A Story about Torre Abbey


Collectanea Curiosa Devoniensia.

Trans. Devon. Assoc., 1879, Vol XI, pp. 343-344.


Paul Q. Karkeek

Prepared by Michael Steer

In his preamble to this story the author states, “This year I present for acceptance a series of ‘old wives tales,’ which have been collected by Mr. J. T. White, the author of the recently-published History of Torquay, who has requested me to do as I like with them, he having been prevented by ill health from attending to literary labour. I can best fulfil his request by simply presenting each of the (three) stories as Mr. White has given it to me”. The following is the first of his three stories. The article, 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. 

There is a story current among the gossips of the parish, which as gossip only may be repeated. It is of a certain "Lady Cary," but I have not been able to ascertain the period when she resided at the Abbey. Strictly speaking, there never was a "Lady Cary" at the Abbey. Mr. George Cary was made a Knight, but he was owner of Cockington, and died without issue. The title, however, seems to have been used by the peasantry as a matter of courtesy, in the case of ladies who were wives of Lords of the Manor.

It appears that "Lady Cary," to use the words of my informant, was fond of the world, and its pomps and vanities. Illuminations in the grounds, masquerades, balls, and other entertainments, were among the gay frivolities by which life was rendered endurable in this quiet neighbourhood, say a hundred years ago, when the landing of the officers of the fleet was made the occasion of great festivity. Like other mortals, Lady Cary went the way of all flesh, but her spirit still clings to this nether world. At certain times of the year a carriage and pair with coachman and footman on the box, Lady Cary, gaily attired as for a ball, reclining back in the carriage, its lights brilliantly burning, passes swiftly and noiselessly through the avenues. Some few years ago, the attention of two young women, walking through these avenues, was arrested by a brilliant light They looked in the direction from whence it came, and seeing a carriage and pair advancing, stepped aside to avoid being run over. They observed the men on the box, and the lady seated inside; but when the equipage was nearly abreast of them, the whole suddenly vanished!