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Manaton Storm

Manaton Storm

On the 13th of December 1779 a massive thunder storm swept across the eastern moor and no this was not a Friday it was a Monday. Just like the infamous Widecombe Storm of 1638 this one headed straight for the church but as this particular deluge fell on a Monday there were no worshipers inside, unlike Widecombe. Nevertheless, a mighty bolt of lightening struck the church tower and rendered from top to bottom. A pinnacle which was estimated to have weighed, ‘a thousand pounds’ was hurled down through the roof of the nave. The belfry floor and its bell wheels were mightily smote as was the east front of the chancel, the storm did not even spare the altar which also was badly damaged.

The villagers were beside themselves with fear because any such storm was surely a sign of God’s displeasure and for him to direct it against his own house must mean that he was sorely vexed with them. People began to search the dark recesses of their souls to see if any of their transgressions such warrant such a dire warning. The ne’r-do-wells immediately changed their ways and the local inn may as well have been a temperance hall. But amongst the Manatonians was one who above all should have slept the sleep of the just but he didn’t. For a long time the villagers had been unhappy with their clergyman who at this time was in commendam which basically meant he temporarily held the otherwise full time post on trust. However, his idea and the villagers idea of temporary where somewhat different. In short he was quite happy where he was and simply refused to leave the living. So, at the height of the dispute a mighty storm sweeps across the moor and almost obliterates the very church which was the clergyman’s living. As can be imagined it was not long before fingers began to point in his direction, many said it was a sure sign that his boss was saying, as Alan Sugar says today – ‘you’re fired’. Apparently the clergyman was taken ill and confined to his bed which gave him plenty of time to consider his position. Clearly the events of the 13th of December had a profound impact upon the otherwise stubborn man. He soon sent word that he would resign his living immediately and that proceedings should begin forthwith. Sadly, his boss must have been angrier than he first thought, because resignation was not enough and before the necessary arrangements could be made the clergyman died. So here is a lesson for any man/woman of the cloth, your boss will not invite you in for ‘tea and biscuits’ because when it’s time to leave you not only depart from the post you take leave of the mortal world.

The poor folk of Manaton never seemed to have any luck with their clergymen because in 1841 they were in dispute with another incumbent over the churchyard cross.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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