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This walk: 2019-11-25. Church of St. Pancras, Widecombe village sign, Lady Sylvia Sayer, Church House, The Old Inn, Glebe House, Tithe Barn, The Old Smithy, The Old Post Office, Saxon Well, The Old Rectory, Kingshead Cross, Bonehill Rocks, 1 mioL stone, alpacas, Thornhill (Thorny) Lane, Honeybag Tor, Chinkwell Tor, Honey fungus, Sharp Tor, Bel Tor, Bonehill Gate, Higher, Middle and Lower Bonehill, Time Capsule 2,000, lych gate and coffin stone, Olive Katharine Parr / Beatrice Chase grave marker, Churchyard Cross, Elford tablet, Tucker Stone, Roger Hill ledger stone, Sexton's Cottage Shop.

To enhance the "Widecombe experience", here are photos taken around the village from other visits .....

Walk details below - Information about the route etc.

Previous walks in this area: 5 November 2009, 24 March 2010, 14 December 2011, 6 November 2013

Reconnaissance walks:  27 October 2019 4 November 2019 

Google Satellite map + GPS track of the walk 

 

The medieval Church of St. Pancras - from late-1300's, often called the Cathedral of the Moor. The list of rectors/vicars dates from 1253. Named after a Roman boy, Pancratius, martyred under Emperor Diocletian in 304 AD. The 120ft tower was added in the 1400 or early 1500's through the benevolence of the tinners' Guild of St Pancras.

"Widecombe" is from "Withy or Willow Valley", a Saxon name, settlements and a wooden church established long before the Normans invaded in 1066 and in the Domesday Book (of 1086): manors of Natsworthy and Dunstone in the Webburn valley. Bittleford was named in a 956 AD Saxon charter. The Domesday Book (1086) records:  Dewdon (18 villagers. 6 smallholders. 14 slaves.), Dunstone (5 villagers. 7 smallholders), Scobitor (16 villagers. 8 smallholders. 8 slaves), and Blackslade (5 villagers. 7 smallholders). Granite longhouses began to appear in the 1100 &1200s. Widecombe Manor was not in the Domesday Book but was mentioned in Testa de Nevill in 1291 (note the language was French - Norman).  Source for some information: Eric Hemery (1983), High Dartmoor, Robert Hale, London, pages 667-677.

On the grass, left of centre, is the impressive stone village sign, depicting the Uncle Tom Cobley / Widecombe Fair song that features in a carved inset near the top. This was designed by  Lady Sylvia Sayer in the 1940s (see the bottom photograph). She was Chair of the Dartmoor Preservation Association from 1851 to 1973.

 

An overview of the 1843 Widecombe Tithe Map where Widecombe is marked by the X. It is labelled as "Vicarage" .....

 

Widecombe on the 1843 Tithe Map of the parish.  Copyright Devon County Council, reproduced with permission. Note the map has been drawn with "North" rotated slightly anti-clockwise.

 

The church clock.

 

Near the lych gate is Church House (also Google Street View), a fine example from about 1537. These were built for parish festivities (= social centre), but this was stopped in 1603 under the Puritans and it became a Poorhouse. It became a school in Victorian times.

 

The Old Inn, facing the lych gate, was once the priest's house.

 

Glebe House, opposite Church House, once the church's Glebe farm. A glebe is a piece of land in the parish to raise revenues for the clergy. A wing at the rear of the house  (Google Street View) was the original tithe barn

 

The original tithe barn at the rear of Glebe House.

 

The Old Smithy, down the road from The Old Inn.

 

The Old Post Office (and Manor Cottage), one of four in the history of Widecombe. The original was down the bottom of this hill (Southcombe Villa, P.O.) where the Postmaster lived and one of the adjacent buildings was the stable for his horse, now it is three cottages. The Cafe on the Green and a building between here and the Green were also Post Offices. Source: a local resident.

 

Just down the road from the Old Post Office is the older Saxon Well, although whether it is truly Saxon is open to question - but the original church is believed to have been, built of wood .....

