Near the South porch of the
Grid Ref: 718 767 Map location: Click here to view map.
Purpose: Churchyard Cross.
Size: 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 metres) high. 2 feet (0.61 metres) across the arms. The shaft is 10 inches (0.25 metres) deep.
Information: This much repaired cross stands in an ancient socket stone, which is square at the bottom and chamfered above. Similarly, the base of the shaft is square with the upper part and the rest of the cross having chamfered edges. The cross has been reassembled from several fragments and it is unlikely that they all came from the same original cross. Certainly one of the arms is a modern replacement, made especially for this cross.
Mr G. W. Ormerod once reported that part of the shaft and the head of what is thought to be the original churchyard cross was found built into the east wall of the churchyard. Also, a piece of the shaft, measuring 20 inches long, was found in the staircase leading up to the rood-loft. This was in January 1876, when some workmen were reopening a walled-up Gothic doorway in the northern aisle of the church. It was at this time that the three Widecombe Church Crosses were discovered, that are now placed inside the church beside the door that leads to the tower.
Just outside the lych-gate stands the base of the Widecombe Village Cross. This is octagonal in shape, with a plinth running around the bottom, about 6 inches high. The base is of two steps and measures 8 feet in diameter and 3 feet 6 inches high. The cross has been missing for many years and it now has a yew tree growing in its place. William Crossing wrote, in 1902, that the cross was missing and that a small yew tree had been planted in the base. Although this doesn’t show when the cross went missing, it does give a rough guide to when the tree was planted.
In order to mark the new millennium, the Widecombe Parish Council decided to bury a time capsule on the village green. To keep the capsule secure the site has been covered by a flat granite slab measuring 6 feet by 3 feet and 1 foot high. This slab, of local granite, was supplied by Mr Booty of Sherwell Farm, who also supplied the granite for the Leusdon Green Millennium Seat as described on the page for the Leusdon Chuchyard Cross. An inscription on one side of the slab gives instructions to the effect of: ‘do not open until the year 2100’.
Buried in the Widecombe Churchyard is the late Dartmoor authoress, Beatrice Chase (1874-1955), who was always known as ‘The Lady of the Moor’. Beatrice Chase was, in fact, her pen-name, her real name being: Olive Katharine Parr. She was a direct descendant of William Parr, brother to Catherine, the sixth wife of Henry VIII.
Although born in Harrow, Middlesex, Beatrice moved to Dartmoor for health reasons and lived at Venton Cottage, on the outskirts of Widecombe. Here, she set up her writing desk in her favourite window and wrote many books, amongst which are: ‘Through a Dartmoor Window’, ‘The Heart of the Moor’ and ‘The Ghost of the Moor’.
Beatrice obviously had a great passion for the moor and she wrote very descriptively of its beauty in her books. She also campaigned against Dartmoor being turned into a National Park and was against its use for military training.
She was instrumental in reviving the annual Widecombe Fair, when it was flagging during the 1930’s and was little more than a sheep sale. She sent a telegram to the BBC and got the fair a mention on the 10 O’clock News, together a playing of the Uncle Tom Cobley song. She was also very friendly with Peter Hicks, who used to play Uncle Tom Cobley, at the fair.
Unfortunately, she died penniless at the Newton Abbot Infirmary and although she left her house to her great friend Peter Hicks, he was also left with a large mortgage to pay off. Her grave is situated opposite that of her mother and her headstone bears the inscription: ‘Pray For Olive Katharine Parr’ on one side and ‘Beatrice Chase 1874-1955’ on the other. This was funded by a small committee at the suggestion of another of her friends, Enid Shortbridge.