On Castle Hill common, about half-way down between the top of the hill and the river, there stands a monument with an inscription plate said to be made from a cannon brought back from the Battle of Waterloo. This obelisk, with a built-in stone seat on each of its four sides which enables walkers to rest and enjoy the view, was financed by the ladies of Great Torrington and reads:ERECTED JUNE 1818 TO COMMEMORATE THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO JUNE 1815 PEACE TO THE SOULS OF THE HEROES!!!
In this cynical age we wonder about the significance of the three exclamation marks but, probably, they simply denote admiration for men’s courage in battle.
The place known as Windy Cross is not a crossroads but a four-armed cross which sits on top of a stone structure that used to be a pump house and, before that, an ancient well.
It is situated at the top of Mill Street where it joins South Street and Halsdon Terrace, on the corner between the Methodist chapel and a bungalow called Windy Ridge. It has an old road sign pointing to Bideford attached to it as well as a sign marking a water hydrant.
The name Windy Cross is appropriate as, according to George Doe in ‘Old Torrington Landmarks’, it marks the highest point in the town. The 19th century pump house which, presumably, was built over the original well was mostly of local stone but in the south porch the entrance step was a large slab of Purbeck marble.
The shaft and circular base of the cross are believed to be ancient but have been re-cut. The large stone disc which supported the shaft would have formed a suitable coping stone over an old well.
George Doe, local historian who was mayor of Torrington in 1923 and 1924, regretted how this ancient landmark had been ‘desecrated and mutilated out of almost all knowledge’ and there was no longer any use made of the pump or the old well. However, it was restored in the 1930s when the original circular base and shaft of the cross, which were found where they had been discarded in a field, were re-cut and surmounted with four arms and the upper portion of a new cross.
I don’t know when the old pump house was finally blocked up but a local man can remember climbing inside to shelter from the rain many years ago.
This old local landmark was given a Grade II listing in 1973 and reminds us of former times before we all had the luxury of running water in our homes.