During the English Civil War, on the 8th February 1643 the Parliamentarian and Royalist armies were engaged in a bloody battle. The actual struggle took place near Chagford between the bridge over the river Teign and the Blackaton Brook at the bottom of Providence hill. The struggle was a long and bloody one which left many men dead and wounded by the end of the day. The dead were said to have been quickly buried in the hedge banks of the surrounding fields. Ever since then local tradition has it that on the 8th of February each year the sounds of a ghostly battle can be heard with men screaming, horses thundering past and the clash of sword upon sword. This was the same battle where the famous cavalier Sydney Godolphin died at Chagford.
There is a nice story about the one time rector of Gidleigh, the Reverend Scott, who legend has it was very fond of his gin which he described as one of, “Gods gift to man”. One evening having found his stocks depleted he made his way to the local shop for fresh supplies. On the way back a swirling mist descended and all of a sudden he heard the ghostly sounds of horses hooves pounding towards him. The sound got louder and louder until he convinced himself that he was about to witness the fabled spectral battle of Bloody Meadow. He prayed to God for courage and plucked up the nerve to peer over the wall from whence cometh the ghastly noise. As he did he suddenly came face to face with a rather excited herd of horses who thought he had come to bring them their night time supper.
There are two possible locations for the Bloody Meadow, both supported by various local factions. The 1889 OS map extract below shows both the options:
The whole area around this part of the Blackaton Brook has for a very long time been known as ‘War Cleave’. In the wall opposite Blackaton House is the badly damaged head of an old cross. Crossing does not mention it but Masson Phillips reported it in the 1950’s. There is some debate as to its age, one argument suggests it was the original cross that once stood by the village pond which was described as lying in a horse pond in 1872. The other point of view suggested by Phillips’, is that there were two separate crosses, either way, local legend says that the cross which now sits on the wall opposite Blackaton Manor was erected in memory of all those who lost their lives in the battle of Bloody Meadow.
Paget, M. (Ed) 2006 Throwleigh, Throwleigh Archive, Throwleigh.
Varwell, E. 1938 Throwleigh – The Story of a Dartmoor Village, The Rector of Throwleigh.