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Blackingstone Ravens

Blackingstone Ravens

Many years ago, before the social services were invented, there lived a woman at a small place called Brinning. She lived in the small cot with her small baby, the father had left to work in the mines. On this particular day mother and baby were out in the garden enjoying the warm summer’s sun. There air was still and hot and the scent of the many flowers in the garden was heady, bees bumbled from head to head gathering the sweet pollen. The woman was becoming bored, after all there is a limit to how long you can laze in the sun, when all of a sudden she heard the chiming of the Moretonhampstead church bells. This puzzled her somewhat as it was not the Sabbath and so why should they be ringing? Then she remembered it was the day of the Moreton Fair, and that would be a busy, bustling event, far more enjoyable than lolling around the garden. The more the girl thought about it the more tempting the proposition became. But what could she do with the baby? She didn’t want to push that heavy pram all the way to town and then have to cart it around the busy fair, oh how she wished she had a partner to help out on such occasions. Still the bells kept urgently calling “roll up, roll up, come and see the fun of the fair.”

Brinning is an isolated place with very few neighbours and what there were had all gone to town so the girl decided that she would visit the fair for an hour and in the mean time the baby should be perfectly safe in the garden. After all what possible harm could come to it, there was a large fence and certainly no pools or ponds. Again the bells rang out, tempting one and all. That was it, she ran inside and put on her best bonnet and shawl, cuddled the baby and headed off for town. The lane was bursting with wildflowers, there were vetches, Ragged Robins, Campions, Moon Daises and Dandelions a plenty, all giving off a sweet perfume that made the girl feel glad to be alive. She had already forgotten about the baby as all that was on her mind were the stalls, booths and attractions that were awaiting at the fair. Three quarters of the way down the lane a loud ‘whoomping’ noise could be heard slowly drifting overhead. When the girl looked up she saw three large ravens lazily flying through the cloudless sky. The woman recognised them as the ones that lived in Blackingstone Quarry, “where be ee a-going,” she called to the birds, “Up Brinning, Up Brinning,” they croaked. She thought that a bit odd but her attention was soon drawn to the the colourful garlands and bunting hanging in the street ahead. Oh, the sights, sounds and smells of the fair were exciting, every stall had some temptation of one kind or another. There were pies, cakes fancies, ribbons, materials, fairings and a host of other goodies. By the time the young mother had reached the Dancing Tree her head was spinning and so she decided to take a well earned rest, after all ‘fairing’ is hard work. As she sat in the shade of the huge leafy branches she saw the three ravens overhead, and again asked them where they were going, “back Brinning, back Brinning,” they cawed. Strange the mother thought but once again her attention was grabbed by a stampeding pig that had escaped from its pen, it was hurtling down through the crowds with several farmers in hot pursuit. A few moments later she heard the church clock strike two and realised she had overstayed her self allotted time. All that was left was to buy a juicy beef pie for dinner and that was on one of the stalls on the way out, so she headed back up the street.

By the time she reached home the girl was looking forward to a hot, sweet mug of tea and so she headed straight for the kitchen. Something was not quite right, the garden was very quiet and extremely empty. Panic began to set in, where was baby? The mother frantically searched the garden, under all the bushes, up in the apple trees, although deep down it was obvious the baby couldn’t have got up there. Then she searched the house, still nothing, so back outside the girl went and frantically started screaming for her child. It was as if she had been head on the head with a turving iron, because all of a dreadful sudden she spotted a small neat pile of bones stood on a patch of blood soaked grass. Most of the meat had been picked clean off, there was just the odd gristly speck of pink flesh left. And to the side of the pathetic heap was a big solitary, black, shiny ravens feather. Now she knew what those murdering ravens meant when they had spoken to her, they were teaching her a lesson as why not to leave your baby unattended  – especially if they were hungry. Another version of the tale relates how the Ravens carried the baby up to Blackingstone Rock where its bones were found the following day in their nest.

This legend was put to verse in 1899 by the Sabine Baring Gould and was called – Brennan Moor, Brennan being the local name for Brinning and can be found at OS grid reference SX 75255 85038.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor


  1. Is this material copyrighted? I ask because it resonates with me. I am a descendant of people from Devon who came to America when the Devon mining industry collapsed in the 19th century. We brought with us the souls that can appreciate these legends and stories. I want to bring the stories to light in America.

    • Yes the page is copyrighted but I am happy for it to be reused for non-commercial purposes but would appreciate an acknowledgement if done so.

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