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Dunstone is a small hamlet about half a mile west from Widecombe village centre. It was originally a Saxon settlement which is mentioned in the Domesday book as “Dunestanetuna”, when the manor was handed over to Ralph de Pomeroy. Dunstone was mentioned as ‘Dunestanetuna’ in 1086, ‘Donstan juxta Wydecomb’ in 1283, ‘Dunstanestoune juxta Wydecumbe’ in 1311 and ‘North-donston’ is mentioned in 1453. In three parts; Great Dunstone, Higher Dunstone and Lower Dunstone (the main hamlet) are all covered in this post.
Sketch map showing the three parts of Dunstone covered by this post
Great Dunstone farm is shown on 19th century maps as a large group of buildings and enclosures to the east of the road between Widecombe and Ponsworthy.
Recorded on the Dartmoor HER, the Apportionment for ‘Great Dunstone’ lists fields as ‘Houses Yards Gardens’ (752), ‘Pound House Garden’ (751) and ‘Kitchen Garden’ (750).
This farmstead is shown on 19th century and early 20th century maps located to the north-west of Great Dunstone Farm. The Tithe Map Apportionment is listed under’ Parish Lands’ as a ‘House and Garden’.
Depicted on the 1840s Tithe Map, this Wesleyan chapel at Dunstone was opened in 1833.
The Wesleyan Chapel is now known simply as Dunstone Chapel. The chapel is made from rubble and slate and the entrance at the east end has an arched gallery window over.
Dunstone Chapel with views to the east.
Lower Dunstone from the Widecombe – Ponsworthy road with Tunhill Rocks, Pil Tor, Top Tor and Hollow Tor beyond.
Dunstone House looks like an ordinary Edwardian building and had a major refurbishment in 1911. However, it is recorded that it is likely that it was borne out of an earlier longhouse. The 1911 works included adding a south wing. At one time it was divided into two cottages with separate stairs and entrances. It is rubble built and is now rendered. Source: Early Dartmoor Farmhouses – Longhouses in Widecombe by Elizabeth Gawne and Jenny Sanders.
There had been a school run here since 1824, when the school at Venton ceased. However, in 1833 a new building was constructed, with an attached house and was run as a fee-paying school of 20 pupils. The school ran until the 1890s when the last headmistress was Miss Roberts. It was originally single storied and thatched. Source: Mary Stanbrook’s publication Old Dartmoor Schools Remembered from 1991.
Dunstone Rock, also known as Dun Stone or Rent Stone is a rather conspicuous rock on Lower Dunstone green. Recorded as being 2.4 meters long, 1.4 meters wide by 1 metre high, this undressed granite boulder is orientated north-south. On its upper surface are hollows in which payment of rent had traditionally been placed. There are a minimum of 13 roughly circular shallow hollows, with 5 other possible examples Although possibly natural hollows, Dr Tom Greeves considers these “cup-marks” to be artificial and of a prehistoric date.
Harry Starkey, in ‘Dartmoor Crosses and Some Ancient Tracks’ p.103 calls the boulder, ‘The Rent Stone’ as when manor courts were held, rents were deposited in the hollows on this stone. John Hayward in Dartmoor 365 calls in Dun Stone. More information can be found here: https://www.torsofdartmoor.co.uk/tor-page.php?tor=dunstone-rock
The Dunstone Cross is medieval in origin and has a plain cross-head and upper part of shaft. It stands on a pile of boulders and on closer inspection an incised rough-cross cross can be found on the west face.
Fixed to the boulder on which it stands is a metal plaque inscribed: “Dunstone cross back in it’s original site after 100 years in the vicarage garden. Restored by Miss M Hamlyn, Dunstone Manor. 1980”. The cross was restored, having been removed by a former Vicar of Widecombe to a position in the vicarage garden at some date prior to 1860.
Lower Dunstone Farm comprises a house and a shippon on different levels. When the thatch was replaced with a slate roof in the early 20th century, the top storey was raised by about 1m and a lean-to extension was built at the back. Source: Early Dartmoor Farmhouses – Longhouses in Widecombe by Elizabeth Gawne and Jenny Sanders. According to local information Lower Dunstone used to be called Tollix (or Tollick’s), the name Tollick occurs in a parish register of Widecombe.
This farmhouse is possibly a former longhouse dating from 17th century (or earlier) and a barn and shippon were added in late 18th or early 19th century. It is constructed of granite rubble with house-part rendered. Also known in old deeds (according to the owner) as ‘Middle Dunstone’. Source: Dartmoor HER
Middle Dunstone has old chimneystacks with granite thatch-weatherings
Lower Dunstone Green : Dunstone is mentioned throughout the middle ages in various documents with different spellings. It could mean ‘dunstan’s farm’, however, because of the dunstone rock, the name may really be ‘farm by the dunstan or hill-rock’ or ‘by the grey rock’
Dunstone Manor dates from the late 15th/early 16th century and originated as a traditional Dartmoor longhouse. It was formerly known as Dunstone Court. The old living quarters of the longhouse have been maintained and the shippen end has been converted and modernised.
At the entrance to Dunstone Manor / Dunstone Court, there is an arch that was made out of the stone from the old thatched barn that was pulled down in 1943. The arch bears the Hamlyn family motto ‘Frangas Non Flectes’ (translation: Thou mayest break but shall not bend me) and the family crest. The Hamlyns were once the leading landowners in Widecombe
In the 17th century the domestic side of the Dunstone Manor was considerably altered and enlarged. The shippon was extended in the late 18th-early 19th century. Finally the building was converted to domestic use in the 1970s. Outside, to the left of the entrance archway, there appears to be a horse stepped mounting block.