The Whiddon Parishes are a ‘united benefice’ (a family of jointly-administered churches) in the north-east corner of Dartmoor in central Devon, covering the rural communities in one of the country’s most ancient and beautiful landscapes. In the shadow of the high hills of Dartmoor, the whole area remains a farming-oriented community, criss-crossed by stone walls and banks, deep lanes and dense woodlands.


Chagford

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Chagford

Chagford is a historic ‘stannary’ town, a trading centre for the mediaeval tin industry. Nowadays its vibrant community of shopkeepers, artists and craftspeople make it the thriving centre of the region. The Church of St Michael and All Angels is originally medieval but was extensively rebuilt in the 15th century. It is the mother church of the Whiddon Parishes.


Gidleigh

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Gidleigh

To the northeast of Chagford, Gidleigh is one of the most thinly-inhabited parishes in the country: the population today is almost exactly what it was in the 1901 census and 80% of its area is open moorland. One of Dartmoor’s best preserved stone circles is at Scorhill, while the remains of Gidleigh castle stand in the tiny hamlet that nestles around the Church of the Holy Trinity, with its 15th century rood screen.


Throwleigh

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Throwleigh

Next door is the parish of Throwleigh, spread beyond the village itself across several farm-dominated hamlets. Another sparsely-populated parish, it’s likely that more people lived in the Bronze Age settlements on Throwleigh Common than inhabit the village today! Like most of the churches in the area, little remains of the original late Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin, after extensive rebuilding in the 15th and 16th centuries.


Drewsteignton

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Drewsteignton

To the east of Chagford, further down the valley of the River Teign, lies Drewsteignton. Among the buildings clustered round its large central square is the historic Drewe Arms, originally the Druids Arms and renamed in 1920 after the retail magnate Julius Drewe built the imposing Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo on a nearby crag above the Teign valley. Also on the square is a gate leading to the Church of the Holy Trinity, another 15th century reconstruction, and one of the largest churches in the Whiddon Parishes.


Photos by Chris Chapman (Chagford, Gidleigh, Throwleigh)

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