Pre-Conquest standing cross and early Christian memorial stone 300m north east of Plymstock School.
Reasons for Designation
Early Christian memorial stones are inscribed free-standing stones commemorating named individuals and dating to the early medieval period (c.AD 400-1100). The stones are erect, roughly dressed or undressed slabs, bearing incised inscriptions, usually set in one or more vertical lines down one face of the slab. A standing cross is a free- standing upright structure, usually of stone, mostly erected during the medieval period (mid-10th to mid-16th centuries AD). Standing crosses served a variety of functions. They served as stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm Sunday; were used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamation and penance; and for defining rights of sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between parishes, property, or settlements and a few were erected to commemorate battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market places may have helped to validate transactions. The crosses vary considerably in form and decoration but several regional types have been identified. The Cornish crosses form one such group. The commonest type includes a round, or `wheel', head on the faces of which various forms of cross were carved. The design was sometimes supplemented with a relief figure of Christ. The pre-Conquest standing cross and early Christian memorial stone 300m north east of Plymstock School is unique in Devon; it is of a type of cross more commonly found in Cornwall. It has an inscription indicative of an early Christian memorial stone, although these are normally found on plain stones, not those shaped into crosses. Therefore, this particular cross appears to represent the merging of these two forms, possibly a late memorial stone which has utilised the new form of cross to emphasise the Christianity of the person whom it commemorates. The later damage may have been as a result of its having been used as a rubbing post or as a result of destruction by religious iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. In any event this particular cross is an extremely rare and important survival.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 13 October 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a pre-Conquest standing cross and early Christian memorial stone situated on the roadside at the junction between Stentaway Road and Garden Village in Billacombe, Plymouth. The cross survives as a 1.2m high granite shaft of rectangular section topped by an incomplete pierced wheel head. The outline of the arms is defined by beading and on both faces there is a central circular boss. One lateral arm and its connecting pieces have been broken. At the foot of the cross is an inscribed panel. The whole is kept in place by a concrete base and an iron band. The cross was moved to its current location in 1946; it had been in a field used as a rubbing post for livestock. On removal the buried part of the shaft was seen to have an early and unusual incised inscription reading ‘[CL] E’ or ‘[EL] E’ or ‘ELEW’ on one face towards the base which may be a personal name such as Elewyn or Aelfwyn. An interesting connection has been made with Aelfwynn the wife of Ordulf, the late 10th century founder of Tavistock Abbey, who held lands in Plympton. The marking of stones with names in this way is characteristic of early Christian memorial stones. The cross is made from Cornish granite and may have originally come from Cornwall. It is thought to date to between the 9th and 11th centuries.