Grace's books plus extract
Family Tree C


We know little of why or when Grace Griffiths started down the family tree path of the Reddaways which she believed was the rightful name of the family. But we do know that the detailed research of Tony and Denise Poole was used in Grace Griffith 10 charts and she help with their research. Grace was unable to gain knowledge of the paternal side of the Lane family but Grace did have an impressive maternal grandmother Fanny Blackmore who had in 1887 married Robert Riddaway (Family Tree C3b3).

Grace Griffiths was born at Bow in Devon in 1921. Her father, George Lane, who married Edith Louise Redway in 1918, was an invalid having been gassed at the Battle of Loos, France, in 1915. Grace spent the first ten years of her life with her parents in a farm cottage on the edge of Dartmoor. A lonely, delicate child, she was taught by her invalid father to love the bleak landscape, its lore and legends.

Grace says she had a "very impoverished childhood" and "struggled with the aid of scholarships through a good education". Grace spent almost all her life in Devon, leaving it only during the Second World War when she joined the Auxillary Territorial Service ATS and "did secret intercept wireless".

Grace Griffith was one of a group of extremely intelligent women who were wireless operators receiving and sending messages in Morse code to and from British Secret Agents behind enemy lines in France. On a number of occasions the messages Grace was receiving stopped abruptly and she knew that the agent had just met his or her death at the hand of the German Gestapo or army. It is said that Grace had a direct line to Winston Churchill at this time.

While serving in Wireless Intelligence, she met her husband, G. D. Griffiths, who later wrote many successful wildlife stories. They shared a deep love and understanding of the Devon countryside. She wrote nine books, several of which were also published in the United States and Canada, THE DAYS OF MY FREEDOM published by WORLD'S WORK LTD The Windmill Press, Kingswood Tadworth Surrey has also been translated into Japanese and was quite popular in Japan.

Qualified as a Chartered Librarian, Grace Griffiths became an Area Children's Librarian for South Devon, was widowed in 1973 and retired in 1981. Grace died in 1998 but has left a legacy of "being fascinated by local history (3 books) and family trees" with the original charts now lodged with the Devon Records office in Exeter Devon.

Grace, Tony and Denise all researched the history of the Radewai lands and the remaining Reddaway Farm. The holders of the lands prior to 1550 is included with the Domesday Book entry. Distant relatives of Grace and Denise have the Reddaway farm and you can read about the farm's history, including the Domesday Book entry, with some photos taken in the 1990s by Alan Redway of Toronto.

Grace's charts of ten large sheets and nearly 1000 names therein were detailed in Family Tree G now updated by Tony and Denise Poole's research to Family Tree C.


Grace Griffith has written nine books of which three are about her family research and memories of her early years. I have just one chapter from her book THE DAYS OF MY FREEDOM which describes her memories of a north Devon childhood and the interesting life of her mother Edith Riddaway (Family Tree C3b3). Grace describes visits as a child to her grandparents and her mother's relatives at their farms or homes in Devon close to Dartmoor and her mother's interesting life in Europe.


The Days of My Freedom is an insight into country life in the early 1920s, a record of the feelings and thoughts, habits and customs of the people. Their's was a life governed not by calendar months, but by the coming of the seasons, relying on the yields of the crops, both cultivated and wild.
Grace Griffiths spent the first ten years of her life with her parents in a farm cottage on the edge of Dartmoor. A lonely, delicate child, she was taught by her invalid father to love the bleak landscape, its lore and legends.
Her book is a fascinating read, not for an exciting plot or thrilling climax, but for a glimpse of lost characters, of a way of life that has disappeared.

Grace Griffiths has spent almost all her life in Devon, leaving it only during the Second World War. While serving in Wireless Intelligence, she met her husband, G. D. Griffiths, who later wrote many successful wildlife stories.
They shared a deep love and understanding of the Devon countryside. Grace Griffiths is now Area Children's Librarian for South Devon.

