Base slab of a medieval wayside cross, 110m west of the Merry Maidens stone circle
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1007961
Date first listed: 27-Jul-1972
Date of most recent amendment: 18-Jan-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
Parish: St. Buryan
National Grid Reference: SW 43151 24489
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.
This wayside cross base has undergone no recorded move from its original position where it supported a cross marking an important junction on the parish church-path. As the surviving evidence for this wayside cross, the base slab monument forms an integral member of an unusually well-preserved network of such crosses marking routes that linked the important and broadly contemporary ecclesiastical centre at St Buryan with its parish. The routes marked by this monument are also marked at intervals by other crosses, demonstrating the major function and disposition of wayside crosses and the longevity of many routes still in use.
The monument includes the base of a medieval wayside cross and a 2m protective
margin, situated on a grass verge at the junction of a path leading to St
Buryan with a road following the periphery of the southern coastal belt of
Penwith in west Cornwall.
The cross-base is visible as a rectangular granite slab, measuring 1.22m SW-NE
by 0.63m NW-SE, with rounded corners. The cross-base is groundfast, its upper
surface set at ground level. The slab forms the south-east half of the
complete cross-base. Its north-west edge bears a central, sub-rectangular
recess, 0.31m wide and 0.2m deep, forming the south-east half of the socket
cut to recieve the cross shaft.
This cross-base is located on one of several church paths, now a public
footpath, radiating into the parish from the church and village of St Buryan;
the cross marks the junction between that path and the route around the
southern coastal fringe of the Penwith peninsula. The courses of both the path
and the coastal route are also marked by other medieval wayside crosses. St
Buryan, the site of a major Celtic monastery traditonally founded in the early
10th century by Athelstan, forms the focus of an unusually large number of
wayside crosses within its parish, several of which bear distinctive designs
early in the known sequence of wayside crosses.
The surface of the metalled road passing south-east of the cross-base is
excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath 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: 24270
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-9
Mercer, R.J., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 800, 1970,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
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