The Legend of Brentor Church

The Legend of Brentor Church

The giants were all dead and the witches had fled to Wales driven by the friends of Bowerman, but one evil genius still remained.  The Devil roamed the Moor looking for victims and terrifying the countryside.  Churches and wayside crosses were places of safety but the inhabitants of Dartmoor knew that the Devil only needed a slight mistake and he would pounce and carry off his victim.

One day a rich merchant ship was sighted making her way up the Channel bringing spices and silks from the East.  The Devil had been a long time without any victims, thanks to the vigilance and care of the moor people, so he at once decided to wreck the ship and destroy its merchandise.  That night he created a terrible storm.  The rain and wind extinguished the warning beacons on the coast and on the top of Brennon or Beacon Tor which we now call Brentor.  The night was pitch dark except when lit by terrible flashes of lightning.  The wind roared, driving the ship towards the rocky coast and the thunder roared threateningly.  All night the captain of the Virtue, for that was the name of the ship, battled to keep her afloat and away from the dreadful, jagged rocks while Hugh the Merchant stayed below decks praying.

The Devil had flown high above the ship where he was in complete control, laughing and shrieking with glee as the ship drove towards the rocks and certain death for the crew.  Towards morning Old Hugh came up on deck only to be informed that no mortal power could save them now.  On hearing this, Old Hugh at once knelt down on the heaving deck and prayed to his patron saint, Saint Michael.  He vowed that if the ship were saved he would build and dedicate a church to St Michael on the highest point of land he first sighted.  Almost at once the wind slackened and changed direction, taking the ship away from the shore.  The Devil, enraged, summoned up all his power but was no match for Saint Michael.

As soon as Hugh set foot ashore he set out to fulfil his vow by building a church on Brentor which was the first and highest point of land sighted after the storm.  It was a formidable task, as anyone will know who has visited Brentor, but the grateful merchant toiled away unsparingly giving freely of both money and energy until he had assembled all the required material on top of the steep tor.  Hugh breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that his task would soon be completed.

Brentor That very night, however, the Devil happened to pass over and, realising at once what was happening, felt very angry indeed and scattered the building materials round the foot of the tor chuckling all the while in devilish glee.  Hugh was shocked to see what had happened when he arrived the following morning, but nothing daunted, started all over again, carrying the stones back up to the top.  Each night the Devil scattered the materials and each morning Old Hugh carried them back up to the top of the tor.  After some weeks Saint Michael, realising what was happening and knowing that Old Hugh would need help before he could fulfil his vow, decided to intervene.

When the Devil arrived the next night he found Saint Michael waiting for him.  On seeing his old enemy, the good saint seized a huge granite boulder and hurled it at the Devil who had turned to run away.  The rock caught him on the heel and sent him off roaring with rage and pain.

Because of his injury, the Devil kept out of the way allowing Old Hugh to complete his task and the church was finally dedicated.

The church at Brentor is the smallest on the Moor because poor Hugh, in his long tussle with the Devil had wasted a lot of his money, however it still stands to this day, a tribute to Saint Michael and to the determination of Old Hugh the Merchant who built it.