Up here is a little cairn cemetery with two round cairns, two tor cairns and two ring cairns. They surround a large rock outcrop called Branscombe's Loaf. Tor cairns are only found on the higher moors of Devon and Cornwall and only about 50 are known. They date from the early-mid Bronze Age.
On the slope between Sourton Tor and Bronescombe's Loaf lies a large slab of granite through which a dyke of elvan has been thrust. In this elvan have been cut the moulds for two bronze axe-heads.*I don't know if this is traditional or made up by the good old Reverend Baring-Gould, but I don't mind either way. From his 'A Book of Dartmoor' (1900).
Walter Bronescombe was Bishop of Exeter between 1258 and 1280, and he lies buried in the Cathedral under a fine canopied tomb. The effigy is of his own date, and gives apparently a true portrait of a worthy prelate.
One day he was visiting this portion of his diocese, and had ventured to ride over the moor from Widdecombe. He and his retinue had laboured through bogs, and almost despared of reaching the confines of the wilderness. Moreover, on taking Amicombe Hill [Kitty Tor] they knew not which way to take, for the bogs there are nasty; and his attendants dispersed to seek a way. The Bishop was overcome with fatigue, and was starving. He turned to his chaplain and said, "Our Master in the wilderness was offered by Satan bread made of stones. If he were now to make the same offer to me, I doubt if I should have the Christian fortitude to refuse."
"Ah!" sighed the chaplain, "and a hunch of cheese as well!"
"Bread and cheese I could not hold out against," said the bishop.
Hardly had he spoken before a moorman rose up from a peat dyke and drew night; he had a wallet on his back.
"Master!" called the chaplain, "dost thou chance to have a snack of meat with thee?"
"Ay, verily," replied the moorman, and approached, hobbling, for he was apparently lame. "I have with me bread and cheese, naught else."
"Give it us, my son," said the Bishop; "I will well repay thee."
"Nay," replied the stranger, "I be no son of thine. And I ask no reward save that thou descend from thy steed, doff thy cap, and salute me with the title of master."
"I will do that," said the Bishop, and alighted.
Then the strange man produced a loaf and a large piece of cheese.
Now, the Bishop was about to take off his cap and address the moorman in a tone of entreaty and by the title of master, when the chaplain perceived that the man had one foot like that of a goat. He instantly cried out to God, and signified what he saw to the prelate, who, in holy horror, made the sign of the cross, and lo! the moorman vanished, and the bread and cheese remained transformed to stone.
Do you doubt it? Go and see. Look on the Ordnance Survey map and you will find Bread and Cheese marked there. Only Bronescombe's name has been transformed to Brandescombe.
But the Bishop, to make atonement, and to ease his conscience for having so nearly yielded to temptation, spent great sums on the rebuilding of his cathedral.
*This sounds most intriguing, but I've not found out anything more. Only a slog across the moors will tell.
Posted by Rhiannon
3rd December 2014ce
Edited 4th December 2014ce