PLEASE note this transcription was created December 2021 by Helen Shields from images of 3 pages supplied by the “Library of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain” for personal research.
p109. STICKLEPATH GRAVE-YARD
The long straggling village of Sticklepath is at the base of the northern slope of Dartmoor. It is about eighteen miles west from Exeter and four miles east from Okehampton. The old, and now much deserted mail-coach road into Cornwall passes through it.
At Sticklepath and in the surrounding district there were formerly large numbers of Friends. A note at the foot of one of the pages of the book containing the Minutes of the Quarterly Meeting held in the 6th month 1676, mentions North-Tawton as one of the eight Monthly Meetings into which the County of Devon was then divided. Sticklepath, which is about eight miles south from North-Tawton, was, I believe, within the compass of that Monthly Meeting.
In the village of Sticklepath is an ancient Burial-ground which once belonged to Friends. It is no longer theirs. A stranger’s care has rescued it from the desolation which has overtaken so many of our Grave-yards.
The earliest interment in Sticklepath Grave-yard that has been entered in our Quarterly Meeting Register is that of Benjamin Bellamy on 16th of 11th month, 1713, and about three months later is an entry recording the burial of William Hawkins of Sticklepath on the 9th of 2nd month, 1714.
The entries are not numerous, and having regard to the large number of Friends who undoubtedly resided in and near to this village, there can, I think, be no doubt that there were many interments in the Sticklepath ground that were never recorded in our registers.
Friends from time to time, at long intervals, have visited this Grave-yard, and our friend George Price, late of Torquay and now residing at Bournemouth, in the summer of 1893 not only visited the Grave-yard but made inquiry into its history. Later on he read to the Torquay Essay Meeting an interesting paper relating to his visits to Sticklepath and Dartmoor.
(p110). The following is an extract from this paper:-
“We now returned to this valley to pay a visit to a very old lady, who, carefully tended by loving relatives, was peacefully waiting at the age of ninety-four her summons into the unseen world. She had long been unable to leave her bed, but her memory was good and carried her back to the time when there were still some members of the Society of Friends at Sticklepath. It may be interesting to glance at their history.
In John Wesley’s Journal 22nd September, 1743, he writes: As we were riding through a village called Sticklepath, one stopped me in the street and asked me abruptly, ‘Is not thy name John Wesley?’ Immediately two or three others came up and told me I must stop there. I did so, and before we had spoken many words our souls took acquaintance with each other. I found they were called Quakers, but that hurt me not, seeing the love of God was in their hearts.
A few weeks after, John Nelson paid them a visit and in April, 1744, Wesley again was there and preached twice in the open space in the village. He adds: ‘ Many of the poor people followed me to the house, and we could not consent to part, till we had spent another hour in exhortation and prayer and thanksgiving.’
There appears to have been at one time about two hundred Friends in this Village. They had a Burial-ground by a beautiful bend in the River Taw behind the Foundry. This was closed for many years after they had left the place. Ultimately Thomas Pearce, a resident at Sticklepath, who appears to have been a man of standing and influence, purchased the Burial-ground from Friends and settled it on Trustees to be used for a Cemetery. A memorial stone was placed on the ground by Thomas Pearce. It has for Head-line the text, ‘Whose names are on the Book of Life.’ – Phil. iv. 3. It then proceeds, ‘In this consecrated ground are interred the bodies of the pious Quakers, late resident in this Village, who in the year 1743 and after, welcomed and entertained the Wesleys, J.Nelson and others, as they journeyed to preach the Gospel,’ and then finishes with the text ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers.’ – Heb. xiii. 1-2.
The ground is nicely planted and carefully kept in order. It is furnished with an Arbour for the accommodation of those who may wish to prolong their meditations amongst the tombs, and on a Stone Tablet there is inscribed the following appropriate quotation from Montgomery.
(p111) ‘A scene sequestered from the haunts of men,
The loveliest nook of all that lovely glen –
Where grassy mounds the hallowed spots disclose
Where weary pilgrims found their last repose.
The high, the low, the mighty and the fair,
Equal in death, were undistinguished there.
Yet not a hillock mouldered near that spot
By one dishonoured or by all forgot.
To some warm heart the poorest dust was dear,
From some kind eye the meanest claimed a tear,
And oft the living by affliction led
Were wont to walk in spirit with their dead;
Green Myrtles fenced it, and beyond their bound
Ran the clear rill with ever murmuring sound.
’Twas not a scene for grief to nourish care –
It breathed of hope and moved the heart to prayer.’
This extract from the paper read at Torquay by George Price may very suitably close this memorandum. I will only add my belief that the Grave-Yard never belonged to the Society. I have been unable to find amongst our books any reference to its sale to Thomas Pearce. It is not unlikely that in early days it belonged to a member of our Society and that it belonged to a member of our Society and that it was sold by him or by his descendants.
This Grave-yard now forms a part of an adjacent and larger Cemetery, which I believe belongs to the Wesleyan Community. “