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Last Updated 20th October 2002
Articles (Publications List at End)
Cornwood1 A Short Story: A Day in the Life of John Cole of Cornwood
Cornwood2 Notes on Parish Registers
Cornwood3 Notes on Parochial Records
Cornwood4 Poetic Epitaphs on Headstones in the Graveyard of St Michael's Church
Cornwood5 Full Transcript of Church War Memorial (War Memorials Web Page)
Publications Cornwood CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs Available from Dartmoor Press
Dartmoor Press Homepage Booklets Catalogue CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs Catalogue
Guide to Dartmoor CD-ROM Forest Publishing Books Order Details How To Order
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Dartmoor Region War Memorials Lost Devon MIs Index Research Services Sections
Publications Reviews Dartmoor Picture Gallery Links to Other Websites
To leave the Dartmoor Press website and go to the Devon GENUKI Website Cornwood Information Page(s) click here. Remember to put this page in your Bookmarks/Favourites before you go!

A Day in the Life of John Cole of Cornwood
A Short Story
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

A lone horseman gallops to the crest of a hill to survey the countryside before him. Reining his steed to a halt, the pair make a striking spectacle as they are silhouetted against the horizon, an all-white charger and a tall man clad in trappings befitting a King.

Suddenly a distant rumble of thunder is heard, breaking the peace and tranquility of the scene, a rather eerie and unexpected sound, for the blue sky is perfectly clear as far as the eye can see and the source of the thunder cannot be identified.

But a louder and nearer sound then shatters the silence, that of a human voice, a shout that "they're on the move" - whoever "they" might be!? - and we suddenly become aware of the fact that the horseman is not alone.

Far from it, in fact, as the stillness of the scene is transformed into one of frenetic activity, thousands of men scrabbling and rushing about in all directions in the woodlands and fields below the hill, tripping over each other in their eagerness to get to their appointed places. A motley collection they are, too, peasants in unkempt garb, unwashed and unshaven, an apparently ragged and unruly mob of burly rustics whose tongue we can hardly understand, although we can just about identify it as English. Certainly a gruesome-looking bunch of individuals, not the sort of crowd whom we would wish to meet up with on a dark night!

But, unbelievable though it might seem, this large gang of coarse rogues is an army! We can now also identify who "they" are, the mounted knights of France, and the first distant rumble which we heard was not thunder, but the pounding of thousands of horses' hooves on the short turf. And, as this rumble gets ever closer, it appears that the whole of France is bearing down upon the rag-tag outfit of Englishmen who by this time are all standing silently at their positions. Only they, it seems, stand between the might of France and the English Crown.

But, despite their grisley appearance, the dishevelled and uncouth ruffians in the English ranks actually hold the key to the battle which will ensue.

The "thunder" is much louder now, the horses breaking into a gallop as they crest the rising ground, spurred on by the knights. In their wake come many thousands of foot soldiers, running as fast as they are able to. It is only now that the Englishmen can see their foe for the first time, having previously only been able to hear their approach - surely these few thousand will not stand their ground against such a massed charge?

Five hundred yards away now, yet still the Englishmen stand in silence. Four hundred yards...three hundred yards...and the Englishmen start flexing their arm muscles. Two hundred yards now...but still they do not respond by coming out to meet the enemy.

One hundred and eighty yards...now, surely?!...

The "thunder" by this time is deafening, and the French knights will soon be upon the Englishmen, right in amongst them, putting them to flight. Yet still there is no hint of movement in the English lines, nor any response. Nobody even flinches. Too late to save themselves? Surely some of them will break ranks soon? And then there will be a stampede, a flight of panic...

One hundred and fifty yards...

Still nobody speaks. But there is a flutter of movement in the English ranks. Arm muscles and sinews strain as rods of English yew are bent taut, almost to breaking-point. A loud twang followed by a faint but deadly hiss is heard above the pounding of hooves. The sky darkens, and the sun is momentarily blotted out as thousands of short iron-tipped shafts of yew and ash speed
silently and unerringly on their way to their targets. And again...and again...

