coldridge in 1979 is fondly remembered by his friends when Arthur dressed up as a Vicar and won joint First Prize alongside a Bunny Girl!

In July 1980, at Bill and Nora Glanville’s Ruby Wedding celebrations in the Village Hall, Arthur, wearing the same outfit, entertained the guests with his laughter and Devonshire stories.

In 1998, when many people from all over Devon visited the wonderful wedding exhibition and Victoria and Arthur Littlewood’s garden at Barton House, an old man dressed in sacks introduced himself as a North Devon Savage. Yes, it was Arthur in a costume he made himself who proceeded to regale the visitors with Savage tales!

Over the years Stan and Winnie enjoyed many holidays through organised coach trips and with the family. They travelled all over Great Britain and Ireland and had several holidays in France with Marion, George and the girls. This allowed them to find and visit the cemetery where Winnie’s late brother was buried in August 1944.  

Stan’s last request was to return to Nymet and this was achieved on July 23 at 2pm. He was by this time very frail, but he knew he had arrived safely home and his last words were to thank his family for achieving this for him. The Lord took him home peacefully at 6.30pm that same evening with Winnie by his side.

Over the last six years of Arthur’s life, he found it increasingly frustrating having to be wheelchair bound and reliant on others for care. Following weeks in hospital, he was moved to the Home at Braunton where Joan visited him during his last hours.

She talked to him and left him resting peacefully so although he passed away on July 30, not at home in Nymet — Nymet was with him.

As we say goodbye to these two loved Nymet residents, we thank them for the memories and their place in our lives. We will miss them both! 

Marion Born and Joy Taylor, with the help of Stan and Arthur’s  families and friends.