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  • Walk cross Dartmoor and you will find, adjacent to paths or roads, in villages or seemingly next to no obvious landmark, many roughly hewn and weathered stone crosses.

    This is one. The Ollsbrim or Ouldsbroom Cross.

    It's found at the junction of the Widecombe-In-The-Moor road with the B3357 a little ways west of Dartmeet.

    You would be hard pressed to call this a cross. Its arms are missing. Just vestigial stubs on either side suggest its original form. The result, alas, of this cross' tenure as a farm gatepost in the 19th century when its utility as a standing stone was valued more highly than its symbolic and practical meaning as a waypoint on the road to the 13th century church in Widecombe. It was only returned to its original location in the twentieth century when the historic values of such markers grew in importance.

    Whether this stone itself dates back to the 13th century is unclear. There appear to be no documentary records of it until the early 19th century, when a cross matching this one was described as being parole stone for French officer prisoners-of-war. A what is a parole stone, you might ask? A marker for the limit within which such a prisoner must remain, part of an invisible fence bound by honour that surrounded the prisoner's billet. It was as such that the stone was known as the Ollsbrim Cross.

    The alternate name, Ouldsbroom, is, most likely, an evolution in the spelling of the name.

    What is certain, contemplating this stone, is that it is very old and has witnessed many comings and goings.

    And how easy it is to place yourself in the days of horse and cart, of men and women shorter in stature and shorter in lifespan for whom this cross would tower rather more than it does for me. For whom its religious significance would loom far larger.

    But would its mystery and magic be any less?

    I think not.
  • Photos - Ollsbrim Cross and Widecombe Church. Read more about the cross here.
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