Yet again...

When we consider that the date is 25th October 1415, we are now more familiar with the scene which we are witnessing. The horseman is King Henry V of England, head of the most powerful dynasty in Europe, ruler of a Plantagenet Empire that stretches from the Cheviots to the Pyrenees, and whose family influences stretch far beyond the European frontiers. He looks out over the fields and woodlands south of Agincourt. And the rogues in the English lines are the finest bowmen in the world, each holding a weapon which will rule the battlefields of Europe for a century or more - the longbow. These semi-literate and unkempt peasants will be more than a match for the French nobility rushing headlong towards them in all their glittering finery and gaudy costumes.

One hundred and twenty yards...

The might of France hits an impenetrable wall of English arrows, and under this tremendous volley of fire they are, quite literally, stopped dead in their tracks. Horses wheel about in panic, shying under the onslaught, this unknown foe raining down upon them from the sky. The knights in the rear lines run headlong into their stricken comrades and the fallen horses in front of them, and still the wall of death comes at them as the Englishmen fire another volley...and another...and...

There is no place to hide. The only option is to turn and flee. Once proud knights are sent reeling under the sheer weight of fire. Turning in blind panic, their horses run straight into the lines of their own infantrymen bringing up the rear, creating mayhem in their ranks. A 50,000-strong army has in a few minutes been transformed into an undisciplined rabble by the application of this deadly weapon of warfare.

And still the missiles of death come at them. Now from behind them, their glorious charge having become a riotous stampede heading in the opposite direction.

This is the moment King Henry V has been waiting for. Pulling down the helmet visor of his suit of armour he shouts the signal to charge, and we now see that there are English knights, too. Not many, but enough to see off the French now that they have been put to flight. Colourful banners bearing the heraldic arms of Cole and Chichester flutter beside those of other members of the English nobility as the horsemen swoop down upon the stricken enemy. The English archers, too, fling down their longbows and, taking out their knives and twybills, charge screaming at the straggling remnants of the enemy lines.

No mercy is shown, as the green fields of Agincourt are turned crimson with streams of French blood. The English carry all before them, and in the aftermath of the conflict the bodies of thousands of Frenchmen lie dead and dying on the battlefield.

Footnote. Although a fictional story has been woven around the historical evidence, the facts have not been altered. A contemporary account of the Battle of Agincourt, written by an Italian witness, Tito Livio, records that the straggling remnants of an English army, racked with dysentry and disease from the weary campaign in France, and which had already lost two-thirds of their original numbers, were suddenly faced with a vastly superior French force blocking their escape route to Calais on 24th October 1415. The French were so numerous that they were described in his account as "a swarm of locusts". The English numbered about 6,000 men, five-sixths of whom were bowmen. Facing them were some 50,000-60,000 Frenchmen.

At the end of the following day, amongst the French dead lay three dukes, nine counts, ninety lords, and over five thousand knights and gentlemen, aside from countless thousands of infantrymen. Half of an entire generation of the French nobility, the pride of France, lay dead on the battlefield. The losses on the English side numbered barely 500, amongst whom were seven lords and knights.

And this momentous historical event is not without relevance to Dartmoor local and family history. Only two Devonian knights are known (from other contemporary accounts) to have fought at Agincourt, and both of them have Dartmoor connections. Sir John Cole, Lord of the Manor of Slade in Cornwood, fought at Agincourt. In Cornwood Church is a memorial to one of his descendants, surmounted by a shield bearing the same coat of arms which Sir John carried into battle in 1415. Also at Agincourt was Sir John Chichester of Raleigh, and a memorial to one of his descendants hangs in Drewsteignton Church. This also displays the same coat of arms which Sir John bore on his shield and banner at Agincourt. The Drewsteignton memorial is perhaps the more poignant of the two monuments to the descendants of Agincourt campaigners - nearly five centuries after his ancestor had fought at Agincourt, Robert Guy Incledon Chichester was killed leading the Scots Greys into action in the 1st Battle of Ypres on 13th November 1914.

