posted on Feb, 3 2017 @ 06:36 PM
Visible from the A38 Devon Expressway, overlooking Buckfast Abbey, starkly outlined in a ghostly slate grey, is the spire of Holy Trinity Church.
This is just one of Dartmoor's many split personality locations; a walk round the disused old church and its graveyard on a bright sunny day, in the
fresh moorland air, is as fine a tonic for the mind and soul, as the one famously produced at the nearby abbey. Visit this old edifice on a dark
moonless night however, and the mind and soul might just take a backseat as the imagination takes take the wheel.
Holy Trinity shares a common legend with Brentor, (a church and location that I expect to feature in a later thread) Whereby the Devil attempted to
thwart the construction of the church. This legend is to be found in the story of church building across the UK and most likely is a metaphorical
allusion to the act of spiritual purification of a former site of pagan reverence by the establishment of a site of Christian worship (this practice
will be explored more thoroughly at a later date).
A central feature of the churchyard is a sepulchral tomb surrounded by railings. The construction and cordoning of this family vault is, according
to local legend, by deliberate design. The Cabell family were local landed gentry and Squire Richard Cabell is reputed to have been, what we would
think of today, as the bucolic and terrorising local lord of the manor. Squire Richard is strongly suspected as being the inspiration for the title
figure in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's epic The Hound of The Baskervilles, in which the famous fictional detective Sherlock Homes and Doctor Watson, are
sent to Dartmoor to investigate reports of monstrous ghostly moorland hounds.
The tomb of the Cabell family could be considered one that was constructed to contain a spirit given to wandering that might wrought more of the
havoc that it caused in life. In the Sixteen Hundreds Richard Cabell was squire at Buckfastleigh. Squires were originally servant deputies to Knights
and many used their position to acquire wealth land and influence. Some were cruel and despotic local dictators who took what they wanted and
indulged their passions while answering to none.
A squire with a passion for hunting, Richard was called, according to local legend "a monstrously evil man". He was reputed to have sold his soul
to the Devil and rumoured to have murdered his wife. I have been unable to find any definite evidence for Richard murdering his wife, indeed evidence
I have found suggests his wife survived him by fourteen years. As for the soul selling, I remain uncertain as to where I might begin my enquiries.
Richard's date of death is recorded as the Fifth of July Sixteen Sixty Seven and legend says on the night of his burial a phantom pack of hounds come
baying across the moor to howl at his tomb. This adds further weight to the suggestion that our Squire was the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes
Legend claims that Squire Richard still leads the phantom pack across the moor annually on the anniversary of his death. In another version the
hounds are to be be found ranging and howling and by the family tomb. All manner of demonic apparitions have reportedly been witnessed in the
vicinity of the Cabell family tomb, how much of this can be put down to the location, the legend, and overactive imaginations is up for discussion.
It is also said that if you stick your fingers through the bars around the grave on the anniversary of evil Squire's death either he, the hounds, or
the Devil himself will bite you. I have not tried this and if you ever summon the courage to try this, please let me know what happens, assuming you
still have the digits to type with.
The hill that Holy Trinity sits on is not one of Dartmoor's many Granite Tors, but is in fact, formed from a sedimentary limestone deposit.
Rainwater seeping through limestone acquires a weak acidic quality which is capable of slowly dissolving the very rock it derives from. This natural
process leads to the formation of many caves and tunnels within its structure, many of which are sufficiently large to permit exploration The cave
and tunnel network beneath Holy Trinity are extensive, and in one cavern supposedly known as ‘Reed’s Cave’ there is reported to be a natural
formation caused by the joining of a stalactite and a stalagmite that is known as "The Little Man" which is said to resemble a figure in Sixteenth
Century Attire. The formation is reputedly situated directly beneath the Cabell family vault in the churchyard above. I have seen pictures of the
figure and it could be interpreted as resembling human form, especially if that is what you want it to resemble. As for its supposed position beneath
the Vault, I can find nothing. To explain how this was established or by whom, and I can assure you that I will not be forming any expeditions to
attempt to establish this a s fact or fiction. Not because I am scared by the idea of supernatural cave dwelling entities, but because entering dark
chasms filled with cold water is just not my idea of a great day out.
This legends of Evil squires and ghostly black hounds are very common throughout the British Isles, as is the practice of body snatching from
graveyards for use in the medical profession. Holy Trinity's remote location was a factor in it being targeted by those seeking to profit from this
macabre practice, but this is not particularly unusual. In fact the demand for bodies by a medical profession that paid good money, and asked no
questions was behind a grave robbing epidemic. Policeman being stationed at graveyards overnight to foil the robbers is what lead to nightshifts
being colloquially referred to as "The Graveyard Shift".
The church underwent considerable repair in Eighteen Eighty Four after it was struck by lightening. The lightening strike did not, as is it is
sometimes reported take place during the Great Dartmoor Storm which took place much earlier in Sixteen Thirty Eight, when the much more famous church
at Widdicombe in the Moor, seems to have experienced the very first recorded incidence of Ball Lightening. Holy Trinity was severely and deliberately
damaged by arsonists on July the Eighth, Eighteen Forty Nine. It was reported in some newspapers of the time the attack was timed to coincide with
the death of the Notorious Squire Richard Cabell in some nefarious, or even satanic homage. As we already know the ubiquitous squire was interred
safely in his tomb by July the Fifth, so if some local Coven of Devil worshipers were attempting to honour their beliefs and by celebrating the death
of a local squire, you would expect them to at least get the date.