Having received several emails regarding Beatrice Chases’ mythical Dream Tor it may be an idea to try and search for the evidence for it. I must confess not having much interest in the author I never really bothered with where or what it supposedly was. In fact although I have listed it on the Dartmoor Tors page which was taken from my Dartmoor database it now seems that the original location given was wrong and has now been amended. But where does the place-name come from? In a nutshell, Beatrice Chase had a favourite tor which to her served as her place of refuge in times of strife or in other words somewhere she could go and dream. The actual tor existed but the name was one that she conjured up but never actually said where it was and ever since the confusion has reigned.
There were basically three locations which could, depending on who you talk to, be Dream Tor; Wind Tor, Top Tor and in a private garden at Haytor Vale. Terry Bound (1991, p.29) states under his entry for Dream Tor: ‘Probably the only property on Dartmoor with its own tor in the garden, this is the name of the first house on the left, south from the junction at the same grid reference. The tor rises up from the lawn to a height of about four metres in one single mass’. The Ordnance Survey grid reference he gives is at SX 771 767. Having not given the matter much thought this was the reference I originally used in my database. But to be fair the listing is correct as there is a house called Dream Tor and Bound does not mention any connection with Beatrice Chases’ tor. Brown, (1995, p.19) in his gazetteer also gives a similar grid reference for Dream Tor, namely, ‘SX 7709 7678’.
On the 14th of November 2007 Janet Palmer sent me an email and kindly pointed out that Peter Hicks who cared for Beatrice Chase in her final years related how he related that, ‘… he was sure Dream Tor was Top Tor‘. This information he had presumably gained first hand from the author herself.
Amongst the letterboxing fraternity it has been thought by many that Wind Tor was location of the fictitious Dream Tor. As can be seen from the map below, Venton is roughly both equidistant from both Top Tor and Wind Tor so this is not going to be of much help
But how did the lady herself describe Dream Tor. In her first book ‘The Heart of the Moor’ which was first published in 1914 she wrote the following (pp.78 – 80):
‘The tor’s real name is not of course, Dream Tor, or anything like it. I call it that, because it is my favourite home tor: on it I have seen my sublimest visions, dreamt my divinest dreams. It is not marked upon any Ordnance map, thank heaven, and no tourist ever comes near it from year’s end to year’s end… To the south slope blue Holne Moor, bounded at last by the great shoulder of Brent Tor… North of east were the crouching heads of mighty Hound Tor; due north, the olive and russet slopes of the moor ran to the top stone of Hamildown; to the west lay that finest vista of all, the tract of land between Widecombe and Tavistock, with lordly Bellever standing peerless in its centre…‘.
Firstly, she gives three significant landmarks in the above description; Hound Tor, Hambledon and Bellever, if directional lines are drawn from each of these tors which correspond to her compass bearings then two intersect at Wind Tor. With a little imagination the line from Bellever just touches Top Tor as can be seen from the map below:
This was done by using Broad Barrow on Hambledon as the northern node, Hound Tor as the north eastern node and Bellever as the western node. These compass points were taken literal, ie. due north, north east and due west, clearly there is room for literary interpretation.
The law of averages would therefore suggest that from her geographical description Wind Tor would seem to fit more of the criteria. However, there is another problem, she also states that Dream Tor is not marked on any Ordnance map. Her book was first published in 1914 which means it was written prior to that date thus suggesting that the maps may give a clue but bearing in mind she does not say which Ordnance map she is talking about. The 1809 OS 1 inch Ordnance Survey map records neither Top Tor or Wind Tor so that is not a lot of use. If you look on the 1886 edition of the Ordnance Survey 1:10,560 map you will see that Wind Tor is clearly marked as is Top Tor, again this neither proves one thing or another.
The other puzzling thing is that suppose you had a special secret place such as Dream Tor which very few people knew about would you then publish what appears to be definite pointers as to its location? I would suggest that any such place would remain a closely guarded secret in order for it to remain secluded, in the light of which, did Beatrice Chase deliberately relate misleading hints as to the tor? So, that little line of investigation has drawn a confusing blank.
The next clue appears in Beatrice Chases’ book, ‘The Dartmoor Window Again’, which was written in 1921, seven years after ‘The Heart of the Moor’. In this book she actually provides a photograph of Dream Tor, albeit a rather grainy image. In this there are what appears to be two figures on the tor and as can be seen from the illustration below. Therefore the next logical thing would be to visit both tors and try to get the same viewpoint thus confirming which tor is Dream Tor. Having done so the picture below shows her original photo of Dream Tor and ones taken July 2008 of Top Tor and Wind Tor. I think the results are pretty conclusive:
The photograph of Top Tor was taken from on top of the granite outcrop just south of the main outcrop, as can be seen, there is an almost perfect match apart from the far horizon which does not quite line up. I found in you stood on the ground then the actual outcrops of Bonehill Rocks came into the picture and clearly from on the outcrop the horizon is too low, maybe Dartmoor has shrunk?