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Whimple is a village and civil parish in East Devon in the English county of Devon, approximately 9 miles (14 km) due east of the city of Exeter, and 3 miles (4.8 km) from the nearest small town, Ottery St Mary. It has a population of 1,642, recounted to 1,173 for the village alone in the United Kingdom Census 2011. The electoral ward with the same name had a population of 2,380 at the above census. It was listed in the Domesday Book as 'Winpla' which according to the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names was originally the name of the stream that runs through the village, a Brythonic Celtic name meaning 'white pool' being a compound of the British words corresponding to Welsh gwyn, 'white' and pwll, 'pool'. In DB there was a place called Wympelwell in parochia de Taleton referring to the spot where the stream rises in neighbouring Talaton parish. The village is centred on the largely 19th century village square and rebuilt Norman church (which W. G. Hoskins described as having little of interest 'except a few carved bench ends'). Through the square runs a small stream which is one of many local tributaries of the River Clyst, which in turn feeds into the Exe.
Whimple is large enough to support two public houses [pubs], a village shop,Post office and a Church of England primary school, and was mainly notable during the 20th century as being the home of Whiteway's cyder and perry products until its closure in 1985. Although the factory lands were sold off for housing in the 1990s, the village is still surrounded by orchards of cider apples and in its heyday boasted the largest cyder apple orchards in the world. The East Devon Crematorium, located nearby on the south side of the old A30 road, was opened in April 2011.
The centre of the village is about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the old A30 road, and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the new dual carriageway. Whimple railway station is on the West of England Main Line from London Waterloo to Exeter. Outlying hamlets of Whimple include Cobden, Hand & Pen, Woodhayes, Slewton Combe, Larkbeare, Strete Ralegh and Marsh Green.
Whimple has a long tradition of wassailing which it celebrates every year on Old Twelvey Night - 17 January.
The Whimple Wassail is an orchard-visiting wassail ceremony and was first mentioned by the Victorian author and folklorist; the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould in his book Devonshire Characters and Strange Events (published 1908).
Later in 1931 the Whimple Wassail was given further mention in the Devon & Exeter Gazette describing how the Wassail was hosted at Rull Farm, Whimple by a Mr & Mrs Reynolds.
The ceremony begins at the New Fountain Inn with the first rendition of the wassail song, then the procession first wassails one of the last remaining 'Whimple Wonder' trees before visiting three orchards and stopping for a salute at the village tethering-stone to remember and pay respects to the late "Mayor of Whimple" John Shepherd, the man responsible for reviving the tradition. He was also a great singer and recalled many old songs including the "Whimple Wassail". After visiting the last orchard, the wassail party finish up at the cricket club on the other side of the village where the full song is sung followed by much music-making and consumption of cheese, apple cake and cider.
The Whimple Wassail song and processional tune were recorded by local folk musician Jim Causley, a native of Whimple, on his album Fruits of the Earth, a collection of traditional Devonshire and Westcountry songs, released in 2005 on WildGoose Records.
- instanceSelection=03070&productId=779&$ph=60_61&datasetInstanceId=3070&startColumn=1&numberOfColumns=8&containerAreaId=790359 Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : East Devon Retrieved 28 January 2010
- "Parish population 2011". Retrieved 25 February 2015.
- "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 25 February 2015.
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