 

Another view.

 

The Old Pig House & Heritage Garden - a lottery-funded restoration project, overseen by the Moor Than Meets The Eye project, recorded on THIS web page. Also: Widecombe History Group - Pig-House and Heritage Garden Project.

 

The Old Rectory, labelled as "Vicarage" on the tithe map, published in 1843. 

  

Sign pointing up Church Lane - a footpath over Hameldon to Grimspound and beyond.

 

Several of the following photographs show the entrances to the properties along this road to Natsworthy .....

Gate to Kingshead Farm, at SX 71660 77062 .....

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV29205 - Gatepost north of Widecombe
"Gatepost. Possibly medieval. A slightly tapering granite monolith, roughly oblong in section and about 1.5m high. At the top of the north-east face, above the gate-catch, is an incised cross."

 

Incised cross in the lefthand post .....  the cross being known as Kingshead Cross or Kingshead Lane Cross .....

 

Close-up.

 

View of Honeybag Tor (left), Chinkwell Tor (behind the pole), Bel Tor and Bonehill Rocks (right) .....

 

Far view of Bonehill Rocks - our coffee stop for later.

 

Wooder Manor has interesting historical connections with the Great Thunder Storm of 1638, for this is where Roger Hill, one of the victims of the disaster lived.

 "Within the church ..... are two ledgers set into the floor of the nave between the transepts, one of which bears the following epitaph

Hic Iacent Corpora Rogeri Hill Generosi
et Annae Uxoris Eius

Vir Obiit 21 Octobris 1638
Uxor Autem 17 Januarij 1648

This marks the final resting place of Roger Hill of Tunhill, who was killed on 21st October 1638, in what has become known as the Great Storm of Widecombe, and also of his wife who lived to tell the tale and died ten years later (translation) Here lies the body of Roger Hill, Gent, and Anne his wife, He died 21 October 1638 and his wife on 17 January 1648. Alongside this ledger is one which bears an incised cross, but no inscription, which is thought to mark the final resting place of Robert Meade, a warrener of Vaghill, who was also killed on the same day in 1638". Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 7189 7679.

The Great Thunder Storm, 1638 .....

"The village schoolmaster of the time, a gentleman called Roger Hill, and brother of the deceased "Master Hill", recorded the incident in a rhyming testament which is still displayed on boards (originals replaced in 1786) in the church."

To avoid confusion, it was Roger Hill who was killed. The events of the storm were described in that year, 1638, in The Storm Poem by Richard Hill, schoolmaster and brother of Roger. There is a discrepancy between the names as to which brother was killed - but it is Roger's name in the epitaph above.

 

A few metres away, Wooder Farm.

 

The mysterious 1 mioL Stone ..... at SX 72210 78038 ..... 80 metres north of Stouts Cottages, on the left, in the west hedgebank .....

Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV30083 - Milestone north of Widecombe in the Moor 
"
About a mile north of Widecombe village, just beyond Stouts Cottages (thought to be on the western side of the road) there is an old stone, with the inscription '1 mioL' on it. Suggested to be a parole stone defining the limits that prisoner of war officers were allowed to range within, but this has been questioned as Widecombe is not known as one of the settlements where officers were housed."

 

This location is 1.61 km = 1 mile from the church porch ..... measured digitally on a digital map (Memory-Map 2009).

 


Image reproduced by kind permission of Dartmoor Archive
See the Dartmoor Archive image online HERE

 

Alpacas seen in a field down near the river (East Webburn).

 

Bagpark.

 

Coach House & Pitt Park.

 

Pitton .....

 

Pitton - "Pittonspark" on the Tithe Map Apportionments.

 

Noughts and crosses in the sky?

 

Climbing up Thornhill Lane (locally, "Thorny Lane") towards Honeybag Tor - this was a medieval road going north from Hemsworthy Gate to Natsworthy that avoided going down Widecombe Hill.

 

Honeybag Tor .....

