Medieval wayside cross at Whitecross, near Wadebridge
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1007963
Date first listed: 01-Nov-1950
Date of most recent amendment: 04-Mar-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. Breock
National Grid Reference: SW 96447 71997
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 wayside cross at Whitecross has survived well, its old fracture neatly repaired. It remains as a marker on its original route and junction and forms a good example of a wheel-headed wayside cross. The location of this cross beside a crossroads on the ancient, and modern, main route through north Cornwall, demonstrates well the major function of wayside crosses, while its position on a route to a former ecclesiastical manor, now marked by a farm, shows both the longevity of many roads still in use and the development of the pattern and status of settlements since the medieval period. The surviving custom of whitewashing this cross's motif, resulting in the name of the adjacent village, illustrates the regard with which wayside crosses were, and still may be, held by the communities near which they were sited.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross and a 2m protective margin,
situated beside a crossroads at Whitecross village, near Wadebridge in north
The Whitecross wayside cross survives with an upright granite shaft and a
round or 'wheel' head, 0.76m in overall height. The head measures 0.45m in
diameter and is 0.18m thick. Each principal face displays an equal-limbed low
relief cross measuring 0.36m high and 0.39m across the arms. The arms are
slightly expanded, rising from 0.1m wide at their intersection to 0.13m wide
at their terminal edges. The relief cross is whitewashed against the plain
granite background, a longstanding local tradition. Traces of a narrow bead
encircle the perimeter of each face, especially clear on the lower half of the
west face. The rectangular-section, undecorated shaft rises 0.31m from the
ground to the base of the head. It measures 0.32m wide by 0.25m thick. The
shaft is fractured transversely and has been repaired with an iron staple
0.09m below the top of the shaft, clamping the two fragments of shaft
together. Records from the 19th century indicate the fracture occurred before
1858 and the repair was made by a local blacksmith between 1858 and 1896. The
same records indicate that the rising ground level of the roadside verge has
increasingly submerged the lower part of the shaft; in 1858 the cross stood
1.27m high; in 1896 it stood 1.14m high and today only 0.76m is visible above
This wayside cross is situated beside a crossroads at Whitecross, a hamlet to
which the cross has given its name. The cross lies on the major ancient route
through Cornwall behind the north coast, marked by other medieval wayside
crosses. The cross also marks the crossroads with another route linking the
Camel estuary to the north with Pawton, formerly a medieval ecclesiastical
manor and now a farm, to the south.
The modern road-sign and its post south-west of the cross are 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: 24272
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses of North Cornwall, (1992)
AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 298, 1950,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 87/97; Pathfinder Series 1337 Source Date: 1981 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