Reasons for Designation
Wayside crosses are one of several types of Christian cross erected during the medieval period, mostly from the 9th to 15th centuries AD. In addition to serving the function of reiterating and reinforcing the Christian faith amongst those who passed the cross and of reassuring the traveller, wayside crosses often fulfilled a role as waymarkers, especially in difficult and otherwise unmarked terrain. The crosses might be on regularly used routes linking ordinary settlements or on routes having a more specifically religious function, including those providing access to religious sites for parishioners and funeral processions, or marking long-distance routes frequented on pilgrimages.
Over 350 wayside crosses are known nationally, concentrated in south west England throughout Cornwall and on Dartmoor where they form the commonest type of stone cross. A small group also occurs on the North York Moors. Relatively few examples have been recorded elsewhere and these are generally confined to remote moorland locations. Outside Cornwall almost all wayside crosses take the form of a `Latin' cross, in which the cross-head itself is shaped within the projecting arms of an unenclosed cross. In Cornwall wayside crosses vary considerably in form and decoration. The commonest type includes a round, or `wheel', head on the faces of which various forms of cross or related designs were carved in relief or incised, the spaces between the cross arms possibly pierced. The design was sometimes supplemented with a relief figure of Christ and the shaft might bear decorative panels and motifs. Less common forms in Cornwall include the `Latin' cross and, much rarer, the simple slab with a low relief cross on both faces. Rare examples of wheel-head and slab-form crosses also occur within the North York Moors group. Most wayside crosses have either a simple socketed base or show no evidence for a separate base at all. Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval religious customs and sculptural traditions and to our knowledge of medieval routeways and settlement patterns. The 'Mexico Cross' survives well, close to its original recorded position and the route it formerly marked: the 19th century confirmation of the role of such a cross as a route-marker is unusual. The occasion and context of its removal and its reinstatement at its present location are well-documented, providing a small but clear example of post-medieval encroachment upon formerly unenclosed land and the resulting closer definition of previously loosely marked routes across the landscape.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, known as the 'Mexico Cross', situated beside a field corner on the crest of the slope rising north from Copperhouse Pool, the broad, shallow eastern arm of the Hayle estuary in west Cornwall. The cross is formed from a single slab of fine-grained granite, standing 1.06m high and 0.2m thick overall, with its principal faces orientated north east- south west. It has a rounded `wheel' head, 0.42m wide but with a marked flattening of its upper curve. The south west face of the head has an equal- limbed cross with flared arms in low relief, set within a raised perimeter bead. A small hole drilled into the lower end of the upper limb is a later modification. The north east face of the head is plain. A small projection on each side of the cross separates the head from the shaft, which occupies the lower 0.64m of the cross as presently exposed. The shaft is undecorated and has sides which curve inwards very slightly as they approach the projections at the base of the head, most clearly so on the north west side: such a deliberate shaping is known as an entasis. This cross was recorded by the antiquarian Arthur Langdon in the 1890s, when it lay temporarily in the schoolyard at Phillack. He measured its height as 1.45m and his engraving shows the entasis also clearly visible towards the base of the slab. Langdon records from the Rev Hockin, rector of Phillack, that the former site of this cross was in the middle of the same field it now faces from the boundary, where it lay on the general line of a route across the sand dunes, called the Towans, from Gwithian church south west to the crossing of the Hayle Estuary to Lelant. By 1842, the Phillack Tithe Map shows the small field plots around Phillack Churchtown had encroached on the Towans around this cross's site and had defined the route to a course a little further south. The name `Mexico Cross' derives from a smallholding named `Mexico' already present by 1842 at the north west of those plots. Rev Hockin told Langdon the cross had to be moved in about the 1870s, when it was taken to Phillack schoolyard. By 1896, after he had viewed the cross, Langdon records that it had been re-erected on a boundary of the same field that formerly contained it. Subsequent mapping shows it has remained at the same location.
The modern fence is excluded from the scheduling where it impinges on the cross's 2m protective margin, although the ground beneath it is included.
PastScape Monument No:-424649