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The Spinsters' Rock

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech


..I will first remark that, in my opinion, the cause of the fall is not to be ascribed " to foul play." Living in the next parish, I often visit the cromlech. I was at it for a considerable time three days before its fall, and then there were no signs of the earth being disturbed about the upright stones; and when I visited it again, within a few days, no change appeared to have taken place, save that which was evidently caused by the fall.

The quoit, prior to the accident, rested on the tops of two stones, and against the sloping side of the upper part of the third. In Lysons's Devonshire, p. cccviii., there is a woodcut showing the quoit resting on the two stones; the manner in which it rested against the third is not there seen. The cause of the fall I consider to have been this: the heavy quoit has acted as a wedge on the stone against which it rested (and which still remains), and has pushed it a few inches backwards; the ground, which is a light granite gravel, being saturated by the unusually long rains of this spring, and thus rendered softer than usual; the giving way of this stone would cause the quoit to move forwards, and it would draw with it the two stones on which it rested. The action on these two stones was clearly seen at the time of the accident.

One stone (that on the left hand in the woodcut) was only about eighteen inches in the ground, and this has been drawn over; the other (that to the right) was of weak coarse granite; this was moved a little, and then it broke off near the surface of the ground.

As the fall of this — I believe the only perfect cromlech in Devonshire — has caused much regret, I have occupied a considerable space in stating what I consider to have been the cause; and the above is the result of a very careful examination made shortly after the accident. Probably if the green sward had been preserved for a few yards round the cromlech the fall would not have taken place ; but the field has been in tillage, and the support has been diminished by the gradual lowering of the surface thereby, and the action of Dartmoor storms on the broken up soil, in which the upright stones had but a slight hold. On the day of the fall, the wind was unusually violent.

An able stone-mason in this town was instructed by a gentleman residing in the parish of Drewsteignton shortly after the fall to make the needful examinations preparatory to restoring the cromlech, and I believe that it is intended to proceed with the same as soon as the corn crop, which now surrounds it, is removed. I had taken several outline drawings of the cromlech before it fell, so fortunately exact working drawings exist by which it can be replaced.

Chagford, near Exeter.
From Notes and Queries, 26th July, 1862.

A later letter in November lets us know that the work's been done,
"by Messrs. W. Stone & Ball, builders at Chagford, at the expense of the Rev. W. Ponsford, the Rector of Drewsteignton."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
19th August 2006ce
Edited 19th August 2006ce

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