Richard Cabell (1621-1672 or 1677) lived at Brook Manor near Buckfastleigh during the middle of the 17th century. His family owned land all over the south of Dartmoor. He and his father fought on the side of the Royalists during the English Civil War, and were forced to pay a heavy fine by the Puritan authorities in order to obtain a pardon. On his death he was buried in an elaborate family tomb in Buckfastleigh churchyard. There is a legend which states that in punishment for some unnamed evil deed, his soul was carried off by the Wild Hunt , and that hounds breathing fire were seen passing in an out of the windows of Brook Manor on the night of his death. This legend is supposed to have lain behind Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles.


The night’s ragged and sooty, its eyes

Shoot lightnings of wept hostility.

It sobs and the moon shows through its sleeves

As it sniffs and wipes its poorhouse nose.

Richard Cabell is dying, dying

On a howling night worthy of hell.

The Wish hounds rage around Brook Manor

Roaring with flames and glaring, savage,

Burn at the windows with their phantom

Tongues, and grin to watch the moon’s bleach turn

The dark-holed mansion face to a skull.

In and out they pass like aeon-old

Black phosphorescent fishes darting

In the head of a drowned man, parting

The emerald currents of darkness 

With a forked blue flash’s turbulence.

                                                         (From The Walk)




One of the earliest references to wolves in Devon occurs in an Anglo-Saxon charter dated AD 739 of bounds of a large area of land which extended from Brampford Speke near Exeter in the east, to Whiddon Down in the west and to Morchard Bishop in the north. About halfway between Whiddon Down and Crediton was a boundary point described as ‘wulfpyt’ i.e. a wolf pit.

Another boundmark is ‘wulfcumbes heafod’ i.e. ‘wolf coomb head’ somewhere near Bow.

A 9th-century charter mentions the ‘wulfwealles heafod’ i.e.’wolf spring head’, N of West Alvington in the South Hams.

A grant of land at Sandford near Crediton in AD 997 mentions a ‘wurmstealle’ which probably means ‘dragon’s lair’.

(Della Hooke, 1994, Pre-Conquest Charter Bounds of Devon and Cornwall, pp.92, 95 & 107 & 184)



  1. Will of Richard Cabell the Elder of Buckfastleigh 28 August 1610 (TNA/PROB 11/121/441). Acquired Brook in 1573.

Lands in Wiltshire

Manor of Wrangton [= Wrangaton] in Ugborough

Lands in several parishes of Somerset

Tenement in Scorriato [=Scorriton] in Buckfastleigh

‘Richard Cabell my sonne’ – all other properties. Executor.

‘Bridgett Cabell my daughter’ – 200 marks [1 mark = 13s 4d; 3 marks = £2]

‘Suzan Cabell my daughter’ – 200 marks

‘Samuell Cabell my sonne’ – 200 marks

All servants – 5 shillings each

John Turges, former servant – £3

Margery Easton widdowe – annual rent charge of 52 shillings to be levied on tenant in ‘Scorriaton’

‘my buryall to be donn without ringing of anie Bell or other funerall or worldely pompe or popish Ceremony’

Daughters Bridgett and Suzan to be provided for by son Richard until age of 24.

Proved 5 May 1613. [He died 16 February 1612/13 and is named on the sepulchre at Buckfastleigh. His wife Susannah died 31 August 1597]

  1. Will of Richard Cabell, Esquire of Brooke in the parish of Buckfastleigh 19 July 1655 (TNA/PROB 11/250/225). Witnessed 5 August 1655. [Educated at Exeter College. Married a Prestwood, a rich merchant family. Was a Royalist (Djabri, 1991, 5)]

William Cabell my sonne – £900

John Cabell my sonne (when he reaches age of 21) – £900

Samuell Cabell my sonne – £500

Richard Cabell my eldest sonne – all residue of estate. Executor.

