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 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
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
The surface of the metalled road passing north of the cross is excluded from
the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.
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.