Shorter Cross: a wayside cross on the north side of a minor road, 350m north west of Middlecott


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Shorter Cross: a wayside cross on the north side of a minor road, 350m north west of Middlecott
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Devon (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 71368 86437

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 pilgrimages. 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.

Shorter Cross is a well preserved and highly unusual example of a Dartmoor wayside cross. It is likely to be at least early medieval in date, and may have prehistoric origins.


The monument includes a well preserved coffin-shaped wayside cross formed from a single piece of moderately coarse granite. The shaft tapers to a head with a flat top. This cross has no arms, and there is no indication that it ever had any. It is set on a grass and scrub verge on the north east side of a lane leading from Middlecott to Week Down and Chagford. The cross is 2.5m from the edge of the tarmac road. Moved from this position in 1873 it was relocated here in 1900. The long side of the cross is orientated north west-south east. Its maximum visible height is 1.7m. The shaft is at its widest about two-thirds of the way up the stone. The greatest dimensions of the shaft are 0.45m by 0.27m. The south west face has on it a cross carved in relief extending 0.54m down from the very top of the shaft. The arms of the relief cross extend 0.39m right across the width of the shaft. In other words, four `panels' have been removed from the upper portion of the shaft on this face. The lower panels measure 0.25m by 0.13m by 5mm deep, and the upper panels 0.16m by 0.12m by 5mm deep. The ends of the relief cross are slightly splayed, to a maximum of 0.14m. Between the arms of the relief cross a small incised cross has been cut, measuring 120mm horizontally by 110mm vertically, the cut being 10mm wide and 2mm deep. On the north east face, there is an incised cross near the top of the shaft. It measures 0.39m vertically by 0.34m horizontally. The cut is 20mm wide and has a maximum depth of 6mm. The arms of the incised cross extend right across the width of the shaft. The bottom of the incised cross is 0.44m below the top of the shaft. The flat head of the shaft is approximately square in section, measuring 0.25m by 0.26m. A groove, perhaps caused by erosion, runs across the centre of the head and down both north west and south east sides for about 0.3m. This groove is mostly 20mm-30mm wide and 10mm deep. Besides being on the road verge, the cross is sited on the top edge of a scarp that falls away to the north east to what appears to be an old sunken lane bordered by a wall on its far side, and running downslope in a south easterly direction. This may be the original route beside which the cross was first set up. However, the unusual shape of this cross, and its lack of conventional head and arms suggest that it is at least an early medieval example, and may represent a Christianised prehistoric standing stone.

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
Crossing, W, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, (1902), 139


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

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