Stentiford or Stittleford’s Cross is another often unseen feature of Dartmoor which stands in the corner of an old newtake wall near Hemsworthy Gate. Although it is now lumped together with the other stone crosses of Dartmoor technically speaking the ‘cross’ is an inscribed stone. I am as guilty as other cross writers for this confusion as it’s included in my book of Dartmoor crosses. What we actually have with Stentiford, alias Stittleford’s cross is a slab of granite which stands just over a metre tall and is under half a metre wide. On the surface of the slab is an incised cross measuring 14.5cm by 15cm and the letters ‘R’ and ‘M’, Sandles (1997, p.100). As a religious artefact very little is known about the origin of the cross but its service as a boundary marker is better documented. The stone serves as a marker on the limits of the Islington and Bagtor manors as well as that of nearby Dunstone. It has been suggested the the inscribed ‘R M’ denotes Rawlin Mallock who was an 18th century lord of the manor of Dunstone. Crossing (1987, p.163) considers that the name Stentiford or Stittleford is a corruption of the nearby farm of Chittleford. An alternative suggestion comes from Brewer (2002, p.112) who suggests that is may have been corrupted from the ‘Stoddy Ford’ which was noted in a boundary document of 1583 and ‘Stoadaford’ in a similar document of 1683. The actual wall in which Stentiford Cross is embedded was restored/rebuilt in 2002 and this opportunity was taken to correct the previous tilt of the stone. The picture below shows the ‘before’ and ‘after’ effects of the restoration work which considering there was no danger of collapse from the original position does question the necessity for the re-positioning.
It would have been interesting to have established whether the stone was in-situ and the Ripon Tor newtake wall built around it or if the slab was moved from elsewhere and embedded in the wall, sadly we shall now never know.
The other debate regarding the stone was first raised by Crossing (p.162) when he suggested that perhaps the stone slab was set up on the site where a genuine ancient stone cross once stood and has since long disappeared. Brewer (p.113) considers this very unlikely and says that the name ‘cross‘ refers to the boundstone as opposed to a former cross site.
Not far away on Rippon Tor is a half finished stone cross which was fashioned from a slab of granite and then for some reason abandoned. The date of this work is unknown but could it be that it was intended to be erected where Stentiford Cross now stands? Maybe it was to be the original cross or a replacement for the original cross and the builders settled for an incised slab?
Brewer, D. 2002 Dartmoor Boundary Markers, Halsgrove Publishing, Tiverton.
Crossing, W. 1987 The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, Devon Books, Exeter
Sandles, T. 1997 A Pilgrimage to Dartmoor’s Crosses, Forest Publishing, Liverton.