16 Oct STOKE GABRIEL A QUINTESSENTIAL ENGLISH VILLAGE…
Situated on a quiet creek off the beautiful River Dart, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within the South Hams area of South Devon, Stoke Gabriel is a pretty thriving village with an interesting history, some ‘old wife’s tales’ and traditions which are still enjoyed today
Here are a few of the things we know about our village :-
- Stoke Gabriel became a community in the 11th century when prolific orchards, with the apples being used for cider covered the land, and fish, in particular salmon, were plentiful in the Dart.
- The 12th century church dedicated to St Gabriel and St Mary has a Yew tree estimated to be over 1000 years old – and believed to be the oldest in England.
Tradition has it that :-
“Walk ye backwards round me
7 times round for all to see
Stumble not and then for certain
One true wish will come to thee”
Something else interesting about the church – the sexton/verger has been handed down in the same family for 13 generations – over 400 years ! – Norman (Betts) the current verger is the last in the line as there is no family to follow him.
- The Church House Inn was built in 1152, for the benefit of those involved in the construction of the church. It ‘doubled’ as the local courtroom – and the stocks remain today. Not a picture to everyone’s taste, but on the wall you will see a case displaying a ‘mummified’ cat which is over 300 years old. It was found in the roof space – apparently this was a common practice in the Middle Ages to ward off evil spirits !
It’s a nice friendly inn, full of character, and serves nice ‘pub grub’ and in the winter you are greeted by a roaring log fire – it very much the hub of the village.
- On landing in Brixham in 1688, William of Orange spent his first night on English soil at ‘Hill House’ more recently known as the Gabriel Court, which is the big house with a tower which dominates the centre of the village. There is a close similarity in architecture between our home, Aish Cross, and Gabriel Court – not surprisingly, because over centuries both were owned by the Churchward family who were the wealthy landowners and squire of the village. Both properties underwent massive rebuilding in Regency times, using the same architect and many of the same building materials.
- John Davis, relative of the Gilbert family who own Compton Castle, and lived in Stoke Gabriel was Sir Walter Raleigh’s Navigation officer, and history has it that on a visit to Hill House it was the first occasion that tobacco was seen to be smoked
- Many orchards in and around Stoke Gabriel have been lost to development, but the Hunt family, just down the road from Aish continue the cider making tradition which they established over 300 years ago. If you are walking the lanes you can regularly see Roger, easily recognisable by his flat cap and large build (ex rugby player!) – he has many good stories about cider making – and in fact we have a short video featuring him on our web site.
- Apples played such a major part in the farming industry of the area and due to superstition every year a ‘Wassailing’ ceremony blesses the apples (there is a separate blog on this) This tradition is still carried on in January every year in the old orchard which stands near the church.
What else does our village of Stoke Gabriel offer?
- An excellent Village Shop and Post Office which sells lots of local produce as well as bread, milk and newspapers.
- Emma’s Bistro – extremely nice home cooked food –normally open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday evenings and Sunday lunchtime. (Emma does close during January and February) – You take your own alcohol – or you can take it in from the Church House Inn opposite – no corkage ! – 2 tips – booking essential – look at her tripadviser reviews, they are excellent.
- The Mill Pond – a lovely spot to sit and have a picnic,to take the children crabbing or to enjoy an excellent cup of coffee, ice cream, and light refreshments at the River Shack ( they also do a nice breakfast bacon bap too ! )
Aish is only a mile out of Stoke Gabriel, and it is a lovely walk down, Hoyle Lane, the narrow road opposite Aish Cross House – passed the very pretty cricket ground on the right and Hoyle’s wood on the left ( worth a detour here to see if you can find any of the ‘fairies’ left by the children) The wood was gifted to the village for recreation some years ago. There is very little traffic using Hoyle Lane and the walk takes 20 minutes to the edge of the village or 35 minutes to the Mill Pond