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HER Number:MDV5192
Name:Petre's Cross within Western Whitebarrow, Dartmoor Forest


Wayside cross positioned on a round cairn on Quickbeam Hill. Measures 1.3 metres high and is of rectangular section with both arms broken off. It was one of four set up by Sir William Petre, who had purchased Brent Manor after the Dissolution of the Monasteries from Buckfast Abbey in 1557 and was used to mark the bounds of the Forest of Dartmoor in 1557 and 1786. Cairn has been disturbed by the construction of a shelter in the mid-19th century by workers at the Red Lake peat ties, who re-used the cross as a chimney lintel at the same time. Following the partial destruction of the building the cross was re-erected.


Grid Reference:SX 653 654
Map Sheet:SX66NE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
Civil ParishSouth Brent
DistrictSouth Hams
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSOUTH BRENT

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX66NE37
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 441459
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX66NE/19/1
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX66NE37

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WAYSIDE CROSS (Constructed, Early Medieval to XIX - 1066 AD (Between) to 1847 AD (Between))

Full description

Donn, B., 1765, A Map of the County of Devon (Cartographic). SDV339776.

Crossing, W., 1888, Amid Devonia's Alps; or Wanderings and Adventures on Dartmoor, 35 (Monograph). SDV152959.

Burnard, R., 1890, Dartmoor Pictorial Records, Vol 1 page 48 (Article in Serial). SDV346960.

Baring Gould, S., 1900, A Book of Dartmoor, 211 (Monograph). SDV277387.

Crossing, W., 1902, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, 15-17 (Monograph). SDV178385.

Crossing, W., 1912 (1965), Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, 372 (Monograph). SDV320981.

Masson Phillips, E. N., 1937, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon: Part I, 310 (Article in Serial). SDV240502.

On Whitebarrow, about 4 miles n of Harford. Type A. A portion of the shaft of a cross of rough rectangular section set up on a cairn, in an inverted position, with the tenon upwards. All that remains of one of the four crosses mentioned as boundary marks in an inquisition on the boundary on Brent Moor, dated 1557, at which time certain rights were held by Sir William Petre, in virtue of his possession of the manor of South Brent.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1950/1977, SX66NE37 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV152955.

(04/05/1950) Petre's Cross (length 1.3 metres, width 400 millimetres, depth 200 millimetres). Part of the shaft of a stone cross which has been set up in Western White Barrow. Measurements given.
(17/07/1977) The portion of the shaft of Petre's Cross (name confirmed) stands 0.8 metres high, and is of rectangular section, 0.37 metres by 0.18 metres with the broken tenon, 0.22 metres by 0.18 metres and 0.5 metres high, uppermost. See photograph.
Ordnance Survey 1:10 000 Survey, revised.

Robinson, R., 1977-1979, South Brent Parish Checklist (Worksheet). SDV151046.

(1977) Petre's Cross was one of four set up by Sir William Petre, the Lord of the Manor of Brent in 1557 to mark the limits of Brent Moor. The other three were at Buckland Ford, Three Barrows and Huntingdon Cross. Brent had recently come into the hands of Petre after the dissolution of the monasteries when it ceased to be the property of Buckfast Abbey, and an inquisition of 1557 names the four crosses then set up. It is still on the cairn although it has suffered vicissitudes. When the Zeal Tor tramway was built to carry peat from Redlake Mires down to Shipley the workers at the peat ties built a house from stones of the cairn (which can still be seen), sometime around 1840, and the cross its arms broken off, was used as a lintel for their fireplace. It has since been re-set vertically on the cairn, but it would appear, upside down as the top has a shaped tenon which presumably fitted a socket.
It was known to early map makers as Donn, and other 18th and 19th century cartographers including Mudge who published the 1st edition of the 1 inch Ordnance Survey map in 1809 marked the Western Whitebarrow as Petre's Cross Tor. I
It is possible that Sir William Petre was encroaching on Duchy land as surveys both before and after his time show the Eastern Whitebarrow as the boundary point that the forest bound ran to from Wella Brook Foot. However it is now formally fixed as the boundary of the Forest of Dartmoor. Description - a carefully shaped square section shaft of coarse grey granite, 1.3m long, 0.4m wide, and 0.2m deep. At the upper end there is a tenon 9 inches wide and the full thickness of the stone, while the other end is concealed by the rocks supporting it.

