Childe the Hunter
was Ordulf, son of Ordgar, who was the Anglo-Saxon
Earl of Devon
in the 11th century. The name Childe is derived from the word Cild
meaning Young Lord
Legend has it that Childe was in a party hunting on the Dartmoor
when they were caught in some changeable weather. Childe became separated from the main party and was lost. In order to save himself from dying of exposure, he killed his horse, disembowelled it and crept inside the warm carcass for shelter. He nevertheless froze to death, but before he died, he wrote a note to the effect that whoever should find him and bury him in their church should inherit his Plymstock estate.
William Crossing quotes Tristram Risdon who relates that the original tomb bore the following inscription:
- They fyrste that fyndes and bringes mee to my grave,
- The priorie of Plimstoke they shall have.
He was found by the monks of Tavistock, who started to carry his body back to their abbey. However, they got to hear of a plot to ambush them by the people of Plymstock, at a bridge over the River Tavy which they would have to cross. They took a detour and built a new bridge over Tavy, just outside of Tavistock. They were successful in burying the body in the grounds of Tavistock Abbey and inherited his Plymstock estate.
The first account of this story is to be found in a survey undertaken by Thomas Risden in 1630:
- It is left us by tradition that one Childe of Plimstoke, a man of fair possessions, having no issue, ordained, by his will, that wheresoever he should happen to be buried, to that church his lands should belong. It so fortuned, that he riding to hunt in the forest of Dartmore, being in pursuit of his game, casually lost his company, and his way likewise. The season then being so cold, and he so benumed therewith, as he was enforced to kill his horse, and embowelled him, to creep into his belly to get heat; which not able to preserve him, was there frozen to death; and so found, was carried by Tavistoke men to be buried in the church of that abbey; which was so secretly done but the inhabitants of Plymstoke had knowledge thereof; which to prevent, they resorted to defend the carriage of the corpse over the bridge, where, they conceived, necessity compelled them to pass. But they were deceived by guile; for the Tavistoke men forthwith built a slight bridge, and passed over at another place without resistance, buried the body, and enjoyed the lands; in memory whereof the bridge beareth the name of Guilebridge to this day.
is located on the south-east edge of Foxtor Mires
, c.500 metres north of Fox Tor
, in the United Kingdom
at . It is approximately 3 feet 4 inches (1 m) tall and 1 foot 8 inches (0.5 m) at the crosspiece.
Legend has it that the cross was erected over the kistvaen (burial chamber) of Childe the Hunter.
The cross has its base in a socket stone, resting on granite blocks over the chamber. The whole is surrounded by a circle of granite stones set up on their edge, in the fashion of a number of kistvaens on the moor. This raises the total height of the cross to 7 feet.
The tomb was vandalised in 1812 by Thomas Windeatt who was responsible for taking many of the stones when building Fox Tor Farm. It is believed that some stones were used to make a clapper bridge across the River Swincombe.
The site was repaired in the 1880s by Fearnley Tanner as one of the first acts of the Dartmoor Preservation Association.
In popular culture
folk singer Seth Lakeman
sang about Childe the Hunter on his 2006 album Freedom Fields