The Windmill Press
Kingswood Tadworth Surrey


The miller's son and the wheelwright's daughter.
A Victorian lady who ran a grocery business and reared seven children.
Two old Devon farm-houses, and the village girl who went abroad to seek her fortune.

My mother had many relatives in the surrounding villages. Her father, Robert Riddaway, came from a line of farmers who had lived in Devon since before the Norman Conquest. The Reddaways were mentioned in the Domesday Book as tenant farmers holding Redway Farm at Sandford Courtenay. The line had stretched unbroken from father to son right down to the twentieth century. Younger sons, whom the farm could not support, had gone out to seek their fortunes and to settle all over Devon. My great-great-grandfather, who had little schooling and could not spell, had set out from the little farm huddled under the Dartmoor hills to become a miller at Brushford in mid-Devon. It was at Brushford Mill in the mid-nineteenth century that my grandfather had been born and entered in the church register as Robert Riddaway. He had grown up and left the mill which later passed out of family hands, and had taken a job as a farm-hand in Coleridge. There he had met Fanny Blackmore, the daughter of a wheelwright. Fanny was a year or two old than Robert and, in country eyes, a little bit above his station. She was one of a large family, and kept house for her father, since her mother was dead. John Blackmore, her father, had formerly lived at Chittlethampton in North Devon near the Exmoor hills from which his family came. He had possessed the gift of healing, and so many came to him from all over the country that, worn out and unable to pursue his trade, he had left Chittlehampton to hide himself in Coleridge. There he once more set up as a wheelwright, succeeding to the extent that he sent his youngest son George to Cambridge University.

The Blackmores bitterly opposed the marriage of Fanny and Robert Riddaway. but Fanny was determined. Between them, Fanny and Robert raised enough money to start a shop. They had left Coleridge, married, and moved to Bow where they bought premises in the centre of the village, and stocked it with groceries, dried cod, shoes, millinery and cotton goods. The shop was opened in 1888, and in the same year their first child, my mother, was born. Because of its connection with the cotton traded the shop was called Manchester House.


The Shop

The living quarters were old, probably dating from the seventeenth century. Tradition says that Charles I slept there in 1644 when he passed through the village in pursuit of the Earl Essex. At that time the building was an alehouse. The original entrance, an arched doorway, and a cobbled passage leading through the house to the stable yard still remained. The parlour and bedrooms were on the right of the kitchen on the left. My grandfather had the shop built on to the side of the kitchen from which it could be reached internally by means of a flight of steps.

Fanny who was the brains behind the project, continued to expand the business and in the next ten years had built up a concern which employed several local women. She also produced seven more children of whom only one died in infancy.

It was Fanny who made and decorated the hats for the millinery shelves and who organised she rounds made by my grandfather to the surrounding village in his pony and trap. She prepared the grocery orders he took with him, and checked the poultry, butter and eggs he brought back. From Eggesford in the Taw valley to Hittisleigh near the upper Teign every cottage and farm bought their supplies from Riddaway's stores, often paying with their own surplus produce. On Fridays my grandfather set off with a load of poultry, eggs, cream and honey for Exeter market where he rented a stall. My grandmother stayed up all night plucking chickens and packing butter -- only when Nellie, the pony, and the trap had vanished up the road could she relax and set about her household chores.

My grandfather came back very late, and as Nellie's hooves were heard on the cobbles outside the shop, Granny dropped everything and helped to stow the cart in it's shed across the road and stable the pony. While my grandfather led Nellie she laid a cloth on the end of the scrubbed pine table in the kitchen for her husband's supper, setting before him a huge steak and kidney pie or stew followed by heaped plate of apple pie and cream, or jam tart and custard, and tea so strong and sweet that the spoon almost stood up in it. Grandad called weak tea "tatie-water".

The soft down from the birds Granny had plucked the night before was sold as filling for mattresses and pillows. The children as they grew up were responsible for packing feathers into sacks. They also took the chicken entrails to bury in the garden.

