“About half a mile beyond Piall Bridge, we shall cross Quick’s bridge, and commence the ascent of the hill towards Tolch Moor Gate, the road being on the verge of a common. About midway we shall notice on our right hand a white gate, opening upon a private lane that leads to Cholwich Town, an ancient farmhouse and the former seat of the Cholwich family. A short distance within this is an old granite cross which was first noticed several years ago by the Rev. W. C. Lukis in company with Mr. J. D. Poole, and was serving as it does at present as a gate post.” Crossing, p.36.
Various books give different names for this cross – Cholwich Town Cross, Ridding Down Cross and Tinpark Cross. Here there is cause for confusion because at one time there was another cross at Cholwich Town which served as a gatepost. In 1969 The Dartmoor National Park Authority salvaged it and erected it on a bank near to the entrance, however sometime in 1978 is disappeared. There are also a couple of photographs of some more old cross shafts at Cholwich Town Farm on the Dartmoor Archive website – HERE.
So Ridding Down or Tinpark cross, as Crossing notes the cross is situated on the right-hand side of the road between Quick Bridge and Tolchmoor Gate. As little aside here, I read the other day that this hill is locally known as ‘Dragon Hill’ because at one time a steam engine used to regularly ‘puff’- up and down it just like a fiery dragon. Back to the cross, having been discovered by Lukis and Poole it was not until 1969 that the cross was rescued (either by the Dartmoor National Park Authority or the Dartmoor Preservation) from its former state and erected free-standing where it is today. Various authors suggest that the original location for the cross would have been back down the hill at Quick Bridge where it would have marked a ford crossing an old trackway, possibly as a preaching cross? As far as dating the cross it has been suggested by its crude form to be of medieval origin, a theory arrived at based on Cholwich Town dating back to the 12th century.
As the ancient crosses of Dartmoor go Ridding Down cross is not one of the most spectacular and certainly does not sit in the most picturesque of locations. According to my measurements it stands at a height of 1.67 metres, has a circumference of 1.11 metres and a very diminutive span of 36 centimetres due to some damage. As it was previously in service as a gatepost there is a lead filled hole and iron gate hanging on it’s south western side. As yet, there is no sign of a cross base belonging to it but that’s not to mean there is not one lurking around the area. The cross was designated as a Scheduled Monument in 1974 along with a Grade II listing, it also appeared in the 2010 Heritage at Risk Register. The reason for this listing was fear of the ever encroaching China Clay works nearby.
Just beside the cross is a small shaft-like fragment which in my book I described as being; “part of the shaft of another cross, which was possibly the one that stood at this location.” – Sandles, p.82. OK, hands up, got it wrong, various experts from English Heritage suggest this is in fact; “a fragment of neatly dressed octagonal window mullion.” Having now seen old photos of the various shafts and the ‘lost’ cross it is clear that no way was this part of a shaft but why it’s there I have no idea?
Crossing, W. 1987. The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor. Exeter: Devon Books.
Sandles, T. 1997. A Pilgrimage to Dartmoor’s Crosses. Liverton: Forest Publishing.