On Monday 25th November, how many 34 DPA members and friends met in the main car park at Widecombe and set off for a walk around the area, mainly to the tors to the north – Honeybag, Chinkwell, Sharp and Bel Tors and Bonehill Rocks. This part of the walk was kindly “trailed” for us by BBC1 television in the new series, “Gold Digger”!  We returned via the late/post-medieval hamlet of Bonehill. The weather was not the kindest but the forecast lived up to its prediction – light rain to start with drying as the walk progressed. We even had a little sunshine as some of us left The Rugglestone after lunch. Widecombe has a lot to see and this walk cannot embrace it all. However, here are links to two pages of re-worked photographs of the village from ten years ago:

 

Church of St. Pancras, Widecombe, sometimes called "The Cathedral of the Moor"

Church of St. Pancras, Widecombe, sometimes called “The Cathedral of the Moor”

 

The church has a long history, with rectors recorded from 1253. It is 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. The impressive stone village sign, depicting the Uncle Tom Cobley / Widecombe Fair song, features in a carved inset near the top. This was designed by the DPA’s own Lady Sylvia Sayer in the 1940s (see the bottom photograph).

 

Inscribed stone on the village green

Inscribed stone on the village 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

 

Signpost on the Natsworthy road, outside the village

Signpost on the Natsworthy road, outside the village

 

The signpost above points up Church Lane to Church Lane Head leading up to Hamel Down and on to Grimspound.

 

Kingshead Cross, an inscribed gatepost

Kingshead Cross, an inscribed gatepost

 

There is a cross inscribed on a gatepost known as Kingshead Cross. It was probably never a true cross but, more likely, a boundary stone?

 

Kingshead Cross, closer view

Kingshead Cross, closer view

 

The cross was never seen by two regular walkers who passed by with their dog as I took the photograph!

 

The 1 mioL stone

The 1 mioL stone

 

Aha – the mysterious 1 mioL stone!  It has been suggested that it is a parole stone, but no French Napoleonic Army officers are believed to have been housed in Widecombe. However, it measures out as being 1.61 km (= 1 mile) from the porch door of the church, using a digital map (Memory Map) on a computer. This is 80 metres north of Stouts Cottages, in the left i.e. west hedge bank when walking north.

 

Going up Thornhill ("Thorny") Lane

Going up Thornhill (“Thorny”) Lane

 

After walking over a mile up the Natsworthy road, and passing the entrances to several properties, we turned up Thorny Lane. It is surprisingly wide.

 

Honeybag Tor, zoomed view

Honeybag Tor, zoomed view

 

At the top of the lane, on a medieval track from Hemsworthy gate towards Natsworthy that avoids Widecombe Hill, we turned south again, to walk along the flanks of the tors.  This was heading towards Bonehill Rocks. Here, we passed Honeybag Tor, 1459 feet.

 

Honey fungus on a tree stump

Honey fungus on a tree stump

 

There was some Honey fungus along the way during a visit on 27th October, on a dead tree stump – I forgot to look “on the day”!

 

Chinkwell Tor, with Sharp Tor on its flank

Chinkwell Tor, with Sharp Tor on its flank

 

The next tor along the way was Chinkwell Tor, at 1496 feet. While it looks quite rounded from this location, there are a lot of rocks on the summit, including two modern cairns. This tor has the rocky prominence of Sharptor Rocks or Sharp tor on its flank.

 

Looking back at Sharp Tor

Looking back at Sharp Tor

 

Sharp Tor stands at approx.  1374 feet.

 

Passing Bel Tor

Passing Bel Tor

 

Finally, we passed Bel Tor or Bell Tor, which stands at 1325 feet. It apparently has a number of rock basins, although on a reconnaissance visit, it rained in a real downpour and I wasn’t minded to climb the wet rocks.

 

Bonehill Gate

Bonehill Gate

 

Bonehill Gate is between Bel Tor and Bonehill Rocks, where the road leads down to the Bonehill settlement, a hamlet dating from the 1600s. Across the road are Bonehill Rocks.

 

Bonehill Rocks, with Bonehill Lawn

Bonehill Rocks, with Bonehill Lawn

 

Bonehill Lawn is the area of good-looking grass around Bonehill Rocks. It makes a good area for a coffee stop.

