Presentation of the Dartmoor Society Award 2020 to our former chairman, Dr Tom Greeves

Tom Greeves receives his Dartmoor Society Award from Peter Beacham © Chris Chapman Photography

The Jubilee Hall, Chagford was the venue for our AGM on 14th August and our special guests were Tom and Lis Greeves. Tom was the recipient of last year’s Dartmoor Society Award and Peter Beacham, our president, was at last able to present a beautiful platter, made by Moretonhampstead potter Penny Simpson and decorated with the three hares motif.

We were to have presented two Dartmoor Society awards, as Tim Sandles is the recipient of the 2021 award for his pioneering website Legendary Dartmoor. Unfortunately Tim was not well on the day and we look forward to presenting him with his award on another occasion.

Tom Greeves and his work on Dartmoor is well known to many members. We issued the following press release after the AGM which details some of his many achievements.

Dr Tom Greeves receives the Dartmoor Society Award for his unwavering dedication to Dartmoor for more than half a century.

The Dartmoor Society annual awards are bestowed on individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to Dartmoor. This year The Dartmoor Society’s President, Peter Beacham OBE, presented the award to Dr Tom Greeves in a ceremony at the Jubilee Hall, Chagford on 14th August, postponed from 2020 due to national restrictions on public gatherings.

Plymouth born, Tom studied archaeology at Edinburgh in the early 1970s and went on to attain his PhD on the Devon tin industry 1450–1750 at Exeter in 1981. He is now recognised as the foremost authority on the subject and he chaired the Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group from 1991–2001.

During his early career he was the first Devon Sites and Monuments Officer for Devon and then Dartmoor National Park Archaeologist, 1979–1985.

Working in London with the charity Common Ground, he was responsible for the nationwide Parish Maps Project, where he developed his ideas on locality, buildings and community.

Back on Dartmoor he became the Honorary Editor of The Devonshire Association 1995–2004 and its President 2015–16. In 1998 he was voted Chairman of the newly-formed Dartmoor Society and remained in this post until 2019.

He forged international connections through research into the three hares symbol, closely associated with Dartmoor but found in many countries. Together with Sue Andrew and Chris Chapman he traced the connections of this enigmatic motif as far as China. A book, The Three Hares: A Curiosity Worth Regarding, was published in 2016.

A prolific writer – can any have contributed more to the corpus of Dartmoor literature? – he has had many articles published in periodicals and regional newspapers, reaching a wide audience and influencing public opinion in the process.

Tom’s meticulous attention to detail in following planned development on Dartmoor and in seeking to protect hitherto unrecognised or undesignated buildings and archaeological sites has been resolute. Many twentieth-century Dartmoor buildings, such as the Iron Store at Burrator, have been saved due to his diligence.

A lifelong interest in Dartmoor and a rare empathy for its extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people, past and present, has been a constant throughout. He was fortunate enough to have been able to speak to the last of the Dartmoor miners, many with knowledge and experiences of farming and small-scale industrial enterprises going back to the nineteenth century. Through his research he has been able to tie very early photographs and documents to individuals.

Tom is a brilliant landscape archaeologist and his knowledge of Dartmoor’s prehistoric and medieval past is second to none, but it is his discovery of the early neolithic stone row on Cut Hill which has caused textbooks to be re-written. His investigations into the earliest ritual monuments have changed our knowledge of this period, not only on Dartmoor but in the whole of the South-west.

He has championed sustainable developments such as the Steward Wood community and the rights of commoners, local democratic representation on the Dartmoor National Park Authority and many other causes over the years. Throughout he has argued for policy making through actual experience and a genuine understanding of Dartmoor.

To preserve and develop Dartmoor culture in all forms has been a guiding principle in Tom’s work. In 2018 he organised the Dartmoor Resonance Music Festival, a week-long celebration of music and performance from across the musical spectrum and the human timespan on Dartmoor and wrote an accompanying book, Dartmoor Resonance and the Story of Dartmoor Music.

The focus of his work as a cultural environmentalist has been to explore the history, archaeology and environment of Dartmoor, giving each equal weight. His concern is to preserve and retain access to Dartmoor’s archaeological monuments, to encourage debate on subjects that are central to Dartmoor and to nurture contemporary artists and thinkers for the benefit of the moor and its communities.

It is this emphasis on the human presence on Dartmoor, in relationship with the land and the natural environment, that makes his contribution to Dartmoor unique.

Photo © Chris Chapman Photography.

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