Postcard Views of old Dartmoor
Mar 31, 2012Public
Photo: Early 'County' maps of Devon

The Saxton (left, not owned) appears to be the earliest such map, dating to 1575, and is based on an actual survey of the county; it was part of a series of Westcountry county maps.  Other than Donn's (see next image), until the Ordnance Survey in 1809, all Devon county maps published were based on this survey.

The Morden (right) was published in the 1695 edition of Camden's 'Britannia'. The map at the top (not owned) is an original from this edition. The map at the bottom is a reproduction I have - date unknown. A facsimile of the 1695 Britannia was published by David & Charles in 1971. The original Britannia was published in 1610 (in English, at least - the first, Latin edition dates to 1586), and "...was the first great text describing the British nation, its antiquities and culture".
Photo: from Benjamin Donn's Map of Devon 1765

"Apart from the Ordnance Survey [published 1809], two cartographers have produced one inch to the mile maps of Devon: Benjamin Donn whose Map of the county of Devon was published in 1765 ..... and C. and J.Greenwood's Map of the county of Devon from an actual survey made in the years 1825 & 1826"

I was lucky enough to find this page from an original copy of Donn's 1765 map many years ago when we had just bought a cottage in Winkleigh (a small village in mid-Devon that is on the map, top centre) and couldn't resist it (the shop also had other pages - they seemed expensive at the time, but I regret not buying them).  It was pure serendipity that it also covers our current location - and a good many of the Dartmoor towns and villages covered by this album.

Comparing place names and spellings is always fascinating. The map hangs in our living room, and my eyes often go to it.

Another of Dartmoor's ancient stannary towns, on the edge of the moor, that dates back to Saxon times. When we first moved to the moor, it was quite dowdy, but over the last 10years or so, it has improved dramatically, and we now go there for a fair amount of local shopping - a good butchers, deli, fish & vegetable shops, 'artisan' baker (that sells out far too early!) and so, last-but-not-least, a very good Indian takeaway (only) restaurant.
Photo: Ashburton, East Street, looking down into the town centre

Card: Chapman, date unknown

The canon memorial has long gone, replaced by a more 'standard' cross - I rather like the canon! Otherwise (absent the ever-present traffic and the growing trees) the view remains much the same.

A small market town, known as The Gateway to the Moor, its name is taken from the river Bovey and the de Tracey family - Normans who became Lords of the Manor after 1066.  William de Tracey was one of the knights who murdered Thomas-a-Becket at Canterbury cathedral in 1170.

Holmes & Watson must have passed through Bovey Tracey station on their train journies from London to Dartmoor in The Hound of the Baskervilles (published 1902), possibly alighting at Lustleigh - although the real Baskervill ( no 'e'!) Hall, which Conan Coyle visited regularly, was not even in Devon!

For an overview of the town and its surrounding area in 1902, see:
Photo: Dolphin Hotel, Station Road, Bovey Tracey

Card: Frith n. 58521, 1907

The Dolphin Hotel in the background was built in the late C19th as a coaching house. In the foreground can be seen a horse-drawn charabanc, ready to take a full load of 'grockles' up to the moor for a sightseeing trip. No doubt many arrived on the rail link that existed between Newton Abbot and Bovey, continuing up to Moretonhampstead between 1866 and 1959 (the line closed to passenger traffic in that year, although freight trains continued until 1964, when the Beeching Axe fell on the rail network, resulting in one-third of Britain's 18,000 miles of line being closed along with nearly 2,400 stations!). The station was located quite close to the hotel. Some of the former station buildings now house the town's Heritage Centre.
Photo: Nothing to do (directly) with Bovey Tracey, but an interesting card (date unknown) published by a local firm in Torre (near Torquay) of a horse-drawn coach tour to Dartmoor by the Torquay-based firm of John Grist & Son. It's not clear whether the tourists came all the way from Torquay by these means, but that seems unlikely somehow.
Photo: 'Motor tours to Dartmoor by The Grey Torpedo Cars' 

Another interesting image of tourist trips to the moor from the English Riviera, which was then quite an up-market holiday destination. From 1902, Torquay had started to promote itself towards healthy tourists, rather than invalids as before.

