Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

Chagford

A brochure created by ‘visitchagford.com’ describes Chagford as “The prettiest town on Dartmoor”. Of course, as the phrase goes ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. The town is certainly pretty and the author would also describe the town as being a very unique place and as a little gem with lots of history to occupy the visitor. The town is believed to have been established in Saxon times, with the name meaning “the ford where the gorse grows”. In 1305, the town became one of four Devon Stannary town, where the tinners’ brought their tin for weighing and valuing. The town further grew due to the wool trade in the area which started from the early 19th century. In the authors humble opinion the “must see’s” are St. Michaels Church, the Town Square and Bowden & Sons. There are plenty of Inns and places to eat and drink, to satisfy most tastes.

The information in this post has largely been obtained by the fabulous Chagford History Society ‘Town Trail’, from the online Heritage Gateway and from the author’s ex-work colleague who still lives there.

Bibliography

  1. Tom Quick, 1992, Dartmoor Inns
  2. G.W. Ormerod, 1873-1874, ‘Wayside Crosses in the District bordering the east of Dartmoor’
  3. E.N. Masson Phillips, 1937, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon
  4. Chagford History Society Town Trail: https://www.chagfordlocalhistorysociety.org.uk/town-trail-static/
  5. C. Stell, 1991, An Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting-Houses in South-West England
Chagford 1 - Turnlake
Turnlake, a granite lined stream, whose name may be a corruption of “Town Lake”, was the first Chagford water supply. The name could also possibly refer to the diversion of water at this point for a leat travelling to O’er Hill.
Chagford 2 - Stannary Place
Stannary Place  is a recent development and was a garage until 1994. The “Three Hares” symbol and date is located on the side of the building. Behind Stannary Place was once a livestock and annual pony sales market.
Chagford 3 - Rock Cottage
Rock Cottage in New Street was a bakery from 1900 until the 1950s.
 Chagford 4 - Assembly Rooms
The old Assembly Rooms where people gathered for concerts and money raising events. It was also where Chagford men were called to arms at the beginning of the First World War. In the 1920s the building became the Rex Cinema, until it finally closed in the 1960s.
Chagford 5 - Old School Masters House
24 New Street was the School Master’s house and is believed to be late 19th or early 20th century.
Chagford 6 - Old School
The old school is located next door to the School Master’s house. It was opened in 1861 on the site of a Care House for the poor of the Parish. It is recorded that the room is 14m by 5m and held 150 children. The school was then enlarged as numbers increased to 180. It was in use until 1971.
Chagford 7 - Old Police Station
Former police house at 20 New Street. There is a canopy over the door and noticeboard hooks on the walls. 
Chagford 7a - Chagford Open Fields
O’er Hill gate leading to one of the Open Fields for those holding common grazing rights for cattle, sheep and poultry.
Chagford 7b - Chagford Open Fields
Chagford Open fields are unlocked between August and November. The (Turnlake) leat which has flowed underground to this point flows along the right-hand side of the field, curving around the hill on its way to a woollen mill in Mill Street.
Chagford 8 - Farriers Cottage
Numbers 25, 27 and 29 New Street were once a large smithy.
Chagford 9 - Old Eagle Inn
Former White Eagle Inn with fire insurance plaque “Royal”.
Chagford 10 - Meldon Road and Edward VII letterbox
New Street turns into Meldon Road. Nearby is a Edward VII postbox.
Chagford 11 - Town Pound
The Town Pound is a small walled area where stray animals were kept until their owners paid for their return. Today it is a lovely tranquil area with a couple of benches and views to Meldon Hill.
Chagford 12 - Slaughterhouse
The former slaughterhouse with a 1893 date stone.
Chagford 13 - New Street
New Street where many of the cottages are 16th & 17th century and Grade 2 listed.
Chagford 14b - Globe Inn Stables
The cobbled entrance to the back of the Globe Inn, which leads to the coaching yard and the converted sheds where horses would be stabled. In the alley is a stone feature which looks like a animal (pig?) in a barrel
Chagford 15a - The Drang
The Drang. The small doors were the entrances to pigsties and stables.
Chagford 15b - The Drang
View of the old Globe stables from the Drang. Here there was a large coopering works and hogsheads for cider and beer. There was also an industry in quart firkins for farm labourers to carry their cider in. (Ref: Quick).
Chagford 15c - The Drang
More views of the Drang. Note the bars on the side window (top right picture). The bars are here as this was once a post office.
Chagford 16 - Church Stile Cottage
Church Stile Cottage. The name comes from the fact there was once a stile in the Churchyard wall opposite.
