Budleigh Bridge or as the Ordnance Survey would have it: One Mill Bridge, lies just to the south-east of Moretonhampstead. As Dartmoor’s bridges go the actual structure is nothing to write home about and most people probably don’t pay it much attention. However, back in 1959 it was reported my Masson Phillips that embedded into the south-western parapet wall was the head of a cross. This fact was made known to him by a Devon County Roads Engineer. At the time it proved something of a conundrum as although it looked freshly cut there was a date of 1711 incised just below the top shaft extension.
In 1982 the bridge was in need of repair and the cross was removed thus giving Harry Starkey an opportunity of properly examining it. He found that the cross was roughly cut and showed no sign of weather which one would expect if at one time it had stood open to the Dartmoor weather. He also realised that the date of 1711 given by Masson Phillips was incorrect as it actually read 1911. Starkey also discovered some half round drill grooves on the upper limb which suggested that this was how the cross was cut from its natural host rock. This method of cutting granite was first introduced on Dartmoor in the early 1800s therefore dating the cutting of the cross to possibly to around 1911. As there is no mention of the cross in William Crossing’s book; ‘The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor’ this would also tie in with this theory. There are very few of Dartmoor’s crosses that don’t get a mention in his work which was published prior to 1911. Starkey mutes the idea that the cross may be a discarded piece from a monumental masons yard though how it became to be built into the bridge is another story?, Starkey, pp. 90 – 91.
During the repairs the cross was moved to the eastern side of the bridge from its previous home on the western side. The dimensions of the cross are 49cm high with a arms span of 51cm, Sandles. p.20., which indeed would put it in the size range of a graveside memorial cross.
If you look at English Heritage’s Pastcape record for Budleigh Bridge cross you will see that in 1982 their field investigator reported that the cross had been moved for restoration and relocated to a site then to be decided.
Budleigh Bridge Cross 1940 photograph by kind courtesy of The Dartmoor Trust Archive and © Chapman Collection
As can be seen above the cross has been subject to some alterations since the photograph taken in 1940. At this time there certainly was an effort to make it more visible by setting it apart from the rest of the structure. Then in the 1982 bridge repairs it was embedded in the parapet wall making it less obvious than previously. Today the cross is
Sandles, T. 1997. A Pilgrimage to Dartmoor’s Crosses. Liverton: Forest Publishing
Starkey, F. H. 1989. Dartmoor Crosses and Some Ancient Tracks. H, Starkey.