Grey's were an early operator of tourist trips, starting around 1913 using the 'Torpedo Car' brand with two charabancs, of which this may well be one. The firm appears to have acquired the business of Grist & Sons - see previous image. The 'Torpedo' brand was abandoned in 1919, no doubt due to the association of the name with the weapon used in WWI!
Photo: Hotels at Station Road, Bovey Tracey

The image on the left is not actually from a postcard (that I have seen) but is from a Frith photo of 1907. On the right is the Dolphin Hotel, as shown in the previous image - again complete with tourist coach! On the left of the street is a building that is shown as Beer's Railway Hotel, a competing hostelry for what must have be the not-inconsiderable traffic through the town's two railway stations.

The modern photo on the right is of the same building as Beers. I can't remember when this was converted to modern living accommodation (although it can't have been so long ago): now, one would never guess at its past history, although the basic structure remains quite clear.
Photo: Bovey Tracey - 'Old Cottages'

Card of unknown origin/date

At the bottom of Fore Street between the old station hotels and Riverside Mill.  

A pretty, short rank of cottages, the access has been made more private and it is now Bovey's own 'gated community'!
Photo: Riverside Mill, Fore Street (bottom end, continuing from Station Road over the bridge in the background), Bovey Tracey

Top: Postcard by Chapman, 1905 postal date

Bottom: another card view of the mill - unknown publisher/date. Current image.

Unfortunately it's not possible to gain easy access these days to take a photo from the same angle; the modern photo is taken from the bridge seen in the two postcards. The building is now occupied by The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, ' acclaimed exhibition space for contemporary craft and design.'   see:
Photo: Bovey Tracey: Union Square, half-way up Fore Street

Card by Raphael Tuck, unknown date

The building at the left is now known as the Cromwell Arms, and is an old C17th coaching inn. At the time of the Tuck card, from the sign to it's right, it was known as the Union Hotel; that sign is above an entrance to the back of the hotel - the land has clearly been sold in the interim and a small building in-filled currently occupied by a firm of solictors. The building next to this, is yet another charity shop - like a number of buildings, it has 'lost' its tall chimney stacks.

The 'bollard' next to the trough has always seemed odd; as the base for a light/sign-post, it makes more sense.
Photo: Fore Street, Bovey Tracey

Left: unknown publisher/date

Right: the main building in the photo is in much better repair now! Interestingly, the upstairs window over the entrance is much smaller now; also a side door (or passageway perhaps?) has been blocked up. Since I have been in the area, the building had been used for several restaurant businesses - generally quite good, but they did not survive.  The shops further up the street remain - but are now charity shops, as is increasingly the case in small town high streets.

Interestingly, the houses have 'lost' their tall chimney stacks.

The bunting in the 'now' photo is the remains of decorations from the 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee week-end celebrations.
Photo: Bovey Tracey - Top end of Fore street

Main card by Chapman c1910; card at top right by KE Ruth (? c.1950) 

The memorial cross has been 'updated' for the dead of later wars by the time of the Ruth card. It's not clear what its original purpose was, as I can make out no inscriptions etc on the Chapman image. 

Interesting that the first-floor window behind the cross in the 'Ruth' image has now been filled-in: window tax must have been abolished at a late date in Bovey!

Modern sign posts are far more intrusive than the old 'finger-post' versions, but, no doubt, are more effective.

A small town nestling beneath Meldon Hill, one of the largest in Devon, Chagford is quite amazing. It was one of the four 'stannary towns' - authorised in 1328 to take tin from the various mines on its 'quarter' of the moor. Wool from the moorland sheep was another main staple of the town's success, and a large mill was set up in 1800 which made and distributed serge and blankets far and wide. 

One of its current claims to fame are two shops at the top of the square - Bowdens and Webbers, both of which have been there for a very long time and sell amost anything you can imagine - if you can find it! Ask the staff - between them, they can generally locate anything surprisingly quickly!
Photo: Chagford, The Square

Chapman,  4902, date unknown (but pre-1918).

I had to get out very early this morning to avoid the many cars around the square during the day - and there were still enough present.

The prominent building in the centre of the square is the Market House. The original was very old - and fell down in 1617*! The current building dates to 1862, although it needed a major re-vamp in the mid-1980's. It now houses: a vegetable and antique/gallery shop, public toilets etc. The building became known as 'The Pepperpot', a name reflected in that of the gallery. 