 

Middle Bonehill longhouse

Middle Bonehill longhouse

 

Bonehill consists of Upper, Middle and Lower Bonehill longhouses plus Bonehill Cottage and House.

 

"IS 1682" above the porch of Middle Bonehill

“IS 1682” above the porch of Middle Bonehill

 

Middle Bonehill has a fine porch on which is cut “IS 1682”.   The initials are those of a John Smerdon, a line of eleven John Smerdons farmed here, from mid-Elizabethan times to about 1900.

 

Lower Bonehill longhouse

Lower Bonehill

 

As we proceeded down the (steep) road, we naturally came to Lower Bonehill – a substantial-looking house.

 

Church House, built approx. 1537

Church House, built approx. 1537

 

Back in the village, we entered the churchyard through a kissing gate, and saw the grave narker of the writer, Beatrice Chase. Her real name was Olive Katherine Parr. The churchyard (old village) cross was pointed out nearby, having been removed during the Puritan era. Inside the church, we concentrated on the Elford tablet (erected 1650) – this having  bearing on the next walk at Sheepstor. We also saw the two ledger stones in the knave that mark the burials of Roger Hill (and his wife) and Robert Meade, both of whom were killed instantly in the Great Storm of 1638 when the church was struck by lightningh during a service.

Outside, we passed Church House that served as a form of “community centre” and ale house. This was stopped when the Puritans prevailed and it was turned into a poorhouse. Later, it was a school. In the photograph above, the lich gate is seen with its roof on the right, at the end of the wall. Behind the camera is Glebe House (with the old tithe barn forming a rear wing), and to the left is The Old Inn that was formerly the Rectory. Behind Glebe House is the newer Old Rectory.

 

View from Bonehill Gate, a "v" indicates the grave stone of Beatrice Chase

View from Bonehill Gate, a “v” indicates the grave stone of Beatrice Chase

 

A highly zoomed view from Bonehill Gate shows the church tower and much of the churchyard, to the extent of being able to see the grave marker of writer, Beatrice Chase …..

 

The cross on the grave of the author, Beatrice Chase, real name Olive Katharine Parr

The cross on the grave of the author, Beatrice Chase, real name Olive Katharine Parr

 

The cross has “Beatrice Chase 1874 – 1955” on one face and “Pray for Olive Katherine Parr” on the other.  She claimed to be directly descended from William Parr, the brother of Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII.

 

Some of the group of 34 made it as far as the churchyard and the church

Some of the group of 34 made it as far as the churchyard and the church

 

As mentioned following, there is an item of interest in the church that bears on our next walk, at Sheeps Tor …..

 

Looking inside the church, from the door to the Elford tablet - in the centre of the photograph, above the postcards

Looking inside the church, from the door to the Elford tablet – in the centre of the photograph, above the postcards

 

One item in the church is of interest because it has a bearing on the next planned DPA Short Walk which is in the Burrator/Sheepstor area. It is the Elford tablet, a memorial to Mary Gale, the third wife of John Elford, Lord of the Manor at Sheepstor, who lived at Longstone, the ruins on the “island” at Burrator Reservoir …..

 

The Elford tablet

The Elford tablet

 

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
s(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.

 

 

Two ledger stones marking the burials of the two victims killed instantly in the Great Storm of 1638

Two ledger stones marking the burials of the two victims killed instantly in the Great Storm of 1638

 

The unmarked ledger, with the long cross, is believed to be that of Robert Meade, a warrener from Vag Hill Warren, who was killed instantly along with Roger Hill when the church was struck by lightning during the Great Thunderstorm Storm of 1638 …..

 

Hic lacent 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 altar, with the ledger stones in the aisle (seen from the other direction to the previous photograph)

A view of the altar, with the ledger stones in the aisle (seen from the other direction to the previous photograph)

 

The long, sword-like cross can be discerned on the stone on the left in the photograph above.

 

Glebe House, across from the church, with the old tithe barn as a rear wing

Glebe House, across from the church, with the old tithe barn as a rear wing

 

On leaving the church, a short detour by the lich gate reveals a view of the old tithe barn, now the rear wing of Glebe House.

 

Satellite map + GPS track of the walk

More photographs on the Dartmoor CAM web site