The goods sold well in Exeter market and my grandfather often had his pockets stuffed with pound notes. Unfortunately he was careless with money when left to his own devices and by the time he left Exeter he would have parted with a good half of his profit. As the years passed my grandmother became less patient with her husband's spendthrift ways.

Granny looked a frail and gentle woman. She was small, with delicate bones, slender figure and an oval face topped by a mass of soft curly hair. She had, however, a will of iron. Before her marriage she had been a staunch member of the Church of England. Robert Riddaway had been brought up as a Plymouth Brother. After her marriage, determined to share every aspect of her husband's life, Fanny had become a member of Robert's chapel, and within a few years she was the strictest of Plymouth Sisters while Robert, never a very ardent chapel-goer, had ceased to attend at all. She therefore had a two-fold whip with which to flay his careless habits -- her need of every penny for her growing family, and the hatred with which the chapel regarding intemperance and wastefulness. She was conscious too, that her brothers and sisters who visited her occasionally, talked among themselves about the way poor Fanny was having to cope. The marriage was turning out just as the family had said it would.

But in spite of all this Granny adored her husband.

I never met any of her sisters, although there was constant talk between my mother and her sisters about Aunt Kesia who was housekeeper to the Chichesters of Arlington Court in North Devon, but I did know several of my grandmother's brothers.

Great-Uncle George, Granny's youngest brother, was headmaster of a school in Plymouth. He was sober, kind and erudite as become a head-teacher. His wife, Great-Aunt Helen, was an expert lace maker who made altar cloths for use in Exeter Cathedral.

Another brother of my grandmother was Great-Uncle Joe who had been employed as a clerk by the Southern Railway Company. In those days this was a very good job and Joe retired early with a healthy bank balance. After a year or two of boredom, he bought a farm, Nichol's Nymet, halfway between Bow and North Tawton and settled down with his housekeeper, Rosie, whom he eventually married. She and her daughter and grandchildren filled his life. Joe, too, visited his sister Fanny now and then, and I think that my grandmother was really fonder of him than she was of her brother George, but George commanded greater respect because he was a Master of Arts.

I remember Great-Uncle Joe chiefly because he had two railway coaches in his garden, and in these I used to play trains.

Granny's eldest brother, John Blackmore, had a farm called Tucking Mill at Zeal Monachorum. Great-Uncle John, when I knew him, was an old, old man with a long, white beard, who spent his days sitting in the ingle-nook fire place. His daughter, my mother's cousin Blanche, married a man from Brixham, Harold Carnell, and they, with the help of Blanche's older brother "Willumenry", ran the farm.

Tucking Mill, as the name suggests, was an old wool-cleaning or fulling mill. The water-wheel which had powered the fulling process still remained in front of the house and the mill-leat ran alongside the yard. The house itself, a long low seventeenth century building, fascinated me. The rooms seemed so large after our cottage; the oak beams were dark, low and heavy; the fire-place, with its assortment of hooks coming down the chimney, was vast. The hearth held a wood fire summer and winter. A whole tree trunk was dragged into the kitchen and its end pushed into the blaze. As it burned away the trunk was pushed farther and farther across the floor until the whole was consumed.

A small oven in the wall beside the fire-place was heated by wood faggots which were thrust into it and then set alight. When the flames had died down, meat, cake, bread and delicious egg and milk custards were cooked in the embers. Everything had a slightly smoky taste but this improved the flavour.

Tea time at Tucking Mill was a delight. The table laden with home-made bread, scones, jam and cakes, stewed fruits and custard, always bore a large bowl containing about a quart of scolded cream. This was cream which had been separated from the milk in the usual way and then scolded over the fire in a large pan set inside another pan filled with water. It differed from clotted cream in that the whole milk was used to make the latter which was drier, thicker and lumpier. Scalded cream was an incomparably smooth, smoky, delicious delicacy which the family ate freely. We rarely stayed to supper at Tucking Mill since it was rather a long way to go home afterwards, but on the few occasions we did, we were served with enormous platters of home-cured ham, wedges of cheese, hunks of bread and pints of sweet cider. Great-Uncle John in his ingle-nook mumbled away at his food with toothless gums all day long. He took so long over each meal that no sooner had he finished one than the next was ready.

