Crows-an-wra medieval wayside cross and a turnpike milestone.
- 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)
- St. Buryan
- National Grid Reference:
- SW 39524 27628
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 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 Crows-an-Wra Cross has survived well despite being slightly relocated at the junction and set in a modern base. It forms a good example of a wheel-head cross and the cross motif on each face is unusual both in design and manner of execution. Earlier records confirm that it has not been removed from this important junction at the intersection of two main routes and on a church path within its parish, demonstrating well several of the major roles of wayside crosses and showing clearly the longevity of many routes still in use. These aspects are illustrated with especial clarity in St Buryan parish as it retains an unusually complete series of medieval wayside crosses, of which this cross forms an integral part. The presence of the post-medieval milestone adjacent to the wayside cross demonstrates the secular development of waymarkers after the religious upheavals of the Reformation, and the post-medieval development of the road network. The unusually ornate style of this milestone is reflected by its depiction in a national review of the history of roads.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, known as the Crows-an-wra,
situated at a junction and hamlet of the same name on the main east-west road
across the Penwith peninsula from Penzance to Land's End in west Cornwall. The
junction marks part of a staggered junction of that road with the route from
St Buryan to St Just. The monument also includes a post-medieval milestone at
the junction adjacent to the cross. A 2m protective margin surrounds both the
cross and the milestone.
The Crows-an-wra, which is Listed Grade II, is visible as an upright granite
shaft with sub-circular `wheel' head set in a double-stepped base, measuring
1.83m in overall height. The head measures 0.58m high by 0.78m wide and 0.28m
thick, crudely formed with a slight angle on the lower curve at each side
marking the return to the neck. The north west principal face of the head
bears a recessed equal-limbed cross measuring 0.53m high by 0.46m wide, the
limbs slightly splayed at the ends. The south east principal face bears an
equal-limbed cross with splayed ends formed by four triangular sinkings
between the arms. The terminal edges of the arms merge with the broad flat
periphery of the head. This peripheral zone of the head extends down the south
east face of the shaft as a broad raised rib defined by rough chamfers along
each side. This rib tapers from 0.38m wide at the neck to 0.2m wide at the
base. The sub-rectangular section shaft is 0.8m high, tapering in width
downwards from 0.5m at the neck to 0.37m at the base, and tapering in
thickness upwards 0.3m at the base to 0.27m at the neck. The shaft is
undecorated apart from the broad rib and chamfers on the south east side. The
shaft is cemented into a double-stepped base dating from the 1890s-1900s. The
upper step measures 1m long by 0.96m wide and is 0.27m high. The lower step
measures 1.62m long by 1.58m wide and is 0.18m high.
The Crows-an-wra wayside cross is situated at the centre of the hamlet of
Crows-an-wra beside the main route across the Penwith peninsula between
Penzance and Land's End, where it intersects the St Just branch of a staggered
junction on the south east-north west route linking the two important local
and parochial centres of St Buryan and St Just. Another route, now preserved
by footpaths and minor roads, links this junction with the parish church at
Sancreed to the north east. The cross was formerly located at the centre of
the junction but was subsequently moved 20m north west to the verge for its
own safety. The Crows-an-wra also marks one of several routes radiating out
from the church at St Buryan into the parish, the site of a major Celtic
monastery, traditionally thought to have been founded by Athelstan in the
early 10th century. The church paths within this parish are marked by an
unusually high number of surviving medieval wayside crosses.
Located 1m south west of the Crows-an-wra cross's base is an ornate 18th
century, granite, turnpike milestone. It survives as a triangular pillar,
1.34m high, with a domed top whose bevelled and moulded edges overhang the
south and north east faces by 0.06m. Each face of the milestone measures 0.52m
wide, with a narrow facet, 0.15m wide, along the south east corner.
The north west face is unpainted, plain and undecorated. The remaining faces,
facet and the top are whitewashed. On the south and north east faces, incised
directions are painted black. On the south face, seriffed capitals read: 'To
Penzance 5 1/2 miles To Land's End 4 1/2 miles'. The north east face reads
'To Saint Just 3 miles', the word 'miles' incised in a rough gothic script
with flourishes above and below. The word 'To' is flanked to the left by an
incised hand pointing the direction right and to the right by an incised wheel
with hub and spokes. The narrow south west facet is decorated with an
incised-line band with oblique hatching, above which is an incised triangle
infilled in black. The two decorated sides and the facet have a narrow base
moulding projecting 0.1m. This milestone is a marker on the 18th century
Penzance to Land's End turnpike road which subsequently developed into the
modern A30 road. Its distinctive design has featured in a national review of
the history of British roads.
The metalled surface of the modern roads passing beyond the cross and
milestone from their north east to south west sides and the metalled surface
of the footpath passing north west of the cross and milestone 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Addison, W, The Old Roads of England, (1980)
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Olson, L, Early Monasteries in Cornwall, (1989)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-9
AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 262, consulted 1993
consulted 1993, CCRA entry for SW 32 NE/85,
Given in letter, 8/93, Information given by Mr Andrew Langdon, (1993)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 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