Lustleigh is a small village nestled in the Wrey Valley, inside the Dartmoor National Park in Devon, England. It sits between the towns of Bovey Tracey and Moretonhampstead.

The village is focused around the parish church of St John the Baptist. Surrounding this are old buildings, many of which are thatched. There is a village shop, a post office/gift shop, tea rooms and a pub.

History of the village

The area where Lustleigh now stands has been inhabited since before records began as shown by the remains of stone hut circles, which can still be seen in the 'Cleave' (meaning 'Cliff' or 'Cleft', which is the defining geological feature of the valley) and the presence of an ancient burial monument "Datuidoc's Stone" which dates from before AD 600.

Whilst the name Lustleigh (or any variation) is not found in the Domesday Book, it is believed that the village was recorded under the name of Sutreworde, Anglo Saxon for 'South of the Wood'.

At that time, the Lord of the Manor was Ansgar, who controlled 12 farms of around 1,200 acres (4.9 km²) plus a large area of forest. Unusually for the Domesday book, beekeeping was mentioned as a key activity of the parish. At the time of the Domesday survey, there were around 155 people living in the village. Lustleigh continued as an estate manor until the beginning of the 19th century when it was broken up and sold off.

Over time, the village expanded from its original boundaries (signified by the Bishop's stone at Caseley as the entrance, and the Wrey brook in the valley), to encompass the area beyond the Wrey brook (known as Wreyland) which was previously a separate village - although its residents attended Lustleigh's parish church - and out to Brookfield (in 1957).

Lustleigh now

The village has a population of between 600 and 700 (614 at the 1991 census), who are served by a number of public amenities, which include:

  • The Village Hall - opened in February 2005 (much enlarging and improving the previous facility).
  • The Dairy - the village shop, with everyday grocery items and locally produced specialities. The building is owned by the village, and leased to a shopkeeper.
  • The post office - also run as a gift shop and newsagent.
  • The Primrose Cottage - thatched tea rooms, serving food and drink, including cream teas, as it has done since the 19th century.
  • The Cleave Public House - the local pub, which was converted from a farmhouse in to 'The Cleave Hotel' with the coming of the railway to the village.

Places of Interest

  • Celtic Cross - a granite monument in front of the church on the village green, next to the Primrose Cottage tea rooms, and up the hill from the Gospel Hall on Wreyland path.
  • Wreyland - This area of Lustleigh is considered picturesque, due to the large number of thatched houses, including Wrayland Manor, Souther Wreyland, Yonder Wreyland and the Tallet House. Wreyland was not formerly a part of Lustleigh, but was incorporated into the village in the 19th century.
  • The Orchard - common land gifted to the village some years ago, with a children's playground. A large granite boulder, topped by a granite throne, is used for the annual coronation of the May Queen (see Lustleigh May Queen below).
  • Kelly Mine - old mine workings, occasionally opened to the public. Opened for tours at other times by appointment.
  • The Cleave - Lustleigh Cleave, meaning “cliff” or “cleft”, is the large geological feature from which the village pub derives its name. Paths criss-cross the Cleave (which is mostly common land) and surrounding fields, meadows and woods. Walkers may enjoy the views to the moor from the ridge or the lazy bubble of the River Bovey as it flows along the wooded valley bottom. Wildlife to be seen includes deer, rare butterflies and the pretty river bird, the dipper. In early June the slopes are covered in masses of bluebells and foxgloves.
  • Pullabrook Woods - These woods are managed in parts by the Woodland Trust, English Nature and Dartmoor National park, nestle at the foot of the moors, and are a destination for walkers and riders. They are accessible from the village, either along Knowle Road, to where the twin bridges over the Wrey run, or from Rudge down either the Heaven's Gate or Hisley paths.
  • The Bishop's Stone - Commemorating the visit of the Bishop of Exeter, this stone, at the bottom of Caseley Hill and the top of the station approach road can still be seen, although worn by years of neglect.
  • Datuidoc's Stone - Lustleigh's most ancient monument, dating from around AD 550-600 is now in the church, and marked a burial site in a graveyard on the site of the present church.

Places of Worship

Lustleigh is unusual for its size in having three places of worship:

The Church of St John the Baptist

The church of St John the Baptist is the Church of England parish church which serves the village, and also forms the physical centre of the village.

The oval shape of the churchyard suggest a Romano-British burial ground may have first occupied this site, supported by the presence of Datuidoc's Stone in the north aisle (originally in the porch), dating from around AD 550-600.

The first part of the church, including the basic rectangle and the south porch, was built around AD 1250, with the south chapel then added in the early 14th century by then Lord of the Manor, Sir William le Prouse.

The church tower was built in the late 14th century. In the 15th century the north aisle was built, including removal of the north wall and replacing it with pillars.

The last major addition to the church was the vestry, built in Victorian times.

