Big Whit Hill Cross

Browse crosses

LocationLying amongst the Flock o' Sheep rocks, ⅓  of a mile to the north-north-west of Little Hound Tor.

O/S Grid Ref:  SX/62968/90377       Longitude/Latitude (Degrees+/-):  -3.94163/50.69684 

Map location:  Click here to view map.

Purpose: The intended purpose of this cross is unknown.

Size: The cross measures 9 feet 2 inches (2.80 metres) long and 2 feet 7 inches (0.79 metres) across the arms.  The shaft is 2 feet 1 inch (0.64 metres) wide and 9 inches (0.23 metres) deep.

 Information: The Big Whit Hill Cross is a large recumbent cross lying abandoned amongst the isolated group of rocks known as the Flock o' Sheep Rocks on the flank of Big Whit Hill, mile west of the track that runs from the summit of Cosdon to Little Hound Tor.  Although this cross has lain in this position for hundreds of years, it would appear to have only fairly recently been discovered for what it is.  

The obvious question that comes to mind is, why does the cross appear in such an isolated a spot, which is quite some distance from any recognised historic track?  I can see no reason why anyone would want to erect a granite cross in this position and can only conclude that the mason went looking for a suitable piece of stone with which to be able to fashion a cross and came across this stone which looked to suit his purpose.  He obviously started to shape the stone when it split in half, probably due to an unforeseen weak spot, and the cross was abandoned with the mason left with no option but to look for another suitable stone.  It probably made sense to fashion the stone in-situ, rather than carrying or dragging it to its intended site, for the simple reason it would all be wasted effort if, as happened in this case, the stone turned out to be unsuitable.

'Flock o' Sheep' would appear to be rather an unusual name for a group of Dartmoor rocks.  The only explanation I can find for this name was that someone was out walking in the olden days when he espied what he thought was a flock of sheep gathered together on the slopes of Big Whit Hill.  As he neared this 'flock of sheep' he suddenly realised that they weren't actually sheep but a group of scattered rocks.  The name Flock o' Sheep Rocks has stayed with these rocks ever since.  Another reference to sheep in connection with Dartmoor names is the Grey Wethers Stone Circle.  A 'wether' is the name given to a castrated ram and I suppose the two Grey Wethers Stone Circles could, again, look like sheep from a distance.

Our thanks to Bob Noakes for bringing this cross to our attention.