The longbow was, for its time, a brutally efficient personal weapon of warfare. With a draw- weight well in excess of 100 lbs, an arrow fired from a longbow could penetrate chain mail at a range of 200 yards. They had to have powerful arm muscles in those days! - few men alive today could draw a true Medieval longbow to its full extent. A skilled bowman of the C15th would have had three arrows in the air at once - one about to strike the first target, one in the air en route to the second, and another just leaving his bow en route to the third. Interestingly, although all of the contemporary battles in Europe are cited as 'English' victories, the longbow was in fact developed in Wales.

Later Churchwardens' Accounts from many English Parishes record sums paid to "bowyers" for cutting down boughs of yew trees in graveyards and making "bowes and arroes". The late C15th Ashburton Churchwardens' Accounts record such payments. That such sums should appear in these sources is a reflection of the Act of Parliament, introduced in 1477, which decreed that all men of each Parish should practice at archery butts every Sunday. Parishes were to provide the necessary equipment, which was usually kept in a room in church towers, together with the armour (enough to equip the number of men the Parish was ordered to provide in times of war). A fine of a ha'penny was imposed upon all those who did not attend archery practice. Many English Parishes retain evidence of this custom in their present field names. In Widecombe, for example, the village green was formerly known as Butt Parks, and a junction near Poundsgate in the same Parish is today still known as Butts Cross, taking its name from an adjacent field.


Cornwood Parish Registers
data provided by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

Baptisms from 1669, Marriages & Burials from 1685. Cornwood is not on the IGI.

There are 5,725 Cornwood entries on the Dartmoor & West Devon Genealogy Index (DGI) a surname search service from which is available from Dartmoor Press.


Cornwood Parochial Records
data provided by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

A fire in one of the houses in the village unfortunately destroyed most of the early Cornwood Parish Records (and also the Registers) - the house was the home of the Churchwarden. The only important items are from later periods (and there are precious few of them!) - Vestry Minutes 1820-1972, Churchwardens' A/C 1840-1940. These are held in the Plymouth & West Devon RO, Plymouth. There are a number of useful passages of information recorded in the later Registers, however, written in the latter half of the C18th by Thomas Vivian, Vicar.


Poetic Epitaphs
transcribed by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

During my monumental inscriptions surveying projects in the Dartmoor graveyards, conducted at various intervals through the 1990s, I also transcribed in full all of the poetic verses and the other interesting or informative epitaphs. There are around 175 headstones with poetic verses in the graveyard at Cornwood, of which the following are just a few examples from the eighteenth century, a couple of which are rather curiously constructed and/or have odd misspellings -
 
 
Thomas Brown 26th Feb 1791 aged 70
My Resting Place is found
Dear Wife and Children adieu
I've passed this mortal change
CHRIST hath me took from you
James Collings 29th July 1794 aged 69
Farewell Dear Child I Must Leave You
And all Friends I Bid Ado
For while in Death My Cross I Bore
In hopes to Live forever More
Mary Edwards 29th Aug 1776 aged 76
Farewell my true and loving husband
all so my Children an Friends
In Heaven I hope to meet you all
When Death an time shall have their end
Stephen Veal 27th Nov 1746 aged 33
god with his Dart hath smote
my Hart in the midst of my
prime my Wife so Dear your
grief forbear it's god's appointed
time
Haly Horton 21st Sept 1779 aged 65
Let not this World your thoughts betray
But think upon your dieing day
In Christ alone I only trust
To rise in Number of the Just
Walter F Veal 29th Jan 1788 aged 28
Affliction sore long time I bore
Physicians were in vain
Till GOD was pleas'd
To ease me of my pain
Mary Hannaford 1st Dec 1798 aged 89
I Many days in darkness liv'd
yet why should I complain
I put my Trust in Christ the Lord
To live in light again
Alice Gardner 3rd June 1796 aged 39
I Leave the world without a tear
Save For the Friends I hold so dear
To heal their sorrow LORD descend
And to the friendless prove a friend



 
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