The church graveyard contains the remains of former Lustleigh residents, although the graveyard is now full, and with the exception of those with family plots, new burials take place out at the modern cemetery on Mill Lane.

Church bells

In 1553, the inventory of church goods lists Lustleigh as having four bells, which was normal at the time (with most churches having either three or four).

In October 1864 the Reverend H.T. Ellacombe recorded that Lustleigh had four bells, cast by Thomas Castleman Bilbie of Cullompton in 1799. The Bilbie family were prolific founders and bellhangers and examples of their work still exist in the county. These Bilbie bells would almost certainly have been recast from the metal of the previous bells, probably near the church as transporting bells once cast was difficult.

Two of the inscriptions on the bells included the names of the churchwardens of the time, Mr Elias Cuming & Mr John Amery, although Ellacombe's notes spell Cuming differently on both bells; this may be an error on his part or more probably on the part of the foundry.

In 1875 William Aggett of Chagford a local bellhanger hung a fifth bell, a new treble, in the tower, the bell being cast by Taylors bellfoundry of Loughborough who are still in business.

In 1923 Gillet and Johnston of Croydon recast all the bells and augmented them to six with a tenor bell weighing 12 cwt. These are the bells that hang in the church today and ring out on Sunday morning and other times. The inscription of the old bells was reproduced on the new bells although Messrs Gillet and Johnston reproduced the name “Bilbie” as “Billie” on every bell, an uncharacteristic mistake on their part.

The bells remain in good order although after 83 years the time has now come when money has to be found to keep them in first class order.

The East Dartmoor Baptist Church

The Baptist Church is on Rudge Hill, and was built in around 1853, by people of the village, most notably including the large Amery family, who have one of the longest associations with the village.

The Gospel Hall

The Gospel Hall sits below the village green, next to the Primrose Cottage tea rooms, on the Wreyland path. Its history dates back to the 1900s when worship was conducted in the homes of adherents. Sometime in the early 20th century, a Mrs L.A. Whiteside made the building available to the congregation. This continued until 1971, when the congregation purchased the building from the landlord, and it is still active today.

The Roman Catholic Chapel

There was previously a fourth place of worship in Lustleigh, which was a private Catholic chapel, beside Pixies Cottage on Mapstone Hill. The owner, Dolly Walmsley, moved away in 1984, leading to the sale of the cottage and chapel, and the cessation of services for its congregation.

Village Events

May Day Celebrations

The May Day celebrations are the biggest event of the year for the village, with a carnival procession, maypole dancing, and crowning of the May Queen. The May Day traditions had lapsed until 1905, when Cecil Torr revived them. They have been held on the first Saturday in May ever since. Initially the 'crowning' took place on a hillside above Wreyland. The granite boulder where the ceremony took place has inscribed upon it the names of all the May Queens up to the beginning of the second world war when celebrations ceased.

In 1954, the celebrations were again revived and moved to the Town Orchard where the Queen's throne was erected on a rock. Like its predecessor this rock, known as the May Day Rock, has the names of all the May Queens inscribed on it from 1954 to the present. In May 2000 a new throne was unveiled at the May Day celebrations. The throne was cut from granite from the nearby Blackingstone Quarry. It was designed by Doug Cooper and carved by Warren Pappas; on it is inscribed 'MM'.

The May Queens since the revival in 1905 were:

Year Queen Year Queen Year Queen
1905 Mabel Bunclarke 1941 No Ceremony 1977 Debbie Seabrook
1906 Olive Chudley 1942 No Ceremony 1978 Heather Wright
1907 Annie Menhennett 1943 No Ceremony 1979 Julie Osbourne
1908 Amy Wyatt 1944 No Ceremony 1980 Susan Aggett
1909 Florrie Valance 1945 No Ceremony 1981 Rebecca French
1910 Ethel Squires 1946 No Ceremony 1982 Jeanette Palmer
1911 Alice Howard 1947 No Ceremony 1983 Lisa Rowe
1912 Dorothy Motton 1948 No Ceremony 1984 Debbie Goodfellow
1913 Muriel Brimblecombe 1949 No Ceremony 1985 Sarah Jane Lilley
1914 Janie Lake 1950 No Ceremony 1986 Carolyn Tapson
1915 Guinevere Morecombe 1951 No Ceremony 1987 Salley Ann Lilley
1916 Irene Crockford 1952 No Ceremony 1988 Rebecca Merriott
1917 May Yeoman 1953 Gillian Williams 1989 Kim Hopwood
1918 Gertrude Parker 1954 Myra Brock 1990 Coralie Olver
1919 Gladys Waldron 1955 Patricia Powell 1991 Abigail Mabey
1920 Vera Hill 1956 Janet Horrell 1992 Katie Jacoby
1921 May Wonnacott 1957 Helen Beard 1993 Simone Olver
1922 Phyllis Yeoman 1958 Christine Moore 1994 Lisa Roberts
1923 Florrie Aggett 1959 Iona Jones 1995 Natalie Davis
1924 Josephine Wilson 1960 Jayne Nelson 1996 Rebecca Drewett
1925 Romola Wills 1961 Jennifer Perry 1997 Laura Dale
1926 Dolly White 1962 Ruth Matthews 1998 Louise Baudouy
1927 Phyllis Yeoman 1963 Carola Woodger 1999 Daisy Beare
1928 Kathleen Cooper 1964 Jaqueline Kennett 2000 Emma Wills
1929 Mary Marshall 1965 Patricia Johnson 2001 Joely Badger
1930 Winifred Horrell 1966 Angela Woodger 2002 Harriet Knowles
1931 Brenda Osbourne 1967 Vivienne Jenkin 2003 Lucy James
1932 May Clarke 1968 Suzanne Beaumont 2004 Annie Reddaway
1933 Winifred Olding 1969 Jane Aggett 2005 Chloe May Wright
1934 1970 Wendy Harvey 2006 Anna Bell
1935 1971 Julie Germon 2007 Jessica Beare
1936 1972
1937 1973 Diane Aggett
1938 1974 Caroline Williams
1939 1975 Annette Stephens
1940 1976 Catherine Beaumont

