Last week, I was down in Devon to attend the Past in its Place conference at Buckfast Abbey. On the first morning, following a long (way too long) day of travelling down to Devon from North Wales, I went out for a drive early before breakfast to seek out a few sites of historical signficance. I hadn’t planned to visit it, but I past by the Hawson Cross, pulled up, reversed, and parked the white Vauxhall Astra University of Chester fleet vehicle beneath the eaves of the adjacent oak.
The Hawson Cross is one of a series of famous medieval wayside crosses marking routes across the moor and its perimeters. It is situated today beside the Stumpy Oak at a crossroads near Holne. The oak is one of Dartmoor’s designated historic trees and I liked the striking juxtaposition of stone and tree, both together and individually serving as memorable way markers for travellers through the ages.
Despite the modern tarmac, the tree and cross transport the passer-by back into former times where mule, horse and foot were the principal modes of movement through the terrain. One might imagine this cross has remained in situ. I was therefore interested to read here how it has been reconstituted in this location from fragments located at the local farm. In other words, this is a modern contrivance, an estimated reconstruction of the cross’s original location and form, restored by the Dartmoor Preservation Association in 1952. So the visitor today witnesses, as with so many monuments in the British landscape including crosses across Dartmoor, a 20th-century medieval monument.