Browse crosses

Please Note: Although the cross is visible from the public road, it stands on private land and the privacy of the owners should be respected. 
LocationSet back into the corner of the front garden at Southcott Cross Cottage, about 2Ĺ miles to the west of Okehampton.

O/S Grid Ref:  SX/54999/94840       Longitude/Latitude (Degrees+/-):  -4.05615/50.73502

Map location:  Click here to view map.

Purpose:  Waymarker Cross

Size:  6 feet 3 inches (1.91 metres) tall. 2 feet 5 inches (0.74 metres) across the arms. The shaft is both 14 inches (0.36 metres) wide and deep. The incised figure on the roadside face measures 20Ĺ inches (0.52 metres) tall by 16 inches (0.41 metres) across the arms.

Information:  This cross is very rare, if not unique, in Devon in having a human figure incised on both of its faces.  Although the one on its front face southcott_head.jpg (127262 bytes) was partly obscured by lichen, it has now been cleaned off and the form of a crucified person can quite clearly be seen. Some time ago, English Heritage issued an information sheet on this cross, which reported the presence of another incised figure at the back of the cross. It was suggested that this was in the form of the figure of a monk in prayer or the Virgin Mary with hands clasped. With the kind permission of the resident of the cottage during my first visit, I had the opportunity of delving behind his bushes in the garden to look at the back of the cross. Although I was able to confirm that this face is incised, Iím afraid that it wasnít clear enough for me to be able to add anything to the English heritage report.  However, now that the cross has been re-sited and the bushes removed, the incised figure on the reverse face shows a lot clearer, as can be seen from the thumbnail photo below. 

southcott_reverse.jpg (142750 bytes)This substantial octagonal cross is in very good condition with no obvious sign of repair. It has an unusually tall head, which measures 17Ĺ inches (0.45 metres) from the top of the arms to the top of the cross. The cross shaft tapers slightly upwards. There is a hole in the end of the right hand arm, which measures 1ĺ inches in diameter and 2 inches deep.

Iíve not been able to discover very much about the history of this cross. It is probably of 13th century origin, but the first records of it are from its current position in the early 19th century. Harry Starkey suggests that it could, originally, have been a waymarker for the Cistercian Monks of Brightley Priory, which stood on the banks of the West Okement River, near Okehampton Castle. The Priory was founded in 1133 but, although the monks were later moved to Ford Abbey, the building remained as a chapel until the mid 16th century.

It was reported in April 2015 that the cross had been damaged and removed from site by Historic England for repair.  We're informed that the cross had been hit by a lorry, which resulted in damage to the shaft.  This may not have been the first time as, after removal, evidence was found to suggest it had previously been hit in the past.  After removal, an additional piece of the shaft was found below ground and the two parts were skilfully repaired by Alex Piper and Peter Hooper of C. F. Piper & Son, Monumental Masons from Bearah Tor, near Liskeard.  We can now report that the cross has been fully restored and placed back on site on 15th December 2015, although it has been set back a few feet into the garden in order to prevent any further accidents from occurring in the future.  

Our thanks go to Andrew Langdon for providing the above information on the repairs to the cross and for his assistance to Andy Crabb of Historic England, together with the house-owner, for their work in preserving this special cross for posterity.  Our thanks also go to Bob Noakes for letting us use a copy of his photo of the incised figure on the reverse of the cross.