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Help and advice for Bovey Tracey in Baring-Gould's Devon

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Devon

by

S.Baring-Gould

London: Methuen & Co. (1907), 32 illus, 2 maps, pp xii, 315

Bovey Tracey section (pp. 111-112)

Prepared by Michael Steer

The author was an Anglican priest, hagiographer, antiquarian, novelist and eclectic scholar. His bibliography consists of more than 1240 publications, though this list continues to grow. His family home, the manor house of Lew Trenchard, near Okehampton, has been preserved as he had it rebuilt and is now a hotel. He is remembered particularly as a writer of hymns, the best-known being "Onward, Christian Soldiers", Rev Baring-Gould's guidebook was produced digitally by Google from a copy in the Pennsylvania State University Library collection and can be downloaded from HathiTrust. The book, on which copyright has expired, is available for free educational and research use.

This extinct borough is on the edge of Bovey Heathfield, a silted up lake filled with clay from the moors and sand. The little town lies on a slope and commands a beautiful view of Heytor Rocks and Dartmoor. The church is traditionally held to have been originally built by Sir William de Tracy in expiation of the part he took in the murder of Thomas A Becket, in 1170. But it was burned down 150 years later, and the present church is Perp., with the exception of the tower which is Dec. The S porch is stone, vaulted with a central boss representing four heads united at the neck, a king, a bishop, a noble and a pope. The pulpit is of stone, carved, coloured and gilt, with statuettes in niches of St George, St Margaret, St Peter, St Paul, St Andrew and St James and the four Evangelists. The screen has details above the average in character. The lower panels are painted with figures of apostles and prophets, and a subject repeated that is supposed to represent the memorable quarrel between Henry II and Becket. The church has been well and carefully restored. The Market Cross remains.

It was at Bovey that Cromwell, on the might of January 8th, 1646, came unexpectedly on the Royalist troops under Lord Wentworth, and took 400 horses, 7 colours and a crown with C.R. on it. The Royalist officers, when surprised , were engaged at cards and managed to escape by throwing their stakes out of the window, for the Parliamentary soldiery to scramble for the money, whilst they fled out of the back door.

The Devon House of Mercy on the hill was opened in 1863, and is under the management of the Clewer Sisters; it is by Woodyeare. St John's Chapel on the edge of the Heathfield is richly decorated. Bovey Heathfield yields besides clay, beds of lignite or Bovey coal. The deposits are of the Miocene period. Something like 50 species of fossil plants have been found, among them cinnamons, fig trees, and a climbing plant allied to some found in the Brazilian forests, and coniferous trees belonging to the genus Sequoia, of gigantic dimensions. The clays are utilised in extensive pottery and brick works.