Browse crosses

Location Enter the churchyard by the lych-gate gate, walk up to the main door of the church and turn right. The cross is at the end of the path beside a stile. 

O/S Grid Ref: SX/56008/67640       Longitude/Latitude (Degrees+/-):  -4.03130/50.49082 

Map location: Click here to view map.

Purpose:  Churchyard Cross

Size:  5 feet 9 inches (1.75 metres) tall. 2 feet 1 inch (0.65 metres) across the arms.

Information:  This cross stands beside the stile at the Southern entrance to the Churchyard. The full height of the cross is not immediately visible as it is partly hidden by the bank and the stile. Leading up from the Playfield below, are fourteen steps next to a stone building. There are two steps up from the inside. At the top of the steps is a granite stile fixed between the building and the shaft of the cross. On top of the stile is a small gate, which is hinged on the wall of the building. The apse for the gate is fixed in place by a metal strap around the shaft of the cross.

At one time the shaft, minus its arms, stood in this place as a support for those who were climbing the steps into the churchyard. In restoration, two new arms were made and fixed in place on the shaft. The shaft has been repaired half way up and a piece has been chiseled out of it to incorporate the top step. This is another octagonal cross, as all the edges have been chamfered.

In front of the cross and lying against the bank is a stone slab, propped up on its edge. It measures 1 foot 9 inches high by 2 feet 6 inches wide. In the centre of the slab is a hole, which goes right through the slab, of 5 inches in diameter. I’m afraid I don’t know the original purpose of this stone, although there is speculation that this could be a 'bulls-eye stone' or 'bull-stone'. There is a tradition along Dartmoor leats of similar granite stones with holes in them being used to allow a measured flow of water to divert from a leat to a nearby farmhouse or dwelling.

Another curious stone lies on the short grass edge very close to the church's south door and porch. It is a round stone with a  grooved cross incise upon its uppermost side. Some  authorities report that it is a stone from an old cheese press. Today it often goes unnoticed by visitors and churchgoers alike.

Built into the churchyard wall, on the roadside, is the ancient and holy well of St Leonard. The field below the churchyard is known as ‘The Playfield’ and this has always belonged to the village *. There is an iron ring in the field which was used to tether the bull, in the days when bull-baiting took place in the village. This was found in 1908 by George Shillibeer, whilst following up the story of his father, Amos, who claimed to have come across it when ploughing the field, some 40 years earlier. The plough share had got caught up in the ring, some 18 inches below the ground and caused him to pull up short. It has now been raised to ground level.

sheepstor_bullring.jpg (148180 bytes)The Rev. Hugh Breton wrote of this gory sport:
‘The bull was tied to the ring and then baited with dogs. The dogs, which were killed in the fray, were usually buried under the stone which supported the ring. At these barbarous festivities the women wore peculiar aprons, in which they caught the bull-dog when it was tossed. The villagers irreverently held their feastings and festivities amongst the tombstones in the churchyard. While a fight was going on, the spectators sat along the churchyard wall and watched the fun, repairing at frequent intervals to the ale-house adjoining the field for refreshment.’

Also inside the churchyard is the Sheepstor War Memorial Cross, whilst outside the lych-gate entrance stands the Sheepstor Village Cross.

* Please note that today the Playfield is in private hands and permission should be sought from the owners who live nearby before entering the field.