Starkey, F. H., 1983, Dartmoor Crosses and Some Ancient Tracks, 21 (Monograph). SDV345128.

The cross was destroyed in or about 1847 by workmen who built themselves a house on the cairn, and having knocked the arms off built the shaft into the building as a clavel over the fireplace. The building has been demolished but its remains are still visible. The cross was later re-erected to act as a boundary mark. Both arms are missing leaving it badly mutilated.

Hemery, E., 1983, High Dartmoor, 294-5 (Monograph). SDV249702.

Butler, J., 1993, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Four - The South-East, 159, Map 57 (Monograph). SDV337765.

Sir William Petre set up four crosses along his disputed boundary. One of these, Petre's Cross was erected at the centre of Western White Barrow where it stood for nearly 300 years before being broken up by peat cutters in about 1847. These men were employed by the Shipley Bridge naphtha company, living on the moor throughout the week in a large building they erected across the centre of the cairn. When the company failed most of the building was destroyed and the lintel of the chimney which had used the shaft of the cross was recovered. The limbless cross was re-erected upside down with the tenon for the socket uppermost.

Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England, 1993-1998, Dartmoor Royal Forest Project, Simon Probert, (Report - Survey). SDV346608.

(21/02/1996) SX65366549. Petre's Cross is as described. A 1:2500 survey is deposited in the archive.

English Heritage, 2005, Survey Information (miscellaneous date) (Report - Survey). SDV345855.

Cross shown on survey within the outline of the cairn.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

'Petre's Cross on Western White Barrow (remains of)' is depicted on the modern mapping.

Historic England, 2016, National Heritage List for England, Accessed 13/07/2016 (National Heritage List for England). SDV359353.

This monument includes a round cairn, wayside cross and shelter situated on the summit of a ridge known as Quickbeam Hill. See webpage for full record details.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV151046Worksheet: Robinson, R.. 1977-1979. South Brent Parish Checklist. South Brent Parish Checklist. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV152955Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1950/1977. SX66NE37. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV152959Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1888. Amid Devonia's Alps; or Wanderings and Adventures on Dartmoor. Amid Devonia's Alps; or Wanderings and Adventures on Dartmoor. Digital. 35.
SDV178385Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1902. The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor. The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor. Unknown. 15-17.
SDV240502Article in Serial: Masson Phillips, E. N.. 1937. The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon: Part I. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 69. A5 Hardback. 310.
SDV249702Monograph: Hemery, E.. 1983. High Dartmoor. High Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 294-5.
SDV277387Monograph: Baring Gould, S.. 1900. A Book of Dartmoor. A Book of Dartmoor. Unknown. 211.
SDV320981Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1912 (1965). Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 372.
SDV337765Monograph: Butler, J.. 1993. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Four - The South-East. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Four - The South-East. Four. Paperback Volume. 159, Map 57.
SDV339776Cartographic: Donn, B.. 1765. A Map of the County of Devon. Unknown. Map (Paper).
SDV345128Monograph: Starkey, F. H.. 1983. Dartmoor Crosses and Some Ancient Tracks. Dartmoor Crosses and Some Ancient Tracks. Paperback Volume. 21.
SDV345855Report - Survey: English Heritage. 2005. Survey Information (miscellaneous date). English Heritage. Digital.
SDV346608Report - Survey: Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England. 1993-1998. Dartmoor Royal Forest Project. Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England Field/Recording In. Unknown. Simon Probert,.
SDV346960Article in Serial: Burnard, R.. 1890. Dartmoor Pictorial Records. Dartmoor Pictorial Records. 1. Unknown. Vol 1 page 48.
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV359353National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2016. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital. Accessed 13/07/2016.

Associated Monuments

MDV13192Related to: Boundary stone, Dartmoor Forest (Monument)
MDV28057Related to: Ruined building at Western Whitebarrow, Dartmoor Forest (Building)
MDV5193Related to: Western White Barrow with shelter and re-erected cross, Dartmoor Forest (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8082 - Survey of the Upper Erme Valley

Date Last Edited:Jan 4 2022 10:40AM