Mary Tavy village nestles on the eastern side of the valley leading to the River Tavy. Once a thriving mining community in the 1800s, it is now just a small rural village with a population just short of 900 people.
It is somewhat like the curate’s egg – good in parts – with many things of interest (if you know where to look!) to encourage the curious tourist. It is approximately 3 miles from the ancient market and the stannary town of Tavistock.
Find out what it is really like by exploring these pages. Not all page links are obvious! You really will have to explore.
The tiny hamlet of Horndon is just one and a half miles away. It is here that you find the true feeling of being in the countryside. There are rare slipper orchids to be seen in the graveyard of the local Methodist Chapel, and shady lanes to wander along, leading down to Hill Bridge and the river Tavy in the valley below. Leftward is the way to Black Hill, across the moorland, and to the Wheal Jewell Reservoir area, and ‘Ring O’ Bells’.
Ask anyone the way to the river at Hillbridge and they will point you in the right direction. Rare Slipper Orchid – Horndon
For those who want to follow the county road to Lane End (marked Lane Head on the maps!) – the way is easy. From the moor gate, you will enter on to the moor and go up towards the steep sided hills before you. On reaching the leat (watercourse or canal – not the river!) bear right and continue along its banks. Soon you will come to Tavy Cleave, the steep-sided valley to the left of you, and its majestic jumbled clitters of rocks and crystal clear babbling waters.
Perhaps on the return journey, you will stop at the ‘Elephant’s Nest’ pub for a drink. It was once the home of my mother, and in those days it was called ‘The New Inn’.
The ‘older inn’ must have been ‘The Black Lion’ located opposite the Methodist Chapel, Horndon, at Black Lion Hill. A refreshment spot for the miners of Wheal Jewell.
Mary Tavy is eminently suited to those who either want to visit Dartmoor and its surrounding attractions by car or to use it as a starting point to explore the area at a more leisurely pace. It is ideally situated to begin a backpacking trip or trek across Dartmoor.
It has a beautifully furnished Anglo Catholic church which lies in the old part of the village, well away from the main road. The key to the church is usually held at “Homer” (ask anyone locally for that location) and it can be obtained from there for viewing outside normal service times – or at least used to be!
Some village records.
There is a very recently restored peal of 5 bells (I was Secretary to the fund-raising committee). The beautiful stained-glass windows are by the noted stained glass artist, Kemp, of Soho, London. There is a delightful rood screen (carved by the accomplished Misses Penwell) surmounted by a large crucifix and statues from Oberammergau, Germany, in painted linden wood. The ornate reredos above the altar completes the picture.
The famous mines of the Wheal Friendship complex within the village are now only really visible to the enthusiasts’ eye, being overgrown or dismantled.
This mine was taken over and managed by that great mining engineer, John Taylor who came from Norfolk in 1854 at the tender age of 19 years.
At one time Wheal Friendship was the most productive deep copper mine in the world. In 1853, because of the influx of miners, the population stood at 1,500+ souls – but there were only 66 houses!
There is hardly any trace of Mary Tavy’s mining industry of the 18th and 19th centuries except for the well preserved engine house (pictured right) which is adjacent to the A386 in the moorland valley as one approaches the village from a northerly direction. This is the site of the lead/silver mine of Wheal Betsy, or, as it was also once named, Prince Arthur Consuls.