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Thornworthy Thrift

Thornworthy Thrift

Nestled below the rocky eminence of Thornworthy Tor once lived two families, to all accounts they were ‘blow ins’ or in other words, “bain’t frum around yer”. They lived in two ramshackle tinners huts which lay in a small combe below the farm of Thornworthy. Although the two families knew each other before ‘blowin’ in’ they were not what could be described as bosom friends. In fact you could say that they were like chalk and cheese, the only bonding similarity between them was that both had hoards of children. On one hand the head of the household was a ‘praper grafter’ who would work all the hours God would send to earn enough coin to put a meagre ration of food on the table. He would work as many hours as possible for the local farmers and when that dried up he would cut peat and furze to heat his cott and bed his pig. His neighbour was however a completely different kettle of fish, occasionally he may be seen cutting peat or furze but most of the time he would idle his hours away in the easiest way possible. As with most remote communities nothing is ever missed and a man was judged by the sweat on his brow. Word soon got around about the two men and most of the word was about the idlest of the two. As time went by the moorfolk began to notice how the industrious one took on a gaunt, bedraggled appearance whilst the idler and his tribe appeared to grow fatter and fatter. This mystified the locals for they couldn’t understand how the waster got coin enough to deck his table with food whilst the grafter could hardly set crust on platter despite all his hard labours.

Tongues began to wag and heads began to nod, the general consensus was that the waster must be rustling sheep and it was the platefuls of mutton that were giving the, “healthy bloom” to him and his family. It did not take long for matters to come to a head when a prize ewe went missing from a nearby flock which grazed in a small combe near to the wasters’ cott. As with anything on the more eventually enough is enough and following the ewe’s disappearance the local farmers decided to pay the waster a visit. They were certain that somewhere in his delapidated cott would be the evidence that was needed to prove the man a thief. As one the band of yeoman marched into the cott and began their search but nowhere was to be found the slightest trace of the ewe, not even a smear of mutton fat. The larder was bare, the salt pans empty and the smoking hook just hung forlornly. The farmers simply could not except this state of affairs, afterall how could a man who did no work put enough food on his families table to make them all look, “praper Devon dumplins”. Just as the band of men were about to leave one of them spotted a line of low granite blocks which were covered by some course towels. On further inspection they saw under the towels that each granite bock had a row of hollows cut into them. In these hollows the men to their disgust saw that each one was full of huge, black slimy slugs all laying in piles of salt. The awful truth began to dawn, the wasters family were living off salted slugs and it was these that were keeping them so very much in the pink. One old moorman declared that he would have had more respect for the man if he had stolen the ewe rather than eating slugs.

This story is virtually identical to that of the Snaily House which lies about 5½ to the south of Thornworthy and so seems a popular story for the area. It could possibly be assumed that the granite blocks where in fact tinner’s mould stones which would tie in with the families living in deserted tinner’s huts. There was at once time an old blowing or smelting house near to Thornworthy along with two ruined huts.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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