The Chapel at Tor Royal

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. IX, (January 1916 to January 1917), pp. 182-3.


J.S.A & W.S.B.H.

Prepared by Michael Steer

Tor Royal is a Grade II listed building near Princetown. Built between 1785 and 1793 by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, it was added to in c.1815–20, and restored by A. E. Richardson in 1912. From the end of the 18th century there was much interest in enclosing and "improving" the open moorland on Dartmoor, and Tyrwhitt enthusiastically took part in this programme.  In 1785 he bought over 2,000 acres near one of the newly constructed turnpike roads across the moor and had an access road built to his estate, where he experimented with growing various crops, the most successful of which was flax. According to the listing text at British Listed Buildings, the interest of this house lies "not only in the quality of its interior and its unaltered nature, but also in its historical importance to Princetown and its royal connections. Tyrwhitt instigated the building of both Dartmoor Prison (1809) and the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway (1823) which led to the development of Princetown as a town. Various members of the royal family visited and stayed at the house, Prince Albert in August 1846, for example. These articles, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers..


Note 151. THE CHAPEL AT TOR ROYAl. — The so called Chapel at Tor Royal is the present church at Princetown, built between 1805 and 1814, as in a paragraph in the Bristol Mirror of the 13th July, 1805, it states that "The Prince of Wales is about to erect, at his own expense, a Chapel at Prince Town in the Forest of Dartmoor, under the direction of Thomas Tyrwhitt, Esq., Lord Warden of the Stannaries." This Chapel was built not far from the lodges of Tor Royal and was a chapel of ease to Lidford Church. According to the Registers Divine Service was performed for the first time in Dartmoor Church on 2nd Jan., 1814, by the Rev. J. H. Mason, the Chaplain, who was the Vicar of Widecombe, and who lived and died in the Vicarage there. This shows that it was known as Dartmoor and not Princetown Church and gives the date of the opening of the building, but when was it consecrated? Mr. Mason got the bridge at Believer built to enable him to get from Widecombe to Princetown without going round by Postbridge. 

                             J. S. A. 

Note 152. THE CHAPEL AT TOR ROYAL. — Looking over Wallis's Cornwall Register I happened to light upon the following references to this Chapel, of which I had previously never seen or heard mention. The date of this publication is 1847, and in a "list of the Clergy, resident, beneficed or officiating within the 209 parishes" (of Cornwall) appears, page 43, the name of James Holman Mason " as " Vicar of Treneglos and Warbstow," to which a note is attached, " Vicar) and resides at Widecombe in the Moor, Ashburton. Ch. Tor Royal, Dartmoor." Under the heading of Treneglos, page 277, at the end of a list of Vicars instituted, Mr. Mason's name again appears followed by the words "Mr. Mason resides in his Vicarage of Widecombe in the Moor, near Ashburton, and is also Curate of Tor Royal Chapel, on Dartmoor."Mr. Wallis as "Official of the Archdeacon of Cornwall " had access to authoritative sources of information so it is not likely that there is any mistake about the facts. I should like to ask for some further explanation, and especially as to when the Curacy (or Chaplaincy), presuming that in the lifetime of Sir John Tyrwhitt there was a Chapel in the house at Tor Royal, ceased to be filled up.