Leaning against the church wall, to
the right of the main entrance porch to the church.
Grid Ref: 619 935 Map location: Click here to view map.
Purpose: Not known.
Size: The stone is 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 metres) tall and 1 foot 8½ inches (0.52 metres) across, at its widest point. The incised cross is 10 inches (0.25 metres) high and 8 inches (0.20 metres) wide, within an incised circle 15 inches (0.23 metres) in diameter.
Information: William Crossing writes that this stone was found at the church in 1861, when some steps leading to the vestry were taken down. It was then taken to the grounds of the Old Rectory, about ½ mile to the North West of the village, and built into a wall of the drive leading to the house. The Old Rectory house has now disappeared, although the farm, of the same name, still exists right next to the grounds of its former neighbour. It is reported that the stone was returned to the churchyard in 1920, probably at the time the Old Rectory was abandoned.
In a village such as Belstone, one would have expected to see a village cross. Whether or not one has ever existed is open to speculation, but no trace of such a cross can be found at the present time. Certainly this inscribed stone was never a cross in the accepted sense, but it is obviously quite ancient and may well have originally served as the lid to a stone coffin or sarcophagus.
It is badly damaged in that a large piece on the lower right hand side of the stone has broken away and is missing. The incised cross, which is of the Celtic design, is situated towards the top of the stone and is enclosed in an incised circle. There are also traces of larger incised cross below this with a vertical shaft and curved arms, which form the shape of an arc.
The church, which is dedicated to St Mary, is in the centre of the village nestling behind the village inn, appropriately named: ‘The Tors Inn". Reports dating back to the mid 19th century show that the church was in a very bad state of repair at that time. These show that there were panes of glass missing from the windows and the roof was leaking, with the consequence that the inside of the church was very damp and dirty. All the woodwork was beginning to rot, the bible and hymn books were falling apart and the bells were unsafe. There were even reports of poultry straying into the entrance porch. Something had to be done and, in 1881, a complete restoration was undertaken at the substantial cost of £800. Almost the whole of the interior had to be gutted and replaced with new. This was quite a drain on the resources of a small rural parish and the result is that we now see a plain but pleasant interior to the church.
Belstone is an interesting village, where the borders of the moor seem to encroach right into the centre of the village itself. There are several other interesting features within the village, the most notable of which are briefly described below:
Opposite the village green and set back amongst the houses is the Methodist Chapel. There is a small modern cross set up on the apex of the porch roof. The bottom of the shaft is square, as is the socket into which it has been fixed. The rest of the cross has been neatly chamfered all around.
On the village green itself is a large square memorial stone with a rusty metal pole, which served as a lamp-post, affixed to the top. The stone was erected to commemorate the Coronation of King George V and the following inscription is engraved on its eastern face: "GRV 22 V1 1911". More recently, the opposite face has been inscribed: "E II R 1952-1977", in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.
Also near the village green is small pound, enclosed within a stone wall, with a wooden gate at the front. A little plaque on the gate gives a brief history of the pound, as follows: "Belstone Pound: This was originally used to pound stray animals until claimed by the owners. It is now a garden to be enjoyed by all". Inside the pound there are a couple of benches around the wall, but I’m afraid that on this occasion the garden was not looking at its best; maybe mid-winter is not the right time to make such a visit.
Quite near the pound are the village stocks, which have just a single pair of holes to hold one person. Obviously a very law abiding village! There is a square stone situated right behind the stocks which would have served as a hard and uncomfortable, but nevertheless, welcome seat for the duration of one’s confinement.
The village Post Office is situated in a building, which was once a Zion Chapel. The outside of the building has little changed since its conversion and still has the appearance of a chapel. Built into the centre of the front wall, above the door, is a large rectangular inscribed slab, with a rounded top coming to a point. This shows the original purpose of the building, as the inscription reads: "ZION HALL 1841". Below this is a relatively modern metal plate, painted white with navy blue lettering, showing its more recent history as a: "TELEGRAPH OFFICE".