Dartmoor Resource Reading List
Compiled by Tom Greeves
HISTORY OF DARTMOOR THEATRE
Beeson, Mark (1998) ‘A History of Dartmoor Theatre, Part One: 1325-1660’, Trans. Devon. Assoc., 130, 137-177.
Beeson, Mark (1999) ‘A History of Dartmoor Theatre, Part Two: 1661-1999’, Trans. Devon. Assoc.,131, 139-163.
These two papers form a useful background context to much of the Dartmoor Resource website
Leger-Gordon, Ruth (1965) The Witchcraft and Folklore of Dartmoor (Robert Hale, London) – the best introduction to Dartmoor’s folklore.
Bray, Anna Eliza (1836) A Description of the Part of Devonshire bordering on the Tamar and the Tavy, illustrative of its Manners, Customs, History, Antiquities, Scenery, and Natural History, in a series of Letters to Robert Southey, Esq. (John Murray, London, 3 vols; 3rd edn, 1879, 2 vols) – a bit of a mouthful, but many good stories will be found in here, including the topic of witchcraft. Anna Eliza Bray was one of the first folklorists in the whole country, and was also Dartmoor’s first novelist.
Brown, Theo (1973) Tales of a Dartmoor Village: some preliminary notes on the Folklore of Postbridge (Toucan Press, Guernsey, Westcountry Folklore no.7) [reprinted from Trans. Devon. Assoc.,93, 1961, 194-227) – much interesting information about the heart of Dartmoor here.
Brown, Theo (1979) The Fate of the Dead – A Study in Folk Eschatology in the West Country after the Reformation (D.S. Brewer Ltd, Ipswich) – a wider study, but containing information on the Grey Mare of Widecombe etc.
Crossing, William (1890) Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies – Glimpses of Elfin Haunts and Antics (London) – this is an collection of stories about pixies told to Crossing by Dartmoor people. [William Crossing (1847-1928) was one of the best and most reliable writers about Dartmoor – he spent much time talking to Dartmoor people and knew the topography of the moor better than anyone else].
Crossing, William (1906) From a Dartmoor Cot (subtitled ‘Story and Tradition’ on the cover) (Homeland Association, London) – this is a collection of Crossing’s imagined stories based on old Dartmoor tales, including Childe the Hunter.
Crossing, William (1911) Folk Rhymes of Devon – Notices of Metrical Sayings Found in the Lore of the People (Exeter & London) – here Crossing explores traditional verses and expands historically on the stories connected with them. Among them is ‘Childe the Hunter’ and ‘Snow on Dartmoor’, and many others.
Crossing, William (1914) Folklore and Legends of Dartmoor (Forest Publishing, Liverton, 1997) – originally a collection of newspaper articles, these were published in book form in 1997, and contain much interesting material.
Greeves, Tom (2000) ‘ The Three Hares - Dartmoor’s Ancient Archetype’, Dartmoor Magazine, 61, 8-10.
Greeves, Tom (2001) ‘Three hares – a Medieval Mongol mystery’, Devon Today, April 2001, 58-63.
- these last two items explore a medieval symbol which is the subject of a modern ‘myth’ (The Tinners’ Rabbits) but for which the true story links medieval Dartmoor with ancient China.
Beeson, Mark & Greeves, Tom (1993) ‘The Image of Dartmoor’, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 125, 127-154. This paper explores attitudes to Dartmoor from earliest times to the present day, drawing attention to contrasting views of ‘fruitfulness’ and ‘barrenness’.
Milton, Patricia (2006 ) The Discovery of Dartmoor – A Wild and Wondrous Region (Phillimore & Co Ltd, Chichester). This is a well researched and referenced account of attitudes towards Dartmoor, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, and looks at artists and novelists too. It doesn’t go beyond 1950, unlike Beeson & Greeves (above).
HISTORY OF DARTMOOR
Gill, C., ed. (1970) Dartmoor – A New Study (David & Charles, Newton Abbot) - although written nearly 40 years ago this is the most accessible general account of Dartmoor’s history. Don’t bother to read the chapter on ‘Early Men’ as that is now very dated. Otherwise, it’s pretty reliable.
HISTORICAL ECOLOGY OF DARTMOOR
This is a relatively fast-moving topic – every new piece of work analysing pollen etc from Dartmoor peat (which gives a record of past vegetation, tree cover and climate) gives a more detailed and complex story, but the papers are mostly very obscurely published in scientific journals or as monograph reports. The best starting point is probably:
Caseldine, C.J. & Hatton, J.M. (1994) ‘Into the Mists? Thoughts on the Prehistoric and Historic Environmental History of Dartmoor’, Devon Archaeol. Soc. Proc., [The Archaeology of Dartmoor – Perspectives from the 1990s], 52,35-47.