When I was six years old Cousin "Willumenry" had given me a little pig to keep. It was the runt of the litter and very very small. I hugged its pink, hairless body to my chest and ran to show it to my mother. Permission to keep it was instantly refused. My parent had no idea how to look after a pig and doubted in any case, if it would live. I burst into tears and the piglet started to squeal in sympathy. Eventually I was persuaded to return the animal to the straw besides its mother and "Willumenry" drove us all home in a trap pulled by Ginger, the bright chestnut pony. My mother scolded him roundly for making such a thoughtless gift.

The Blackmores were a remarkable family. Many of them had marked artistic gifts, and another time and place might well have brought them fame and prosperity. They traced their descent from a John Blackmore who had been awarded in the seventeenth century a grant of land on Exmoor. Craftsmen rather than farmers, whey were wood-carvers, wheelwrights, potters and weavers. The writer, Richard Dodridge Blackmore, was of their stock. The fine-boned Blackmore face was a family characteristic. The broad, high forehead, deep-set blue eyes with high cheek-bones and wide mouth, are unmistakable. Uncle George once told me that the name Blackmore came from "blackamoor" as applied by the natives of Devon to the survivors of the Spanish Armada who were shipwrecked in North Devon. It may be so for the sallow skin, dark hair and bone-structure of the family could well be Spanish in origin.

The Riddaways, on the other hand, were typical moor-folk with their stocky, sturdy frames, ruddy faces, brown eyes and hair. They lacked the fire and will of the Blackmores but made up for this by a slow, patient approach to the problems of life. Centuries of wrestling a living from the harsh soil of the hills had taught them to expect disappointments and disasters and to ride these out with equanimity.

Great-Uncle Tom Riddaway, the only one of my grandfather's brothers whom I knew, had a farm called Falkedon at Spreyton. It was an old farm-house of the kind known as a "long house". The cow-sheds which had once adjoined the kitchen had been made into a parlour. In the kitchen itself was an enormous open hearth. Great-Uncle Tom and Great-Aunt Jane, who was almost blind, lived there with their two sons, Harold and Jack, and daughter Rosalind. Another daughter, Clarrie, was a teacher somewhere in North Devon.

The Blackmore blood in my mother had made her determined to get something more out of life than Bow could offer. The Riddaway blood had given her the patience to equip herself for the outside world. The bright girl of Bow school, who had worked in her spare time as a domestic help to the head-master's family, and had received in return, not money, but extra lessons. After three or four three or four years as a pupil-teacher, she had left at the age of fifteen years and had gone to seek her fortune in London, securing for herself a post as a children's nurse. The family for whom she worked had connections in France and eventually my mother had gone to work there, taking a post with the Duchess of Guiche. She quickly became fluent in French and was regarded as a treasure by her employers. Recommended from family to family she worked in Italy, Spain and Germany learning each language in turn and progressing from nurse to governess. Her proudest possession was a crystal fob watch given her by Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany. Anecdotes about the peculiarities of the families of the Royal Houses of Europe often creep into her conversation so that I grew up with a very intimate knowledge of upper-class society in the early twentieth century.

In 1915 she returned from Germany (where she had been briefly interned) to England and took a job with the Air Inspection Department in London. It was while she was working there in 1916 that she met my father, George Lane, a Londoner whose origins remained for me shrouded in mystery. I never knew my grandparents not my paternal aunts or uncles, and my father never spoke of them. All I knew was that Dad had been invalided out of the army, and that for the sake of the little health that remained to him my parents had moved to Devon when I was born.

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