Proved 3 October 1655 [He died 24 August 1655 and is named on, and probably buried in, the sepulchre at Buckfastleigh]

  1. Will of Richard Cabell of Brooke, Esq. 6 May 1671 (TNA/PROB 11/339/298) [He was born in 1621. Died in 1672  (see below re his daughter Elizabeth’s trust) or late 1677 or early 1678 (his Will was proved in March 1678). Educated at Exeter College and Middle Temple. Married Elizabeth Fowell, dau. of the man who fined his father after the Civil War. She survived him by 14 years. He rebuilt Brook in 1656 and is probably responsible for the sepulchre as it used to have a weathervane bearing this date – Djabri, 1991, 4-5]

Samuell Cabell my brother – lands in Wiltshire; lands in Somerset; ‘all my Mannors of Blackdon piper and Wythecombe and the Tenements in Wythecombe called Stone Rowbrooke Torr and Hannaford’; Moietie of manors of Buckfastleigh and Buckfast. If he has no heirs then to his brother John Cabell.

John Cabell my brother – manor of Braddock in Cornwall. I he has no heirs then to brother Samuell.

If my wife be now with a male child, then all to pass to him at age of 21 or upon marriage.

Elizabeth my wife – rent of tenements in tenure of Samuell Luscombe and James Pomery + tenement at Kealaton + £500

William Wotton Esq. my brother-in-law – £100 to be divided equally among his children

Andrew Tinkam the elder, my servant – £20

Andrew Tinkam the younger my servant – £50

George Hall, Walter Coulton and Thomas Wetheridge, servants – £5 each

Mary Gould and Elizabeth Sainthill – £5 each

Simon Nicholls the younger – 40 shillings

George Adams – £20

The poor of the parish of Buckfastleigh – £5 to be distributed as churchwardens and overseers of the poor think fit

Elizabeth Cabell, daughter – £3000 in trust. [John Fowell, Esq., George Prestwood, Esq., Ambrose Roope, Esq. & Richard Fownes gent. to be Overseers in Trust for Elizabeth. The Trust  seems to have been initiated 29 June 1672, which may mean that she had reached the age of 21 by then [which would make her in her early 40s when she married D’Oyly and, after his death, remarried and gave birth to a son], or that her father died that year, in which case 1677/8 for the date of proving of his Will is either erroneous or that complications meant that it took 5 years to prove it. 

 If my wife bears a daughter then to be shared with her when she has reached age of 21 or has married. If my wife does not conceive son or daughter, then Elizabeth my daughter to have all remaining property and goods. Executrix. [She married  bigamously Cholmely D’Oyly in 1693. Tried to overtrun marriage settlement and had to pay Sir John D’Oyly £10,000 – Chancery case. She next married Richard Fownes of Dorset – their son Thomas lived at Brook – Djabri, 1991, 5]

Witnessed by John Tinckam, Andrew Tinckam, Walter Coulton and Agnes Roach

Additional bequests 6 May 1671 (witnesses – John Somers, Andrew Tinckam, Mary Gould):

Children of Ambrose Roope brother-in-law – £100 to be distributed equally between them

John Tinckam servant – £100

Evan Bovey servant – £20

Witnesses: John Somers; the mark of Christian Halse [?]; Mary Gould

Will Proved 9 March 1677/8  (see DRO/48/14/137/4) 

[His name ‘Ricus’ is  on the sepulchre at Buckfastleigh but is an unfinished inscription – why is this? Did his daughter Elizabeth not complete the inscription for some reason? Was he actually buried there?]



