Whilst thumbing through John Chudleigh’s oft neglected book – An Exploration of Dartmoor’s Antiquities (1987, p.43), I came across the following passage: “Two tall granite stones on the Down above the bridge will strike our attention – one is 6 feet, the other 8 feet high, set up at the entrance of a fine hut circle by the same gentleman who commenced the “restoration” of the Clapper Bridge, as a jubilee memorial of Her Majesty – they are called, locally, “The Monument“.”
This was written in 1893, Queen Victoria’s jubilee was in 1887 (June 20th/21st) so at the time of writing ‘The Monument’ had been standing for 6 years. This prompted a search through another old topographical book by Page from 1895 called: An Exploration of Dartmoor, in here he more or less notes the same as Chudleigh (pp.241-2): “Instead of making direct for Dartmeet Bridge, we descend the southern slope of the tor, and, when near the road, shall be struck by two tall granite pillars rising from the ‘clatters’ to the height of about seven feet. A nearer inspection will reveal the fact that they form the door jams of a fine hut circle, and have been but recently erected * – * Footnote, On inquiring of a moor-man whom I met just below, I was informed that these stones had been set up on ‘jubilee Day’ by a neighbouring antiquary. He further gave it as his opinion that the relic thus marked out from the adjacent boulders was a ‘sacred circle’ which it certainly is not“.
Those are the only mention of The Monument by topographical writers and that includes both William Crossing and Eric Hemery which for them is unusual. The only interesting comment that Crossing makes when talking about the prehistoric remains on Dartmeet hill is the following (1986 p.113): “There is no doubt that objects of comparatively recent erection on the Moor have been mistaken for genuine antiquities. I know of more than one instance where such has been the case“. Those words were written around 1905 and is there the possibility that they are referring to The Monument? It is not until 1997 that the subject once again appears in print, this time in an article by Ted Fitch which appeared in the Dartmoor News (p.27) . Here he quotes two articles which appeared in the Western Morning News in 1890. The first was written by a disgruntled anonymous gentleman who wrote the following: “Hard by on the moor, an idiotic landowner has erected, to do honour to his sovereign’s Jubilee, a mock Druidical circle, close to a genuine one. Such an act of vandalism as this, fills us all with disgust“. A few days later the so-called, “idiotic landowner”, replied to this diatribe in no uncertain terms and with the following words: “Whoever wrote this article must have had his information second-hand, or must be wanting in the power of accurate observation. There is no such ‘ Mock Druidical Circle’. as everyone may see at a glance. There is an old Druidical Circle untouched and all that miscalled vandal has done consists of raising into an upright position in the same spot, two blocks opposite, which were lying on the ground“.
Today about the only time to have a decent look at The Monument is in the winter when the dreaded plaque of bracken has died back. In 1997 Ted Fitch noted that the two, “granite pillars” are still in situ although both are in various states of recumbence with the left-hand pillar having slid a few feet downslope. He ended his article by asking: “The Author and the Editor would be interested in knowing more about the ‘Monument’ and who was the gentleman who restored the stones“. Sadly, Ted Fitch is no longer with us but maybe the following would interest him? So, we know the location of the monument, we know the date and reason for its erection but the burning question is who built it? The only possible clue is when Chudleigh tells us that the person who restored the Dartmeet clapper bridge was the same person who instigated the raising of The Monument. This takes us back to William Crossing who tells us that the clapper bridge was (p.115) “But the bridge was destroyed during a flood in the year 1826, and although “restored” some sixty-two years later, probably presents an appearance altogether unlike that of the original structure“.
This suggests that the Dartmeet clapper bridge was restored around the 1880s which would tie up with the fact that an antiquarian was at work in the area at the same time as The Monument was built.
Things now get a bit out of kilter when Samuel Rowe (1985, p.161) is consulted, he considers that the Dartmeet clapper, “... was thrown down many years since, by an inundation of the Dart, but was re-erected in 1888 by the Committee of the Dartmoor Preservation Association“. If this is correct then the anonymous antiquarian must have sat on the Dartmoor Preservation Committee which narrows things down a trifle. The Association was formed in 1883 so in theory at the time in question the committee must have consisted of the original members?
Having exhausted all of my books to no avail I turned to the internet to see if the history of the D.P.A. and its early members was anywhere online. It wasn’t, so I have sent an e mail to the D.P.A. for their help. Then, a flash of inspiration came from the ether, try the Dartmoor Archive and enter the fanfare, because after putting a site search for “Yar” up popped the above photograph from the Burnard collection which was dated December 1887. Not only did it show The Monument but below the picture was written, presumably in Burnard’s handwriting the following: “Prehistoric remains on slopes of Yar Tor near Dartmeet. The two upright stones were prostrate but this autumn were set up by Mr Rose of Badges Holt as a Jubilee Memorial”. So there we have it, the so-called, “idiotic landowner”, and antiquarian was in fact Mr Rose from nearby Badger’s Holt, the clue was there all along not in the word antiquarian but landowner. It will be interesting to see whether or not Mr Rose was on the committee, (and I have now received a reply from the D.P.A and can confirm he was not on the committee0. There is another old photograph in the Burnard collection which is of Badger’s Holt and again Burnard has written at the bottom, he says: “Badger’s Holt. The summer residence of Mr Rose locally known as ‘The Badger‘”. I will also wager that at the time Joe Leaman provided some if not all of the physical labour involved in the erection of the monument. This could also mean that the restoration of the Dartmeet clapper, which at the time was heavily criticised, was down to Mr. Rose – mystery solved! I will endeavour to get a photograph of The Monument once the bracken has died back in the winter. It does however bring into question the date of the restoration of the Dartmeet clapper. Rowe says this was in 1888 but if Chudleigh is correct then it was impossible for the builder of The Monument to be the same person who restored the clapper. The Monument was erected in 1887 and so was already standing by the proposed date of the clapper’s rebuilding in 1888?
As can be seen above, I have now been up the the monument and managed to get a couple of photographs of the August bracken and if you look carefully you can see one of the pillars leaning at a jaunty angle, the other is lost in the vegetation.
Chudleigh, J. 1987 An Exploration of Dartmoor’s Antiquities, John Pegg Pub. Kent.
Crossing, W. 1987 Gems in a Granite Setting, Devon Books, Exeter.
Fitch, T. 1997 The Dartmeet Monument, The Dartmoor News – No. 36, The Old Dartmoor Company, Okehampton.
Page, J. Ll. W. 1895 An Exploration of Dartmoor, Seeley & Co., London.
Rowe, S. 1985 A Perambulation of Dartmoor, Devon Books, Exeter.