History and performance today on Dartmoor

Dartmoor's history has featured in a number of contemporary plays and songs. MED Theatre has used history extensively in its community play tradition on Dartmoor, from The Paint Man (1991), which was based on the life of John Elford of Sheepstor in the 17th century, to Snow (2009) which looked at oral and documentary recollections of the winter of 1962-3, and Hinterland (2010) which dramatised the life of Thomas Tyrwhitt, the creator of Princetown.  Seth Lakeman's Kitty Jay released in 2004 and Childe the Hunter released in 2006 are examples of songs that use Dartmoor's history.

For the history of theatre and performance on Dartmoor, click here


The Romans on Dartmoor - Tom Greeves


Cassiterides: The Romans on Dartmoor, MED Theatre, 2007. Photo: Carly Mays

It is well known that the Romans had a substantial presence at Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) from about AD50 - 400. But Romans on Dartmoor? Surely not? In 1953 it could be asserted by a leading scholar that there is ‘no evidence that the conquerors found it necessary to proceed beyond the Exe’. In Dartmoor – A New Study, published in 1970, it was stated ‘There is…no evidence at present for settled habitation on Dartmoor between about 400 BC and the period of the first Anglo-Saxon settlements about AD 700’, and the moor therefore remained ‘an uninhabited region for several hundred years’.

Today this unlikely scenario has been radically transformed, as we now know of settlements on the fringes of the moor occupied in the last few centuries BC and first few centuries AD, as well as inferential evidence for tinworking. Around the edge of the moor and elsewhere in the county, the traces of a Roman military and civil presence are expanding all the time.