Monday, 14 April 2008

The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond

charlotte dymond  balladTo view my FAQ concerning Charlotte Dymond, click

Coming as I do from Cornwall, I thought it would be appropriate to mention this one. I first learned about Charlotte Dymond during an English lesson at school but have since read much more about it. There is an excellent write up about it by accomplished crime writer Linda Stratmann. There is also a fascinating book published by Pat Munn dedicated to the mystery surrounding the murder of Charlotte Dymond. While some of the conclusions that Munn comes to are perhaps less than logical, it is an excellent read nonetheless.

Charlotte Dymond, an attractive 18 year old domestic servant was found murdered near Roughtor Ford on 14th April 1844. Her colleague and boyfriend, crippled farm-hand Matthew Weeks, was hanged for her murder. Her body had lain undiscovered on Bodmin moor for several days before it was found by a search party. The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond written by Charles Causley explains the story of the whole affair far more eloquently and concisely than I am capable of, so will let the ballad take it from here:


It was a Sunday evening
And in the April rain
That Charlotte went from our house
And never came home again.


Take me home! cried Charlotte,
‘I lie here in the pit!
A red rock rests upon my breasts
And my naked neck is split!’


Her shawl of diamond redcloth,
She wore a yellow gown,
She carried the green gauze handkerchief
She bought in Bodmin town.


Her skin was soft as sable,
Her eyes were wide as day,
Her hair was blacker than the bog
That licked her life away;


About her throat her necklace
And in her purse her pay:
The four silver shillings
She had at Lady Day.


Her cheeks were made out of honey,
Her throat was made of flame
Where all around the razor
Had written its red name.


In her purse four shillings
And in her purse her pride
As she walked out one evening
Her lover at her side.


As Matthew turned at Plymouth
About the tilting Hoe,
The cold and cunning constable
Up to him did go:


Out beyond the marshes
Where the cattle stand,
With her crippled lover
Limping at her hand.


‘I’ve come to take you, Matthew,
Unto the magistrate’s door.
Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy,
And you must know what for.’


Charlotte walked with Matthew
Through the Sunday mist,
Never saw the razor
Waiting at his wrist.


‘She is as pure,’ cried Matthew,
‘As is the early dew,
Her only stain it is the pain
That round her neck I drew!


Charlotte she was gentle
But they found her in the flood
Her Sunday beads among the reeds
Beaming with her blood.


‘She is as guiltless as the day
She sprang forth from her mother.
The only sin upon her skin
Is that she loved another.’


Matthew, where is Charlotte,
And wherefore has she flown?
For you walked out together
And now are come alone.


They took him off to Bodmin,
They pulled the prison bell,
They sent him smartly up to heaven
And dropped him down to hell.


Why do you not answer,
Stand silent as a tree,
Your Sunday worsted stockings
All muddied to the knee?


All through the granite kingdom
And on its travelling airs
Ask which of these two lovers
The most deserves your prayers.


Why do you mend your breast-pleat
With a rusty needle’s thread
And fall with fears and silent tears
Upon your single bed?


And your steel heart search, Stranger,
That you may pause and pray
For lovers who come not to bed
Upon their wedding day,


Why do you sit so sadly
Your face the colour of clay
And with a green gauze handkerchief
Wipe the sour sweat away?


But lie upon the moorland
Where stands the sacred snow
Above the breathing river,
And the salt sea-winds go.


Has she gone to Blisland
To seek an easier place,
And is that why your eye won’t dry
And blinds your bleaching face?



To view my FAQ concerning Charlotte Dymond, click HERE.


  1. Is Charlotte similar in anyway to the folklore surrounding the Maid of Sker?

  2. Very interesting story behind the Maid of Sker, Minxy. I'd not heard anything about it before. I guess at a stretch you could say there a couple of similarities between that and Charlotte Dymond.

    As well as the murder of Charlotte at Roughtor, there are meant to be several ghosts connected with Jamaica Inn. One of the rooms (which the paying public can bravely choose to stay in overnight as a B&B) is reckoned to be particuarly haunted, as well as mutterings and strange sounds heard in the passageways. In 1911 there was also a murder outside the inn of a man who was called away from his drink by an unknown stranger. Some claim to have since seen a man dressed in old-fashioned garb sitting on the wall by the inn who matches the dead man's description. I've been to Jamaica Inn myself several times - and read the book by Daphne du Maurier for the matter of that - but have never glimpsed or heard anything strange.

    You can read more about the ghosts of Jamaica Inn here.

    1. As I understand it Jamacia Inn was a coaching house where travellers stopped overnight, their horses to refresh. A house of ill repute no less. Daphe du Maurier story was purely fiction and the present inn bears no resemblance to the original small building standing high upon the moors. Even I can remember it before it was developed, so that isn't too long ago.

  3. Ghosts?? Haunted?! :O

    I can't believe there's nothing on the Wikipedia about Charlotte Dymond :(

    Nice poem. Such a tragic story though!

  4. OOO I'd love to stay at Jamaica Inn, if for no other reason than the Du Maurier novel, though I must say that I am a little bit wont to think that the ghosts in making all the racket in the hallways in the dead of night are are bieng made by paid members of staff! ( Aren't I the bloody cynic?!?!)


    This is a really good set of Stories..

    Happy Reading

  6. This is very interesting. I had actually read this at collage and found it extremely interesting as it is based on emotions and love. It also amazes me how this is a real story. It is certainly a tear jerker.
    Maybe it could be a film, that might make people excited and if it did id be first in line for a ticket.

  7. i just read this in english at school and its really interesting but also sad and heart reanding at the same time. :0

  8. Anon: I, too stumbled across it during an English lesson at school. It's most definitely tragic but an absolutely fantastic example of a ballad and Causley tells the story beautifully.

