Widecombe-in-the-Moor is probably Dartmoor’s best known village. This is mainly due to the song, ‘Widecombe Fair’, of which the chorus contains the phrase, “Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all”, which has become part of the English language used when someone has just given a long list of names, etc. The song tells the tale of Tom Cobley who, with his seven friends, rode to Widecombe Fair on a single, unfortunate, grey mare. This is depicted in the village sign on the green. The Fair has been held for over one hundred years and continues every year in September.
If you can sing the chorus, remembering all the names correctly, it is said that you have not drunk too much beer.
Widecombe is situated high up on Dartmoor on a knoll above water meadows in the East Webburn Valley. It is one of the most picturesque villages on Dartmoor and popular with visitors. The parish church of St. Pancras, is known as the, ‘Cathedral of the Moor’, dating from about the year fifteen hundred and is dominated by a 120 foot tower which was partly paid for by local tin-miners in the 16th century. Next to the church is the village green and the 15th century Church House, which is now owned by the National Trust and is used as a village hall and information centre. The village is well served by souvenir shops, cafes and The Old Inn.
Hound Tor, just south of Widecombe, is believed to be the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s chilling story, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson unravel the mystery. The wind, gusting through the cracks and crevices, produces a weird howling sound, like a pack of hounds, giving rise to its name.