ORDULF THE GIANT
THIS Tavistock Sampson is far removed from our fine old legendary giant; yet we perceive in the stories of Ordulph precisely the same process as that which has given immortality to Blunderbuss and others. In the church of the monastery of Tavistock, built by Orgar in 960, and consecrated by St Rumon, was buried Orgar, and also his son Edulf or Ordulph, to whom, by some writers, the foundation of the abbey is attributed Ordulph was a man of giant size, and possessing most remarkable strength. He once appeared before the gates of the city of Exeter in company with King Edward, and demanded admission. His demand was not immediately complied with. He tore away the bars of the portcullis with his hands--burst open the gates with his foot--rent the locks and bolts asunder--and broke down a considerable portion of the wall--walking into the city over the ruins, and occasioning great alarm amidst the inhabitants.
The king is said to have attributed this extraordinary feat of strength to the chieftain's having entered into a compact with the devil; and the people generally believed the king to be correct.
At Tavistock, it was the custom of Ordulph to stand with one foot on either side of the Tavy, which is about twenty feet wide, and having the wild beasts driven in from the Dartmoor forests, he would--with the seemingly insignificant blows of a small knife--strike their heads off into the stream. [a]
[a] William of Malmesbury tells us that both father and son were buried at Tavistock, which is thus described - Est in Domnonia caenobium monachorum, juxta Tau fiuvium, quod Tavistock vocator; quod per Ordgarum, comitem Domnoniensem, patrem Elffilda, gui fuit uxor regis Edgari, surgendi exordium, per Livinguns episcopum, cresendi accepit auspicium locus, amaenus opportunitate nemorum, captura copiosa piscum, Ecclesiae congruente fabriea, fluvialibus rivis per officinas monachorum decurrentibus, qui suo impetu effusi, quidquid invenerint superfium, portant in exitum." Quoted by Pedler in his "Episcopate of Cornwall."
Mrs Bray, in her "Traditions, Legends, Superstitions, and Sketches of Devonshire," says,--"But notwithstanding the superiority of his strength and stature, Ordulph died in the flower of his age. He gave orders to be buried at his abbey at Herton, in Dorsetshire; but was interred in or near the Abbey Church of Tavistock, where a mausoleum or tomb of vast dimensions was erected to his memory, which is represented to have been visited as a wonder. 'The thigh-bone of Ordulph is still preserved in Tavistock Church."