Venton Chapel Cross

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Location: The cross is mounted on the front of the Chapel to the rear of Venton House, Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

O/S Grid Ref:  SX/72143/76086               Longitude/Latitude (Degrees+/-):  -3.80686/50.57048

Map location:  Click here to view map.

Purpose:  Religious symbol. 

Size: The cross has not been measured.

Information:  This cross has been mounted high up on the front of the chapel built by ‘My Lady of the Moor’ - Olive Katherine Parr – whose pen venton_chapel.jpg (92815 bytes) name was ‘Beatrice Chase’. The chapel was built from a converted barn situated behind her cottage at Venton, near Widecombe-in-the-Moor. The simple granite cross is mounted on a granite projection on the gable end of the 1908 Catholic chapel. Olive always kept a lamp burning in the window of the chapel and she also displayed the Rose of Lancaster, as a symbol of her royal lineage.  The chapel was always open to anyone who wished to visit. 

Olive's mother was also named Olive Katherine Parr, who was known as 'The Rainbow Maker'. This was probably as a result of the spectrum of light often produced when the sun shone on her favourite string of glass beads worn around her neck.

Olive Katherine Parr (Junior) was born in 1874 at Harrow, Middlesex, and claimed to be a descendant of Catherine Parr the sixth wife of Henry VIII. She would also wear a string of beads around her neck and had moved to this part of the country in the early 1900's, together with her  mother, as a result of her contracting Tuberculosis.  This was probably due to the work that they were both doing in the slums and workhouses of venton_cottage.jpg (118010 bytes) London.  It was thought that the clean West-Country air would be beneficial to her health.

Olive positioned her writing desk before a large window set into a rounded corner of the house.  Here, she would be able to seek inspiration for her books from the Dartmoor landscape, as well as from the locals who might happen to be walking or riding past her window.  She wrote many books including, The Heart of the Moor, The Corpse of the Moor and Through a Dartmoor Window.  Her books always sold well at the time, but her writing style is now considered too flowery and religious  for  modern day tastes.

olive_parr_front.jpg (129496 bytes)She was also an active campaigner on behalf of Dartmoor, such as taking a personal interest in the Dartmoor Prison, opposing the use of the Moor by the Military and she also opposed the olive_parr_rear.jpg (147908 bytes) formation of the National Park Authority prior to its inception in 1951.  She also collaborated with a local composer to write a number of Dartmoor-themed songs.  As an amateur photographer, she would take many photos of local moorland scenes, of which she would have some printed out and sent to her friends with a typewritten note, always in red, on the back.  Olive was, unfortunately, taken ill again died in the Newton Abbot Infirmary on 3rd July 1955. 

Our thanks to both Chris Taylor and Bob Noakes for bringing this cross to our attention.