Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 04, 2019
Webpage updated: March 09, 2020




Mr William Crossing was born in Plymouth on November 14th 1847.  His parents were Joseph and Elizabeth Crossing and in the 1851 Census the family lived at 17 Drake Street, Plymouth, where Joseph was a grocer.   At the age of 3 William was already a scholar, along with his older sister and brother, Elizabeth M and Joseph R E Crossing.  There was a younger brother, Samuel, and a 23-years-old servant by the name of Miss Caroline Ellis.

After finishing his elementary education at a clergyman's school in Plymouth, he went to the Independent College at Taunton, Somerset, before returning to the Mannamead School in Plymouth.

As a youth he soon took a keen interest in the antiquities on Dartmoor and frequently visited the Walkhampton, Meavy, Sheepstor area.  He was to later explore all parts of the Moor, much to the detriment of his work in the mill at South Brent.  His first literary effort was a romantic novel and as early as December 1861 he had a poem published in a magazine called "Young England".

In 1863 he took a voyage to Wales and the following year joined a vessel bound for Canada.  On that trip he had a narrow escape, however, when he was nearly crushed by an iceberg during the night.  When he returned to Devon, he took to the safer exploits of running a business in Plymouth and of exploring more of his beloved Dartmoor.

On March 14th 1872 he married Miss Emma Witheridge at Ivybridge Parish Church and they settled at Splatton House, Underhill, South Brent, where he was a coal merchant.  Living with him and Elizabeth at that time was a 19-years-old coal engineer from Aberystwyth, Mr Charles D Szlumper, and a young servant called Miss May A Bovet, from Honiton.   While there he started to arrange the notes of his explorations with a view to writing a book.

William Crossing was one of the founder members of the Dartmoor Preservation Association.

His output included only one item on a Plymouth subject, about Widey Court, in 1895.  He is best known for his articles about Dartmoor for the local newspapers and the subsequent books produced from them: "The Ancient Crosses of Dartmoor" (1887), "Amid Devonia's Alps" (1888), "Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies" (1890), "A Hundred Years on Dartmoor" (1901), "Gems in a Granite Setting" (1905), "The Dartmoor Worker" and his "Guide to Dartmoor" (1909)/  All have been republished in recent years.  For some reason "Dartmoor's Early Historic and Medieval Remains", "Crockern Tor and the Ancient Stannary Parliament" (1892) and "The Chronicles of Crazy Well" (1893) have not received similar treatment.

Getting frequently soaked while out and about on Dartmoor is not conducive to anybody's good health and William Crossing was no exception.   His health deteriorated and with it his writing abilities.  In 1906 a benefactor came to the rescue when Mr W P Collins engaged him as a private tutor for his three sons.  This provided him with the opportunity to compile his authoritative "Guide to Dartmoor" and see it through three editions, in 1909, 1912 and 1914.

His wife died on June 6th 1921 in the Tavistock Workhouse, where he also spent some time.  Writing about Dartmoor was not a financially lucrative occupation.  What also did not help was the day his landlady destroyed all his lifetime's notes and papers.  Once again Mr Collins came to his rescue and paid for him to live at Cross Park Nursing Home in Plymouth, where he died on September 3rd 1928, at the age of 80 years.  He and his wife were buried in Mary Tavy Churchyard, to the north of Tavistock.