ARCHAEOLOGY OF DARTMOOR
Gerrard, S. (1997) Dartmoor (Batsford/ English Heritage). This is an up-to-date summary of archaeology from earliest times up to relatively recent times.
Fox, H. (1994) ‘Medieval Dartmoor as seen through its Account Rolls’, Devon Archaeol. Soc. Proc., 52, 149-171. A remarkable scholarly essay revealing the medieval world of farmers, peat diggers etc. Essential reading for understanding medieval Dartmoor.
Stanbrook, Elisabeth (1994 ) Dartmoor Forest Farms – A Social History from Enclosure to Abandonment (Devon Books, Tiverton) – the detail in this book helps recreate the living conditions on remote Dartmoor farms, particularly in the 19th century – for example, look at the story of Fox Tor Farm.
THE TINNERS, CROCKERNTOR AND LYDFORD CASTLE
Greeves, Tom (1992) ‘ “Almost a Whole Sheep Salted...” – Tinners and Walkhampton in the Early 17th Century ’, Dartmoor Magazine, 29, Winter 1992, 6-8 – this explores eyewitness accounts of Dartmoor tinners accused of sheepstealing in the early 17th century.
Greeves, Tom (1992)b – ‘Adventures with Fiery Dragons – the Cornish Tinner in Devon from the 15th to the 20th Century’, Journ. Trevithick Soc.,19, 2-17.
Greeves, Tom (1993) ‘The Good Life? – The Westcountry Tinner AD c. 1500-c. 1700’, Journ. Trevithick Soc.,20, 39-47 – this is a more general account of the lives of tinners.
Greeves, Tom (1987) ‘The Great Courts or Parliaments of Devon Tinners 1474-1786’, Trans. Devon. Assoc.,119, 145-167.
[Greeves, Tom] (1994) , ‘Nearer the Weather – Celebrating the Tinners’, Dartmoor Magazine, 37, 17-20 – an account of the celebrations in 1994 to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1494 Great Court.
Greeves, Tom (2005) ‘Dartmoor and the Tinners’ Charter of 1305’, Dartmoor Magazine, 78, 8-10 – this gives the historical context for one of the great moments in the story of the Dartmoor tinners.
Greeves, Tom (2005) ‘Lydford Castle and its Prison’, Dartmoor Magazine, 79, 8-10 – a summary of the remarkable story of the prison at Lydford Castle, used as a war prison, and a stannary prison, and the scene of horrors in the English Civil War.
Greeves, Tom (1986) Tin Mines & Miners of Dartmoor – A Photographic Record (Devon Books, Exeter) – this uses contemporary photographic evidence and oral recollection to illustrate the world of the Dartmoor tinners c. 1890 -1930.
Baring-Gould, S. et al (n.d. ) Songs of the West – Folk Songs of Devon & Cornwall collected from the mouths of the people (new edn, Methuen, London) – a collection of 121 songs, mostly from Dartmoor. This was pioneer work, at the end of the 19th century, the sheer scale of which has only recently been appreciated as some 600 songs were actually noted. A song about Childe the Hunter is included, and there are some interesting notes as well.
Perhaps more accessible is the CD Dead Maid’s Land which is a collection of recordings of 17 of these songs, including ‘My Lady’s Coach’ about Lady Howard (see below). For more detail about the whole collection of songs and the research and recording of them, visit Wren Music’s website (www.wrenmusic.co.uk).
SPECIFIC EVENTS & PEOPLE
Collapse of Chagford Stannary Court, 6 March 1617
Hayter- Hames, Jane (1981) A History of Chagford (Phillimore, Chichester), 46-48 – quoted verbatim, this is a fascinating eyewitness account of what happened.
Widecombe Storm, 21 October 1638
Two contemporary tracts with eyewitness accounts were published in 1638 about this event. Titled A True Relation...and A Second and most Exact Relation of those Sad and Lamentable Accidents which happened in and about the Parish Church of Wydecombe, neere the Dartmoores, in Devonshire, on Sunday the 21. October last, 1638. These were reprinted in 1905 in Devon Notes & Queries, 3, Pt.2, and have been reprinted since then (copies may be available in Widecombe church).
La Wallen Chapel, Gidleigh
Brewer, D. ‘The Monks of Haldon and the “La Wallen” Chapels’, Dartmoor Magazine, 32, 8-9 – this discusses the tale of the rape of a woman by a priest in a medieval chapel on Dartmoor in 1328.