Richard Cabell  I (died 1613)

1572Richard Cabell gent. and Henry Walter given authority to survey manor of Button and lands in Caliton, Scoriton, Bowden, Hayford, Button & Buckfastleigh and to act as stewards (Surrey History Centre LM/348/79/1_

3 Feb 1573 William More of Loseley sells Manor of Browke alias Button with all lands to Richard Cabell for £560 (Surrey/LM/348/81/1 &2)

Richard Cabell II (died 1655)

10 September 1627 Richard Cabell of Buckfastleigh Esq. leases messuage in Nottesworthy [=Natsworthy] to Richard Mann the elder of Widecombe, yeoman (DRO/3555M-0/T/7/23)

30 September 1652 Richard Cabell of Middle Temple, London Esq. and others re messuage called Stone (DRO/48/14/51/2a-b)

1 October 1652 Marriage settlement between Wottons of Engleborne and Cabells –  Richard Cabell the elder of Brooke Esq, Susan Cabell his daughter, and  Richard, Samuel and William Cabell, sons of Richard the elder, and Gilbert Eveleigh of Totnes, gent. re Harberton (Manor of Ingleborne or Engleborne), Harbertonford, St Cleer, St Pynnock, Howse Park and messuage called Towne in Widecombe, + lands in Rattery, Dartington and Totnes (DRO/48/14/137/2a-b)

29 November 1652 – Richard Cabell, Esq. tenant of lands and common of pasture in Stone, Widecombe, Hammeldon and Bunhildowne (DRO/48/14/51/4)

Richard Cabell III (1621- 1672 or 1677)

1655-6 Richard Cabell v. Wm Ellacott, Nicholas Cooke & John Warren re ancient corn mills of Manor of Buckfastleigh (TNA/E134/1655-6/Hil13)

3rd & 4th December 1658 Sir Courtney Pole to Richard Cabell of Brooke, Esq. – manors of Blackdon Piperd and Widecombe (DRO/48/14/7/7a-c)

1658/9 Richard Cabell Esq and John Cabell gent., plaintiffs v. Sir Courtenay Pole and his wife deforciants re manors of Blackdown Piperd and Widecombe + 24 messuages, 1 water corn mill, 30 gardens, 20 orchards, 200 ac of land, 30 acres of meadow, 50 acres of pasture, 10 acres of furze and heath, 76s 7d rent, common of pasture in Westdown, Spitchwick, Blackdon Piperd and Widecombe (DRO/48/14/7/8a-b)

10 May 1659 Richard Cabell of Brooke Esq. leases messuage of Torre and Belltorre to Richard Hext the younger of Torr in Wythecombe, husbandman (DRO/48/14/31/1)

19 May 1659 Richard Cabell of Brooke, Esq leases messuage in Nottisworthie [= Natsworthy] to Richard Easton of Widecombe, grome (DRO/48/14/52/2a-b)

c.1660 – King [Charles II] v. Mayor & Commonalty of Plymouth (for supporting Parliamentarian cause in Civil War). Richard Cabell was member of the jury hearing this case in the Exchequer court. Stephen Roberts (Recovery & Restoration in an English County – Devon Local Administration 1646-1670, Univ of Exeter 1985, 164) describes him as ‘a moderate Cavalier’.

1 February 1664 Richard Cabell of Brooke Esq lease to Richard Fursland of Widecombe, gent. of messuage called ‘Trowbrooke alias Rowbrooke’ (DRO/48/14/29/3a-b)

19th & 20th February 1668 Richard Mann of Stone, yeoman leases to Richard Cabell of Brooke Esq. the messuage called Stone with common of pasture in Stone, Wythecombe, Hammeldon and Bunhildowne (DRO/48/14/51/5a-b)

12 March 1669 Richard Cabell of Brooke Esq leases close of land called Lower Hay ‘lying in Combe’ to Edward Arnell of Widecombe, husbandman (DRO/14/44/4)

25 March 1669 Richard Cabell of Brooke Esq leases Hanworthy alias Hannaford to Richard Hext the elder of Torr, Widecombe, husbandman (DRO/48/14/19/2)

