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
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 with 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. All wayside crosses which survive as earth-
fast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from
their original locations, are considered worthy of protection.
The Holyway Cross has survived well, remaining as a marker on its original
route and junction despite being slightly re-located. It forms a good example
of a decorated wheel-headed cross with its head and shaft complete. The
markedly concave sides of the limbs on the relief cross and the large shoulder
projections are unusual. The location of this cross beside a major junction on
one of the most important medieval and later routes through Cornwall, marked
also by other medieval wayside crosses, demonstrates well the relationship
between such crosses and early routes and shows clearly the continuity of many
major thoroughfares. This cross also marks one of several routes in the parish
to the church at South Petherwin, showing the differing purposes which wayside
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, the Holyway Cross, situated
beside a junction on a major route into Cornwall on its approach to north-east
The Holyway Cross, which is also a listed building grade II, survives as an
upright granite cross, 1.85m in overall height. The cross has a round or
'wheel' head, 0.56m in diameter, displaying an equal-limbed cross carved in
relief on both principal faces. The limbs of the carved cross have concave
sides, widely expanded towards terminal edges concentric with the outline of
the head. The terminal edge of the lower limb on each face meets the upper end
of a relief midline rib that extends down each principal face of the shaft for
1.02m. Immediately below the head, the shoulders of the cross are marked by a
raised projection from each side, extending 0.06m from the north side and
0.05m from the south side of the shaft. From the lower edge of these
projections, narrow beads extend down the sides of the cross shaft for 0.95m.
The rectangular section shaft is 0.23m thick and tapers slightly in width from
a maximum 0.44m near the base, where the beading ends, to 0.39m below the
projections at the neck. The shaft also tapers to its base over its lowermost
visible 0.27m. Although clearly visible on both faces, the relief decoration
on the cross is more worn on its eastern face than on its western face.
The location of the Holyway Cross by this road junction is attested in records
dating back to the 19th century, though it has been subject to several minor
re-locations about the junction. The cross was erected on a new, buried,
base-slab in its present position in 1950.
The cross is situated beside the main medieval route into Cornwall from the
crossing of the River Tamar 8.5km to the ENE near Launceston, a major
administrative centre and market town during the medieval period. This route
is marked at intervals by several other medieval wayside crosses and was later
followed by the post-medieval turnpike road and by the modern A30 trunk road.
The cross also marks the junction where the road to Camelford diverges west
from this route to pass around the northern fringe of Bodmin Moor.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.