Early medieval decorated and inscribed wayside cross shaft and base on Waterpit Down, 250m WSW of Hallwell Barton Bungalow
- 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)
- Forrabury and Minster
- National Grid Reference:
- SX 11194 88067
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 on Waterpit Down has survived reasonably well, remaining as a marker on its original route and junction despite the absence of the head and with only minimal damage from the temporary re-use of the shaft in the 19th century. Its large size and interlace decoration are unusual features which, coupled with its early date, make this cross important in studies of the development of wayside crosses and early medieval art styles. The presence of an inscription is very rare, from a period generally lacking in such historical references. The location of this cross beside a road linking important medieval sites and marked by another wayside cross demonstrates well the major function of wayside crosses and shows clearly the longevity of many routes still in use. In addition, the cross's location at a junction with a now extinguished major route provides important information on the former layout and development of routeways.
The monument includes an early decorated and inscribed medieval wayside cross
shaft set in its base stone and situated on Waterpit Down beside a road
linking Bossiney on the north Cornish coast with the main routes to Cornwall
from the north-east.
The wayside cross on Waterpit Down survives with a massive, decorated and
inscribed granite cross shaft and base, measuring 2.37m in overall height. The
tapered, rectangular-section shaft is 2.09m high, measuring 0.69m wide and
0.27m thick at the base, tapering to 0.45m wide and 0.17m thick at the top.
The upper edge of the shaft has a rectangular mortice, 0.15m long and 0.1m
deep to receive the missing cross head. The shaft is decorated in low relief
on both faces and edges. The east and west faces each bear an interlace design
framed by a broad double bead. Slightly below the centre of the west face, the
interlace design breaks to provide a plain panel containing a worn Latin
inscription in five lines, incised in a form of early medieval script called
'Hiberno Saxon miniscules'. The inscription has been deciphered to read, from
top to bottom, 'CR VX IHC (or 'ME') VR OC'. The style of the lettering, the
phrasing of the inscription and the interlace design are thought to suggest a
10th century date. The northern and southern edges of the shaft bear a
scrollwork design. The shaft is set in the centre of its large square base
slab, measuring 1.52m along each edge and rising 0.28m high.
The east face of the shaft bears a corroded iron ring embedded in the surface,
0.68m above the base. This results from a short period during the 19th
century, between c.1853 and 1889, when the shaft was removed from the base to
serve as a pivot slab for a horse-mill driving a threshing machine at Trekeek
Farm, 1.2km south of its present site. A contemporary illustration depicts
the shaft in use for that purpose and shows a substantial tenon on the lower
end of the shaft. In 1889 the shaft was returned to its base which remained in
its original location on Waterpit Down.
Despite that short-lived re-use of the shaft, this cross shaft and base are
situated in their original location beside a road, also marked by another
wayside cross, which runs inland from Bossiney and Tintagel on the north coast
to the major routes into Cornwall that pass through Camelford and Launceston
respectively. On a more local level, the route also led towards the church and
holy well at Davidstow. Both Bosinney and Tintagel were important medieval
settlements. Although now situated on the roadside, this cross marks the
former site of a major road junction whose other broad route, now
extinguished, can be traced on a NE-SW alignment through field boundaries on
both sides of the road to be eventually continued by extant roads in both
directions. This long disused route ran parallel with the modern main route,
the A39, across this part of north Cornwall on the other side of the upper
valley of the River Camel and extended south-west past several early medieval
church sites towards an ancient crossing point of the Camel estuary near Rock.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses of North Cornwall, (1992)
Todd, M, The South-West to A.D. 1000, (1987)
Trudgian, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavation Of A Burial Ground At St Endellion, Cornwall, , Vol. 26, (1987), 145-152
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 2218/CCRA entry for SX 18 NW 3,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 08/18: Pathfinder Series 1325 Source Date: 1986 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