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HER Number:MDV103221
Name:Early Christian Stone in Belstone Parish Church, Belstone


Granite stone, 1.31 metres high, inscribed with a cross within a circle with a cross with curving arms, possibly stylised representation of the crucifixion, below. 7th - 9th century in date.


Grid Reference:SX 619 935
Map Sheet:SX69SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBelstone
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBELSTONE

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX69SW9
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 444154

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CROSS (Constructed, VII to IX - 601 AD (Between) to 899 AD (Between))
  • INSCRIBED STONE (Constructed, VII to IX - 601 AD (Between) to 899 AD (Between))

Full description

Masson Phillips, E. N., 1937, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon: Part I, 331 (Article in Serial). SDV240502.

A broken stone slab in the churchyard leans against the north wall of the tower. It bears an inscribed cross in a circle at the top below which a segment of a concentric circle meets a line which turns the length of the slab and terminates in a rectangular base. Formerly built into an old wall near the rectory. Referred to as a 'cross' but probably an early sepulchral slab originally from the church.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1952/1974, SX69SW9 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV223493.

(10/06/1952) Stone located at SX 612 9350 at St.Mary's church.
(23/07/1974) SX 6191 9350 The stone slab is almost certainly a medieval coffin slab. It is 1.4m high and up to 0.5m wide; the reverse face is plain.

Levy, S., 2005, An Incised Stone at Belstone (Report - Survey). SDV350637.

Incised stone at St. Marys Church, Belstone. The stone has been the subject of antiquarian interest since the late 19th century when it was located in the wall of the avenue leading to the former Belstone Rectory.
The stone, a piece of local granite moorstone, is 1.31 metres high and circa 0.18 metres thick. It varies in width from 0.34 metres above the ring-cross design to 0.54 metres at its widest point, narrowing to 0.35 metres at its base. The decoration comprises a cross within a circle, 40.5 centimetres diameter. The arms of the cross do connect with the external circle. Below the circle, but again, not connected to it is a vertical stem 0.68 metres long. Near the top of the stem, two arms extend outwards in an arc, broadly concentric with the circle. The stem extends to the base of the stone, terminating on a short horizontal line, of which only the left-hand side remains intact. A vertical line extends from the end of the horizontal line to the bottom of the stone. The design has been cut to a V-shaped profile varying in width from 2.0-4.0 centimetres and in depth 0.5 to 1.5 centimetres.
It has been suggested that the stone has pagan rather than Christian origins. However, Levy shows that the intended symbolism is Christian and compares it with other cross-incised stones. The decoration is probably 7th - 9th century in date and may have been erected to mark an early Christian burial ground or the burial of an important individual or to delineate the boundary of church land. The original location of the stone is not known but was probably within the locality of Belstone. It was subsequently reused as a step for an almshouse, which was demolished in 1861 at which time it was presumably moved to the rectory wall. It was removed to the churchyard when the rectory was sold in 1920 and now stands inside the church, having been moved there recently by Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Watson, A., 2007-2017?, Devon Crosses, 21 (Un-published). SDV360833.

Belstone Church Cross. A broken slab bears an incised cross within a circle at its top, below which a segment of concentric circle meets a line which runs the length of the slab and terminates in a rectangular base. Since the 1930s this stone had been propped against the north wall of the church tower. The stone has been dated to the 7 th – 9 th centuries. It spent several centuries upside down and in use as a threshold stone, for which it was reshaped, at nearby almshouses. Demolition of the houses in the 19 th century led to its discovery. The stone was taken to the rectory until the 1930s when the house was sold; the cross was then removed to the churchyard. It is often referred to as a cross, but is probably an early sepulchral slab and no doubt originally came from the church. In 2005 the slab/cross was erected inside the church.
Slab height 1.7 metres by 0.50 metres at its widest part.

Greeves, T., 31/03/1982, Incised Stone (Worksheet). SDV222639.

Early Christian(?) incised granite stone leaning against the north outside wall of Belstone Church, on the west side of the porch. The incised decoration comprises a neat circle, 0.39 metres diameter with a cross inside it and, below the circle, a possible stylized representation of Christ crucified. The distance between the outstretched 'arms' is 0.32 metres and the length of the central groove, 0.68 metres. The grooves are generally 30-40 millimetres wide and about 10 millimetres deep.

Cramp, R., March 2005, Inscribed Stone at Belstone (Correspondence). SDV350649.

Cramp suggests that the presence of a holy well at Sticklepath and an inscribed stone at Sourton are indicative of an early Christian site. She agrees with Levy in that parallels to the Belstone stone are to be found in the Celtic west and draws attention to Irish examples.

Cramp, R., March 2005, Inscribed Stone at Belstone (Correspondence). SDV350649.

Originally found built into an alms-house that bordered the churchyard . It was possibly discovered in 1861 when the steps which led to a room serving as a vestry above the alms-house were demolished. It was then built into the wall of the avenue leading to the Rectory, but removed when the rectory was demolished in 1920, and placed in the churchyard. Now in the church.
The slab is approximately 131cm x 54cm and 18cm in diameter. It is incised with a cross with slightly wedge-shaped arm terminals surrounded by a circle 40.5cm in diameter. Below the circle is a vertical stem terminating in a roughly rectangular base, of which only the left-hand side survives, curving inwards at the foot. The top of the stem is crossed by an arc which cups the circle above and follows its outline.
[Later published in R. Cramp's 2006 Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture: Vol VII. South-West England, pg 90-1).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV222639Worksheet: Greeves, T.. 31/03/1982. Incised Stone. Worksheet.
SDV223493Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1952/1974. SX69SW9. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV240502Article in Serial: Masson Phillips, E. N.. 1937. The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon: Part I. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 69. A5 Hardback. 331.
SDV350637Report - Survey: Levy, S.. 2005. An Incised Stone at Belstone. Dartmoor National Park Authority Report. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. [Mapped feature: #62705 ]
SDV350649Correspondence: Cramp, R.. March 2005. Inscribed Stone at Belstone. Letter to S. Levy. Letter.
SDV360833Un-published: Watson, A.. 2007-2017?. Devon Crosses. Mixed Archive Material + Digital. 21.

Associated Monuments

MDV121147Related to: Almhouses, Belstone (Building)
MDV6872Related to: Church of St Mary the Virgin, Belstone (Building)
MDV18052Related to: Cross at Old Rectory Farm, Belstone (Monument)
MDV6866Related to: Inscribed Stone at Old Rectory Farm, Belstone (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6076 - Survey of Incised Stone at Belstone

Date Last Edited:May 16 2022 3:43PM