From Stephen's Grave to White Tor, Dartmoor.


Lottie standing guard over Stephen's Grave, Dartmoor.

Stephen's Grave is found in an isolated spot on the Moor above Peter Tavy. John Stephen committed suicide in the eighteenth century. In those days suicides were never interred in a churchyard, an unhallowed site would be chosen, often as far away from the parish church as possible.

John Stephens, who lived in Peter Tavy, was in love with a local girl. The story goes that either She spurned him, or was unfaithful to him, or that her parents were not approving of him. There are a few differing versions of the same story. Whichever was the true reason, John Stephen's took his own life in despair.

Writing about the burial, which probably happened in October 1762, local authors said that the body was buried "in the usual barbarous fashion". Referring to suicides this usually meant choosing a point at the farthest bound of the parish, sometimes at a crossroads in order to confuse the spirit of the deceased should it feel like wandering. Sometimes a stake would be driven through the body to keep it down.

The small rough pillar of black stone was re-erected and set on a base in the 1930's. Just an "S" was engraved on the plinth.

White Tor is the centre of a complex historical region of the west moor near Peter Tavy. There are the ruins of an Iron Age fort, although it is not much more than a large pile of boulders now. The Tor itself is a long ridge like jumble of shattered rock which extends for 200 meters. The Iron Age fort at it's summit took advantage of this natural rock formation. The rock type does not appear to be granite, as it has not weathered in the same manner of other Dartmoor Tors.