One of Cornwall's most celebrated ghosts is that of Charlotte Dymond, who was found murdered on the slopes of Roughtor,
near Camelford on Sunday 14th April 1844. Now written into the folklore of
Bodmin Moor, this brutal murder was committed in a desolate location. A
search party found her body on the banks of the river Alan, in the shadow
of Roughtor, Cornwall's second highest point, by Roughtor Ford. She had
been killed by an deep cut to her throat. Later examination suggested it
was probably caused by two cuts.
Her lover, a crippled farmhand called Matthew Weeks was
later hanged at Bodmin Gaol for the crime, though it is doubtful that he
Since that time, and especially on the anniversary of her death, Charlotte has been seen walking in the area, clad in a gown, a red shawl and a silk bonnet. Sentries of the Old Volunteers stationed in Roughtor were very reluctant to stand duty there, so convinced were they of her ghostly presence.
A memorial stone marks the site of her murder, and the story has been immortalised too in "The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond", by Cornish poet Charles Causley.
The Charlotte Dymond memorial, Roughtor
marks the spot where her body was found
The Story of Charlotte Dymond and her Murder
Charlotte Dymond worked on a small farm on the edge of
Bodmin Moor called Penhale Farm. She was an 18 year old girl and worked as
a domestic servant for the elderly widow and her son. Charlotte was one of
three live in servants at the farm, the others were John Stevens and
Matthew Weeks, both in their early 20s.
Charlotte and Matthew had become lovers during their
time at Penhale Farm. Most people had said that they were a strange
coupling. Charlotte was a pretty girl with a very flirtatious nature but
was illegitimate with no family, whereas Matthew was a short man, missing
many teeth and with a heavy limp, and was described as not at all
good-looking though he did dress extremely well. Some people said that the
reason they were together was that Matthew had come into a modest
inheritance which made him worthy.
Unbeknown to Matthew, Charlotte had another suitor,
this was the 26 year nephew of Penhale Farm's owner by the name of Thomas
Prout. He worked with Matthew Weeks on occasions as a farm labourer and is
said the two got on very well. But Thomas Prout had intentions towards
Charlotte and it was later revealed that the two may have been planning to
The other household servant, John Stevens said he had
overheard Thomas Prout stating he could take Charlotte away from Weeks any
time he liked.
The last time Charlotte was seen alive was soon after her and Matthew had
left the farm together, on the Sunday afternoon, heading towards the moor.
They were spotted by an elderly neighbouring farmer who recognised Matthew
from his pronounced limp, even though it was foggy.
Later that evening Matthew returned to the farm alone, although this was
not an unusual occurrence.
When Charlotte did not return to the farm, questions were asked of
Matthew, and he told them that Charlotte had been offered a position in
Blisland, some miles away over the Moor, and had set off with the
intention of staying at an friends house on the way. This was not totally
believed and suspicion grew because, the way Charlotte was, a courteous
and polite woman, and the fact the someone had notice Mathews' shirt was
torn and his trousers were muddied despite his claims he had not been on
After a week of the disappearance of Charlotte Dymond,
John Stevens took it upon himself to clarify Matthews' story. The farmer
and himself took off across the Moor to Blisland, and found out the no
such position had been offered to Charlotte, and that she had not stayed
in a friends house either.
On the same day as the farmer and John Stevens left of their journey,
Matthew Weeks picked up his belonging, put on his best clothes and left
Penhale farm, it was said with the thought of never going back.
The day after Matthew Weeks had left the farm, the farmer's wife took his
old clothes to wash them. However what she saw made her suspicion that
Weeks had murdered Charlotte. The collar of his shirt was torn and had
several buttons missing. She also noticed spots of blood on the shirt.
Tuesday of the following week, nine days after
Charlotte had last been seen, a search party went out onto the Moor, where
they found her body. She was lying by Roughtor Ford, on the banks of the
river Alan. She had been killed by an extremely deep cut to her throat
from ear to ear. Later examination suggested it was probably caused by two
Now her body had been found and the circumstantial evidence
was mounting up against
Matthew Weeks to the murder of Charlotte Dymond, a warrant for his arrest was issued. He was found
and arrested at his sister's house in Plymouth, where he was planning to
flee to the Channel Islands. Upon
searching Weeks a pair of ladies' gloves and a blood-spotted lady's
handkerchief were found.
Weeks was tried at Bodmin Assize Court on August 2nd.
The coroner made it clear that he
believed the wound that killed Charlotte could not have been self
inflicted, with this and all the circumstantial evidence that was gathered
during the brief investigation Weeks was found guilty by jury. They
reached their verdict in a little over half an hour, Weeks pleaded not
guilty at the trial. The sentence for the crime was death by hanging.
Matthew Weeks spent ten days in Bodmin Gaol
awaiting his execution. In this time two letters were attributed to him,
but being illiterate these were dictated and scribed by another. The first
letter was written to his family, and the second was a full confession to
the murder of Charlotte. This second letter was written in an eloquent
style, far more eloquent than one would have expected from an uneducated
"I hope young men will take a warning by me and not put too much
confidence in young women, the same as I did; and I hope young females
will take the same by young men. I loved that girl as dear as I loved my
life; and after all the kind treatment I have showed her, and then she
said she would have nothing more to do with me. And after this was done,
then bitterly I did lament, thinking what would be my end. And I thank the
judge and jury too, for they have given me no more than was my due."
On August 12th 1844 Mathew Weeks was hung
outside Bodmin Gaol in front of a crowd of several thousand onlookers. His
body was buried in the prison's coal yard.
The local community were in little doubt of
Weeks' guilt of the death of Charlotte Dymond, there seemed to be no
mystery to her tragic death,
and it is just another sad example of the age old crime of passion.
Because of these thoughts by the community, a memorial monument was
erected on the spot were her body was found. The memorial reads - "This
monument is erected by public subscription in memory of Charlotte Dymond
who was murdered here by Matthew Weeks on Sunday April 14 1844"
However this is not necessarily the end of the
tail. From the account written above, the events surrounding this tragedy
would seem fairly clear cut. But because of the story of a spurned lover
and murder at such a bleak, desolate spot, people believed that the
possibility of Mathew Weeks innocence was a true one. One explanation put
forward was suicide. It was said that Charlotte believed she was pregnant,
and to avoid the shame she had cut her own throat. This conclusion does
seem a bit fanciful in two ways. One: given there appeared to be two
suitors willing to marry her, and two: the extreme force that had to of
been used to inflict the wound.
Along with this are suggestions the three eyewitnesses were unreliable in
the story that they told, the fact that the confession that was scribed
whilst Weeks was in jail was obviously fabricated, belief swung in the
opposite direction, and doubt of his guilt set in. Even though with no
other obvious suspects, so much circumstantial evidence and in the absence
of witnesses, also the confession, the weight of evidence seems to be
compelling and that was why Mathew Weeks was found guilty of the murder.
But to this day nobody can say for sure if Mathew Weeks murdered Charlotte
If you would like to find out more regarding Mathew Weeks and Charlotte
Dymond, you can do so in the old County Assizes in Bodmin's Shire Hall.
You can watch a re-enactment of the trial of Matthew Weeks and decide for
yourself whether he was convicted of a crime he did not commit.