Friday, 25 January 2013

History Hare – Dartmoor Tales

As I write this Devon has been hit by snow. There has been about 6 inches or so in Princetown and because of the wind there have been some drifts.

A historic settlement grew at the heart of Dartmoor because of the famous prison to be built there. The foundation stone was laid in 1806 and was initially built to enable Plymouth to cope with the influx of prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars. The population further increased by those Americans captured during the War of 1812. In 1814 the prison closed during a period of peace and it was in 1850 when it reopened as the prison we know today.

Just along the road is the Church of St Michaels. Now a redundant Church in the loving care of the, The Churches Conservation Trust. It has also been granted by English Heritage as a listed building.

Inside the lovely stain glass windows came alive as the sun hit the glass. A true contrast for how the church looks today in snow beaten Devon.

I walked around the church, looking at the memorials, the font and pews and contemplated how many people had stood round the font as a newborn was baptised or sat on the pews, probably at the same spot for many years.
My attention turned to the churchyard.

And then to the uniformed row of stones situated at the back of the churchyard

The church dates from 1812 when permission for its construction was given the Lord Commissioners for the Admiralty. The labour force for this undertaking was those prisoners who had captured during the Napoleonic Wars and later those from the American War. It is the only church in England to have been built by Prisoners of War. 

During this period as can be expected some of the prisoners died and these are a series of headstones that relate to some of them. Data is scanty, apart from 200 years of weathering, and the climate on the moor is challenging, we also have to remember the ability to have collated records during this period and then retained and maintained them.

Here is one of the headstones close up. The inscription reads "E.M. 10.3.14"
I hope you have enjoyed this wee wander around Dartmoor. If you do get chance to stop in the area do, but be prepared for inclement weather regardless of the time of year. However cold, wet and miserable it is now in our 21st Century homes, cast your mind to consider the hardships and endurance of the former convicts of Dartmoor.

Photographs taken by Julie @ Anglers Rest 1st April 2012

On line Journal of Grave yard Rabbit

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