Last Updated on May 16, 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
Few people have ever heard of Meavy, a small attractive village located in a remote area of Dartmoor. It’s here that you can discover an ancient oak that was planted during the reign of King John or maybe even a century earlier before the village church was consecrated.
Meavy – A pretty Dartmoor village
Meavy is an attractive and tranquil village somewhat isolated from the hustle and bustle of everyday life but has its own pub, school and ancient church. The village was listed in the Domesday Book (1086) and the Manor at this time was held by the Norman tenant-in-chief, Robert le Bastard.
The Manor House located to the west of the church was once owned by the 3rd Sir Francis Drake (1647-1718), a descendant of the famous explorer’s brother and the family are buried in a vault in St. Peter’s Church. Up until the early 20th century much of the village was owned by the Buckland Abbey Estate but was sold off to pay for Death Duties.
The village was one of the locations on Dartmoor National Park that was used in the film War Horse (2011) after the book by Michael Morpurgo. Another UK location that was used for the film is the picture-perfect village of Castle Combe in the Cotswolds.
A replica of the famous or perhaps infamous Drake’s Drum, which is said to be heard beating when England is in terrible danger, can be seen in a gable window of the local Primary School.
The Royal Oak Inn at Meavy
It will come as no surprise that the attractive building standing within such close proximity to St. Peter’s was once the Church House and documentary evidence shows that the building dates back to the late 15th/early 16th century.
It became a pub whilst still under the ownership of the church and was known at the time as the Church House Inn. A brew house is believed to have been in situ from as early as the 12th century and may well have been used as a source of refreshments by the monks who travelled between Tavistock and Buckland Abbeys and also the Priory at Plympton.
Today the Royal Oak is a quintessential country pub serving great local ciders and ales and providing great locally sourced produce winning country pub of the year, 2018, in a Plymouth regional competition.
The Ancient Church of St. Peter at Meavy
The core of St. Peter’s Church dates back to Norman times with additions and alterations carried out between the 13th and 16th centuries including a number of early windows. These windows are now filled with a glorious blend of Victorian stained glass including one from the workshop of William Morris.
The chancel was restored in the late 19th century but retains the original 13th century three light lancet window. The highly ornate altar and reredos are made of Devonshire marble, alabaster and Caen stone. They were designed by the well known ecclesiastical architect John Dando Sedding (1838-1891), a leading proponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement who was heavily into Gothic Revival, but sadly not completed until 1896, five years after his death.
The Ancient Oak Tree on the Village Green at Meavy
The Royal Oak at Meavy, also the name of the aforementioned pub, is so called because tradition has it that this oak is one of the numerous trees King Charles II is supposed to have hidden in to escape the Roundheads! However, the reality is that if the future King did indeed hide up a tree, which is doubtful, it was in Boscobel Wood after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Estimated to be at least nine hundred years old, this gnarled tree has certainly lived through many turbulent periods of our history and also played a key part in rural village life. This includes the annual Meavy Oak Fair which continues to this day and is always held on the third Saturday of June.
It’s been suggested that it was planted during the reign of King John or even earlier and may have been used as a site for preaching the Gospel prior to the construction of St. Peter’s.
For the last couple of centuries the oak has been hollow in the middle but, unlike ancient yew trees such as the one at Kenn, is unable to regenerate. A recent arboricultural report has revealed that this once magnificent tree is in a state of irreversible decline with only about a quarter of the trunk still providing nutrients for the canopy above.
It’s sadly only a matter of time before this historic tree, that has been such an important part of Meavy village life over the course of many centuries, may well be just a memory.
PRINCETOWN – This rather bleak town is the highest settlement on Dartmoor and is home to a large for II gonna prison that was constructed to house the thousands of french and American prisoners that were taken during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812.
BURRATOR – A large manmade reservoir that was completed in 1898 and extended in 1929 offering a number of gentle scenic walks.
MERRIVALE – One of the many prehistoric monuments that can be discovered on Dartmoor. It’s a large ritual site including three stone rows, a small stone circle and cairns close to the remains of a Bronze Age settlement.