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Last Updated 21st April 2001
Articles (Publications List at End)
Sourton1 The Sourton Tors
Sourton2 Church of St Thomas a Becket
Sourton3 Notes on Parish Registers
Sourton4 Full Transcript of Sourton Church War Memorial (War Memorials Web Page)
Publications Sourton 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
DGI Search Service Online Magazine Parish Index Help Desk/FAQs Section
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 Sourton Information Page(s) click here. Remember to put this page in your Bookmarks/Favourites before you go!

The Sourton Tors
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

The frontier heights of northwestern Dartmoor, the bold scars of the Sourton Tors (grid reference SX542899) comprise numerous rock piles spread along the escarpment on the edge of the Dartmoor plateau, whilst westwards the land drops sharply towards the borderlands. From the summits one has a fine view of the long wide drift lane leading off the moorland grazing areas to the little village of Sourton nestling in the valley below. The torscape is perhaps best appreciated from the valley below, driving or walking southbound along the main road just north of the village. It is a view which I have seen countless dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of times, in all seasons and in all weathers, but is one which I will never tire of. For the craggy heights epitomise the wilderness of Dartmoor, and there is nowhere else in the border country where such towering rock masses encroach so closely upon a major highway. The principle pile of the outcrops is known locally as East Tor, the name reflecting its position in relation to the village. The rock type is not granite, but dolerite, a much darker and finer grained igneous rock intruded in the form of a series of dykes and sills along the edge of the granite core.


Church of St Thomas a Becket
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

The church is probably one of the most disappointing of the Dartmoor churches, and its interior will not detain the visitor very long. The graveyard, however, is quite another matter, and contains some superb examples of mid-late eighteenth century headstones, true masterpieces of craftsmanship. The very best of them are situated beside the main path which leads to the porch, and also in the small plot just behind the latter, where there is a very neatly carved stone to Jonathan Pellow, "Yoman of this Parish", upon which the mason has made the rather unusual mistake of having recorded the age of the deceased wrongly, which he then tried to correct, so that there are two sets of figures overlaying each other. The numeral '1' on this and some others of the period is written in the old form, looking like a 'J', so the year of Pellow's death appears to read 'J774'.

This has a superbly executed winged cherub face in the upper panel of the stone, surrounded by whorls and spiral patterns, as does the stone alongside, types of motifs which I have dubbed 'Sourton cherubs'. For, although the ubiquitous winged cherub faces may be seen on headstones virtually anywhere (signifying the souls of the deceased being borne aloft to Heaven), these particular styles are largely confined to this distinct area of West Devon - there are some fine examples in neighbouring Bridestowe and Okehampton churchyards, and they are also seen in the graveyards of some of the other parish churches in the Bridestowe area, and one or two 'strays' crop up as far south as Tavistock, but they are to be found nowhere else in the entire West Devon region.

Also in this little group is a headstone commemorating the death of John Brook in 1785, who must have been sorely missed by the community, for his epitaph records that he was -

A Yeoman Distinguished for his
Industry Probity and blameless life
~
His hours in cheerful Labour flew
No envy nor ambition knew
His charity and Honest fame
Amongst his neighbours prais'd his name

The two superbly crafted headstones in front of the bushes alongside the main path also have perfectly executed winged cherub faces, although these are not true 'Sourton cherubs', for they are not as deeply cut as the latter, do not have the same distinguishing features of rather square-cut faces with very bulbous cheeks, and the accompanying whorls are also absent. The oldest of these pair, the second oldest in the graveyard, records the death of Agness Pleace in 1749, and bears the following verse, the text of which is still as clear today as when the words were cut 250 years ago, a fine testament to skill of the unknown mason who carved the stone -

When five and thirty years Expired then I
Resine my breath & being born to die
Leaving this vitall world in hopes to rise
To meet my Lord in everlasting joys
To hear ye joyful sentence come ye blest
And enter into everlasting reste
~
Remember friends what I have spoken
Let never more my Grave be broken

The oldest stone in the graveyard predates this by just seven years, and is situated in the plot on the north side of the nave, a large stone which displays a pair of 'Sourton cherubs' side-by-side, surrounded by the customary whorls, smaller and less intricately designed than on the others, with a spiral pattern above. The most frequently encountered surnames on the memorials in the oldest plots of the small graveyard are Alford, Brook, Gloyn, Pellow & Voaden.


Sourton Parish Registers
data provided by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

The surviving Registers do not begin until as late as 1722, although the BTs begin in 1615 - I have not myself checked the latter, and so I do not know how complete the coverage is. Sourton is not on the IGI.

There are 689 Sourton entries on the Dartmoor & West Devon Genealogy Index (DGI) a surname search service from which is available from Dartmoor Press.



 
Sourton Publications
Available from Dartmoor Press
The Main Dartmoor Press CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs Catalogue Page (see link below) has fuller details on the contents of titles, and also lots more CD-ROMs. To order see How to OrderSection (see link below). 
CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs
Code Title Price
(UK)
Price
(Overseas)
CDA Mike Brown's Guide to Dartmoor CD-ROM £10.50 £12.50
Dartmoor Press Homepage Booklets Catalogue CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs Catalogue
Guide to Dartmoor CD-ROM Forest Publishing Books Order Details How To Order
DGI Search Service Online Magazine Parish Index Help Desk/FAQs Section
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 Sourton Information Page(s) click here. Remember to put this page in your Bookmarks/Favourites before you go!

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