Sticklepath Quaker Burying Ground
Sticklepath Village Graveyard
Sticklepath Quaker Burying Ground is located in the middle of this historic Dartmoor village, tucked away in a peaceful setting behind Finch’s Foundry, on the banks of the tumbling Taw River.
It is assumed that The Quakers purchased the ground in the early 1700’s, as the first recorded internment was that of a Benjamin Bellamy in 1713. The Quakers didn’t erect headstones or memorials but recorded burials in their Quarterly Meeting Register.
By the early 1800’s, the ground was in possession of Mr Cross, a Quaker from Exeter, who purchased the site when adjoining property was sold, to prevent it from being used for other purposes.
Around 1826-28 negotiations were opened with Mr Cross to purchase the ground for the villagers. Unfortunately, whilst these negotiations were taking place, Mr Cross died. His young sons inherited the ground but, as they were under-age, the villagers were unable to do anything with the site for some years. In 1836 a proposal was made that the villagers join together to purchase the site. No one came forward until Mr Thomas Pearse, a sergemaker of Skaigh Mill paid £14 for the ground and appointed 8 of his relations as trustees, with himself as treasurer.
Tom Pearse’s purchase meant that the ground was now for the use of the villagers and so became non-denominational. Mr Pearse performed many burials in the village and was himself buried in the graveyard in 1875 aged 81 years.
By 1890 the original plot had become too small and a piece of the adjacent old bowling green was taken in to create more space.
In 1937 the Pearse trustees handed over the administration of the ground to a new trust with members of the family continuing to serve. A new committee was formed in 1946 to administer the trust and register it with The Charity Commission.
The graveyard continued to fill and at the end of the last century an additional plot of land was donated to the trust by the Finch Foundry.
Who are The Quakers?
The Quakers – also known as the Society of Friends – are a Protestant sect founded in the mid 17th century by the English religious leader George Fox.
Quakers practice simplicity of life and worship and stress the importance of the inner voice of the spirit. Worship takes place in Meeting Houses that are open to all, and is conducted in silence until someone is moved by the spirit to speak. The Quaker movement is strongly pacifist and committed to social reform. Indeed, the Quakers took a lead in the abolishment of slavery and have worked for prison reform and better education. George Fox told his followers to “tremble at the word of the Lord”, the phrase which gave the Quakers their name!
The Quaker movement reached Devon in the mid 17th Century when George Fox, the founder of the movement, was imprisoned for his beliefs in Lauceston Castle. Other supporters from Okehampton and North Tawton were held in Exeter Jail.
The main road between Launceston and Exeter passed through Sticklepath and it may be assumed that, on their frequent journeys, the Quakers decided that this peaceful and tranquil village would make a good place to settle.
It is believed that at one time up to 200 Quakers lived in Sticklepath and one of their requirements obviously, was for a burying ground.
The Quaker influence in Sticklepath lasted for about 100 years until the arrival of John Wesley and Methodism. Wesley passed through the village on his way to preaching missions in Cornwall and on one occasion was stopped by one of the local Quakers and invited to stay for a while.
Wesley took up his invitation and soon a great friendship developed between the local community and the Methodist preacher. The friendship grew so strong that on several occasions, whilst travelling to the west, Wesley would stop in Sticklepath to speak to the villagers even “preaching from an open space, during a storm of rain and hail”. This ‘open space’ being white rock at the western end of the village.
The friendship between the two religious groups was celebrated in the 1830’s when the local beneficiary, Thomas Pearse, erected a stone in the burying ground with the inscription shown on the front of this leaflet.
Tom Pearse’s name is familiar to many who know the song ‘Widecome Fair’ as it was on his grey mare that the revellers rode one day to that village across the Moor. It was Thomas who originally built the small thatched arbour, which has recently been restored as a memorial to a younger member of the Pearse family.
The ground is today maintained by bequests and donations which are always welcome.
Please contact Terry Holman in 01837 840148 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.