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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Car Tour 1 Buckland in the Moor

I recently bought a small second hand book for £3 called, "South Devon and Dartmoor Car Tours".

This is the first one we have tried and it was a huge success. I have already made 3 posts covering Ashburton which started the tour, and now we leave Ashburton to go to, as it explains in the name of the place, "The moor", in this case Dartmoor and first stop is the hamlet of Buckland in the Moor.

The route follows some beautiful countryside, first through woods and then out into the open with far reaching moorland views.

As we passed the church, it looked really old so we quickly pulled in to a rare parking spot next to the narrow moorland road so that we could have a closer look. On reading the guide we discovered the most unusual thing about Buckland in the Moor. Something that was staring us in the face. Another face in fact, a clock face, on the side of the church. If we hadn't done this I would not have known the answer to a quiz question I faced only a few days later.

It goes like this.

Question - Buckland in the Moor is famous for it's clock face on the church tower. Instead of numerals it has letters, what phrase do they make?

I immediately shouted the ....

Answer - "My Dear Mother"

It's why a Guide Book can be so useful. I am pretty certain we would not have examined the clock face that closely, high on the side of the tower otherwise, and most importantly I would have missed that quiz question.

The village is one of the prettiest in Dartmoor, with 'chocolate box' thatched cottages and a wonderfully picturesque setting. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Bochelande', and the name probably comes from the words 'book land'; that is, land held by charter.

The estate passed to Torre Abbey in the 13th century, and later formed part of the manor of Stoke in Teignhead. It became a separate manor by 1578, and in 1614 it was purchased by the Bastard family. The Bastards held the manor for the next 300 years and built neighbouring Buckland Court as their family seat.

The surname Bastard was first found in Devon, where they are descended from "Robert Bastard, who held several manors in this county in the reign of William I. For several generations Efford, in the parish of Egg-Buckland, was the seat of this family.

"In Norman times illegitimacy was not regarded with the same contempt as now. The Conqueror himself, though illegitimate, not only succeeded to his father's duchy, but frankly avowed himself as a bastard in official writings."

Everything you ever wanted to know about all the famous Bastards here.

The most famous feature is the striking clock face. Like the village's other famous oddity, the Ten Commandment Stones, the clock face was the work of the Lord of Buckland Manor, William Whitely. In 1931 Whitely had the clock built as a memorial to his mother, who had died shortly before. At the same time, he gave a ring of 3 bells. The clock chimes 'All things bright and beautiful' every quarter hour. (Britain Express)

The first church here was built in the 13th century, but the present building dates to the late 15th or early 16th century. It boasts a beautifully carved Norman font and a vividly painted 14th-century screen.

The altar is dedicated to the memory of William Pollexfen Bastard’s wife Caroline and the 1916 reredos remembers William. To the right of the altar and encompassed in the recent panelling is a small stone piscina which would have been used for washing the communion utensils

This cast iron grating in the floor had me puzzled as it appeared to be a drain for water to go down, why? When I researched Musgrave and Company though I discovered that they made stoves, so I have to assume that this is a form of underfloor heating and not a water drain at all.

There is a very good wagon roof, an 18th-century wooden pulpit, and a coat of arms to George II dated 1745. Under the tower arch are a series of medieval glazed tiles.

William Whitley, Lord of the manor at Buckland, was a traditionalist, and a religious man. In 1927 a proposal came before the House of Commons to revise the Book of Common Prayer by replacing the Ten Commandments given to Moses with Jesus' Two Commandments. The proposal was rejected, and to celebrate Whitley hired a stonemason named WA Clements to carve a pair of granite slabs atop Buckland Beacon with the full text of the Ten Commandments.

The exacting work took Clements 5 weeks, during which time he lived in a cow shed by a nearby wood, and received a single loaf of bread per week.

An '11th Commandment' was added, a verse from John 13 v34 that says ''A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.'

The rood screen has to be the ‘star of the show’ and a close inspection will soon reveal that it is of some antiquity. It is thought that the lower part dates from the 14th century and although it has undergone restoration much of the early character remains. The restoration work was carried out by Fellowes Prynnes who replaced much of the framing around the paintings, the tracery, and other various sections. St. John and St. James take the two panels of the left gate followed by St. Peter and St. John on the right gate.

On the back of the screen are six more figures whose identity is unknown. There is clearly a Saracen of sorts but as to the rest one’s imagination can be the only judge. One opinion however is that these are depictions from an early mystery play which portrays the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Beckett.

The tower originally contained a peal of 5 Bilbey bells that were hung in 1759 and these were then increased to 8 in 1931. The tenor bell weighs in at a mere 7cwt and 17lbs (364kg) and the treble at 1cwt (50.8kg). I say the tenor bell is ‘a mere’ 7cwt and 17lbs because the typical weight of such a bell ranges from 14 – 16cwt with some of the larger ones clocking in at several tons. The Buckland bell ringers have won many Devon ringing competitions and hold the world record for ‘Call Change’ ringing.

A single storied thatch building that stands at the bottom of the churchyard serves as the vestry and storehouse but it holds several claims to fame that befits its grandeur. Firstly, it is thought to be the only thatched vestry in the UK still in use and secondly the building is one of only four thatched buildings that serve a working purpose on Dartmoor. (Legendary Dartmoor)

One of the graves was planted thickly with white Heather which was attracting very early butterflies.

This grave stone has a verse on the reverse which appears to relate to those fallen in battle.

We who wear our names a little longer,

Do so by their courtesy,

and should,

In courtesy, remember the purpose,

For which they (and others from this village)


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Apr 26

How lovely 😍 that's England and no where else .so proud it makes us feel


John Durham
John Durham
Apr 03, 2022

Such a rich and beautifully textured interior, especially the rood screen. Wonderfully documented. Seems the purchase of the car tour book has been more than worth the price.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Apr 03, 2022
Replying to

The church is a little gem.🙂


Unknown member
Apr 03, 2022

So glad you helped us with the quiz question. Don't think I could have figured it out by myself :)

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