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Kitty Jay's Grave

Updated: Feb 12

Not far from Hound Tor and Bowerman's Nose is a real curiosity, something truly unique to Dartmoor. It is known as Kitty Jay's Grave, and a very tragic place it is too.

The young girl buried here is an orphan who grew up in the Newton Abbott workhouse during the late 19th century. The word Jay being in those days a slang term for prostitute, it may have been that her mother actually worked that trade and abandoned an unwanted baby on the workhouse steps. Whatever the truth, when Kitty came of age, she was sent to Canna Farm to work long hours for little pay. She wasn't there long before she was seduced by the farmer's son.

The young girl was soon with child, and it was then that she was struck a cruel blow. Kitty's lover abandoned her, his family threw her out of Canna Farm, and she was left destitute. Her reputation in tatters, she had no obvious way of looking after a baby of her own. And so, feeling desperately short of hope, she took her own life.

The custom was in those days to bury suicides at crossroads, which is why Kitty Jay's Grave lies where it does. Given the tragedy surrounding the girl, and the superstitious fears of her neighbours, it's hardly surprising that people soon claimed to see a ghost kneeling at its side. The figure is dark and dressed in a hooded robe. It holds its face in its hands.

Could it be her false lover, the man who treated her so badly, wracked with eternal remorse for his caddish behaviour?

Forget ghosts for a moment; Kitty Jay's Grave is far more famous for another unexplained phenomena. Fresh flowers have long been placed beside its pitiable headstone, yet nobody knows who does it. Certainly, nobody has ever been caught in the act.

An eccentric author named Beatrice Chase is said by many to have started the tradition, yet she passed away in 1955, and still the floral tributes continue. When I visited a few weekends ago, pretty tulips could be seen. They weren't there when I drove past on the way to Bowerman's Nose but had appeared before I returned to take these pictures.

So, if not a long-dead author, who is leaving these flowers here?

Dartmoor folklore says the pixies are responsible, because they feel great sympathy for the poor maid's plight.
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