Lustleigh Village Show and Dance

Held on August Bank holiday Monday, the village hosts a large show, which attracts over 3,000 visitors. The show has classes for items ranging from fruit and vegetables, to photography, as well as a horse show and dog show. There are also stalls and activities. The show is usually held in the fields at Kelly Farm, although during the Foot and Mouth year it was held on the field adjacent to the cricket field.

It is not known when the show started, but it gradually grew to incorporate the local flower show, previously held at the Conservative Hall (now the village hall). Until 1990, the Lustleigh horticultural society organised the show, but it was decided to ease the burden, by having a separate committee dedicated to show organisation. In 1998, this split further, with the growing horse show gaining autonomy from the organisation of the show itself.

Events also include a 10 km charity run, terrier racing, displays from local charities, sheep shearing demonstrations and displays from the Bovey Tracey fire station.

It is always preceded on the Saturday by the "can't miss" show dance, where the locals gather in the show tent for music, dinner and dancing. For the dance most of the village dresses in costume for a night's entertainment in a themed tent. The music is often provided by a local band, such as regular performers, 'Scratch', who have featured in the show since 1997.

The Railway and Lustleigh

Lustleigh Station (and the smaller Hawkmoor Halt) were stops on the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway which ran between Newton Abbot and Moretonhampstead, spurred from Newton Abbott on the South Devon Main Line.

In 1861 the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway company was formed at the Globe Hotel in Exeter, and in 1862 the bill for making the railway was given Royal Assent. Works on the line commenced in 1863 and the major earthworks (involving cuttings and embankments, many still visible today) were complete. All the granite used for construction of the bridges was cut from the Lustleigh Cleave. The line was 12 miles, 28 chains in length.

Following a Board of Trade inspection, the branch line opened to the public on Tuesday 26 June 1866. A public holiday was observed, with people turning out to witness the first journey from Newton Abbott to Moretonhampstead.

In 1892, the broad gauge line was replaced by a narrow gauge format, taking only 32 hours and 60 men to complete - part of the wider conversion of the whole network.

The railway was vital in bringing visitors to the area, and this led to local business flourishing, including the conversion of the conveniently placed Gatehouse Farm into the Cleave Hotel, still the village pub to this day. The other principal users of the service were the local industries, with farmers' produce, nursery plants and blacksmith's products all being dispatched by train.

The station was used in 1931 for the film 'Hound of the Baskervilles', its name being temporarily changed (Ewans 1964).

The line grew in popularity from 1860 to the 1930s and thereafter went in to decline. This led to financial difficulties (with no initial business plan having been undertaken) and despite a significant summer tourist trade, being featuring in many contemporary guide books to the region, the local usage through the year was not sufficient to cover rising costs.

This decline was also precipitated by the rise of the private motor car, leading to a decline in passenger numbers, and the branch railway consequently saw a decline in fares.

In 1957, the possibility of closure was reported in the Mid Devon Advertiser and in 1959, the last passenger service ran down the line, although a freight operation still ran. The line closed in 1964 (several years prior to the Beeching axe).

Several miles of the line between Bovey Tracey and Lustleigh, now a path open to the public, are planned by the council to become a cycle track. The old Lustleigh station house is visible from the old railway bridge at Brookfield, as are the Brookfield, Caseley and Knowle bridges.


  • Ewans, M.C. (1964). The Haytor Granite Tramway & Stover Canal. Pub. David & Charles. p. 43.
  • Crowdy, J. (Ed) (2001). The Book of Lustleigh, Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-107-0

External links

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