Folklore 2021-02-01T14:42:18-08:00


What a great way to give unusual fun Christmas gifts as stocking stuffers or for neighbors or co-workers without spending a lot of money. THE WIDECOMBE FAIR CHARACTER JUG COLLECTION has been a popular gift and as a result, we are running a bit low in our inventory. The collection consists of the 8 characters and the song which we include with each purchase. The character jugs are available in two sizes: the regular size stands about 3.5″ high with a diameter of about 2.50.” The miniatures are approximately 1.75″ tall with a diameter of about 1.50.” Each casting is made with local clay from the nearby Bovey Tracy deposits and is hand painted by village artists. Each has the name of the character etched in its back so you know who they are while reading or singing the story. We know that you will enjoy them all and that they will become the center of attraction in your home as they make fantastic gifts for others as well as for yourself.

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The Church in Widecombe

Every year, the Devonshire village of Widecombe attracts visitors from almost every country in the world and although it is quite small, it enjoys an interesting history. During the winter, stagecoaches could not travel the coastline between Plymouth and Torquay due to high water. They found it best to make a straight run over the top of the moors, taking them through Widecombe, making it a major stage stopover halfway through the journey. The church lies in the centre of the village and is often referred to as ‘The Cathedral of the Moor.’ It is believed to have been built in the late 1300’s and is dedicated to St. Pancras. The tower is a later addition, paid for by donations given by local tin miners and houses six bells that can be heard for miles around. Certificates won by local bell ringers are on display near the West Door. The following story includes both fact and legend regarding an event that took place in the church during a Sunday afternoon service. The story is taken from the books “Devon Mysteries,” written by Judy Chard in 1979, published by Bossiney Books and “Weird and Wonderful Dartmoor”, by Sally and Chips Barber in 1991, published by Obelisk Publications, Exeter, Devon.

“It seems the Devil made two major visits to Devon apart from minor ones. The first was the most terrifying and took place on 21 October 1638 during the worst storm ever recorded in the United Kingdom. It concerns a local ne’er-to-do-well, Widecombe Jan (Jan Reynolds), who had made a pact with the Devil to the effect that if he was ever found by the lord of the underworld asleep in the church he could have his soul. He was indeed found asleep, maybe after too good a Devon Sunday lunch, the usual pack of playing cards in his hand. A short while before this, at the Tavistock Inn, down the road from Widecombe in the village of Poundsgate, a man dressed all in black and riding a jet black horse had stopped to ask the way to Widecombe. He ordered a pint of ale and to the landlord’s consternation, as the liquid went down the stranger’s throat, it hissed as though quenching flames and not a thirst. The landlord’s wife noticed his glass was so hot it burnt the bar where the mark can still be seen today. Finishing the drink, the man threw some coins on the counter, mounted his horse and was gone, but no sooner had the clatter of hooves died away, the landlord saw the money had turned to dried leaves in his hand.

Meanwhile down in Widecombe Church the Reverend George Lyde was conducting the afternoon service, probably many of the congregation drowsing as was Jan. Suddenly the sky went black; in fact inside the church it was so dark people could hardly see each other. The service faltered for lack of light. Then the church was lit by blue flames, a ball of fire burst through one of the windows and passed down the nave, and those who could, fell on their knees, certain the Day of Judgement had come.

Explosions like cannons rolled around the pillars, lightning flashed, beams crashed down, stones were shaken from the tower, and one of the pinnacles collapsed. Jan was killed along with three others, by being dashed against one of the pillars. The Parson’s wife was scorched, but her child next to her escaped unharmed. Clothes were set on fire amidst the stench of scorching flesh and fabric. All were half crazed with terror and shock, and the church rang with screams of people calling for God’s mercy. Many died days after from burns. Some of the seats were turned completely over and yet those on them received no injury. Then as suddenly as it happened, the storm ceased and complete silence filled the little village. Someone at last whispered it might be as well to get out of the building, but the minister, whom remained in the pulpit unharmed said ‘It were better to die here than in another place’. Possibly even he was convinced that the end of the world had come.

Many of the villagers were certain the experience had not just been a horrifying thunderstorm and said that Widecombe Jan had not actually been killed, but borne away on the back of the Devil’s black horse, and that as he passed through the village, he dropped the pack of cards he always carried. As they passed over the Vitifer and Birch Tor, on the edge of the village, the four aces scattered on the hillside, and today you can still see the four small intakes or field enclosures.