Chagford 17 - Church Stile
Next to the Iron gate leading into the churchyard of St. Michael’s, the wall has been reconstructed. Once there was a granite slab stile on which coffins were rested on the way to funerals. The cottage opposite (previous pictures) was named after this stile
Chagford 18a - Globe Inn
The Globe Inn is an early 16th century coaching inn. The reason for the bottom left picture is because the room in the roof is where the author staid as part of a ‘substantial’ birthday celebration.
Chagford 18b - Globe Inn
 The Globe Inn was originally named the ‘Gregory’s Arms’ and, as far as is known, has always been an Inn. 
Chagford 18c - Globe Inn
The Globe Inn is said to be haunted.
Chagford 18d - Globe Inn
View of St. Michael Archangel church from top floor window of the Globe Inn.
Chagford 19 - New Street  High Street
Junction of New Street and High Street
Chagford 20a - Endacott House
Endecott House is from 15th century and is Grade 2 listed. It has previously been known as St. Katherine’s House after the Patron Saint of Tinners, but was named Endecott House following refurbishment in the 1980s in honour of John Endecott, first governor of Massachusetts, who emigrated from Chagford in 1628. The building has had a rich history and was at one time administered by Churchwardens and was used by Church Guilds. Church Ales were also brewed here. After this period the building was where the poor of the parish were housed as it was the local Care House. Into the late 18th century a schoolroom was created upstairs
Chagford 20b - Endacott House
Into the late 18th century a schoolroom was created upstairs and the stairs to the upper floor was located on the outside of the building. The outline of these stairs can still be made out today. In 1853 the infants’ school was opened on the ground floor with the older children being taught on the first floor (until 1861). Endecott House continued as an infants’ school until 1936, whereas the older children were taught in the new school in New Street.
Chagford 21 - Three Crowns
The Three Crowns is an early Tudor and Grade 2 listed building. It was once owned by Sir John Whiddon (died in 1575), whose daughter, Mary was shot by a jealous suitor as she left the Church after the wedding ceremony. It is thought that the murder of Mary Whiddon inspired R.D. Blackmore to write his story, Lorna Doone. The Whiddon family tomb and a tablet dedicated to Mary is in St. Michael’s the Archangel Church. On 8th February 1643, during the English Civil War a young royalist poet, name Sydney Godolphin from Helston Cornwall where he was the MP was shot and carried to the porch here. His presence is still felt by women (in the ladies) – allegedly!! In the 19th century the pub was known as the Black Swan before becoming the Three Crowns.
Chagford 22a - St Michael Archangel
The church in Chagford was dedicated to St Michael on July 30th 1261 by Bishop Branscombe. The church underwent a major renovation circa 1888 with some lesser works between 1888 and 1925. The tower is 21 metres (69 feet) high. Originally the tower had pinnacles at the top corners but these have been removed.
Chagford 22b - St Michael Archangel
The vestry of the church was restored by J. W. Rowell and son in 1891 and tower was restored in 1915. Other roofs repaired took place around 1960. The painted clock face dates from 1867.
Chagford 22c - St Michael Archangel
St. Michael (Archangel) is a 20th carved figure in a niche within the external facade of the tower. The sculpture was carved and given to the church by John Skeaping, a previous resident of Chagford
Chagford 23a - James Perrot
James Perrot grave. He was a famous Dartmoor guide in the 19th century and is said to have started ‘letterboxing’ after he placed a container in a small cairn at Cranmere Pool in 1854 for people to place their business / calling cards there.
Chagford 23b - James Perrot
James Perrot passed away aged 81 in 1895 and is buried with his wife (Mary), with whom he had four sons and four daughters; Richard, Stanford, William, James, Elizabeth, Emma, Louisa and Ellen.
Chagford 23c - Churchyard
Graveyard of St. Michaels
Chagford 24a - Door
The oak door at the west side of the tower carved with blind cusped arcades with a Latin quotation dated 1914 (which is seen on the far right – bottom of the right door). The Latin inscription reads: “May the Peace of Christ be in this house and all who dwell herein – here is rest”.
Chagford 24b - Benchmark
To the right side of the west door is a benchmark (B.M 0633.0), which is likely to have been inscribed in 19th century (Note: the first geodetic levelling in England took place between 1840 and 1860).
Chagford 25a - Church Interior
Inside the church. The nave and chancel are under a continuous roof with full length north and south aisles, both with east end chapels. 