 

Honeybag Tor, SX 728 786, elevation 445 meters (1459 feet).

 

Hameldon, (trig. point on Hameldon Tor at SX 70313 80573, elevation 529 metres / 1735 feet) across the East Webburn River - which rises near Grimspound and flows through Widecombe to join the West Webburn River south of Widecombe at Lizwell Meet (Oakmoor Wood), at SX 71335 73703. The West Webburn River rises near Headland Warren Farm and flows past Jordan to Ponsworthy to form the River Webburn that joins the Dart at Buckland Bridge above New Bridge.

 

Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) on a dead tree stump. More images.

 

Honeybag Tor seen from Thornhill Lane track .....

 

Zoomed view.

 

The track commencing at SX 72589 78486 that runs up between Honeybag Tor (left) and Chinkwell Tor (right).

 

Chinkwell Tor, SX 729 782, elevation 456 metres (1496 feet)  .....

 

Chinkwell Tor showing Sharp Tor on the south-west flank .....

 

Passing Sharp Tor, at SX 7282 7807, elevation approx. 419 metres (1374 feet) ..... the name was used by William Crossing in his Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor (1912, reprinted 2001), Peninsula Press, Newton Abbot, pages 296 and 314, and is used in Eric Hemery (1983), High Dartmoor, Robert Hale, London, page 654, and more recently in Ken Ringwood (2013), Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks. University of Plymouth Press, Plymouth, page 172 .....

 

Looking back at Sharp Tor .....

 

Looking back at Sharp Tor and Chinkwell Tor, which has a wind-shaped hawthorn tree near its summit .....

 

Wind-shaped hawthorn tree.

 

Approaching Bonehill Rocks and Bonehill Lawn .....

 

Bel Tor, or Bell Tor, at SX 730 778, elevation 404 meters (1325 feet).

 

Bonehill Gate, beside Bonehill Rocks where it descends (quite steeply, at 1 in 5) to the post-medieval hamlet of Bonehill. The medieval Period (Middle Ages) is usually accepted as being between 476 AD (after the Romans left in 410) to 1500 AD (when the Renaissance began, after years of war, plague and famine across Europe).

 

Bonehill Rocks, SX 73143 77456, elevation 393 metres (1289 feet), and Bonehill Lawn again.

 

Looking back at Bel Tor .....

 

Zoomed view.

 

Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER) - Various hyperlinks below for the hamlet of Bonehill .....

Bonehill Medieval Settlement, Widecombe-in-the-Moor ....

Also:  An impressive group of buildings stand huddled together in the small hamlet of Bonehill, the centrepiece of which is the imposing sixteenth century longhouse of Middle Bonehill with its fine porch bearing the inscription IS 1682 on the lintel. An early nineteenth century barn stands alongside, whilst a seventeenth century barn stands on the opposite side of the road. Lower Bonehill is another sixteenth century longhouse, in the middle of a group of five seventeenth and eighteenth century outbuildings. Higher Bonehill is a sixteenth or seventeenth century farmhouse, not of the longhouse design.

Middle Bonehill was owned by the Smerdon family throughout almost the entire post-medieval period. In fact, it was owned from mid-Elizabethan times until the closing years of the Victorian era by no less than eleven consecutive generations of John Smerdons!

The last John Smerdon died and the property passed to Edwin Smerdon who died in 1900, when the family connection was finished.

Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 7255 7750.
 





The hamlet of Bonehill on the 1843 Widecombe Tithe Map. Copyright Devon County Council, reproduced with permission. Note the map has been drawn with "North" rotated slightly anti-clockwise .....

 

Also:

Google Earth image of Bonehill. Copyright Google 2018.

Also: Widecombe / Bonehill 25-inch Single Sheet OS map


Higher Bonehill .....

 

Higher Bonehill Farmhouse - Historic England - see Details

Barn at Higher Bonehill, Widecombe in the Moor 

Shippon 10 metres south of Higher Bonehill Farmhouse

 

Middle Bonehill .....

