By: Blonde One
“It’s amazing what you discover when you’re out in the Devon country lanes” says Two Blondes frequently. Our recent visit to Widecombe in the Moor allowed us to explore some of the lanes that we don’t usually use. We discovered the tiny area of Venton and admired the fabulous dwellings that we found there. There was a farmhouse that looked very inviting and we noticed a small building at the side of the farmhouse that had a tiny cross mounted on the wall. Add to that the stained glass windows and we deduced that it must have previously been a chapel (feel free to call us Marple or Sherlock). It wasn’t marked as such on the map so we did some searching when we got home to find some interesting information. We didn’t take any photos as it was clearly now a dwelling and also we didn’t quite realise that the chapel would be worthy of a blog.
It turns out that the chapel was built in the early 1800’s by the writer Beatrice Chase. She was a very interesting (some say mad) character who came to Dartmoor to improve her health when she was younger after contracting TB through her work with the poor in the London workhouses. She is such an interesting person I would urge you to read all about her; there is far too much to say about her to do her justice here.
Here’s a couple of the highlights:
- She was fiercely opposed to the creation of ‘Dartmoor National Park’.
- She visited Dartmoor prison and was instrumental in one inmate getting a release.
- Allegedly she is a descendant of Henry VIII through the Katherine Parr line (Beatrice Chase is her pen name; her real name is Olive Katherine Parr).
- The ‘White Knights Crusade’ was founded by her. It campaigned for chastity amongst soldiers during World War One. She used her chapel to pray for these soldiers.
- She is supposedly the person who began the tradition of leaving flowers of the grave of Kitty Jay.
- She wrote over 25 books.
- Widecombe Fair was revived by her in the 1930’s.
My thanks, as always, go to the amazing Legendary Dartmoor website for its fascinating wealth of information about Beatrice.