Chagford inhabitants are famed for nothing but swearing and sheep-stealing, being more rude in their manners than any other person. On Dartmoor they speak a language most peculiar to themselves and not to be understood by strangers without difficulty.
Some suggest the name, once spelt Schaggeford, had a pre-Saxon, Celtic origin, deriving from the Celtic word “schaf” for rapid, hence, “rapid ford”.
Certainly, when the Saxons arrived they called sites in the area “yellands”, meaning “old lands”, indicating this part of the moor was inhabited, perhaps as early as the Bronze Age?
By the time the Anglo-saxons were overrun by Normans, five manors existed within the parish boundary. Each is mentioned in the Domesday Book with the manor of Chagford being the most central. The knights of the manors would mark out the boundary of the parish by performing a perambulation.
W.G. Hoskins on Chagford
The Stories of Chagford
“Pride of the Moor”?
Listen to "Pride of the Moor" by Jim Causley
Josephine Smith, Summer 1881
The School Room, Church Road, Chagford, 31st August 1881
So I am arrived in one piece in the tinner town of Chagford. Crossing the Solent was no pleasure cruise. Did you see the white horses from Ryde? To think of your labours darning my travelling coat. Now it is all greasy from me hanging over the deck railings, as limp as over cooked broccoli and every bit as green. I thought I should die….read more
“The will of John Westacott”?
Listen to "The will of John Westacott" by Jim Causley
Josephine Smith, Autumn 1882
The School Room, Church Road, Chagford, 11th November 1882
To think I was complaining of the cold mist last August! It had nothing on the ice and chill of a Chagford winter. Mr Smith customarily believes a quarter skuttle of coal suffices to stave off the cold and if I forget to wear my long johns I am quite undone by it. Of course, if I complain, he reminds me that Chagford Stannary, stretching from the mouth of the Teign through Dartmoor to the Somerset border had its own parliament in Crockentor…..read more
Listen to "Constancy" by Jim Causley
Josephine Smith, Winter 1890
The School Room, Church Road, Chagford, 31st August 1890
A visit to the school by a local author last week, Eden Philpotts. He is writing an epic melodrama set in Chagford called Children of the Mist. Herbert Reed piped up to ask what happens and we were quite scandalised by the answer. The story features the child of an unwed mother. Of course Herbert and his friends are all desperate to get a copy now…..read more
“The Ballad of Mary Whiddon”?
Listen to "The Ballad of Mary Whiddon" by Jim Causley
Josephine Smith, Spring 1910
The School Room, Church Road, Chagford, 20th March 1910
So my Daisy is eighteen! Thank you for her card. I feel quite the old matriarch! Not least because she insists on calling me one. I preferred “Miss Slap Dash” as a pet name. Daisy asked only for books and one good travelling hat as she is off to Bideford Teaching College in the Autumn…..read more
“Lads in their hundreds”?
Listen to "Lads in their hundreds" by Jim Causley
Josephine Smith, Summer 1918
The School Room, Church Road, Chagford, 3rd August 1918
In haste, not marking this time; George says I must retire early or get one of my colds. They say the war is near an end, and there is much anticipation among the Chagford women to welcome back both their menfolk and the tourists whose absence has punished the local economy. I hope my Harold will find a suitable occupation now he has demobbed. He doesn’t want to stand in front of a class of children since he lost his arm. Children can be so cruel.
But Harold is still so lucky. He is here. I don’t know how to write this – but we received a telegram today. Our son Leslie has been killed.
Love to mother,
“Devonian Alpine Perambulation”?
Listen to "Devonian Alpine Perambulation" by Jim Causley
Josephine Smith, Spring 1924
The School Room, Church Road, Chagford, 16th April 1924
George and I are safely returned to Chagford. The English Channel was kind to me on this occasion. The shells we collected on our last day will serve me well in drawing lessons for the junior boys and girls….read more