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From the North Devon Journal of 23 January 1851:


"In the parish of Manaton, near Widecombe in the Moor, while some men in the employ of James Bryant Esq, of Prospect, at his seat, Hedge Barton, were removing some accumulations of wayside soil a few days since, they discovered what appeared to  be a grave. On further investigation, the found the skeleton of a body, which proved  from enquiry to be the remains of Ann Jay, a woman who hunged herself some three generations since in a barn at a place called Forder, and was buried at Four Cross Lane, according to the custom of that enlightened age."


From the Western Morning News of 3 March 1934 :


There is probably not an antiquity on Dartmoor which excites more public interest or which has more erroneous legends spread about it than the rough wayside grave between Manaton and Widecombe-in-the-Moor.


William Crossing in his guidebook describes it as the grave of a young woman called Kitty Jay. Robert Dymond in his History of Widecombe in the Moor says it is the grave of an old woman caled Kay. At the request of the late John Kitson of Heatree Manor on whose land the grave stands, the Ordnance maps began to mark it as Jane's grave from 1904.


The true history is as follows: Mary Jay was a poor little Workhouse Apprentice who was hired out by the parish to a farmer living at Harracott Farm, near Manaton. One day, she took a rope, went to a big barn belonging to Ford Farm near by, and hanged herself. Her poor little body (which would not have been accepted by the Church for Christian burial at that time) was buried at the roadside near Swallerton and there apparently was the end of the tragic tale. Some 80 years ago, two workmen digging at the spot, came upon bones almost at the surface. Hedgebarton, near by, was owned by a Mr Bryant and the workmen informed him of the discovery.  A doctor friend who was staying in his house at the time, examined the  bones and found them to be human and female*.


* This account confirms the extract from the 1851  North Devon Journal quoted above.


Jay's grave near Manaton

Jay's grave at a crossroad near Manaton

© Richard J. Brine




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