Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trip Report

Hound Tor Cairn Circle and Cist

Well, I'm back from a very successful research trip to Devon and Somerset. Filled most of a notebook with genealogical research and took over 1450 photographs. It's going to take some time to go through it all.

You'll note that the photograph that leads this post isn't an effigy or a gravestone. It is, however, a burial site, so I technically was stalking dead people. During my trip I spent three days on Dartmoor visiting a number of megalithic sites including this cairn circle and cist near Hound Tor. Hound Tor is thought to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Hound of the Baskervilles, and was the location for filming the 1975 Doctor Who episode The Sontaran Experiment.

I also spent more than a few hours at various libraries and archives. Visits to the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter and the North Devon Atheneaum in Barnstaple were very productive. I also spent lots of time looking at microfiche of parish registers at the Devon Record Office. Of course not all parish registers have been microfilmed, so I had several opportunities to consult some of the original registers. Viewing original documents is quite different from staring at microfiche. This page from the East Buckland register records the baptism of my ggg-grandmother Elizabeth STEVENS in 1816.

At the Dartmoor Bookshop in Ashburton, Devon, I picked up a copy of Florence Wrey's 1892 book Tawstock Church, and a copy of W.G. Hoskins Devon published in 1954.

Only visited about 20 churches this time. Most were open for visitors. Exeter Cathedral once again had scaffolding on the west front, however, the fascade of Wells Cathedral was free of obstructions. Unfortunately, the Chapter House wasn't open. As expected, St Mary's, Atherington and St Mary's, High Bickington were closed due to roof repairs. St Peter's, Tawstock, however, more than made up for any disappointment.

St Peter's is remarkable both for the number of monuments it contains and for it's architectural features. Hoskins writes that the church "contains the finest collection of monuments in Devon." Notable monuments include those for Frances KITSON (1535-1586) and for William BOURCHIER, 3rd Earl of Bath (1557-1623). Much of the floor is paved with ledger stones and the walls are covered with mural monuments. Architectual features include roof bosses, oak screens, a manorial pew, carved bench ends, a 16th century gallery leading to the tower, and corbels decorated with leaves and heads.

Also did some "normal" tourist things like visiting the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Glastonbury Abbey.

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