Childe the Hunter
Finberg, H. P. R. (1946) ‘Childe’s Tomb’, Trans. Devon. Assoc.,78, 265-280 – this provides the historical context for this story, which is one of Dartmoor’s oldest and one of the most gripping, about the death of an important figure in the 11th century. An old Dartmoor song about Childe, which features in Baring-Gould’s collection is recorded on Hocus – Cast Threads Away (a Wren Music CD). We shall be visiting Childe’s Tomb on 8 November.
Greeves, Tom (1998 ) ‘Dartmoor’s Oldest Moorland Route – The Maltern Way?’, Dartmoor Magazine, 51, 6-8 - this explores the route that ‘Childe’ might have been on, and suggests that he was travelling across the moor rather than just hunting.
Beeson, Mark (1992) ‘Elfrida’, Trans. Devon. Assoc., 124, 119-134 - this long poem tells the extraordinary tale of this woman who lived in Tavistock in the late 10th/early 11th century and how she came to be Queen to King Edgar of England after the murder of her first husband Ethelwold, and then contrived the murder of Edgar’s son and heir Edward (by his first wife), so that her son Ethelred (by Ethelwold) could become king!
Radford, Mrs G.H. (1890) ‘Lady Howard of Fitzford, Tavistock’, Trans. Devon. Assoc., 22, 66-110 – this gives the life story of this Tavistock woman, Mary Fitz (b.1596) who had a troubled childhood (owing to her father’s misdemeanours) and who had four husbands, the last being Richard Grenville who abused her. She is the subject of a legend involving a ghostly coach and dogs bringing a blade of grass back from Okehampton Castle to Tavistock, and this is the subject of one of the old Dartmoor songs (‘My Lady’s Coach’ which features on the Wren Music CD Dead Maid’s Land).
SNOW STORIES and WINTERS
Anon (1891) The Blizzard in the West: being a Record and Story of the Disastrous Storm which raged throughout Devon, Cornwall and West Somerset, On the Night of March 9th, 1891(London and Devonport)
Bray, Anna Eliza (1836) A Description of the Part of Devonshire Bordering on the Tamar and the Tavy…, I, 27-33 [re salted corpse at New House, the precursor of the Warren House Inn]
Breton, H. Hugh  The Great Blizzard of Christmas, 1927 (Hoyten & Cole, Plymouth) [NB informative about other Dartmoor snowstorms, and full of information]
Breton, H. Hugh (1930) The Great Winter of 1928-29 (Hoyten & Cole, Plymouth)
Carter, Clive (1971) The Blizzard of ’91 (David & Charles, Newton Abbot)
Crossing, William (1888) Amid Devonia’s Alps; or, Wanderings & Adventures on Dartmoor (London and Plymouth) – [Chapter 10 - ‘An Adventure in the Snow’, pp 165-174, recounts an experience on Holne Moor in early 1880]
Crossing, William (1901) A Hundred Years on Dartmoor: Historical Notices of the Forest and its Purlieus during the Nineteenth Century (Western Morning News, Plymouth) [pp 98-99 and 104-5 contain interesting information about snow and fatalities etc, including the story of two boys from Runnage Farm, Postbridge in c.1823 and the death of three soldiers close to Princetown in 1853 – a memorial to them exists in Princetown churchyard]
Crowden, James (2008) The Bad Winter (Flagon Press, Whitelackington) [a collection of poems about Dartmoor, including the winter of 1962-3]
Finberg, H. P. R. (1946) ‘Childe’s Tomb’, Trans. Devon. Assoc.,78, 265-280 [scholarly analysis of the famous ‘Childe’ story]
Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society (1964) The Scandal of Dartmoor [re winter of 1962-3]
Greeves, Tom (2002) ‘The Winter of 1962/3 – Recollections from Western Dartmoor and Beyond’, Dartmoor Magazine, 69,Winter 2002, 8-10
Moor Memories Collection 3 – Blacksticks and Blizzards (Dartmoor National Park Authority, 2005 – 3 x CDs) [includes oral recollection of winters of 1947 and 1962-3]
Trevelyan, Robert E. (1998) A Winter Remembered - Events Recalling the Winter of 1962/3 and its Effect on the Railways of Dartmoor (Liverton)
Turner, Peter (1989) ‘Princetown in the Winter of 1962-3’, Dartmoor Magazine, 17, 16-18
Woods, Stephen (2000) Uncle Tom Cobley and All – Widecombe-in-the-Moor – Photographs and Memories of Dartmoor’s Most Famous Parish (Halsgrove, Tiverton) , ‘Chapter 6: Weathering the Storm’, pp 77-84 [verbatim eyewitness accounts of the 1947 Winter by Hermon French and Freda Wilkinson]