Sometimes referred to as the ‘Giant’s Grave’, it is believed that this hump is the final resting place of Royalist prisoners who were killed when parts of the church blew up in February 1646 during the Civil War.
During the Battle of Torrington, after the defeat of the Royalist forces by Sir Thomas Fairfax and his army, the triumphant Parliamentarians used the tower of the parish church, with its thick impregnable walls, as a prison. The Royalists had already used the tower as an arsenal and had stored 80 barrels of gunpowder there. This was not sacrilege. Arms and armour for local defence were often stored in church towers which acted as strongholds.
In 1996 there was a series of events in and around the town arranged by an organisation of local people calling themselves ‘Fire and Steel 350’ to commemorate what happened in Torrington in 1646. On Saturday 17th February a group of Devon Dowsers gathered around the mysterious cobble-covered hump in the churchyard. Their aim was to find out once and for all whether this was the burial place of the Royalist prisoners killed in the church explosion.
‘They believe there are 67 bodies buried there,’ said Fire and Steel chairman, Roy Foster. ‘Who am I to dispute that?’
The Parish Register records the burial of 63 soldiers so this discovery indicated there were four more bodies buried than had been recorded and that they were lying in a pit some seven feet deep. One of the dowsers later persuaded a friend who is a clairvoyant privately to examine the mound. Intriguingly, she told him that there were in fact 68 bodies buried there, 63 that were a few hundred years old and five very old ones, probably Neolithic, that had been buried in a barrow.
A wreath is laid on this mass grave each year during the events that commemorate the Battle of Torrington.