St Buryan churchtown cross


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010214

Date first listed: 30-Nov-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Jul-1994


Ordnance survey map of St Buryan churchtown cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Buryan

National Grid Reference: SW 40903 25679


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

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 with 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 St Buryan churchtown cross has survived well, despite being re-set in a later base. Earlier records confirm the cross in its present position where it forms a good example of a wheel head cross. Its unusual and distinctive design makes this one of the earliest known wayside crosses and provides important information on the production and stylistic development of pre-Norman crosses, reflected in its specific mention in a recent study of this subject. The location of this cross at the focus of the various routes and the church paths which radiate out into the parish demonstrates well the major roles of wayside crosses and the longevity of many routes still in use. This is illustrated especially clearly in St Buryan parish as it retains an unusually complete series of medieval wayside crosses, of which this monument forms an integral part. The secondary role of this cross as a market cross is unusual and shows the several functions which wayside crosses may serve for their communities.


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


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, surrounded by a 2m protective margin, at the junction of five routes in the centre of St Buryan in west Cornwall. The cross, which is Listed Grade II, survives with its original medieval round 'wheel' head and shaft set in a substantial post-medieval composite stepped base, measuring 2.23m in overall height. The head measures 0.41m high by 0.42m wide and is 0.16m thick. The north west principal face bears an equal-limbed cross whose upper half is defined by two quadrant sinkings while its lower half is defined by two deeply incised quadrant shapes. The south east principal face bears a relief figure of Christ measuring 0.57m high and 0.31m wide. The figure is depicted wearing a tunic, with outstretched arms splayed at the ends, and legs terminating in large out-turned feet. The figure is set low down on the head, extending down the upper shaft. The rectangular-section shaft is 0.33m high, 0.18m thick and tapers slightly in width from 0.29m at the top to 0.27m as it enters the socket in the base. The shaft has a repaired transverse fracture 0.22m above the base. The shaft is cemented into an octagonal base-slab whose socket is wider than the shaft and which forms the upper part of an unusually large composite base for this cross. The octagonal slab measures 0.8m across the faces and is 0.2m high, each facet of the octagon being 0.34m wide. The octagonal base-slab is set on top of a rectangular plinth of cemented granite slabs, measuring 1.45m east-west by 1.54m north-south and 0.16m high. From the edges of the plinth, an area of granite cobbles slopes outwards, forming the upper surface of a massive, nearly square, walled base supporting the cross, base-slab and plinth. The walled base measures 3.57m north east-south west by 3.47m north west-south east and is 0.8m high. It is defined by a mortared outer wall of large uncoursed granite slabs, capped by massive elongated slabs reinforced by iron cramps in the top corners. This cross is situated 8m south west of the churchyard wall in St Buryan and presents the same appearance, with its massive base, as recorded by the historian Langdon in 1896. Langdon notes a local tradition that the location of this cross was once part of the churchyard and became isolated from it when the churchyard area was enclosed. However excavation in 1985 along the south eastern edge of St Buryan churchyard wall produced evidence that the churchyard enclosure follows an earlier, pre-Christian, sub-circular enclosure, with subsequent walls either preserving that line or enlarging the churchyard, contrary to the tradition. St Buryan is located at the centre of the southern part of the Penwith peninsula and the cross lies at the focus of a series of routes that radiate from the church into the parish and beyond into the peninsula. Most of these routes are marked by surviving medieval wayside crosses. St Buryan was the site of a major Celtic monastery, traditionally founded by Athelstan in the early 10th century AD, and forms the focus of a distinctive series of crosses bearing the motifs present on this cross's head. A recent study of these crosses, in which this cross is specifically mentioned, has suggested that they date to the late 9th or early 10th century and provided a major design inspiration for the mid 10th century development of a highly elaborate series of west Cornish crosses. St Buryan was the major market town for the area as well as a parochial centre. A charter of AD 1302 granted a market to the Dean and his successors at St Buryan. As a result, this wayside cross, standing at the focus of the various cross-marked routes into the village, acquired a secondary function and title as the Deanery Market Cross. The surfaces of the modern kerbed and block-paved pedestrian area around the cross-base and the metalled road beyond to the north west, west and south west are excluded from the scheduling but the land 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: 24294

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Legg, R , St Buryan Church Guide, (1991)
Olson, L, Early Monasteries in Cornwall, (1989)
Preston-Jones, A, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Road Widening at St Buryan and Pelynt Churchyards, , Vol. 26, (1987), 153-160
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-9
Given by letter, 8/93, Information given to MPPFW by Mr Andrew Langdon, (1993)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing