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Hameldown Cross

Hameldown Cross

High on a hill stands a lonely cross...’, and as far as Dartmoor crosses go there is none that is located higher than Hameldon Cross who sits at a lofty 1,732 feet (524m). Many experts agree that the old cross is no longer standing at its original location as it was moved sometime in the 19th century to serve as a boundstone. The age of the cross is unknown but English Heritage suggest a medieval date for the cross and a post medieval date for it becoming a bound stone. Today the ancient cross clearly shows the ravages of time and weather having had one arm amputated. Many of Dartmoor’s topographical writers are less than complimentary about Hameldon Cross which in some respects seems a bit unfair. The unfortunate cross has been described as ‘crude’, ‘rough’, ‘mutilated’, ‘primitive’ and several similar terms. It has at least been given the dignity as being recognised as a Latin style cross and granted it does not demonstrate the skill of an expert stone cutter but what it lacks in form it certainly makes up for in location.

Hameldown Cross

So what about the cross? As always I like to use the earliest possible reference for such features as they provide a more authentic and less time worn description than can be seen today. In this light, William Crossing noted:

We shall find it to be a very rudely-fashioned one, formed out of a slab four feet four inches in height, the width of it immediately below the arms being one foot eight inches. One of the arms – the southerly one – is broken off and lies on the ground nearby. The depth of the remaining one close to the shaft is thirteen inches, but it is not nearly so much as this at its extremity. The head has also been broken, but it does not appear that it ever rose very much above the arms. From the end of the arm which is now remaining, to the opposite side of the shaft the distance is two feet two inches. The thickness of the cross at the bottom is eight inches, but it is not much more than six inches higher up. It is leaning considerably towards the west.’, (1987, pp.168 -169).

Hameldown Cross

Hameldon Cross

Hameldown Cross

 

Hameldown Cross

Hameldon Cross

Hameldown Cross

Hameldon Cross

OS Grid Ref – SX 70423 80098

 

Hameldown Cross

Pastscape Record – HERE

 

Hameldown Cross

Hameldon Cross

As mentioned above, the old cross has been moved from its former location and utilised as a bound stone which marks the limits of Natsworthy Manor. Accordingly the letters H and C (Hameldon Cross), D and S (Duke of Somerset) and the date 1854 have been carved into the east facing side of the cross. The Natsworthy Manor was purchased in 1829 by the 11th Duke of Somerset, Edward Adolphus Seymour, (Brewer, 2002, p.83). William Crossing mentions how he actually met a man at Widecombe who was concerned with cutting the letters and numbers on the cross.

The ironic thing about Hameldon Cross is its nearby prehistoric neighbours, Page, (1895, p.211) notes, ‘How long this weather-beaten symbol of Christianity has stood among the neighbouring barrows – the burial-place, maybe, of heathen Vikings – is unknown‘. Ok, he had his time-line completely wrong as grave goods found in the barrows push their age back to around 5,000 years ago, nevertheless he may well have a point. Was the cross deliberately placed here to Christianize an otherwise pagan ritual centre? The rest of the boundstones which mark out the manor bounds are all simply granite pillars so why a cross?

Reference.

Brewer, D. 2002. Dartmoor Boundary Markers, Tiverton: Halsgrove Publishing.

Crossing, W. 1987, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, Exeter: Devon Books.

Page, J. Ll. W. 1895. An Exploration of Dartmoor, London: Seeley and Co.

Bibliography.

Sandles, T. 1997. A Pilgrimage to Dartmoor’s Stone Crosses, Liverton: Forest Publishing.

Harrison, B. 2001. Dartmoor Stone Crosses, Tiverton: Devon Books.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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