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 within 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 Three Holes Cross has survived substantially intact despite the fracture
across the shaft. It is a good example of a wheel-head cross and displays
several unusual features including the pierced head and the slightly curved
shaft with its pecked decoration. It is one of only two crosses recorded with
three perforations on the head, both of which share the unperforated lower
sinking. Although re-erected in a modern base-slab on the opposite side of the
highway to its original position, it remains as a marker at its original
junction, demonstrating well the major role of wayside crosses and the
longevity of many routes still in use.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, known as the Three Holes
Cross, situated at a junction of the same name on the A39 trunk road
north east of Wadebridge in north Cornwall.
The Three Holes Cross, which is Listed Grade II, survives with a round granite
`wheel' head on an upright granite shaft set in a massive modern granite base-
slab, measuring 2m in overall height. The head, which measures 0.43m high by
0.44m wide and 0.13m thick, is decorated on each principal face by a central
raised boss and four triangular sinkings, one to each side of the boss and one
each above and below it; three of the triangular sinkings meet to perforate
the head, giving the cross its name. The lowermost `hole' is not pierced right
through, forming a deep recess on either side. The shaft measures 1.28m high
and 0.28m wide, tapering in thickness from 0.25m at the base to 0.2m at the
neck. The faces and edges of the shaft are slightly convex and the shaft has a
slight `S-shaped' curve throughout its length. There are two small rounded
projections on either side of the neck, just below the head. The shaft has a
sloping fracture, 0.72m above the base, which was repaired by cementing the
parts together in the later 19th century. The shaft bears slight traces of
pecked decoration above the fracture, delimited by a faint transverse groove
0.25m below the head, on its south side. The modern sub-triangular base-slab
measures 1.5m north-south by up to 2.18m east-west and is 0.39m thick.
The Three Hole Cross is situated on the north side of the A39T at the
intersection of three routes. The course of the A39T follows the major
medieval route through into Cornwall beside the north coast. At Three Hole
Cross this route is crossed by two early local routes; one runs east through
the nearby prehistoric and early medieval settlement at Castle Killibury from
the medieval manor site at Burniere by the River Camel estuary; the other runs
north west-south east towards Bodmin via the crossing point of the River
Allen, 1.4km to the south east.
All earlier records confirm this cross's presence at this junction, though
until 1937 it was located 20m to the ESE, on the opposite, south, side of the
A39. After road alterations, it was re-erected in 1939 in its modern base-slab
at its present location.
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.