Widecombe Fair Horse
This painted wooden sculpture depicts the characters of a popular Devon folk song.
Tucked away in the south transept of a 14th-century church is an animated model showing a medley of men sitting atop a gray mare. Though its wheels do indeed work, the horse, riders, and dogs nipping at the steed’s heels are enclosed in glass, trapping the toy in stillness.
The model depicts a man named Uncle Tom Cobley and his friends. Their tale is famous throughout Devon, as it has been immortalized in a popular folk song.
According to the song, a man named Tom Pearse lends a group of seven men his old gray mare so they can journey to the Widecombe Fair. But tragically, the horse falls ill and dies before the trip is complete. After his faithful mare fails to return, Pearse sets out to find her, only to discover her in her final moments. The horse then becomes a ghost that haunts the moor on cold, windy nights.
Though the ghost mare may not be real, many suspect that the men mentioned in the song were. Their names can be traced to families who lived nearby in the early 1800s.
The animated model that depicts the popular folk song was hand-made by a retired sailor named Harry Price. It took him two years to finish the piece, which was displayed at the 1959 Widecomb Fair, the very event the characters in the song attempted to attend.
Know Before You Go
The church is open daily from 10:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m. It’s easily accessible via public transport, but if you do drive, there’s ample parking in the lot near the church. The church also has bathrooms and is mainly handicap accessible. It’s a quick, one-minute walk from a handful of cafes and pubs.
You can reach the town via the 271 and 672 bus services. The nearest train station is Newton Abbot.
If you’re interested in adding an additional equestrian element to your trip, head over to Hollowcombe Bottom, the site of a mysterious pony massacre in Dartmoor National Park. If you have access to a car, it's a roughly 25-minute drive along the B3212 and B3387.
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