Beside the A386 road near the old Wheal Betsy mine stands a row of 50 stones situated at the edge of the roadside. Originally there were more as the gaps will testify. Their purpose was to stop carts and carriages going off the road and acted as early crash barriers. They have become known as Annie Pinkham’s Men. The reason for this, as the local story goes is that Annie lived at nearby Peter Tavy and was known as ‘a friendly sort of woman who liked the company of men’. Each stone was said to represent one of her ‘boyfriends’ which she would pass daily on her way to work at nearby Lydford. (I had put this story up on a previous web site and having received an e-mail from a ‘Pinkham’ descendant threatening libel action I will clearly state here that this story it taken from ‘The Dartmoor Newsletter’, Issue 39, page 14. But in that version, as the local story goes, is that each of the 50 stones represent “a man that Annie Pinkham slept with.”)
A similar story relates to a group of four stones called ‘Peggy’s Four Men’ which are nearby to Annie’s men. Clearly she was not as liberal with her favours as Annie.
Another version of the tale, again as the local story would have it, is that Annie Pinkham worked in service at Lydford and on her days off would walk home to Peter Tavy passing her ‘men’. She would often jokingly tell the locals that the men waved or spoke to her as she passed by.
A third story, again as once told locally, tells of how Annie Pinkham was walking home one dark night when she looked around and saw a gang of men following her. Fearing the worst she began to run but every time she looked back they were still there. In desperation she awoke the occupants of a nearby house and asked for their help. Annie related how these men suddenly appeared from nowhere and started stalking her, on investigation there was no sign of anybody, just the roadside line of stone posts. From that day on the stones were called ‘Annie Pinkham’s Men’.
Clearly these stone have a fairly modern origin and were placed along the top of the steep slope that leads down to Wheal Betsy to stop carts and carriages from leaving the road. The reason for this is apparent if you stand beside the modern road – this is a straight stretch of road along which drivers use for overtaking and speeding. When I took the photograph it was hard to stand upright as the jet-stream from lorries attempted to blow me over.
Sometime in September 2005, after writing the above twenty of Annie’s men had a near miss as the double tyre marks of lorry will testify. Clearly for some reason an arctic swerved off the road and missed the stones by inches, how much longer can they survive?