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 Nun Careg Cross has survived well, earlier records confirming it in its
present location. Its large head is an unusual feature. The location of this
cross beside a main route within the area and a church-route within the
parish, both marked by other wayside crosses, demonstrates well the major
functions of wayside crosses and shows clearly the longevity of many routes
still in use.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, the Nun Careg Cross, and a 2m
protective margin, situated on a road which follows the southern coastal belt
of Penwith in west Cornwall.
The Nun Careg Cross which is Listed Grade II, survives with an upright granite
shaft and large round, or 'wheel', head, measuring 1.19m in overall height and
situated on a wide grass verge by the side of the road. The head measures
0.48m high, 0.63m wide and 0.17m thick. The north-west face displays a light
relief equal-limbed cross with widely expanded limbs, considerably inclined to
the right, and with a perimeter bead linking the extremities of the limbs. The
limbs of the cross expand in width from 0.13m wide near the centre to 0.2m at
their outer edges.
The lower limb of the cross extends down onto the shaft where it is outlined
by a shallow groove to form a rectangular panel, 0.31m long and 0.2m wide.
Superimposed on the relief cross at the intersection of the limbs is a small,
recessed, equal armed cross, 0.3m long by 0.29m wide overall, each limb being
0.07m wide. The south-eastern face of the Nun Careg Cross head bears an
equal-limbed cross with slightly splayed ends to the limbs, inclined to the
left and with no perimeter bead. The lower half of this cross motif is incised
whereas the upper half is carved in light relief. The rectangular section
shaft rises 0.71m from ground level to the neck of the cross head, and tapers
in width from 0.43m at the base to 0.38m at the neck, tapering in thickness
from 0.27m at the base to 0.15m at the neck. The shaft is plain and
undecorated except for the small rectangular panel on the north-west face
The Nun Careg Cross stands in its original location beside a road running
parallel to the south coast of the Penwith peninsula and marked at intervals
by several other medieval wayside crosses. The cross acted as a way marker
within the parish to the church at St Buryan, the site of a major Celtic
monastery, traditionally founded by Athelstan in the early tenth century. The
church paths within this parish are marked by an unusually high number of
medieval wayside crosses.
The surface of the metalled road passing north-west of the cross is excluded
from the scheduling, although 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.