 

Middle Bonehill Farmhouse

 

There are many interesting aspects of this old longhouse, the porch being one of them .....

 

Middle Bonehill was owned by the Smerdon family throughout almost the entire post-medieval period. In fact, it was owned from mid-Elizabethan times until the closing years of the Victorian era by no less than eleven consecutive generations of John Smerdons! And so it does not take a great deal of ingenuity to conclude that the initials above the porch of the dwelling are those of one of these Johns the letter I being the old form of J. Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 7255 7750.

 

Threshing Barn 6 metres east of Middle Bonehill Farmhouse

Barn 25 metres south-east of Middle Bonehill Farmhouse
 

 

Lower Bonehill Farm.

 

Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

Lower Bonehill Farmhouse - Historic England, see "Details"

Outbuilding 10 metres north-west of Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

Barn 10 metres south of Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

Shippon 15 metres south-west of Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

Barn 30 metre south-west of Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

Shippon 50 metres south-west of Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

Linhay north of Lower Bonehill Farmhouse

 

Bonehill Cottage .....

 

..... was also Bonehill House - includes: "The main house is 'Bonehill House' and the former coach house to the north is 'Bonehill Cottage'."

  

An incised stone on The Green .....

 

BENEATH THIS STONE IS A TIME CAPSULE
PLACED BY WIDECOMBE PARISH COUNCIL
ON THE 9th DAY OF SEPTEMBER IN THE YEAR 2000 AD
NOT TO BE OPENED FOR 100 YEARS
Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 718 768.

 

The lych gate and coffin stone, (or bier stone) leading into the church and church yard .....

 

Church House again - Near the lych gate is Church House (also Google Street View), a fine example from about 1537. These were built for parish festivities (= social centre), but this was stopped in 1603 under the Puritans and it became a Poorhouse. It became a school in Victorian times.

 

SX 71900 76774, a rare gravestone memorial in Widecombe churchyard, with two names for the same person ..... Olive Katharine Parr, the author who used the pen name, Beatrice Chase (Legendary Dartmoor) ..... 

 

The reverse face of the same grave marker - Beatrice Chase, 1874-1955 .....

 

BEATRICE CHASE
1874-1955
Online link
PRAY FOR
OLIVE KATHARINE
PARR
Online link
Images reproduced by kind permission of Dartmoor Archive

From the Legendary Dartmoor website:"Beatrice Chase was also supposedly the woman who began the tradition of leaving fresh flowers on the suicide, Kitty Jays grave. She was also responsible for reviving the flagging Widecombe Fair in the 1930s and restoring it to it modern-day popularity."

 

HERE LIES
KATHARINE PARR
MOTHER OF
BEATRICE CHASE
BORN APRIL 30, 1850
DIED NOV 30 1925
RIP
HIS TENDER MERCIES ARE ABOVE ALL
HIS WORKS PS 144

 

Only some of the 34 walkers made it into the churchyard at the end of the walk to the the grave marker of Beatrice Chase (surrounded by walkers to the right) where it faces that of her mother (at the left edge of the photograph).

 

Zoomed view from Bonehill Gate, beside Bonehill Rocks - The grave marker is itself marked by a black "v" towards the bottom left of the upper section of the grave yard. It is the "fatest" and perhaps only bare cross, i.e. with no base or pedestal.

 

Widecombe Churchyard Cross.

 

Inside the church .....

In the centre of this photograph is a tablet on the north wall of the nave, opposite the main entrance porch ..... (above the postcards) .....

 

The tablet is dedicated to Mary, the third wife of John Elford, who was Lord of the Manor at Sheepstor (spelled here as Shitstor), who lived at Longstone, and who was interred on 16th February, 1642, after giving birth to twin daughters. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Transcription, with some interpretation  .....

