“Squire Tucker purchased Natsworthy, And hath improved it very much”
Jonas Coaker 1876
Now you see me, now you don’t – this very much sums up the history of the ‘Tucker Stone’ which today can be found peacefully residing in the church at Widecombe. The stone is a simple tablet which depicts the coat of arms of the Tucker family who during the mid to late 1800s owned the nearby manor of Natsworthy but its journey through time is less simple.
During the 1870s the church underwent extensive renovations part of which included the construction of a new pulpit which was a gift from the Tucker family and presented by William Tucker. It is at this point when local tradition takes a hand for it is said that Tucker’s original intent was to have the stone incorporated into the pulpit. However, the vicar and his team of churchwardens decided that maybe this was a trifle egotistical of Mr. Tucker considering the pulpit was where God’s words were spoken and should not to include a visible reminder of his generosity. At this point the stone mysteriously vanished and drifted off into the realms of oblivion. That is until the 1930s when abracadabra it reappeared in the vicarage garden which possibly could give a clue as to who was instrumental in its disappearance? This revelation was caused because a garden wall had fallen down and during its rebuilding the stone was discovered buried under some earth and leaves.
Mrs Wood, who was the vicar’s wife then seems to have taken possession of the stone which then was taken to Newton Abbot when she left Widecombe. The stone then re-appeared at Widecombe in the 1970s when it became part of a local exhibition following which it was exiled to a broom cupboard in the Church House. Once again, consigned to oblivion the Tucker Stone languished in the broom cupboard to gather dust.
The stone was then once again re-discovered and liberated by the Widecombe History Group who in 1999 muted the idea that as tradition the stone was possibly linked with the pulpit it should be displayed in the church. Accordingly, permission for the stone to go on show was presented to the Parochial Church Council who gave their consent. Consequently as you walk into the church today you can now find the elusive Tucker Stone situated to the left of the tower’s entrance.
The Tucker Stone
The actual heraldic arms consists of an Azure or blue chevron with three argent or silver sea horses, two above and one below. The crest is a lions or bear limb holding the haft of a silver bladed battle axe
There is one relevant point in substantiating the Tucker Stone’s story; the granite for the pulpit was quarried at Wooder Goyle which lies on the eastern flank of nearby Hambledown. However, the tablet was made from a completely different stone which would have looked utterly out of place if it was intended to be incorporated in the pulpit. This however does not explain why the stone became to be ‘hidden’ in the vicarage garden. Surely at some point the vicar came into possession of it which would suggest there was to have been some intended connection with the church? There is only one person who could reveal the true purpose of the stone and William Tucker lies in the family vault which is located just past the lych gate as you enter the churchyard.