Brent Tor

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Brent Tor
St. Michael-le-Rupe and the view to the south - - 448372.jpg
St Michael-le-Rupe on Brent Tor
Range: Dartmoor
Summit: 1,100 feet SX470804
50°36’12"N, 4°9’45"W

Brent Tor is a prominent hill rising to 1,100 feet above sea level on the western edge of Dartmoor in Devon. The Tor is surmounted by the Church of St Michael, a serving parish church which can nevertheless be reached only by a climb up the hill.

The hill is found about four miles north of Tavistock and its shape, made more distinctive by the church at its summit, is visible from the town and from all across western Dartmoor.

The village of Brentor sits below the hill.


Brent Tor is a unique example of an early Carboniferous basaltic volcano, now weathered down.[1] It is composed of volcanic breccia and pillow lava exuded beneath a former sea.[2]


Brent Tor from the northeast

Around the Tor are Iron Age earthworks, the remnants of a Hill fort.[3] Unusually, the fortifications are at the base of the Tor, rather than the summit as is more normal (compare with Brent Knoll in Somerset). No serious archaeological work has been carried out on the site. However, the northern ramparts in particular are well preserved, displaying a multi-vallate pattern characteristic of the Iron-A, or early -B, culture. There are three distinct consecutive ramparts in this sector, and traces of internal partitioning.

St Michael's Church, Brent Tor

The Church of St Michael-le-Rupe ("Saint Michael of the Rock") atop the Tor dates to the 13th century, A modest church in size if not position, it measures15 feet wide by 37 feet long. The tower is 40 feet high[4] and houses five bells.[5]

At one point, the Church may have been used as a beacon tower, used to spread word of enemies seen out to sea and one of a chain of beacons lit at the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The church has a capacity of approximately forty people. Although there is a newer parish church, the 19th century Christ Church, in the village, which is used for many services, St Michael's is still used on Christmas Day, Easter Day and for Evensong during the summer.

In 1995 the Church was struck by lightning, which caused extensive damage, but this has since been repaired.


There are many legends surrounding Brent Tor and its church.

One of the best-known of local legends insists that the church was to be built at the bottom of the tor, but the Devil opposed its construction and would move the construction to the top of the hill each night to stop it. Undissuaded, the builders continued with its construction in defiance.

Another legend, that of the Merchant and the Storm, relates that an early mediæval merchant paid for the church to be completed after nearly being shipwrecked.[6][7]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Brent Tor)


  1. Dartmoor National Park Authority: 'Educational Register of Geological Sites'
  2. Robert Hesketh, Devon's Geology, an introduction, page 8. Bossiney Books
  3. Hopkins, Adam & Witney, Dudley (1995). The Moorlands of England. Key Porter Books. pp. 92. ISBN 9781550136050. 
  4. Brentor Church: A Guide, Church of England publications
  5. Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers
  6. Legendary Dartmoor
  7. Sacred texts