Chagford 25b - Church Swifts
The bell tower became a nesting site for Common Swifts for the first time in over 25 years around 2016, when a project to re-introduce them included introducing 32 specially designed nest boxes were placed behind louvres, and the strange screaming calls of the swifts were played through a small speaker to attract them.. The author was delighted to find a “swift cam” system showing the birds in July 2021. Nick Baker, a local naturalist and TV presenter said in 2020 “There were swifts in the church when I first moved here in the ’90s, but since then the church has been re-appointed, it’s been restored, and in doing so, all the little cracks and crevices that are so important to swifts for nest sites were blocked up and lost, and once you break the continuity of a colony, the birds disappear.” The website has the details: https://exeter.anglican.org/live-swift-cams-in-dartmoor-church/
Chagford 26a - Whiddon Tomb
The Whiddon family tomb
Chagford 26b - Mary Whiddon
A tablet dedicated to Mary Whiddon (who was shot outside the church on her wedding day). The verse carved to commemorate Mary reads:
“Reader wouldst know who here is laid,
Behold a matron yet maid,
A modest look, a pious heart,
A Mary for the better part,
But dry thine eyes, why wilt thou weep –
Such damsels do not die but sleep”
Chagford 27a - Three Hares
One of two “Three Hares” bosses in St. Michaels church. There are 29 such bosses across 17 churches in Devon. The earliest examples of this symbol (three hares in a circle with ears joined giving the illusion that they each only have two ears) dates from A.D 581, which was found in Buddhist caves in Mogao, Dunhuang, China. They are thought to have been brought to the UK via the Silk Route where they are mainly found in Medieval churches.
Chagford 27b - Three Hares
The second “Three Hares” bosses in St. Michaels church. Dartmoor Tinners’ appear to have adopted the symbol and are often referred to as “Tinners’ Rabbits”.
Chagford 28a - Pepperpot
Market House (aka the “pepperpot”). The first record of a market house on this site is 1574. On 6th March 1618, there was the collapse of a previous market house on this site 10 people. In the 16th Century, the buildings on the site were not only a market house but also a courtroom where the Stannary Courts were held. The Stannary Court was in session, at the time of the tragic event.
Chagford 28b - Pepperpot
In the ‘Upper Square’ (mid-19th century) was an old structure called the ‘Shambles’. The shambles was a thatched structure in the centre of the Square that incorporated the market office and public slaughter house. The octagonal (Pepperpot) ‘Market House’ was built in 1862  to replace the ‘Shambles’
Chagford 29 - Electricity
This unassuming little archway once housed an electricity transformer, which was part of Chagford’s original generating system.
Chagford 30 - St Michael Archangel
St. Michaels Church from the west. The west door under the tower used to be the main entrance, which is now the door on the north west side, which can be seen in the photographs.
Chagford 31 - St Michael Archangel entrance
South west gate to St Michaels Church. The end wall of ‘Bellacouch’ cottages are shown on the right side of this picture. The author concludes (by reading the town trail by Chagford History Society) that this is the “Cross Tree” where ‘the oak tree signifies that this was an ancient gathering place for groups attending christenings, weddings and funerals before walking down the path into the church through the south door’. 
Chagford 32 -  MM Stone
“MM” Millennium Stone can be found at the south west entrance to the churchyard
Chagford 33 - Bellacouch
Bellacouch cottages (‘Church House’) were formerly just a single house, dating from 16th and 17th centuries. They are believed to be one of the oldest in Chagford and were possibly an early home for the rector.
Chagford 34 - Chagford House Entrance
Rather unassuming entrance gate posts to Chagford House. They are approximately 160 metres north-west of Chagford House and date from around 1820. Chagford House is a small mansion which was built around 1820 as the grand new accommodation for the rector, replacing the church house (now ‘Bellacouch’).
Chagford 35a - Outside Church
St. Michaels south porch
Chagford 35b - Agnus Dei
The “Agnus Dei” is a small headless stone figure (lamb) on the ridge of the church marking the division of the present chancel from the nave.
Chagford 35c - Agnus Dei
Close up of the lamb, the Agnus Dei, indicates Chagford’s importance as a wool town. The words “Agnus Dei” translate into English as “Lamb of God”
Chagford 36 - Obelisk
An obelisk in St. Michaels Churchyard.
Chagford 37a - War Memorial
This granite memorial cross and its plinth commemorates those of Chagford who fought in the world wars for their country. It once stood in the town Square. The cross was erected in 1928 using fragments from two 15th century crosses. It was at one time built into a wall at Holy Street Manor. (Source: Masson-Phillips)
Chagford 37b - War Memorial
G.W. Ormerod, 1873-1874, ‘Wayside Crosses in the District bordering the east of Dartmoor’ wrote of this cross: “A market cross formerly stood on the north side of the market place in Chagford, under a tree, and was removed to Holy Street Farm by the owner, Mr Southmead, where it lay in the farmyard for many years”.
