Week Down cross: a wayside cross 530m south west of Yellam
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1009191
Date first listed: 23-Feb-1971
Date of most recent amendment: 15-Sep-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Devon (District Authority)
National Park: DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference: SX 71158 86534
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.
Week Down cross is a well preserved example of a medieval wayside cross, in a striking location with wide views. Its relatively primitive style suggests a considerable age, and even the possibility of having a prehistoric origin.
The monument includes a well preserved wayside cross, formed from a single
piece of coarse granite, and set on open ground, some 9m north of the edge of
what is now a minor road. There are wide views from this location. The arms
of the cross, which are very stumpy, are aligned nearly north-south. The head
of the cross is rounded. The cross has a substantial lean to the south west,
but appears to be stable.
The maximum visible length of the cross is 2.09m. Its present maximum height
above the turf on the south side is 1.95m. The shaft is roughly rectangular in
section, but tapers on the north and south faces from the base upwards. At the
base it has maximum dimensions of 0.52m by 0.42m but under the arms this has
been reduced to about 0.3m by 0.40m. The head is further reduced in size, to
about 0.24m by 0.33m. The south east corner of the shaft has a chamfer with a
maximum width of about 50mm. The other edges of the shaft are slightly
Both arms appear to be intact, yet extend a maximum of only 70mm from the
shaft. The south arm has a depth of 0.28m, and the north arm a depth of 0.23m.
The head is straight-edged on the north side, but has a rounded top and south
side. It extends 0.3m above the arms.
On the east face, between the arms, there is an incised cross with four
splayed ends. The cross measures 0.24m by 0.24m. The cut is 35mm-40mm wide,
expanding to a maximum of 60mm at the splayed ends. The depth of the cut is a
maximum of about 15mm.
Between the arms of the west face is an incised cross with splayed arms. It
measures 0.19m horizontally by 0.2m vertically. The cut has a width ranging
from 40mm at the centre to 50mm at the splayed ends. The maximum depth of the
cut is 15mm.
On the north face of the shaft, 0.23m below the arms, the letters IA are
finely incised slightly east of the centre of the shaft. The letters are 60mm
high. The cuts are 3mm-4mm wide and 1mm-2mm deep. There is a possible
cross-piece on the stem of the letter I.
Four slab-like stones surround the base of the cross, one for each face, and
appear to be securing the cross. The cross is not quite in its original
situation having been moved in 1867. It now appears to be sited on top of a
stony scarp, which may be prehistoric. The scarp leads to the south west where
its stony composition is visible where it is crossed by a path. The scarp is
approximately 3m in width by 0.5m in height.
This cross is a strong candidate for being a Christianised prehistoric
standing stone, on account of its very stumpy yet seemingly original arms, its
rounded head, its relatively undressed state, and its impressive location.
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: 24824
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Crossing, W, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, (1902)
Crossing, W, The Old Stone Crosses of the Dartmoor Borders, (1892), 118
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