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The Nature Journal: Murder on the Moor

By Caroline Palmer


The Victorians were known to be quite obsessed with the morbid notion of death. On the 14th April, 1844, the body of a beautiful dairy maid was found lying in a river at the base of Rough Tor. The brutality and mystery that surrounded her death quickly filled the newspapers.


However, before the trial even began, it was reported by The West Briton newspaper, that around 10,000 people attended a large fete held at Rough Tor, close to the river where Charlotte had been murdered. A pole with a black flag marked the spot where her body had been found and a charge of a penny was donated to view the site. As well as this, there were wrestling matches, refreshment stalls, donkey rides and other entertainers present.


Some of the money raised that day paid for a granite memorial stone, which stands by the river. Today, most people miss this as they head towards one of Cornwall’s highest peaks. Each time I visit this part of the moor, it is so peaceful and hard to imagine such a day taking over this landscape, and the crowds that gathered by this spot for a bizarre occasion.

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