TO THE MEMORY OF
MARY THE THIRD WIFE OF JOHN ELFORD OF
SHITSTOR  ESQ. WAS HERE INTERRED ON FEB. 16th
AD 1642 HAVING ISSUE AT A BIRTH MARY & SARAH
Wed: poesie (= pledge in poetic writing?)
As MARY'S CHOICE MADE JOHN REJOICE below
So was her loss his heavy cross most know
Yet lost she is not, sure, but found above
Death gave her life, to embrace a dearer love
Anagram [MARY ELFORD][FEAR MY LORD]
Then, FEAR MY LORD, whilst yet you powder on mold;
That so, those arms that me may enfold;
Near twelve months day her marriage here did pass,
Her heavenly marriage consummated was;
She fertile proved in soul and body both
In life good works; at death, she twins brought forth
And like a fruitful tree, with bearing died.
Yet Phoenix like; for one, two survived
Which shortly posted their dear mother after,
Least sins contagion their poor souls might slaughter
Then cease your sad laments. I am but gone
To reap above, what below I have sown.
 
Ao. aetat:}{ vixit obiit superis}
Maria Gale Johannis Elford Uxor terti
(heu) obiit ex puerperis. }{ Erectum fuit. Ao.1650


Freely translated .....
Aged [?20?] she lived and died as described above
Mary Gale, third wife of John Elford
(Alas) she died in childbirth}{ This was erected in the year 1650

Acknowledgement: My thanks to Derek Harbour for translating the Latin and suggesting the age.
The age is inferred from the yan, tan, tethera, methera, pip system with a stone denoting e.g. ten sheep
- whereby the colon after Ao. aetat: may represent two tens, indicating the age as 20.

John Elford had four wives: Elizabeth Copleston, Anna Northcott, Mary Gale and Sarah Woollcombe.

 

The refound Tucker Stone .....

 

..... made for the Lords of the Manor of Natsworthy, 1869-1893. Click on the image to see a larger version.

  

The innovative two-way plough for ploughing in both directions in a field.

 

Two ledger stones in the centre of the nave between the transepts: the left one marks the burial of Roger Hill, of Tunhill, who was killed instantly in the Great Storm of 1638 and of his wife who survived and died ten years later. The unmarked burial is believed to be that of Robert Meade, a warrener of Vaghill, who was also killed instantly in the storm. The stones are slightly worn after the passage of many feet over the last 381 years (in 2019). Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 7176 - the inscription reads .....

Hic Iacent Corpora Rogeri Hill Generosi
et Annae Uxoris Eius

Vir Obiit 21 Octobris 1638
Uxor Autem 17 Januarij 1648

Translation .....

Here lies the body of Roger Hill Gentleman
and Anne his wife

He died 21 October 1638
 His wife 17 January 1648

  

  

A view of the stained glass window above the main altar ..... the two ledger stones can be seen between the front pews, seen from the opposite direction compared to the preceding photograph ..... the stone marked with only an elongate cross is believed to be that of Robert Meade, a warrener from Vag Hill Warren, who was also killed instantly when the church was struck by lightning in the storm of 1638 .....

 

Zoomed view.

 

Outside again .....

View from the churchyard of Glebe House with the old tithe barn at its rear.

 

Sexton's Cottage Shop and Information Centre in the Church House building.

  

Walk details

MAP: Red = GPS satellite track of the walk.

Crown copyright 2016  Ordnance Survey Licence number 100047373
Also, Copyright 2005, Memory-Map Europe, with permission.

 

The walk was accessed from the A38 from Plymouth using the Sigford exit after Ashburton (better to use the next, Newton Abbot, exit) and following the signs to Sigford, then via these junctions: Hooks Cross (do not turn right for Sigford), Owlacombe Cross, Halshanger Cross, Cold East Cross. Hemsworthy Gate and Harefoot Cross junctions, continuing ahead to Widecombe to the car park on the right on entering the village: at the  P  symbol/yellow cross on the map. Link to: Widecombe main car park.

Statistics
Distance - 6.3 km / 3.92 miles

    

 

All photographs on this web site are copyright © Keith Ryan.
All rights reserved - please email for permissions