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Meldon Pool

Meldon Pool

Meldon Pool is not a naturally formed body of water it is a flooded disused limestone quarry, the limestone being used for building and for burning in the nearby limekilns. The water was known to have been over 130ft (39.5m) deep and clearly a dangerous place. It was here in 1936 that a tragic accident occurred when a person went missing. It was assumed that they had drowned in the murky waters of the pool but there was no corpse to confirm this. The body was somewhere on the bottom of the water and in those days it would have been a perilous task to dive the pool. It was decided to resort to the old practice of ‘singing the body’, this was where prayers and hymns were sung at the edge of any water where a body had gone missing. Accordingly a choir from nearby Okehampton assembled at the pool and duely chanted hymns and offered prayers. Although there was no immediate result, within the week the body was found floating in the pool. The old custom of singing the dead involved assembling at the place of a drowning and singing hymns and psalms near the water in the hope that the body would emerge for burial. The theory being that the sacred words would be attracted by the lost soul and thus released from limbo when a christen burial could be then given. This occasion is the last officially recorded instance of this tradition on Dartmoor.

Meldon Pool has always been a place for local youngsters to swim but very recently has become famous for the ‘Meldon Bomb’. This is basically a high plunge into the pool which entails a drop of about 40 feet, let’s hope the church choir doesn’t have to go up there again.

There are actually two limekilns at Meldon, both of which have been restored by the Dartmoor National Park Authority. Many years ago these kilns would be meeting places for local people. The heat from the kilns made for a comfortable chat, in some cases potatoes were roasted on the coals. Some limekilns even had bread ovens built into them so women could bake their bread. There are reports that tramps used to take advantage of the warmth and often sleep around the kilns. Some even slept on the top edge for extra heat. There are stories of the kiln-keepers coming to work in the mornings and finding charred corpses in the fire. It was thought that the vagrants had slept on top of the kiln and had been overcome by the fumes and rolled in to their deaths. The limekilns were also thought to have had curative powers and that any child suffering from whooping cough could be cured by inhaling the fumes.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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