Is there a mysterious 'drowned village' in this British reservoir?

Legend has it that the village was abandoned when the construction of the dam was complete


Burrator Reservoir Dartmoor England

On dark and stormy nights, locals will tell the tale of an entire village lurking in the murky depths of Burrator Reservoir in Dartmoor National Park near Plymouth, Devon.

"On a quiet night you can still hear the church bells chime," they'll say with the flicker of an eyelid and much ominous pointing of fingers.

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The story goes that when construction of the dam was complete, a village at the heart of what would become the reservoir was abandoned and the water rushed in - concealing it forever in the depths of the lake.


Sadly, the reality of this urban legend is less 'submerged' and more 'slightly soggy', the Plymouth Herald reports.

Is there a sunken village under this reservoir?

The Burrator Reservoir in Devon in 1898 after construction began five years earlier in 1893

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There were indeed several settlements on the site, as well as several access roads and a section of the historic Drake's Leat which are all now sat under around 1000 million gallons of water.

But nothing on the Atlantean scale that some Plymothians will have you believe.

In the late 19th century Drake's Leat, a watercourse constructed in the 16th century to bring water from Dartmoor to the ever-growing population of Plymouth, became inadequate and a more reliable supply of fresh water had to be found.

Plymouth's water engineer, Edward Sandeman, made a recommendation for a reservoir to be built with a direct pipeline into the city.

Construction of a dam began in 1893 and tenants of 22 dwellings were given a year's notice to leave.

This is one possible explanation for the sunken village myth.

The dam, built across the river Meavy, was constructed of concrete faced with dressed granite.

A smaller one, an earth embankment, was built on a ridge at Sheepstor.

The project cost a whopping £178,000 and was officially opened in 1898.

Credits: Getty Images

There were indeed several settlements on the site, as well as several access roads and a section of the historic Drake's Leat which are all now sat under around 1000 million gallons of water

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A second theory as to the creation of the myth comes when the reservoir was expanded.

Work began in 1923 to enlarge the capacity of the reservoir.

A temporary village was created for the workmen as the project progressed and this could be another, although granted less likely, theory.

Birmingham University's Professor Bob Stone and the Department of Electronic, Electrical & Systems Engineering's Human Interface Technologies completed an underwater survey of Burrator Reservoir last year.

It contributed towards a more extensive virtual reality model of the area and answered the question of what exactly is under the surface for the first time.

The team worked with Swathe Services, a specialist in subsea and underwater survey vehicles, to undertake the scan using a robot catamaran equipped with a high-definition multibeam sonar system.

The resulting scans highlighted a range of natural and historical features, including roads and a farmstead that were hidden when the valley was flooded in the 1890s.

Sadly though, they found no evidence of a church.

Whatever the reality, it still makes for an excellent Halloween tale.

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