Boskenna Cross


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Buryan
National Grid Reference:
SW 42575 24260

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 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 Boskenna Cross head and upper shaft have survived well, remaining as a marker on their original route and junction despite being re-mounted on a composite shaft. As a good example of this unusual and distinctive local cross design, it forms one of the earliest known wayside crosses and provides information on the production and stylistic development of pre-Norman crosses. This importance is reflected in the specific mention of this cross in modern studies. The location of this cross beside a junction on a parish church-path, marked also by another such wayside cross, demonstrates well a major function of wayside crosses and shows clearly the longevity of many routes still in use. The deliberate burial of this cross beside its junction until the 19th century, illustrates the changing attitudes to religion that prevailed at the time of the Reformation and the impact of those changes on the local landscape.


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, the Boskenna Cross, and a protective margin, situated beside a junction of the same name where a ridge- top thoroughfare running south-east from St Buryan meets a road which follows the southern coastal belt of Penwith in west Cornwall. The Boskenna Cross, which is also listed Grade II, is visible with the head and upper shaft of the medieval wayside cross set on top of a substantial composite shaft of later worked granite blocks and artefacts cemented together. The overall height of the cross and its composite shaft is 1.79m. The surviving part of the medieval cross measures 0.73m high and has a round or 'wheel' form granite cross-head, 0.43m in diameter and 0.18m thick. On the north principal face of the head is a figure of Christ carved in relief, 0.55m high and 0.31m wide. This figure is depicted wearing a tunic, with outstreched arms terminating in expanded sleeves and his legs terminate in large out- turned feet. On the south face of the cross is a relief Latin cross with slightly splayed ends to its limbs, measuring 0.42m high by 0.34m wide. Between the limbs of the cross on this face are four triangular raised 'bosses'. Below the head, the integral upper 0.3m of the rectangular-section cross shaft survives, measuring 0.31m wide and 0.18m thick at the neck and tapering slightly to 0.28m wide at its lower edge. The head and shaft of the cross are cemented onto a section of a round granite pillar, 0.4m in diameter and 0.48m high; the pillar itself is set on a slightly wider granite drum, 0.15m high. This drum in turn is mounted on top of a large circular granite slab, 0.86m in diameter and 0.23m high. Beneath this slab, the lowest piece in the composite shaft is a large round granite cider press, parts of its edge obscured by the turf but with a diameter of approximately 1.24m as it extends 0.19m beyond the outer edge of slab above. The groundfast cider press rises 0.08m above the turf; its upper face has a peripheral groove, 0.08m wide, leading to a bevelled drain spout on the northern edge of the press. The Boskenna Cross is situated on one of several church paths, now a modern minor road, radiating into the parish from the church and village of St Buryan; the cross marks the junction of that path with the route around the coastal fringe of the Penwith peninsula. The radial parish route is continued south-east from the cross by a public footpath. The cross-head and upper shaft were discovered buried in the neighbouring hedgebank in 1869 close to its present position, when the hedgebank was cut back to improve the junction. Such deliberate burial of crosses was common at the time of the Reformation (c.1540). This is one of several crosses marking the various radial routes in this parish, including another on this route. St Buryan, the site of a major Celtic monastery traditionally founded by Athelstan in the early tenth century AD, forms the focus of a distinctive series of crosses bearing the motifs present on this cross's head. Studies of these crosses, in which the Boskenna Cross is specifically mentioned, have suggested that these crosses date to the late ninth or early tenth century and provided a major design inspiration for the mid tenth century development of a highly elaborate series of west Cornish decorated crosses. The surface of the metalled road passing north of the cross is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Olson, L, Early Monasteries in Cornwall, (1989)
Robertson, R, Gilbert, G, Some Aspects of the Domestic Archaeology of Cornwall, (1979)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-79
Consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 28182,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Told at meeting on 19/7/1993, Information spoken to the MPPFW by Mr Andrew Langdon,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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