    It's great to know that it's still being studied by students in English lessons. :-)

  9. I'm studying this poem at school at the moment, it made me want to look up her name. It was such a terrible tradegy. I pray for them both, especially for Charlotte, for she did not know what was coming her way.

  10. I also studied the poem at school (14 years ago now) and it's taken me this long to really find much information on the case, despite my multitude of true crime/ghost books!

  11. I'm studying this poem at secondary school now, year 7, but i think it was John who murdered her as he became a servant the day she left and he overheard what had been said by Matthew and the other person had said and he tried to prevent it because he might have been jealous.
    i find this poem very intriging becuase i like murder crime mystery poems

  12. I am studying this poem at school. The use of emotive language is very engaging and effective. It is a sad but true story. It is hard to understand the concept but the reason is truly powerful.

  13. I am study this poem at school too. I find it very interesting and emotional. Another class went to the place where this happened and saw Mathew was hung and took some photos for us to see.

  14. Just like, apparently, everyone else, I originally found out about this during school -- in English, of course. My teacher neglected to mention, however, that the poem was based on true events. When I found out that it was, I became really interested and I actually used information from this site and many others to make a little stockpile of Charlotte Dymond Stuff. The other sites, though, are for the most part complete crap -- so many thanks to Law Actually, even though I strongly believe there should be a comma in the title.

    Wow ... I just rambled on for ages there for no real reason. Oh well. Everyone has to have a hobby, right?

    Thanks again, Law Actually! :^)

  15. Queen of Aardvarks - sorry for the delay in posting your comment; it was wedged in blogger's spam filter.

    Glad you found my Charlotte Dymond posts useful and thanks for visiting.

    Oh, and regarding the name, 'Law Actually' my original inspiration for the title came slightly from the rather corny film, 'Love Actually'. And there's not a comma in that, is there? :-)

    1. you obvs know what your talking about so i was wondering if you could help me, for homework i have to put this poem into a story board -if you were me how many sections would you do it in?!?!?

  16. Hi, I have just stumbled across your site and found it fascinating. I have just come back from holiday in Cornwall and did the courtroom experience in Bodmin about Charlotte Dymond, and I am now hooked! On the way home, I took a detour and visited Roughtor ford which was very atmospheric, and I could have stayed there all day going over the story in my head. I have ordered the copy of Pat Mann's book, although I agree with Linda Stratmann's idea that it was definitely NOT suicide. Have a few theories of my own and would love to find out more. Any ideas where I can get more detail?

  17. We're doing this poem at school and we have to research it but I can't find a website with information about it?

  18. Anonymous - I think you just found it! ;-)

  19. I'm doing this at school and have to find out four facts and three opinions but can't seem to find any. P.S has to be in tomorrow what should i do??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Panic???

    Just kidding. ;-)

    Facts - easy:
    1 - Charlotte was murdered in cold blood.
    2 - Matthew was hanged for her murder.
    3 - Although Matthew confessed, his confession while in custody was suspicious to say the least.
    4 - We'll never REALLY know what happened out on Bodmin Moor that day.

    1. Perhaps it wasn't murder; maybe Charlotte committed suicide. Pat Munn opined that Charlotte took her own life because she thought she was pregnant. She wasn't pregnant, but she wasn't a virgin either.

    2. Matthew didn't do it. After all, nobody witnessed the murder. Did Charlotte die at somebody else's hand?

    3. Matthew was a victim as well as Charlotte. Life had dealt Matthew a tough hand. He wasn't much to look at, had airs above his station, but probably feared Charlotte was 'way out of his league'. Jealously over the thought that Thomas Prout (arguably Charlotte's true love) was stealing his girl probably tipped him over the edge.

    There... I've just done your homework for you. You must try harder next time! :p

  21. Hi :D we have to do an essay on The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond and the theme has to be - Sum up the contents of the poem and then explain how the poet has used different techniques to add to your enjoyment of the poem?!?! Not really sure what to do???

  22. omg thankyou for this!

  23. homework for tomorrow & im seriously stuck!!! :')
    we have to summarise charlotte dymond. e.g. what imagery is used ... e.t.c. please help x

  24. James - grinning won't make me do you homework for you. (Sorry). You'll thank me for it, one day. :-)

    Anon - you're welcome... but try and think up something original as well. You won't be the only one in your class who can use google and I'm sure your teacher is getting sick of print-outs from Law Actually! :p

    Anon - Maybe some hard thinking will suddenly make you 'unstuck'? Read the poem and think 'imagery' - the answers are all there waiting to leap out at you. Think about the colours of the various things referred to and how they are used for effect. Think about WHY Causley chose those objects. Think about weather conditions and the description of the moor - there are several references to them. Why would Causley mention those? (I'm sure there'll be a gold star in the offing from your teacher if you can name that literary effect). Think about where the ballad is set (the county). Why do you think Causley referred to it in that way instead of just using the name.

    ... this is tough-love, people, but homework is meant to challenge you for a reason. :-)

  25. for my english homework on this i have to write it from matthews point of view in three stanzas any help? dont quite know where to start???

  26. i have to do a confession by matthew weeks when hes in prison and it has to be 2 pages long and neatly handwritten which for me is bad because i have very unneat handwriting.

  27. Here's a thought or two
    Why did it take so long to find her body?

    Why was Charlotte buried in an unmarked grave when the community found enough money to very quickly raise a monument to her at the site of the discovery of her body?

    What's underneath the monument?

  28. When was the poem written?

  29. We're studying this in English and we had a thought, who of the lovers does actually deserve your prayers? Charlotte was brutally murdered and it was a bit extreme, but equally maybe Matthew truly loved her and couldn't stand her with another man. Opinions?