Chagford 37c - War Memorial
Inscriptions at the base of the churchyard cross.
Chagford 38 - Yew Path
Yew tree path on north east side of St. Michaels churchyard
Chagford 39 - William Snell Morris
Mentioned by the Chagford History Society as a grave of interest. It is the grave of W.S. Morrish, a notable painter of Dartmoor scenes, who lived in Chagford in the 19th century. He was a friend of the renowned F.J.Widgery
Chagford 40 - Lych Gate
Lych gate leading out onto the Square.
Chagford 41 - Post Office
Chagford former post office was operational from 1824. The mail was brought by train to Moretonhampstead station, then by horse and cart to Chagford. The post office is recorded as having run continuously by five generations of the Thorn family before finally closing 2015. The Telephone Kiosk is a K6, designed 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It is cast iron and has the classic square shape with domed roof.
Chagford 42a - Kings Arms Cottage and Lydstone
Kings Arms Cottage and Lydstone originally formed a coaching house with a courtyard behind.
Chagford 42b - Lydstone
The original cobbles over which pony and traps would have travelled are still extant. A rather magnificent light hangs over the doorway which at one time would have been an open archway where access was gained to the courtyard at the rear.
Chagford 43a - Drinking Fountain
The Jubilee pump and trough is dated 1889. The pump is housed in a square section upright block with a triangular head, the front of which contains a brass plaque recording that the pump was presented by Colonel German of Meacombe in 1889. In front is a granite ashlar trough on a pedestal. (ref: Historic England)
Chagford 43b - Drinking Fountain
Close up of the brass plaque recording that the pump was presented by Colonel German of Meacombe in 1889
Chagford 44 - The Old Forge
The Old Forge Café was the site of the Crown Iron Works from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century.
Chagford 45 - Rock House and Southcombe House
Rock House (now Rendells Estate Offices) was the Great Western Parcel Office for the area in early 20th century when steam buses ran from here to Exeter. To the right is Southcombe House which was built in 1871 and was originally a farm. These buildings look rather unremarkable but the close proximity of Rock House to Southcombe House was due to a feud. The owner of the Rock House land built his house as close to the front door of Southcombe House as possible, thus destroying the view from there towards the town !
Chagford 46 - Southcombe Street
Southcombe Street sign
Chagford 47 - Orchard Terrace
Orchard Terrace with Orchard Cottage was one of the original town farms and former bakery.
Chagford 48 - Bishops House
The Bishop’s House was so called as it was used as the lodging for the Bishop of Crediton when he visited the parish. It is a fine medieval longhouse with 17th century additions. (ref: Rice, The Book of Chagford. A Town Apart). Note the oriel window on the upper floor over the porch.
Chagford 49 - Cranley Gardens
Cranley Gardens now provides sheltered housing and is built on the site allotments which were originally an abattoir. It has been known in the past as’ Tammerlaine’ before being renamed in 2010
Chagford 50 - Mosaic
Mosaic in Southcombe Street
Chagford 51 - 6 and 8 Lower Street
Numbers 6 and 8 Lower St. are medieval with a tiny window, which possibly lights a stairway
Chagford 52a - Greystones Cottages
Greystone Cottages, numbers 10-12 Lower Street. Recorded by English Heritage as being probably early 19th century and renovated circa 1985
Chagford 52b - Greystones Cottages Cat
Close up of Greystones ‘thatched cat’
Chagford 53 - Lower Street
Lower Street sign on number 2
Chagford 54a - Caldey Cottage
Caldey Cottage at number 11, Southcombe Street
Chagford 54b - Caldey Cottage
Close up of the Caldey Cottage fish sculpture
Chagford 55 - Gospel Hall
The Gospel Hall was formerly the Ebenezer Hall and was founded by the Plymouth Brethren. It opened as a Baptist Chapel in 1827. It was also former school and assembly room. It was originally built as a Zion Chapel in 1823, before being sold to the Bible Christians in 1842, and closed in 1934 (Stell)
Chagford 56 - Bottom of Square
The bottom of the (lower) square
Chagford 57 - Aggetts Bell Hangers
Site of Aggett’s Church Bell Hangers, which were founded in the 18th century by James Aggett whose ancestors began bell hanging in the 13th century. (Source: Chagford History Society).
