Belstone is one of those small moorland villages where you can spend hours walking around and discovering little curiosities hidden in every nook and cranny. One of the more obvious features are the stocks which are sat by the village green where they testify to punishments of years gone by. To look at the hewn granite posts and the roughly carved wooden stocks it does not take long to conjure up images of shamefaced transgressors sitting defiantly on the hard granite block as they are pelted with rotten vegetables and eggs.
It is suggested that they were last used around the mid 1800’s and then for such simple crimes as infringing common rights or offences against the church. They are in fact a grade II listed monument and for ages consisted only of the two granite pillars as can be seen from the picture of 1911 below:
. In 1953, as part of the Queen’s Coronation celebrations they were restored by fitting two wooden boards. The granite seat (which is in reality an old upturned pig trough) was also added for effect at this time. By 1975 the wood had rotted and the present boards were put in place along with a security padlock. In 2000 the Dartmoor National Park moved one of the granite pillars inwards in order that the wooden boards would sit more securely. During this operation it was discovered that the pillar was sunk to a depth of 5 foot (1.4m) which it was estimated was far deeper than it need be to keep it stable, it is just possible that due to their height the pillars supported a pillory. This meant that people stood up as opposed to sit down to receive their punishment. The present-day stocks are shown in the photograph below:
The actual date that the stocks were last used was on New Year’s eve 1999 when a blow-up doll was sat in them for the millennium celebrations.
Crossing, W. 1990 Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor, Peninsula Press, Newton Abbot.
James, D. 1911 Belstone Devon, Warren & Son, London.
Walpole, C. & M. 2002 The Book of Belstone, GTi Print, Okehampton.