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Dartmoor Traditions

Sheepstor’s Bull Ring

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  In the August of 1908 Amos Shillibeer was ploughing one of his fields when the point of one of the plough shares became caught in a large metal ring which was buried in the soil. Some forty years later the Rev. Hugh Breton and Amos’ son George went to …

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Manaton Celebrations

Manaton1

Throughout the centuries there have been many momentous occasions when the British populace has had reason to celebrate. The last occasion came in the June of this year (2016) when Britain voted to leave the European Union although there very few national celebrations and plenty of demonstrations. A couple of …

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Curses

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Curse definition: “A solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.” So how long have we vengeful humans been cursing? In Britain there is ‘documented’ evidence in the form of curses written on tablets which date back to between the 2nd …

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Easter Light

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“Walkhampton Church – Earlier this century , during restoration work to the porch, a stove and flue was found. This stove was most likely used for kindling the Easter Light on Holy Saturday. Sadly it has now been blocked up again.” Hamilton-Leggett, p.2. One source suggests that church porch fireplaces were …

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Hunting the Stag

Drewsteignton1

“A stag and a hare hunt are the rude means employed by a village community for maintaining either its standards of morals or expressing its disapprobation of petticoat rule… The Stag Hunt takes place on the wedding-night of a man who has married a girl of light character or when …

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Postbridge Charmers

Charmers1

I was reading an article published by the famous Dartmoor folklorist Theo Brown some 47 years ago which I think typifies the beliefs and resources available to moor folk in days long gone by. It concerns medical treatment for both humans and animals administered by so-called ‘White’ or ‘Hedge Witches’ …

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Franklin Nights

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At one time, not too long in the past cider was as common a beverage as Typhoo tea is today upon Dartmoor. Not only was it a popular drink in the pubs and inns but many farms had their cider orchards whose apples would make the families yearly supply. During …

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Wife Sales

Wife Sales

Before proceeding I would like to point out that what follows is not sexist, male chauvinism or misogynistic, it’s simply historical fact. Now as a rule a moorman has an eye for a good beast and an even better one for a profit, it’s an ability that comes with living …

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Widdecombe Fair

Widdecombe Fair

Tom Pearce. Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare, All along, down along, out along lee, For I want for to go to Widdecombe Fair, Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk, old uncle Tom Cobley and all, old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. …

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Wassailing

Wassailing

By no means is ‘wassailing’ an exclusive Dartmoor custom, it can be found all across Devon and indeed the other cider making counties. The tradition is said to have originally been an ancient pagan fertility rite. The word ‘wassail’ comes from the Anglo Saxon words ‘waes hal‘ which meant be …

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