The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Fat Betty Cross, Danby High Moor, North Yorkshire

NZ6822 0199. The medieval cross known as Fat Betty or White Cross stands beside a trackway on Danby High Moor at the head of the Rosedale Valley to the east of Rosedale Head. It has acted as a wayside cross/marker stone for hundreds of years for travellers going between Rosedale and Westerdale; the nearest village being Botton, a few miles to the north. But it is easy to become lost on these windswept moors and so these crosses and waymarkers would have been a great help to pilgrims and others traversing the North York Moors from medieval times and, indeed, until more recent times, no doubt.

English: White Cross, Rosedale. White Cross is...

Fat Betty or White Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fat Betty Cross is about 4 foot high, square and squat in shape, with a funny little round-shaped head or wheel-head on top that has four small indentations that almost look like a human face. The whole thing is really a solid block of stone that is painted white from about halfway up, hence the name “White Cross”. It may have originally had a cross-shaft attached. There are some tiny thin carved crosses on either side, and also some more recent Victorian lettering or graffiti within a carved square panel on the main face. The cross is thought to date from the 12th century and, may well have been placed here as a wayside cross for the nuns at nearby Rosedale Abbey; the religious ladies themselves apparently wore a white habit, so could that be where the name is derived from?

But myths and legends seem to be numerous with regard to the history of the old cross. One legend tells us that two nuns and their attendant from Rosedale abbey found themselves lost in thick fog on the moor; they were eventually found dead and the cross was set up to commemorate them. Another legend says it was named after a nun called Margery or Margaret and originally it was called “Margery Cross”. And yet a third says that a local farmer’s wife died here. Her husband found her dead here and set up the cross in her memory – the farmer’s wife was apparently called Margaret or Betty. There could be some truth in these stories and old legends or maybe not; the real truth is now lost in the mists of time. Two more wayside crosses, Ralph Cross and Old Ralph Cross, stand just a short distance to the west.