The thatched building on the far side of the square houses Lloyds bank; it dates back to 1735, although the bank only moved in in 1918 - it appears to be a shop in the postcard image. Over the years the building has also been a blacksmiths and several small cottage homes.  Both this, and the next building, now boast windows in the roof - something obviously not popular in the early C20th.
Photo: Chagford - Golf Lane, leading up to Meldon Common

RT&S (Rafael Tuck & Sons) - date unknown

Despite living only a few miles away for 25years, I had not heard of the old Chagford golf course! Having seen this postcard, I've been looking around and it is mentioned in some local history books - the image on the right is from The Great Little Chagford Book by Chips Barber.
Photo: Chagford golf course, Meldon Common

Top: now a private house this building was once the course clubhouse, from which there must have been exceptional views.
Bottom: right - the remains of a tee; middle - remains of a green with a bank behind it; right - the top of the tor, around which the course wound. In the distance can be seen the tor on which I live.  

The course was opened in 1908 and lasted until the 1930's - unlike many of Britain's 'lost' courses, it was not a casualty of the war. It consisted of 9 holes, with a length of 2,728 yards. Having been up there on a mildly windy day, I can easily say it would have been a testing course in a wind (and probably otherwise with no doubt plenty of gorse etc along the fairways!)
Photo: Chagford - The Three Crowns Hotel

Left (top and bottom) - Valentines, n.57584, 1907
Right, bottom: Judges, n.6722, 1922

Viewed looking up High Street from the Square.

The Three Crowns dates back to the C13th, when it was a manor house; at some point, it became an inn called The Black Swan.  It has been said that this was the inn featured in the celebrated poem 'The Highwayman'  by Alfred Noyes (see: : "the highwayman came riding—riding—riding—The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door", a favourite of mine since I read it as a child in a Readers Digest Magazine).

The hotel has recently (June 2012) re-opened after a very lengthy, extensive (and no-doubt expensive) refurbishment. I felt obliged to sample several of the ales, by St Austell brewery, 'Proper Job' & 'Tribute', both in fine fettle, I'm happy to report.
Photo: Chagford - The Three Crowns Hotel

Viewed, looking down High Street towards the Square 

Top, left: unknown, postmarked 1905
Bottom, left: Valentine's , n.2629, postmarked 1905. 

According to a Valentines dating guide, the card number would date the photo to 1895.

  The building next to the hotel (more readily visible in the bottom images) is Endecott House, another very old granite building that has served a multitude of purposes over its history. The current name is taken from a Chagford resident who became the first Governor of Massachusets in the USA in 1644. 

The top current photo, is taken from further back along High Street, and shows another of Chagford's pubs - The Globe Inn. This was built in the C16th as a coaching inn - initially called Gregory's Arms.

Immediately before the Globe - in the prominent building at the left of the top card - is now Whiddon's Eatery, another of Chagford's restaurants - no license, no corkage!
Photo: Chagford - The Three Crowns Hotel

Viewed from the churchyard opposite.

Chapman, n.1156, date unknown (although I've seen another of these with a 1909 postal-date-mark)

The building must be the most depicted in all Chagford! 

The iron railings to the front are most visible here - I wonder if they were a casualty of WWII? The chimney stack to the right of the entrance porch (as viewed on the card) has also been removed.
Photo: Chagford, Frith n.54413 (dating to 1905)

Entitled 'A well-known cottage', this is situated at the lower end of Mill Street, just down from the square. 

The cottage itself was once thatched - no doubt a casualty of the cost and difficulty in the '80's / '90's of finding thatchers. There appear to have been more windows added to the left-hand side of the cottage (back wall), yet those on the end wall may now be slightly smaller than hitherto - which is unusual.

Note also the open fields on the right and the new houses built down the left-hand fork.
Photo: Chagford, Lower Street - Valentines, pu1913. Looking 'out' of the village.

The b&w card, top right is by Judges n.6766 (the series reached n.7400 in 1921).

The main change is the removal of most of the paint/render to the old house on the left exposing the lovely granite.
Photo: Chagford - 'Old House', Lower Street

Today known as 'Bishops House', this is a lovely example of a C16th building. I've not seen anything linking the house to any Bishop - although a Bishop Bronscombe dedicated the town's church in 1261, and at least one website puts this date on the property! Further details of the property can be found at

As well as exposing (most of) the granite, extra windows have been added (or, more likely, unblocked).

Just 'up' from the house, other buildings can be seen in the two postcards - these properties sadly were destroyed by fire in 1970 as commemorated by the plaque shown.

The card to top, right is by Frith, n.58742 dating the image to 1907.