22 May 1669 Richard Cabell of Brooke Esq leases to John Morrell, son of John Morrell of Widecombe, carpenter ‘Toft or old walls called the Smitha otherwise the Smitha Mill, with common rights on the commons of the manor of Widecombe; also a little close called Gooseland, on the E side of the grist mills called North Hall Mills, bounded by the sanctuary lands, the highway leading from Widecombe to Bovietracy, and other lands; + 10yds of land allotted out by Vincent Andrew the elder of Widecombe 3 May 1669, bounded by the highway and toft called the Smitha on the south, the mill leat running to North Hall Mills on the east, and the 6 pits there made in the earth on the N and W (DRO/48/14/47/2a-b)

1669 Richard Cabell defendant re money matters. Plaintiff Jane Gilbert, widow (TNA/C6/194/53)

1682 Marriage settlement between Charles Kellond, Esq and Elizabeth Cabell, widow of Richard Cabell of Brooke (PWDRO/74/297/12)



  1. Suicidal death of John Fitz of Fitzford August 1605 after murdering Nicholas Slanning of Bickleigh in 1599 and the landlord of an inn in Twickenham (pamphlet published in London).
  2. Collapse of Stannary Court at Chagford 6 March 1617/1618 (10 killed including lawyer Nicholas Eveleigh, 17 seriously injured) (pamphlet published in London)
  3. Great Storm at Widecombe 21 October 1638 (at least 4 killed, 60 injured) (two pamphlets published in London)
  4. Civil War 1642-1649 etc
  5. Robert Tooley of Widecombe (married Agnes Hart in 1663) – quack conjuror re hanged man (? Between Holne and Widecombe) (Brown, Theo, 1976 in DCNQ, 247-9).
  6. Demon of Spreyton 1682-3 – poltergeist and spirit of woman in form of a dog belching fire (pamphlet published in London)
  7. Plague recurring several times.



NB the rich copper deposits in Brook Wood – these were exploited on a large scale from at least the early 1800s and may well have been recognised in the 17th century. Also, extensive tin deposits in Buckfastleigh/Scorriton area and further afield (eg Widecombe), which Cabells may have had an interest in, though no documentary evidence to support this has yet come to light. However, the tin industry, although quite lively in the early 17th century, was at a low ebb in the mid-17th century when the Civil War nearly killed it off, but there was a revival in the second half of the 17th century and by the time of Richard Cabell III’s death it would have seemed relatively prosperous.

NB the woollen industry of Dartmoor and Buckfastleigh – very important, though possibly in decline in the mid-17th century.  

NB also the location of Brook – deep valleys, well-wooded, with all the activity that infers – charcoal burning, bark for tanning, timber harvesting etc. Probably v. similar landscape in terms of woodland and farmland to that of today

NB possible significance of the caves underneath the church at Buckfastleigh – maybe already known to some in 17th century. Also a major bat roost.

NB the unusual design of the sepulchre – who designed it? Are there any other tombs of this design known in Devon or further afield?

NB also Herrick in adjoining Dean Prior, the Ford family at Ilsington, Elford at Sheepstor, John Syms at Dean Prior and Buckland-in-the-Moor, Mary Howard at Tavistock etc.

Tom Greeves, 12th July, 2016


[In the Devon Heritage Centre] there is a marvellously well-preserved rental book  for the Cabell estates covering 25 years 1650-1694 (5057M/E/1). It is tricky to read but has masses of information on names of tenants etc. It shows that the Cabell estates were even more extensive than I had thought – they include Widecombe, the Manor of Dunstone, Hexworthy, parts of Holne, Babeny Mill and of course Brook etc in Buckfastleigh parish. I also came across a separate document of 1717 relating to ‘our’ Richard’s daughter Elizabeth Fownes, also relating to Hexworthy, which mentions that she was formerly Elizabeth Cabell.

Tom Greeves, September 2017

The Tomb  of Richard Cabell in Buckfastleigh Churchyard

Sir Howard Colvin has identified this as one of the first two freestanding mausolea in England, the other being the Ailesbury Mausoleum in Bedfordshire.


H Colvin,Architecture and the After-Life (1991), 313;