Chagford is a small historic market town on the edge of Dartmoor, four miles from Moretonhampstead. The name, Chagford, is derived from the word “Chag”, meaning gorse or broom. “Ford” relates to the crossing place of the River Teign at the Chagford Bridge. The River Teign reaches the sea at Teignmouth. The town has a long history and built its prosperity on the wool trade and tin mining. Chagford has the distinction of being a Stannary town. This was bestowed upon Chagford by Edward I in 1305. A Stannary town was given the power to authorise the coinage of tin. Tin miners on Dartmoor had to present their smelted tin to be assayed, stamped and taxed in Chagford. Stannary towns also had courts which meted out justice and had great power over the miners. The last tin mine in Devon closed in 1904 at nearby Great Weeke.

Chagford has many well presented 15th and 16th century buildings, including the octagonal Market House. It has many independent shops and art and craft galleries. St. Michael’s Church has beautiful views across Dartmoor. It dates from 1261, but little remains from this period. It is a Grade I Listed Building and was extensively restored in 1865. The tower was built in the 15th century.

St. Michael’s Church has an interesting literary connection. Mary Whiddon (or Whyddon) was shot dead by a jealous suitor as she left the church after getting married on 11th October 1641. The church contains a memorial to her, stating, “Behold a Matron yet a maid”. This murder is believed to have been the inspiration for the incident in R.D. Blackmore’s classic novel, Lorna Doone, which is set on Exmoor. Lorna, the heroine, is shot on her wedding day, but unlike Mary Whiddon, she survives. A tradition has developed in this church for new brides to lay a bouquet of flowers on Mary Whiddon’s memorial to bring good luck to the marriage.

The War Memorial, made of Dartmoor granite, was formerly the Market Cross in The Square. From the Memorial, there are excellent views of Castle Drogo, the last castle to be built in England. On the edge of The Square, is Endecott House, previously the Church House. This 16th century building, now a meeting house, was named after John Endecott, a pilgrim father, who left Chagford for the New World and became governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Three Crowns Hotel dates from the 13th century and is said to be haunted by Sidney Godolphin. The hotel is thought to be the town house of the Whyddon family. Sidney Godolphin was a poet and cavalier who was fatally wounded in the English Civil War in 1643. He was carried and died in the porch of The Three Crowns Hotel.

Where in England is Chagford, Dartmoor, Devon?

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