Pixies' Cross: a wayside cross and associated earthwork enclosure on Whitchurch Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008926

Date first listed: 07-Jul-1959

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Sep-1994


Ordnance survey map of Pixies' Cross: a wayside cross and associated earthwork enclosure on Whitchurch Down
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Whitchurch

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 50141 73657


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and, because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provides direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. 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 settlements, or on routes which might have a more specifically religious function, including those providing access to religious sites for parishioners and funeral processions, or marking long distance routes frequented on pilgrimages. Over 110 examples of wayside crosses are known on Dartmoor, where they form the commonest type of stone cross. Almost all of the wayside crosses on the Moor take the form of a `Latin' cross, in which the cross-head itself is shaped within the projecting arms of an unenclosed cross. Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval routeways, settlement patterns and the development of sculptural traditions. All wayside crosses on the Moor which survive as earth-fast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from their original locations, are considered worthy of protection.

Pixies' Cross is one of the best preserved and most visually impressive of all medieval wayside crosses on Dartmoor. It is one of a line of crosses marking medieval routes to and from Tavistock where there was a Benedictine abbey. The location of the cross on top of the bank of an earlier enclosure is a rare association and suggests that the enclosure must be early medieval or even prehistoric in origin. A published photographic record of the cross survives from c.1900.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a monolithic cross of coarse-grained granite, in a very prominent position in the middle of Whitchurch Down, sited in a slight hollow on the bank of an associated earthwork enclosure. There is no sign of a socket stone, but the cross seems very firmly set in the turf. The top two-thirds of the shaft curve slightly to the WNW. The cross has crude stumpy arms which are aligned NNE-SSW. The cross shaft is of neat rectangular section, 0.32m by 0.3m. The total height of the cross is 2.25m. The arms have a total width of 0.75m, and their maximum extent beyond the shaft is 0.25m. The head of the cross extends a maximum of 0.46m above the arms. The cross is Listed Grade II. There are incised carvings on the WNW face of the cross, including a crude cross measuring 0.4m vertically by 0.3m horizontally. The cut is approximately 0.04m wide by 0.01m deep. The bank on which the cross stands forms a continuous ring to the east, broken only by the entrance to the quarry. The bank has an external ditch which has been partially filled on the east side by relatively recent dumping of soil. It appears that the bank and ditch are earlier than both the quarry, which is presently on the site, and the cross. The enclosure formed by the bank and ditch is c.143m in circumference and c.45m in diameter.

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: 24811

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bray, Mrs A E, The Borders of the Tamar and Tavy, (1879), 403
Crossing, W, The Ancient Crosses of Dartmoor, (1887), 41-43
Crossing, W, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, (1902), 81-82
Masson Phillips, E, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon : Part 1, (1936-37), 316
Masson Phillips, E, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon : Part 1, (1936-37)

End of official listing