Chagford 58 - Cobwebs Cottage
Cobwebs Cottage, originates from 17th or 18th century and was altered and modernised around 1980.
Chagford 59a - Former Garage
The Moorland Grocery Store was a former garage which was open until the 1950’s before the building was converted into shop premises.
Chagford 59b - Former Garage
The tall niche in the wall, next to the Moorland Grocery Store once housed the first petrol pump in Chagford.
Chagford 60 - Former Lloyds Bank
The corner property between the Square and Mill Street were once occupied by Lloyds Bank and at one time is believed to have been a smithy (until 1842). Lloyds Bank opened the Square after the First World War. The bank closed in May 2017.
Chagford 61 - Ladysmith House
Ladysmith House next to Chagford Inn. The name the author suspects was taken due to the association of Redvers Buller, Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, known as ‘The Man of the Hour’ following his success in the relief of Ladysmith during the Boer War. The Chagford Inn was once called Buller’s Arms
Chagford 62a - Chagford Inn
The Chagford Inn dates from 1844 (Chagford History Society). It has previously been named Bakers’ Arms and the Buller’s Arms, the latter relates to Sir Redvers Buller (from Exeter) after the Boer War. 
Chagford 62b - Chagford Inn
In spite of the date 1844 being given to the Inn there is a date plaque of 1823 with the initials JR or even JB. The R is possibly combined with a B. The reason for this plaque is unknown to the author but it may relate to the Mill owner John Berry.
Chagford 63 - Bowling Club
Chagford Bowling Club. This was the ‘Lawn’ part of ‘Lawn House’ which stands opposite
Chagford 64 - Lawn House
Lawn House may have been built by the mill owner John Berry who is said to have been held in great esteem, “being second only in the County in importance to the Earl of Devon”.
Chagford 65 - Methodist Church
This ex-Methodist Chapel and former school room was closed as a religious building in 1998 and is now used by “Helpful Holidays”. It was built in 1861.
Chagford 66a - Moorlands
Moorlands is now residential flats. However, at one time it was one of the woollen factory buildings in the area used for finishing cloth. The last military order was for horse blankets in the Crimea.
Chagford 66b - Moorlands
When the woollen factory closed (late 19th century) Moorlands became a hotel until the early 21st century
Chagford 67 - Claremont House
No 13, Mill Street is Claremont House and was the home of the local doctor with a room here being devoted to his surgery.
Chagford 68 - Ring o Bells
The Ring o’ Bells where it is said the upper floor was used for the “Crowner’s Court” (if a sudden death happened within the parish) with the Coroner having to be summoned from Exeter. The Inn dates from at the least the 16th century and was an ale house tied to the church. It has also acted as a holding prison for those being transported to the assizes at Okehampton, as a Stannary Court room and as a mortuary
Chagford 69 - Old Webber
The Spar shop at the Square was until March 2017 Webber & Sons. The building started as a shop in 1870 by William Thorn before it was purchased by Gideon Webber in 1898 who continued the trade of saddler and harness maker.  The Webber’s ran the shop for five generations and in that time they sold kitchen ware, general hardware, walking gear, garden equipment, ironmongery, cycles, petrol (in two-gallon cans), wireless sets and phonograph records were cut. The author fondly spending hours looking around Webbers and Bowdens next door.
Chagford 70a - James Bowden
The famous James Bowden and Sons, off Chagford Square. James Henry Bowden (1937-1921), great-grandfather to the current owners (Peter and Colin Smith), came to Chagford in 1862 from Meavy and bought the forge later known as the Vulcan Iron Works and a house from which later became a shop. From these small beginnings grew the business we enjoy today (information taken from Chagford Local History Society web site).
Chagford 70b - James Bowden
Close up of James Bowden and Sons shop frontage. The business bought up adjacent properties in the 20th century to make it the size we see today. James Bowden’s business started off as the Vulcan Iron Works and it was developed into making agricultural tools and machinery alongside the shoeing of horses. Later, James Bowden bought Vulcan House, the front room of which became a very small shop selling chamber pots, hurricane lamps and candles. (Source: Visit Chagford website 2016) 
Chagford 70c - James Bowden
The museum on the upper rear floor of Bowden and Sons. There is also a letterbox stamp here.
Chagford 70d - James Bowden
James Bowden and Sons is a wonderful eclectic mix of items for sale such as general hardware, gifts, clothing, footwear, gardening items, homewares, coal/logs, books, kitchenware and so much more. No visit to Chagford is complete without visiting this amazing emporium

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